Bashar Will Always Have Paris: Obama has AIPAC - Syria Comment

Bashar Will Always Have Paris: Obama has AIPAC

Sarkozy has officially invited Assad to attend Bastille day, France's national Holiday, celebrated on July 14 with military parades and lots of pomp on the Champs Elise. Both French opposition members and Washington have criticized him for this. The Socialist Party warned it would be "unwise". Centrist leader Francois Bayrou said "The Syrian question raises real concerns in Lebanon, particularly the prospect of seeing the Syrian head of state taking a front-seat place" at both the summit and the July 14 celebrations. He urged the government to "think very carefully".

Rice was critical of France's invitation and warned the French President to be stern with Syria's leader and to dress him down about Lebanon, Isreal, and the long list of things the US is stern about with Syria.

Rice also defended the sending of Canadian Maher Arar to Syria under a contentious extraordinary rendition program. Arar was sent to Syria legally, according to the State Department, which insisted that, "It was not a rendition. This is a myth. Arar was removed pursuant to a legal framework." Just last week, a government investigator said he couldn't rule out the possibility that U.S. officials wanted to send the Canadian to Syria because they believed he would be tortured. Last October, Rice admitted American officials mishandled the case but didn't apologize to Arar.

Experts say Sarkozy is hoping Assad's presence will boost the launch of the Mediterranean Union project, which has received a lukewarm welcome from some European and Arab states.

Sarkozy's move to resume ties also drew a cautious reaction from Washington. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday she hoped Paris would send the right message to Damascus.

The two sides finally reached agreement on May 21 in Doha, leading to the election of then army chief Sleiman after a six-month power vacuum.

Sarkozy called Assad immediately afterwards, saying France's conditions for renewed dialogue — "positive, concrete developments" towards ending the Lebanese crisis — had been met.

The Christian Science Monitor's Julien Barnes-Dacey writes that Syria sees warming ties in Middle East:
There is certainly a relaxation of the strength of the criticism directed at Syria," says Rime Allaf of Chatham House, a London think tank. "The Syrians are stronger today than they were just a few months ago."

The May settlement essentially met Syria's longstanding desire to prevent the emergence of a pro-US government. Syria compromised on some points, including the reappointment of anti-Syrian Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. But the new president is relatively pro-Syrian and the Syria-backed opposition has a cabinet veto.

"Syria got what it was always calling for," says Suleiman Haddad, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Analysts say the deal reflects the recognition of Syria as part of the solution. "The Doha agreement was the result of not being able to isolate Syria," says Ms. Allaf. "There was a realization … that without Syria nothing was going to happen." …

Analysts say Syria faces other challenges to its rehabilitation. Allaf notes that Lebanon could still implode as political parties struggle to form a government. Syria also remains under suspicion for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Others point to the continued tensions with regional powerhouses Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Poll: Growing Israeli opposition to Golan pullback in Syria peace talks
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pollsters say Israeli opposition to handing the Golan Heights back to Syria as part of a peace deal has leapt since the announcement last month of renewed talks between the sides.

A survey conducted by the Hebrew University and a Palestinian think tank also shows most Israelis and Palestinians see no point to current peace negotiations.

The survey was published Thursday, and said that 67 percent of Israelis are against returning the strategic plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War. That's up from 56 percent in a March poll.

It said 55 percent of Israelis and 68 percent of Palestinians feel talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are going nowhere and should be shelved.

Iraqi Refugees between Precarious Safety and Precipitous Return:
This is an excellent and comprehensive study of Iraqi refugees. (Thanks MSK)
By Layla Al-Zubaidi and Heiko Wimmen
Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East Office in Beirut

Sami Moubayed, Why now?

A brief look at the domestic Syrian scene shows revenue from the oil sector is now in deficit. Surpluses from state-run agencies and industries are in decline; they are no longer making money after decades of mismanagement. Meanwhile, expenditure is increasing by 19%. Syria still has a gigantic civil service (1.3 million employees) and cannot lay off people by nature of the socialist system. Their salaries, as well as those of retired workers, means salaries and pensions account for 50% of the state budget.

Syria seriously needs to consider new resources for the state treasury, which simply won't come while there are American sanctions, tension with certain Arab states, and talk of war looming with Israel. It becomes difficult to attract investment while the Israelis are maneuvering on the Syrian border, where Syria has to mobilize for war whenever that happens, and where the lion's share of the treasury goes to military spending.

While many people are talking about regional and international gains from peace, the decision mainly stems from a domestic need to move forward.

What should have been said to AIPAC
in Chicago Tribune

When politicians speak before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, they do so to burnish their credentials as friends of Israel.

As longtime State Department Middle East adviser Aaron David Miller reminds us in his new book, "The Much Too Promised Land," "it's hard to compete and be successful in American politics without being good on Israel." And so when the AIPAC annual conference coincides with a presidential election, as it did this year, these speeches become bidding wars to demonstrate the fervor of the candidates' support for the Jewish state. Sen. Barack Obama declared himself the "true friend of Israel." And Sen. John McCain set the late Sen. Henry Jackson's uncompromising pro-Israel stance as his "model of what an American statesman should be." For both, friendship with Israel means embracing the notion that the Jewish state faces dire threats that require unwavering American support.

But the mark of real friendship, as abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher put it, is "to speak painful truth through loving words." By that criterion, neither of the presidential candidates qualifies as Israel's true friend. Rather, it has been individuals like former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretaries of State James Baker and Henry Kissinger who have been Israel's real friends. As public officials, they had a realistic view of Israel's situation and were willing to criticize the Jewish state and push it at critical junctures in its history for it own good.

No doubt Israel faces threats from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. But Israel's security situation is by no means as perilous as the candidates imply. ……

A fun Jon Stewart Youtube send up of the three candidates appearance at AIPAC, here

How Obama's speach at AIPAC is analyzed on TV in Tehran: http://youtube.com/watch?v=l06ab7HDjVY

What do we actually know about Mohammed?
Patricia Crone at Open Democracy (One of my favorite academics on Islam or anything else.)

The early years of Islam compose an exciting field of current scholarship that is yielding fresh insights and understanding, says Patricia Crone, professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. ….

Condoleezza Rice Reflects on the Lessons of the Past Eight Years  Read her new essay | Read her 2000 essay The secretary of state offers her defining take on Iraq, Iran, democracy promotion, and American foreign policy in general.  – Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Affairs July/August 2008

Comments (121)


norman said:

Apparently , Syria’s standing is improving daily and everybody wants to be Syria’s friend , President Assad is pushing the Indians to play bigger role in international affair , He seems moving to dilute the influence of the US on world affairs ,

What is sad for me as an American of Syrian origin is that the US is loosing time and chances to be friend of Syria who can help us the most , while waisting our time with KSA and Egypt , We are losing investment opportunities while France is grabbing them , By the time we are ready to invest in Syria there will be nothing left ,

How stupid our government is .

June 13th, 2008, 1:56 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

American tax dollars in action.

Israeli Cluster Bomb Kills Lebanese Farmer

A Lebanese man was killed on Thursday by a cluster bomb dropped by Israeli forces during the 2006 war in Lebanon, a police official said.

Hisham el-Ghossein, 39, was killed in the village of Qantara, near the southern town of Marjayoun, after stepping on the bomb while working in his field, the official said.

The munitions dropped by Israel during its devastating air war against Lebanon in July-August 2006 included at least a million cluster bomblets, according to the United Nations.

Unexploded ordnance has killed or injured 257 people since the conflict ended in August 2006, according to the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC). Of those killed, at least 30 were civilians.

Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container. The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them as deadly as anti-personnel landmines.

MACC said that 43 percent of the land affected by the munitions has been cleared since the end of the 2006 war.(AFP)

June 13th, 2008, 2:20 am

 

norman said:

QN,

How can any Arab country have peace with a country that does not value the human life of the Arabs , I see no chance of peace no matter how much talk is going on.

June 13th, 2008, 2:33 am

 

why-discuss said:

France had a lot of (shameful) businesses in Iraq at the time of Saddam. They had also lots of business with Iran at the time of the Shah. Now Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the US “chasse gardee”. France is trying to flirt with the United Arab Emirates but they can’t compete with the US and Britain there. Now there is Iran. It is a huge market and a powerful energy provider. It is off limit to US businesses. I think that through Syria, France is seeking an economical rapprochement with Iran. Sarkozy must have realized that Syria, more than Lebanon that is weaknened with its complex internal fights, is the key to Iran’s lucrative business.

June 13th, 2008, 3:17 am

 

jo6pac said:

norman said:

QN,

How can any Arab country have peace with a country that does not value the human life of the Arabs , I see no chance of peace no matter how much talk is going on.

June 13th, 2008, 2:33 am

Please change this to how can any Country when we (US) have the problems of others even in this nation, let the human race choice to move on happen.
jo6pac

June 13th, 2008, 3:40 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Why aren’t the Lebanese making a concerted effort to clean the cluster bombs? You know there is a problem, why don’t you take care of it? Yes, it is partly Israel’s fault, but so what? Are you going to keep sacrificing kids or are you going to get rid of the cluster bombs?

June 13th, 2008, 4:05 am

 

Majhool said:

Sami moubayed article is excellent.

June 13th, 2008, 4:07 am

 

Alex said:

Peace mission to Syria: ‘Westchester Delegation’ does the heavy-lifting

Herbert Hadad

Little noticed by jet-setting diplomats, academia and mainstream media as peace talks between Israel and Syria were announced recently were the diligent and heartfelt efforts of the Westchester Delegation. I happen to have led that delegation, which also consisted of my wife, Evelyn, and our three grown children. For those unfamiliar with the world of international affairs, a lot happens behind the scenes, and then a few people who did none of the work get to declare the good news.

We spent two weeks traveling across Syria, my father’s homeland, a place I had longed to see for many years. Before we departed, we had our advisers as well. My dentist in Briarcliff Manor, normally a witty and sensible fellow (and a great little dentist), predicted we would never meet again. I don’t think he really intended to alarm me but he said, “They’ll stone you in the streets of Damascus.”

“Save my dental records,” I replied, “for positive I.D.”

At the other end of the advice spectrum was an Arabic translator for the FBI who is an acquaintance. “Go, you’ll have a great time.”

“But I know exactly 127 words in Arabic, and I forget half of them after my first drink,” I said.

“Don’t worry. They love to hear a visitor speak anything in their language. You’ll be fine.”

Well, the FBI was a tad more prescient than the dentist.

With the assistance of a guide and a driver, Christian and Muslim, respectively, we explored the country from top to bottom and across to the Mediterranean coast.

Pleasant but irrelevant

On the very first day, standing humbly in the magnificence of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, I thought I’d clear the air. “I’m a Jewish Arab,” I told Hisham, the guide. “We’ve always been Jews, we’ve always been Arabs. At least 40 generations in Aleppo.” He took in this fact as though I had said I may get hungry later for a plate of hummus and grilled meat. I was touched by his nonchalance. The facts of my heritage were pleasant but irrelevant. It was the Jewish background that had so alarmed the dentist back home.

Westchester, as it turned out, was a perfect training ground for visiting the great souqs of Damascus and Aleppo. I went to countless tag sales and several consignment shops, perfecting my skills at bargaining and haggling, then tried to pass this mercantile edge on to my family.

Edward, Charles and Sara learned well from the master, but Evelyn was a problem. In a beautiful gift shop down an old stone lane in Aleppo, a gentleman with our same last name invited us in, offered us tea or Arabic coffee and showed us around.

Evelyn wanted to buy a tablecloth as a special gift for friends back home, and they began to break out their wares.

“Remember, gentlemen,” I said, “Ena ibn Halabi (I am a son of Aleppo) and I’m sure you will offer me the Halabi price.”

But Evelyn immediately expressed admiration for the tablecloth, a vibrant green with gold embroidery, and told them it was beautiful.

“Evelyn,” I said, “why don’t you get on the other side of the counter and join the sales staff.”

It ended happily enough – they came down by 1,000 Syrian pounds, about $20, and seller and buyer parted smiling and with dignity intact.

Pictures of al-Assad, father and son, were everywhere, even on roadside signs in the dessert. We know from reading that the Syrian Arab Republic is not a democracy in our cherished sense. But I had to admit that people in the streets, in shops, at restaurants, seemed happy and at ease. No one seemed eager to discuss politics, theirs or ours, except a few people discreetly said they looked forward to our new U.S. president.

Send more Americans

Did we ever feel in danger? Would al-Qaeda sweep us up and gloat to the world about their prey? It had crossed my mind before leaving the U.S. but never once while we were in Syria. Ghassan, our driver, quietly bragged, “You can go out, midnight, 2 a.m., no one bother you.”

The police, far from menacing, tended to smile. We-did double takes the first time we saw two young police officers strolling arm in arm in Damascus. It is the Syrian way.

Government ministries were protected by soldiers in little guardhouses. Invariably, they left their posts when they spotted the Westchester Delegation, came across the sidewalk and said the one word they were sure of, “Well-koom, well-koom.”

Just to test their hospitality, I answered, “Shukran, ena Amerkee.” Thank you, I’m American.

Shopkeepers were momentarily startled to learn of our nationality, then said. “Send more.” One day in a church courtyard, I heard American voices. I introduced myself and my wife to three college-age students. They were the only other Americans we met on the entire trip.

Syrians have a sense of humor. Sample joke: A man complained that every time he tried to drink coffee he developed a sharp pain in his eye, so he went to the ophthalmologist. Advised the doctor: “Take the stick out of the cup before drinking.”

