Building Towards Peace

By Qifa Nabki & Alex

The Syria-Israel peace negotiations seem to have moved past their initial exploratory flirtation period and are now approaching a fifth round of indirect talks, with a sixth round planned for September. No doubt the Turkish housekeeping staff at the undisclosed hotel location have acquired enough pidgin Arabic and Hebrew to keep their guests well-stocked in midnight doner kebabs and bitter coffee, as they dutifully plod their way, if potentially only asymptotically, to an historic deal. At some point in the coming months, the two sides may leave their stuffy rooms and walk down the hall to an executive suite to face each other across a table.

The international press is all aflurry with the implications of a successful agreement: will Syria step back into the Arab fold? Will it drop Iran like a hot potato? Will it cut Hizbullah and Hamas loose? Will Israel actually relinquish the lovely and temperate Golan, with its wineries and ski resorts, in exchange for a solemn promise from the man who leads the nation that has — for the past half century — defined itself as the bastion of the struggle against its southern neighbor? Needless to say, amidst the optimism, there is no small measure of skepticism, paranoia, and mistrust.

Feeding the skepticism are many Arabic-language outlets — especially in the Saudi-funded media — which are engaged in a daily hack job on the Syrians to complement their diplomatic initiatives to convince the French and Americans to shun the Syrian talks as a bait-and-switch, i.e. typical Damascene politics as usual. Of course, this response is partly understandable: inquiring minds in Washington, Paris, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Riyadh, and Cairo would like to know what Bashar al-Assad can possibly deliver in exchange for the return of Syria's Golan Heights, after having built up a resistance infrastructure that will not easily dismantle itself. On the other hand, the criticism of the Syria-Israel talks in Saudi newspapers and satellite news networks is also strongly motivated by the bad blood between Damascus and Riyadh, which has built up over the past four years through their turf wars in Lebanon. Having seen Syria's allies emerge empowered after the Doha Accord, the Saudis remain furious and the mini regional Cold War shows no signs of thawing.Syria has largely ignored the provocations and outspoken indignance of the Saudi columnists, but this may not be the wisest strategy.

A barrage of negative publicity runs the risk of being taken seriously and undermining the peace negotiations, particularly if the Israeli public remains unconvinced of Syria's sincerity, and if the next American president declines to commit the United States to its essential role as a mediator of the deal. As such, al-Assad might do well to start trying to build more confidence in his intentions, and in his ability to make good on them. There are three clear ways to approach this challenge, each with a different audience in mind.

I. Damascus Spring, redux
For about a year following the death of President Hafiz al-Assad in June 2000, there were signs of a Syrian glasnost, as testified by the release of political prisoners, the permitting of assemblies of intellectuals and opposition members in political "salons", and a greater sense of openness and optimism in Syrian society. The government, however, brought the so-called Damascus Spring to an abrupt end in late 2001 by clamping down on opposition activities and jailing various intellectuals. This was a period of great optimism but also great risk for the young president, and it is likely that the regime (particularly its old guard members) became skittish at the pace of demanded reforms. The ensuing years, with all of the turmoil wrought by the Iraq war, the Lebanon fiasco, and the showdown with Bush and Chirac, made a return to the days of the Damascus Spring practically impossible.

Times have changed. Bashar al-Assad is popular in Syria and in the Arab world. His ability to ward off American pressure and to re-exert a measure of influence and power in Lebanon has earned him the reputation as a chip off the old block. Thanks to the perceived solidity of his position, Bashar is, today, much more able than ever to embark upon a program of reforms within Syria, reforms which would not only be in the best interests of ordinary Syrians themselves, but would also help to improve Syria's image in the United States, Europe, and yes, even Israel.

Why is this important? In politics, the tail may indeed often wag the dog, but grass-roots support never hurt a political cause. Syria's reputation in journalistic, academic, NGO, policy, and think tank circles is among the worst in the region, this despite the fact that her neighbors are hardly a confederation of Jeffersonian democracies. The extent to which this reputation is justified remains a hot topic, about which people can agree or disagree. However, there is no doubt about the fact that the Syrian government — historically — hasn't done itself any favors in the publicity department. By accelerating reforms in a visible fashion, Bashar al-Assad might begin to address this problem, anticipating a period in which Syria's image might be an important factor in the context of peace negotiations. Cultivating the reputation of a reformer who enjoys widespread popular support can only make it easier for figures such as Sarkozy, Obama or McCain to embrace the Syrian leader without worrying about how such a move will play among their constituents.

Potential reforms might include:

  • Beginning to release certain widely-respected political prisoners
  • Introducing more effective anti-corruption measures
  • Passing the much-anticipated New Parties Law, which would permit the participation of other political gatherings in national elections … to be followed two years later by free municipal elections.   
  • Liberalizing the press and easing restrictions on Internet sites.

II. A Simultaneous Lebanon-Israel Peace Track

Following the Doha Accord, there have been several historic pronouncements on the shape of future Syrian-Lebanese relations. There's been talk of exchanging embassies and demarcating political borders. There has also been talk of releasing Lebanese prisoners, now that there are no longer any left in Israeli jails. These developments have helped to foster a climate conducive to papering over past grievances at least for the time being, in the interests of establishing stability in Lebanon. As a result, much of the anti-Syrian rhetoric in the Lebanese media has noticeably abated.

This rapprochment could be enhanced further by overtly nudging the Lebanese towards the negotiating table with Israel. Parallel talks in Turkey with the Israelis would send a very positive signal about the seriousness of Bashar's initiative, because it would put an end to the speculation that he is merely playing the process and that Hizbullah and Iran are looking the other way. The presence of Lebanese negotiators would make the talks all the more urgent to millions of Lebanese who will be directly affected by the results. And while it would likely remain tacitly understood that the Lebanese deal could not be pursued separately from Syria's and would indeed have to temporally follow the return of the Golan, the participation of Lebanon in the negotations would demonstrate — if only symbolically — that Bashar has the full support of his Lebanese allies in pursuing peace. Israel could help this along by not sabotaging a future political role for Hizbollah in Lebanese politics.

III. The Arab Peace Initiative

Relations with Saudi Arabia are at an all-time low, and this might not bode well for the future of the talks. In the Middle East, it does not take much to play a spoiler role, and if the Saudis in particular feel that Bashar is trying to steal the spotlight away from them by becoming the go-to guy for solving the conflict with Israel (particularly the Lebanese and Palestinian dimensions thereof), they will likely continue in their efforts to call his sincerity and goodwill into question. The sooner Bashar mends his fences with King Abdullah, the better, although this will be easier said than done. 

One way to do this is to deliberately and insistently situate these talks within the context of the Arab Peace Initiative. Syria holds the presidency of the Arab League this year. Bashar could take the opportunity to reinvigorate the offer of a regional solution by complimenting the Saudis on their vision for peace and subordinating the current talks to one piece of an agreement that has already been worked out. All of this depends, of course, on Saudi willingness to cooperate with the Syrians, which may not be forthcoming. When Sadat made peace with Israel in 1978, Hafiz al-Assad cut off relations with Egypt for ten years. One hopes that the current frostiness will not develop into such frigidity.

Comments (287)

Majhool said:


The trend has been like this: Bashar got more power—> more intellectuals were thrown into prison.


I am curious, If Bashar was not able to make peace with Israel and did not deliver on any of the reforms you suggested one year from now, would you still support the guy?

August 2nd, 2008, 4:56 am


Alex said:


For the same period of the past few years, the older I got, the more the US Dollar lost its value against the Euro.

August 2nd, 2008, 5:13 am


Majhool said:


Investing in US dollars was bad. Bashar getting more power..Just as bad

Let’s do it again


Hafez Assad had unlimited powers—-> Freedoms in Syria were at an all-time-low

August 2nd, 2008, 5:16 am


Alex said:

Alright Majhool

The point is … your hypothesis (Bashar power causes more arrests) is just as proven as mine (older Alex >bad news for US dollar)

Life is too complex Majhool … there is a system made out of many components (Syria) with multiple inputs (and influences) and many outputs .. you can not chose your favorite input to claim that it (exclusively) predicted the exact state of some output as it continued to vary over the years… you can’t ignore

1) all the other inputs
2) the components that make the system
3) the environment within which the system is situated.

as for your other “fact” about Hafez Assad ….


Bashar is not Hafez


2008 is not 1990


Things were much smoother and much more pleasant in Syria when Hafez governed as a very strong leader who won the 1973 war, before the Ikhwan tried in the late 70’s to kill Hafez in addition to any other Alawite they could kill.

August 2nd, 2008, 5:32 am


Joe M. said:

Alex & QN,
I thank you for this article, and I completely agree with you about the agenda for domestic Syrian reforms, but I largely disagree with you about the international aspects.

The tone of your argument is far too optimistic for my blood. Often you present ideas without having any foundation for them (like, jumping to negotiations without having a motivation for negotiations). For example, you advocate that Lebanon join negotiations with Israel, but you ignore that both Israel and Hizbullah have no incentive for this (and more, would be completely opposed to this). As I see Israel/Lebanon relations, the only hope for peace between the two parties is either through a “grand bargain” like the “Arab Peace Initiative” or through mutual and unilateral disengagement. There seems no room at all for a negotiated peace at this point, especially considering the rumblings of war we presently have. Also, just the discussion of such negotiations takes the current Israel/Syria indirect negotiations far more seriously than they deserve to be taken.

Further, you seem more optimistic about Israeli/Syrian/Lebanese negotiations than you do toward Syrian/Saudi negotiations. While that may have a grain of truth to it, in my view it is extremely problematic to any wider Arab/Israeli peace because: A) it exposes the role of the USA as defining opposition to Syria/Hizbullah/Iran/Hamas (which shows the need for an even wider field of negotiations before there can be success on a smaller scale) and over emphasizes the amount of influence Lebanon and Syria have over Israel, B) It downplays the importance of inter-Arab peace if the Arabs want to become free of colonialism, C) it presents Israel as a willing partner for peace.

Lastly, you forget that Syria/Lebanon/Israel negotiations and separately the “Arab Peace Initiative” are actually mutually exclusive. What power does the “Arab Peace Initiative” have if you remove Syrian and Lebanese grievances from the equation? All the other Arab governments (except Libya) already have peace with Israel. And also, if you remove Syria/Lebanon/Israel from the “Arab Peace Initiative”, all you have left is Palestine/Israel in the “Arab Peace Initiative”. But that is extremely destructive and unsustainable on so many levels. Right now, we have no evidence that Israel is serious about making peace with the Palestinians (or anyone), and that would only get worse if you make Lebanon and Syria the next Egypt and Jordan respectively.

Of course, you never really explained where you think these negotiations you advocate would be going and what you expect to be achieved. Because, it seems that the only way for Israel to accept “peace” with it’s Arab neighbors is if they unconditionally surrender (like Jordan and Egypt) and move directly under American hegemony. I don’t think you are advocating that, but that seems like the only choice in the current environment (thus all the talk of separating Iran from Syria). You don’t address this problem at all, though I know you are aware of it.

I had more problems with your article than these, and I will have to clarify some of these things, but all and all I think you two are off track with this article.

August 2nd, 2008, 5:46 am


Majhool said:


I did get your point, while your aging has nothing to do with the weak dollar, Bashar has everything to do with suffocating civil society and jailing fine intellectuals. The shamful trail of 12 Damascus Declaration leaders is taking place as we speak.

How about we use Regression instead of your complex systems theory?

Regression can be used for prediction (including forecasting of time-series data), inference, hypothesis testing, and modeling of causal relationships.

“as a very strong leader who won the 1973 war”

Won you said?

August 2nd, 2008, 5:49 am


Karim said:

Syria: Former Vice President to Launch Opposition Satellite TV Channel
Damascus, 23 July: Abd al-Halim Khaddam, prominent Syrian National Salvation Front [NSF] leader and former vice president who broke ranks with the Syrian regime, is preparing to launch his long- awaited satellite channel Suriya al-Jadidah [new Syria] in early August. The launchers of the channel say it will be a free platform for the various Syrian political trends in the government and the opposition.

But the assigning of Bashar al-Subay’i, former director of the NSF in the United States, [to manage the channel] raised much controversy within the Syrian opposition given the views he expressed in the past on many sensitive issues, especially religion and its role in political and human life.

In an exclusive statement to Quds Press, Jihad Khaddam, businessman and son of former Syrian Vice President Abd-al-Halim Khaddam, said Al-Subay’i was elected based on pure professional considerations. He noted that Al-Subay’i is a film and television direction graduate from American universities and that he is an open- minded liberal who worked as director of the NSF office in the United States. Al-Subay’i was appointed to this post based on pure professional criteria, he said.

Khaddam urged people not to pass prejudgments on the channel. “The awaited channel will reflect the views of the opposition and will be open for everyone without exception, including the symbols of the ruling regime. The channel will be 100 per cent funded by Syrian money from a group of Syrian businessmen without any foreign interference. The channel’s signal will appear on 1 August and the television will go on the air on 7 or 8 August.”

But Mus’if al-Halfawi, former leader with the Muslim Brotherhood group and the Justice and Construction Movement, told Quds Press that he is disappointed with the new channel. “The appointment of Bashar al-Subay’i as general manager of the channel is disappointing. We counted on the channel to be the voice of the Syrian people. But what is happening now is orchestrated by a Ba’thist who defected from the Ba’th Party but who has still not repented. He is the head of the Ba’th Party Regional Command. He has not apologized to the Syrian people and he still presents himself as a leader of the opposition. This is ethically unacceptable. What adds insult to injury is that a group of neoconservatives’ followers, like Bashar al-Subay’i, who disdains religions, rally around him. If we have to choose between the Syrian regime and this anti-Islam group, we will choose the lesser evil; namely, the Syrian regime.”

Al-Halfawi, a former leader with the Muslim Brotherhood, called on lawyer Ali Sadr-al-Din al-Bayanuni, general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, to wash his hands of the NSF. “From my independent position I call on the Muslim Brotherhood group to be true to its history and to wash its hands of the coalition that is called NSF because it is based on a partnership with someone who has not repented, as he explicitly declares, and to return to the slogans and true objectives of the group.”

In Damascus, Ilyas Murad, chief editor of Al-Ba’th newspaper, refused to comment on the launch of a new television channel close to Khaddam or on the appointment of Al-Subay’i. He told Quds Press: “This is premature. At any rate, this is not the first satellite channel beamed to Syria or against it. We have to wait to see who will watch the channel.”

But the secretary of Syrian Kurdish Party Yekiti welcomed the new channel and said it will be a quantum leap in the media and political landscapes in Syria. “Any opposition channel serves the opposition and the issue of democracy and the exposure of the regime. What is important is that the channel should be a free platform exposing the defects of the regime. As for the doubts that Abd-al-Halim Khaddam still adheres to the Ba’th Party, we will wait to see the positions of the channel, which we believe will support solutions to the issues of the Kurds in accordance with the international law and within the framework of the national unity.”

In London, the Muslim Brotherhood group, one of the main pillars of the opposition NSF, welcomed the new channel. In an exclusive statement to Quds Press, Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Dr Zuhayr Salim said “the channel represents an important historical turning point in the modern Syrian political landscape.” He added: “We welcome the channel and hope it will be a window expressing all sectors of the Syrian society and serving the national plan for change. We do not judge any channel or person before we see what they have to offer. By the way, there is not only one channel directed against Syria, as Ilyas Murad said.”

Salim said the expected television channel will not speak for the NSF or work under its supervision. He added: “The channel is a private establishment with no official connection with the NSF. If one of the parties to the NSF is supervising the channel in his personal capacity, it does not mean the channel will work under the political guidance of the NSF. It is an independent channel from which everyone might benefit. As for the appointment of Bashar al- Subay’i as the general manager of the channel, we differentiate between two characters: Al-Subay’i as an individual entitled to his beliefs, and Al-Subay’i as a public figure. His positions will be revealed through this channel. If his positions are in harmony with the aspirations of the Syrian people…[sentence incomplete as received]. If, God forbid, something else appears, we hope that Al- Subay’i will realize that Damascus, Aleppo, and Hamah are different from the US cities, and that the standards of the Syrian nation are different from the American standards.”

Originally published by Quds Press news agency, London, in Arabic 23 Jul 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Media. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.tracking

Story Source: BBC Monitoring Medi

August 2nd, 2008, 5:50 am


Alex said:

Joe M

I will try to answer some of your challenges.

1) We are simply recommending mentioning the Saudi peace plan more often … we are proposing a symbolic gesture towards the Saudi king. Something that makes him more comfortable meeting again with the Syrian president who is half his age and who called him a half-man.

The Arab peace plan is not more than a title and a generic wording of UN resolutions 242 and 338. It is really the Thomas Friedman plan that King Abdullah adopted after meeting Thomas.

But Syria needs to assure the Saudis that Syria is not trying to completely block them out of the solution of all the conflicts.

Look .. the Saudis are very uncomfortable … they watched all their Gulf “allies” show up at the Damascus summit despite active lobbying by Saud Al-Faisal to prevent them from going. The Saudis are not sure what is their role in the region if they are not even needed to finance a solution since by now Kuwait/Dubai/Qatar are rich enough and independent enough to replace Saudi Arabia.

2) We are indeed optimistic, to some degree, about the Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli track … in Turkey they practically reached an understanding regarding all core issues.

But there are many other parties that can, and probably will, try to sabotage the process.

As for Hizbollah and Israel … there is an understanding between Syria/Hizbollah and Hamas about the final solution. Syria is sticking to that understanding and will not disappoint her friends. They all have many incentives to settle everything at once.

After many long rounds of negotiations with Syria .. Kissinger, Carter, baker, Clinton … and after two attempts to isolate, instead of negotiating with, Syria (durng the 1983-1988 Reagan admin, and the 2003 to 2008 Bush admin) … America and Israel know by now that talking to Syria means one thing .. accepting a regional comprehensive solution based on UN resolutions.

I am hoping that Israel decided to go for it.

If not, or if the many anticipated changes in Israel will bring more stubborn leadership .. then we’ll see. But for now, I am relatively optimistic about everything.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:02 am


Joe M. said:


1) Do you think the USA and Israel will require that Syria and Lebanon to fall under American hegemony (like Egypt and Jordan) as a price for peace? I do. If you do, are you willing to pay that price? Do you even think it is possible considering Hizbullah’s legitimate anti-imperialist position.

2) I understand that peace with Syria is easier than it is with the Palestinians, all the Zionists have to do is give back Golan and they could have a cold peace. But do you think that peace between Syria and Israel means abandoning the Palestinians? And if not, how can they support the Palestinians after having made “peace” with the Zionists? What would the Zionists do if Syria supported the Palestinians? (it seems from experience, that the best that could happen is that they end up financing the occupation through external support for “development”, which has obviously been a failure in every case thus far).

3) Do you think it is possible to have a “solution” to the various conflicts that is not comprehensive? In my opinion, it is possible to have “peace” deals, but peace must be comprehensive. Peace deals like Camp David are inherently unstable because public opinion will not support such a deal after the initial euphoria dies down.

I simply ask you to look to the situation of the Palestinians, with Abu Mazin being as generous as humanly possible, even to the point of becoming a collaborator with the Zionists, and yet there is no sign of peace at all. What makes you think Syria would be different? What makes you think that the USA and Israel wouldn’t force the M14 Lebanese to fully confront Hizbullah (as they did of Fatah towards Hamas) as a price to peace? How can peace exist under those conditions?

August 2nd, 2008, 6:22 am


Joe M. said:

I will just point out, from the post on this blog a few days ago, that even Samir al-Taki indirectly admitted that it is essentially a question of imperialism when he said :
“We need the US. We can discuss bilateral problems with Israel, but we need the US to discuss regional problems. The US is our neighbor now. In some ways, Fallujah is closer to Washington than New Orleans is. If Syria wants good relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other states of the region, Washington is an important part of the equation.”

I think the implications of this statement are quite extreme (and true) and make peace without accepting American hegemony almost impossible.

Alex, you said:
“But Syria needs to assure the Saudis that Syria is not trying to completely block them out of the solution of all the conflicts.”

This begs the question, what do you think is the reason for the bad blood between Syria and Saudi? I don’t think it’s just that the Saudis feel “blocked out”…

August 2nd, 2008, 6:35 am


Alex said:

Joe M.

I can almost assure you that Syria will not accept American “hegemony”. But Syria would love to be a genuine (small) friend of the United States .. to help (whenever possible) the Untied States to be everyone’s friend in the Middle East… a friend of Iran, Hamas, and Hizbollah.

Look at Qatar … they can host the American army when they decide it is in their best interest, but they can also say no to the Bush administration every week, like they did the past few years.

President Bush boycotted them, the Saudis hated them .. but they were independent enough not to follow a failed administration.


Will Syria sign a cold peace treaty in exchange for the Golan? .. Yes. But this is not where things are heading these days.

I think it is quite possible to finally see a Palestinian state … but the questions of Jerusalem and the right of return will obviously wait … maybe five to ten years of living in peace will help solve these two problems.

Hizbollah will remain strong … as a political party.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:58 am


Joe M. said:


I agree with you about what the Syrians see as their role in the region. Obviously, over the last few years they has been begging the USA for friendship. They have given the USA as much help in Iraq as possible, while remaining against the war (same as Qatar). And I might concede that they would give up active support for Hizbullah if it meant good relations and getting Golan back. But they have had this position for years now, and have not seen anything for it. And the lengths that Syria will go for peace with the USA is becoming more shameful by the day (begging for a meeting with AIPAC!). But the fact is that it is not up to Syria what happens.

And Qatar can get away with it only because it poses exactly zero threat to Israel and because it does house the American military. Israel holds on to Golan for a military reason, not because they like the wine! Syria is not Qatar. And like the Palestinians they will have to continue to wait until they have the strength to force peace on Israel and the USA (unfortunately I am not optimistic like you).

As for Hizbullah, I would not be so quick to turn Hizbullah into a political party. It might happen, but only after there is peace, not before. And that fact is going to be one reason the Israelis continue to justify the state of war with Lebanon. You know, Hizbullah has no intention of just running for elections and governing Lebanon, they are the Resistance. If they simply wanted to govern, they would dissolve their military wing and join forces with Nabih Berri (give or take some differences).

August 2nd, 2008, 7:09 am


Alex said:


Please read Alon Liel’s comment:

Or ask Shai if he feels Syria is “begging” too much.

There is a difficult compromise between being touch enough, and being flexible enough. The Israeli peace camp has been disappointed with Syra so many times because Bashar would not visit Jerusalem like Sadat did, because Bashar refuses to be interviewed by an Israeli journalists …

I don’t think President Assad was begging anyone in Paris, was he?

The same way you are upset that Sami Moubayed asked to meet with AIPAC, in Israel many are much more upset that their prime minister was royally snubbed by Bashar …

August 2nd, 2008, 7:32 am


Alex said:


You need MUTIPLE regression … which goes back to the same systems model I used… there are many possible predictors (or independent variables) that influenced (or predicted the level of) the dependent variable (or outcome) … which is defined as “# of political prisoners.” in our case.

A powerful Bashar” is only ONE OF those potential predictors … “international pressure on Syria” is another predictor … “sectarian conflicts in the region” could be a third predictor … intelligence information that Saudi Arabia or Saddam Hussein is funding some Syrians to stand up to the regime could also be a potential predictor of arrests. I bet you that if you can look at the correlation between each of these predictors and deteriorating political freedoms, you will find significant correlations (to various degrees).

“The general purpose of multiple regression is to learn more about the relationship between several independent or predictor variables and a dependent or criterion variable.”

August 2nd, 2008, 7:47 am


Joe M. said:

Do you know who Alon Liel is? I mean, do you realize how outside the mainstream of Israeli opinion he is? He is basically a member of the Meretz Party (I don’t know whether he is officially, but he is very close with their current leader). He has basically the positions of your friend SHAI. And, simply put, they are not in the Israeli mainstream. Israel is on the verge of electing Netanyahu as prime minister again. With Yisrael Beiteinu likely to be the second or third largest party, followed by either Shas or Labor in 4th. That means that 4 of the 5 biggest parties in Israel are radical right wing parties (Kadima will move right, because both Livni and Mofaz are to the right of Olmert, who is considered a pragmatist), and only labor is centrist. Mr. Liel’s party will be lucky to get 5 seats in Parliament. I would not rest your hopes on him.

As for publicity stunts, Abbas goes every day to meet with Olmert and has daily talks, and does countless interviews….. It has done nothing to increase his negotiating position. In fact, it weakens it significantly. Bashar is smart not to offer too much.

And, to be clear, I don’t have a problem talking to AIPAC or anyone in general. But they were an unofficial delegation from the Syrian government and they were begging to meet with AIPAC. Obviously, AIPAC leaked the news and refused to meet in an effort to humiliate them. It was just a disgraceful episode.

And just to be clear, I don’t want to have war with Israel forever, but I am trying to be lucid about what the situation is. If you become too optimistic you will leave yourself in a position like Abu Mazin, where every day you believe that you can have a breakthrough with the next round of negotiations, while you are actually being lulled to sleep by the sound of your own music….

August 2nd, 2008, 7:52 am


Alex said:

Joe M,

I linked to Alon’s comment simply to demonstrate that the most peaceful Israelis are not getting help from Assad or Syria in showing CBMs to the Israeli people … Alon was telling Ford Prefect to tell the Syrians that they need to do that interview .. they need to do anything!

No one is counting on Alon personally to deliver the Golan, don’t worry. Syria knows that the Israeli people will need to be convinced before Netanyahu, Livni, or anyone else can dare to sign that treaty… and we know that for now opinion polls say that only 30% are convinced. Nothing is guaranteed .. but there is a good chance.

Bashar will not turn into Abu Mazen.

Time for me to go to sleep : )

Qifa will take over tomorrow morning.

August 2nd, 2008, 8:04 am


Ghimar said:


In parallel with this fruitful discussion on readiness for peace, I recommend you encourage discussion on internal socio-economic reform initiatives that are taking place in Syria and are planned to take place during the next couple of years. Peace is of course important, but it is always associated/measured with the street satisfaction at internal modernization steps which reflect on the “citizen’s” daily life.

I do not want to be judgmental, but many readers are viewing syriacomment as a narrow forum that needs to integrate more “human” topics. This will of course widen the scope of its readers, and commentators.

What do you think?

August 2nd, 2008, 11:46 am


alle said:

Interesting article, even if I too found it a bit over-optimistic. I’m not saying your reform suggestions for Bashar/Syria are bad; in fact, they seem like very reasonable first steps. But you’re overlooking that the step required by Bashar right now is not to “begin to release” prominent dissidents, it’s to stop arresting them. Much of the Damascus Declaration top has been put in jail since last year, and Bashar is not simply neglecting to clean up after Daddy — he’s very actively and on his own initiative ratcheting up pressure on virtually harmless dissidents, and that’s the problem at hand. Sure he has his reasons, and what to do about it, I don’t have a clue. But saying that he “should” release people instead is sort of beside the point. Yes, he should, and Israel should stop occupying Palestine, and Lebanese factions should stop quarreling, but …

August 2nd, 2008, 2:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Joe M.

I’ve enjoyed reading your exchange with Alex. I was wondering why I slept so soundly last night; clearly, I was lulled to sleep by the sound of your music!


I’ll try to respond to various points below.

The tone of your argument is far too optimistic for my blood. Often you present ideas without having any foundation for them (like, jumping to negotiations without having a motivation for negotiations).

In case it wasn’t obvious, the tone of this essay was optimistic by design. We both believe that there are real possibilities for breakthroughs these days, and believe that they should be encouraged by promoting developments that would ordinarily be considered over-aggressive, even while preserving the strategic angles that you talked about.

For example, you advocate that Lebanon join negotiations with Israel, but you ignore that both Israel and Hizbullah have no incentive for this (and more, would be completely opposed to this).

Why do you think this is the case? Let’s look at both sides. Israel has a VERY big incentive to sign a deal with Lebanon, and always has. It would give up relatively little (Shebaa and Kfar Shuba) and get a lot in return. Hizbullah has less of an incentive, but I also think that it doesn’t have much of a choice, in the long run. There is little taste within Lebanon for resistance beyond Lebanon’s borders. In a recent poll held on the Aounist forum about the purpose of Hizbullah’s weapons, over half of the respondents replied that they protected them from (a) Palestinian settlement in Lebanon ; or (b) nothing, with just 1/3 saying that they were effective against Israeli aggression.

My point is that there is in fact an incentive for Hizbullah to disarm, namely its prospects for a strong political future in Lebanon. If I had to guess, I would say that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese would be in favor of a peace agreement, in exchange for Shebaa/Kfar Shuba, etc.

Lastly, you forget that Syria/Lebanon/Israel negotiations and separately the “Arab Peace Initiative” are actually mutually exclusive.

This is a good point, but I have to believe that Syria is not looking simply for a cold peace with Israel. As you said, such a result is highly destructive and unsustainable on many levels. My own feeling is that Bashar is in fact going precisely for “a grand bargain”, but rather than announcing it with great fanfare and hoopla (which didn’t work, in the case of the Arab Peace Initiative), he is instead pursuing it more quietly and methodically.

Right now, we have no evidence that Israel is serious about making peace with the Palestinians (or anyone), and that would only get worse if you make Lebanon and Syria the next Egypt and Jordan respectively.

Again, you’re right about this. But are Lebanon and Syria really in danger of becoming the next Egypt and Jordan? Simply to map previous history onto present realities runs the risk of missing potential pitfalls and opportunities. Bashar is not going to sign a deal that leaves the Palestinians twisting in the wind. He would be shooting himself in the foot if he did that. I’m not privy to the Syrian game plan (who is?), but I have to imagine that the desired end game is an open door to a comprehensive solution, not a closed one.

How will this happen? Where will will the negotiations lead? I’m not sure, and I don’t think anybody is. But perhaps this should be the topic of a follow-up post. Alex?

August 2nd, 2008, 2:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

By the way, Joe, I can’t remember what you you think of the Arab Peace Initiative. If Israel accepted it, would you support it?

August 2nd, 2008, 2:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Joe M. states:

Because, it seems that the only way for Israel to accept “peace” with it’s Arab neighbors is if they unconditionally surrender (like Jordan and Egypt) and move directly under American hegemony.

Joe M.,

How do you consider recovering back land as an “unconditional surrender”?

August 2nd, 2008, 3:32 pm


Alex said:


I agree. I’ve mentioned (to Majhool) many times that I am hopeful that by next year President Assad will be announcing many popular initiatives and reforms, but I have not talked about them in detail.

You are the most knowledgeable among us about those initiatives. I would like to invite you to write a post to update us on internal socio-economic reform initiatives that are taking place in Syria and are planned to take place during the next couple of years. I can tell already that it will be a very popular discussion.

If you want to discuss it, please communicate with me through my creativesyria email if you want, or on Facebook (I sent you an add friend).

Also, Can I ask you your opinion on Joe M’s question regarding the Palestinians? … how committed is Syria to ending their misery? … what can Syria expect on the Palestinian question simultaneously with an agreement on the Golan (and on Lebanon)?


The point we tried to make was not th eobvious one you referred to. We are simply saying that if Syria needs Obama, Sarkozy, and the next Israeli prime minister to promote and support the peace process, then it would really help those leaders if Syria can release political prisoners for example… for now, Sarkozy’s and Olmert’s opening to Bashar were very unpopular in France and i Israel … because people genuinely got programmed to believe that Syria is somehow the only dictatorship in the area.

The difference between today and yesterday, is that with Chirac and Bush, if Syria released prisoners they would look for new ways to put PR pressure on Syria. Sarkozy (and hopefully Obama) will be looking for ways to help them open up to Syria, not put pressure on Syria, and therefore releasing political prisoners will be much more rewarding this year.

And needless to say, … of course there should be no political prisoners at all.

May except the few who are really working for outsiders to destabilize Syria.

August 2nd, 2008, 4:12 pm


Joe M. said:

I don’t like the “Arab Peace Initiative” for many reasons, including 1) how ambiguous it is on the issue of refugees, 2) international law holds that the Partition Plan is the only legal basis for a Jewish state in Palestine and the “Green Line” is meaningless in that respect 3) how it seeks to detach Israel its responsibility for the conflict…

Basically, I simply don’t think it solves the question of Palestine, but is being pushed by Arab leaders because they simply want to be rid of the issue of Palestine once and for all. It is a very hasty “plan” and doesn’t seem to be the result of mature political thought.

If Israel accepted the plan and it was implemented in some fashion, I would not necessarily actively oppose it (there would be some gains, especially for Syria). But I expect that it would be like an Oslo situation for the Palestinians, where the first few years look promising on the surface while there is a massive tumor growing under the skin.

I simply don’t think the text of any agreement is what technically matters now. Olmert could sign a peace deal tomorrow that is even better for the Arabs than the “Arab Peace Initiative”. But there needs to be a fundamental reason for Israel (their people, but especially their military and political class) to accept it, more than that it is a signed piece of paper. That doesn’t exist today.


As for Hizbullah, I am interested to hear your response to my suggestion that Israel would necessarily require the Lebanese to directly confront Hizbullah (like Fatah towards Hamas) as a precondition for peace. I think you are right that Israel has some incentive to stop fighting with Hizbullah/Lebanon, but they will never accept an ideology that does not affirm the existence of their Jewish state in that way. That is a huge problem for any rejectionist force (whether Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, Libya….)

Also, why do you think Israel has not made peace with Syria yet (and how does it effect your argument above)? Syria has been proposing a deal similar to Camp David for the last 30 years, yet Israel was willing to make a deal with Egypt but not Syria. Why do you think that is true? The obvious answer is that Egypt had moved firmly under American hegemony by the time a peace agreement was made. Now, maybe Bashar will do that, as he is a dictator and can make any decision he wants, but any such deal would put Assad in the same position as Mubarak…

I get the impression from your original argument that you forgot the military dimension to the conflicts between Israel/Syria/Lebanon and wrote as though it were simply a matter of negotiations…

August 2nd, 2008, 5:28 pm


Majhool said:


let me ask you again, If Bashar is not able to make peace with Israel and failed to deliver on any of the reforms you suggested ONE YEAR from now, would you still support the guy?