Being a sophisticated Westchesterite, I enjoy a dry martini cocktail some evenings. Travelers’ warning: In a population of 16 million-plus, no one can make a martini. Even in the most swank urban restaurants, I got a tall slim glass filled with lemon slices and a touch of spirits.

On our last night, at the Elissar, which caters to the international crowd, the waiters and maitre d’ seemed dumbfounded by my request. “Give him a glass of ice with gin in it,” my wise wife said.

We returned home gift-laden, weary and very happy. Within a few days, the peace talks were headlines. We began getting good-natured congratulatory phone calls and e-mails from friends who had feared for our safety.

The ways of the Middle East are intricate and mysterious. We began to think, maybe, in its own way, our goodwill visit broke the ice. We now waited and prayed for a real peace to break out.

The writer, who lives in Pocantico Hills, is author of the newly completed collection, “Home Fires.” He also teaches at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center in Sleepy Hollow.

June 13th, 2008, 6:50 am

 

Zenobia said:

Aig,
ignorant comment again.
do you think they are not trying to clear the cluster bomblets. Do you have any idea at all, any, how hard it is to clear those bombs (bombs only a little bigger in size than a tennis ball) from miles and miles? How dangerous it is – just to clear them. ??? Laos and Cambodia are still clearing bomblets from there territory after thirty years of war’s end.
America is the only leader nation refusing to sign the treaty banning the use of these killing things.
“Partly Israel’s fault” ?? what part is not their fault in this dirty warfare? Israel should be absolutely ashamed of the fact that they dropped those clusters. They should pay for the removal.

June 13th, 2008, 6:57 am

 

Shai said:

No Zenobia, they should be there to remove them. It was a cruel act of frustration on the part of Artillery units, who saw how ineffective their cover was for infantry who went into villages unprotected. At the very end of the war, without any justified reason, they ordered use of the cluster bombs. Like America’s use of “Agent Orange” in Vietnam, here too this was not thought through, it was inhumane and, as usual, innocent men, women, and children pay the price. Not the “bad guys”.

Alex, great story about the Westchester Delegation! Thank you.

June 13th, 2008, 7:48 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

QN,
Why aren’t the Lebanese making a concerted effort to clean the cluster bombs?

The Lebanese are making a concerted effort. The special bomb removal teams with the UN are reporting that 43% have been removed. Given that a million were dropped, that’s quite a feat, as they have only been working for a little over a year.

Believe me, AIG, most of the Lebanese are mostly uninterested in the strategy of self-destruction for publicity. Israel generates enough bad press for itself in Lebanon; no need for us to let our children die to capitalize from it.

June 13th, 2008, 12:05 pm

 

ohyeah said:

the last url links to your exchange server and won’t work

June 13th, 2008, 12:33 pm

 

norman said:

Shai, AIG,

I think Israel will gain a lot of sympathy if it offers to help Lebanon clean the area , Most likely Lebanon will not accept but that will go a long way in showing the Lebanese that Israel cares and that most Israelis are like Shai , They care about the welfare of the Lebanese people.

June 13th, 2008, 12:53 pm

 

norman said:

The view from Damascus

By Hugh Sykes
BBC News, Damascus

Hamas militants in Gaza have killed another civilian – a man in a kibbutz. The Israeli Defence Forces have killed another civilian – a six-year-old Palestinian girl.
Here in Damascus, I asked the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal if killing people, like the man on the kibbutz, was “part of legitimate resistance”.

“You have to look at the action first, before looking at the reaction,” he said.

“The action is the Israeli occupation, and the aggression against Gaza. And the Gazans are entitled to protect themselves.”

I suggested to Mr Meshaal that “the key to everything” is Israeli security – that there will never be peace with Palestinians until Israel feels safe from attack.

“This feeling of being threatened is because of Israel’s aggressive policies,” he replied, “and the solution is for Israel to end its occupation”.

Even after more than 60 years, he pointed out, Israel still has no sense of security. And it never will, he added, if it continues with the occupation – and if it continues to build settlements.

Question of recognition

In Beirut recently, the Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament Nawar al-Sahili told me: “Israel is a fact. Our border is the Lebanese border.”

Does Hamas agree that “Israel is a fact”?

Oil is already more than $140 a barrel – so an Israeli attack on Iran would be an attack on Europe, which depends on oil from this region
Elias Murad
Syria newspaper editor

“Occupation does not gain legitimacy through the passing of time,” Mr Meshaal replied.

I repeated the question, with careful emphasis: “Does Hamas recognise that Israel is a fact?”

Khaled Meshaal’s reply suggests that Hamas may recognise Israel in the future, but only on condition that Israel recognises the right of Palestinians to exist as a state within the pre-occupation 1967 borders.

“When Israel recognises the rights of Palestinian people – when a state is established – then the forces in that [new state] will decide on the next step.”

Iran ties

Another key question for Mr Meshaal – does he think Iran should be allowed to have nuclear weapons?

“If Israel possesses nuclear weapons, then every country in the world has the right to possess nuclear weapons,” he said.

I pointed out that Israeli Jews feel not only locally threatened by Hamas rocket attacks, but existentially threatened by the rhetoric from Tehran – especially when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly says he wants to see the end of Israel. And that fear is rooted in their experience of the Holocaust.

Mr Meshaal said the Holocaust does not give Israel the right to “impose its own holocaust” on Palestinians.

Hamas has received funding from Iran. But unlike Hezbollah, which was established mostly with Iranian money, Hamas is not dependent on Iran and receives support from several Arab countries.

Khaled Meshaal lives with his wife and seven children in a safe-house in Damascus.

Syria-Israel talks

Turkey is currently mediating talks between Israel and Syria for a peace treaty and the return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967.

Wondering if Syria might no longer extend its hospitality to the leader of Hamas if it makes peace with Israel, I called on Elias Murad – editor of the Syrian government newspaper, al-Baath.

He proudly showed me a photograph of himself as a soldier, posing next to an Israeli jet-fighter shot down by Syrian forces during their unsuccessful attempt to recover the Golan Heights in 1973.

Mr Murad believes Syria would not “abandon its friends,” certainly not because of a peace deal with Israel.

And he agrees with Mr Meshaal about Iran – that Tehran should be allowed nuclear weapons if Israel has them.

And Elias Murad predicts economic and military catastrophe if Israel attacks Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

“Oil is already more than $140 a barrel,” he observed, “so an Israeli attack on Iran would be an attack on Europe, which depends on oil from this region”.

And he said Iran would respond to an Israeli attack by bombing US bases in Iraq and the Gulf.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that direct talks between Israel and Syria are unlikely before 2009 – after the result of the US presidential election.

But if it reaches agreement with Israel, Syria will keep its strategic alliances. It has good relations with Iran, India, China and Turkey.

Turkey is also an ally of Israel.

Two analysts used the same phrase when I asked about Syrian foreign policy: “Syria is good at zig-zag.”

For example, Syria supported the United States coalition in the Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Waddah Abd Rabbuh, editor-in-chief and 55% owner of the independent daily newspaper, al-Watan (the Nation) told me: “Syria has no allies – only interests.”

‘Common interest’

Ironically, Syria also a common interest with the United States in the so-called war on terror.

Syria is an energetically secular state, and the previous regime of President Hafez al-Assad responded to the violent Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982 with spectacular force, killing at least 30,000 people. Some estimates say 40,000 died.

But this is also a calm country, with freedom to practise religion devoutly.

And Syria is opening up to the West. Tourists come here, and many remark how safe they feel – “safer than in London,” one man said to me. Alcohol is widely available.

There are stunning historical sites: Palmyra, Aleppo, and the great Umayyad Mosque in the Old City in Damascus – where visitors from Europe stroll through narrow mediaeval cobbled streets alongside Shia pilgrims from Iran.

Human Rights organisations complain that there is still widespread imprisonment without trial in Syria, of suspected Islamists, and of protestors who break the law by holding public demonstrations.

Waddah Abd Rabbuh believes some freedoms have to be sacrificed in order to achieve stability and security.

And at al-Baath newspaper, Elias Murad observed, wryly: “The United States wants everyone to fight terrorism. So what is wrong with imprisoning suspected Islamic fundamentalists?”

He added, forcefully: “Like Guantanamo!”

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/7452669.stm

Published: 2008/06/13 11:58:37 GMT

© BBC MMVIII

June 13th, 2008, 1:01 pm

 

Alex said:

Assad: Israel has learned it needs peace for safety
By Haaretz Service

Damascus suspects that Israel decided to return to negotiations after an eight-year hiatus as a result its failings in the Second Lebanon War and the realization that it could not live securely among its neighbors without peace, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published Friday by The Hindu.

“The Israelis used to think that with time they are going to be stronger and any opposition to their policies will be weaker, but actually what happened was the opposite,” Assad told the Indian newspaper. “Now, the Israelis learned that without peace they cannot live safely and Israel cannot be safe.”

“I think this is true especially after the war on Lebanon and because of the result of that war inside the Israeli society; this is the main incentive for the Israelis to move toward peace,” he added.

Assad also said that Israel never asked Syria to cuts its relations with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran as a pre-condition for peace negotiations.

When asked by The Hindu what the Syrian response was to such a request, Assad said: “Nobody asked us to do this. The Israelis have been talking about negotiations without pre-conditions. So, they cannot ask for conditions for the negotiations, and they have not asked either.”

“Iran does not interfere in Syrian issues,” Assad told The Hindu. “They support the Syrian cause whether we are happy or they are happy, and that’s why the relations between Syria and Iran are very strong.”

Israel and Syria announced last month that they had agreed to hold indirect peace talks through Turkish mediation. At the heart of the negotiations is the return by Israel to Syria of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In the interview with The Hindu, Assad reiterated the Syrian demand that Israel return the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

When asked what Syria could give Israel in return, Assad said: “We [Syria] don’t have something to give but we have something to achieve together, which is peace… It is something we achieve together, but Israel has the land and should give it back.”

In the interview, Assad refuted claims that a Syrian facility bombed by Israel in September was allegedly being used for nuclear development under the guidance of North Korea.

Assad said the story “was fabricated 100 percent,” adding: “How could it be nuclear, where are the radiations, where are the protections of this facility? How can you build such a facility under the daily watch of satellites?”

The Syrian president responded affirmatively to the question of whether the U.S. was trying to create an atmosphere of suspicion against Damascus.

“This is the image of this [U.S.] administration; everybody in the world still remembers what happened in Iraq when they had all that evidence, but then it was proved that everything was fabricated; even Colin Powel confessed in an interview that he was not truthful, and we all know the same, and most of the countries know about the problem between Syria and the U.S., and they always try to find traps for Syria. This is reality.”

June 13th, 2008, 1:12 pm

 

Atassi said:

Norman said:
President Assad is pushing the Indians to play bigger role in international affair !!! What are you talking about… Do you think the INDIANS are waiting for Assad to give them direction on how to conduct international politics… Yea Right!!! keep dreaming about your idol

June 13th, 2008, 2:06 pm

 

Atassi said:

THIS SYRIAN COMMENT BOARD SHOULD CHANGE IT’S NAME TO ASSAD’S PR COMMENTS .. PLEASE ADD ASSAD’S PICTURE “ OR TEMTHAL “ NEXT TO LANDIS IMAGE …

June 13th, 2008, 2:09 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Most of the effort to clear the cluster bombs is not Lebanese. It is done by the UN. Lebanon is not giving much priority to the issue. Maybe it has more important things to deal with.

For example, how much money has the Lebanese diaspora raised for the effort? How many units in the Lebanese army were trained for it?

June 13th, 2008, 2:22 pm

 

AnotherSyrianGuy said:

For its great potential, India has a small strategic appetite. For its very small potential, Syria has a big strategic appetite. I would like them both to learn from each other.

June 13th, 2008, 2:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Atassi,
You need to get used to the fact that on this blog Asad’s success is measured according to how many time he goes to Paris or meets the Emir of Qatar. It is not measured according to how the Syrian education system has improved in the last few years, how the economy has improved or how corruption was reduced. These after all are matters that concern only 19 million Syrians and are of little importance relative to the ability of Asad to travel.

June 13th, 2008, 2:27 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Most of the effort to clear the cluster bombs is not Lebanese. It is done by the UN. Lebanon is not giving much priority to the issue. Maybe it has more important things to deal with.

AIG,

You are right, it has more important things to deal with, like trying to keep the country from descending into civil war. You know as well as anyone that since the autumn of 2006, Lebanon has been in political paralysis, its economy in free-fall, and its army stretched impossibly thin keeping a constant security blanket over Beirut, fighting a bloody battle at Nahr al-Bared, and keeping the Lebanese from each other’s throats.

No one’s ignoring the farmers and children of south Lebanon, and it’s more than insulting for you to suggest that we are happy to see our children die because it makes Israel looks bad. Again, I think the dropping of the cluster bombs already did the trick, in that department.

If you’re so worried about our civilians, you shouldn’t have dropped them in the first place. But I guess desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

June 13th, 2008, 2:43 pm

 

norman said:

It is unfortunate that Atassi seems to get depressed and go on a rampage with accusation every time Syria on the rise in the international arena .

June 13th, 2008, 2:52 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I am not suggesting that you are happy to see children die but the fact is that if there were cluster bombs in my backyard I would be doing a lot more to get rid of them.

I think the Lebanese diaspora could do much more in this regard. I haven’t heard of one Dearborn based organization that is working on removing the mines or raising money to support this effort. If there is, please let me know about it.

June 13th, 2008, 3:00 pm

 
 

Atassi said:

I don’t agree with your personal observation Norman… We all love to see the State of Syria as a RISEING STAR, prosperous place with visible future, and being cheered and backed by civilized states ..
I do get angry when I see ONLY a cheerleading and clapping for someone hasn’t done anything and with no proven leadership..
My standing ovation and enthusiastic cheers will come when real change become visible….
Please keep in mind, I consider both of us as patriot with one deference .. I am pro national home- grown- Democracy and you are pro-Assad-self-ruled regime

June 13th, 2008, 3:39 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

AIG I am sure that you as a “former” soldier “know” why Israel did spread the cluster bombs, which are designed and intended to work as personnel mines, when they knew that the war will end in a couple of hours. Israel’s only intention was to make the life of Lebanese civil population so hard as possible and kill so many as possible. It would be lunatic to claim any other reason. It was pure act against the civil population. Lucky for Lebanese that Israeli illegal mine mat makes it a little more difficult for Israelis next time to make the traditional “defensive friendship visit attempt” to Lebanese water reserves and these US made gifts to Middle East will kill also Jews.

AIG when reading your rather disgusting views, I certainly would not see it as a “bad thing” if Hamas and Hizbollah would have cluster bomb weapons, if it would be the only way to make you Israelis lunatics to understand that all sides can use mines and cluster bombs and how these weapons can kill also Jewish children playing in the fields and forests. Let’s see how you AIG get rid of millions of cluster bombs in you own backyard and neighbourhood.

AIG what is the difference between Israeli mines (=cluster bombs) and Hamas present rather inaccurate weapons killing your Middle Eastern children? If you say that Israel is not targeting Palestinian and Lebanese children deliberately (well Israel has killed Palestinian children with the ratio of 100 to 1 Jewish), Hamas and Hizbollah can say exactly the same.

June 13th, 2008, 3:40 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Interesting comment about India and Syria. I liked it.

As for measuring success … this is not a Syria Comment phenomena … it is the case everywhere. I know “it is the economy stupid” … but this is only true when there is nothing exciting going on externally.

Think of all the presidents and prime ministers who enjoyed high popularity because they did well in when they dealt with some external challenge.

Think of Bush Sr’s popularity after the first Iraq war … think of Margret Thatcher’s popularity after the Falklands war … think of Reagan’s increased popularity after the USSR disintegrated …

What you simplified to “Bashar’s ability to travel to Qatar”, or more accurately “Bashar’s close relations with Qatar” is part of a successful strategic policy that Bashar has been very skillfully and patiently implementing. He is playing a (the?) leading role in building “the new middle East” … the other “new Middle East” that America, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were trying to build is finished.

Bashar’s Middle East is not the extreme opposite of America’s New middle East .. it is a more natural and more popular one … and that’s something Bashar’s adversaries did not understand when they thought they can use their power (military, P.R., and economic) to force anything on the people of te Middle East.

June 13th, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi,

The difference is that some of us think that Bashar did indeed prove he is exceptionally good compared to his peers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan …

I also like the Emir of Qatar, the Emir of Dubai, and the Prime minister of Turkey …

But None of those had to manage with the kind of limited resources that Basar had to manage with .. and none of them had the kind of adversaries that Bashar had …

June 13th, 2008, 3:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I followed every one of the links you supplied. One is about rebuilding and not about removing cluster bombs, another is about a one day workshop and another is about banning cluster bombs.

Is this the best you got? Seriously, do you believe enough is being done to remove the cluster bombs?

June 13th, 2008, 3:58 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

Those links were the product of exactly 27 seconds of Google usage… there are certainly more efforts, and I know from first hand experience attending fundraisers in the Boston area that the diaspora has sent money back to Lebanon to combat this issue. Not enough, but that is another story, which has to do with the disorganization and fractiousness of the diaspora itself.

But I do love how you are earnestly trying to convince me that Dearborn-based 2nd generation Americans are to blame for every limb lost by a child to an Israeli cluster bomb! Most amusing.

“Is this the best YOU got?”

June 13th, 2008, 4:02 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
The comment about India was made by AnotherSyrianGuy, not me.

You are free to judge Asad by any criteria you want and compare his capabilities to any other dictator out there. I concede he is much better than Mugabe. As for dealing with an external challenge, the sanctions are still in place and still hurting Syria. So far, I just don’t see the success. Perhaps down the road.

June 13th, 2008, 4:09 pm

 

norman said:

Thank you Alex for answering Atassi,

And Yes Atassi , Syrians are better off now than 8 years ago , so Bashar Assad did a good job .

June 13th, 2008, 4:12 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
“But I do love how you are earnestly trying to convince me that Dearborn-based 2nd generation Americans are to blame for every limb lost by a child to an Israeli cluster bomb! Most amusing.”

No, they don’t shoulder the whole blame but yes, they are partially to blame. So are the Lebanese. So are the Israelis. This is plain common sense. Israel put the cluster bombs there. But the people negligent in removing them are also responsible.

June 13th, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
What do you base the following observation on:

“And Yes Atassi , Syrians are better off now than 8 years ago , so Bashar Assad did a good job .”

June 13th, 2008, 4:28 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

No, they don’t shoulder the whole blame but yes, they are partially to blame. So are the Lebanese. So are the Israelis. This is plain common sense. Israel put the cluster bombs there. But the people negligent in removing them are also responsible.

AIG I did my army service in pioneer troops. So I have some knowledge how long it takes to clean even a small region of mines and how dangerous that is. It is absurd to claim that Lebanese farmers and other normal people could clean their neighbourhood of mines (which your US made cluster bombs are) which are extremely difficult to detect. That is a job for trained professionals and even if there are many of them it takes years to clean South Lebanon.

Your “Israeli” style of shifting the responsibility of Israeli planted cluster bombs to Lebanese is mildly said “interesting”. Well if you IGs would like to help the Lebanese to save their children and civilians why then not provide them detailed maps of minefields and coordinates where the cluster bombs were mainly targeted. That would help more than demanding Lebanese to collect money.

June 13th, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
There are many groups that could clear the cluster bombs. It is just a matter of funding and priorities. As for where the cluster bombs are, the Lebanese already know the areas better than Israel.

I personally would be angry at my government if it did not take care of stuff shot at us by Hizballah or anything that happened because of Hizballah’s action. Yes, the cluster bombs were shot by Israel 2 years ago. But since then, the Lebanese could have done more to remove them.

June 13th, 2008, 4:58 pm

 

Atassi said:

Norman,
Syrians are better than 8 years ago! which Syria or Syrians are you referring to please!!.. Maybe they are much better with a lower arrangement or standers …
Alex,
I never concur that the other regional leaders are expectable“ “ONLY turkey is the exception”

June 13th, 2008, 5:09 pm

 

norman said:

AIG,,

This is not a scientific survey but according to my mother who goes to Syria every year , she claims that the Syrian have more jobs many in the private sector , products are available more than before and people’s ability to pay for them is there , yes there are price increases but that could be related to the weak dollar , as you know the Syrian pound is still attached to the dollar to some extend .

About education , you know i am proud of the education System in Syria ,they just need practical training .
Last year my nephew came for training in his last year of medical school to the US he spent two months , he passsed his tests and was offered a residency training in the same hospital with H1 Visa ,

He came early this year and did research at UOP , they were very happy with him and wanted him to continue while at the residency program.

Conclusion , Yes Syria is better off than 8 years ago.

June 13th, 2008, 5:16 pm

 

norman said:

This for the future Syria nuclear plan

Turkey, Syria eye nuclear energy cooperation: agency
Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:57am EDT
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey and Syria are considering setting up a joint energy company and could build joint nuclear power plants for electricity, Syria’s oil minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Turkey’s state-run Antolian agency quoted Oil Minister Sufian Alao as saying that the two countries will announce the establishment of a joint energy company in the coming days, which could explore for oil in Turkey, Syria and in third countries.

“We could also enter into cooperation in the nuclear field. I spoke to (Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler) Mr. Guler on cooperation. In the future we could found joint nuclear power plants for electricity production,” he was quoted as saying.

Washington released intelligence in April which it said showed Syria secretly built an atomic reactor with North Korean help. Damascus, a U.S. foe and ally of Iran, denies any covert nuclear activity and has said it would cooperate with a U.N. investigation into the allegations.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, is already under pressure from Washington because of its natural gas cooperation with Iran, whose secretive uranium enrichment program has been under scrutiny since 2003.

The general director of Turkish state energy firm TPAO, Mehmet Uysal, was also quoted as saying the two countries had decided to set up a joint energy company and that a deal could be signed by the end of the year, but did not mention cooperation on nuclear energy.

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June 13th, 2008, 5:18 pm

 

offended said:

Something is terribly wrong with the western media. Instead of saying “Bashar is invited to attend the 14th of july celebration in france” their headlines laments “uproar in France as Bashar is invited to attend the celebrations”

June 13th, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

Obviously, not everyone in France is happy about it. Here’s another piece in that genre:

Sarkozy accused of breaking promises after he decides to celebrate 14 July with press freedom predator

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the announcement that Syrian President Bashar el-Assad will be accompanying President Nicolas Sarkozy on the official podium during the French national holiday celebrations in Paris on 14 July.

“Nicolas Sarkozy is breaking one commitment after another,” the press freedom organisation said. “After welcoming Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with open arms in Paris on 10 December, Human Rights Day, and singing the praises of the Tunisian regime in April, he is now going to celebrate 14 July, which is supposed to be in honour of independence and freedom, next to the president of one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

“How far is Sarkozy ready to go to promote his Mediterranean Union project? What new concessions will he make to the Libyan leader to get him to support this project? When he was running for president, Sarkozy put human rights at the heart of his programme. He said that, with him as president, talks would be much firmer especially, as regards Russia and China. Today we are far, very far, from these commitments. President Sarkozy, like others before him, is pursing a realpolitik at the expense of the values France is supposed to embody.”

The Mediterranean Union project, which aims to reinforce the already existing cooperation between the Mediterranean countries and the European Union, will be officially created during a special summit in Paris on 13 July. Many Arab counties, including Lybia and Syria, have expressed misgivings about the project.

After being received by Sarkozy in Paris last December, Gaddafi said during an interview for France 2 television that human rights had not been raised in his talks with the French president. This was denied by the Elysée Palace.

During a state visit to Tunisia in April, Sarkozy said, “I do not see why I should take it upon myself to give lessons” and even went so far as to congratulate President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for the progress Tunisia had supposedly made in respect for rights and freedoms.

Four journalists and three cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Adra prison in Damascus as a result of a campaign of arrests of human rights activists. In Tunisia, journalist Slim Boukhdir is currently serving a one-year prison sentence.

Assad, Gaddafi and Ben Ali are all on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

June 13th, 2008, 5:49 pm

 

Majhool said:

Attasi and AIG,

Don’t we all know that this a mere PR outlet to the regime? From “News Round ups” to the posts, everything conveys the following reparative elements
Syria is Winning (not sure is the Syrians are included)
Syria is booming
Syrians love/support Bashar (some around here would even give you hard number)
The regime wants peace with Israel
Bashar Protects the Christians from the radical majority
etc

Bashar Will Always Have Paris: Obama has AIPAC

Comparing/including the two in one sentence is laughable

June 13th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

Zenobia said:

Aig,

i think it is so disingenuous how you continuously grab on to such issues and hammer and hammer for a point that you never state but only imply.
why don’t you cut the crap and cut to the chase instead, and state your ultimate point:
You obviously want to argue that the arab world and the people of the Middle East don’t care for each other, are ungenerous to each other, and irresponsible to their countryman. They are incompetent, but worse yet, don’t care if their own people suffer or die. Oh yeah, and they are cowardly, uneducated, and treat their women like shit.
And this is all because they don’t have democracy, according to your world view.

All your arguments, at bottom, seek to prove these underlying views. So, why do you engage everyone around the details of so many concrete issues, when really you could just save your self the effort and keep restating the same point that underlies. It would save so much energy.

I keep wondering what your arguments are for. Are you simply a bigot? Or is there some other motivation for the relentless quest?

But I finally realized your purpose. You hope to make yourself feel that all the focus on Israeli crimes is pure subterfuge to cover the inadequacies of the arab world and its diaspora. So, if you can show how fucked up everyone else in the region is, then Israel can claim greater moral impunity and superiority.

It’s so pathetic.
You are the coward it turns out. You need not highlight all the shortcomings and failings of others to redeem yourself or your country. It is truly truly false comfort.

June 13th, 2008, 6:39 pm

 

Shai said:

Zenobia,

While I do not wish to be seen as representing AIG in any shape or form, I do want to pose my own angle on your comment above. I refuse to believe that AIG, regardless of his opinions, is here because he has nothing better to do with his life, or because he is some “government propaganda” machine like some here believe. True, much of what he says does boil down to your claims above. But surely he isn’t so bored a person to repeat his message, just for the sake of repetition. After reading many of his comments over the past few months, I too have come to the conclusion that his wish for democracy throughout the region is quite fantastical, and in any case should not be a precondition to anything. But, I don’t think his main reason for being here is to promote democracy in the region.

Instead, I do think he’s here because the interaction with the “other side” is important to him, and because he truly hopes to see change (or even be changed). While often disagreeing completely with my analysis, he has admitted at times that IF certain things were to happen (e.g. my hope that Bashar would surprise us with a visit to Tel-Aviv… not even Jerusalem), he would reconsider his positions. And though I also often disagree with him, or with his approach, it is clear to me that discussion between the “two sides” must take place also with AIG’s, Naji’s, Simo’s, and Shai’s. You could argue that, like AIG, all Simo wants to do is convince everyone here how f*#@ed-up Israel and Israelis are, and how therefore no one should make peace with us. But I believe he too hopes to see change. He shares with us the truth as he sees it, and hopes to contribute in whatever fashion he can, to change reality.