Let me declare one more time that I would give my full support to the guy once I see him deliver on irreversible reform in a reasonable time frame. So far, and after EIGHT long years, I am very disappointed.

August 2nd, 2008, 5:37 pm


Majhool said:

Very interesting comments on Syria-News showing the sentiment towards Saudia Arabia

August 2nd, 2008, 5:50 pm


Alex said:


If Syria gets what it wants, and if president Assad is empowered and if outsiders stop trying to interfere in internal affairs, I will definitely be very disappointed if reforms do not proceed at a faster pace.

But again … a reasonable time frame for political reforms in Syria is about ten years … starting with a number of small steps next year to make up for the unfortunate delays of the past “long” eight years.

We will not reach Nirvana next year … if they arrest two new political activists next year don’t be shocked. The hope is that for every new one they “need to” arrest, five others are released.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


If the Partition Plan is the end, then what are the means? Further resistance? How many more years shall we continue to cultivate this strategy? I’m not trying to be combative, by the way. I am asking this as an honest question.

That is to say: what do you think is a concrete alternative to the current status of negotiations?

As for Hizbullah, yes I do agree with you that Israel will demand a substantial (some may say “existential) change in their orientation. But everybody knows this, including Bashar al-Assad, the Iranians, and the leaders of Hizbullah itself, and yet no one has spoken out against the current talks. This either means that the whole thing is a charade and Hizbullah knows it. Or it means that it is serious, and Hizbullah is prepared to pay a certain price in exchange for certain guarantees. Nasrallah himself has hinted at this latter eventuality in his latest speeches. If the train is truly leaving the station, I somehow don’t think that Hizbullah is going to be the one left without a ticket. Its leaders are far too shrewd.

With respect to “American hegemony”, I suppose I need something more concrete than this term to understand the contours of your argument. What do you mean by this? Surely there is something that falls between a rejectionist and a puppet, no? Take a look at Lebanon for a case study of a country which confounds this dichotomy. Many of the local players have been “rejectionists” of American hegemony at one time or another (like Jumblatt, Aoun, Berri, etc.) but they all have extensive contacts with American officials, have made money in the U.S., have worked for American interests, etc. Many European countries are very close allies of the U.S. while openly defying it on a regular basis. My point is that if our leaders become puppets, that is not because they have no option but to do so. Personality issues, greed, and historical circumstances play a major role in the question of who becomes a puppet or not.

There is also the question of playing the political game properly. We can have a million well-intentioned, morally superior resistance leaders go on al-Jazeera and demand an end to occupation and collective punishment, and garner a certain degree of international sympathy. But this will be completely decimated by someone like Benyamin Netanyahu in five minutes on Glenn Beck’s talk show. Why? Because Netanyahu is a political mastermind, as you have suggested yourself (and I agree 100% with you). We don’t have people like that in the international spotlight… yet (hint hint). We don’t have the striking, Italian suit-wearing, charming, intelligent, sincere, attractive leader who sits down in front of Charlie Rose and chats with him in a conversational East Coast accent, about everything from the peace process to the quality of Biqa`i vs. Sonoma valley wine. This is the Show, and we’re still stuck in the Minors.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:00 pm


Majhool said:

That’s too many “ifs”

“if outsiders stop trying to interfere in internal affairs”

What if they don’t stop! would you still be disappointed for lack of reform?

Disappointment is different from withdrawing support. The question was would you still support him?

August 2nd, 2008, 6:13 pm


Alex said:


Why do you think Bashar (and Hafez before him) refused to sign that peace treaty the past few decades?

Why do you think Syria decided to go through the very difficult past few years instead of the promised rewards in Syria joined the war on Iraq coalition?

If the Syrians were ready to submit to “American hegemony” … they would have done it long time ago.

I can tell you that many in Syria are shocked at President Mubarak… how he has no ability to maneuver anymore … The Bush administration weakened him (and Egypt) so much while they concentrated on their Saudi and Israeli friends’ interests. There is nothing attractive or desirable about becoming another Mubarak … we can do without the red carpet receptions in western capitals, like we managed for decades.


Yes … If the Saudis still think that what happens in Syria is within their responsibility because they are the guardians of Islam, then I will fully support Bashar as he continues to politely ask them and anyone they “support” in Syria to F-off.

As for reforms, I hope you can see from the suggestions in this post that I am selective … many reforms are not risky. I would be disappointed if many of them are not implemented. As for withdrawing my support … I am not some government coalition partner to withdraw my support Majhool … I am a Syrian expat who can express an opinion, that’s all.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:21 pm


trustquest said:

Majhool, you should not put this kind of pressure on Alex, he is doing his effort to make a change exactly like you in face of the hegemony of 50 years of oppression. I believe you both on the same side, but differ in tactic. Alex wants to get that nail through the wall in small hammer with gradual pressure and you want to push it through very hard. Actually, each one should keep his way so the collective double regression can work for best results.
I add my voice to Ghimar, that more humans’ topics and civil society participation is needed on this forum. Syria has one of the largest pools of high degrees educators around the world. It is one look at how the regime is marginalizing all these wonderful people and not allowing them to congregate and interact to come up with criticism and solutions is beyond any one believe. Example is the Syrian economic society, who has his last lecture in 2005. It is a generation after generation who give up on them and they find this amusing and beneficial, in the name they have bigger fish to fry.

August 2nd, 2008, 6:33 pm


Joe M. said:

Maybe I was not clear. I do not support the Partition Plan overall. I support a one-state solution (it is already one state), starting with a bi-national confereration (that may be based on the green line as long as citizen rights are significantly expanded for Palestinians) and moving towards a less federal formation in the future. I bring up the partition plan in order to emphasize the weakness of the Arab position in “Arab Peace Initiative”. Truthfully, even the green line is impossible for Israel, as it is unthinkable that they will dismantle their settlements (especially the E. Jerusalem ones).

As for Hizbullah, I do believe that the current indirect negotiations with Syria are a charade and that is the reason there is so little resistance to it. Take the Annapolis conference as an example. At the beginning everyone was willing to laugh it off as a useless conference. Then the USA began to expend a significant amount of energy to get numerous factions to take part (including Syria) and groups like Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran began to get nervous and started condemning the conference. Further, in Israel, the rightist factions of government (notably Shas) threatened to collapse the government if serious negotiations took place. My point is that there would be push back from forces like the Israeli right-wing or Hamas/Hizbullah/Iran… if there were serious negotiations taking place in Turkey. I will additionally point out that Abu Mazin holds endless negotiations with Israel that are totally empty of substance (notice the strengthening of the occupation at the same time). Therefore, I think the lack of opposition is prima facia evidence that the negotiations are not serious. My guess is that Israel is using the indirect negotiations simply to assess their position regarding Hizbullah and Iran, rather than to deal with Syria itself (Syria is not an Israeli priority now). And Syria has been begging for negotiations, so it gives both sides reason to actually meet.

Hizbullah may be willing to change it’s position regarding hostilities with Israel some time in the future, but certainly not now. Do you forget that they were willing to conquer Beirut in order to maintain their communications network just a few weeks ago? and you think they are willing to let Syria negotiate away their weapons today? not likely. Hizbullah is clearly willing to prioritize it’s military position over it’s domestic political position. That is the purpose of the Ministerial Statement that will be coming out in a few days. Hizbullah is forcing all factions of the Lebanese government to affirm their right to defend Lebanon and to repudiate the position of the previous M14 government. This does not make me feel as though there is a diplomatic solution to their weapons on the horizon.

Lastly, when I say “American hegemony” I mean that Israel will require insurance that a signed peace deal will hold in perpetuity. For example, Israel would not have signed Camp David without Egypt’s betrayal of Syria in the 73 war and Sadat’s dramatic shift of Egypt away from the rejectionist camp (including a total marginalization of rejectionist forces in Egypt). So, the question Israel will ask of Syria and/or Lebanon is “how will you insure that the peace holds?” Of course, the only acceptable answer is that they will crack down on any faction that opposes the peace agreement (because without a crackdown, the government itself could become unstable and/or Israel could face direct attacks from angry militant factions). This is repressive by definition. But also, to do so, the defacto means of such repression is that Syria and Lebanon will require “assistance” from the USA (as the only power in the region capable of helping in such matters). This is, of course, a tautology; as repression will bring opposition and opposition will bring more repression… eventually increasing the reliance on the USA to a degree similar to that of Fatah (where they have CIA agents in their ranks, and have General Dayton making military decisions for them).

August 2nd, 2008, 6:48 pm


Off the Wall said:


The Artificial Neural Network (ANN) presented by Alex has proven to be much more superior to any other form of regression. The reason being its capability of detecting and modeling “non-obvious” relationships, as well as of being retrained with any new set if input. Some argue that it fails the test of causality, but based on my own experience, several ANN formulations have been rather successful in detecting and modeling relationships that physically-based models have failed to produce because of the complexity of the system, the inability of the model to capture such complexity, and the inadequacy of data regarding not only the input and output, but also the hidden (non-measurable) states of the system. Furthermore, and from theoretically speaking, some luminary statisticians have argued that regression models are better tools for hypothesis testing than they are predictive models. That is why i would reject any model presenting only the famous correlation coefficient but not the confidence intervals around the statistical estimate of that coefficient(the green lines in QN spaghetti plot on previous thread)

I think Alex’s analogy is a good one, and in fact, ANN is a rather sophisticated regression. The key difference is that in ANN, even if you introduce into your system input that have no relationship with output, they are less likely to increase the uncertainty in the output because the continuous training of the network (similar to our brains), and the countless internal classification occurring within the hidden layer (middle circles in Alex’s figure) weeds them out, one step at a time. However, there are thresholds at which a system starts behaving in a completely different mode, simple regression fail in capturing such thresholds. ANN, mimicks them.

I was an opponent of ANN, but few years back, I became a convert.

Sorry for the interruption, but I could not resist it

August 2nd, 2008, 6:52 pm


Majhool said:

Just in:

Brigadier General Muhammad Suleiman (The right hand of Maher Assad) was found killed in Tartous under mysterious circumstances.

August 2nd, 2008, 7:04 pm


Majhool said:

Dear OTW,

The issue is not about which mathematical model is superior to the other. The issue is simply about decision making.

Did Alex run an ANN that suggested: Bashar getting more power—–> more freedom?

I doubt it. I think he is simply saying it’s too complex to really predict . All said, this complexity should not prevent us from using simpler relations

How about this model

if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, most likely it is a duck …

August 2nd, 2008, 7:20 pm


Joe M. said:

I can’t speak for either of the Assads and I also don’t know what has been officially on offer to either of them. But my guess is that they rejected previous plans because of any combination of the following:

1) Israel has never offered to give the entire Golan back, as it did Sinai. They have always required some sort of deal breaking accommodation; whether in the form of water rights for Israel, military positioning (remember, Damascus is not geographically protected from Israel other than by defensive positions Syria can take in Golan), land accommodation (“peace park” or not giving back all the land in some other form).

2) Egypt needed Sinai (and Suez, let’s not forget) more than Syria needs Golan. As a result, Golan can live as an idea more easily than Sinai could for Egypt. And in that way, the minimal demands of Syria are higher than they were for Egypt (who to this day can not bring troops into Sinai).

3) Israel is probably requiring that Golan be demilitarized as a precondition to returning it. But it is by far Syria’s most strategic piece of land militarily.

4) Syria knows that there is also a political cost to striking a deal for Golan that is larger than the one Sadat had paid by signing Camp David. In the time from Nasser’s death, Sadat unilaterally shifted Egypt so dramatically from Nasser’s positions that he no longer needed to convince Israel of his usefulness to them. Syria is still in its Nasser phase (so to speak) and Israel will require a similar change as Sadat made before it frees Golan. (of course, there is a small chance of a deal as reported almost happened with Barak, but this is part of the equation).

5) This is similar to point 3, but different in emphasis. Syria has built itself as Arab nationalist and has good relations with those like Hamas, Hizbullah, PFLP…. Syria does so for many reasons that are not merely nationalist. But Syria knows it would be a big blow to give this up. It would be a blow to the Palestinian cause, to Arab nationalism, to it’s own ability to freely associate with whichever party it chooses… Yet it is almost certain that Israel will require a reorienting of this position in return for peace.

6) Other things that I am forgetting or don’t know. Of course, we are dealing with a dictatorship. For all we know, the deals could be blocked by simple matter of some strange diplomatic snafu or something. Maybe personal pride or some secret piece of the deal that has never been clear.


Lastly, I will just say that I think Syria has shown its willingness to go very far for peace. Unfortunately the Zionists are not interested right now and Syria is not capable to stick its head that far up their own ass to satisfy the Zionists. I agree that they would have done so already had they decided to go that route. I respect the Assads for that.

August 2nd, 2008, 7:28 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
On previous thread you asked me to comment on the recent dangerous situation in Lebanon. Here is my comment, it may be a little too general and Naive and It focuses on Israel. Others have commented well on the situation in Syria and HA I did not want to be redundant.

Two years into a disastrous attempt to weaken Hizballah, Israel stands facing multiple thresholds, with each step it takes limiting the country’s freedom in choosing the next step. On one front, the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment efforts continue unabated. Threats of increasingly tougher sanctions seem to be doing exactly the opposite. A war of words, declarations, threats, and military maneuvers for more than four years now have led to no serious attempts to halt Iran’s nuclear program by Israel or by the US. Israel’s strong allies in the White House seems to be less concerned with Iran at this moment. One would think that an improving ground condition in Iraq would embolden George Bush into taking military action against Iran, but it seems that Bush is no longer in desperate need of legacy, or of diversion. He can now contend himself with a “success” in the war on Iraq. His “Democracy” project is doing well, and in his own mind, No one can “misunderestimate” him after now. Chaney and AIPAC, two vocal war advocates are not measurably weekend, but the former is being challenged by cooler heads in the state department and the CIA, and the latter is facing an unexpectedly vocal opposition from a growing list of Jewish American intellectuals with unquestionable love for Israel. The two war advocates are assuming a lower profile, not in the hallways of power, but at least within the public debate.

It is hard to say how much of Israel’s situation vis a vis Iran is caused by Iran and how much by Israel’s own strive to maintain an absolute military superiority that is guaranteed by a nuclear monopoly. Hizbullah, if looked at from the same vintage point, would not be as important or urgent. However, If a clear headed analysis points to Hizbullah’s as more of an immediate threat to Israels hegemony and to its ability to impose solutions disliked by others. Notwithstanding the party’s demonstrated ability to face the Israeli army to a standstill during th recent war, as a non state popular organization, the group enjoys much more tactical flexibility than any regular army in the region, and because of its own military dominance and a reasonable level of popular support in Lebanon, one might say, a rarely exercised relative impunity. This flexibility allows HA to regroup much faster than regular armies, makes it a little harder to penetrate by Israeli Intelligence than Palestinian organizations are, and most importantly, HA is much less vulnerable to Israel’s strategic and tactical advantage in launching devastating surprise strikes that have been the hallmark of Israel’s wars in the past. No matter who is in power in Israel, a non-state military power, with access to a sizable arsenal of missiles , and with tactical capabilities, would be intolerable, and a face off between the two sides is, unfortunately, inevitable. Understanding that Hizbullah represents a major challenge, perceived or real, to one of the the notion of “safe” homeland for Jewish people and to Israel’s impunity, may shed a little light on the reasons for Israel’s seemingly illogical decision to maintain occupation of Sheba farms, not as a bargaining chip for future peaceful negotiation with Hizbullah or with Lebanon, but as a dormant cause for the inevitable conflict. Recent provocation and flights by drones and fighter jets, continuous violation of Lebanese air, land, and maritime sovereignty serve two objectives, the gathering of intelligence, and more significantly, a continuous pressure on Hizbullah to act and justify a new round of battle.

A battle between Israel in Hiuzbullah will also serve two key objectives. The first is to weaken its capacity for retaliation in case Israel decided to attack Iran and by that allow Israel a wider selection of targets in Iran and one less front to wary about during the ensuing mayhem. The second objective would be to limit Syria’s option in continuing the hard acrobatic walk on two divergent ropes, the peace process with Israel with possible normalization of its relationship with the US and Europe, and a strong strategic alliance with Israel’s current “batch” of sworn enemies. Syria would have to chose one or the other, and as such the daily provocations would serve that purpose only if Hizbullah retaliates. If such happens, Syria risks years of painstaking diplomacy and sacrifices, and would be positioned in the worst possible situation internally and internationally.

So far, the one unknown is the European reaction to a new round of fighting on Lebanese soil. During 2006 war, Europe, and more importantly, France, sow an opportunity to weaken Hizbullah and Syrian influence in Lebanon. As the destruction continued in Lebanon, Europe watched hoping that Israel can accomplish that mission. Only when it became apparent that this can not be done, Europe pressed for an end to fighting. It is not likely that Europe will do the same now. France stands to lose a new opening not only to the Syrian market, but through Syria, a wider access to the most lucrative market in the region and that is Iraq. France also realized that the only guarantee for the safety of its friends in Lebanon is a reasonable level of Syrian influence and cooperation in the country and the willingness of Syria to participate in developing and aiding solutions in Lebanon. Further weakening of that “positive” role is not in Europe interest, and France is unlikely to stand by again while Lebanon burns one more time.

So, if a fight occurs now, Israel may have learned a little more about Hizbullah’s resistance tactics, but as discussed above, HA is a very agile and flexible organization, it now has a mandate for resistance from the Lebanese Government, which it can also use to embarrass its opponents if they do not act. It can even draft others into the fight, although that would be unlikely given the not so stellar performance of Amal’s fighters during the recent stand off in Beirut. Would it emerge stronger or weaker? Stronger if the fight is limited, and weaker if the fight results in an utter destruction of Lebanon, but would the international community permit such and risk the full radicalization of Lebanon. This remains to be seen

August 2nd, 2008, 7:39 pm


Majhool said:


My intent was not put pressure on Alex (I apologize Alex if it appeared as such).

In fact I am an advocate for gradual reform given that Bashar provide a road map. Something he did not do of course (Alex knows much about where I stand on this).

I believe that more and more Syrians have to adopt “show me the money first” attitude, before they volunteer support. Simply believing a vague promise of reform with no time-line or tangible evidence of will is neither going to convince me nor the majority of expatriates (the pool you mentioned included)

August 2nd, 2008, 7:42 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Majhool

I was not arguing for the “correctness” of Alex’s hypothesis, I was merely arguing the mathematical point. And I agree with you that the issue is not which model to use, but I can hardly resist “practicing” my profession even on a Saturday. Sorry for my indulgence 🙂

August 2nd, 2008, 7:49 pm


Majhool said:


bare with me,

you said

“Yes … If the Saudis …, then I will FULLY SUPPORT Bashar (..)

“As for reforms, …As for withdrawing my support … I am not some government coalition partner to withdraw my support Majhool … I am a Syrian expat who can express an opinion, that’s all.

You are willing to Support Bashar when it comes to combating Saudis

however the issue of support and the lack of it is a no issue when it comes to interneal reform.

Anyways, I SUPPORT your suggestions to the regime.

August 2nd, 2008, 7:50 pm


Majhool said:

Off the Wall

Are you a mathematician ?

August 2nd, 2008, 7:52 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Majhool
Not that I know more than others, but I tend to think that the hypothesis “ Bashar getting more power—–> more freedom will depends on the base of the power. If the power is gained through strengthening Bashar’s “wing” then I tend to see that as a feasible argument worthy of discussion. But if Bashar’s power is based on capitulation to entrenched interests (call them the old guards for the lack of a better term), then your hypothesis would “probably” be more correct. From what I have seen and heard, the former seems to be the case.

Whether we agree or not with the arrest and trial of political figures and civil society leadership, one thing must be acknowledged and that is trials are being conducted in the presence of international community. I hope no one jumps on me now because I am not saying that these trials are fair, but they are being held based on existing laws. This is where both Alex’s argument and your rather eloquent and honest request for a road map gain credibility.

August 2nd, 2008, 8:05 pm


Shai said:


If you’re a mathematician, that explains quite a bit… I studied mathematics in my first degree, some two decades ago…

Thank you for the great response. I agree with almost everything. I think I differ on the credit you give Israel for consciously tempting HA into further rounds, using Shebaa and air/sea/land incursions. It makes little sense to me, for the IDF to want another round right now. Not because it won’t hurt HA, or even severely damage its strategic capabilities. But simply because it knows our 1 million+ civilians in the Northern part of Israel will still be threatened, will still have to sit in underground shelters, and will still suffer many casualties. The IDF cannot have come to the conclusion that HA can be “defeated”. The IDF knows that, like Hamas, the most that can happen to HA is a local blow which limits it for a year, maybe less. Both organizations’ ability to recuperate and rearm (and far better) has proven itself time and again.

My concern at the moment is more from HA’s (or Iran’s) side. Is there a possibility of another miscalculation, with the hope of leading the IDF into another failure, and the ensuing result for HA being an even stronger political and military base in Lebanon. Could the Sayyed possibly see it this way, or could Khamenei?

(Btw, I answered some of the internal-Israel questions on the News Round-up thread – can’t recall if you asked any…)

August 2nd, 2008, 8:05 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai and Majhool

I am not smart enough to be a mathematician, I am merely a “research” engineer, so I am by profession and training an avid user of applied mathematics, especially probability and statistics.

Dear Shai
Thank you for the response. My argument for the reason of maintaing Sheba is rooted in my inability to see any reasonable logic for such action. I continue to be baffled by Israel’s decision to keep these areas. I dislike but can understand Israel wanting to keep the Golan heights for their strategic, water, and other benefits. I can even understand the West-Bank issues, though both of us disagree with Israel’s stance on both issues. But I am confused with respect to Sheba. Wouldn’t it be better to get out of that area, and by that, deal the biggest possible blow to HA’s military rational? I would love to hear any justification for such illogical stance?

The situation has changed significantly after the 2006 war. IDF, strong as it is, had for the first time to confront a truly not-traditional foe. It would be only reasonable to assume that some of Iran’s forces are similarly trained and organized. As I mentioned in my earlier response, any scenario short of a total war on Lebanon that leads to full destruction of Lebanon, would lead to an IDF failure. Even if the IDF manages to re-occupy a big chunk of southern Lebanon, for HA, survival is in itself is a victory. And since both you an I know how easily can HA regroup, i do not believe that either limited or total war military option is a viable option.

Israel has a better chance defeating Hamas, it has full control of Gaza’s border and has exercised a complete siege over the area, HAMAS political situation is tenuous and it is loosing popularity. Furthermore, the organizational and tactical posture of HAMAS are very different from that those of HA, and it can not, under the existing conditions, and by the fact that it relies more on traditional “Sunni” resistance roots transform itself into a HA like organization. However, defeating HAMAS will not mean the end of Palestinian resistance, it will only mean that a different, perhaps more radical splinter group, with no interest whatsoever in playing electoral or administrative role, may emerge.

The lesson from Iraq teaches us that the “surge” only worked in tandem with several more complex factors. Chief among these factors is the US’s ability to bribe tribal leaders to go after Alqaida and to push it out of their areas. But that was only possible because Alqaida had no real roots in Iraq. HA is not Alqaida, not intellectually, nore it is a terrorist organization hell-bent on murder and mayhem. It is popular, thoughtful, and calculating. It will morph, change, and with everyday it can resist without going after its Lebanese opponents in open war, the IDF will fail.

August 2nd, 2008, 8:28 pm


Shai said:


But then we agree on the rationale that IDF certainly considers, namely that it cannot “win” unless it is ready to destroy all of Lebanon. Shebaa farms, from what I understand, is something Israel is holding onto, mostly as a card. It doesn’t know who will get this card, Syria or Lebanon. It recognizes, of course, that it is Lebanese territory, but I think our leaders are seeking an agreement, and not unilateral action. As QN has noted before, HA’s thesis will not be nullified once Israel returns Shebaa. There is IDF military presence in the northern half of a small village right on the border, and there are still lands not liberated yet, even though they are not Lebanese. From what I understand of Nasrallah’s speeches, he does not promise HA will put away its weapons once the Shebaa farms are returned. I’m of course not condoning holding on to ANY territory that’s not ours, I’m merely trying to explain the rationale.

I still fail to see any logic in tempting HA into another battle. I’m not sure HA or Iran won’t miscalculate again, and tempt Israel into another round (while assuming that Israel is indeed NOT ready to destroy all of Lebanon).

August 2nd, 2008, 8:39 pm


Off the Wall said:


You make a well reasoned argument for the “card” issue. Whenever a more optimistic possibility occurs I would tend to accept it.

So if there is no reason to tempting HA into another battle, could preparing for the bigger battle with Iran and reducting HA’s ability to retaliate and by that force Israel’s hand into a much larger conflict than it is able to contain be a reason for the provocation. My be it not defeating HA that is the goal, but shaking it just enough to give Israel time to regroup and defuse possible Iranian retaliation, would that make sense?

August 2nd, 2008, 8:48 pm


Shai said:


Well, in theory, yes. But let’s assume Israel is planning to attack Iran, and even has a “preferred date” for it. Obviously it would be taking on such a tremendous risk, going to such extent with the most complex operation perhaps ever taken, by the IAF. And for what reason? Only because it believes if it doesn’t do so today, Iran will have the bomb tomorrow, and that this is unacceptable as it poses an actual, not perceived, existential threat. (As a side note, I completely disagree with this thinking, but that’s for another time).

So if this is our line of thinking, and our motivation, and our urgency, how responsible would it be for us to take on another conflict, before going to Iran? After all, we know that HA will bombard our cities as long as it can (last time for 34 days), it will probably cause far more damage than last time, and we may be getting ourselves into “the mud” far worse than last time around. Not to mention that world opinion and support may seriously be against us this time, right from the start. So we’re risking so much, not to mention throwing our pilots’ attention in the wrong direction, and on very different targets, and our entire army, just to have one less headache if/when we do attack Iran? Doesn’t sit well with me. If I’m trying to make strategic decisions right now, and prepare my best fighters for a very difficult operation, I don’t go on wild adventures weeks or months beforehand.

Therefore, I’m less inclined to see an actual Israeli-driven temptation of HA. I’m wondering, as I mentioned, whether HA or Iran will miscalculate now, and hope for another IDF/IAF operation. What do you think?

August 2nd, 2008, 8:58 pm


Alex said:

Majhool OTW,

I simply wanted to make a simple point:

When we pick one potential predictor (input) to conclude that it is the sole reason some desirable or undesirable outcome (output) takes place then we (as humans) are prisoners to our inevitable selective attention, retention, and processing of information … Majhool WANTS to isolate and focus on Bashar’s power as the SOLE CAUSE of reduced political freedoms in Syria.

I prefer to think that external threats that influences political freedoms to a large degree.

If we are to simplify things, we should at least acknowledge that “The truth” will probably be of this type

Y = w1(x1) + w2(x2) + w3 (x3) …

Different inputs (X’s) affect the output (Y) to various degrees (W’s)

We can’t decide that Y = w1 (X1) just because it serves our existing mental models.

As for the “support” thing … yeah, you’re right : )

August 2nd, 2008, 8:59 pm


Off the Wall said:

I have to run some errands, I will catch up later tonight, I kind of like this exercise, but I have to go now. Sorry for that

But from my initial reading of your latest comment, i am beginning to see that we may converge into the recognition that Israel, now more than ever, has a true existential interest in a wider regional peace. That would explain Bibi’s chances as a peace maker, no?

August 2nd, 2008, 9:01 pm


Shai said:

OTW, I was about to say “good night”… 🙂 Gotta be up early tomorrow. Catch you soon.

August 2nd, 2008, 9:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

We don’t have the striking, Italian suit-wearing, charming, intelligent, sincere, attractive leader who sits down in front of Charlie Rose and chats with him in a conversational East Coast accent, about everything from the peace process to the quality of Biqa`i vs. Sonoma valley wine. This is the Show, and we’re still stuck in the Minors.

QN –

Please, there are plenty of pro-Palestinian Arabs who wear nice suits and speak American english. But most of these personalities were never considered “moderate”. Like Edward Said and Hanan Ashwari for example. The fact is, very few Arabs seem moderate because they can’t admit that Arab states support terrorism.

BTW – Thanks for the clip of BB on Glenn Beck.


I agree with your assessment. What we have in the North is a “Hudna”, and Israel is fine with that. Are the “resistance” fighters (they’re all EEs) in Southern Lebanon happy about this? I doubt it. And if and when Israel goes to Iran, you can bet the missiles will start flying again over the border. Israel will win in this case because she will be seen as the underdog in each case, and will have the sympathy of the world.

Of course, that assumes Iran won’t have some very powerful responses in addition to the above.

I believe the recent Syrian overture for peace is a way out of the current build-up toward an Iranian-Israeli showdown. The Syrians want the Golan back before it is too late.

Israel saves 150 Fatah members. Wow, I wonder if that means Israelis will be safe now if they visit Ramallah?

August 2nd, 2008, 9:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Joe M.,

As for Hizbullah, I do believe that the current indirect negotiations with Syria are a charade and that is the reason there is so little resistance to it.

You may be right. We’ll see soon enough.

Do you forget that [Hizbullah was] willing to conquer Beirut in order to maintain their communications network just a few weeks ago? and you think they are willing to let Syria negotiate away their weapons today?

Actually, I believe that the action on Beirut was very much justified, from their perspective. Disabling the communications network would have been a very serious security risk. Israel could have taken the opportunity to attack shortly thereafter, and HA would have been stripped of their command and control capabilities.

But more than anything else, the communication network thing provided the ideal opportunity to end the deadlock in one fell swoop. This is why they did it, and they calculated correctly.

I don’t think that any Syrian deal will simply “negotiate away their weapons.” There will have to be a process of disarmament and integration, and some might argue that this has already begun. Then again, it could all be a mirage. We’ll have to wait and see. As I’ve said before, there simply is no widespread political will in Lebanon for open-ended resistance with Israel. National defense, sure. But not a liberation movement. Hizbullah surely understands this, and I believe that they are already preparing themselves for the next phase, provided that there is a just solution worked out for the Palestinians. Of course, the devil is in the details.

Lastly, when I say “American hegemony” I mean that Israel will require insurance that a signed peace deal will hold in perpetuity.

Joe, you’re absolutely right on this matter, and this is my biggest source of skepticism about the current talks. I haven’t yet heard a convincing answer to the issue of how Hizbullah, Hamas, and any other rejectionist movements will be “moderated” (I hate that word), to Israel’s satisfaction, without alienating millions of people who have lent this cause their emotional and moral support. But I am not so pessimistic as to believe that the whole thing is a charade, as you do. Who knows? Maybe I will be in the future. For now, I’m hoping that Bashar knows what he is doing.

August 2nd, 2008, 9:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

QN – Please, there are plenty of pro-Palestinian Arabs who wear nice suits and speak American english.


Can you name “plenty” for me? Give me 10 or 15.

August 2nd, 2008, 9:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I haven’t yet heard a convincing answer to the issue of how Hizbullah, Hamas, and any other rejectionist movements will be “moderated” (I hate that word), to Israel’s satisfaction, without alienating millions of people and have lent this cause their emotional and moral support.

QN –

IMHO, it is those “millions of people” that are keeping the ME under the umbrella of violence and stagnation. It’s about time to convince them of a better way. Don’t you think?


1.) Saeb Erekat
2.) Ray Hanania
3.) Dr. James Zogby
4.) Sheikh Hisham Kabbani
5.) The Evil Professor, Fouad Ajami
6.) Fareed Zakaria

Dead Palestinians; the silence is deafening…

Translation Alert (below)

For those on this website who don’t know Arabic, QN said to Ausamma:

“C’mon my Brother” don’t bail on us just yet!

August 2nd, 2008, 9:44 pm


ausamaa said:

The Israelies you mean???!!

August 2nd, 2008, 9:47 pm


ausamaa said:


Alf Mabrook, I see that good ol’ Joe M is reappearing on the radar scope again. Have fun handling his intelligent Syrian-friendly “analysis” and observations.


August 2nd, 2008, 9:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Where are you going?! You’re supposed to help us “handle” Joe. 😉

After all, you said recently that you are confident that Bashar will not sell anyone out.

Yalla ya akhi don’t bail on us just yet!

August 2nd, 2008, 9:59 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

I love it.. you just can not wait to see Syria selling its friends.. can you. But you gotta wait a long long long while before you see this happening. Last I have heard, Syria is being accused of supplying Lebanon (Al Muqawama wa al Shaab wa a Jaysh who are all now fall under the Resistance Clause as per the long awaited Ministrial thing) with anti-aircrat battries and Israel is really upset about this. And Assad is visiting Tehran. Dont worry, the same old gang are coordinating their moves. No one is shortselling anyone. This aint a Feb 14 thing, you know.

As to Joe M. if I am not mistaken, he is an old SC aquientance from years ago when “some” guys were waiting for the Marines to roll into Damascus to support the intifada of the Syrian people who were supposed to be spending sleepless nights worrying about the “regime” disintegrating under the Shock and Awe of US pressures and Junblat threats and the thrats of the tightening noose of the International Tribunal.


August 2nd, 2008, 10:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Who said anything about Syria selling out its friends? You did, as you often do, which makes me think that you are clearly insecure about this subject. The lady doth protest too much, that sort of thing…

If it makes you feel any better, I won’t think any less of you or Syrians in general if your president signs a peace deal with Israel sometime in the next few years.

Of course, you’ll find ways of justifying it and making it align nicely with the tenets of Baathism or Arabism or Ausamaaism, and that will be just fine. I look forward to that day.