I think what bothers many here has to do more with the style, than the actual content. I myself have had great difficulties hearing certain things said about Israel, Israelis, or Jews, and when I tried to understand why, I realized it was more because of “how” things were said, rather than “what” was actually said. I’m not trying to convince you that AIG is really an Arab-lover in his wishes for freedom and democracy. But I do believe he’s not here because he’s bored. It is important that Arabs see many different faces of Israelis, and hear different angles and opinions. And the same of course for us, to hear a wide variety of Arab opinions. Look, I hate to admit it, but unfortunately for the current peace efforts, AIG does tend to represent more Israelis than I do. So you must hear him, to know what you’re “up against”. But I also believe that AIG is perfectly willing to switch camps, if he can be convinced to do so. He hasn’t showed any kind of cognitive closure to ideas brought forth. He does have very strong beliefs, but if and when the time comes, and Israelis will have to choose “for” or “against”, I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose “for”. Wishful thinking? Maybe… but what the heck… 🙂

June 13th, 2008, 7:19 pm

 

Zenobia said:

shai,
Aig has not shown any ‘cognitive closure’?? I think that is absurd~! He has shown more cognitive closure than anything else. His responses are 90% the same train over and over again.

I never said at all that he is here because of boredom. I am not sure where you got that from- but I really think you missed my point.

If this discussion were about exchange of information or ideas or perspectives, I am really all for that. I certainly have not always agreed with the delivery of Simo’s or many others.
My main critique is one of motivation. I don’t think Aig is bored. I think he is motivated by exactly what I outlined at the end… a need to prove something to himself and everyone else listening about the deficient quality/ merit/ and morality of others (in this case the Arab world) verses his own people and state.

I think this has nothing to do with a genuine desire to bring democracy and benefit to the arab world. I think this is all internally driven desire to feel pride and comfort in his own self perception and the self perception of Israel. Israel’s self image is constantly under threat and conflict through its dilemma. It is caught between its desire to be a noble entity and its problem with the realities of what is entailed in occupation and with condemnation coming from the outside world community (other than from america).
I think AIG’s personal quest is the same as Israel’s as a whole: to avoid the reality of self perception and critique by obsessive projection of badness onto the other, if not total demonization of the Other.
He personally does it in a very smooth patronizing but seemingly rational way. And since there are plenty of faults and inadequacies of the ‘opposition’/ enemy/ other to site, this makes the whole process very easy in some respect.

However, it remains that this entire process is still one big DEFENSE. It has nothing to do with actually engagement or concern for the other. It is simply self driven activity. And its purpose is only to elevate the self, or in this case elevate the self identified with a nation – that of Israel.

June 13th, 2008, 7:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zenobia,
I have no idea how you have reached your conclusions and for some reason you are also completely misrepreseting my arguments. I don’t obviously want to generalize about anything and would not like to jump to any general conclusions. In your mind you are making the generalizations and attributing them to me.

I do not think the two wrongs make a right and of course anything bad the Arabs do does not in anyway justify or redeem anything Israel does. I really could not be more clear about this issue. I claim no moral impunity or superiority for Israel. I have said several times that Israel is just an average country with average people that are not any better than their Arab neighbors. The only advantage Israel has is that it is a democracy.

The only point I want to push across is that democractic reform is essential in the middle east.

June 13th, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

Shai said:

Zenobia,

I see what you mean, and I do agree that there’s an almost innate need on behalf of most Israelis to point out the faults of “the other” rather than focus inwards, at our own very difficult shortcomings. Look at our FM, perhaps soon-to-be PM, Tzipi Livni. A few weeks ago, she had the “chutzpah” to suggest to the Palestinians that their Independence would come the day they remove “Naqba” from their lexicon! It’s exactly the same deflection. Most Israelis do not understand that instead, Israel will not achieve OUR independence, unless WE adopt the “Naqba” INTO our lexicon! I don’t know why it has been so difficult for Israelis to accept the harsh reality about ourselves and our history. Why we cannot understand that unless we begin to understand and accept, we cannot move forward. So yes, I understand your frustration when hearing AIG deflecting back at you, or at others.

But still, Zenobia, we must hear all the opinions. AIG represents most Israelis right now, that’s a fact, I’m afraid to say. Even for me, as an Israeli, it is important to hear AIG, and to engage him in discussion. Initially, we clashed like two blind titans. But with time, I found the way to hear him out, and to discuss things with him. There is no alternative – these are the “cards” we’re dealt.

June 13th, 2008, 8:02 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai and Zenobia,
I have written this several times but you just won’t take what I say at face value. I think democracy will be good for Syria but the main reason I support it is because it will be good for Israel. I am not worried about Syria, I am looking out for Israel’s interests.

Zenobia, you seem to think I am on some self defense mission. I am very much aware of Israel’s failures, and again that fact that the Arabs are failing in many respects does not make Israel in any way better.

Instead of inventing psychological theories, show why my arguments are just “seemingly rational” but not really rational. And if they are rational, just respond to them.

June 13th, 2008, 8:06 pm

 

karim said:

The difference is that some of us think that Bashar did indeed prove he is exceptionally good compared to his peers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan …

This is why saudi arabia and jordan are full of third class syrian workers….not more than 20 years ago it was not the case ,the syrian were doctors and professors in the gulf and jordan
An another dangerous development is that mukhabarat officers are encouraging and protecting prostitution and sex business it was marginal 20 years ago today damascus the very conservative city has become the thailand of middle eastand this is before the iraqi wave and now they exploit the iraqi misery .And in which country in the world people like dalileh ,labwani ,kilo are in jail ?They destroyed syria ,they destroyed damascus …they are the enemy of the syrian people and their culture and they should go back from where they came we dont share the same values and Alex you will follow them.Your place is with them not with us.

June 13th, 2008, 8:23 pm

 

Nour said:

Karim,

I don’t know where you get your news, but if you believe that Syria only recently has had workers working outside the country then I don’t know what to tell you. There are still many Syrian doctors, professors, engineers, etc. working in the Gulf; this has not changed. As for dissidents being jailed, while we all have condemned these acts, in what part of the world do you think Syria is to as a question such as “in which country in the world people like dalileh ,labwani ,kilo are in jail ?” Just about every Arab country has such people in jail.

No one is claiming that Syria has suddenly transformed into a fully developed first world country. However, certain good and positive steps are being taken. You are not going to get an immediate transformation of Syria no matter who rules the country. If you think for one second that those so-called “opposition” people would implement drastic changes if they were to be instantaneously implanted as rulers of Syria, then you better think again. There are many social and economic issues that need to be addressed, and which are very difficult matters to tackle.

Syria today is providing better education and better opportunities to its citizens. This does not mean that Syrian citizens can all of a sudden easily find $50,000/yr jobs, but it does mean that the country is moving in the right direction. There are more industries, universities, and research institutions in Syria today than ever before. Business opportunities are much more prevalent. The moukhabarat are no longer as intrusive as they used to be. People can criticize the government and many of its policies much more freely than before. These are all facts and if you can’t see them, then there’s not much we can tell you.

June 13th, 2008, 8:34 pm

 

karim said:

Nour what better education ? 50 % of pupils are nearly illetarates…you say that because most of these corrupt people and moukhabarat are SSNP lovers….do u know that the baath school is not enough in Syria and most of the families must pay extra hours lessons for their children if they want to succeed ?
Nour 50 years ago we had the best univesities and schools in the arab world now even libya is better than us what about compared to jordan ,lebanon and even under blocus iraq ?
And even if you are not syrian ,you know that all positive things in today Syria is from the private sector and from what it remained of the tradition from what they did not succeed to erase,even if they killed 100 000 syrians ,but Syria has people who resist and the salvation can only came from them not from bad reputation families and your beloved baathi ssnpers mukhabarati state.

June 13th, 2008, 8:42 pm

 

Nour said:

Karim,

You are making the same assumptions as Majhool did before you, so I would suggest that you calm down. I never said that the improved situation is because of the Baathists, nor do I support the type of governance that had been provided by the Baath Party, which I believe acted more like a gang, than a ruling party. But I did say that the opportunities are there today that were not there previously. While it may be true that things were really bad under Baathist rule, which I never liked or supported, I believe that Bashar el-Assad has made some necessary changes in the last few years. Things are not going to suddenly transform in such a short period regardless of who is ruling. But things are definitely better today in Syria, than they were in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s really not fair to blame Bashar for Baathist rule the last 40 years.

And just where in the world did you get that 50% of pupils in Syria are illiterate; that’s an outright lie. And this is the problem with the vehement anti-Syrian regime so-called “opposition” people. You will make up anything just to attack the regime and will refuse to recognize anything positive that Assad has done, which shows that you are more interested in personal vendettas than in improving your country.

June 13th, 2008, 8:53 pm

 

karim said:

Nour ,so go with them and live with them ,the syrian regime can only be summerized by lies and treachery ,this is not our traditions we are brave and civilized people..go understand why in syria there is no mariage and no business with them.Even people like mualem and sharaa hate them in silence.
You speak about vendettas ,this is what the regime is doing since 1970 and the victims are not a vulgar gang but a people and the creme de la creme of this people? It’s not me who is jailing the most brave syrians and encouraging the most corrupt barbarians.Bashar is not different from his father …you should take into account the different eras….with hafez we were in the bottom of the list and today we still are in the bottom with bashar….this is not normal for one of the most civilized people in the region.the mistake is not from the people.

June 13th, 2008, 9:00 pm

 

Zenobia said:

Shai,
Actually, I don’t think most Israelis are like AIG in the respect I am talking about. Maybe they share his political views, but that isn’t what I am talking about.

AIG, I don’t expect you to have any thoughts on what I said except to not recognize any of it.
But as for rationality, I think the case of the cluster bomb thing is a perfectly good example. It is not even a problem with great ambiguities. This is very straight forward, no matter who would be the perpetrators. Cluster bombs are obscene civilian killers and they should be banned.
The fact that Israel used them is obscene, and they are responsible for that decision and the outcome.
But all you choose to focus your attention on is whether the Lebanese or the diaspora lebanese have put enough effort themselves – to go down there in the South and become bomb disablers? I am sure there are some who have risked their lives to do that. But you are actually busy criticizing that more Lebanese did not leave their normal life and put their life on the line to go disable bombs! You say this for what purpose? To make morality statement? A comment about what??
What is the point really??? why don’t you actually state the point of your comments? What are you trying to say about the people?
Because it is very hard not to see your motivation as a character and cultural skewering.
And you are actually doing this over an issue like… bomb dismantlement.
This is what I am calling irrational.

And you lead the talk that way- right away from the original view in which Israel has the responsibility for the situation. I think this has nothing to do with some rational helpful critique of the Lebanese. It is just a ploy and a defense.

Shai, I don’t think this is at all an innate need of particularly Israelis to avoid self reflection by utilizing the defense of projection and by attacking the Other’s character or attacking any reality that draws attention to one’s fallibility. This defense is human nature for ALL people.
But of course, it is employed at different moments in proportion to the need to defend oneself from guilt or shame.
I am not saying that only Israelis engage in this. I am sick of anyone and everyone pointing the glass at others all the time and not- owning their own shit.

AS for your comment about Livni and the Nakba comment. I actually agree with her more than I agree with you, even if my motivation for thinking the symbol of the Nakba should be dropped is different from hers. Again, perhaps she is saying that purely for the function of again deflecting the discussion of the source of conflict away from Israel’s policies to a problem with the Palestinian’s self representation.

However, personally, I think the Palestinians are being self-destructive at this point by continuing to support an entire identity around dispossession and “catastrophe”… instead of altering and creating something new. Granted the situation on the ground lends itself to nothing new being able to take root.

But language and symbol are still important. And the primacy of ‘Nakba” is counterproductive at this point. The result being that they are plagued by continuous looking backwards at the expense of looking for solutions. They focus on retribution for the catastrophe instead of how they can effectively demand what they have now at their fingertips and how they can build from there.
I really don’t believe a national paradigm of catastrophe is helpful at all.
But you see I put my criticism in all directions. The obsession with pointing to how the Other has wounded and the other is suffused with culpability and the cause of all that is wrong, has never helped anyone improve on themselves.

June 13th, 2008, 9:09 pm

 

Zenobia said:

hey, did you guys read this funny op-ed about the choice for the Israeli national bird?

I think it is very cute and witty.

June 10, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Will Peace Take Flight?
By JONATHAN ROSEN

LATE last month, Israel announced that it had named the hoopoe as its national bird. The long-billed hoopoe, which has a punky orange crest tipped black, is barely mentioned in the Bible (as an unclean animal that may not be eaten) but it plays a role in rabbinic literature and in Islamic lore as well. It is celebrated, among other things, as the messenger that shuttles between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. It is in other words well suited to the symbolic burden the country has placed on it.

The idea that birds can be emissaries to a battered world — like the dove and raven sent out by Noah — motivated Israel’s decision to adopt a national bird as part of its commemoration of 60 years of statehood. In Hebrew the name of the bird is duchifat. In Arabic it is hud hud. And in English hoopoe is a word that sounds, as Emily Dickinson noted about all feathered creatures, strangely like hope.

The news was announced at the official residence of the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, who in the late 1940s changed his name from Persky to Peres because he saw a giant lammergeier, or bearded vulture (in Hebrew, a “peres”), circling overhead. Legend has it that the lammergeier, which no longer breeds in Israel, killed the Greek tragedian Aeschylus by dropping a tortoise on his head. Birds can be dangerous, which is precisely why the United States chose the bald eagle, though Benjamin Franklin complained, in a letter to his daughter, that the eagle was a cowardly bully while the turkey was nobler and feistier and therefore a more apt symbol for America.

In Franklin’s time, a young democracy wanted a warrior bird; in the 21st century other considerations carry the day. The cross-section of Israelis who did the voting to choose a national bird — including schoolchildren, soldiers, academics and Knesset members — rejected the possibility of a raptor (specifically, the much-loved, and endangered, griffon vulture) as sending the wrong signal for the country. They also rejected the night owl, which Arabs believe to be an evil omen.

I first saw a hoopoe in 2000, the year the Oslo Accords officially fell apart. I had known about the bird since childhood, when I learned that King Solomon — who, with his storied ability to understand the speech of animals is the Dr. Doolittle of Judaism — had sought out the hoopoe in order to build the Temple. It had not occurred to me, until I began bird-watching, that the bird was real.

But there I was, in a small bird observatory in Jerusalem, with a soldier whose job it was to net migrating birds, weigh them and then toss them back into the air. “Filthy birds,” he said, pointing out one that was heading for a hole in a wall and then adding that they reeked of excrement. So much for the bird who helped the king build a house for God. It was, however, a lesson worthy of Solomon, seeing this lofty bird that smells of mortality. It is the nature of birds to embody multiple elements, shuttling as they do between earth and sky, between ancient and modern, between wild and tame. They are emblems of our heavenly aspirations and yet they are the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs.

The search for a national bird was organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and led by an Israeli ornithologist, Yossi Leshem. Dr. Leshem has created the International Center for Bird Migration in Latrun, the site of some very bloody battles in Israel’s War of Independence and home to a vast war memorial. The center’s hopeful slogan, printed in Hebrew, Arabic and English, is “Migrating birds know no boundaries,” in contrast to the people on the ground, for whom boundaries are everything. This gives birdlife an added poignancy in Israel.

Israel is a surprisingly good place for bird-watching (half a billion birds fly through the country during migration, converging from Africa, Asia and Europe). Jeremiah noted that “the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times” and she still does — every year, 85 percent of the world’s white stork population migrates over Israel, despite the general upheaval of the world below.

A hoopoe is the hero of the Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar’s “Conference of the Birds,” a medieval allegory in which a group of birds sets out to find the king of the birds. The hoopoe is their leader, artfully persuading all the reluctant birds to come on the quest. In the end, they manage to find the king of the birds, who turns out to be God. The birds that have made it into the bird king’s presence are filled with radiant insight but they are consumed — they discover they are part of God and they are obliterated in the divine effulgence. This is a happy ending if you are a mystic but it is chilling if you are not.

Attar, a Sufi, believed that all religions are a path to God. It is part of the endless irony of history that the place where Attar once lived (and that in fact expelled him for heresy) today threatens with obliteration those nations, most especially the Jewish state, that it deems an abomination. Whether even the wisdom of King Solomon, and his magical avian emissary, can devise an answer to this threat is one of the great challenges of the coming days.

Jonathan Rosen, the editorial director of Nextbook, is the author, most recently, of “The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature.”

June 13th, 2008, 9:25 pm

 

Majhool said:

Karim and Nour

Blaming all past and current ills of Syria on the Ba’ath Party is not objective.

The Ba’ath party assumed real power in Syria only from 1963-1970. Hafez Assad turned the party into a patronage network closely intertwined with the bureaucracy, and soon became virtually indistinguishable from the state, while membership numbers were increased to well over one million (reflecting both a conscious desire to turn the previous vanguard party into a regime-supporting mass organization, and the fact that party membership was now vital to advancement in many sectors). The party simultaneously lost its independence from the state, and was turned into a tool of the Asad regime, which remained based essentially in the security forces.

Therefore,

Whatever damage the Ba’ath inflected on Syrian society in those short-lived 7 years could have been reversed during Hafez Assad time which lasted 30 years. Blaming the Baathist as if the Assads had nothing to do with it is a stretch.

The root cause of Syria’s problem is it’s ruling structure ( security apparatus supported by the rubber stamping machine of what’s left of the Baath party)

Bashar Assad did not attempt to change this structure. Instead he worked on decreasing the emphasis on socialist planning in the economy, but no significant changes have taken place in its relation to the state and state power. The Baath party remained essentially a patronage and supervisory tool of the regime elite.

The limited progress we saw in Syria is not a result of wise and/or innovative policies, it’s simply a product of merely lifting a number of restrictions imposed on the Syrian society for decades. a retraction of a rusty spring to less than it’s original relaxed state and beyond which this leadership is incapable of stretching any further.

Syria will continue to under-perform in all aspects.

June 13th, 2008, 10:24 pm

 

karim said:

Spain extradites Syrian arms dealer to US
Jun 13, 2008, 20:19 GMT

Washington/Madrid – A Syrian arms dealer who allegedly conspired to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian rebels has been extradited from Spain to the United States, the US Justice Department said Friday.

Monzer al-Kassar faces five counts of federal terrorism charges, along with two accomplices, and a minimum of 25 years in jail if convicted. He arrived in New York and was expected to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon, the department said.

Spain handed al-Kassar over to US authorities earlier Friday after his extradition had been authorized by the government a week earlier. Spain’s National Court approved the extradition on the condition that the death penalty would not be applied to al-Kassar, and that he would not be jailed for his entire life.

Al-Kassar is suspected of supplying weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as well as a number of other armed factions around the globe since the 1970s.

The Justice Department said he was caught in a sting operation trying to sell weapons to FARC – Colombia’s largest leftwing rebel group and designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Al-Kassar was detained a year ago at Madrid airport after flying in from the southern Costa del Sol, where he has lived since 1980.

The National Court said al-Kassar had supplied weapons to groups in Nicaragua, Brazil, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia, Iran and Iraq.

Al-Kassar had fought his extradition on the grounds that the US would not grant an Arab a fair trial.

June 13th, 2008, 11:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Karim,

You said that “50% of pupils are nearly illetarates”

Can you provided reliable, independent sources?

June 14th, 2008, 12:48 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ha ha…looks who gets the last laugh on the nuclear issue!

Syria
Ankara and Damascus to cooperate in the nuclear area

Turkey and Syria plan to enter into a joint venture in the area of energy and plan to build a series of nuclear power plants, said Syrian Petroleum Minister Soufiane Alao…. The two countries will announce the creation of the company in the next few days, which will initially explore for oil Turkey, Syria and a third, unnamed country.

[Via L’Orient-Le Jour]

June 14th, 2008, 12:55 am

 

karim said:

Alex ,do u have doubt about it ?
I dont have datas or statistics on the quality variable but it’s from my own experience and i speak my mind .According to the UN statistics ,we can say that only 15 % are illeterates ok but what means the number if we lack quality ?The great Samir Kassir once said that in Aleppo there were more french speaking peole than in Beirut before the 60’s and in the same time according to other sources Aleppo had in proportion the same number of lawyers of the french city of Lyon.Today most of banners are written in weak languages even in arabic(even those of liberal professions) this is a shame specially when it make the jordanians or lebanese and even the saudis mocking us and unfortunately this is the reality.Alex ,this is what Syria deserve,a banana republic style regime,we the sons of the aramaics,phoenicians,palmyrians and umayyads ?And you dares to play the devil’s advocate ?You are not excused because you know this reality and youw know who is the responsible .

June 14th, 2008, 1:10 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Atassi;
things in Syria are much better than they were 8 years ago,all prisons have very highly educated people,in them, than they used to be, they have doctors,lawyers and great thinkers, that is improvement/

June 14th, 2008, 1:27 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

Isn’t obvious,

I mean look at all of us here , we are graduate from Syria’s school and we are illiterate.

Sorry, not all of us as some like Atassi, Majhool, Karim probably went to private schools , and are at least better than me .

June 14th, 2008, 1:44 am

 

Alex said:

Norman,

I understand how “they” think when it comes to anything Bashar does.

June 14th, 2008, 2:00 am

 

norman said:

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Article Photo (1) Comments (0) In Israel, Separation Anxiety Over the Future of the Golan Heights
Why some Israelis are fretting about peace talks with Syria
By Larry Derfner
Posted June 13, 2008

GOLAN HEIGHTS—As Israeli and Syrian negotiators prepared to resume recently announced peace talks, this rugged, swooping stretch of land that divides their two countries and dominates their discussions was booked fairly solid by Israelis on holiday.

A Druze shepherd greets a Druze farmer in the Golan Heights, now the focus of Israeli-Syrian talks.
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In the hot, dry khamsin weather last weekend at the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israelis headed up to the Golan’s cherry orchards, ranches, nature reserves, vineyards, waterfalls, and mountain trails. Typically, their reaction to the first Israeli-Syrian peace talks since 2000, being conducted through Turkish mediators in Istanbul, was one of scorn. “We love this place, and we’re not going to give it back,” says Avi, a young security guard from the Tel Aviv area.

He was picnicking with his girlfriend under the lush trees of the Banias Nature Reserve, near an old Syrian mosque abandoned during the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel gained control of the Golan Heights. Noting that Damascus is aligned with Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, Avi expresses his fears that if Israel relinquishes this high ground, Syria will bombard Israeli towns and farming villages near the Galilee shore, as it did before 1967. “Anyway, these negotiations are just talk,” he maintains. “There’s no chance they’ll succeed.”

The Golan Heights, whose 1981 annexation by Israel remains unrecognized by the world, is widely considered the most gorgeous part of the country. Rising from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee to Mount Hermon, it is about the size of Los Angeles but has only 40,000 residents—half Israeli settlers, half Druze Muslims who, with very few exceptions, remain loyal to Syria. In the past, the Golan was considered mainly a strategic military asset—the high ground, the “eyes of the country” watching Syria. Secondly, the Golan was valued for its water sources, which have vast importance in the Middle East.

Changed prospects. But while the Golan had great military significance in the ground battles of the Six-Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War, it has less today, when there is satellite surveillance and more emphasis placed on missiles than on tanks. And with water-rich Turkey mediating—and reportedly receptive to the idea of selling some of its surplus to Israel, Syria, and other Mideast countries as part of a peace deal—the Golan’s water issue could be resolvable.

Yet most Israelis don’t see it this way, which could make it difficult to sell any deal on the home front. “The Golan is part of this country,” says Svetlana, 45, an engineer who was strolling by the Snir stream with her husband and daughter, having driven up for the weekend from their Negev desert home in Beersheba. “Throughout history, countries lost land in war,” she says. “When did the victor ever give it back?”

Beyond strategic value, beyond water, the Golan Heights provides both tangible and psychological breathing space for Israelis living in one of the world’s most crowded, driest corners. The Golan is green, wet, mountainous; Israelis go skiing on the Hermon in winter. There’s been no shooting from the Syrian side since the 1974 agreement brokered by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

And while the 20,000 Druze live in exile, they do not live under military occupation; they’re free to come and go anywhere in Israel without soldiers or checkpoints impeding them. (They can’t travel to and from Syria, though, unless it’s to attend college.) “This is a new model for peace in the Middle East, and look what Israel has gotten from it: no attacks, economic development, horseback riding, mineral water, good wine, good steak. Why tamper with it?” Ramona Bar-Lev, a settler activist since 1969, says as she sits in the office of the Golan Settlements Council in Katzrin, the “capital” of the heights.

Israel may not give this land up, now or ever. And on the Syrian side, the open question is whether President Bashar Assad is prepared to meet Israel’s demand that he join the “moderate Arab camp” with Egypt and Jordan, neighbors that have peace treaties with Israel.

The odds seem to be against the peace talks, but Israeli public opinion and political alignment could change if the Syrians appear to be forthcoming. And though a solid Knesset majority opposes the negotiations, the talks are supported by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the country’s military and intelligence leadership. Furthermore, a less politically and legally endangered Israeli leader than Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could be in office before too long, as well as a less anti-Syrian U.S. president than George W. Bush. Finally, Israel, the United States, and Syria all have important alliances with Turkey, which has invested its prestige in getting these talks underway; no one wants to be blamed by Turkey for being the spoiler.

Whatever its prospects, the Israeli-Syrian peace process is moving again after eight static years. The coveted, pivotal Golan Heights is back in play.

Druze memories. Along the road on the eastern edge of the Golan stand reminders of Syria’s pre-Six-Day War rule: a heavily pockmarked mosque and minaret, now covered with Hebrew and Arabic graffiti; a Syrian military base whose barracks were painted over with Israeli army insignias and which now stands abandoned again. Farther north, though, there are shockingly new, vibrant testaments to Syria’s claim on this Israeli-ruled land: Syrian flags flying from the traffic circles in Majdal Shams, the largest of four Druze villages strung along the approach to Mount Hermon. The flags were taped to the upheld sabers and rifles on the heroic black sculptures memorializing the local Druze rebellion against French rule in the 1920s. In the town’s Sultan Square, more Syrian flags and a framed photo of Bashar Assad are on display, along with photos of more than a dozen Golan Druze men imprisoned in Israel for espionage since as far back as 1982.

The flags and photos were hung a few days earlier for the annual protest marking the anniversary of Israel’s occupation. They’re also put out for the yearly Syrian Independence Day rally. That Syrian flags are allowed to flap in the wind in the center of Majdal Shams for days illustrated how low a profile Israeli soldiers and police maintain in the Druze villages. “We’ll take the flags down later today,” says Ali Almerei, 78, a businessman and communal leader. “We want peace with Israel. We don’t use violence.”