August 2nd, 2008, 10:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That’s an … okay list, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind. Ray Hanania is a comedian. Hisham Kabbani is a Sufi shaykh. Fareed Zakaria is Pakistani, not Arab. Erekat is the only political leader in the bunch.

At any rate, I do disagree with you that the problem is one of substance and not form.

August 2nd, 2008, 10:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You said, a couple of days ago to Wassim:

Maybe I understand what you mean, but Dont worry. Nothing will be given up for free. And contrary to many posts and “observations”, Syria is not negotiating a “Golan” peace, Syria is negotiating a comprehensive peace which has been Syria’s line for many decades. So have hope, no one is selling out anything.

Since this is what you believe, and this is the gist of what Alex and I were saying in the post above, then how do YOU respond to Joe’s challenges, which are legitimate, I think? This is what I meant earlier.

August 2nd, 2008, 10:56 pm


Off the Wall said:

you can bet the missiles will start flying again over the border. Israel will win in this case because she will be seen as the underdog in each case, and will have the sympathy of the world.

Is being viewed as the underdog and winning international opinion worth the lives of Israeli children?

I am not trying to be a smart—, I am really concerned about how cheap life has become in our region, with no exception.

August 2nd, 2008, 11:17 pm


ghat Albird said:

As an anon said. “the more it changes the more it stays the same”. The anticipations form a haze on what eventually becomes reality.While not as well versed as several of the contributors to this forum I am forced, out of curiosity to posit this question:

What definite and specific changes will come about once a so called comprehensive peace between Israel and Syria is inked by both parties? Israel’s record since its inception has been to “bait and switch” its neighbors and basically lead the Palestinians by the nose so to speak. Needless to say that they had strong backing in whatever they decided and did do.

Begging my question as put by Ausamaa with a QIFA NABKI comment;

[so there is hope, no one is selling out anything]….Is there anything left to sell out to get peace?

August 2nd, 2008, 11:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Very interesting discussion of the Lebanese newspaper industry.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:24 am


Off the Wall said:


Good point on the multiple regression. BTW, have you ever heard of R, the public domain statistical package

If you like matlab, you will like this one, (Non commercial, so I hope I am not violating the forum rules)

August 3rd, 2008, 12:26 am


norman said:

KSA should know this ( If you can not beat them , Join them ) ,

It should understand that Syria and it’s allies won in the Mideast and with the Bush Administration leaving soon without a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel , It is time to accept defeat and lick it’s wounds and back the Syrian Israeli negotiation for a full peace.

I think settlement is coming through Syria and it is time for KSA to jump in .

August 3rd, 2008, 12:31 am


norman said:

Apparently Khaddam on , let us say 10000.00 Dollars /month salary can open a satellite TV station , I think I am in the wrong business , What do you think Alex ? .

August 3rd, 2008, 1:17 am


trustquest said:

I think this guy will die in resentment because he could not match the entrepreneur moneyshedder, Mr. Rami Makhloof who used to make 1000 times what he could do.
His new venture is an attempt to prove that investment outside is much better than inside, so lets set watch wait and see.
Both are hero in the great State of Shedders. Considering them as comparable to the State Budget they are nation in their own right.

August 3rd, 2008, 1:57 am


Majhool said:

It’s Saudi/Hariri Money, let’s enjoy the show. I have been reading some more about the kiiling of Muhammad Suleiman. apparently he was one of the top 5 decision makers in Syria!

August 3rd, 2008, 3:08 am


Off the Wall said:


The following stretches things a bit, but isn’t that the whole idea of armchair, or in this case laptop war games.
Secondly, i apologize for posting a war game scenario in a post about building for peace. But we have talked peace on war threads, so it is only fair to talk about war prevention as one way of building for peace.

You present a well thought argument balancing tactical and strategic military objectives. But can any Israeli military leader focus only on the very difficult mission you described, without due attention to HA’s possible reaction. If what is happening is not provocation, then facts on the ground point to the direction of HA taking understanding these overflights for what they are, “assertion of power” by asking the Lebanese government to condemn them and to take proper diplomatic action.

Iran can not afford to miscalculate at this point in time. If I am an Iranian leader making a strategic or tactical decision, I would emphasize that my support to HA is only to support Lebanon’s right to defend itself against real threat not to support HA as a punitive arm against every Israeli infraction, and has nothing to do with any geopolitical ambitions in Lebanon. After all, Iran will need international support first in its struggle to prevent an attack if at all possible, and if not, at least in understanding its right for a measured proportional retaliation.

Similarly, HA’s margin for miscalculation is as narrow as Iran’s if not narrower. I think QN described HA’s situation much more eloquently that I could ever do by saying and I quote

As I’ve said before, there simply is no widespread political will in Lebanon for open-ended resistance with Israel. National defense, sure. But not a liberation movement. Hizbullah surely understands this, and I believe that they are already preparing themselves for the next phase, provided that there is a just solution worked out for the Palestinians. Of course, the devil is in the details. Q.N.

Currently, a decisive IDF victory such as that of 1948 or 1967 is not possible. And herein where the danger of miscalculation on the side of HA and or Iran my come due to overconfidence. I think such a danger is more likely on Iran’s side because it is a state actor, but not on HA’s side who handed Israel a pretext to conduct a war it had already planned to launch just two years a go and risked by that a confrontation it could not control. However that brings us to the only way Israel could demonstrate superiority during the last war on Lebanon, which is the IAF.

True, IAF still has the dominance over the skies of the region, and unless the Russians deliver their newest anti-aircraft systems to Iran and Syria, IAF will continue to enjoy undisputed control. But the most IAF can do is to bomb targets and Iranian targets are not like a single small building in the Syrian desert with no protection whatsoever. They are, like some of Israel’s own military bases, placed all over the country both underground and above, and it has been already established that the impacts of an Israeli “alone” raid would be limited unless Israel is willing and able to target areas without regards to civilian casualties. Using tactical nuclear weapons may be tolerated, because no one can do anything about it if the US does it, but I guarantee you it would not be if Israel does. Even if the Israeli leadership managed to obtain tacit agreement from the west and from Russia. The world wide implications would be catastrophic and it would take Israel a long time to recover the political ramifications, which is exactly what Iran needs to rebuild its nuclear facilities, but this time with full intention of making the bomb ASAP.

An added complexity is that IAF may seek and obtain tactical support during its mission from KSA, Jordan, and from American bases in Iraq and in the Gulf. If it is proven, or even hypothesized, that KSA and/or Jordan have in any way assisted Israel in carrying out its attack, the Syrians will finally have what they have been waiting for, a good opportunity to hit back at the Saudis and once and for all completely sideline the Kingdom in any regional power deal. After all, Syria can claim that It was looking for an honorable deal, while its tormentors were conspiring with Israel against a fellow Muslim country.

Finally, even if successful in destroying all targets in a surprise attack, and if Iran proved to be a paper tiger with no real power to retaliate, directly or through its allies, and if the attack results in collapsing the regime, it will probably be replaced with a more liberal but quite more nationalistic regime bent on taking revenge.

Clearly, my friend Shai, i think one should be much less concerned about miscalculation by HA or Iran than the possible miscalculation by Israel. I know this is not the argument you wanted to discuss at this point because we have discussed it before and agreed on some of its premises. But the situation is more in Israel’s hand than in the other parties’ hands at this point in time. Believe me, I tried to find a situation or a scenario where Israel could accomplish its target without major long term impacts, I can not find any. I must also warn against taking Syria’s response to the recent attack on its facility as an indication of Iran’s response to attack on it.

August 3rd, 2008, 3:17 am


Off the Wall said:

What TV channel venture are you talking about, could you please provide a link

August 3rd, 2008, 3:28 am


Off the Wall said:


I would like to add my voice to Alex’s regarding the discussion of potential initiatives in Syria. If you know anything about these initiative, I think you will not only find such discussion popular, but It could also provide a platform for refining some of these initiatives and for garnering support.

August 3rd, 2008, 3:37 am


Alex said:


Thanks for the R-project link… but it seems to be not too user friendly.

I use SPSS. User interface research is the only place I still use statistics packages.

Where is Ghimar? : )

August 3rd, 2008, 5:32 am


Off the Wall said:

Yes it is command line only, it is the poor-man’s SPSS, i use it
because it does not burden my students financially, and it interfaces now with GIS and other

I have not heard from GHIMAR, I would love to hear an answer to your request.

BTW, thanks for the kind words about me. You are giving me too much credit. :-$

August 3rd, 2008, 5:38 am


Off the Wall said:

Are you responsible for the elegant Creative Syria interface?

I will be in Montreal for two nights and one very busy day (Sept 1, and 2nd), if you think we can get together for a cup of coffee, please send me an email. If not, I would understand.

Science Direct is offline for maintenance, but I read the abstract, the paper sounds very interesting. I will get it tomorrow when SD is back online.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:49 am


Alex said:


With CS (and I think I accumulated enough credit … I have been depleting that credit fast though … every time I expressed my obnoxious political opinions : )

SPSS is free in my (ex) department … They purchased a site license.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:59 am


Off the Wall said:

You are one outstanding fellow. I can not tell you how many people I know who are very proud of creative Syria website. You have done for our image more than embassies can do with dedicated and rather expensive campaigns.

It has been a while since I visited, but i will spend sometime on that site tonight. I guess i wasn’t exaggerating when i said, a while ago, that we owe you a dept of gratitude. Thank you very much. I feel the better having known you, even in this indirect way.

August 3rd, 2008, 6:08 am


Zenobia said:

you act like Alex is dying. ‘It was nice to have known you dear Alex!… you were a fine fellow we are all proud of’…farewell…
either that, or you are about to go jump off the golden gate…i am not sure : )

There are three kinds of lies , you know,…

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics..”

August 3rd, 2008, 7:15 am


Jad said:

Very funny comments Zenobia, I was thinking the same but I didn’t have the courage to say it loud….

August 3rd, 2008, 7:30 am


Karim said:

The question is who killed him ?
My first impression: it’s related to Mughniyeh affair.
Was he killed by Hezbollah ?
Anyway ,it seems according to his past and his proximity to Asad family that Suleiman was one of the most powerfull man in the Syrian regime.

Report: Sniper kills Assad’s Hezbollah liaison
By Haaretz Service
Tags: Assad, Israel, Hezbollah

Israel Radio on Sunday quoted Arab press reports as saying that Senior sources in Damascus claimed that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s liaison officer with the Hezbollah guerilla group was assassinated on Friday.

The sources said that General Mohammed Suleiman was shot dead by a sniper in the Syrian port city of Tartous.

According to the Syrian newspaper Albawaba, the sources told another Arabic-language newspaper, the London-based Al-Hayat, that Syrian authorities have been trying to prevent the publication of the news regarding Suleiman’s assassination.

Albawaba stated that no organization has claimed responsibility for the killing as of yet and the reports did not say who was behind it.

The reports did, however, refer to the assassination of Hezbollah’s senior commander Imad Mughniyah in February, and suggested that Israel was involved in the killing.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:39 am


Alex said:

Thank you OTW : )

Getting to know all of you (even indirectly) has been the most rewarding outcome from my dear Creative Syria.

By the way, I can’t tell you how many times I went to dinners to find out that almost everyone knows all of you on SC … I get asked “who is Ford Prefect? .. who is Zenobia?”

Of course I don’t tell them any names or details … with the exception of Qifa Nabki’s : )

August 3rd, 2008, 7:41 am


Off the Wall said:

So you noticed the lame way i wrote the sentence of my comment. What can I say, I am slow, and didn’t see it in time for the “edit” button I was happy about yesterday 🙂

Seriously now, I just wanted to convey to Alex that I really appreciate his efforts. And the elegance of his design.

Please have courage, I am one who can laugh at myself. One way to build courage on this site is to observe Zenobia, and see how she can catch silliness and absurdity, mine included 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 7:46 am


Zenobia said:

well considering Qifa is still only in High School, I think that’s ok. He won’t mind.

i knew you could take such a tiny little jab. It was affectionate.

no need to explain why you appreciate Alex. Most of us love him. I love him most of all. He’s the best.
I told him the other day even…he’s a celebrity. : )

wait, what about yesterday? you are happy about what? (now i will be slow)

August 3rd, 2008, 7:49 am


Alex said:

Dear Syria Comment freinds:

The Mohhamed Suleiman asassination story will be big. You will all have fun analyzing the different possibilities .. who killed him? .. who was he? … is he really dead or did he have plastic surgery and is now on the beach south of France? …

But please, for the sake of not wasting our time forever …

1) If you read ten different stories, please try to not believe all of them…. if Al-Syassa says Suleiman was killed because Bashar was furious after Suleiman beat him playing tarneeb, and Khaddam says he was killed because Suleiman and Rami were competing for a 50 billion dollar project in Tartous, and Asharq Alawsat says that he was killed because the Iranians found out he gave the Israelis information about Mughnyeh … then please, if you have to, try to believe one story only and stick to it.

2) Remember that we still don’t know who ordered Hariri’s assassination or President Kennedy’s …

August 3rd, 2008, 7:57 am


Off the Wall said:

Happy about the edit button which allowed me to think that I can even the playing field with your speed 🙂

Also, got to say, I just found out that I can take double shots of scotch, not not vodka, I get too emotional on vodka 🙂

Of course my complements extend to Qifa as well, do you doubt that?

August 3rd, 2008, 7:57 am


Off the Wall said:


I have been trying to follow it, so far only the same bit from Albawaba.

BTW, the joint Iranian Syrian Press conf is on live now, I am watching Alarabya hoping that they also talk about the other story

August 3rd, 2008, 8:04 am


Zenobia said:

LOL. cute.

Qifa! who doesn’t shower praise on Qifa Nabki. He practically has a cult following going here!… : )

wait, when did you find out about the double shots? : ) you are starting to sound like Ausamaa I hate to break the news…he likes to recommend a drink periodically on SC.
Vodka’s the only way to go really , in my opinion. Beer, wine, arak, yuk. Scotch is dangerous. Watch out, it will sneak up on you.

yes, the Edit button is a serious friend of mine. I like to bundle my comments.. and add to them several times, as some might have noticed.

I am actually very excited to hear about assassination in Tartous. It is new and juicy topic to watch you guys chew on.
In Tartous of all places! Perhaps in a beach chalet by the Sea. It is positively a mystery novel…

August 3rd, 2008, 8:06 am


Off the Wall said:

I found out about the double shots right when you caught my unintended “farewell” (Sorry Alex), which was written midway through the second Vodka. As for Arak, I was too lazy to grill some Kabab today, so I had to do with “7awadher” and Vodka after a nice ball of mixed fruits.

Scotch is good with a nice Cigar, which I indulge in once in a while

You are probably right, Somwhere I read it happened in “Rimal” (Golden Sands) near Tartous, but again, we should heed Alex’s recommendation

August 3rd, 2008, 8:20 am


Alex said:

OTW … don’t try to follow .. the news will follow you.

Anyone here already know who General Suleiman was? … anyone saw a picture?

I can imagine already the confusion.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:22 am


Zenobia said:

how dumb do you think we are Alex! we know our Suleimans. We can tell one Suleiman from another…

even after FIVE scotches…!

ahh haa. i see the connection now. Too much Vodka = sentimental about Alex.
makes perfect sense. You’re excused.

“Golden Sands” … i knew it. It sounds just right. But we can’t rely on Alex for a running commentary because it is past his bedtime already.

you will just have to stay sober enough to deliver the correct report : )
It’s up to you soldier. Everyone else is asleep.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:25 am


Karim said:

Alex ,ok we undertstood that ,but you are also mistaken when you keep answering with this kind of irony … in all the countries that have some level of press freedom,they have their version of siyasseh …and about Khaddam ,dont ask him to use Michel Kilo,Kamal Labwani or Aref Dalila ‘s skills in their opposition to Asad regime,he was the best friend of Hafez Asad,after all,he knows better than us regime’s weak points.
Now about Suleiman death ,in Syria al Asad ,we are obliged to speculate but you would agree that we are not in lack of clues and i’m sure that you didn’t believe the regime version of Zo3bi or Kanaan’s suicides.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:31 am


Zenobia said:

why don’t you offer a scotch to Karim. He needs one also.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:38 am


Off the Wall said:


I have a hunch that dear Karim will opt for a cup of zhoorat instead. Now here is my earliest soldering results

Investigation Folder

Alleged Crime Scene

First website to name Rimal as Crime Scene

Rimal on Wikimapia,

Abu fares on Rimal

Aleged Weapon
Some Sniper Rifle.

Evidence So Far

I tried my best to get “second or third hand sources”

August 3rd, 2008, 9:14 am


Karim said:

Avec plaisir dear Queen and Dr OTW ,but be sure that the scotch is heated to about 60° Celsius before serving .

August 3rd, 2008, 9:31 am


why-discuss said:


You put it as Syria is begging for peace to get rewards from the US!
You forget and ignore the important Iran factor!
I think Israel after their disastrous political and military defeats are panicking more and more at the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclaar power. Look at the frequency of their appeal to boycoot, attack, weaken Iran.
Iran’s threat is what that is making Israel thrive for peace in a way never seen before.
This is the first time in Isreal’s history that it is facing such a opponent with serious war credentials and the first time it has faced the humiliation of the powerful IDF, with US weapons, loosing a war in front of a few thousands determined resistants.
Israel need the peace much much more urgently than Syria, this is why even the corrupted Olmert in his last days is trying to orient the country in this direction.
This peace deal is the last chance for Israel to survive as it has been. The rejection of peace will unleash new recurrent wars with more deadly weapons that the scarce rockets send to the bordering city of Israel.
Arab have time and demography on their side while for Israel each citizen counts and they may dwindle. I think if this peace deal fails, many Isrealis will use their second nationality to move to a safer place.
As for Hezbollah and the other forces in the region, they seem just waiting to see how realistic Israel is becoming or if it is still believing in its overwhelming power.

August 3rd, 2008, 9:40 am


Karim said:

Top Syrian general assassinated: reports
Agence France-Presse
Beirut, August 03, 2008

Arab media reported on Sunday that a brigadier general thought to be the Syrian regime’s liaison with Hezbollah in Lebanon has been assassinated.

The reports came almost six months after the killing in a Damascus car bomb of top Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughnieh, which the Shiite militant group blamed on Israel.

The Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Sunday quoted “informed sources” in London as saying that a senior Syrian officer had been found dead.

“The circumstances of the incident are not clear,” the London-based paper said in its report, which said the sources suggested that the slain officer had been “in charge of sensitive files and closely linked to the Syrian top brass.”

Al-Bawaba, an Arab news website, named the officer as Mohammed Sleiman and said he was “Syria’s liaison officer with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

It said he was killed by a sniper in the northwest Syrian town of Tartus and would be buried in his hometown of Driekesh on Sunday.

The Lebanese anti-Syrian daily al-Mustaqbal quoted a Syrian news site as saying Sleiman was the head of security at the presidential palace in Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad’s “right-hand man.”

The paper made no mention of Hezbollah in its report.

A Hezbollah official told AFP in Lebanon that he did not know Mohammed Sleiman and had not heard about any killing.

Israel has denied the Hezbollah charge that it was behind the assassination of Mughnieh in the Syrian capital on February 12.

August 3rd, 2008, 11:18 am


trustquest said:

Dear OTW,
Regarding you qestion, the subject was the new TV station, owned by Khaddam, which will be lunched this month.
As for the new assassination; it is truly going to be interesting to read for both isles and especially to the State version. Last time when Maghnia assassinated, the first version of SANA was a Gas container exploded.
As for Karim, Thanks man for the Avecplaisir, very elegant si

August 3rd, 2008, 12:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

If you read ten different stories, please try to not believe all of them…please, if you have to, try to believe one story only and stick to it.

I like the tarneeb version.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:30 pm


norman said:

If the assassination took place , Could that be a preparation to prevent a Syrian / Hezbollah response to an expected Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear instilation.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

OTW and Zenobia

Many thanks for your kind words, but to mention me in the same sentence as Alex the Great is not even worth contemplating.

Alex is a one-man Cultural Ministry, a devoted patriot, and a learned expert on the history of modern Syria.

Plus, he is shockingly good looking.

When I grow up, I would like to be like Alex, minus the good looks of course.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:34 pm


norman said:


I think you are wrong , he was training the president in Chess before his trip to Iran , apparently the moves that he taught the president made the president lose against Ahmadinejad which made Maher Assad angry so it came the elimination.

How about that for a fiction novel.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

I wish you told me that story before I committed to the tarneeb version. Now I’m stuck with my choice. If I switch, Alex byiz3al.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:40 pm


norman said:


Alex put his picture before on this site and he is better looking than the picture you put up and it was in color.

On another matter , there will be no interence fees between KSA and Syria,

جمارك سوريا تعفي السعوديين من الضريبةوالسعودية تعفي السوريين بالمقابل

أعلنت الجمارك السورية إعفاء السعوديين من رسوم الخروج من الأراضي السورية , الأمر الذي أدى الى إعفاء السعودية للسوريين من رسوم الدخول إلى أراضي السعودية.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:47 pm


norman said:


Alex is a famous man and does not need assurances , on the other hand we small potatoes need positive reinforcement to keep our morals up,

One other reason , you can change if you think that it makes more sense that Ahmadinejad can win against Bashar in Chess but not in Tar-nib.

I will not call a flip flopper.

August 3rd, 2008, 12:52 pm


norman said:

Karim ,

What is your take on this , Reasons and solutions ,

الأحد 02 شعبان 1429هـ – 03 أغسطس 2008م


وفقا لإحصاءات أجهزة الأمن والشؤون الاجتماعية
العلاقات المحرمة والفقر وزواج المسيار تخلف 280 لقيطا بالسعودية

الفقر أصبح أحد دوافع التخلص من الأطفال

دبي – العربية . نت

سجلت المدن السعودية خلال العام 2007 رسمياً 280 حالة لأطفال لقطاء أبلغت الجهات الرسمية بالعثور عليهم، إلا أن اختصاصيين أشاروا إلى وجود حالات أخرى من اللقطاء، لم تصل كبلاغات رسمية للجهات المختصة، بعد أن تكفلت بعض الأسر برعايتهم، وفقا لتقرير نشرته صحيفة “الحياة” اللندنية الأحد 3-8-2008. واللافت أن العلاقات المحرمة لم تكن السبب الوحيد وراء ظاهرة الأطفال اللقطاء، بل إن بعض الأسر تخلصت من أطفالها لأسباب مادية، مردها الفقر، إضافة إلى حالات معدودة كانت نتيجة لزواج المسيار، وفي قلة منها كانت لخلافات زوجية أوصلت أحد الطرفين إلى الدفع بالطفل الرضيع للشارع، إلا أن ملخص مجمل الدراسات الخاصة، أشارت إلى أن نسبة تلك الحالات لا تتجاوز عُشر الحالات المسجلة. وذلك بحسب سجلات الأمن العام ووزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية.

وقال مصدر أمني إن شرطة منطقة المدينة المنورة تعثر على نحو ستة لقطاء أسبوعياً، متروكين في صناديق صغيرة أمام المساجد، أو في مواقع أخرى، غير أن المسجد بدا كموقع مثالي لمن أراد أن يستغني عن رضيع، ليخرج المصلون ويعثروا عليه أثناء بكائه.

وكشف المصدر عن ممارسة بعض الأطباء من الجنسيات الآسيوية لتجارة الإجهاض، بمقابل 500 ريال للعملية الواحدة للحامل من فئة الدخل المحدود، وخمسة آلاف ريال للميسورة.

وأوضح أن التسعيرة تختلف بحسب المدن، فما “يتقاضاه الطبيب الآسيوي أو الأفريقي في أزقة المدينة المنورة، يقل كثيراً عما يطلبه زميله في المهنة في مدينة أخرى”.

وذكر أنه يندر اكتشاف حالات الإجهاض وضبطها نظرا لسرية الممارسات التي تتركز في “منازل صغيرة مستأجرة بأحياء شعبية”.

وتشير الإحصاءات الصادرة من جهاز الأمن العام حول اللقطاء، إلى أن منطقة مكة المكرمة تقدمت بقية المناطق وسجلت 95 حالة، بما معدله 33.4 في المائة من الحالات المسجلة في السعودية، رغم أن المنطقة تشكل سكانياً ما نسبته 26.1 في المائة من إجمالي سكان المملكة.

وحلت الرياض ثاني منطقة بتسجيل 58 حالة، بنسبة 20.5 في المائة من الحالات، فيما جاءت عسير في المرتبة الثالثة بتسجيل 36 حالة، بنسبة 12.2 في المائة، وتلتها المدينة المنورة ثم المنطقة الشرقية وجازان ونجران وتبوك والقصيم.


جميع الحقوق محفوظة لقناة العربية © 2008

August 3rd, 2008, 12:59 pm


Karim said:

Norman ,do you know that,Philip Stamma one of the most famous chess players in the History was an Aleppine Christian Ottoman(he was also the translator in Arabic of the British Kingdom ),he wrote” Essai sur le jeu des echecs”published in France in 1737 in which he developped the first known chess algebraic notation .

August 3rd, 2008, 1:12 pm


norman said:


Now i can see why Syria is navigating well in the field of international politics.

We are good in Chess.

August 3rd, 2008, 1:16 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Are you an historian? You are well-versed in the Ottoman history of Syria.

Ammo Norman

You may not call me a flip-flopper, but Alex will. 😉

August 3rd, 2008, 2:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Iran tells Syria it is serious in nuclear talks

3 hours ago

TEHRAN (AFP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday told visiting Syrian president and staunch regional ally Bashar al-Assad that Tehran is serious about finding a practical solution to the nuclear crisis.

“We are serious in talks and we want the talks to be based on the law so it will bear practical results. We hope that other sides are serious too,” Ahmadinejad told Assad in remarks broadcast live on state-run television.

read on

And here is Ahmedinejad at the Asad press conference:

Ahmadinezhad said: “We had useful discussions on the issues of Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and other general regional issues. Fortunately, we agreed on all these issues. We have been coordinating our activities over regional and international issues for many years and this trend will continue. Especially now that our region is on the verge of major changes, it was necessary to review the developments of the region and take the necessary decision so that we can deal with them in a coordinated manner. The domination of the American government and the Zionist regime is rapidly deteriorating. This, in itself will lead to major political events in the region and we have to prepare ourselves for a coordinated encounter with such eventuality. Fortunately, we had very useful discussion and made good decisions.”

August 3rd, 2008, 2:19 pm


Akbar Palace said:

QN –

What do you think Ahmadinejad is talking about?

Why-Discuss said:

I think if this peace deal fails, many Isrealis will use their second nationality to move to a safer place.


Out of the 7 million or so Israelis, how many do you think have a “second nationality” (aka “second passport” or “dual citizenship”)? BTW – Please include Israeli Arabs in your guess.

OTW asks,

Is being viewed as the underdog and winning international opinion worth the lives of Israeli children?

The Jewish people have been asking this question every day, years before the State of Israel was created. They have been pondering this question in ancient Israel, Babylon, Persia, Assyria, Iraq, Yemen, Europe, North Africa until today.

Therefore, I don’t think “international opinion” is foremost in the minds of Israelis, but having it doesn’t hurt.

August 3rd, 2008, 2:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I seldom know what Ahmadinejad is talking about, which is probably true of most Iranians as well.

If I had to guess, it’s one of the following two possibilities:

a) Standard issue triumphalism

b) Preparing the ground for an agreement on the proposed package of US/EU incentives vis-a-vis the nuclear issue.

August 3rd, 2008, 2:39 pm


Karim said:

Norman ,i’m against zawaj al missyar and most of these stupid fatwas, our sheikhs are no more capable of taking rational stance towards such social problems and more than ever,our Islamic universities are in need of important reforms and democracy and freedom are even more important than religion ,so this educated population can be represented politically and competes with the extremist forces, i don’t believe that democracy will give supremacy to unrealistic Islamic parties,the important for our people is wealth not false slogans and hypocrisy be it in the name of the Prophet or in the names of Keynes ,Marx ,Ricardo or Adam Smith.

August 3rd, 2008, 2:55 pm


Karim said:

Dear Qifa Nabki,no i’m not historian but i can not be more accurate for the reasons you know…

August 3rd, 2008, 3:08 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

For a deal with Syria Israel, needs either a strong, committed leader or a strong mass movement in Israeli society clamoring for it. With Netanyahu on the road to power and no segment of Israeli society interested in anything else but expansion…well, draw your own conclusions.

August 3rd, 2008, 3:42 pm


Shai said:


There is a lot of truth in your words. But if wars return to our region, I’m afraid it will also push Israel to use more dangerous weapons, the results of which could be catastrophic. I believe we’re experiencing Alex’s Y=a1(x1)+a2(x2)+a3(x3)+… situation, where Y is the peace process, and x1, x2,… are the various parties and their corresponding interests, a1, a2,… In other words, it is not only in Israel’s interest, but also in Syria’s, in the Palestinians’, in Europe’s, etc. Don’t forget, it is Bashar Assad who (thankfully) started on his energetic crusade for peace some 4-5 years ago. No Israeli pushed him to do so. But now we do have an historic opportunity, and it mustn’t be lost. Nothing is easy about it, but let us hope our leaders and our peoples will be smart enough to overcome all its difficulties.

OTW, Zenobia,

When (not if) we finally do meet, first Vodka’s on me, followed by Scotch & a cigar. Alex, QN, Norman, we’ll start the traditional way, with Ahwe, etc. And no, no falafel please… 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 3:42 pm


Shai said:


I really don’t think most Israelis are interested in “expansion”. Many still believe we can remain on the Golan forever. They are thinking through emotions, not rationally. They will vote Netanyahu into power, and will call him a traitor when he brings before Knesset the proposed Peace Agreement which he himself will draft with Assad. He will follow in his mentor’s steps (Menachem Begin). If Tzipi Livni can’t do it, Bibi will end the Israeli-Arab conflict. I am quite certain of it.

August 3rd, 2008, 3:52 pm


norman said:


I think a peace agreement between Syria and Israel will include the Lebanese and the Palestinians and probably should include that everybody could stay where he is with equal rights to all citizens , so the Palestinians who stayed after the establishment of Israel will feel secure to their status , Israel will feel secure that all the million Palestinians outside Israel will not ask to return , all this can be done with a new Marchall plan that will make people worry about their fence with their neighbor more than the fence and the border of their state.

I hope Nur is wrong about the desire of the Israeli people.

August 3rd, 2008, 4:01 pm


Joe M. said:

I wish what you were saying is true, but I don’t think so. It is clear that the argument in Israel against Iran is more emotional than based on the legitimate fear of Iran as a direct threat. I wish Iran were that powerful, but I don’t think so. And even if Iran were trying to make nuclear weapons (which there is no evidence they are) it would take years before they got to that stage. So Israel has plenty of time. The reason Iran is in the news so much today is because Israel knows that Bush gives them a better chance for action than either Obama or McCain would. Thus, there is an urgency to the Iran issue now, not because of the strategic timing, not because of the situation’s military nature.

Further, the most direct evidence we have today that the negotiations with Syria are not serious is that Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has said he would like negotiations to continue after Olmert leaves office. He is a Kadima party member (the ruling party) and someone who has said explicitly that he does not think Israel should ever return Golan to Syria. He also has a 45% chance of being the next prime minister. Yet he likes the idea of negotiations (and doesn’t think they will be completed by Sept. 17th, when Olmert leaves office). Why? Well, he obviously doesn’t think they are going to lead to the type of peace Syria wants, and especially not any time soon. And he is in a position to know. But, the reason he likes the negotiation is that they are probably some type of direct intelligence gathering that Israel can use against Hizbullah and Iran. Most likely they are trying to assess the strength of strategic ties between the three, as they likely see Syria as the weak link.

Unfortunately, like I said, I wish Iran and Syria and the rest of the Arabs were in a position to force Israel to its knees, but the facts don’t bare that out.

August 3rd, 2008, 4:10 pm


Alex said:

Last update – 15:29 03/08/2008
ANALYSIS / Assad goes to Iran to explain, not excuse Israel talks
By Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Israel, Syria, Iran, Lebanon

The aircraft of Syrian President Bashar Assad is constantly in the air. Two weeks ago it was in Paris. On Saturday, it was in Tehran. Assad presented each of his hosts with the same gift: a breakthrough in Lebanon. To Nicolas Sarkozy, who opened before him an official and respected channel to the West, he came after having achieved a deal on an acceptable Lebanese government, as Michel Suleiman was selected the new Lebanese president in Doha. To Tehran, he arrived with the agreed-upon basic policies of the Lebanese government.

These gifts have many facets, and each host can claim to have received the better present. France is pleased that the Lebanese government was finally formed and that the talks with Israel are progressing; and Iran received a Lebanese government policy that safeguards Hezbollah’s standing and, more importantly, its arsenal.

The government policy directives the Lebanese parliament is scheduled to vote on tomorrow state that, “It is Lebanon’s right, and that of its people, its army’s and its resistance, to complete the liberation of its lands.”
This formula puts Hezbollah on an equal footing with the Lebanese Army in matters pertaining to the defense of the state as well as the liberation of the Shaba Farms and the village of Ghajar. This means that, subsequently, any talk of disarming Hezbollah undermines the defense of the state and Lebanon’s ambition to liberate its territory.

The coalition majority, led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Sa’ad Hariri (who heads the Movement of the Future Party), did demand that any liberation activities be conditioned on government approval. But as a result of Hezbollah’s opposition, these amendments were not included. As a result, not only is Hezbollah allowed to retain its arms, it can also define what constitutes liberation and what precisely it means to defend Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has already made it clear that the defensive strategy he has adopted – to justify his organization’s continued arms buildup – includes taking action against Israeli overflights of Lebanon. Now that the Lebanese government has decided on the basis of its policies, Nasrallah will ensure that air defense action against Israeli aircraft will be considered acceptable defensive action by the Lebanese government.