Israel’s June 1967 conquest of the heights, which followed days of Syrian shelling, divided the Druze remaining in the Golan from their families across the new border. Economically, though, Golan Druze farmers, tourism entrepreneurs, and professionals have generally prospered under Israeli sovereignty. There is a “Shalom” restaurant in Majdal Shams and another in the nearby village of Mas’ade. Hundreds of Golan Druze have graduated from the University of Damascus and work as doctors, dentists, engineers, and in other professions all over Israel, including in Katzrin.

In his Majdal Shams fruit-and-vegetable store, Ahsan Zahwa, 38, says he has plenty of Israeli friends. “They come to my house, they spend the weekend with us,” he says. But he joins all the pro-Syrian demonstrations and refuses to take out an Israeli passport or vote in Israeli elections. He says the few Druze who do “are not accepted and not respected.” A butcher and former Arabic teacher, Hassan Fahr el-Din, 60, has lived under Syrian rule and Israeli rule, and he prefers the former. “In Syria,” he says, “everyone is behind President Assad, not like here—one goes this way, another goes that way, somebody else goes a different way.” El-Din maintains that Israelis are “mistaken” to fear that Syria would take back the Golan but give no peace in return. “What do they want?” he asks. “There hasn’t been a bullet fired from Syria since the ’73 war.”

Yitzhak Rabin was the first Israeli prime minister to offer the Syrians land for peace; then came Binyamin Netanyahu, then Barak, now Olmert. Each of those earlier negotiations foundered on the amount of land and the extent of peace. While none of those failures led to war, Israeli doves warn that it could happen this time. If these talks fail because of Israeli intransigence, Assad might be tempted to launch an attack in the hope of bringing international pressure on Israel to deal. Moshe Maoz, a Hebrew University professor and one of Israel’s leading authorities on Syria, doubts that scenario. “Assad,” he says, “does not have the military power to want to risk attacking Israel.” However, Maoz adds that war could occur without either side wanting it, as a result of tit-for-tat escalations that get out of hand, like in the run-up to the Six-Day War.

One thing that’s different about these Israeli-Syrian peace talks is that for the first time, Israel is not dealing with President Hafez Assad, who died in 2000. Syria is now led by his son, Bashar, whose views are less well known. Something else that’s new is the bone-deep cynicism in Israel’s body politic toward giving up more land for the promise of peace with any Arab entity, what with the ongoing rocketing of Israeli border towns from the Gaza Strip nearly three years after Israel ended its occupation there.

Yet another new element is a U.S. president who isn’t encouraging the talks. It has been widely reported that the Bush administration has little interest in moves that could ease the diplomatic isolation of Syria before it commits to breaking with its radical allies.

Settler activist Bar-Lev recalls past battles against Israeli prime ministers bent on trading the Golan Heights for peace, notably the settlers’ hunger strike in 1994 that drew perhaps 250,000 Israelis to the Golan for solidarity pilgrimages. “Now it’s a new round,” she says.

Noting Olmert’s legal and political troubles and Bush’s chilliness toward the talks, she figures her team is starting out in a stronger position than in the past. But Olmert may have a successor before long, and Bush certainly will. “The chance of an agreement with Syria being reached under Olmert is almost zero,” figures the Golan old-timer. “But 2009 should be an interesting year.”

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June 14th, 2008, 2:01 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

That was funny.

June 14th, 2008, 2:02 am

 

karim said:

Alex ,how many pictures of bashar do you have in your house?

June 14th, 2008, 2:12 am

 

Majhool said:

majedkhaldoun

I disagree, Bashar made things better. And what Nour listed:

“Business opportunities are much more prevalent. The moukhabarat are no longer as intrusive as they used to be. People can criticize the government and many of its policies much more freely than before”

Is true.

You said: “all prisons have very highly educated people,in them, than they used to be, they have doctors,lawyers and great thinkers, that is improvement/”

I also disagree, Prisons in Syria have always had: lawyers and great thinkers.
The question should be: Is this enough Progress? Does it address the root casue of Syria’s problems? Are we in the right direction?

I belive the answer is: no. what we are seeing is reversible cosmetic changes. The system is the same.

Norman,

Let’s be objective. One of my close friends in Dubai is a recruiter. He explained to me that when compared to Jordanian, Lebanese, and even Egyptian graduates. Syrians graduates are the least paid. There was a time (50s, 60s, 70s) where the demand for Syrian graduates came only second to that of Lebanese.

Success stories of a number of Syrians here and there should not be taken as a measure of the quality of education. If you take any quantitative measure to assess education you will see that Education is lagging in Syria.

Facilities, $ spent/ student, retention rates, salary offered, research, quality of professors professor/students ratio. you will see that the system has failed the student

June 14th, 2008, 2:33 am

 

Majhool said:

Karim,

I believe we are saying that same thing. whatever progress made and when measured against our potential is negligible.

But there was progress, Compared to the 80s and 90s. These days were intolerable.

I said:

The root cause of Syria’s problem is it’s ruling structure ( security apparatus supported by the rubber stamping machine of what’s left of the Baath party)

Bashar Assad did not attempt to change this structure. Instead he worked on decreasing the emphasis on socialist planning in the economy, but no significant changes have taken place in its relation to the state and state power. The Baath party remained essentially a patronage and supervisory tool of the regime elite.

The limited progress we saw in Syria is not a result of wise and/or innovative policies, it’s simply a product of merely lifting a number of restrictions imposed on the Syrian society for decades. a retraction of a rusty spring to less than it’s original relaxed state and beyond which this leadership is incapable of stretching any further.

Syria will continue to under-perform in all aspects.

June 14th, 2008, 3:11 am

 

karim said:

I disagree, Bashar made things better. And what Nour listed:
Because in 2000 it was not possible to rule Syria as before,these small changes were a survival necessity in the era of internet,i would say you are right if bashar is able to tolerate only one independant newspaper and one independant opposition party or even the poor level of freedom we have in Egypt or Jordan.He can’t.
Majhool we are in the 21th century and Brejnev is no more in power in Moscow and dont forget that Syria had more freedom in the first years of hafez than today.Ask yourself what are bashar’s objectives and what are syrian people objectives?

June 14th, 2008, 3:13 am

 

Majhool said:

Karim,

Again, it all depends on your reference point, if you keep global progess as a constanct and look at life conditions in Syria as the only variable then there was progress.

If you account fot global progress as another valuable, then yes there was a negative progress.

I think we are in agreement.

June 14th, 2008, 3:16 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Majhool;
have you been to Syria lately;
The moukhabarat are no longer as intrusive as they used to be. People can criticize the government and many of its policies much more freely than before”
do you realy ,realy think so?

My friend wanted to fix the window, he was taken to security committee,and was told he has to take permission first, this is in Abdulmunem St., another one was not able to build a glass room,Small at the roof, it is much,much worse.
We still whisper, we can not write anything in the newspaper, one newspaper was closed, for caricature drawing, and so on.

June 14th, 2008, 3:18 am

 

norman said:

Majhool,

I do not know if you know that in Syria the curriculum is the same for all schools and all students , so if some of them succeed and some of them do not , The same is in the US , so if the books are the same then the only variable are the students and as long as some student succeed then the problem is not in the schools or the education but in the intelligence and the motivation of these students , I think that should make it clear to you that the education System is in good shape with the right students.

June 14th, 2008, 3:24 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

I am sure that if Bashar run for office,today, in a totaly free election,he has very good chance of winning, people still like him,the problem is not Bashar, it is his brother Maher, who seems more in control than Bashar.

June 14th, 2008, 3:26 am

 

Majhool said:

Majedkhaldoun,

I am sure it’s AWEFUL still. But i am not convienced that’s as bad as it used to be in the 90s and 80s. The “shab’bihah age” (smile).

I left Syria in the early 90s and whenever I get flashbacks of these days i get stomach ache. Just to get passport then you would have to visit 4 different security centers.

June 14th, 2008, 3:27 am

 

Majhool said:

Norman,

You just threw objectivity out of the window. I see no value in continuing this discussion.

June 14th, 2008, 3:29 am

 

trustquest said:

Dubya speech in Paris was great in my opinion; it is not like any other speech. I know, on this blog, I would be despised for saying that, and I’m not fan of him either by the way. But, I would like to know others views regarding his recent speech.
I disagree with him on Gaza, but the historical summary was reasonable, and for sure it will be adapted by prospected presidents.

June 14th, 2008, 3:32 am

 

Majhool said:

majedkhaldoun said: I am sure that if Bashar run for office,today, in a totaly free election,he has very good chance of winning

I also disagree he will lose in a very dramatic way. People have no problem with Bashar as a person. They have a big problem with this Mukhabarat/ sectarian system.

June 14th, 2008, 3:35 am

 

Alex said:

Norman,

You are a Baathist regime supporter if you fail to spend at least 95% of your energy criticizing everything.

You might be able to get away from the above label if you are what they call “a minority” .. then that could explains why you are so suspiciously not interested in sticking to the 95% negativity rate that they are so good in sticking to.

Then you have AIG’s approach … whatever the discussion topic of the day, pick ONE negative aspect and stick to it … then express your bewilderment at the “regime supporters” who are ignoring the negative part that he likes to visualize as some kind of …

June 14th, 2008, 3:35 am

 

norman said:

Alex ,

What makes me sad that they want to snatch the wheels from Bashar even when Syria is going in the right direction endangering the Lives of the Syrians who are riding with him , I am still waiting for somebody from the opposition who can articulate a forign policy stand or an economic one that is better than what the present Syrian government is implementing.

June 14th, 2008, 3:43 am

 

Alex said:

Norman,

When it comes to economic policy … regime critics can easily suggest different economic directions which are much “better” than the current economic state .. but when they talk about better returns, they have to tell us about the risk associated with their policies.
As for foreign policy … I know they are still stuck in the years 2003-2004-2005

June 14th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

Syria is moving in the right direction , Not fast enough for some people but after thirty years of government directed economy moving cautiously is the right plan for the country,

So I agree with you.

June 14th, 2008, 4:10 am

 

karim said:

Norman and Alex aren’t you more learned than bashar in science,culture,politics,and economics.?aren’t you from a more honorable family than maher ,bashar,basel and their uncles and cousins ,among the 20 millions is there no better than them?.
I Karim ,i say that you Alex you are more representative to me than bashar is.am i wrong ?may be you are reluctant because you are not of qardahi blood and dont speak with a special accent and your father didnt terrorized the syrian people.

June 14th, 2008, 4:12 am

 

Alex said:

Karim 7abibi … there are wonderful families in Qurda7a and there are wonderful families in 7ama … please don’t generalize, especially in negativity.

And within the same family too … try not to judge a man by his uncle.

June 14th, 2008, 4:23 am

 

karim said:

Alex you misunderstood me,of course qardaha is part of Syria ,i have nothing against qardaha as qardaha ,one of the great Syrian ,Dr Abdulaziz Al Khayir(10 years in jail) ,he is son of Qardaha.

June 14th, 2008, 4:27 am

 

karim said:

uncles ,father ,brothers and not him?…..ya Alex ,or should we repeat the baathi mea culpa ,he is good and the people around him are bad ?as it was repeated for 40 years.

June 14th, 2008, 4:29 am

 

Shai said:

Zenobia,

Your comments are fantastic, and show not only great wisdom and understanding, but indeed courage. You’re right, the courage to criticize ourselves no less than others is the key here. We must reach a point where we do not fear criticism, but indeed seek it, for the betterment of all. I see your point regarding Livni, but I can also see how that made many Israelis (myself included) very angry. It is not OUR place to tell others when and how they can have their independence, especially while they are suffering! We should understand this as well as anyone. The comments could be taken as patronizing, paternalistic, and outright rude. Of course, maintaining the “catastrophic” rhetoric doesn’t help resolve the conflict. But then, look at how Israel treats anything around us, for the past 60 years – it all seems to have the same derivative – the existential threat, coming right out of the Holocaust. We’re no less guilty of it (maintaining the antisemitism and great H excuses), than the Palestinians are, except that they’re still going through their Naqba!

Yalla, have a great weekend! I believe Olmert has also been invited to celebrate France’s July 14th Independence Day. Perhaps… nah! (An historic handshake…?) 🙂

June 14th, 2008, 4:36 am

 
 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Karim,
The problem is that Alex is a good person that could not harm a fly. But he believes that what Syria needs is a ruthless dictator because otherwise what happened in Iraq would happen in Syria.

In the end this is an awful catch-22 that there seems no way out of. The dictators very effectively stop any democratic and liberal opposition thus making sure that the only alternative to them is chaos. Therefore the more they supress democracy, the more people like Alex support them because the only alternative to the dictator is civil strife and chaos. This is exactly the Asad and Mubarak strategy and it is very effective.

Asad believe or wants to believe that eventually Asad will change course, but that is just wishful thinking as history has proven.

June 14th, 2008, 5:02 am

 

karim said:

This is why AIG ,i promised after the baath era to Norman and Alex a 2 years stay in tadmor prison (is it too much?)and so they can resume their asadian nostalgia of course in company of the same kind of prison warden.

June 14th, 2008, 5:19 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

First, I was talking about another historic handshake… 🙂 (in’shalla)

Second, from the vast amount of information we Israelis have been exposed to over the past few years regarding Katzav, the former President, I’ve lost every molecule of respect I may have had for the man. Knowing that while shaking Khatami’s hand, he may have been winking at one of his secretaries standing nearby, makes me want to consider “historic” only the man, not the handshake.

June 14th, 2008, 7:55 am

 

Nour said:

It is very easy for anyone to just attack and criticize Bashar el-Assad and complain that what he’s doing is not enough. It is much more difficult, however, to provide solutions and plans to improve the country, taking into account realities on the ground. There is assuredly no problem with constructive criticism. However, I have a big problem with unabated, irrationalt attacks just for the sake of attacking.

Bashar al-Assad inherited a dictatorship from his father, we all know that. But given this reality, what is he to do? What is the best path he could take for the sake of Syria? He has two choices; he can either accept the role and attempt to lead Syria as best he could and help it move into the next stage, or he could step down. I believe if he were to step down there would be many problems in Syria. And I agree that many of the problems do have to do with the rule of the Baathist regime and of his father the 37 years prior to Bashar assuming power. However, these cannot be blamed on Bashar. We can only judge Bashar on his achievements and policies today given the realities on the ground today.

Now, the problem with some of the so-called “opposition” groups and figures, is that they are not there to improve Syria, or to offer real, viable solutions to improve the country. Rather, they are only interested in seeing the Syrian government overthrown for he sake of satisfying a personal vendetta against the government. Their blind hatred for Bashar or anything related to the Assad family and the Syria government leads them to viciously attack the President regardless of what he says or does. If he opens a university, they attack him saying that he only opened this university because his brother or his cousin is benefiting from it. If he doesn’t open one, they attack him claiming that he clearly does not want to improve Syrian education. If he engages in negotiations with Israel, they attack him claiming he is a hypocrite adopting resistance but then selling out to the Israelis. If he doesn’t engage in negotiations they attack him claiming that he is not interested in peace because then his regime would lose its justification. In other words, there is absolutely NOTHING he can do that will satisfy any of these people.

Then they come with either fabricated or “anecdotal” evidence to prove that the situation in Syria is bad. A clear example is the claim above that 50% of Syrian students are illiterate. This would of course come as a surprise to any Syrian livin in Syria. And never mind that the literacy rate in Syria has actually dramatically increased in the last 30 years or so. The “anecdotal” evidence includes the “I talked to a friend of mine and he told me …” Of course such evidence can be presented by any one regardless of what argument they are trying to make. I know many Syrians who are doctors here in the US, and I know for a fact that many Syrian doctors coming from Syria achieve very high scores on the boards. What this means exactly I don’t know, as it really is not related to the condition in Syria in general.

The bottom line is that Syria has a lot of problems, and we all have to deal with them. Based on what he has done so far, Bashar is moving in the right direction, in my opinion. Is he perfect? Of course not. Is there still a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But this does not mean that everything in Syria is bad and nothing Bashar can ever do is good. We have to get away from this type of thinking and start seriously working on how we can improve our country. Syria is much more open today than it has ever been in the last 40 years. People criticize government practices and policies even on TV. The economy has been growing in an unprecedented fashion the last 5 years. New industries are arising. New private universities are opening up. The health care system is much improved. New plans are being set for future goals and projects. There is definitely change in the air. How we choose to deal with it is up to us, but I strongly believe that continuous and unabated negativity will not get us anywhere.

June 14th, 2008, 12:03 pm

 

MNA said:

Nour I agree with every word you wrote.

June 14th, 2008, 2:43 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour said:

Is there still a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But this does not mean that everything in Syria is bad and nothing Bashar can ever do is good. We have to get away from this type of thinking and start seriously working on how we can improve our country.

Nour,

Very nice comment. I agree with your outlook, and commend you on your positivity.

If I may, however, I’d like to remind you that there are many parallels in your approach toward Syria and my approach toward Lebanon, vis-a-vis trying to solve problems in a gradual fashion and remaining optimistic, even though the system is characterized by serious dysfunction. The conclusion that you seem to come to, with regard to Lebanon, is that the entire system needs to be overhauled, and that we need to get rid of the corrupt politicians, the Hariris, etc. You are generally quite pessimistic about the various initiatives that Lebanon witnessed between 1990 and 2005, even though they could certainly be characterized in similar terms to your description of Syria:

“economy has been growing in an unprecedented fashion the last 5 years. New industries are arising. New private universities are opening up. The health care system is much improved. New plans are being set for future goals and projects. There is definitely change in the air.”

Given that you are willing to give Syria and Bashar the benefit of the doubt, and take a slightly longer view, be less critical and more hopeful, etc. I would just suggest that Lebanon also befits this sagacious outlook. Either that, or Syria deserves more criticism from you (along the lines of Lebanon)!

Anyway, my two cents. Good, wise comment.

June 14th, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The problem is that Bashar has silenced all liberal democratic voices. Why is Kilo in jail? Is he unpatriotic?

And as ususal you want the opposition to come up with a concrete plan when it does not know exactly what is going on since the government does not give it information.

What Syrians need is the ability to openly discuss their situation and how to move forward. They need the ability to organize as peaceful parties and propose solutions. But this is exactly what Asad is not allowing. He is quashing EVERY liberal democratic organization or move. Therefore Syria has little chance of improving.

June 14th, 2008, 4:28 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

“The opposition” … Khaddam for example, knows everything .. he has been VP for decades … until 2005.

And Farid Ghadry knows that the Golan is occupied … his “plan” is not exactly popular in Syria.

I don’t need to repeat that Kilo and Dalilah are patriotic opposition, but they are not the ones who will replace Bashar … if the Saudis had their way, it was going to be Khaddam … if Cheney had his way .. it was ging to be Ghadry.

It is a shame that Dalilah and Kilo are still in jail. There is nothing to justify there. But they are not the alternative to Bashar … a bunch of crooks and/or fanatics were the only possible replacements.

And just to comment on what you wrote last night …. if Bashar is “a ruthless dictator”.. then everyone else s even more ruthless …

Bashar’s current system is not perfect … that’s what it is … the cup is not 100% full … but it is getting more full.

June 14th, 2008, 4:54 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki

The difference is that Nour and Alex trust Bashar … and they don’t suggest you should trust Hariri and Jumblatt and Fatfat and Geagea …

: )

But with President Sleiman, and one day a Salim Hoss type of prime minister … and many new talented Lebanese ministers and officials … Lebanon definitely has more potential, and you should be relatively optimistic just like Nour is optimistic about Syria.

June 14th, 2008, 4:57 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Yes, you prove my point:
“But they are not the alternative to Bashar … a bunch of crooks and/or fanatics were the only possible replacements.”

But who is responsible that Kilo and Dalilah are not the alternative? Who is keeping them in jail to make sure they are not an alternative? Who is not giving them any chance of building an organization and support? Asad of course. So that you would support him since there is no reasonable replacement. You are being conned Alex. Wake up.

June 14th, 2008, 5:16 pm

 

Majhool said:

Nour raised good points. However I will continue to believe that unless Bashar dismantle the intelligence/Baath system he will not get my approval. He does not have to do it all at once, but he is not even trying: the judiciary is still paralyzed and the emergency laws are still in effect, and mukhabar/bath still hires and fires throughout public administration.

My problem is not with Bashar my problem is with the security/sectarian nature of the regime.

June 14th, 2008, 5:38 pm

 

norman said:

Majhool,

I have a question for you and everybody wants to comment,

DO WE HAVE MUKHBARAT AND SECURITY APPARATUS IN THE US AND CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW MANY.

June 14th, 2008, 6:39 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And when President Bashar expeditiously dismantles the intelligence services and the army and the Baath, all will become greener in Syria and growth will skyrocket and the Bush and the Saudi Administrations will love Syria and everything Syrian, and we will live happily everafter….. Maybe, just maybe, we shall be directed and guided and asked to elect Khaddam as president, Al Binouni as Culture minister and Rifaat al Assad as Finance Minister.

Things will surely then become sooooo rosey, the Israeli threat will disappere, and Syria will be in a much much better shape than Jordan, Egypt and even Iraq.

Simple enough!!! As in the Tyranny of “Simple Solutions”.

Are the rest of the Arab regiems to follow the same formula or this is an execlusive remedy for Syria?? I mean dismanteling the intelligence things and the Baath and so on…or does that hounor goes to Syria alone?

LOL

June 14th, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

Majhool said:

norman,

Just yesterday you somehow did not recognize the importance of standards by which education can be measured against. you said

“the education System is in good shape with the right students”

therefore an objective discussion with you is not possible. nonetheless I will still answer your question:

Of course the US has Mukhabarat and there are many of them out there. I am not calling for the dismantling the mukhabarat in Syria. I am against the Mukhabarat/Baath ruling Syria.

Unlike in Syria The FBI/CIA do not appoint the deans professors, janitors of every public University here in the US . The US has all the checks and balances needed to sustain their democracy.

June 14th, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

ausamaa said:

If so, how come a US President with ratings in the low twenties is still doing what he does best to his Nation and to its institutions: Lie!

He drags his Nation into a War on false pretence and is still attempting to darg it into another.

So much for “effective” checks and balances. They always look very good on the Day After!! Or if they are written in English.

June 14th, 2008, 7:19 pm

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

But look at the system in America – at least it enables you and I to come to those similar conclusions about George W. Bush. And, if we’re Americans, we can choose whether we still vote for him, or not. In few places around the world do you find a system that open, and that capable of leaving its nation’s fate up to the people, rather than their leaders. True, GWB did use lies and every manipulation in the book to lead his nation into the bloody wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. But since then, he could have been impeached, thrown out, not voted for a second term, etc. It is the American people (or 50.1% of them) who are guilty of having GWB in power, not even the man himself… Not that I particularly like him. I don’t.

June 14th, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Sure, the US President is elected by the People. They do sit around and debate his credentisals and policies and Vote for or against! Right?

The amounts of Election Money availlable to the candidate, the Special Interest groups, the Lobbies, the hidden Agendas of the various die-hards, the Paid Media efforts and the candidates Parties’ Political Machines play a small role only…Right?

The Perfect Democracy! You say what you want, HE does what he wants, and in the end, history and the “due process” clears it all up later perhaps. Except, by then, it is way too late! And the average John Doe usually has a short memory.

However, if I remember anything from my first days in college in the USA, it is a thing from a Polical Science 101 and the teacher said that the whole US System is based on Compromise of Special Interests and not on the Will of the People. He was not very wrong it seems.

June 14th, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

Majhool said:

Shai,

Ausama holds the anti-Semitic notion that democracy is a Jewish conspiracy aimed at controlling the world.

That’s why democracy in Syria is dangerous because it could be manipulated by the Jews and the Saudis.

June 14th, 2008, 9:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Majhool,

As I did not suggest any conspiracy theories such as the one you mentioned above. Then, may I recommend that you attempt to see the same Shrink I earlier advised AIG and AP to seek. Seriously, your case seems to be a more sever one than theirs: seeing “things” that do not exist except in your own imagination!

P.S.

Imagine what democracy would be like in Syria with “perceptive” and “objective” guys like you pushing its cause..

June 14th, 2008, 9:26 pm

 

Majhool said:

Ausama,

I will take your advice seriously. thanks

June 14th, 2008, 9:42 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Majhool,
Thank you for pointing out the beautiful catch-22 people like Ausamaa find themselves in. The only to beat Israel is for the Arabs to become democratic. But if they do that, people like Ausamaa think that they are surrendering to American “hegemony”. Therefore they are stuck supporting dictators who are hindering the development of the Arabs on all fronts: education, technology and military. It will take time for this backward thinking to go away. In the meantime, Israel benefits.

June 14th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

I’m not suggesting in the least that America is the “perfect democracy”. I spent many years there – I know how the system “really works” as well. But still, and certainly when you compare it to most other nations on earth, it is far more open and free. Manipulations, self-interest, even outright corruption, exist everywhere. But if you had a choice, would you choose another system that you know of (not a theoretical one)? Do you know of many nations where the Director of Central Intelligence has to sit in front of a Senate hearing committee, on live public television, and hear one of the members ask him “Mr. Director, please tell me what it is that you must do, for me to fire you?” I don’t.

Majhool,

I’ve met a few antisemites on this site (very few). Ausamaa is not an antisemite.

June 14th, 2008, 9:49 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
How do you know Ausamaa is not an antisemite?
There is a simple way to find out: Why don’t you ask him if believes the Jews have the right of self-determination? Are the Jews allowed to define themselves as a nation? You can also ask Nour this question and find out the truth.

June 14th, 2008, 9:52 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, I don’t know anything about Ausamaa. He doesn’t sound to me like an antisemite. We’ve had a few antisemites here before, and I think you’ll recall the distinct fashion by which they addressed you and me. I admit, I haven’t administered the “Antisemite Litmus Paper” test to Ausamaa. Nor do I wish to.

June 14th, 2008, 10:02 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Then just ask him. What have you got to lose?
I am pretty sure what the answer will be.

June 14th, 2008, 10:06 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Right, you would rather close your eyes and imagine a perfect world. It’s your call.

June 14th, 2008, 10:08 pm

 

karim said:

Aussama in what maher asad is different from rifaat ?
And why did you never dared to attack khaddam when he was the friend of hafez ?
And why only bashar deserve presidency and not the sons of Tlass,Al Ahmar ,Masharqa are they not enough baathists ?
There are a plenty honnest and smart syrians to replace this mafia ,we have dalileh ,labwani,kilo,fidaa horani,ghassan rifai and why not you,norman,nour and alex ? are you more corrupt than bashar ?are you capable sending to jail professors , intellectuals and even children ? and if you want to fight imperialism ,zionism ,globalization ,with wich tool ?their stolen villas,mecrcedes,hummers and syriatel in listening to ali deek ?

June 14th, 2008, 10:10 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Why don’t we stop this antisemite testing instead?

I think we have done enough of that.