That is why Iran can rest assured about Hezbollah. But Assad also came to Tehran to explain his talks with Israel – not to excuse them. This is the most troubling bone of contention between the two allies, and Iran has yet to comment officially on it. Assad does not seem to be put off by unofficial Iranian warnings that peace between Damascus and Jerusalem will irrevocably alter relations between Tehran and Damascus. The Syrian president will explain to his hosts that the alliance with them is strategic and that he does not intend to sever that relationship. Nonetheless, this visit will force Iran to adopt a new public stance and strategy on the peace talks between Syria and Israel.

August 3rd, 2008, 4:17 pm


Joe M. said:


It seems you are becoming more frightened and hysterical every day. I think you are over-estimating the risk. And it is especially Israeli of you to largely base your fears on the risk of Hizbullah or Iran doing something to start a war. That is very unlikely. Especially Iran. But you must realize that it is Israel who is the most violent and adventurous force in the region. So, at least if you are going to be hysterical, direct your fears at your own state, not Hizbullah or Iran.

Too, rather than voting for Netanyahu and Likud, I you should vote for Balad or the other Arab parties. If you believe in integration and peace, this is the way to do it. Not to vote for someone who will surely go to war.

August 3rd, 2008, 4:24 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Israelis have been sold the idea that a nuclear Iran will pose existential threat to Israel, and that this is something Israel cannot accept (as if someone is asking it). They have therefore developed very real fear of a potential nuclear Iran, and certainly Ahmadinejad’s belligerent rhetoric hasn’t exactly “helped” in that department. Of course Israel would prefer to have the U.S. do its dirty job and, since they believe this job has to be done, they prefer the U.S. does it if and when it can, meaning during Bush’s term in office. I therefore agree with you, that there is a clear incentive for Israel to push the fear factor into the news, into the conscious level of any and all. But there is still a very real risk that if the U.S. doesn’t attack Iran, Israel will on its own.

Mofaz represents the average Israeli, unfortunately. He thinks with his emotions, more than with his brain. He also suffers from our famous superiority-complexes, and clearly believes we can shove peace down our neighbors’ throats under our terms. He is, of course, wrong. I don’t know where the 45% chance for him to become PM is from, but I seriously doubt it, unless you mean that he is 45% likely to become next head of Kadima (running against Livni) and, if he’s able to form a coalition government, to then become our next PM. First, I desperately hope Livni will defeat him, and the polls still show that she can. Second, if she doesn’t, I doubt he’ll create a government, because all sides will be against it (Barak, Bibi, etc.) Without Barak’s support, Kadima will not be able to govern come mid-September. I believe he’ll only give this support to Livni, because Mofaz represents Likud’s platform, much more than Labor’s. Mofaz belongs more to the Right, probably even beyond Bibi, because Bibi has already agreed to return the Golan. Mofaz is not sophisticated, doesn’t have the political experience to defeat Bibi, and will hopefully soon belong more to the history of Kadima, than to its future. I wouldn’t rule out his return to Likud, if he should lose to Livni. His pride might not be able to stand it…

August 3rd, 2008, 4:24 pm


Akbar Palace said:

If I had to guess, it’s one of the following two possibilities:

a) Standard issue triumphalism

b) Preparing the ground for an agreement on the proposed package of US/EU incentives vis-a-vis the nuclear issue.

QN –

Thanks for your opinion.

Do you think this is a possibility:

c.) Preparing the world by striking targets with long range missiles? Why or why not?

August 3rd, 2008, 4:28 pm


Off the Wall said:

Room temperature, No Ice, No Water, that’s the way I like it,

For you I’ll open my best 20yrs Single Malt.

Sory for misunderestimating

I knew my french handicap will haunt me one day, 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 4:39 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

I can see how you’d deduce my paranoia, but I think most of my comments don’t venture into war-game scenarios. I never said Iran will launch a war, so I’m not sure where you got that. I said I wonder if it is in Iran’s interest to have another Lebanon 2006-style war between Israel and HA. I’m not dwelling on this, I don’t lose sleep over it, it was merely a theoretical exercise with OTW, given something that triggered it, no more.

You should know my views by now about who is the belligerent power in the region. I don’t think HA is a “lamb” certainly, and you know I blame my governments (all of them) and the army for the Occupation and for the misery of millions of Palestinians. I fear my own nation’s offensive adventures no less (in fact, much more) than I do our neighbors’ – to make that point perfectly clear.

If I thought Balad had the tiniest of chances to make a difference, I would vote for them in an instant. But even my Arab-Israeli friends understand my “awkward” (I admit) logic in voting Bibi. Believe me, it’s not something I’m exactly “proud” of. I wish I could simply vote for the best candidate that spoke on behalf of peace. But if I do that, another 20 years will pass before the Palestinians will have their own nation, and our region will see endless more bloodshed. Living here, right in the middle of it all, knowing that an hour away from me some 1.5 million people are being suffocated because of my own nation’s numbness and impotence, I cannot just let it continue. Balad cannot change that yet. Likud probably can. I have to give it a chance, what other choice do I have?

August 3rd, 2008, 4:41 pm


Joe M. said:

Yes, my 45% was just what I assume to be his chances of winning the Kadima primary. If he does, I think he may be able to form a government without Likud and Labor, by including Shas,NRP, and then Lieberman’s party. That would be 61. Shas, NRP and Lieberman’s party all have an incentive to form a government with Kadima, as they know they will all loose seats if there is a new election. Kadima, will not maintain 29 seats either. They could even throw in United Torah party if they wanted a wildly religious government (though, this many religious parties is probably too much). Also, given the choice of his forming a government without them or with them, Labor would probably join rather than be excluded.

Yes, I also agree that he is more Likud than Kadima. But he followed Sharon and this is where he is now…

August 3rd, 2008, 4:43 pm


Joe M. said:


Your argument for voting for Netanyahu is a perversion of logic. Would you then say that we are lucky that Ahmedinejad is president of Iran? That Bush is American president, and that McCain would be better than Obama? Should Lebanese be voting for Nasrallah? Would such a scenario make peace more likely?

Further, let’s not forget the current situation with the Palestinians. If anything, Netanyahu would be more violent to Gaza, and more dominating towards Abu Mazin and de-legitimize him ever further. This not the path to peace if you believe in a negotiated two-state solution.

Yet the Arab parties like Hadash and Balad will fight for integration and coexistence and will attempt to balance the fascist parties, like Lieberman’s. Even though they will not form a government, their presence is important because it gives them more clout and makes it harder for the right-wing parties to form a government.

If you vote for Likud, it is not because you believe they will bring peace, but because you are sick of Labor and Kadima. Please don’t patronize us by saying otherwise.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:05 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Liebermann would never join Kadima in a government, unless he was given so much power, that would in essence nullify any attempt by Kadima to continue the peace process. What I would hope, and expect, from the Syrians to do in the coming weeks, is to clarify that Mofaz’s “peace-for-peace” nonsense is a clear spoiler and an end to the talks, should it be adopted by Kadima, instead of “land-for-peace”. That would help Livni defeat Mofaz, and put an end to the speculations you and I are engaging in. He does not deserve to be PM, because he’s the only one talking nonsense right now.

Joe, please don’t insult me by suggesting I’m patronizing anyone. If you fail to agree or understand my awkward logic (to which I admitted, please notice), that is fine. But to suggest I myself am not clear about my motives, or that I’m patronizing others here by telling something I don’t believe in, is insulting. I’m sorry to take your comments too hard, but I do respect you very much, as I hope you know, and it surprises me when you resort to this kind of labeling. Let us engage one another with the benefit-of-the-doubt, and mutual respect. Otherwise, it really ends it.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:06 pm


Joe M. said:

Lieberman was minister of strategic affairs just a couple months ago!

August 3rd, 2008, 5:10 pm


Off the Wall said:

I scanned the Syrian Press “headlines” about Mofaz comment. It seems that it is translated not as “peace for peace”, but as peace with no pre-condition.

Did anyone read some positive spin in that translation as i did?

I think that if Syria wants to influence the Israeli election, and that is a long shot, it would probably make comments that would improve Livni’s chances. Not Natanyahu. I do respect your choice, but Natanyahu is very condescening towards Arabs, and I have followed his US press interviews a while back. And you know, both Arabs and Iranians dislike being talked down at. He is a master at that. So not matter how strong he is, unless he changes his demeanor, he is a more of turn-off for peace process.

Even with Olmert, his comment about Syria Chosing between prosperity and Iran, and his condescending speech, stood a chance of cooling the Syrian’s warmth towards negotiation. While there are 7 million Israelis to consider and to appease, and I understand Israeli’s politicians need to cater to their constituents, but there are nearly 20 million Syrians, plus the rest of the Arab world opinion. So far, most Israeli politicians practice a rhetoric that is insulting and demeaning, and Natanyahu is a master at that. This is where I see his chances of making peace risk diminishing.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:17 pm


norman said:


It looks to me that what Israel wants and what Iran wants can be accomplished , Iran wants to know how to produce nuclear fuel but does not want nuclear weapons , Israel does not Iran to have nuclear weapons , at least that is what they say, so Iran can have the know how with international and possibly Including Israeli and Saudi supervision so they are comfortable that Iran is not making nuclear weapons until full peace in the Mideast at which time all nuclear weapons will be band in the Mideast.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:20 pm


norman said:


That is in Syria news,

I think Syria is trying not to interfere in the Israeli elections knowing that an attack on Mofaz might push him over the top and make him win

موفاز : مساعي السلام مع سورية يجب أن تستمر دون شروط مسبقة الاخبار السياسية

قال نائب رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي شاؤول موفاز الجمعة إن “مساعي إسرائيل للسلام مع سورية يجب أن تستمر دون شروط مسبقة بعد أن يترك اولمرت منصبه”.

وكان رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي أيهود اولمرت والذي تحيط به فضائح فساد قال في وقت سابق انه سيستقيل من منصبه بعد أن يختار حزبه حزب كديما زعيما جديدا في أيلول المقبل.

ونقلت وكالة رويترز عن موفاز وهو احد المرشحين لخلافة اولمرت في رئاسة حزب كاديما قوله إن “وجهة نظري وهدفي هما مواصلة الحديث مع السوريين دون شروط مسبقة”.

وانتهت الجولة الرابعة من المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل برعاية تركية, والتي بدأت في أيار الماضي, منها منذ أيام على أن تبدأ جولة خامسة من هذه المفاوضات في آب الجاري.

ويتسابق عدد من المرشحين على زعامة حزب كاديما أبرزهم وزيرة الخارجية تسيبي ليفني, ونائب رئيس الوزراء شاؤول موفاز.

وتطالب سورية باستعادة كامل هضبة الجولان المحتلة, في حين تطالب إسرائيل سورية بالعدول عن تحالفها مع إيران ومساندتها لـ”حزب الله “اللبناني و”حركة “حماس” الفلسطينية, الأمر الذي رفضته سورية مرارا.

وتعتبر المفاوضات الحالية بين دمشق وتل أبيب هي الأولى بين الجانبين منذ ثماني سنوات في أعقاب انهيار المفاوضات بينهما في العام 2000 على خلفية خلاف حول الوصول إلى مياه بحيرة طبرية الإستراتيجية بالإضافة إلى خلاف حول بعض القضايا الأمنية.


2008-08-02 10:25:35

August 3rd, 2008, 5:26 pm


Joe M. said:

Off the Wall,

In this lecture, Mofaz says “peace for peace” explicitly (in english) (I believe, in the question and answer). This is also the lecture that has been generating all the headlines. So your sources must be mistaken.

Also, it is well know he is against returning Golan.

I have never heard Netanyahu say he would give back Golan. Do you have a reference for your claim? This is the closest I can find:
In typical Netanyahu fashion, it seems he was willing to tell one side on thing and the other something else. My guess is that he would lie to Clinton to get Clinton to pressure the Syrians more. In the end, I don’t think he has any intention to give back Golan.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:32 pm


Off the Wall said:

I will check the video later. Thanks for the link.

BTW, I am interested in you “One state” comment you mentioned a day or two ago. I believe it was also an opinion shared by the late Edward Said and some within the Israeli intelligentsia. I do not know if such has been debated on SC before

August 3rd, 2008, 5:39 pm


Joe M. said:

Iran wants the nuclear fuel cycle, not just the knowledge. The USA and Israel say that it is impossible to allow them to have the fuel cycle because it is too close to being able to produce weapons. In the past, Iran has offered to have Russia build and staff power stations on Iranian soil that contain the complete fuel cycle. But the USA vetoed that prospect, saying that Iran would just kick out the Russian scientists and take control of the entire fuel cycle.

Iran believes that they have the right to the nuclear fuel cycle under article 4 of the NPT:

Akbar Palace,
Article 4 in the treaty I just linked is the “law” that Ahmadinejad was talking about in his comments.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:44 pm


Joe M. said:

Off The Wall,
Here is a good book on the subject:
“One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse”
By Ali Abunimah

August 3rd, 2008, 5:49 pm


norman said:

J M ,

For the US and Israel to deny Iran the know how indicate that they are trying to deny Arabs and Muslims advances in technology.

August 3rd, 2008, 5:51 pm


Joe M. said:

I think you are mostly right. But I would just ask you to be more specific. What I mean is that it is not a blanket ban on all Arabs or Muslims getting the knowledge. For example, Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winning chemist is a professor at CalTech in California. The USA has no problem with him using their facilities to get knowledge. He personally, undoubtedly, has the technical knowledge to help make nuclear weapons if he wanted to apply his knowledge that way. But since he works for an American university, and probably often does projects that are used by the American military, they encourage his work. If he moves back to Cairo and started projects to help other Arab countries, then he would be considered terrorist #1.

So, yeah, I agree with your sentiment in general. But it is specific Arabs that they want to deny knowledge. Specifically, they want to deny knowledge to anyone (though Arabs and Muslims present the greatest threat in this respect) who opposes their global dominance.

Speaking of which, Helena Cobban just posted an interesting article on the new “National Defense Strategy” document that the USA just published.

August 3rd, 2008, 6:02 pm


Alex said:

Ayman Abdel Noor got all the details about General Suleiman (the Syrian one)

اغتيال شخصية كبيرة في رئاسة الجمهورية
– 03/08/2008

( كلنا شركاء) : 3/8/2008

اغتيل مساء الأربعاء الماضي العميد في الحرس الجمهوري محمد سليمان في الشاليه الذي يملكه على شاطئ الرمال الذهبية في مدينة طرطوس .

وعلمت (كلنا شركاء ) أن عملية الاغتيال نفذت من خلال إطلاق رصاص من بندقية مزودة بكاتم صوت على منطقة الرأس وبقيت في الجثة رصاصة في الرقبة ، وعلى الفور فارق العميد ” السليمان ” الحياة حيث نقل جثمانه إلى مشفى الباسل في طرطوس .

وبعد عملية الاغتيال تم تطويق الشاطئ من البر والبحر بلنشات عسكرية، وتم احتجاز عدد من الأشخاص من رواد الشاليهات القريبة من شاليه العميد واستنفرت القوى الأمنية .

وجرى عند الساعة السادسة من مساء يوم السبت تشيع جثمان العميد إلى مثواه الأخير في الدريكيش حيث أغلقت الطرقات وشارك عدد كبير من مسؤولي الدولة في التشييع حيث كان يعتبر مرجعاً لشخصيات حكومية وقيادية حزبية وأمنية كثيرة .

وشهيد الواجب العميد محمد سليمان مهندس تخرج في العام 1984 وتطوع في دورة المهندسين القياديين مع الشهيد باسل الأسد وبعد ذلك عمل مع العقيد بشار الأسد كمدير لمكتبه عندما كان قائداً للواء 105 في الحرس الجمهوري، كلف أثناء عمله ذاك بالإشراف على عمل مركز الدراسات والأبحاث العلمية الذي يرأسه الدكتور عمرو أرمنازي ويتبع لقيادة الجيش حيث كان عضو مجلس إدارة فيه، وكذلك كلف بمتابعة ومراقبة عمل الهيئة المركزية للرقابة والتفتيش،وبعد تسلم الدكتور بشار الاسد مهام رئيس الجمهورية نقله معه حيث تشير المعلومات بأنه كلف بالمهمات الأمنية الخاصة لرئيس الجمهورية، ومتابعة بريد الجيش في مكتب الفريق قائد الجيش، وكذلك بتنسيق علاقات العشائر العربية مع القصر الجمهوري حيث كان ينقل تعازي السيد الرئيس في جميع حالات الوفيات المهمة والأهم تكليفه مؤخراً برئاسة مكتب المتابعة في المكتب الخاص برئيس الجمهورية , وقد عرف عنه دماثة خلقه وهو متزوج من دير الزور .

August 3rd, 2008, 6:23 pm


Zenobia said:


Joe M. has actually argued his one state position a number of times on SC.
although that doesn’t mean that this subject overall has had any thorough debate here. Most people, I think, can’t imagine arguing that view at this point, or they simply dismiss it as unrealistic. However, I think Joe is better than anyone here at articulating this position in a persuasive manner.

August 3rd, 2008, 6:23 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Netanyahu sent one of his best friends in America, Ronald S. Lauder, to speak in person with Hafez Assad about his willingness to return the entire Golan. They discussed the western border, along Lake Kinneret, and this is where it died. Netanyahu was apparently willing to retreat only to within 400 meters of the lake, whereas Assad of course demanded to “splash his feet” in the water. Theoretically, if Assad had agreed to Netanyahu’s offer, we would have had peace with Syria already a decade ago. Since his offer was rejected, of course Netanyahu never confirmed this. But the Syrians and the Americans did.

See this link, where Clinton, Dennis Ross, and even Netanyahu’s own ex-Defense Minister Itzik Mordechai, attest to it:


I understand 100% all Arabs who can’t stand Netanyahu. I also find him extremely arrogant, condescending, and truly a political SOB. His famous “winks” are the subject of much ridicule in Israel (signifying his wheeling-and-dealing, able to tell you one thing, and someone else the other). But no matter how little respect you may have for him, he DOES look like a prime minister much more than anyone else here. He knows how to talk to his public, he knows how to convince them, how to target their emotions (rather than their rationale), and how to make them love him.

I know it is hard for you to see anyone reward such a person. I wish I could say that Livni, or Barak, or even Olmert, could do a better job. But in Israel’s bizarre political reality, they can’t. Even if a new Labor “star” was to suddenly appear, a 21st-century Rabin, and even if he swept voters across the nation, still he would have almost no chance to get 50.1% of Israelis to vote “YES” in a national referendum on the Golan. Some on the Left and Center would oppose it, and ALL on the Right as well. An arrogant, condescending leader from the Right, however, is backed up just long enough by the Left and Center when offering land-for-peace, that he can make it happen. You don’t need to take my word for it, simply look back in history at Begin and at Sharon. The Likudniks called Begin a “Traitor” for suggesting peace with Egypt in return for Sinai. They did the same with Sharon when he talked about a Palestinian state. You remember Sharon? Butcher-of-Lebanon? Who, except for him, could have pulled thousands from Yamit (in Sinai), and from Gaza? Who could have continued the job in the West Bank? Barak? Olmert? Never.

With the today’s reality as it is, Livni’s chances of delivering a peace agreement are slim. But if the Likud is in power, and Bibi wants to be the one invited to the White House lawn, he will do as Begin and Sharon did. And he’ll have the support of most Israelis. And if it means having to listen to his idiotic and hateful rhetoric once more in pre-election campaigns, I’m unhappily willing to endure that. I understand why you wouldn’t.

Maybe it was a mistake for me to bring this up, because it really does seem like I’m doing promotional work for Bibi here, trying to convince Arabs to “like him”. I didn’t intend to do that, but it simply evolved into something just like that, didn’t it? I am, therefore, sorry. Let me be clear about it – if Rabin were alive right now, and it was him against Netanyahu, not a single nano-cell in my body would consider Bibi. I would give Rabin all my support, because he, perhaps, was the last Israeli “hero” able to sweep Israelis away. But Barak, with all his medals and brunette-wigs from special ops, is a boring, self-centered, amateur politician, and has no chance. Livni might, but I doubt it, due to her significant inexperience. So who is left? And even if you cannot fathom liberal-minded Israelis voting for this Bibi, you must ask yourself the question “What IS their real alternative? Labor? Kadima?” You can only give a party so many chances, before you replace them, even if you know nothing about the alternative. Labor and Kadima failed, in over 8 years! Sounds like the Bush administration, doesn’t it?

So NO, Joe M., this does NOT sound like electing McCain instead of Obama. The opposite – it sounds like electing Obama instead of McCain, simply because the Republican party has failed the American public for the past 8 years, and it is now time for the Democrats to try to undo the damage. It almost makes no difference who was the candidate (Obama, Hillary, or Mickey Mouse). The Republican party failed, it’s time for the Democrats. Four years from now, if the Democrats fail, it’ll be time for the Republicans again. Same here in Israel. It’s really no different.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Admit it Shai. You’re Netanyahu’s press secretary. It’s so patently obvious. The jig is up.

: )

August 3rd, 2008, 7:10 pm


Shai said:


Fine. I am. One thing is for sure, I’m certainly doing better promotional work for him than, say, AIG is. I should get paid for this, dammit.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:16 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for the info, I will try to search for JOE’s previous arguments. I am not yet set on the two states solution,

BTW, did you see Karim’s answer, I royally deserved his nice answer 🙂

August 3rd, 2008, 7:16 pm


norman said:


Except if you were he.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:20 pm


Zenobia said:

aye , otw, i did see his answer. That’s how to correctly deal with two smart asses at 2am in the morning.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:21 pm


Shai said:

Norman, what do you mean?

August 3rd, 2008, 7:22 pm


Off the Wall said:

I do not think you are doing promotional work for Bibi, you are giving us an insider view to the eccentricity of Israeli politics from the citizen’s perspective not from press vintage point. And I am learning much from the exchange. I also agree with you that the left, not only in Israel, but also here in the US is at loss for an inspiring leader. This is a problem and the left is faced with continuously narrowing choices that forces us not only to the center, but occasionally to the right. I wish I can vote for Kucinich, which i did in the primaries, but does he have any chance, not now at least. This is why i changed from Democrat to independent. I am amazed at the similarity between the left in our two countries. The disconnect between liberal politicians and liberals is getting worse, and the gap is widening. Add to that what you describe as the failure of both Kadima and Labor, I do not have hard time understanding your logic. Your answer is exactly what I was looking for, an explanation for why would someone with your political inclination vote such a political SOB into power. I think I am starting to see the logic, and let us hope it does not disappoint. If I am to summarize my understanding of your position is that Livni would be good for negotiation, but the only one who can get the peace treaty through referendum would be Natanyahu?. Is there any arrangement you can envision that can get both to do what they are excellent at as opposed to getting at each others’ throat?

August 3rd, 2008, 7:33 pm


Shai said:


Remember, Netanyahu doesn’t have to sell peace to the Arabs, he has to sell it to Israelis. Assad knows what he’ll accept, and what he won’t. Bibi knows it no less. But the Israeli public need to be convinced. And the question is, who is best suited to convince them this agreement is in their best interest? Barak, Livni, or Bibi? Remember, we need 50.1% of Israelis to vote “YES” in a referendum. After that, they can label my neighbor’s dog a traitor for all I care. We need to pass the referendum one day, in order to have peace. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.

(We were writing our comment at the same time…) You bring up a very interesting point – can Bibi and Livni go on this crusade together? My guess, no. Not because Livni can’t or won’t help Bibi, should the right coalition formula be found. But because if Bibi is indeed going to do what I’m hoping and suggesting he will, he probably won’t let her get in the way. After all, remember that some of his constituents have to support him (not all, not even most). If Livni is seen as partner to the agreement, I would guess most if not all of the Likud would be against it. Again, this is pure speculation. Reality will dictate whether the two will work with each other, or against one another. After all, if Livni wins the primaries, she’ll need to form a coalition to become PM. If Barak doesn’t support her, she’ll turn to Bibi. The same will happen if and when we go to general elections. If/when the Likud wins, Bibi will probably need to form a coalition. It is precisely because he wants to bring about peace that he’ll first turn to the major parties, before he goes to Liebermann. If Barak won’t say yes, he’ll turn to Livni (or vice versa, depending on which party gets more seats). So there’s still lots of options in the future.

Having discussed Bibi to the point of pain, I should stress that all this is really at least 6-8 months down the line, if Kadima can’t form a government. It is still quite possible that Livni will win, will form a coalition with Labor, Shas, etc., and will continue with Syria where Olmert left off. In theory, she may be the PM to present Knesset and the Israeli public with a peace agreement. If she does a good job, who knows, maybe she’ll get the 50.1% in the referendum, and Netanyahu will never have any part in it. If I had to gamble, I’d say this was far-fetched. But who knows… In the meantime, if I’m Syria, I would definitely try to strengthen Livni, at least by speaking against idiotic notions like “peace-for-peace”. I agree though, it’s a slippery slope, and they mustn’t come out as supporting Livni.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:37 pm


Off the Wall said:

I have no idea how to email you, and have not seen the “splash”, and do not know how does that work. My bad once again

August 3rd, 2008, 7:37 pm


Zenobia said:

otw, you are bad!

a girl throws her email at you at 1am …when no one else was around and you missed it!

you are getting slow. you gotta lay off the scotch sometimes while you are on the job late at night.

btw, I am not saying that Joe gave a whole speech or something like that about his belief in the One State, but I just remember him talking about it a number of times. It might be hard to find it in all the other material.
Lately, when i had to endure AIG for so many weeks and a number of other depressing things, I started to feel hardcore. Thats when I start feeling the this struggle for the two state ending is hopeless and I can understand why people feel like , you know what, if they have to suffer for another twenty years, why not work for the most desirable and just outcome.

August 3rd, 2008, 7:41 pm


Alex said:

Syrian Artist Sara Shamma

has won the first prize in Painting in Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize.

Winning and highly commended entries travel to the National Archives of Australia in October / December

The Waterhouse is Australia’s richest prize for Natural History Art, and it’s an annual event.

This year 693 entries are received and the shortlist judges, grant and Diana Laidlaw, selected a total of 102 finalists or 14.7% of all work submitted.

Winners in Category A: Paintings:

First Prize: Sarah Shamma (Syria) for Rhinoceros

Second Prize: Megan O’Brien (NSW) for Mount Animus

Third Prize: Jason Cordero (SA) for I Pass Unhindered

August 3rd, 2008, 7:54 pm


Off the Wall said:

This is exactly the way I feel, I think a one state solution, over the long term is the better one. Some one even argued that even if a two states solution materializes, over time it is likely that it will later revert into a federal system where the two will join.

Sari Nusaibi, along with a former chief of Mossad (I forgot his name) worked out a solution for Jerusalem that was also supported by people like Avnery. I found it to be very creative not only for a single city but also for a viable two-one-state solution.

I do not want to prolong your pain. But I see your point. I just want to make sure that whoever sells the peace process to Israel’s citizens does not make it hard for Syria and its future coalition to sell the treaty to their own constituents. We all want a lasting peace and the only way, as I said is for everyone to feel that we are in a win-win situation.

BTW, I am sure we’ll get together, and hopefully soon over a nice round or two. I’ll bring the cigars, just tell me what wrapper you prefer (Naturtal, Maduro, etc…)

August 3rd, 2008, 8:06 pm


norman said:


I mean you might be Netanyahu trying to have us as your Syrian friends so you can hit the ground running for peace with Syria ,after the election ,

I can dream can’t I .

August 3rd, 2008, 8:08 pm


Shai said:


I wish you would have been here during my endless talks about my own personal dream for the region – a so-called UME (United Middle East). This would be a mixture of an EU and the US. Separate nations initially, but with completely open borders, freedom to live and work anywhere, etc. De facto, it would enable any Palestinian the ability to come live in Jaffa or Haifa, as I would be able to come live in Aleppo, or Beirut. I see this UME dream starting to become a reality no sooner than 20-25 years from now. A lot of pain must disappear first, and reconciliation has to take place.

As for the cigars, Maduro would be great. But if we meet in the US, will they allow me to bring in Cuban cigars? 🙂 Has that law ever changed?


For you, I’m willing to become Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah. Without dreams, how could we form our future? But, as we know, most people are not dreamers. And most could not discover America, or make peace. Very few can.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:15 pm


Zenobia said:


I read Nusseibeh’s autobiography. He’s a dream. And the thing I couldn’t believe is that there were all these fantastic Jerusalemites and other Pal activists who had tons of good solutions and plans, but they were completely sidelined by both the Israelis and the PLO and the burgeoning Hamas.
These educated and creative Palestinians could have been the ones developing a country, creating something viable and even successful.

However, the sabotaging element always seems to prevail. Why is that?

August 3rd, 2008, 8:17 pm


Shai said:


Because as I wrote, most people are not dreamers. And they tend to be afraid of those that are. So they push them away, far away.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:21 pm


norman said:


I think you are a bigger dreamer than I am ,The reason for Israel to exist is to have a sanctuary for the Jews to go to in case of another Holocaust so how do you expect Israel to stay Jewish if more nonjews move in and what will be the status of the Jews living in Syria or the Syrians living in Israel , would they have the chance to vote and participate in local events,

Let me know.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:23 pm


Alex said:

Where is Wassim?

Khamenai confirms today that Syria (“the country with integrity”) is still a solid friend of Iran despite the attempts by Iran’s enemies to damage the relationship between the two countries that were established by ex president Hafez Assad.

الرئيس الاسد زار المرشد الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية الإيرانية.. آية الله خامنئي : العلاقات بين ايران وسوريا لاتزال وطيدة
الرئيس الاسد زار المرشد الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية الإيرانية.. آية الله خامنئي : العلاقات بين ايران وسوريا لاتزال وطيدة

أكد الرئيس بشار الأسد أن العلاقات بين طهران ودمشق استراتيجية وقوية للغاية ، معرباً عن ارتياحه لقيامه بزيارة إيران .
جاء ذلك لدى استقبال المرشد الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية الإيرانية آية الله علي خامنئي للرئيس الأسد والوفد المرافق اليوم ،و بحضور الرئيس الإيراني محمود أحمدي نجاد .
و وصف الرئيس الأسد لقاءاته ومحادثاته مع نظيره الإيراني بأنها كانت ناجحة ومثمرة، حسبما نقلت وكالة أنباء فارس .
من جانبه شدد المرشد الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية في إيران آية الله علي خامنئي على أن العلاقات بين الجمهورية الاسلامية الايرانية وسوريا الرصينة لاتزال وطيدة رغم المحاولات الكثيرة للأعداء .
و وصف آية الله الخامنئي العلاقات القائمة بين الجمهورية الاسلامية الايرانية وسوريا بأنها قوية وجيدة للغاية مشيداً بشخصية الرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد الذي أرسى دعائم هذه العلاقات المتميزة.
و أكد المرشد الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية الإيرانية على أن الموقع الذي تتبوأه ايران وسوريا في الوقت الحاضر أفضل من الماضي بكثير ، لافتاً إلى حصول البلدين على نجاحات كثيرة في الشؤون الاقليمية والدولية .
و أعرب سماحته عن أمله بأن تؤدي زيارة الرئيس بشار الأسد الي الجمهورية الاسلامية الايرانية والاتفاقيات التي تم التوصل إليها خلال هذه الزيارة إلى المزيد من تطوير العلاقات الثنائية في المجالات كافة .

August 3rd, 2008, 8:29 pm


Zenobia said:


I think the person you were thinking of was Ami Ayalon? former Shin Bet.
but I am not sure, as Sari worked with two tons of people Pals and Israelis on various outlines. I think the work with Ami was the last that I read about in his book- that was a grassroots effort- before he was just harassed to death by the security forces to the point of total exhaustion…

August 3rd, 2008, 8:29 pm


Shai said:


Almost 95% of my family perished in the Holocaust. I know it will not be easy to ever think of an Israel that has no Jewish majority. But, if we look realistically, we are living in one already now. Just a few months ago, statistics were released in Israel that attest to this. Under Israeli control, there are more Arabs than Jews. Some in Israel see this as the main reason for returning the West Bank as soon as possible. Fine. But current birth-rates amongst Israel’s 20% Arab population are high enough, that within 50 years (perhaps far sooner), they will become the majority. So I’m not suggesting it will be easy for anyone in this country to suddenly find themselves a minority again, but it will take some decades before that will happen (if at all), and hopefully by that time, Jews will feel far safer than ever in the last 2,000 years.

If the Middle East will not change, and if peace does not come throughout the region, then yes, Israelis will fight to maintain the Jewish state forever. It is indeed a very sensitive issue, and I can understand why. The fear of extermination is still ingrained deeply into each and every one of us. Getting rid of this will not be easy. But one day it’ll have to come.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

lol 😉

Does Bashar speak Persian? Does Mahmud speak Arabic?

Or do they simply communicate via evil dictator telepathy?

August 3rd, 2008, 8:34 pm


Off the Wall said:


I have a similar dream about a UME. I believe it is doable, and more importantly necessary. You are absolutely right, a lot of pain must first disappear,but i think given sometime, our dreams could be infectious. ZENOBIA’s comment about Sari Nusaibi, who by the way recently talked the right of return in a completely brave unorthodox way,tells us that it is harder for dreamer, as they are always sidelined by the others. But this is who we are, humans, and eventually we make it towards better future.

As for Cigars, Maduro it is. and NO you can not bring Cuban cigars in to the us. Stupid laws have their own way of living for few generations before someones says (DUH). However, I find some Honduran Cigars to be excellent. Most masters from Cuba went there or to the Dominican republic and their products are not that bad (for the reasonably priced cigars, not the very expensive ones). Brazilian Cigars, particularly those greenish naturals are also good. I will not mention brands names here.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:34 pm


Shai said:


Olmert can tell you band names though… and so can Talansky, who ordered them for him… 🙂 Ah, short term memory. Gotta love it! A year from now, they’ll hail Olmert as a brave hero, who resigned in honor.


Which one is minime? Or should I not ask…

Yalla, good night to all!

August 3rd, 2008, 8:37 pm


Off the Wall said:


Yes it was Ami Ayalon the former Shin Bet director.

I dream of a day where no one needs protection against another holocaust or anything like that. So I probably qualify for “Comatose” dreamer? status 🙂

I do not think I can afford Olmert’s favorite brands :), but I would not mind the list. Who knows. Good night. I Also got to disappear for few hours before my west coast SC late-night shift starts

August 3rd, 2008, 8:44 pm


norman said:


I hope we do not have to defend your patriotism now.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:45 pm


Alex said:

Mahmoud probably speaks Arabic. He memorized the Quran …so I assume he understands what he memorizes.

Bahsar does not speak Persian.

But they usually rely on a translator.

Although Khamenaei does not need one apparently.

Today they went out of their way to explain that they are not at all disappointed with Syria.

Bashar said he is not carrying a message from Sarkozy.

But I don’t buy that. He did carry a message .. just keeping it low-key for now since we are far from a solution.


I knew someone will ask : )

Physically it is Mahmoud, but in reality … they are comparable (Iran larger and richer, Syria more effective). You probably noticed that compard to two years ago we are not hearing anymore analysts who were claiming that Bashar is a puppet of Iran. Asharq Al-Awsat even claims now that he is the puppeteer.


I was simply commenting on the (unfortunate) common choice of colors!

This is the real thing:

August 3rd, 2008, 8:46 pm


Zenobia said:

alex, lol. nice.

i wondered what they are speaking too…. i bet its arabic.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Actually quite a few huffaz, for example in places like Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, don’t understand Arabic. Plus, even if you understand what you are reading (because it has been explained to you atomistically), that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can understand any non-Qur’anic Arabic, much less produce it yourself.

But maybe he speaks the language.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:51 pm


norman said:

The rule is ,

You announce your role after you succeed , At that time everybody will claim they have something to do with the result.

Remember the Doha agreement .Even The KSA took credit.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:53 pm


Alex said:

I was about to ask you QN **


But I was told that in Iran they have an easier time learning Arabic because they still use Arabic alphabet (unlike the other Muslims)


Also true : )


** He is an expert on the Quran for those of you who have not noticed yet.

August 3rd, 2008, 8:59 pm


norman said:


You are talented , I really think you should go into Web design and hosting , I just had to get new Web site , beside the initial fee there is a nice monthly maintenance fee that can be a good retirement plan for you.

Then what do I know , you probably explored all that , Just a thought .

We should be able to give bussiness to each other if we can and want , so what about private chat room with clear and open identities so we can see if we can be helpful to each other .

The more business we can give each other the more the Mideast and Syria benefit .

August 3rd, 2008, 9:06 pm


Off the Wall said:


From one Iranian Opposition Website:

Then, in front of people who did not speak Arabic, Ahamadinejad began reciting verses from the Koran in Arabic, and continued on with a sermon of cheap sentiments, still in Arabic, for 20 embarrassing minutes that could make even an Arabic speaking audience question this man’s sanity.

So it seems, based on anecdotal evidence, he knows Arabic well enough to give a sermon, “still in arabic”

The site

August 3rd, 2008, 9:06 pm


Alex said:

By the way, Rabbi Marc Gopin liked our recommendations. And he also read the whole comments section too!

Joe, your name is there too : )

August 3rd, 2008, 9:06 pm


norman said:

The translator is Iranian, He is not wearing a tie.

Look at the words on the map they easy to read and understand.

August 3rd, 2008, 9:08 pm


Alex said:


I know this sounds bad, but … I hope I don’t give you my business anytime soon : )

And .. What are you paying for web hosting?! … it is very cheap now … less than $50 per month for a high-end plan.

August 3rd, 2008, 9:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

OTW, if he gave a sermon then he must speak Arabic. I wonder, then, why there are translators present. Maybe for when one of them doesn’t get a word that the other is saying.

Bashar: So, you see my dear Mahmud, these talks with Israel are… how shall I put it? A “charade”

Mahmud: A what?

Bashar: A charade. You know, a pretense.

Mahmud: I’m still not getting you.

Bashar: A game! An illusion, a bait-and-switcheroo, a magic trick!

Mahmud: Ummm, Mr. Translator could you please…

Translator: “Ra’iis-e Assad goft ke in mozaakere ba Israel jiddi nist…”

Mahmud: Oh, so you mean that they’re a complete sham?

Bashar: Yes, exactly.

Mahmud: No pun intended, of course, ha ha ha!

Bashar: Ha ha.

Mahmud. Now I get it. Why didn’t you say that in the first place?

August 3rd, 2008, 9:21 pm


norman said:


I have an offer for Web design for 5000.00 Dollars and monthly fee for 50.00 Dollar which include few hours of changes ,

That is a Doctor’s office with low maintenance .

They add up and with time you could be getting paid for doing what you love and good at.

So after the initial work you could have with time a 1000 of these and may be bigger companies with more monthly fee .

By the way I definitely do not want your business but like to be able to give you mine.

August 3rd, 2008, 9:23 pm


Off the Wall said:

Most likely his Arabic is limited to sermon type language, which may make any real conversation sound very strange, but I guess he would understand most of what Bashar says.

August 3rd, 2008, 9:47 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks Alex for bringing up the winning of first place prize for the Syrian artist Sara Shamma, I was going to post this myself but you are all over man.
Here is the link to the prize page on the Australian natural art history prize. Rhinoceros is her painting.

August 3rd, 2008, 10:14 pm


Alex said:

Sorry TQ : ) … she sent me the news by email today.

Qifa Nabki,

Very funny but …

““Ra’iis-e Assad goft ke in mozaakere ba Israel jiddi nist…””

Does this mean you speak Persian?


Thanks! … but are you trying to occupy me away from SC? : )

August 3rd, 2008, 10:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Just a little, Alex. Not enough to translate for the two presidents.

; )

Some good reading:

Ten rules for the US in the Middle East
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, August 02, 2008

August 3rd, 2008, 10:26 pm


norman said:

No , i am just trying to help out , make you money. so you can be on SC more .

August 3rd, 2008, 10:27 pm


Alex said:

Amazing ya zalameh! …Turkish too? : )

Here is an interesting photo:

Any guess why I find it interesting?

August 3rd, 2008, 10:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

No Turkish. One day, maybe. My next target is Hebrew.

Why do you find the photo interesting?

August 3rd, 2008, 10:46 pm


Alex said:

Buthaina Shaaban on the left

August 3rd, 2008, 10:52 pm


norman said:

Oh my God , You are right , I did not recognize her.

August 3rd, 2008, 10:55 pm


norman said:

I love this , Take notice everybody friend and enemy,
Syrian leader gets top billing in Middle East by doing nothing
By Robert Fisk
Monday, 4 August 2008

President Bashar al-Assad is once more one of the “triple pillars” of the Middle East. We may not like that. George Bush may curse the day his invasion of Iraq helped to shore up the power of the Caliph of Damascus. But Mr Assad’s latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the King of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He’s done nothing – and he’s won.

The Europeans like to think – or, at least, M. Sarkozy likes to think – Mr Assad was in Tehran to persuade President Ahmadinejad not to go nuclear. Even Sana, the official Syrian news agency, was almost frank about it. The purpose of the Assad visit was “to consult on the nuclear issue and the right of states to peaceful enrichment” and “exchange ideas aimed at clarifying Iran’s commitment to all international agreements”. Mr Assad was M. Sarkozy’s point-man.

The inevitable followed. President Ahmadinejad expressed his belief that only diplomacy could deliver us from the nuclear tangle, leaving us with Mr Assad’s statement to M. Sarkozy on 12 July. Asked if the Iranians were trying to develop a nuclear bomb, Mr Assad told the French President he had asked the Iranians this very question, they had replied in the negative and this was good enough for him.

What’s interesting about this is that Mr Assad probably believes it. Indeed, it may be true. Of all people, he knows about trust – or the lack of it – and his father’s main foreign policy achievement was probably maintaining Syria’s relations with Iran. In the face of every appeal to abandon Tehran, he refused. The younger Assad’s talks with Israel via Turkey suggested to the Washington commentariat that he may at last be abandoning Iran and the return of Golan was more powerful to Bashar al-Assad than Syria’s all-embracing role as the postman of Tehran. Not so.

For there was Mr Assad in Tehran this weekend, praising the mutual relationship between Iran and Syria and talking with Mr Ahmadinejad about the Israeli-US “conspiracy”. The Syrian-supported Hizbollah’s retrieval of living prisoners from Israel in return for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, was described by Mr Assad as “one of the achievements of the resistance”. Which, in a way, it was. For Hizbollah’s allies in the Lebanese government now have veto power over the cabinet majority, and Syria’s power has returned to Beirut without the cost of sending a single Syrian soldier.

In other words, Syria kept its cool. When the US invaded Iraq, the world wondered if its tanks would turn left to Damascus or right to Tehran. In fact, they lie still in the Iraqi desert, where US generals still variously accuse Iran and Syria of encouraging the insurgency against them. If Washington wants to leave Iraq, it can call Damascus for help.

And the real cost? The US will have to restore full relations with Syria. It will have to continue talks with Iran. It will have to thank Iran for its “help” in Iraq – most of the Iraqi government, after all, was nurtured in the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US took Saddam’s side. It will have to accept Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. And it will have to prevent Israel staging a bombing spectacular on Iran which will destroy every hope of US mediation. It will also have to produce a just Middle East peace. McCain or Obama, please note.

And the triple pillars? Well, one is Mr Assad, of course. The second is the crackpot Mr Ahmadinejad. And the third? It was once President Bush. Who will take his place? President Assad must have enjoyed his Iranian caviar.

SearchQuery: The Web Go
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August 4th, 2008, 12:05 am


Off the Wall said:

I have a lot of respect for Robert Fisk. I still go to the independent site or to counterpunch and look for a new article from him almost daily. But ever since the Hariri assassination, I noticed that he has become rather vocal critic of Syria. He even was pushing the 36 names assassination list, which was floated by Junblat as a well authenticated document. I get the feeling that he is taking side and may have rendered his own judgment on the matter. QN may know more about it, but the list of his friends that keeps popping up every once in a while in his articles, seems almost exclusively anti-Syri and occasionally Anti HA. Am I being hypersensitive or have you also noticed that?

Please do not take me wrong, I admire his courage and his ability to be the voice of the voiceless in the British press. I also have no problem with critic, but for a journalist, it was merely an observation that I felt slightly clouded his independence at least on issues related to Syria

I must add that Fisk remains a hero in my books for he is one of the cleanest, sharpest, and most congruous journalist I have read
QN, any commeng on that?

August 4th, 2008, 1:55 am


Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

“Dr. Evil” is still VP. And still alive too.

August 4th, 2008, 2:29 am


norman said:


Fisk being against Syria makes this article more important , Don’t you think?.

August 4th, 2008, 2:42 am


Qifa Nabki said:


No question that he became more critical of Syria.

By way of commenting, I would only paraphrase the essay above:

“The extent to which this [criticism] is justified remains a hot topic, about which people can agree or disagree.”

: )

(Which is to say that Syria’s current diplomatic triumphs do not amount to an exoneration of alleged crimes, only a rendering of said alleged crimes irrelevant, in the current political context.)

August 4th, 2008, 2:56 am


Off the Wall said:

off course I agree 100%. The article is very important, especially coming from Fisk whose experience in the area and depth of analysis are shared by a select few amongst his western colleagues. Thanks for posting it

As usual you make good point both in paraphrasing and re-phrasing. : )

I also like The Cockburn brothers Alexander and Patrick

August 4th, 2008, 3:15 am


Zenobia said:

I definitely noticed that Fisky took a harsher tone in the last two years towards the Syrian leadership. I didn’t notice that it followed right after the Hariri assassination. I think it started a bit later. I think it started late in 2006 and got more pronounced last year when the bombs started going off in Lebanon, until now. He aways has insulting words about the Ahmad-mini-me. Thats not new.
But Fisks way of being more critical isn’t particularly outrageous or over board. He usually sounds pretty realistic to my mind about Syria. And I think he knows what he is talking about.

August 4th, 2008, 5:39 am


Frank al Irlandi said:


It seems the Baalbeck Festival is back. That is good news indeed!

August 4th, 2008, 9:16 am


why-discuss said:


“I wish Iran and Syria and the rest of the Arabs were in a position to force Israel to its knees, but the facts don’t bare that out.”

The arabs and Iran will never force Israel to its knes, that is not the aim anymore. Tne purpose is to put enough doubts in Israelis mind so they accept to relinquish occupied lands and pay compensations to the palestinians in exchange for peace.
Iran has succeeded in worrying the Isrealis. While you may be right about Iran real power, they have a credential of a 8 years dirty war they fought alone aganist Saddaam supported by “justice-loving” western countries. They have also demonstrated during the Lebanon war that they can manufacture deterrent weapons. The recurrent panicky statements of Isrealis officials about the immincence of a nuclear weapon built in Iran shows that the rhetoric of Ahmadinejad and the impotence of the western power to ‘bring Iran to its knees’ is working.
The Lebanon war should have created serious doubts in israeli’s mind about the effectiveness of their military and their political leaders. Failure in IDF in the war, useless destruction, the return of the most decried Hezbollah prisonner to freedom. Now the corruption charges on Olmert after the corruption charges of the President. If I was an Israeli I would start to think it is time to accept the losses, return the lands, pay compensation to the palestinian (The same way Italy recently did with Libya) and get to business, not wars

August 4th, 2008, 9:29 am


why-discuss said:

KSA banning sales and possession of cats and dogs.

August 4th, 2008, 9:34 am


why-discuss said:

Fisk sound really bitter and dissapointed. He is using a cynical interpretation to the situation. No mention of Hariri’s murder and the tribunal, strange? I think , like Jumblatt, he is coming back on earth.

August 4th, 2008, 9:43 am


Innocent Criminal said:

Fisk was never to friendly with the syrian leadership but he was even harsher directly after the Hariri assasination. his first piece a day after the murder was practically pointing the finger at damascus.

BTW why aren’t you guys talking about the assasination of the president’s advisor. this is HUGE

August 4th, 2008, 10:12 am


Off the Wall said:


why aren’t you guys talking about the assasination of the president’s advisor. this is HUGE

It is huge, but i believe it is possible hat we are following Alex’s advise to wait until all possible, probable, improbable, and/or outlandish theories are revealed, you see where I am heading, before each of us picks her/his favorite theory. I know it is sad, but some of the theories developing online are as i described above, lack of official news is not helping if you know what I mean.

August 4th, 2008, 11:09 am


Akbar Palace said:

Joe M. said,

Unfortunately, like I said, I wish Iran and Syria and the rest of the Arabs were in a position to force Israel to its knees, but the facts don’t bare that out.

Why Discuss replied:

The arabs and Iran will never force Israel to its knes, that is not the aim anymore. Tne purpose is to put enough doubts in Israelis mind so they accept to relinquish occupied lands and pay compensations to the palestinians in exchange for peace.

Joe M.,

I’m sorry Iran and Syria have not yet brought “Israel to its knees”. After 100 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria and Iran may have to try negotiations.

Why Discuss,

I agree that the Arabs and Iran will never force Israel to her knees. However, Israel has been willing to “reliquish occupied land” since the ’47 partition plan until this very day. Moreover Israel has actually reliquished land for peace since 1979.

Where have YOU been?

August 4th, 2008, 11:09 am


Off the Wall said:

Why Discuss

So I wasn’t hypersensitive after all, seems that everyone noticed Fisk cynicism towards Syria. But he still is a good reporter, nonetheless.

On the Cats and Dogs,

Based on the article, cats will not be allowed because they can not guard homes. What about Abu Huraira

For heaven’s sake, don’t they have anything more important than adding new prohibition. They should be called Kingdom of Nothing is Halal. Pretty soon they will prohibit people from sleeping on their backs because someone will find that the prophet slept on his right side.

I believe these guys worship religion, not god.

August 4th, 2008, 11:12 am


Alex said:


This is a big story anyway you look at it.

But It is not going to get the kind of attention that it deserves until Alsyassa comes up with a story quoting “highly private sources inside the Syrian regime”.

Then everyone will quote them.

Until then … How do you expect the BBC to report it? … They don’t know who he was … They don’t have a single photo of him … They have no idea how to guess who killed him … They have no active guidance from the Chirac/Bush/King Abdullah leaderships to point the finger at the one and only possible suspect.

I think there will be more coverage when Syria provides more information.

By the way … Initial reaction of Syrian delegation in Tehran says that the Assassined officer was not close enough to make anyone visibly sad.

But they all looked serious. I think there was a shock but no sadness.

Anyway … We will probably never know much about what happened.

August 4th, 2008, 11:24 am


Off the Wall said:

Debke file, which was quoted by Syasseh put him in charge of the so-called nuclear facility, and gave punishment for failing to protect it as one of possible theories, go figure,

I have been up all night working (real work not SC), and just finished, otherwise I would have provided links to their articles. I better get a couple of hours of zzeeeeez

Bye now, I leave the fort in your able hands.

August 4th, 2008, 11:36 am


Alex said:


I guess I can not say “Good night”.

August 4th, 2008, 12:12 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Until then … How do you expect the BBC to report it? … They don’t know who he was … They don’t have a single photo of him …


I didn’t find a photo from Ha’aretz, but Ynet did. You may need a microscope…

August 4th, 2008, 1:29 pm


Shami said:

The same picture but in HD quality.This snapshot was taken few days before his death,at the occasion of the Syrian army foundation day.

August 4th, 2008, 4:56 pm


offended said:

there’s an egyptian expert talking about the assassinated general on al arabiya right now. he sounds like he knows about the geographry of tartous better than any tartousy, go figure.

August 4th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Alex said:

Report: Turkey’s PM to meet Syria’s president

4 August 2008

(c) 2008. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey’s state-run news agency says the prime minister will travel to a Turkish resort to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad who is vacationing there.

Turkey is mediating indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel and has friendly ties with both nations.

The Anatolia news agency says Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Assad at the Aegean resort of Bodrum on Tuesday.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry could not immediately confirm Monday’s report.

Turkish officials have hosted four rounds of indirect negotiations in Istanbul between Syrian and Israeli delegations.

August 4th, 2008, 10:07 pm


Off The Wall said:

Slow day, isn’t it?

August 4th, 2008, 10:29 pm


Observer said:

Here is from Robert Fisk and what he thinks of the three pillars of the ME
Published on Monday, August 4, 2008 by The Independent/UK
Syrian Leader Gets Top Billing in Middle East by Doing Nothing
by Robert Fisk
President Bashar al-Assad is once more one of the “triple pillars” of the Middle East. We may not like that. George Bush may curse the day his invasion of Iraq helped to shore up the power of the Caliph of Damascus. But Mr Assad’s latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the King of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He’s done nothing – and he’s won.

The Europeans like to think – or, at least, M. Sarkozy likes to think – Mr Assad was in Tehran to persuade President Ahmadinejad not to go nuclear. Even Sana, the official Syrian news agency, was almost frank about it. The purpose of the Assad visit was “to consult on the nuclear issue and the right of states to peaceful enrichment” and “exchange ideas aimed at clarifying Iran’s commitment to all international agreements”. Mr Assad was M. Sarkozy’s point-man.

The inevitable followed. President Ahmadinejad expressed his belief that only diplomacy could deliver us from the nuclear tangle, leaving us with Mr Assad’s statement to M. Sarkozy on 12 July. Asked if the Iranians were trying to develop a nuclear bomb, Mr Assad told the French President he had asked the Iranians this very question, they had replied in the negative and this was good enough for him.

What’s interesting about this is that Mr Assad probably believes it. Indeed, it may be true. Of all people, he knows about trust – or the lack of it – and his father’s main foreign policy achievement was probably maintaining Syria’s relations with Iran. In the face of every appeal to abandon Tehran, he refused. The younger Assad’s talks with Israel via Turkey suggested to the Washington commentariat that he may at last be abandoning Iran and the return of Golan was more powerful to Bashar al-Assad than Syria’s all-embracing role as the postman of Tehran. Not so.

For there was Mr Assad in Tehran this weekend, praising the mutual relationship between Iran and Syria and talking with Mr Ahmadinejad about the Israeli-US “conspiracy”. The Syrian-supported Hizbollah’s retrieval of living prisoners from Israel in return for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, was described by Mr Assad as “one of the achievements of the resistance”. Which, in a way, it was. For Hizbollah’s allies in the Lebanese government now have veto power over the cabinet majority, and Syria’s power has returned to Beirut without the cost of sending a single Syrian soldier.

In other words, Syria kept its cool. When the US invaded Iraq, the world wondered if its tanks would turn left to Damascus or right to Tehran. In fact, they lie still in the Iraqi desert, where US generals still variously accuse Iran and Syria of encouraging the insurgency against them. If Washington wants to leave Iraq, it can call Damascus for help.

And the real cost? The US will have to restore full relations with Syria. It will have to continue talks with Iran. It will have to thank Iran for its “help” in Iraq – most of the Iraqi government, after all, was nurtured in the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US took Saddam’s side. It will have to accept Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. And it will have to prevent Israel staging a bombing spectacular on Iran which will destroy every hope of US mediation. It will also have to produce a just Middle East peace. McCain or Obama, please note.

And the triple pillars? Well, one is Mr Assad, of course. The second is the crackpot Mr Ahmadinejad. And the third? It was once President Bush. Who will take his place? President Assad must have enjoyed his Iranian caviar.

–Robert Fisk

August 4th, 2008, 10:37 pm


qunfuz said:

I think it’s Junblatt’s wife that’s done it to Fisk. He keeps calling her “glorious.”

August 4th, 2008, 11:45 pm


Alex said:

Wow! .. I just came back …. 4 comments today?! .. including a surprise visit from Qunfuz and a repeat … Fisk article was already posted yesterday : )

2 comments from those of you who are daily regulars here!

Now I remember the good old days of SC in 2005 when we used to have 10 comments per day.

August 5th, 2008, 6:28 am


Alex said:

اغتيال المستشار الأمني للأسد: اعتقال عدد من الأشخاص ودهشة بسبب الصمت الرسمي

بشار الأسد يلتقي أردوغان في منتجع ببحر إيجة اليوم > ماهر الأسد حضر التشييع وتطويق مكان الجريمة
لندن: منال لطفي باريس: «الشرق الأوسط»
قالت مصادر سورية مطلعة إن مسؤولين سوريين كباراً حضروا تشييع العميد محمد سليمان، المستشار الأمني للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، والذي اغتيل بمدينة طرطوس الساحلية السورية، السبت الماضي، في ظروف ما زالت غامضة، موضحة أن من ضمن المشاركين في التشييع قائد الحرس الجمهوري السوري، ماهر الأسد، الشقيق الأصغر للرئيس السوري. وقالت المصادر إن العميد سليمان، الذي وصف بأنه «الذراع الايمن» و«ظل» الرئيس السوري، لم تكن علاقته جيدة بآصف شوكت، مدير شعبة الاستخبارات العسكرية السورية بسبب علاقة سليمان مع ضابط كبير كان يرسل بريد شعبة المخابرات وتقارير مراقبة تحركات اللواء شوكت مباشرة الى العميد سليمان. أما علاقة سليمان بالعقيد ماهر الاسد، بحسب هذه المصادر، فكانت جيدة لوجود تنسيق امني مباشر بينه وبين مدير مكتب الامن الخاص لماهر الاسد. وذكرت المصادر أنه بعد عملية الاغتيال، تم تطويق شاطئ «الرمال الذهبية» في طرطوس من البر والبحر بقوارب عسكرية، وتم احتجاز عدد من الأشخاص. ويأتي ذلك، فيما قالت مصادر سورية لـ«الشرق الأوسط» إن هناك حالة دهشة في الشارع السوري في طريقة التعامل مع الاغتيال، والصمت الرسمي ازاء الاعلان عنه، موضحة ان العميد سليمان لم يكن شخصية معروفة لرجل الشارع العادي، ولم يكن يظهر في الإعلام، وأنه من عناصر «الحلقة الضيقة» التي تحيط بالرئيس السوري. الى ذلك، قالت وكالة الانباء التركية (الاناضول) ان رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب اردوغان سيتوجه اليوم الى منتجع سياحي تركي على بحر إيجة للقاء الرئيس السوري، الموجود في المنتجع بحسب وكالة الانباء التركية لقضاء عطلته. ونقلت وكالة «اسوشيتد برس» عن «الاناضول» امس ان اردوغان سيلتقي مع الاسد في منتجع «بودروم» على شاطئ بحر إيجة. ولم يمكن تأكيد الأنباء حول لقاء اردوغان والأسد من مسؤولين سوريين او أتراك بوزارتي الخارجية. وتضاربت أمس الأنباء حول طريقة اغتيال المستشار الامني للرئيس السوري ومدير مكتبه، ففيما قال موقع «جبهة الخلاص الوطني» السوري المعارض إنه اغتيل برصاص قناص على متن يخت من البحر خلال قضائه إجازة في منزله بمنتجع سياحي بطرطوس وأصيب في رأسه وقلبه وتوفيَّ على الفور، قالت مصادر اخرى إن عملية الاغتيال نفذت من خلال إطلاق رصاص من بندقية مزودة بكاتم صوت على منطقة الرأس وبقيت رصاصة في الرقبة، فيما كانت مصادر أخرى قد قالت لـ«الشرق الأوسط» انه قتل بـ4 رصاصات من قناص على متن قارب في البحر المقابل لمنزله. ولم تتوافرْ أية معلومات رسمية حتى الآن من السلطات السورية التي لم تعلن عن الاغتيال حتى مساء امس. وكان موقع «جبهة الخلاص الوطني» من المواقع السورية القليلة، التي بثت الخبرَ، الذي لم تتناوله وسائل الاعلام السورية حتى الآن. وقال موقع «جبهة الخلاص» امس ان العميد سليمان، وهو من مواليد بلدة الدريكيش، تخرج في كلية الهندسة الميكانيكية بجامعة دمشق والتحق بدورة مهندس قيادي في الكلية الحربية وتخرج برتبة نقيب مهندس قيادي، وهو متزوج من دير الزور، وله ثلاثة اولاد. وأضاف الموقع ان سليمان كان من اوائل المتفوقين في الكلية الحربية مما سهل له التقرب من النقيب باسل الاسد آنذاك، الشقيق الراحل للرئيس السوري، ثم عين ضابطاً مهندساً قيادياً في الحرس الجمهوري في الكتيبة التي كان يرأسها باسل الاسد. وقد ابتعث الى الاتحاد السوفياتي لتطوير سلاح الدبابات بالحرس الجمهوري وحصل على الماجستير في سلاح الدبابات، ونال الدكتوراه في تطوير سلاح المدفعية. وبعد عودة سليمان الى سورية، التحق بالحرس الجمهوري وتقلد منصبَ مديرِ مكتبِ باسل الاسد ومستشاره الخاص للشؤون العسكرية. وكان عضوا في اللجنة العسكرية الخاصة لإدارة التسليح المختصة بشراء الاسلحة وتطويرها. وبعد وفاة باسل الاسد وتسلم بشار للواء الـ41 للحرس الجمهوري، تسلم العميد سليمان منصب مدير مكتب بشار الاسد الخاص، واصبح يدير غرفة العمليات الخاصة لبشار الاسد والتي تتعلق بنقل الضباط وتسريحهم ومتابعة شؤون الجيش والشؤون الأمنية. كما أسس مكتباً خاصاً بالتنسيق مع مكتب المعلومات التابع للقصر الجمهوري لمتابعة الوضع الداخلي، وكل ما يتعلق بالوزارات والمؤسسات الحزبية. وخلال وفاة الرئيس السوري الراحل، حافظ الاسد، كان سليمان رئيس غرفة العمليات التي تدير الاجهزة الامنية، وكان المسؤول الأول عن تعيين اللجنة المركزية واعضاء القيادة القطرية في المؤتمر القطري لحزب البعث عام 2000 ولاحقاً في المؤتمر القطري عام 2005.

وبعد ترقية سليمان الى رتبة عميد، أسندت اليه كافة الملفات المتعلقة بالجيش، وألحقت له رئاسة الاركان ووزارة الدفاع التي اصبحت تحت إمرته مباشرة. وأشرف ايضا على توجيه الاجهزة الامنية. وكانت لا تتم كافة الاعتقالات في سورية إلا بعد موافقته. وكان العميد سليمان يدير من خلف الستار تعيينات الوزراء والمحافظين. ووفقاً لـ«جبهة الخلاص» السورية، فإن سليمان، وهو شخصية غامضة، لم يكن على علاقة جيدة مع اللواء شوكت، مدير الاستخبارات العسكرية، لعلاقته مع ضابط كبير كان يرسل بريد شعبة المخابرات وتقارير مراقبة تحركات اللواء شوكت مباشرة الى العميد سليمان.. أما علاقة سليمان بالعقيد ماهر الاسد، بحسب هذه المصادر، فكانت جيدة لوجود تنسيق امني مباشر بينه وبين مدير مكتب الامن الخاص لماهر الاسد.

الى ذلك، قالت مصادر سورية ان عددا من المسؤولين السوريين حضروا التشييع في بلدة الدريكيش؛ بينهم ماهر الاسد، قائد الحرس الجمهوري. ونقلت وكالة رويترز عن مصادر، قولها ان سليمان كان منخرطا، الفترة الأخيرة، في تجهيزات لتطوير قدرات الجيش السوري، موضحة ان بشار الأسد أرسل رسالة هذا الاسبوع الى الجيش السوري يطلب فيها من الجيش ألا يتوانى عن جهود تحسين قدراته. وقال مصدر سوري لرويترز، رفض الكشف عن هويته: «هذا تطور يهز الأرض، منذ متى نرى اغتيالات تحدث في سورية بهذه الطريقة؟». كما نقل موقع «كلنا شركاء»، وهو موقع سوري غير حكومي، ان أوساطاً مطلعة بمدينة طرطوس تتداول أن عملية الاغتيال نفذت عبر إطلاق رصاص من بندقية مزودة بكاتم صوت على منطقة الرأس، وإن سليمان فارق الحياة فوراً، حيث نقل جثمانه إلى «مشفى الباسل» بطرطوس. وقال الموقع ان تشييع جثمان العميد سليمان تم مساء الأحد في الدريكيش حيث أغلقت الطرقات، وشارك عدد كبير من المسؤولين في التشييع «حيث كان يعتبر مرجعاً لشخصيات حكومية وقيادية حزبية وأمنية كثيرة». وتابع الموقع، وهو الموقع السوري الوحيد داخل سورية الذي نقل الخبر، ان: «شهيد الواجب العميد محمد سليمان، مهندس تخرج عام 1984 وتطوع في دورة المهندسين القياديين مع الشهيد باسل الأسد. وبعد ذلك عمل مع الرئيس بشار الأسد كمدير لمكتبه عندما كان قائداً للواء 105 في الحرس الجمهوري، وكلف أثناء عمله ذاك بالإشراف على مركز الدراسات والأبحاث العلمية الذي يرأسه الدكتور عمرو أرمنازي، ويتبع لقيادة الجيش، حيث كان عضو مجلس الإدارة فيه. وكذلك كلف متابعة ومراقبة عمل الهيئة المركزية للرقابة والتفتيش. وبعد تسلم الدكتور بشار الاسد مهام رئيس الجمهورية، نقله معه حيث تشير المعلومات إلى أنه كلف المهمات الأمنية الخاصة برئيس الجمهورية». وبعد عملية الاغتيال تم تطويق شاطئ «الرمال الذهبية» في طرطوس من البر والبحر بقوارب عسكرية، وتم احتجاز عدد من الأشخاص من رواد الشاليهات القريبة من شاليه العميد سليمان. وأوضحت وكالة رويترز ان المنتجع اغلق للتحقيقات. واغتيال العميد سليمان هو اول اغتيال داخل سورية يتم بعد اغتيال عماد مغنية الذي قتل في 14 فبراير (شباط) الماضي بتفجير سيارته خلال زيارة سرية الى دمشق، قالت مصادر آنذاك إنها تضمنت لقاءات بين مغنية ومسوؤلين بالفصائل الفلسطينية. واتهمت دمشق اسرائيل بالوقوف وراء الاغتيال، وفتحت تحقيقا في ملابساته. غير ان نتائج التحقيق لم تعلن بعد، كما لم يُعتقل أحدٌ على خلفية القضية، سواء بالتواطؤ او بالتخطيط. وجاء اغتيال مغنية بعد قيام اسرائيل في سبتمبر (أيلول) الماضي بالهجوم على ما قالت إنه موقع نووي في منطقة دير الزور، يشتبه في ان سورية كانت تطوره بالتعاون مع كوريا الشمالية وإيران. إلا انه رغم قصف اسرائيل للموقع، بدأت دمشق بعد ذلك بفترة قصيرة مباحثات مع اسرائيل عبر تركيا من اجل استعادة الجولان وتطبيع العلاقات بين الطرفين. وفيما لمحت مصادر اسرائيلية بأن يكون اغتيال سليمان قد تم على خلفية «إخفاقه» فيما يتعلق بموقع دير الزور، الذي قالت المصادر، إنه كان مشروعاً مشتركاً بين طهران ودمشق لتعزيز علاقاتهما الاستراتيجية وقدراتهما العسكرية، استبعد مصدر سوري مطلع هذا الطرح، موضحا في اتصال هاتفي مع «الشرق الأوسط» من لندن: أن «قضية تدمير مفاعل دير الزور مرَّ عليها وقت طويل.. فلماذا يُغتال بسببها الآن؟».