June 14th, 2008, 10:20 pm

 

karim said:

Nour i didnt say illeterate but nearly read my comment again.
As for bashar ,the increase in corruption ,material and moral,his agression on the syrian intellectual elite,his green light to the iranian regime to interfere in domestic and religious syrian affairs are enough to make him detestable and dangerous for Syria.

June 14th, 2008, 11:00 pm

 

Alex said:

إقليم دمشق الكبرى .. 6 ملايين نسمة عام 2025 والتخصص في الصناعات الالكترونية

الاخبار المحلية

تنمية المنطقة الصناعية بعدرا وإنشاء أخرى في الكسوة ومدينة تقانة معلومات بقطنا

التركيز على التوسع جنوبا والتعمير المضغوط شمال وغرب دمشق

اقترحت الوكالة اليابانية للتعاون الدولي “جايكا” في تقريرها النهائي حول مشروع “دمشق الكبرى” خططا لتنمية منطقة دمشق وريفها في مجالات العمران والتنظيم العمراني والنقل ومشاريع المياه واستعمالاتها والأنشطة الاقتصادية حتى العام 2025.

ويتضمن التقرير ,الذي حصلت سيريانيوز عليه, خططا يتم تنفيذها على ثلاث مراحل تنتهي الأولى عام 2013 والثانية حتى 2020 والمرحلة الثالثة تنتهي عام 2025.

ويبين هذا التقرير أن الناتج الإقليمي لإقليم دمشق الكبرى يقدر بـ30% من الناتج المحلي لسورية, وأن ناتج الفرد في هذا الإقليمي أكثر بـ 39% من الناتج المحلي للفرد في سورية.

ويتوقع الفريق المشارك في الدراسة أن “يستمر إقليم دمشق الكبرى بلعب دوره كبوابة وقاعدة للسياحة الدولية التي سينتج عنها خدمات واسعة ذات صلة”, وترى أن على الإقليم أن “يقدم خدمات متطورة أكثر باستخدام كميات أقل من المياه في ظل العائق المائي الشديد, كما يجب توفير خدمات اجتماعية على درجة عالية من أجل الإقليم والدول المجاورة مثل التعليم والبحث المتقدم والرعاية الصحية المتخصصة”.

صناعات إلكترونية بدلا من الصناعات التقليدية

وتؤكد الدراسة على أن “إقليم دمشق الكبرى يجب أن يتخصص في الصناعات المبنية على المعرفة بما فيها مجال تقنية المعلومات والاتصالات والصناعات الالكترونية بدلا من الصناعات المعتمدة على الموارد مثل مواد البناء والصناعات الغذائية “.

وتشير الدراسة ,التي أعدها خبراء يابانيون وسوريون, إلى أن “المياه الممكن استثمارها في إقليم دمشق الكبرى تكفي لتوفير حاجة 5.79 مليون نسمة كحد أقصى عام 2025 وذلك في حال بقيت وحدة الطلب على المياه عند 250 ليترا مكعبا في اليوم للفرد الواحد”.

خفض النمو السكاني وستة ملايين نسمة في 2025

وتقترح الدراسة خفض معدل النمو السكاني في مدينة دمشق وريفها ليصبح 2.17% حيث سيزداد عدد سكان إقليم دمشق الكبرى من 3.8 مليون نسمة حاليا إلى 6 مليون عام 2025 وفقا لهذا المعدل.

ويبلغ معدل النمو السكاني في دمشق حاليا هو 1.08%, وريف دمشق 3.82%. كما يشكل عدد سكان إقليم دمشق الكبرى حاليا أكثر من 21% من عدد سكان سورية ويضم نحو 27% من المنشآت الصناعية, فيما تشكل مساحته أقل من 10% من مساحة سورية.

وتشدد الدراسة على المحافظة على الزراعة في إقليم دمشق الكبرى على أن تتم إدارة زراعات ذات إنتاجية أعلى وقيمة مضافة أكبر, وترشيد استعمال مياه الري واستعمال مياه الصرف الصحي المعالجة للزراعة.

وفي مجال التطوير العمراني, تدعو الدراسة إلى السعي إلى اقتصاد التكتلات والعمران المضغوط عبر تركيز الناس والفعاليات الاقتصادية في مكان واحد لتخفيض تكاليف التعاملات الاقتصادية, على أن يترافق هذا مع تخطيط عمراني يكفل تحسين شبكة الطرق وفعالية النقل العام وإدخال وسائط نقل جديدة وتوفير مرائب كافية, وذلك للحد من تراجع الاقتصاد نتيجة التركيز المبالغ فيه.

ويعتبر فريق الدراسة ,حسب التقرير النهائي, أن العمران المضغوط الطابقي “يساهم في استخدام أكثر فعالية لموارد المياه المحدودة أصلا, كما أنه يترك مساحات أكبر للزراعة في المناطق النائية عن المناطق العمرانية”.

وتشترط لتطبيق هذه الإجراءات أن يتم “دعم إقليم دمشق الكبرى بشبكة من الأماكن المريحة للمشاة والسلامة المرورية وإدارة الكوارث والأمن الاجتماعي”.

تشجيع التنمية في المناطق خارج دمشق

واعتمد الفريق الدارس عدة استراتيجيات تتلخص في التنمية الخدمية للحد من الطلب على المياه, وخفض الضغط السكاني على مركز الإقليم من خلال تشجيع التنمية في المناطق والأقاليم الخارجية, وتطوير القدرات الفردية والمؤسساتية والاجتماعية بشكل واسع من أجل تخطيط عمراني فعال.

وتقترح الاعتماد على العمران المضغوط في دمشق ومناطق التوسع العمراني, وتوجيه العمران باتجاه الجنوب إلى خارج حدود ريف دمشق نحو حوض اليرموك في درعا, ووقف العمران في الجهة الجنوبية الشرقية حيث تمتد الأراضي الزراعية.

كما تقترح تشجيع التنمية العمرانية الذاتية إلى الجهة الشمالية الشرقية إلى ما بعد يبرود, وإنشاء مراكز عمرانية جديدة شمال وغرب دمشق (باتجاه التل وقدسيا, وداريا وقطنا) وتطوير المدينة الصناعية في عدرا بمنطقة سكنية أكبر من المخطط لها, والحد من التوسع العمراني باتجاه الزبداني للحفاظ على أماكن الاصطياف.

تقسيم ريف دمشق إلى مناطق حسب أولوية العمران

وقسم فريق دراسة تنمية إقليم دمشق الكبرى المناطق حسب أولويات التركيز على العمران, حيث أعطت الأولوية لمناطق الحجر الأسود والمليحة وجرمانا والكسوة وعربين, وتتلوها في سلم الأولويات مناطق يبرود و الرحيبة والتل وحرستا وكفر بطنا وقطنا وداريا ووصحنايا.

وتعطي الدراسة المرتبة الثالثة في سلم أولويات العمران لمناطق النبك وجيرود والزبداني ودمر والنشابية والغزلانية وبيت جن, وفي المرتبة الرابعة معلولا والقطيفة وصيدنايا وسرغايا ومضايا وعين الفيجة وقدسيا وحران العواميد ودير عطية. فيما أتت مناطق عسال الورد ورنكوس والديماس في آخر سلم الأولويات.

وتقترح الدراسة تنمية المدينة الصناعية في عدرا, وإحداث مدينة تقانة المعلومات في قطنا والمدينة الحكومية مدينة صناعية في الكسوة, إضافة إلى إحداث مراكز عمرانية متعددة الوظائف مثل مركز تجارة وأعمال في الشرق ومركز سياحي وثقافي في الجنوب الشرقي ومركز اتصالات عالمية في الجنوب الغربي وغيرها.

تنظيم 42 منطقة سكن عشوائي دمشق وريفها

وتضم الدراسة قسما خاصا يتعلق بمناطق السكن العشوائي, حيث تشير إلى وجود حوالي 30 منطقة مخالفة في مدينة دمشق يبلغ عدد سكانها نصف مليون نسمة إضافة إلى 12 منطقة مخالفات في ريف دمشق, حيث ترى ضرورة تنظيم هذه المناطق كمبدأ أساسي, ما عدا المناطق ذات الطبيعة الصعبة مثل المنحدرات الشديدة والفوالق الجيولوجية والمناطق التي تعاني نقصا في المياه, حيث تقترح لهذه المناطق أن يتم تحسين الوصول إليها كأولوية استعدادا لأي كوارث.

وتقترح أن يتم العمل على تنظيم هذه المناطق بالتشاركية مع القطاع الخاص, وعلى الشراكة مع القطاع الخاص في تنفيذ المشاريع التنموية في الإقليم على اختلافها.

وفي مجال النقل تشمل الدراسة مشاريع لإنشاء طريق مرفوع من ساحة الأمويين إلى عقدة الفيحاء بدمشق وتحديث مقاطع طرقية بطول 50 كم للربط بشكل أفضل بين مركزي انطلاق الباصات في الشمال والجنوب وتوسيع هذين المركزين.

وتعتبر الدراسة أن إنشاء مرائب سيارات تحت الحدائق “أصبح ضرورة ملحة حاليا, على أن يؤخذ بالاعتبار تسهيل الإنشاء المستقبلي لمترو دمشق”.

وتشمل الدراسة أيضا خططا لإدارة دمشق القديمة والمناطق التراثية وتحسين مرافق المدينة القديمة وترميم واستخدام المجمعات السكنية القديمة وإنشاء قاعدة بيانات تراثية.

مجلس إقليم دمشق الكبرى

وتقترح الدراسة إنشاء مجلس لإقليم دمشق الكبرى “بشكل عاجل” لتكون وظيفته في البداية التنسيق والإدارة, على أن يتم توسيع وظائفه لتشمل التخطيط والاستثمار والترويج والمراقبة والتقويم ,وفي النهاية, التنفيذ لبعض المشاريع. ليكون هذا المجلس “هيئة التنمية الإقليمية الفعالة”.

وتقدر تكاليف المشاريع والبرامج المقترحة بـ 108 مليون يورو (7.7 مليار ليرة سورية) موزعة على فترات التنفيذ الثلاث (2008-2013) و (2014-2020) و (2021-2025).

ووضع فريق الدراسة مخططات تفصيلية لثلاثة أنماط من المناطق هي منطقة المخالفات في القابون ومنطقة التراث العمراني في القنوات والمدينة الجديدة في قطنا.

واستغرقت الدراسة أكثر من عام وضمت فريقا من الخبراء اليابانيين إضافة إلى فريق سوري من وزارة الإدارة المحلية ومحافظتي دمشق وريف دمشق, وكان التقرير الأولي عرض في شهر آذار الماضي.

June 14th, 2008, 11:08 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Karim said:

“we have dalileh ,labwani,kilo,fidaa horani,ghassan rifai…”

You sure have all those and many more although I am not familiar with any of them except through the term of dissidants. But what do they REPRESENT in Syria? Do they have grass-root support? Do they have a comprehensive outlook as to how to move Syria from Here to There and How? And if they do, why aint the Syrians chanting their names and distributing their great thoughs and ideology.If not is Syria, then where are their solid base outside? Heck, The Bush team have been racking their brains to come up with someone credible enough to crown him and the best they came up was that Al Ghadery.

You need immediate change? Go build a Party, a grass root movement, go get the people around you, maybe work within the System, Baath or non-Baath, to imporove it, and I assure you it will still take a lot of effort and sacrifices. Autocracy, beaucracy, routine, corruption and inefficency are epidimics everywhere you look around you not only in Syria. In Syria, and elsewhere. As to grass-root and civil-society psarticipation in change, Syria today is not as tough a society as was Iran during the Savak, nor as Russia was during the Checka and the NKVD. Start with the civil society organizations, the cultural institutes, neighberhood improvement action committees, whatever you can work with…and the best advise is, sacrofice some comfort and work from within the system, the results would not be insantanuous, but a bit by bit things will change faster and for the better.

And of course things take time and patience and a supportive environment as well. The lack of the last could be a GREAT cause of delaying what we all wish for.

But dont just curse whowever is at the top, at the bottom, and all those in between, and call this “cursing, frustration and confrontational approach” a patriotic struggle!

And be fair, things are changing in Syria, despite all the external pressures, despite all the tremendous obstacles being put in front of us, things are changing. Slowly but steadily. The world is opening up and Syria is part of it. And I sincerely beleive the leadership there is trying within the existing constraints to change things. Unfortunately, miracles do not happen over night, especially when you are in the eye of the storm.

June 15th, 2008, 12:20 pm

 

Alex said:

Karim,

Hopefully all of us will still be around SC next year. Ausamaa, Norman, and I are always blaming it PARTIALLY on the hostile environment. Next year I am expecting the trend to continue towards cooperation with, rather than “pressure” on, Syria.

If this will indeed be the case, and if by next year you don’t feel that there is tangible progress in economic and political reforms, then I will be more receptive to your negativity.

I know Arab dictators always blame external threats and they never reform … but a year is not a very long time … we’ll wait and see. I expect some signs of political reform … nothing perfect, but it will be a start.

June 15th, 2008, 12:47 pm

 

karim said:

Alex bey ,Syria must stop this descent in the abyss,We pray that this transition to the normal will be peaceful ,we are young and patient but these intellectuals are in their 60’s and 70’s and are in poor health,no reason can explain their imprisonments.If bashar is less hateful than we think ,they must be freed today before tommorow.

June 16th, 2008, 12:11 pm

 

suffer said:

Well… i think the problem is :
“Hizb al Baath al’Arabi al Ishtriraki”

July 17th, 2008, 4:47 pm

 

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