August 5th, 2008, 6:51 am


why-discuss said:

A Saudi judge, previously in charge fo applying the Islamic law and leader of an islamic court has been arrested in Dubai for possession and use of hashish…

L’orient le jour 5 aug 2008
Un juge saoudien, chargé par le passé de faire appliquer la loi islamique (charia) à la tête d’une cour islamique, a été arrêté à Dubaï pour « possession et consommation de stupéfiants », a rapporté hier un journal local. Selon le Khaleej Times, Hamad Salim ben Naïf et son épouse marocaine ont été interpellés vendredi après avoir été pris par la police en possession de quatre grammes de haschisch dans leur chambre d’hôtel. L’homme a reconnu avoir consommé de la drogue avec sa femme et expliqué l’avoir amenée d’Arabie saoudite pour leur usage personnel. Les cas de possession et consommation de drogues sont sévèrement réprimés par les cours islamiques en Arabie saoudite, et le trafic est passible de la peine de mort.

August 5th, 2008, 9:50 am


Off the Wall said:

From Alquds Alarabi

الشرطة الدينية السعودية تطالب وزارة الصحة بطمس صور النساء من الأدوية والأجهزة الطبية


الرياض ـ يو بي آي: طالبت هيئة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر (الشرطة الدينية)، وزارة الصحة السعودية بضرورة حظر الأدوية والأجهزة الطبية التي ‘تستغل’ المرأة وتظهر صورها عليها بصورة اعتبرت أنها تخل بالآداب العامة. وطالبت الهيئة بطمس صور النساء الموجودة على عبوات تلك الأدوية والأجهزة الطبية والرياضية التي تعرض في الصيدليات بشكل يخدش الحياء والآداب العامة.
وأوضحت ‘الهيئة’ في خطاب وجهته إلى وزارة الصحة ووزع امس الاثنين، أن الأمر وصل في الصيدليات إلى ‘عرض صور نساء شبه عاريات بشكل علني وفي مواقع بارزة من دون أن يتدخل أحد لطمسها أو منعها وهو إغراء بالفساد والفاحشة’.
وأشارت الهيئة في خطابها’ إلى أن هذا الأمر يعد مخالفاً لما نص عليه بيان اللجنة الدائمة للبحوث العلمية والإفتاء، بشأن الضوابط الشرعية للإعلان في الفقرة الخامسة، التي تنص على ألا يشتمل الإعلان على شيء من ذات الأرواح من إنسان أو حيوان أو طير، كما تنص الفقرة السادسة التي تشير إلى أنه يحرم تصوير المرأة أو شيء من جسدها في أي إعلان يتعلق بحاجات المرأة أو غيرها باعتبار المرأة عورة، وهذا الأسلوب يعد إهانة لها ويحط من كرامتها وهو إغراء بالفساد والفاحشة’.

August 5th, 2008, 10:04 am


norman said:

In days like these , AIG can stimulate the debate.

Where is SIMO by the way.

August 5th, 2008, 12:49 pm


norman said:

Sweden takes Palestinians while KSA prefer people from southeast Asia.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 – Page updated at 04:20 AM

Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo, other than personal use, must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or e-mail with your request.

Iceland, Sweden to take in Palestinians from Iraq
Iceland and Sweden will take in nearly 200 Palestinian refugees stranded in makeshift desert camps on Iraq’s border with Syria.

The Palestinian community in Iraq has become a target for persecution largely because others thought they were favored under late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Over two dozen Palestinians will leave the Al Waleed refugee camp in the next few weeks for Iceland, Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Tuesday. Some of the women and children in the group have “urgent medical needs,” he added.

Another 155 Palestinian refugees from the Al Tanf refugee camp will be resettled in Sweden, he said.

The poorly supplied camps house around 2,300 Palestinians who fled violence in Iraq and have been unable to return or to enter neighboring countries, Redmond said, describing the living conditions there as “desperate.”

The U.N. refugee agency is trying to find other countries to resettle the remaining Palestinian refugees.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

August 5th, 2008, 12:55 pm


norman said:


I have never seen Bashar happier.

August 5th, 2008, 1:19 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Who killed General Sulayman with a silencer on Friday night in Tartus?

August 5th, 2008, 1:23 pm


trustquest said:

Is he happy because he got rid of the Mole and no one can dare ask for investigation? I wonder.

August 5th, 2008, 1:29 pm


norman said:

Last update – 14:02 05/08/2008

Report: Syria arrests suspects in murder of Hezbollah liaison

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

Tags: Mohammed Suleiman

Syria has apprehended a number of suspects believed linked to the assassination of a senior military official, the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

Syria on Monday remained silent on the murder of Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, who was killed by a sniper Friday night. Suleiman was President Bashar Assad’s right-hand man, yet no government or state news media have reported the killing, which has been covered by foreign and Arab news sources and Syrian exile media.

Contrary to various speculation, Israel denied any involvement in the murder, Sky News reported on Monday.

Assad is vacationing in Turkey after a two-day visit in Iran.

The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported on Monday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Assad at the Aegean resort of Bodrum today.

Turkish officials reported that Israel and Syria are to hold another round of indirect talks later this month. This will be the first round after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his intention to resign. Syria has not said what course of action it would take after Olmert. However, Damascus is closely following the announcements of the politicians contending for Kadima’s leadership on this issue.

A Syrian source told Asharq Al-Awsat, which is published in London, that “the Syrian regime is in a difficult and complicated situation.”

The newspaper says Suleiman was in charge of financing and arming the Syrian army. The source confirmed the report that Suleiman was the liaison between the Syrian government and Hezbollah and in charge of other defense portfolios in Assad’s bureau.

“All the sensitive defense portfolios passed through Suleiman first,” the source reportedly said.

The source dismissed the speculation that intrigue in the Syrian leadership had led to Suleiman’s murder. He said Suleiman, who was very close to Assad, was more influential than the defense minister and chief of staff.

Sky News reported on Monday that Israel denied any responsibility for the murder.

“To the best of my knowledge we didn’t do it,” an Israeli source told Sky News. “Look, it’s outside the rules. Of course, assassinations take place, but to hit a general in his own country is close to an act of war and we just don’t want a war with Syria. We are busy talking to them,” the source said.

Another source said: “An Iranian spy might be killed in Lebanon, a Hezbollah guy in Syria, but not a Syrian in Syria with a sniper.”

“The sniper might miss, he might get caught, there would have to be retaliation and neither side wants to get caught up in that game,” he said.

August 5th, 2008, 1:38 pm


norman said:


He is happy for being able to balance Turkey with Iran.

August 5th, 2008, 1:40 pm


trustquest said:

Will you please explain what you mean by “balance two big countries”?
And what is your take on the assasination?
What the previous excerpt means:“An Iranian spy might be killed in Lebanon, a Hezbollah guy in Syria, but not a Syrian in Syria with a sniper.”

August 5th, 2008, 2:19 pm


norman said:

Nur,Trustquest ,

If i were an Israeli strategist and planing an attack on Iran , the things i have to think about are retaliation from Iran which can not be controlled but Iran is far away and the missiles could be intercepted from there ,

The other thing i have to think about is a coordinated response from Syria and Hezbollah ,

To prevent that , Israel has to break or disrupt the coordination between Hezbollah and Syria , here come the killing of Mughneia from Hezbollah and now Suleiman from Syria ,

The Peace talks between Syria and Israel might be to make costly for Syria to get involved in a war with Israel as that will destroy these talks and we know that Syria is putting high hopes on these talks to advance Syria’s economy and standing in the world and for the return of the Golan .

So My take is that Israel is planing the next moves in the Mideast and is probably behind these events.

August 5th, 2008, 2:25 pm


norman said:


Syria is balancing Shea Iran with Sunni Turkey ,

August 5th, 2008, 2:27 pm


norman said:


Don’t you think that the 9/11 attack caused a significant Chang in President Bush plan for the country.

August 5th, 2008, 3:22 pm


norman said:

Syrian general’s killing severs Hezbollah links
(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)
Bashar al-Assad’s regime is considering moving into the arms of the West as peace talks with Israel, using Turkish mediation, continue

James Hider, Middle East Correspondent
The mysterious assassination of a senior Syrian Army official has severed another link between the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and its military suppliers, prompting rumours of tumult in the shadowy Damascus regime.

Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, a close associate of Bashar al-Assad, the young Syrian president who succeeded his father eight years ago, was shot dead in the Syrian coastal resort of Tartous on Friday, apparently by a sniper fire from a yacht.

The killing came just months after Hezbollah’s leading military planner, Imad Mughniyeh, was blow to pieces by a bomb planted in his car, causing speculation that Syrian intelligence may have been infiltrated by foreign agents, the most common suspects being Israel or the US.

Israel, which is holding the first indirect peace talks with Syria in almost a decade, has not commented on the assassination of General Suleiman. It has demanded that Syria cut its close ties with the Jewish State’s main enemy Iran, while Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights, captured in the Six Day War in 1967.

August 5th, 2008, 3:31 pm


trustquest said:

I think the balancing act of Shia-Sunni idea you thrown in, if it is true and genuine, it should have been done by religious leaders ( mofties) and should follows by a meeting (with the controlling and representative parties ( hezebs) in these countries) and a conference regarding the area and the boundary of each idea and how not to interfere with each country set of believes and practices. But frankly it does not seem to me like this, it looks like jumping rope and flip flop in policy, to try everything and to keep the dictator in the eye of the public such as: we are trying to make the best we can, see how many trips we have made in one month?

I think of directing your finger toward Israel, with acceptance, is interesting view, but it is too cheesy to the regime and does not align with previous killing (assassinations like Kanaan).

The second post by James Hider accusing HA with the assassination could be more inline with the Iran visit results which clouded by the cold responses and the shunning of his asking to play a role in the nuclear issue.

August 5th, 2008, 4:21 pm


Shai said:


While I very much agree with your analysis of Israel’s concerns if it is indeed planning to attack Iran, I think chances are slim this latest assassination had Israeli involvement in it. While the talks are going on, it would be very foolish of Israel to risk hurting a high-level Syrian official and its consequences. I can even see, in theory, continuing to hurt HA and Hamas (even inside Syria, though that is also very problematic because of sovereignty issues), but not a Syrian target. If it is in Israel’s best interest to continue the talks (and of course it is), then now is not the time to risk relations with Syria. I also think that Israel is essentially ruling out Syrian involvement (response) in case Iran is attacked. Bashar has also pretty much said as much, while on tour in the U.A.E.

August 5th, 2008, 4:28 pm


norman said:


I hope you are right ,

Trustquest ,

Off course , I disagree with you on all counts.!.

August 5th, 2008, 4:35 pm


Karim said:

Interesting !did you notice on this video Walid Al Mualem just after Bashar and Asma .It seems that the purpose of this trip is not only spa tourism.

August 5th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Jad said:

Could anybody explain to me what the point of this article?
I honestly didn’t understand what he wanted to say.

صخور فوق صلصال
حازم صاغيّة الحياة – 05/08/08//

يأتينا من لقاء المرشد الإيرانيّ آية الله خامنئي والرئيس السوريّ بشّار الأسد كلام ذو طعم كولونياليّ. فالزعيمان إذ يتحدّثان عن لبنان وفلسطين، يبدو كأنّهما يتفقّدان الرعايا في الأطراف و «المناطق» ويباركان ما آلت إليه أعمال «عمّالنا» هناك.

وهي نبرة تستند إلى إنجازات فعليّة تعاند التجاهل. فتحالف الممانعين حقّق انتصارين في غزّة وبيروت واستعاد من إسرائيل الأسرى والجثامين بكلفة حرب مدمّرة. وإذ لا تزال إيران تناور بنجاح، لا يمنعها انتهاء «المهلة الزمنيّة» من المضيّ كرّاً وفرّاً، تعود سوريّة عودتين، إلى العالم، عبر باريس، وإلى لبنان، عبر «حزب الله».

لكنّها كولونياليّة لا تخفي هشاشتها ولا تتكتّم عليها. فكأنّنا، في الوقت الفاصل بين إدارتين أميركيّتين، وربّما بين إدارتين إسرائيليّتين، مثل من يوجّه لطمة سريعة لخصم قليل الاستعداد ثم يولّي الإدبار وطلب الوسطاء والوساطات.

وإذا نمّ هذا عن ضعف الركائز التي ينهض عليها تحالف الممانعين، فهو يشي، كذلك، بمحدوديّة التعويل عليه. فسوريّة التي تتوسّط تركيا بينها وبين إسرائيل، وتدير التفاوض غير المباشر بينهما، تتقدّم بما يشبه عرضاً للتوسّط بين إيران والغرب. ومن يدري، ربّما كانت إيران تطمح، بدورها، إلى ممارسة الوساطة بين سورية وأميركا. ذاك أن الطرف هنا وسيط هناك، والخطيب المفوّه هنا طالب موعد هناك. وهو ما يتمّمه الركض الكلاميّ للرئيس أحمدي نجاد بين العقل واللاعقل بوتيرة يوميّة تكمّله صورته المألوفة. ومن دون أن ينجلي أمر المنشأة السوريّة، الموصوفة بالنوويّة، التي ضربتها إسرائيل، أو اغتيال عماد مغنيّة في دمشق، يُغتال العميد السوريّ محمّد سليمان، المقرّب من الرئيس الأسد «قنصاً من البحر»، حسب إحدى الروايات. هكذا تؤسَّس الانتصارات على ألغاز تجوز معها الأسئلة جميعاً، بدءاً بالسؤال حول متانة السلطة والعلاقة بين أجنحتها في ظرف قد يكون انتقاليّاً.

وإذ تبدي المواجهة السياسيّة الأخيرة حول البيان الوزاريّ اللبنانيّ حجم الاعتراض على سلاح المقاومة، وقسريّة ذاك السلاح الذي «يحمي» أكثريّة اللبنانيّين غصباً عنهم، تقدّم غزّة عيّنة باهرة ومخجلة عن النسيج الاجتماعيّ الذي تنهض الممانعة عليه، وعن الصيرورة التي آلت إليها قضيّة فلسطين التي بها يبيع الممانعون ويشترون. فقد تكشّفت سنوات النضال عن تفتّت مناطقيّ وعائليّ لا يُبنى عليه إلاّ فرار البعض من البعض الآخر واللجوء الى… إسرائيل!

فالصخور التي يقال إن «المؤامرات تتحطّم عليها» تقيم فوق أرض من صلصال. فالضعيف لا يقوى على الحلول محلّ القويّ بقوّة الخطابة والنفط. لكن هذا إنما يزيد في خطورة ما قد نواجهه ولا يخفّفه، كما لا يعني، بالضرورة، أن قوّة خصوم الممانعة، المرجأة الاستخدام، قوّةٌ لتقدّم أبناء المنطقة وازدهارهم وحداثتهم. فالسؤال، في آخر المطاف، هل تنتج المنطقة إيّاها، منطقتنا، أطرافاً تكون قادرة على المبادرة والتوسّط بين تحوّلات إقليميّة ودوليّة محتملة وبين أوضاعنا؟

August 5th, 2008, 4:40 pm


Shai said:


The real issue right now, from Israel’s point of view, is whether the new head of Kadima (in the upcoming primaries in mid-September) will be able to form a coalition government. If so, she (Livni) will become our next Prime Minister, and will be able to continue the talks with Syria. If Mofaz wins, I’m afraid we’re in for a bit of a ride, with an expected and understandable cessation of talks by Syria, until a more serious Israeli leader can be found… If you’ve got a portfolio in the Israeli stock exchange, if Mofaz wins, sell everything, and wait for the next elections. 🙂 I wonder if Israelis will be allowed to invest in the upcoming new Syrian Stock Exchange?

August 5th, 2008, 4:46 pm


norman said:


What Syria is trying to do is show the masses that it is not Shea or Sunni ,what is important is the friendship that Syria has with many different countries.

August 5th, 2008, 4:48 pm


Off the Wall said:


!!!!,?@#$ !!.?
This is all I got from the article

August 5th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Off the Wall said:


Could Syria also be correcting an historical error of not having the closest possible relationship with Turky?.

Very briefly, a strong relationship and partnership withy Turky is important for many issues including, but not limited to:

1. Water
2. Water
3. Water
4. Transit commerce
5. Security
6. Familial ties

I would like to think that the Syrian government is also interested in these issues and not only in auditioning for regional leadership.

August 5th, 2008, 4:54 pm


norman said:


I am interested in TEVA, but do not have any Israeli stocks ,

Can you believe what will happen to the Israeli stock market if peace takes hold , WOW ,I want to be in at that time.

You probably can invest in the Syrian stock market through an ETF in the US .

August 5th, 2008, 4:57 pm


Karim said:

Norma,there can not be genuine friendship between the syrian people and the Iranian regime.
Turkey is different ,we share with them 1000 years of common history and strong cultural and family ties ,so the relation with Turkey is natural unlike the relation with the clerical Iranian regime(In Sunnism there is no clergy).And i hope that the Syrian regime has understood this fact.

August 5th, 2008, 5:01 pm


norman said:


Syria wants to have good relation with everybody and all other states , as long as they do not interfere in Syria’s internal affair.

August 5th, 2008, 5:12 pm


Jad said:

Karim “Beik”
Could you please educate us why shouldn’t we “the syrian people” have genuine relations with “the Iranian regime” while we should have a great one with Turkey that occupied our land for 400 years and did great ‘development’ and treat us in the most ‘human’ way
Why can’t we have good relations with everybody as NORMAN wrote?

August 5th, 2008, 5:28 pm


trustquest said:

You have called the opening of Syrian Turkish cooperation is a correction. After 50 years of screwing in the policy of regional economy which affected Syria and the surrounding countries, which could have reflected well on Syria current economic standing and should have affected the social structure of the region, I would call it blind folded policy and admission of strategic blunder.
Any intellectual called for this in the past was considered traitor and anyone called for the abandoning of the Arab boycotting of Israelis products and companies associated with Israelis or working with Israelis was and still a traitor. The head in the sand policy was the main policy which carried the regime to this point. Shai, what stock market you are talking about, and if the EFT is going to let Israelis buy Syrian stocks, while boycott is still effective what kind of world we are living in.

August 5th, 2008, 5:35 pm


Sami D said:

FordPrefect writes that “Syrians are ready for peace”. Alon Liel concurs that Syria’s policies have “convinced Olmert that Syria has changed”. Our dear friends Alex and Qifa above wonder “if the Israeli public remains unconvinced of Syria’s sincerity,” and whether America under a new president will “commit … to its essential role as a mediator of the deal”. An earlier SyriaComment post asserts that “The U.S. Can Help Tackle Syrian Corruption”!

The implication of all this is clear: It is Syria that needs to change; that Syria was anti-peace before, but now is pro-peace. That Israel is the party that has always been ready for peace; that it came extending its hand in peace, but it was the belligerent Arabs who turned it down and chose violence instead. (I have already responded in detail to Mr. Alon’s proposal for Syria-Israel “peace”)). That the US has nothing but good will designs for the region, but suffers only from being unfairly sided in favor of Israel, and maybe can be convinced to assume a mediator role.

All this clamor of Syria-Israel “peace”, and the clear implication that Syria “has finally accepted peace, “hints more of Israel-US succeeding in forcing their will down Syria’s throat. Otherwise, is there any indication that the current “peace” ambience involves Israel ending its ongoing conquest of Palestine or that the US empire is scaling back is designs? If not, then what peace is being talked about here? Maybe one of selling out the Palestinians, and by extension whatever is left of the Arab cause of resisting/not acquiescing to hegemony over the region, however genuine that was. (It would surely remove the remaining fig leaf from Asad’s dictatorial-rule-in-the-name-of-fighting-Israel). Is that what Mr. Alon means when he says Syria has changed?

Any peace treaty other than a temporary hudna/treaty along a long path of rejecting foreign domination, would be more like a Sadat-style peace. Just like Sadat got the Sinai after waging the 1973 war and demonstrating willingness to join the American camp, Syria might get the Golan after its ally Hizbollah demonstrated muscle, and if Syria shows enough readiness to join the American clienthood camp. For Egyptians showing some muscle, the US-Israel acquiesced in the relatively small demand of relinquishing Sinai, but got in return the real prize of turning Egypt into an obedient client, keeping the Zionist project for Palestine and the US empire project for the region intact. On the other hand, the Palestinians can’t show enough muscle to be a real nuisance, and hence will get nothing at all and can be ignored; their leadership reduced to policing roles and photo ops with Israeli/American leaders.

The question concerning real peace should be directed at what the powerful will do, not the powerless: Are Israel and the United States ready for peace? Not their version of “peace” that is based on subordination of the region, but real peace. Unfortunately, only demonstration of strength by the conquered, as in 1973 or Hizbulla 2000/2006, has made an effect on the powerful’s policies. I realize that real peace is still far, and that the enemy that seeks subjugation is powerful, but to talk about the current Syria-Israel would-be treaty as the sought after peace, to imply that it is the end of the road or to prepare to sign away all other rights Israel/the US demand in return, is shortsighted and will serve only to postpone the next uprising – now with fully all Arab leaders serving the Abbas-Mubarak-Abdulla role as controllers of their people on behalf of Israel and the US.

August 5th, 2008, 5:51 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,because it’s unnatural,the syrian people are not very different from the iraqi people of Anbar,Diyala,Baghdad,Salahdin,Mosul who are fighting the iranian puppets in Iraq…we have also strong family ,religious and cultural ties with them,specially the eastern part of Syria….Jad,Syria is deeply Sunni ,even more than Turkey and it rejects rafidism,do u know the name of one Syrian rafidi sheikh?,no of course,you can not ignore this reality and its repercussion on geo strategical interests.
But i’m not against good relation with the Iranian people,i love the iranian culture ,the Iranian regime is not eternal ,so i’m for the best relations with Iran in the future but not with these hateful clerics.
And there were no turkish occupation of Syria,you are not obliged to believe the official baathi or nasserian history.

August 5th, 2008, 6:06 pm


norman said:


I understand your concern , But no peace between Syria and Israel without a full peace between Israel and the Palestinians , Lebanese and the Syrian and the Iranian , It has to be a complete peace.

Syria that i know will not abandon the Palestinians.

August 5th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Shai said:


It was a joke… I don’t think Israelis will be investing in the Syrian Stock Exchange just yet.

August 5th, 2008, 6:08 pm


jad said:

You did it again and you trapped yourself in the sect issue, I’m sorry that you always end up seeing sects and religion in every subject and issue are discussed. What makes it worse is that you live in a multicultural, liberal and free society that doesn’t tolerate such way of thinking yet you managed to concentrate on that issue and not learning what you should learn from your experience in the free west.
How could you ask this question about a “Syrian shia scholar” is a Shia Syrian less than any other Syrians????? Is it possible that there is not a single one “Syrian shia scholar”? Do you know all the background, religion or sect of all Syria scholars????
You must get out of this strange way of thinking “we and them” talking about your own people, your ideas are always around this issues which is not right, beside, we are talking politics not religion, and in politics you should always do what is good for your country as a whole not in pieces, politics always change according to what work best not to what is your religion.
By the way Mr. historian, it is not the baath party who talked about the Ottoman Turks occupation and stand against them it’s the most brilliant and liberal thinkers of Syria and Lebanon who stand up and paid their lives for our independent and without their courage you wouldn’t have a country.
Please stop mixing unrelated topics together and end it up showing us how liberal you are and that you love everybody even those who you look different at them at the end of every segregation comment you write…I’m not buying it.
P.S. you edit your comments too much……

August 5th, 2008, 6:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Sami D

I enjoy your comments. They are a reality check.

Are you of the same opinion as Joe M.? One state solution?

Or would you accept something along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative?

August 5th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Alex said:


Syria is in a unique position to push the region away fro any potential Sunni/Shia conflict … it is not only about how some Syrian Sunnis like you feel about the “Rafida”! .. we have a region that needs to be steered away from potential disaster.

To play that role, Syria will benefit from its exceptional friendship with the Iranian leadership.

This is what counts … please tolerate “al-Rafida” for now and let the Syrians do what they have to do to take us out of the neocon mess in the Middle East.

And, yes .. in few years, Syria will be closer to Turkey, not Iran … and I will be very happy to see that too. Why? .. not because of Sunni/Shia nonsense but because Turkey is much more secular than Iran .. or Saudi Arabia.


My friend … I can speak for myself only.

Many Israelis are already convinced of land-for-peace with Syria and with the Palestinians … about 30% of Israelis fall in this group.

The other 70% of them are of two types

1) some are aggressive, selfish, greedy …proud of, and looking forward to enjoying more IDF battles with the Arabs where their army will surely be victorious and the evil Arabs will learn more lessons.

There is nothing we can do to convince this group to become nice and peaceful.

2) Most others are simply worried that the Arabs hate them and want to throw them in the sea … they will feel too naive if they give up the occupied territories only to find out that Syria, Hamas, and HA are still planning to use violence against them.

It is a perception that exists … this is what we need to deal with … regardless of what reality is … I know it is not fair, but this perception will not go away by itself.

One of the reasons this group does not like to sign peace with Syria, is that they genuinely believe that Assad is a dictator who can not be trusted ….etc.

Don’t blame them for this conclusion … the WSJ, London Times, Asharq alawsat, almustaqbal, “Syrian democratic opposition” supporters on blogs, AIG types, Lebanese M4 supporting journalists … have joined forces for the past few years to establish this image of an evil dictatorship that no one should trust!

I believe that Syria can convince 10 to 20% of the Israeli public to switch (to support land for peace) by starting more aggressive economic and political reforms … Israelis want to see Syria busy building its economy and its relations with the west and its political institutions …

They want to see Syria more compatible with what they believe Israel is like (democratic, civilized).. this is how they see Israel, and Syria seems to be too incompatible with them … according to their perception.

You are probably shaking your head … you are right … 40% of the 70% who reject a solution will still not be convinced … but if we convert 20%, then that will be enough I think to tip the scale.

And don’t forget the effect of such reforms on European and American journalists, NGO;s, human rights activists … all of them add up to a force that can not be ignored if we are serious about peace.

And finally, as Norman wrote above … Syria will NOT be another Jordan … worry about it if it happens… IT WILL NOT.

August 5th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Karim said:

Jad,you are free to have another opinion than mine and it’s known that some minority communities in Syria don’t share our positive feeling for the Ottomans.It’s their problem …we respect them as they are.Syria in general is nostalgic of the Ottoman era.And Jad it’s never late for you to read some books on the Ottoman history from the most erudite western scholars.
And plz Jad,we can not avoid subject like religions and sects…there should be no taboos…there is a reality and we should speak on it as it is.
As for the arab nationalists who fought the Ottomans ,some of them were british puppets and others answered the turkish nationalism of the young turks party(turkization policy) by an arab nationalism .In my opinion both were wrong and betrayed the Ottoman ideal which was characterized by its religious tolerance and cultural pluralism.

August 5th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t think that Sami believes that Syria CANNOT make peace with Israel because the Israelis will never do it…

I think that he believes that EVEN IF Syria does, it will be a colossal mistake, because Syria will simply be playing into the hands of the Israeli/American plan for the region.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Sami.

The regime should count on hearing these criticisms until they indicate what their plan for Palestine will be.

How will Syria convince Israel to dismantle the West Bank settlements? How will Syria convince Israel to even bother making peace with the Palestinians? As our long lost friend AIG has repeatedly said: Israel does not actually NEED to make peace with the Palestinians, under the current conditions; it can handle low intensity warfare for a very long time, all the while building up its facts on the ground in East Jerusalem and elsewhere…

Indeed, how will Syria remain relevant to the peace process? I’m not saying it can’t; I hope it can, somehow.

But how, exactly?

August 5th, 2008, 7:07 pm


jad said:

Buddy (Karim)
I’m not talking about the Ottoman Turks in Istanbul; I’m talking about Ottoman Turks “occupation” in Damascus…

“Syria fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1516 and remained a part of their Ottoman Empire for four centuries. During this period, Syria witnessed great deterioration in economic, social, and political fields.”
Go back then and be happy and positive about it..for now Syria needs to deal with other issues than your “nostalgic of the Ottoman era”


August 5th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Shai said:

Sami D.,

I also enjoy reading your comments, and I do very much understand this one. Here on SC, commentators have brought up the idea (quite a few times) that indeed no real peace can take place between Israelis and (any) Arabs, until the Palestinian issue is solved. In fact, that is precisely the condition which all the Arab nations placed upon Israel in their so-called “3 Yes’s” in Beirut and Riyadh.

I don’t think the “peace process” that we’re witnessing at the moment is much more than a step towards the end of the state-of-war between Syria and Israel, and the creation of a superficial-peace, similar to what we have with Egypt and Jordan. The Palestinians will not be sold away, because Assad is not going to be telling his people that Israelis are wonderful, warm human beings, while the Occupation is still going on. And the Syrians are no fools, they know the situation, and it is they who will dictate what peace will or won’t exist between our two peoples. However, the situation right now, with what seems to be a certain historic opportunity, begs the following questions:

1. If the Israeli-Palestinian track is standing-still, with no hope in sight, should any other track be explored?

2. If an end to the state-of-war between Israel and Syria (and possibly Lebanon) can be reached, through a peace agreement, should it not be sought while the Occupation is still in place?

3. Is it not conceivable (in fact, quite logical) that if Israel and Syria reach an agreement, Syria can begin to assist both the Israelis and the Palestinians overcome their differences? This is especially relevant due to Syria’s close relationship with Hamas.

4. If an Israeli leader is able to convince 50.1% of Israelis to give back the Golan now in return for peace with Syria, should Syria reject this offer, until a just solution is found to the Palestinian problem (no matter how long that may take)? In other words, should both sides miss this opportunity?

5. Why are Abu Mazen, Hamas, Hezbollah, and even Iran, not putting up a fight in attempt to dissuade Syria from signing an agreement with Israel? Is it because they do understand that the Palestinians will not be “sold out”?

As for the various rhetoric that comes up in the media (such as Alon Liel’s interviews, for instance), stating that Syria “has changed”, I think this should both be expected, and should not bother “your side” too much. It is obviously targeting “my side” much more, because it has to. Syria cannot normalize relations with Israel, before it convinces its public that Israel has changed. Israel cannot return the Golan, before it convinces our public that Syria has changed. You cannot realistically expect people on each side to suddenly become enlightened, and come to recognize and accept their own share in the conflict. It is far too early for that to happen – though it does need to happen at some point in the future, for reconciliation to ever occur. I hope to see the day when an Israeli Prime Minister, on behalf of the entire nation of Israel, apologizes to the entire Palestinian people. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow, nor the day after.

You are of course absolutely justified to fear the effects of this so-called “peace” upon the Palestinian people. I don’t sense that fear, but I certainly understand it. But the entire Arab world has essentially said to Israel that peace will only occur when we withdraw to the 1967 lines, and a just solution is found for the Palestinian people. That will not happen immediately when Livni or Bibi shake Assad’s hand. So it’ll be a superficial peace, and Syria will help us work with the Palestinians until we solve all the problems. We in Israel desperately need this peace, because it’ll give hope once more to all those who are simply numb to what is going on, and apathetic about the future. They’ve lost hope in their leaders, in politicians, in any processes that took place the past 2 decades, and in peace. To do what is necessary, Israelis must have a “rude awakening”. It can come either as a large-scale regional war (like 1973), or peace. I prefer the latter, and I think you should too.

August 5th, 2008, 7:19 pm


Sami D said:

Qifa Nabki wrote:

Are you of the same opinion as Joe M.? One state solution? Or would you accept something along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative?

I think the fairest solution in the long run would indeed be the one-state one. You have close to half a million Israelis living inside illegally-occupied territories, with built-up cities, colleges and established infrastructure. Will they just pack-up and relinquish it all to the Palestinians? On the other hand, the one-state solution ensures that both people can live anywhere they wish on the holly land, AND both would have equal rights. On the Israeli side of the border, Israel has a fifth of its citizens Palestinians (the ones who were spared the 1948 ethnic cleansing) told they are a fifth column on their own land, can be shot at and killed if they demonstrated, watched their land disappear crops poisoned, discriminated against, treated as second class citizens, etc.

Only a one-state, which would necessarily involve a major scaling down of the racist component of Zionism, can be the minimally fair solution. And what about the fundamental rights refugees? Will they be told they can “return” to al-Khalil, instead of their beloved Yafa? (I wouldn’t consider “returning” to al-Hasakeh as in anyway fair, if I am from Damascus, if the same fate as the Palestinians’ befell me) And why would anyway someone from India be allowed to “return” to live on Palestinian land if he can demonstrate “Jewishness”, but a Palestinian who has lived and tilled the land there for generations can’t, simply because the rabbi says he doesn’t qualify? For these major humanitarian issues the one-state is a much better solution.

In the short run, the two-state solution along 1967 lines, IF (a big one) Israel accepts it, might be ok as a stepping-stone treaty. But Israel is not a stupid conqueror to accept this as a hudna and will seeks assurances that Arab leaders will be on its side ensuring their populace remain in line, as Joe mentioned. The two-state solution, which assumes (note!) that the conflict started in 1967 ignoring, for one, the refugee rights and 1948 ethnic cleansing, would also produce a one state –Israel- anyway dominating the other, with Palestinians providing cheap labor for Israelis and a market for their goods. (That’s why Israel/US will insist that the Palestinians accept free market policies ensuring Israeli domination of the Palestinian economy, replacing, as in South Africa, political apartheid with economic one .. but that’s another subject). Israel will not abandon its 80%-theft of water from the West Bank aquifer, as you’ve heard the “dove” Mr. Allon asking that Israel’s theft of Syrian water should continue after Golan return, (albeit couched in the proper Orwellian language of security and peace).

If our goal is minimal justice and minimal fairness, the one-state solution is it. So far, the two state solution, or the separation of the Syrian from the Lebanese from the Palestinian from the Egyptian tracks, all imply that the coming “solution” is really one not of minimal fairness, but one that reflects a bowing to US-Israeli power in the region.

PS. Dear Alex/Norman/Shai, will comment as soon as I get a chance.)

August 5th, 2008, 7:55 pm


Sami D said:

How will Syria convince Israel to dismantle the West Bank settlements? … Indeed, how will Syria remain relevant to the peace process? I’m not saying it can’t; I hope it can, somehow. But how, exactly?

Dear Qifa, The question is basically, how to “convince” a conqueror to end his conquest, no? And is the implication that if we can’t convince him, then maybe we can settle for something just a tad better than total subordination, like land-return for Syria (obtained through resistance and struggle, not through negotiations), something that can be face-savingly sold to the people as “peace”?

And who is it anyway that determines whether Syria is “relevant” to “the peace process”? Bodies that are independent from the powerful emperors? The fact that we’re using rhetoric like “the peace process” says we’re slowly accepting the design of the powerful. What is needed, is not a process but a real peace that is based on basic rights enshrined in international law. The “peace process” entails just endless negotiations and photo ops, until the weak accept domination. Fifteen years of Palestinian “peace” process produced less Palestinian-Israeli peace and more Israeli conquest, doubling of settlers, etc. Isn’t it clear already what Israeli-American peace entail for the region, in addition to the Mubarak-izations of Arab Nassers?

The question atop should be not how will Syria convince Israel, but what price is Syria willing to pay for that. Lebanon paid a dear price, but did something immensely important: It got the powerful to cry uncle; it showed the oppressed masses that the powerful are not that powerful — if people are willing to pay the price. While the end goal might be far and bloody, bowing down to Israel’s demand is certainly not the way to reach that goal. How much success did Egypt have in convincing Israelis to relinquish Palestinian land after Camp David? In fact it did the opposite; it cleared the way for Israeli aggression by removing the strongest Arab country from Israel’s face.

August 5th, 2008, 8:29 pm


Jad said:

Dear Sami
Your analyse and projection on the peace issue is very interesting and it seems that you have a very clear vision of what should happen or will happen taking one of the solutions you gave, “resistance” or “peace process”, as an average Syrian looking at the two choices I have, I do prefer the resistance solution that doesn’t end up giving more power to the already powerful conqueror and have my land back in pride, yet I’m sure that the price we will pay is dearly of our people’s bloods and souls if not loosing part or all our land, can’t anything be done taking the “peace process” choice without bowing? Isn’t there any lesson from the history that can be learned instead of repeating the same mistakes our ancestor did before us?

August 5th, 2008, 8:56 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,i invite you to read what the french poet Lamartine wrote on the beauty of Ottoman Damascus.Ask yourself ,do we have anything beautiful which is not from the pre Nasserian era ?
Damascus was by far more sophisticated in 1905 untill 1950’s than in 2008.The same for the other great cities of the Levant,like Aleppo,Cairo,Alexandria…..

August 5th, 2008, 9:09 pm


Jad said:

I will wait on your invitation Karim for another 400-500 years, so we can both read some poetry about Damascus in the 2008 then we can compare and judge!

August 5th, 2008, 9:35 pm


Jad said:

There are lots of real photographic pictures not a dreamy poetic of Damascus on ( during the Ottoman Turks period “which was characterized by its religious tolerance and cultural pluralism”!!!! will reflect a better view of what Damascus was during that period, check them out especially the 1860’s, and then look at pictures of Damascus now and judge. Personaly, I like it better now.

By the way, a huge part of the restoration and conservation of the beautiful historic building happened during this regime. Don’t they deserve any credits for that?

I don’t belong to any political party and I do hate politics because it segregate people like religions but we have to be fair and give credits to whoever does something right and not always see things in white or black…

August 5th, 2008, 10:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The fact that we’re using rhetoric like “the peace process” says we’re slowly accepting the design of the powerful. What is needed, is not a process but a real peace that is based on basic rights enshrined in international law… Isn’t it clear already what Israeli-American peace entail for the region, in addition to the Mubarak-izations of Arab Nassers?


It may be satisfying to deconstruct the rhetoric from time to time and remind ourselves of how low we’ve sunk. But in my opinion this is a useless exercise if we can’t generate concrete alternatives to the strategies that we malign.

It’s not enough to say, “What is needed is not a process but a real peace based on basic rights, etc.” So, what are you proposing? More resistance? Of what kind? Embargoes? Kidnapping Israeli soldiers? Or would you like to see Syria, Hizbullah, and Iran launch a full-scale war on Israel? Because you say, below:

The question atop should be not how will Syria convince Israel, but what price is Syria willing to pay for that. Lebanon paid a dear price, but did something immensely important…

Does this mean that you think that Syria should be arming and funding more not fewer resistance groups? I guess I’m not getting what the game plan is.

I think you’re right about the failure of the peace process. But I don’t discount the possibility that it failed for context-based reasons (historical circumstances, personalities involved, etc). Demanding a radical change in strategy is defensible only if you can articulate what shape it must take. Otherwise we’re just devoting lives and years to further misery.

August 5th, 2008, 11:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Political suicide, Palestinian style
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, August 06, 2008

It is painful watching events in Gaza and the West Bank unfold, as Fatah and Hamas battle it out like a bunch of armed neighborhood gangs. The mood among Palestinians throughout the world is one of despair and gloom, tinged with embarrassment and occasional shame.

Arab and others supporters of the Palestinian cause throw their hands up in the air in bewilderment. It will not be surprising to see some friends of Palestine quietly walk away, mumbling that if the Palestinians wish to kill each other and destroy their own society, they are free to do so. The world will easily forget about them.

These are grim days for the Palestinians, but not unusual ones for the Arab world as a whole. The sight of clan-based political groups in Gaza killing each other is familiar in many parts of the Middle East, sadly. That does not make it any better. It simply is a sign that national dysfunctionality expressed in internecine political violence is a regional Arab ailment, not a peculiarly Palestinian one.

The Palestinians, especially their political leaders, must assume most of the blame for this round of fighting, which is absolutely incomprehensible at a time when economic pressures and sanctions have reduced Gaza not just to a prison-like encampment, but to a ward of paupers. Israel and other enemies of the Palestinians will be pleased to see them fighting each other. We will hear another chorus from the skinheads and racists in the world who will point to this round of fighting as proof that Israel withdrew from Gaza and all it got in return were rockets fired at it and hooligans running the show inside. They will be right, but superficially.

The rockets fired at Gaza are to be seen in the context of a war that still rages between Israelis and Palestinians, now more or less quiet due to a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. The fighting among the Palestinians is not so easy to understand. It is also not the first time that Palestinians have quarreled or fought each other. They did it in the 1940s, in the 1980s in refugee camps in Lebanon, and now they are doing it again in their squeezed little landscape in Gaza.

This is the latest and most troubling example of how a once grand and noble Palestinian national liberation movement has allowed itself to degenerate into ineptitude. The consequences of the fighting are unlikely to increase the chance of liberating Palestine, forcing Israel to negotiate an honorable and fair peace, or providing Palestinians opportunities to live more secure, stable and prosperous lives. All that will emerge from this is the functional equivalent of a child taking over a tree house, and claiming that as a great victory.

Fatah and Hamas are both slowly relinquishing their once respectable standing among their fellow Palestinians. As they fight it out in village streets and refugee camp alleyways, they make it ever more difficult to wage a principled and credible struggle against Israeli colonialism, brutality and expansionism. At a global level, the Palestinian cause is the longest running anti-colonial movement of its kind, which is one reason it generates so much support around the world. Ordinary people everywhere understand that the Palestinians are fighting against a Zionist foe whose predatory territorial aims are anchored in the ugly soil of 19th century European imperialism and colonialism – when it was permissible to conquer, kill and dispossess other people and send them into exile.

The Palestinians have continued to struggle for the integrity of their community and their national rights for over a century, but they have lost at every decisive moment. Poor quality leadership has always been one reason. Political immaturity reflected in fighting within the community is another constant problem. Massive and brutal use of force by Israel has helped fracture Palestinian society and turn some of its groups into desperados who will even fight themselves to maintain a modicum of control over their increasingly restricted and empty lives. Disarray and weakness among their Arab supporters have also been problems at times. The international community’s virtual indifference to the consequences of Israel’s harsh policies makes the entire regional context more conducive to such irrational and self-destructive Arab behavior.

This is a dark day for the Palestinians, but not the end of the line. When they hit bottom – and they are almost there – the Palestinians will find better leadership that can regain their cohesion and credibility, and their self-respect. From the rubble of their political organizations’ criminal attacks against their own people, the Palestinians will recognize soon that living in a tree house is exciting for a nine-year-old child but is very unbecoming for a national political movement, and is a recipe for oblivion if it is not stopped and reversed soon.

August 5th, 2008, 11:58 pm


Alex said:


I agree with QN … we learned lessons from past failures of the peace process. This time Syria will give the process all its attention. If it does nto work out, then we will not sign a Camp David II … but we will not do much “resistance” … we will wait again… terrible things will happen all over the Middle East, and Israelis and Americans will realize they have to try harder to appreciate the need to finally settle the remaining conflicts.

But there IS a chance for a comprehensive settlement. It would be a mistake to not try.

You have high expectations (one state solution), and I think you totally lost hope in Arab leaders, which is understandable.

But really, I don’t think Bashar will disappoint you too much …

August 6th, 2008, 12:13 am


alle said:

Is it just me, or is the next thread (about Suleiman, Fisk etc) closed for comments? I was about to ask J. Landis if he would care to expand on his Jpost quote: “Landis said that Suleiman had played an important role the first two years of Bashar Assad’s regime, serving ‘as a sort of chief of staff’ but had played a less prominent role since then.” … but I couldn’t open comments.

Anyway: from where does the whole sniper-with-a-silencer-on-a-yacht story come originally? Not saying it isn’t true, just saying it’s pretty extravagant, and it surprises me that it is already considered an established fact…

And contrary to Alex, I think it would be nice to see some uncontrolled speculation and rumor-mongering on gen. Suleiman’s role & supposed importance. If we can’t make sense of it, we might as well enjoy ourselves.

August 6th, 2008, 1:53 am


Alex said:

You are right ALLE

Now comments will be enabled.

And have fun speculating if you want : )

Here, I’ll summarize for you all the hypotheses we heard so far:

1) Some Israelis are reporting that Israel killed him because he was liaison officer between Syria and Hizbollah
2) Some in the “Syrian opposition” are saying that the regime killed him, because Syria is a mafia state and this proves it.
3) Trustquest thinks he was a mole.
4) Those who do not like Iran much claimed Iran killed him to revenge the killing of Mughnyieh and to warn Syria to not go too far in the peace process.

Anyone for Junblatt? … Prince Bandar? … Dick Cheney? … UFOs?

August 6th, 2008, 1:58 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Not only was it a sniper-with-a-silencer-on-a-yacht, but the assassin had a frosty martini glass in his left hand as he aimed his high-powered rifle at the secluded beach. Meanwhile, a sultry Scandinavian blonde nuclear scientist was massaging his shoulders, and Burt Bacharach was playing in the background…

When the deed was done, the yacht transformed into a submarine and nary a trace of the diabolical due was left behind…

[cue music]

August 6th, 2008, 2:01 am


Sami D said:

Dear Shai,

Thanks for your sincere message. I think you raise important points that must be addressed. But we have disagreements. In short, any argument for real peace must face the reality that the conflict is largely one of conquered (Palestinians) and conqueror (Israel), victim and victimizer, powerless and powerful. And that the conquerors will not relinquish conquest simply because they can be convinced through negotiations; only demonstration of serious resistance can do that, as Hezbulla and 1973 Egypt have demonstrated.

Shai wrote:

1. If the Israeli-Palestinian track is standing-still, with no hope in sight, should any other track be explored?
2. If an end to the state-of-war between Israel and Syria (and possibly Lebanon) can be reached, through a peace agreement, should it not be sought while the Occupation is still in place?

The reason the Palestinian track has no hope in sight is precisely because Israel has not accepted stopping its conquest, not because there are some outside circumstances or conditions beyond the controls of anybody (least of all the powerful Israel). The Palestinians are so weak and isolated that whatever they did has proven limited or containable/sustainable by Israel, which is able to control it through walls, economic and food suffocation, one-sided treaties and agreements, meetings and negotiations, and other tools used by conquerors to subdue the conquered. Seeking a separate peace between Syria and Israel means weakening the Palestinians even further, and making peace with them beyond “no hope in sight”. Israeli repression and colonization after Camp David “peace” has only increased, afterall.

Shai wrote:

3. Is it not conceivable (in fact, quite logical) that if Israel and Syria reach an agreement, Syria can begin to assist both the Israelis and the Palestinians overcome their differences? This is especially relevant due to Syria’s close relationship with Hamas.

Syria “assisting” “both sides” to overcome their “differences”, makes it sound like the issue is one of two friends having a little disagreement, and now a third, a totally made-over Syria, can serve as mediator. “Come on now guys”, Bashar, now a “statesman” and “moderate” leader, will tell the sides: “you’re good friends; stop fighting and shake hands; remember the good’ol days of friendship …”.. (and maybe like Rabin on the White House lawn, Olmert-Netanyahu will again pretend to reluctantly extend a handshake to their former foes in perfect theatre, for another 15 years of “process”, now aimed at cementing Israeli conquest and Palestinian destitution for good). The issue is conquest, conqueror and conquered, domination and dominated, rights and wrongs, not two semi-equal side having “differences” about minor real estate issues. The issue is, again, when will Israel accept to stop its conquest.

Shai wrote:

4. If an Israeli leader is able to convince 50.1% of Israelis to give back the Golan now in return for peace with Syria, should Syria reject this offer, until a just solution is found to the Palestinian problem (no matter how long that may take)? In other words, should both sides miss this opportunity?

This assumes that the problem is about a peace-loving Israeli leader trying to convince his public, who for some reason does not support peace, to accept the treaties, to accept that the bad Arabs have finally seen the wrong of their ways and are repenting. In reality, Israeli leaders should simply be telling their public that conquest is wrong, that domination is evil, that stealing is bad – and that Israel has been engaging in all of these, and must now repent and begin reparation. But they won’t of course. Conquest are not reversed based on the conquerors suddenly undergoing a born-again experience, but through resistance.

As for convincing the Israeli public, if that’s really the issue, then it is not hard to do, especially in military democracies such as the US and Israel. Propaganda will smoothly do the trick, as Herman Goering once explained. For example, “Saddam will in no time produce a mushroom cloud over New York, or the PLO continue to rain bombs on Israel unprovoked pre-June 1982 ..” and the fearful people will immediately rally behind the venerable leader who will soon slaughter the beast and emerge victorious.

Using language of self-defense, fear, defending the right of the weak, people can be convinced of almost anything, (unless things are glaringly in the opposite direction). When the leaders of democracies need to attack a weaker nation, they can sell it as defense, or pre-emption, or as humanitarian, or to spread freedom and democracy, etc. Anything the enemy does to mitigate the situation is just a bluff (like Israel rebuffing all the Syria and Arab overtures for peace or Saddam re-allowing inspectors and handing inventories of his weapons); that “we must respond” otherwise fear sending the wrong message that we’re weak, or we must pre-empt the enemy before he builds WMD, etc, etc.

On the other hand, when Arab leaders have demonstrated ample subservience to US-Israeli interest, and/or that they could be a real nuisance if not dealt with quick, the leaders of democracies can easily convince their people that Arab leaders want peace. Suddenly after 1973 war, Sadat can be trusted and peace can be signed, and with the help of Sadat jumping hoops and doing what the Israelis ask for theatrical effects like visiting Jerusalem (implicitly accepting it as Israel’s capital), then the trick is complete. Suddenly after the Palestinians erupted in 1987 intifada, proving a very bad PR for Israel, Arafat can now be trusted for a handshake with the master as a worthy statesman (then alternating between “statesman” and “terrorist”, depending on his acquiescence/lack of to further demands by Israel).

Shai wrote:

5. Why are Abu Mazen, Hamas, Hezbollah, and even Iran, not putting up a fight in attempt to dissuade Syria from signing an agreement with Israel? Is it because they do understand that the Palestinians will not be “sold out”?

Good question. To one level or another, each party finds that its power is limited compared to Israel’s. Each party is, more or less, tempted at to sell out the other, especially when the price exacted by Israel could be quite high. And each party is afraid the others will sell them out. Abu Mazen’s opinion, I am afraid, has no value whatsoever, since he agrees with everybody who’s more powerful than him. Hamas is too weak to alienate any Arab power, and knows has no leverage over Syria. Hezbollah’s power is tied with Syria and Iran, and can’t really push either of them much. As for Iran, how do we know it is not attempting to dissuade Syria from signing a peace treaty with Israel? How much power does Iran really have over Syria to convince it anyway? Anyway Iran agreed to the international consensus of 1967 borders. But the question also assumes Iran is deeply troubled by loss of Palestinian right to the degree it is willing to accept being destroyed by Israel and the US. For Iran, Palestine is less of a nationalistic issue for it as for Arabs; it is more immediately concerned with trying to control Israeli-US hegemony of the region, than work for Palestinian rights.

If one must solve the problem track-by-track, (and I don’t see why, if Israel cares about real peace that is) one should at least start at the core, not at the periphery: First, the Palestinian, then everything else. Unless the issue for Israel is getting rid of the periphery, to make the core easier to devour? More accurately, first Israel must accept international law, must accept that it ethnically cleansed Palestine, not merely occupied the 22% that remained of their land in 1967. Israel then must move to implement international decrees, must give Palestinians restitution, recognize their rights to their land, water, not just the West Bank. Only if real peace is of interest.

August 6th, 2008, 2:58 am


Sami D said:

Qifa wrote:

It may be satisfying to deconstruct the rhetoric from time to time and remind ourselves of how low we’ve sunk. But in my opinion this is a useless exercise if we can’t generate concrete alternatives to the strategies that we malign.

Dear Qifa, Deconstructing the propaganda of the aggressor might indeed be satisfying, but more fundamentally it is an important part of understanding the situation and what treaties we are agreeing to. Most people I run into, even from our region, seem to have been caught in the web of propaganda. It is important they understand what they are repeating. Hence, shaking the rhetoric of the conqueror out of our vocabulary is important. And is our willingness, wittingly or otherwise, to engage in that propaganda, implied in the admission “how low we’ve sunk” intended as an opiate to help us swallow our surrender, which we’re molding as an alternative strategy for ending this conflict? I will not propose strategies, nor do I know what people at the resistance front should do. Neither will I tell defenseless civilians how much sacrifice they should accept, or pretend that there’s a magic formula outside of resistance and loss of life/property. So, granted, “concrete alternative strategies” are limited (but not totally zero as Hezbulla have demonstrated) in the face of a formidable enemy, which displayed utter barbarism and in the face of absolute Arab division and impotence. But just because I don’t have exact concrete alternatives, I will not pretend that all Israel seeks is honest negotiations, that surrender is a strategy for liberation, however cushioned in the language of peace that surrender is.

Jad Wrote:

can’t anything be done taking the “peace process” choice without bowing?

Only if you think that a conqueror can be convinced to end his conquest through meetings and joint dinners with the conquerors. I regret dear Jad that I don’t have a magic pill or an easy solution, outside of what conquered people throughout history have done: Resistance and massive sacrifice.

Dear Alex, We certainly all hope you are right but doubt that conquerors can be convinced through negotiations. I understand the price is high, and people don’t want to die. But, conquerors are not naïve to be satisfied without anything less surrender, semi- or full. I will try to respond to your points in more detail, tomorrow maybe. Good night for now.

August 6th, 2008, 3:25 am


Zenobia said:

many good points. But sometimes, it seems that you are reifying the concept of “conqueror” a bit much. You are treating it as a static thing with no nuances, that is perfectly knowable and consistent.

The conqueror does this; the conqueror does that, thinks this way and reacts only in one way. This too concrete conceptualization shuts down or certainly narrows considerably the perception of other possibilities for outcomes or predictions. The “conqueror” is in fact made up of individuals who are humans. And as such – have some capacity to surprise, however remote that possibility may appear in the short span of our current times.

August 6th, 2008, 7:18 am


Shai said:

Dear Sami,

Thank you for the (very) detailed response. I wish the two sides of the conflict were represented by people like yourself and myself, because we do see things very similarly. However (there had to be a “however”, right?), please do not find offense at my suggestion, but I think you are not being realistic in your expectation from leaders and from people. I completely agree that this is a case of a powerful conqueror and a powerless conquered. I think much more should be expected of the first, and little if anything from the latter. It is the Palestinians, first and foremost, that have been wronged, that have suffered terribly, in ways incomparable to Israel and Israelis. This is indeed a reality of two very unequal parties.

But, so far you and I are talking facts. We haven’t discussed the emotional realms at play which, I believe, you are seriously underestimating. Yes, most Israelis act as conquerors do, feeling some innate superiority-complex over their fellow Arabs, both at home and outside it. Yes, most Israelis are still treating the Golan (not the West Bank) as a territory that “belongs” to them now, and not to its rightful owners, the Syrian people. There is nothing about this feeling and behavior that attests to weakness on behalf of Israelis. Yet, most if not all of these Israelis, feel the threatened side. You see, as racist as it may sound (and is, in fact), to the majority of Israelis, a Palestinian is the same as a Syrian, a Jordanian, a Lebanese, or a Kuwaiti. They are all Arab, they all want us dead or gone, and they’re all ready to mobilize against us at any moment, should their leaders call upon them to do so (not only heads of state, but also spiritual leaders). Most Israelis still feel great fear towards Arabs, and it makes no difference if it is a wealthy Saudi with F-15’s parked in his garage, or a poor Palestinian father of 5, with barely enough income to feed his children one good meal a day.

It is on this emotional realm, as irrational as it may be, that we must traverse. We cannot avoid it. We can let 50 years go by, and hope that no war will occur to again awaken this innate fear and distrust towards Arabs, but we know it won’t happen. Israelis must be changed. They must go through a psychological “therpay”, which treats their skewed conception of reality, gets rid of their irrational fear, and brings them to a place from which they can begin to feel safe, and to finally contribute to the construction of a safer Middle East, rather than the opposite. A courageous leader in Israel is not enough. We’ve already seen Rabin, Sharon, and Olmert, tell Israelis that we cannot rule over another people, that it is wrong. And yet, the Occupation goes on. Telling Israelis the “hard truth” is not enough. It is barely the beginning. Israelis must experience reality, and they can only do that through interaction with “the other side”. It is rare that Israelis and Arabs sit across the table, and discuss their differences. As you suggested, Israelis and Palestinians can’t really engage in such “discussions”, because they are very unequal parties. But this is precisely why Israel and Syria can, and should, talk about peace. Syria has proven itself much more formidable an enemy than the Palestinians have (even though I believe you underestimate the success Palestinians have had in resisting Israel since the first Intifada), and therefore Israel does look at Syria at eye-level. The only reason Israelis snice Rabin’s days are willing to give up on the Golan (and in his years it was the majority of Israelis), is because of the resistance, and Syria’s participation in funding and supporting groups such as HA and Hamas. So I agree with you, Israelis haven’t suddenly become peace-loving philanthropists. They had to first see and feel the alternative.

There are but very few opportunities in history to make peace between bitter enemies, and I believe we seem to be going thruogh such a period once again (last time was a decade ago). We are not close to ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, as we both agree that can only be achieved by resolving the Palestinian problem (probably through a two-state solution). But if we come to accept that in order to begin chipping away at Israel’s innate fear (again, irrational as it may be), we may need to bring it a step closer to other Arabs in the region, and to its own dream of living securely in its own borders. Egypt and Jordan have long stopped being efficient in having any kind of influence over Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. Perhaps it is time for Syria to try. If there is peace between Israel and Syria, the latter will finally be in a position to do that. Khadaffi once joked (or maybe it wasn’t a joke to him) that the Arab League should invite Israel to become a member state, and that this way, it might fear the Arabs less. The closer Israel gets to other Arab nations, the closer, I believe, we’ll be to ending our Occupation of Palestine, and the suffering of the Palestinian people. Again, you need to trust me when I talk about the emotional issues that deeply influence the rationality of most Israelis. You needn’t agree with it, but you should at least accept it as reality.

When you speak of the conqueror that has to change, rather than the conquered, you are talking rationally, and you are talking about justice (what is right). But as we were taught when we were little children, so much of life is not about being right, but about being smart. In other words, in order to get somewhere, you may have to put away the principles just long enough, and to act differently. Clearly, no Palestinian will ever forgive Israel for what it has done, until a just solution is found. I am not suggesting that if only we can get to that lawn on the White House, everything will be “Ham-di-la”, and all will be forgiven. Of course not. But in order for my people to change, to have the courage to look inward and see reality as it really is, and not as we’d like it to be, or as we’ve been taught over the past 60 years, then we need to be closer to any Arab nation that is still considered an enemy. If Kuwait offered to make peace with Israel, we have to jump on it. If Syria offers it, then of course we have to take it. Mind you, I’m talking as if al we have to do is say “yes”, and tomorrow morning the Golan becomes Syrian, and Israelis are travelling to Damascus in their hords. We are still far away from that, but as long as Israelis are not ending the Occupation, and Hamas and Fatah are still fighting, and the Israeli puppet Abu Mazen cannot deliver, then we must at least try other paths, which in any case (sooner or later) we must traverse. If we made peace tomorrow morning with the Palestinians, by leaving the entire West Bank, and by finding an acceptable solution to the refugees, we’d still be at war with Syria, because of the Golan. With all due respect to the Palestinians, I’m sure Assad, and probably the majority of the Syrian people, care more about getting back the Golan, than about the Palestinians getting back every last inch of the West Bank.

It is of course easy for me to sit here, in my nice airconditioned home, on my fancy laptop, and talk of acting “smartly”, rather than “justly”, and preaching endlessly about Israeli fear that has to be addressed, no matter how ridiculous a notion that may be or not. And in a way, because I do know that my nation and my people are the conqueror, and because I am able to look myself in the mirror each morning and feel a terrible shame for what we have done, and are still doing, to make another people suffer, it is not easy for me to ask you to undestand me – it should be the other way around. But I honestly think, Sami, that there is no alternative. If the Arab world was united like it was in the 1960’s and early 70’s, and could truly pose an existential threat to Israel (and prove it by going to war, like in 73), then perhaps that would be a faster and more efficient way of changing Israel. But since this is not the case, and as effective as the various resistance movements have been, still Israelis are living in the West Bank, and on the Golan, we must consider alternatives, even if they seem farthest from just.

I believe peace with Syria, will help more Israelis find the courage to look inward, and to see what they’ve been doing to the Palestinians, far better than any Israeli leader could, by giving this speech or another. Plus, unlike in the 1990’s, when Madrid and Oslo had brought upon us a new spirit of hope and courage, today Israelis are numb, and apathetic to their surrounding. They distrust and suspect not only their neighbors, but even their own leaders. They fear Arabs much more than before (because of the resistance), and the most that has achieved are unilateral withdraws from Lebanon and Gaza. And we’ve seen what that has done. We need bilateral and multilateral agreements now, we need to have Israelis feeling more secure, and we need Syria’s help in reducing Israeli fears of the Palestinians’ “real” intentions. If Syria is the only nation on earth that can bring Israelis and Hamas and Hezbollah to the table, we must allow them to do so. They don’t need to be equal parties. It is enough that they are bitter enemies, that fear one another, and have to one day make peace with each other. Without this, there can be no peace, of that I am absolutely sure.

Sami, we both think the same. It’s now not about the “what”, but about the “how”. You know how critical I am of my own country. If I thought there was another way to make us change, I wouldn’t be afraid to put it on the table (even going as far as suggesting that maybe Israelis must experience another terrible war, for instance). But I don’t think this will bring us closer to our destination, if anything, under the current psyche (of Israelis at least), it’ll only serve the opposite purpose. I want the suffering of the Palestinians to end no less than many here. My hope, is that peace with Syria will bring us closer to that goal, than farther away. Israel, and Israelis, will not feel more comfortable with the Occupation, the day afer they sign an agreement with Syria. If I’m reading things correctly, they will feel the opposite, and the long overdue process will begin at last.

August 6th, 2008, 10:17 am


why-discuss said:

Every time I see an Israeli interviewed on Al Jazira he is fulminating and repeating until he looses his breath like AIG: we dont torture children, we are a democracy, we have laws, arabs in Israel have same rights as non arabs, we don’t desecrate moslem cemeteries etc.. The word democracy seems to be the mantra many isrealis used to try to forget that Israel is before everything a colonial power illegally occupying lands and abusing its inhabitants.

Mohmmad Sleiman killing
There are a lot of yatch owners , arabs or Israelis, who hate the negotiations going on between Syria and Israel. It could well be some of them.

August 6th, 2008, 11:33 am


Sami D said:


“it seems that you are reifying the concept of “conqueror” a bit much. You are treating it as a static thing with no nuances, that is perfectly knowable and consistent… The “conqueror” is in fact made up of individuals who are humans. And as such – have some capacity to surprise, however remote that possibility may appear in the short span of our current times.”

Dear Zenobia, I will agree with you that I rely on the “conqueror” conception too much. My reason is that many people (including myself sometimes!) often forget that this is the case, and let optimism delude us into believing that conquerors can change due to self reflection. We can wait for surprises, but let’s not forget the reality of what history has shown. Namely, that while all conquerors are made up of humans, conquests never stopped and seldom ended due to that, or due to sudden shift-to-conscientiousness of conquerors. They ended only when the price of conquest was raised too high for the conqueror. Israel returned rights ONLY when the Arabs rebelled; if Syria gets its land and water back, it would be because of Hezbulla and Iran, and that the reason the Palestinians will get the shaft is because they haven’t been able to make the price for Israel high enough (and the rights they demand are more dear to Israel than Sinai or the Golan). Conquerors don’t usually surprise their subjects with sudden shifts to benevolence. Rights are taken back, unfortunately, only by force.

August 6th, 2008, 1:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Sami habibi,

When you say…

But just because I don’t have exact concrete alternatives, I will not pretend that all Israel seeks is honest negotiations, that surrender is a strategy for liberation, however cushioned in the language of peace that surrender is.

… you are more or less admitting that you have no good ideas about what should be done. And so I repeat: while it is satisfying to be high and mighty, it is basically meaningless if you don’t propose an alternative.

I’m not blaming you: I don’t have any ideas either at the moment, besides investing a little bit of optimism in Bashar and hoping that he knows what he is doing, vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Finally I would also gently suggest that no rhetoric is innocent. The conqueror/conquered dichotomy and the language that you are using is not free of its moral and political implications. As you said, the Palestinian cause has long functioned as a fig leaf for more than one dictatorship in the region. Don’t you feel, just a little, like you are playing into the hands of those who would like to see the status quo continue?

In fact, there is something similar about the idealism that you espouse and the idealism of the neocon movement.

[WAIT, I’ll explain 🙂 ].

The neocons talked about democracy and institutions and a new era and destroying tyranny, etc, and many people believed them and empowered them to execute their plans, which were not nearly as pure and just as their slogans. Similarly, many of the tyrants in the Middle East talk about conquerors and conquered, achieving justice for Palestine etc., any many people believe them and empower them (as if they had a choice!) to execute their plans, which are not nearly as pure and just as their slogans. You see what I mean.

I don’t count you in that band of tyrants, obviously. 🙂

But I think you should be aware that your rhetoric is also … rhetoric, and it has been put in the service of plenty of injustice, historically speaking.

There’s plenty of rhetoric floating around. What we’re short on, is solutions, ideas, fixes, etc. And, of course, leadership.

August 6th, 2008, 3:20 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Karim

Your answer to Jad epitomizes a standard disturbing cliche. You start by demonizing Iranian people as being Rafidis’ and argue that a good relationship between Syria and Iran is “unnatural” mainly because Syria reject Rafidizm. Then you completely switch tone and declare your love of Iranian culture and people and identify the regime as being the enemy. Well, the majority of Iranians are Rafidis, except for secular Iranians. Please be consistent.

If your argument with the Iranian regime is because it is proselytizing rafidi-sm, you should take a much stronger stance against KSA, whose proselytizing Wahhabi worship of religion is the main reason for deforming Sunni Islam in most of the Islamic world into an unrecognizable nightmare. They pose more threat and danger to Sunni Islam than mere thousands who switch from sunni to shia and risk reducing the size of the tribe.

Dear Sami D
You give us much to think about. I have much to say but I do not seem to find a way to start. Being the slowest thinker on this forum, I guess I’ll have to wait until the weekend to gather my thoughts and formulate my comments. In the meantime, i think both Qifa, Jad, Zenobia and especially Shai also gave us much to think about.

Of your comments, one intrigued me the most and that was:

Only a one-state, which would necessarily involve a major scaling down of the racist component of Zionism, can be the minimally fair solution

Can you please elaborate on this point. The word “Zionist” and “Zionism” have become pejorative in Arabic lexicon. Even when our intellectuals recite the historical context of the movement, they do no more than recitation, and fail, intentionally, or otherwise, to divorce their analysis from the emotions that have accompanied the terms over the years. In our discourse, the word Zionist and Zionisms are thrown at Isreali’s or at friends of Israel in the same manner the word “terrorist” is thrown at us with the intent of disarming the opponent and conjuring images of violence, suffering, injustice, and you name it. In both cases, logic and understanding are the first victims of this salvo of loaded terms. I am not arguing for or against Zionism, nor am I denying its impact on the conflict. All i am trying to do is to identify whether our language of discourse, on both sides, is part and parcel of the larger problem. The phrase “racist component” tells me that you are aware of this and I am interested in your elaboration.

August 6th, 2008, 3:33 pm


Karim said:

Dear OTW,i love the iranian people ,and i’m very impressed by the elegance of their women,the regime is not representative of the reality and more and more iranians are becoming allergic to the religion thanks to the hypocrisy of the iranian clerks…and i have no problem with shia iranians(not insulter of the sahaba and the honor of the prophet) ,there are good intellectuals among them like the sociologist Ali Shariati,he criticized traditional shia’ism.And the Iranian culture is not a religion ,for example one of my favourite music is the persian music and the Baluch music is nice and the same for the kurdish iranian music ,they are iranians and sunnis.BTW,most of the poets,thinkers and scientists of the classical iranian culture were Sunnis.
Yes i consider Wahabism as a depravation but i could not equal it with rafidism,you had an idea from the youtube videos.And in Syria we are not concerned because Wahabism has always been rejected by our scholars.And most of the scholars who attacked rafidism were Sufis.(like the persian Mawlana Jalal Din Al Rumi ,founder of the Mevlevi order or mawlawiya)

August 6th, 2008, 4:48 pm


Off The Wall said:

Dear Karim

Yes i consider Wahabism as a depravation but i could not equal it with rafidism,you had an idea from the youtube videos

To me, the videos were offensive, not in the ideological sense, but in their obsurdity and in their attempt to enshrine one group of important poeple in our history by insulting another, as important. I find them more like tabloid, which i find offensive. But their danger is not intrinsic, it is more in the way their oponents chose to respond the them. Wahabi ideology, on the other hand, is inherently and initrinsicly dangourous and if we are to wait until they reform as you have argued time and again, it would be very long time, and they would by the have completely destroyed whatever good in Islam. They have poisened the relegious environment in Syria, Egypt (moreso), Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria, and so on. They are powerful and rich. They should be fought by you as a “moderate” moslim before I, the secular, humanist, fight them.

August 6th, 2008, 5:53 pm


Jad said:

Karim, I’m not sure if your last comment about “your love to Iranian people” is all Iranian or just the Sunnis’ iranian? (good intellectuals among them …he criticized traditional “”””shia’ism”””””….the Iranian culture is not a religion…they are iranians and “”””sunnis”””””. “””””BTW,most of the poets,thinkers and scientists of the classical iranian culture were Sunnis.”””””)

August 6th, 2008, 6:14 pm


Karim said:

Jad,i’m not neutral but what i really meant are the Iranian people in general.But Of course i have no love for hypocrite bigots,muslims or other than muslims.
In the Ottoman islamic schools of the elite,even in Syria ,persian language was taught and the mesnevi of Jalal Din Rumi is written in farsi.
OTW,wahabi extremism is dangerous but the reason of its relative success is the lack of democracy in the arab world.Our people are humiliated and without hopes ,these resentment make them receptive to radical ideologies that preach the culture of death.
Only a liberal democracy can bring peace and development to our world.The arab regimes more than bush or israel are accountable for this mess.

August 6th, 2008, 7:02 pm


Sami D said:

Alex wrote:

But there IS a chance for a comprehensive settlement. It would be a mistake to not try. You have high expectations (one state solution), and I think you totally lost hope in Arab leaders, which is understandable. But really, I don’t think Bashar will disappoint you too much …

3azizi Alex, If indeed there’s a chance for a comprehensive and FAIR settlement, it would definitely be a mistake not to try. Even if there aren’t, I think it still doesn’t hurt to always try and to explore, but provided we’re always reminded of the reality of the situation and what history has repeatedly shown. I don’t see Israel and the US just agreeing to anything beyond token land return to Syria. My high expectations are only inline with minimal fairness as I outlined above, especially with regard to issues of refugees, 1948 Palestinians, settlements, equal rights. The only reason my expectations (one state) are high is that Israel has a lot of muscle, not because what is being proposed falls far below the standard of minimal fairness. I realize it will be a while for that to happen, but already we’ve seen “post-Zionist” currents in Israel. So, nothing is impossible. I may indulge in the optimism about Bashar, but again I would also keep that optimism restrained, or more accurately grounded in reality of the balance of powers and of what conquerors have, throughout history, conceded and under what terms.

P.S. Shai, thanks for your response. I doubt I will get the chance to comment, (haven’t read it yet) but will try. I have to pick and choose at this stage.

August 6th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Sami D said:

Qifa Nabki wrote:

“As you said, the Palestinian cause has long functioned as a fig leaf for more than one dictatorship in the region. Don’t you feel, just a little, like you are playing into the hands of those who would like to see the status quo continue?”

Dear Qifa,

I think you said it best earlier, that the idealist rhetoric serves as a reality check. Too often people start to believe what they are repeating, as they slowly and unwittingly get tangled into the web of Orwellian constructs erected by the US and Israel. What my hope here was to remind people of the basics and reality of this conflict, lest they are lost in the rhetoric of compromise and excitement over the purported deals that will end all bloodshed. We want to believe in Bashar because other options seem to be out; but let’s also remember the odds and the temptation to sell out, and what history teaches. I am all for a peaceful solution, to persuade Israel to mend its ways regarding the Palestinians. I simply think Israel, like other conquerors will not accept. (Anyway, a peace that is based on selling out the Palestinians is likely to be unstable in the long run, and will involve additional dictatorial power to keep those who might rebel against the practices of our new friend Israel.)

As for strategy, well, I am not a military planner, so I wouldn’t have been able to tell that the best solution pre-1973 would be to launch a war on Israel, or pre-2000 to utilize suicide missions and attacks on Israeli vehicles as the best way to eject Israel, or pre-2006 that kidnapping soldiers is the best way to convince Israel to accept some releasing prisoners. On all these counts I would say things produced results. Would anyone, aside from people on the front who are experienced and familiar with the options on the ground, know what the best strategy would be? Is it opening the Golan front, and arming some groups to kidnap some soldiers? I don’t know.

I do feel more than “just a little”, in agreement with you, that the rhetoric of rights and resistance plays into the hands of some dictators (hence my intentional fig-leaf comment). But then, rhetoric of non-resistance and of acquiescence has also played into the hands of other dictators. So dictators will find whatever reason to justify dictatorial rule. And just because some thug adopts the rhetoric of democracy and freedom should not mean we ought support anti-democratic and anti-freedom movements, cutting off the nose to spite the face. (I know this is not what you intended :))

August 6th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Sami D wrote:

I do feel more than “just a little”, in agreement with you, that the rhetoric of rights and resistance plays into the hands of some dictators (hence my intentional fig-leaf comment). But then, rhetoric of non-resistance and of acquiescence has also played into the hands of other dictators. So dictators will find whatever reason to justify dictatorial rule. And just because some thug adopts the rhetoric of democracy and freedom should not mean we ought support anti-democratic and anti-freedom movements, cutting off the nose to spite the face.


I’m glad that we are in agreement, then.

As I said, I enjoy your comments, not only because they are a reality check but also because you’re a good writer and a clear thinker.

I guess your comment leads to one conclusion: rhetoric is for the birds.


What is needed is cold hard talk, plans, brass tacks, blueprints, etc. This is what is currently missing from the debate. The Syrians, who are pretty tight-lipped on even their most loquacious days, have given no real hint about how the current talks are going to produce a solution on the Palestinian front. Everyone here is putting on a brave face and assuring each other that “Bashar would never sign a Camp David II,” but we simply don’t know what the alternative will be. They’re proceeding with these talks… full steam ahead! I’m willing to wait and see.

August 6th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Sami D said:

OffTheWall wrote:

Of your comments, one intrigued me the most and that was: “Only a one-state, which would necessarily involve a major scaling down of the racist component of Zionism, can be the minimally fair solution” Can you please elaborate on this point. The word “Zionist” and “Zionism” have become pejorative in Arabic lexicon. … All i am trying to do is to identify whether our language of discourse, on both sides, is part and parcel of the larger problem. The phrase “racist component” tells me that you are aware of this and I am interested in your elaboration.

Dear OffTheWall,

I think, in line with your excellent question, a return to definitions is in order. Indeed Zionism has negative and pejorative connotations in the Arab world. Personally, I use it to refer to what Zionism basically is according to its followers and what it meant for the Palestinians. Zionism is a political movement that aimed to create in Palestine a Jewish state for Jews, to stem then the seemingly irremediable anti-Semitism. All fine and dandy until we recognize that there’s problem: What will happen to the native Palestinians, the indigenous people of the land?

More or less, the entire history of the Palestine-Israel (and Arab-Israel) conflict from then on, follows from this question. Indeed Zionism implied and produced the eventual ethnic cleansing and conquest of Palestine, and the turning of Palestinians into the persecuted, rejected refugees scattered across the region. Today Zionism to Palestinians means not just the 1948 ethnic cleansing, but the additional on-going conquest of the West Bank/Jerusalem, and the building of settlements, the water theft, the imprisonment, starvation and humiliation of an entire population of dispossessed people, the checkpoints, the tortures, the maze of permits, the uprooting of colossal number of trees, and the home demolitions.

But Zionism also means that those “lucky” Palestinians with Israeli citizenship (20 percent of the population) today are discriminated against based on them not being Jews. They account for way more than their proportion of the poor, their land was confiscated, crops poisoned, villages leveled. There were even programs to thin out their numbers and “encourage” them to emigrate, let alone the first twenty years living under military rule. They are discriminated against in employment, their towns get the short end of development funds, can’t marry who they want, can’t bring back their expelled relative in family reunion, can’t choose where they can live and are way under-represented in upper echelon positions in academia, companies, etc. If they demonstrate demanding to end some abuse by Israel, they can get shot and killed, (whereas if radical Jews demonstrate with torches heading towards the house of a Palestinian Knesset member, they are tolerated.). Simply because they are non-Jews, a fifth column outcasts on their own land.

On the other hand, if some tribe in Peru showed some linkage to Judaism, and a rabbi approves, then they’re automatically entitled to emigrate to Israel, get citizenship and full rights — the same rights denied to non-Jewish Palestinians. Again, in the name of Zionism, Israel’s state ideology. Even when it was found out that many of the hundreds of thousands Russian “Jews” immigrating to Israel were turning out not to be Jews (however a “Jew” is defined — another contentious issue), Israel didn’t mind. So long as they counted as “Jews” it would seem. Anyone to offset Palestinian numbers, and to preserve the “Jewish character” of the state in the face of “demographic threat” posed by Palestinian mothers’ wombs, is welcome by Israel.

All while Palestinian refugees sit behind barbed wires and inside closing-in walls, watching as their former homes and lands get populated by people from all over the world. These practices would be considered glaringly racist, but they just reflect what’s quite acceptable for the ideology of Zionism. This is why serious calls for peace between Israel and her prime victims, must include an end to Zionism.

So back to your question, I do believe there’s a non-racist component to Zionism: Namely, its Jewish nationalism aspect aimed at freeing Jews from anti-Semitism, however problematic a national-religious ideology might be, let alone the dwindling of global anti-Semitism which gave rise to Zionism in the first place. Issues with Zionism began when its followers chose an inhabited land, Palestine, to create their dream state – hence Arab hostility to it and the negative connotations in the term.

August 6th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Alex said:


Thank you for all your comments.

I will repeat what QN said above … if you are indeed willing to try, then we do not disagree much.

I expect a possible Palestinian state agreement within 2009… Jerusalem and Refugees will have to wait few more years.

Egypt and “the moderate Arabs” can work with Syria on that part and declare to their people that THEY got the Palestinians back their Palestine.

But it is really nothing more than a 50/50 possibility … nothing is certain.

August 6th, 2008, 8:30 pm


Alex said:

This article in Lebanese Al-Akhbar repeats some of the points we made in the article above.

“Saudi Arabia searches for its lost role”

السعوديّة تبحث عن دور مفقود

بوتين وبندر في موسكو الشهر الماضي (ألكسي دروزينين ــ نوفوستي)بوتين وبندر في موسكو الشهر الماضي (ألكسي دروزينين ــ نوفوستي)
أين السعودية اليوم من التطورات الإقليمية؟ هل لا تزال تمثّل ثقلاً في المنطقة بعد المتغيّرات المستجدّة خلال الأشهر القليلة الماضية؟ الجواب قد يكون سلبياً، وعرض بعض المعطيات داخل السعودية وخارجها يشير إلى أن الرياض تبحث عن دور وعن حلفاء جدد، ولا سيما أن العلاقة مع الحليف التاريخي، الولايات المتحدة، لم تعد، كما يبدو، على ما يرام

نيويورك ــ نزار عبود
الأشهر القليلة الماضية كانت كفيلة بإظهار انكفاء الدور السعودي الإقليمي بعد سلسلة من الإخفاقات في أكثر من ملف، إضافة إلى تراجع العلاقة بين الرياض وواشنطن، ما حتّم توجهاً سعوديّاً للحفاظ على ما بقي من المكانة، منها عرقلة مساعي الانفتاح الغربي على دول في المنطقة، وبالتحديد سوريا وإيران، والبدء في البحث عن حلفاء جدد مفترضين للتعويض عن التراجع في العلاقة مع الولايات المتحدة.
مؤشرات كثيرة في الآونة الأخيرة دلّلت على هذا التوجّه السعودي، ولعل أبرزها الاتفاق العسكري مع روسيا، الذي وقّعه الأمين العام لمجلس الأمن القومي السعودي، بندر بن سلطان، الشهر الماضي. اتفاق راجت أنباء عن ربطه بالعلاقات بين موسكو وطهران، واعتباره «رشوة» سعوديّة لروسيّا للتخفيف من انفتاحها على إيران.
رغم نفي الرياض وموسكو للأنباء التي أوردتها حينها صحيفة «كومرسانت» الاقتصادية الروسية، إلا أن للخبر ما يبرره في ظل القلق السعودي من الصعود الإقليمي الإيراني. كما أن الغاية السعودية من الصفقة تتجاوز «الرشوة» لتدخل في إطار «تنويع مصادر التسلح»، كما قال بندر، أو تنويع الحلفاء، كما يوحي المسار السياسي في المنطقة.
ومع مرور نحو شهر على الاتفاقية العسكرية، إلا أن الكثير من بنودها بقي غامضاً. فلا موسكو ولا الرياض نشرتا تفاصيل الصفقة الموقّعة في 14 تموز الماضي، خلال زيارة بندر إلى روسيا، كما لم تعرف قيمتها. لكن بعض المصادر الروسية والأميركية، وكذلك السعودية، قدرتها بأكثر من أربعة مليارات دولار. وقالت مصادر على صلة وثيقة بالعائلة الحاكمة في الرياض، إن «طائرات عمودية للنقل العسكري «أم آي ــ 17» ومروحيات الشحن والقتال «أم آي ــ 35» ستتصدر الاتفاقيات المرتقبة». وهناك اهتمام بشراء طائرات قتالية متطورة ودبابات من طراز «تي ــ 90». وأبرزت تلك المصادر اهتمام بندر بشراء أنظمة الدفاع الجوي الحديثة، ولا سيما من الطرازين الأحدث، «سام ــ 300» و»سام ــ 400». علماً بأن أيران ستتلقى النظام الأول في أوائل العام المقبل.
ولذلك دلالة كبيرة في المعادلة الاستراتيجية في الشرق الأوسط، إذ إن أنظمة الدفاع الصاروخية الروسية هي التي ستحمي المنشآت النووية الإيرانية. وعندما تنتقل إلى دولة مرتبطة عضوياً بالمنظومة الدفاعية الأميركية، فإنها تسعى، سواء عن قصد أو حسن نية، إلى خرق أسرارها التقنية ونقلها إلى خصوم غربيين يدرّبون سلاح الطيران السعودي.
مثل هذا السيناريو له ما يبرره في التاريخ، ولا سيما أن بندر نفسه كان وراء صفقات الصواريخ البحرية الصينية «سيلكوورم» في منتصف ثمانينيات القرن الماضي. وكانت تلك صدمة للأميركيين لأنها تمّت من دون علمهم وبقيت سراً. وقتها، أبرمت السعودية صفقات مع الصين لحساب العراق بعلم أميركي، وفي الوقت نفسه حصلت على صواريخ صينية أخرى لنفسها ما أثار غضب واشنطن واللوبي الإسرائيلي. وكانت الرياض تلجأ في علاقتها مع الصين إلى شراء الأسلحة نفسها التي كانت تتم بين الصين وإيران وتحوّلها إلى العراق بسعر أعلى لتضعف إيران من جهة، وتقوّي نظام صدام حسين من جهة أخرى.
ويبدو اليوم أن السعودية تخوض سباقاً مع الزمن لإثبات فعالية دورها في المنطقة، وأنها تستطيع أداء أدوار كبيرة لحسابات إقليمية ودولية؛ فالرياض تشعر بانزعاج بالغ من أي حوار غربي مع إيران وسوريا، ناهيك عن القلق من التعاون العسكري بين طهران وموسكو. كذلك، تشعر المملكة أن أي فك لعزلة طهران ودمشق سيكون على حساب مكانتها الاستراتيجية في المنطقة وقد يهدد كيانها بالخطر. ورأى مصدر سعودي مقرّب من العائلة الحاكمة أن المملكة تحرص على بناء «علاقات عسكرية وسياسية كبيرة مع موسكو التي تؤدي دوراً مؤثراً في مجلس الأمن الدولي، فضلاً عن كونها المصدر الأساسي الخارجي للتسلح بالنسبة إلى سوريا وإيران».
ولم يعد سراً أن الرياض سعت بدأبٍ لوقف محاولات فكّ العزلة على دمشق، الأمر الذي عبّر عنه وزير الخارجية الفرنسي برنار كوشنير صراحة، بعد الزيارة السريّة لوزير الخارجية السعودي سعود الفيصل وبندر بن سلطان إلى باريس قبل أيام من انعقاد قمّة الاتحاد من أجل المتوسط والقمّة التاريخية بين الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي ونظيره السوري بشار الأسد.
وتشير مصادر مطّلعة إلى أن الرجلين جاءا بهدف واحد هو «منع زيارة الرئيس السوري للعاصمة الفرنسية في 11 تموز، عارضين توقيع صفقات اقتصادية ضخمة مع الشركات الفرنسية على جميع الصعد». لكن ساركوزي كفّ يد كوشنير عن الملف السوري وواصل انفتاحه على دمشق وطهران، في تحوّل فرنسي أثار قشعريرة لدى رجال السياسة في الرياض.
المحاولات السعودية هذه، سواء مع موسكو أو باريس، ناتجة من إحساس الرياض بالتجاهل الأميركي لتوجّهاتها الإقليمية. ولم تجهد السعودية في إخفاء الانزعاج من البرودة الأميركية في التعاطي معها. وكان ذلك واضحاً في أكثر من موقف، فهي لم تستقبل الرئيس جورج بوش في أوائل أيار الماضي بالحفاوة التي كان يتوقّعها بالرغم من الرقص معه بالسيف. كما إنها رفضت طلب الرئيس الأميركي بزيادة إنتاج النفط، إذ تعهّدت الرياض بزيادة بمقدار مئتي ألف برميل يومياً فقط، بحجة أنها لا تمتلك طاقة إنتاج احتياطية، وأنها قادرة على تلبية طلبات السوق بكمية الإنتاج الحالية. وبدلاً من أن ينخفض سعر البرميل كما يتمنى الأميركيون، واصل صعوده مقترباً من حاجز الـ150 دولاراً. آنذاك عبّر بوش عن سخطه بخطاب ألقاه في شرم الشيخ مغال في التأييد لإسرائيل، مضعفاً وضع حلفائه الإقليميين.
السعودية عادت بعد مغادرة بوش للمنطقة، وتعهدت في قمة الغذاء، التي عقدت في روما في حزيران الماضي، برفع إنتاج النفط إلى 9.7 ملايين برميل يومياً حتى يهبط سعر النفط. أي بزيادة نصف مليون برميل يومياً. كما قدمت 500 مليون دولار لصندوق «أوبك» المخصص لإقراض الدول الفقيرة المتأثرة بارتفاع سعر الطاقة بفوائد ميسّرة.
وكان يمكن للرياض أن تقدم تلك التعهدات للرئيس الأميركي كهدية رمزية بمناسبة زيارته، إلا أنها لم تفعل وفضّلت القيام بمثل هذه المبادرة إفرادياً وفي إطار تجمّع عالمي. لكن مع ذلك فإن سعر النفط واصل ارتفاعه.
هبوط سعر النفط الحقيقي وقع مباشرة بعد الإعلان عن أن مساعد وزيرة الخارجية الأميركية، وليام بيرنز، سيزور فيينا من أجل الاجتماع بالمفاوض الإيراني سعيد جليلي حول البرنامج النووي. وترافق أيضاً مع حلّ مشكلة الأسرى اللبنانيين وعملية التهدئة في غزة واستئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سوريا وإسرائيل في تركيا.
منذ ذلك الحين والانفراج في سوق الطاقة يتواصل بوتيرة شعرت بها كل العواصم، ولا سيما مع تزايد الحديث عن إمكان تحقيق انفراج دولي واسع يشمل كل المسارات في الشرق الأوسط ولا يهمل وضع الاقتصاد العالمي المهدد بأفدح الأضرار.
انفراجات تبدو السعودية بعيدة عنها تماماً، ولا سيما أن دورها في المنطقة تميّز بعدد من الإخفاقات بدأت باتفاق مكة الفلسطيني في شباط 2007، الذي لم يصمد أكثر من أربعة أشهر، مروراً بقمّة دمشق الأخيرة، التي لم تفلح جهود الرياض في إفشالها، حتى إن مقاطعتها لم تنسحب على سائر القادة الخليجيين الذين حضروا لتكريس الرئاسة السوريّة للقمة العربية، وصولاً إلى مؤتمر الدوحة اللبناني، الذي كان الدور السعودي فيه لا يتجاوز دور مشاهد نشرات الأخبار.
فالسعودية فشلت، بالرغم من استثمار مئات ملايين الدولارات في لبنان وفي قضايا إقليمية أخرى ذات صلة، في بلوغ تسوية مناسبة لسياستها وبما يرضي الراعي الأميركي. وكان الأميركيون طيلة هذه المدة يدفعون ثمناً باهظاً في اقتصادهم وسمعتهم على الساحة الاستراتيجية الدولية. معطيات يضاف إليها إحجام السعودية عن إقامة علاقات مع العراق، ساهمت في إغضاب واشنطن.
إزاء هذا التآكل السريع في العلاقات الأميركية ـــــ السعودية، يبدو أن الرياض بدأت في إقامة استراتيجية إقليمية مستقلة تعيد الاعتبار إلى دورها الإقليمي. وبعض العارفين بالبيت السعودي يرون أن «الرياض أضحت في غاية التخبط بعد تلقي عدة انتكاسات لمصلحة خصومها الإقليميين». ويضيفون «صحيح أنها راكمت ثروات طائلة من عائدات النفط التي هطلت عليها في السنوات القليلة الماضية تؤهلها لأداء دور مؤثر على الساحة الدولية. لكن العاصمة السعودية لم تعتد الرقص السياسي المنفرد من قبل».
المعادلة الاستراتيجية اليوم جعلت الرياض معزولة سياسياً بالرغم من ثقلها النقدي الكبير. وتجلى ذلك بصورة واضحة عندما وقفت الولايات المتحدة في الأسابيع الماضية في وجه مشروع قرار سعودي في مجلس الأمن الدولي يندد بالاستيطان في فلسطين ويطالب بإيقافه. كان بوسع واشنطن الموافقة عليه، أو على الأقل إمراره بالامتناع عن التصويت، لأنه لا يخالف خريطة الطريق أو توصيات اللجنة الرباعية ولا حتى بيانات وزارة الخارجية الأميركية ذات الصلة. لكن امتعاض البيت الأبيض من خذلان الملك عبد الله للرئيس بوش، جعل الأميركيين، على ما يبدو، يلجأون إلى تحجيم الدور السعودي إلى أصغر ما يمكن.
ومع الاستهداف الأميركي للرياض، فإن السعودية تحاول البحث عن دور من خارج الفلك الأميركي. لكن لا يبدو أن محاولاتها تجد طريقها إلى النجاح، ولا سيما أن الحسابات الدولية في الأشهر القليلة الماضية، اختلفت كثيراً عما كانت عليه في السابق.
وإذا كانت الرياض تحاول شراء مواقف سياسية من باريس وموسكو في مقابل عقود تسلح وعقود بناء عملاقة لها ولشركائها في دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي، فإن تلك الدول باتت مقتنعة بأن ما تجنيه من علاقة مع لاعبين فاعلين في الشرق الأوسط أهم بكثير.
أما أوروبا والولايات المتحدة وآسيا فتدرك تماماً أن التوتر مع إيران وارتفاع سعر النفط بنتيجته بات يصيب الاقتصاد العالمي في مقتل. وخير مؤشر على ذلك هبوط أسعار المنازل في الولايات المتحدة بنحو 16 في المئة خلال أيار الماضي وحده، وما لذلك من تداعيات كارثية على أوضاع المصارف. فالصين تفقد بانهيار مصرفين متعثّرين يعملان في مجال التسليف العقاري الأميركي، هما «فريدي ماك» و«فاني ميه»، 400 مليار دولار. وتفقد روسيا فيهما نحو 100 مليار. واليابان 100 مليار. وتقدر خسائر الدول الخليجية بنحو 200 مليار دولار. ولقد سجّلت أخيراً اتصالات بين الخزانة الأميركية وحكومات الدول الخليجية لطمأنتها بأن الولايات المتحدة لن تسمح بانهيار المصرفين اللذين يتوليان قروضاً عقارية بقيمة 12 تريليون دولار.
لكن الكل يشتم رائحة الدم الأميركي بنتيجة هذا النزف المالي والسياسي والعسكري الحاصل. وهناك من يشعر بأن الولايات المتحدة قد تضطر قريباً إلى العودة مكسورة من الشرق الأوسط على طريقة هزيمة فيتنام. تعود لتلعق جراحها، وكلها عتب وسخط على الحلفاء العرب الذين، بحسب رأيها، لم يساهموا جديّاً بدفع أجندتها، سواء في لبنان أو فلسطين أو العراق.
أمام هذا الواقع، يقول دبلوماسي في نيويورك لـ«الأخبار» إن «السعودية تعيش خوفاً وهمياً من احتمال تعرضها لهجوم إقليمي. وتشعر أن واشنطن لن تستطيع الوقوف إلى جانبها في زمن الشدة. وبالتالي فإنها تحاول من جهة إضعاف خصومها الوهميين، إيران وسوريا، ومن جهة أخرى تسعى إلى تنويع مصادر تسلحها وربما اللجوء إلى اقتناء أسلحة نووية سراً إن استطاعت».
وذكّر الدبلوماسي بما ورد في تحليل الكاتب ريتشارد راسل عن امتلاك السعودية لقدرات نووية، وقال فيه «من غير المناسب للرياض الاعتماد بشكل أساسي في دفاعها على الولايات المتحدة وتنتظر منها أن تهبّ لنجدتها في جميع الظروف… وطبقاً لوجهة النظر السعودية فإن امتلاك أسلحة نووية وأنظمة التوصيل الصاروخية يبدوان منطقيين وضروريين». ويرى أن هذه الأنظمة لن تكون على شكل سلاح الطيران الضعيف أمام شبكات الدفاع الأرضية. بل صواريخ باليستية على غرار «سي إس إس 2».
إلى الآن لا يبدو أن السعودية استطاعت إيجاد دور بديل في المنطقة، حتى إن لجوءها إلى «مصالحة الأديان» خلال المؤتمر الذي دعا إليه الملك عبد الله في مدريد، لم يكن إلا في إطار السعي السعودي الحثيث للبحث عن دور ما في المنظومة الدولية الجديدة.
البحث لا يزال جارياً، والهدف لا يبدو سهل المنال، إلا في حال انتكاسة إقليمية كبيرة، تعيد للسعودية أهميتها الاستراتيجية. والانتكاسة لا يمكن أن تكون إلا على حساب أطراف إقليمية أخرى.

August 6th, 2008, 8:36 pm


Shai said:


Sami is one of the best commentators. It is of course not easy for me to read much of what he says (though I agree with most of it), and I suppose that is understandable given that I am the Israeli. But from my angle, when I look at those few opportunities in our lifetime that cross our path (in this case, initiated by Syria), I keep seeing my future grandchildren looking me in the eyes and asking: “Saba, what did YOU do to help end the bloodshed in our region?” I owe it to my children and to theirs, to have a good answer.

August 6th, 2008, 8:39 pm


ayman said:

Dear Shai.

To understand the dymanics of Syria and Israel’s Brand conflict it is important to look back, because any system of thought that is not self-referential is not intelligent (if we are to believe Douglas R. Hofstadter). Using Alex’s complex systems and Majhool’s regression theory won’t do unless we use the golden braid analogy in GEB. Also useless is both optimism (yours) and pessimism (mine) regarding what is going on now. So, and at the risk of making you (and everyone else) bored I’ll present to you my take on this conflict. It is emotion based…but may be helpful to you since you seem to want to understand us, and our understanding of you.

The first chronicle of this seemingly eternal Israeli Syrian conflict was in 175 BC in the story of Hanukkah. It as you know (but as my fellow Syrians may not) is the story of the struggles of the Maccabees, led by Judas Maccabeus, against Antiochus IV of Syria, a struggle Judea won. Their latest Israeli Syrian (I’ll explain why it was Syrian not Lebanese in a second) conflict was in 2006 in southern Lebanon, and it resulted in a tie at best.

Just as the Holocaust provided the moral justification for Judea’s reemergence as “Israel”, the 1948 “Nakba” caused the re-packaging of Syria’s southern branch as “Palestine”. Prior to 1948, and the creation of the modern state of Israel in Palestine, Jews identified more with Judaism than Israel, and Syrians identified with Syrian nationalism and not the Palestinian cause per se. Palestine was then considered by all Syrians as Syria’s southern province, this pan-Syrian élan was especially prevalent in the Orthodox Christian community in every Middle East city.

European pogroms were the immediate cause of the birth of Israel and a new “Brand” re-alignment in both the Jewish and Syrian communities of the world. Jews had been praying “next year in Jerusalem” for centuries and they had read their Old Testament which seemingly gave them an exclusive title to all the Promised Land, especially-though not exclusively-Palestine. And with the fulfillment of their prayers came a new brand; brand Israel. Its brand logo was a Star of David; its credo was why, not? (A can-do attitude similar to the attitude of American culture). It is now a ubiquitous brand that is often confused with Brand America. One may even argue that the celluloid America of Hollywood fame was created by them, and not vice versa. Brand Israel was born of scattered, well-heeled, intelligent, yet marginalized parents. In just sixty years it has taken a stunning proportion of them from the ghetto into the gazebo. Its reluctant low profile representatives were innately prudent, but recently they have gotten cocky. This change in attitude may have been earned, but it may not be wise. Imagine going from Freud and Einstein, to Perle and Wolfowitz! The last ten decades have been a virtual pantheon of Judean men and women of guile and substance, while today the Jews are hitching their wagon to a bunch of intellectual lightweights and Bush administration cronies. These impractical and soon to be forgotten theorists have set their sights on Syria and its brand.

The saying: our enemy defines us, was never truer than it is today. Brand Syria is (and has always been) more about “reaction” than it is about action. So today it defines itself as the brand of rejection to Israeli inspired U.S. world hegemony. Even before the Iraq war and the birth of Israel in 1948 Brand Syria had rejected Ottoman, Crusader, Fatimid etc., world hegemony. Presently it’s reacting to spreading Israeli-inspired U.S. foreign policy. Its credo is a soft “yes,” or more precisely; “no, but”! The ‘but’ cancels the no or yes by it’s qualifying the answer. Our most common Syrian phrase is this “ay, bas” (yes, but.) Look carefully at it…it’s an equivocation of an affirmation. It’s so bad, that we can’t say a single yes or a simple no without a caveat. Brand Syria’s logo would be-if it had one-a Kufi LA (a big no in calligraphy) inside a crescent. A fertile crescent, not an Islamic crescent one…mind you. Yes, but…that subtle no, is the only thing that binds Syrians. If you ask Syrians; do you want to fight Israel? They’d say; yes, but! It’s a nuanced no. Ask them do you want Peace with Israel? No, but. Are you anti American? No, but. Pro American? No, but. For Iraqi freedom? Yes, but. Saddam? No, but. Pro Lebanon’s freedom? Yes, but. etc. An example of this odd mindset, so prevalent in Syrians of all types, is the Syrian Jews in Brooklyn N.Y… Ask them; are you more Syrian than Jews or vice versa? I challenge you to get a straight answer from any member of that community, they-more than anyone-on earth exemplify Brand Syria at it’s nuanced best.

Brand Syria has no brand (tenets) or brand explaining rules because there’s nothing they wouldn’t say no, or yes but, to. Still by surviving 10,000 years Syria has done well with this mind-set. So, Brand Syria (or its non-brand) allows for everything except extinction. Brand Judea is again in conflict with Brand Syria, but today they aren’t the Maccabees and Syria’s on its way to its own Hanukkah victory and rebirth. The recent war in Southern Lebanon may be the first of many skirmishes that Brand Judean can only lose. Syria is good at survival, but if it is to prevail it can do so only by its adversaries’ tendency to self-destruct.

Shai, Brand Syria is brand Judea’s Semitic cousin, and not its natural enemy. Brand Judea’s only natural enemies are the anti-Semites of the world, the abhorrent neo-Nazis who may still be around but are now (in turn) very marginalized. If the two Semitic sister-brands merged they’d make good global partners. These two Semitic brands are in conflict in Israel proper, and nowhere else. Brand Syria should learn from its sister brand, and emulate its ways, and brand Judea should in return ease up on Brand Syria while it’s still ahead. Syrians know that under similar circumstances of world wide general indifference and occasional attack, their Judeans cousins who were like they are today ( a scattered bright and talented minority in Diaspora) reconciled, and by adopting a “why not” attitude now rules. Brand Syrians can do it, and by globalization what was once achieved by Brand Judeans in sixty years can be achieved in twenty, but only after real Semitic brand reconciliation begins.


* Shem came before Abraham, he was the son of Noah, and settled bilad el-Shem after the Flood. He (not Abraham) fathered all of us Semites or Shemites, because from Shem comes the word Semite, and Sham is still the most commonly used name for Syria’s capital; which is “Sham”. Or more exactly (Dimashq-E-Shem, ergo Damascus) I am a Shami. I’m not (as some would gather) a Syrian Nationalist because I believe Sham is bigger than Syria, it includes you all.

August 14th, 2008, 3:52 am


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