Bush’s Final Violent Outburst Causes Exasperation

[Landis analysis] As Barack Obama prepares himself to become president elect, George Bush has sought to broaden the war on Terror by sanctioning cross border raids and what many are calling a Bush Doctrine II.

This aggressive policy, hastily pushed forward in the twilight of the Bush presidency, has all the signs of weakness and desperation. Already, both Pakistan and Syria are pushing back. Iraq has promised not to sanction further raids. The international community has condemned the new policy. Although the Bush neocons are having a last minute boost, their eleventh hour shooting spree cannot conceal the systemic failure of the Bush doctrine. The use of violence over diplomacy has left America weaker in almost every sphere.

Khalid Mishaal is in Beirut meeting with Bush’s closest ally in the region, Saad Hariri. Hariri has already met with Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, who Bush people revelled in calling the “A” team of terrorists. To make matters worse, Washington’s NATO allies are talking about negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  

What ever happened to Good and Evil? France has led the way for Europe to re-engage with Syria, despite Washington’s admonitions. The PLO and Hamas are once again talking about a coalition government, because no one believes the PLO can actually lead the Palestinian people. The Bush administration stands all alone in its insistence on coloring the world black and white. It has the fire power to continue its stubborn blindness to the end, but at what price to American prestige?

Khalid Mashaal in Beirut: Meshaal: Palestinians are for everything that serves Lebanon and we are against settling us in Lebanon

Pakistan’s Zardari Tells U.S. Officials Drone Raids Must Stop: 2008-11-3

“The focus should be more on enhanced coordination and intelligence-sharing,” Zardari told the U.S. officials today when they met at his residence during a visit to Pakistan, according to a Pakistani government statement. The cross-border raids from Afghanistan have killed Pakistanis and destroyed property, “creating a credibility gap” as members of the public pressure their leaders to explain the U.S. actions, Zardari said.

Syria Report – Economy:

  • 2009 Budget to Rise to USD 14.73 billion: Syria’s 2009 budget is expected to stand at SYP 685 billion in 2009, an annual increase of 14 percent in nominal terms but almost unchanged in real terms. Read.
  • Oil & Gas: Syria Moves Ahead with Akkaz Pipeline: Syria is moving ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline linking its gas network with the Akkaz field in Iraq. Read

Der Spiegel: Are More Cross- Border Attacks on the Way?: By Cordula Meyer and Bernhard Zand, 2008-11-03

The US commando attack on al-Qaida operatives in Syria has raised some uncomfortable questions. How broadly can self defense be interpreted? And will the US conduct more operations like this in the immediate future? … Bruce Riedelhints that more such attacks may be on the way, particularly, he says, since the Bush administration won’t be around to deal with the aftermath of any such operations.

Rights Group: Syria Bans Three From Travel In Crackdown

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syria has banned a journalist, a researcher and a filmmaker from leaving the country as part of a crackdown on human rights activists, a Syrian human rights group said Sunday….

“The author and journalist Khaled Smaysem was informed of the travel ban ( against him) upon his recent return from the United States, where he took part in” an international exchange program, the statement said. “A few months earlier the authorities had forced him to shut his Internet news site, ‘Syrialife’, without any explanation.”

…The authorities Friday prevented HassanAbbas, a researcher, translator and teacher, from traveling to France to attend a seminar on European-Mediterranean cultural cooperation. In 2006, the Syrian authorities had lifted a previous travel ban imposed on Abbas, who is employed by a French institute in Damascus specializing in Middle East affairs….

The group Monday reported that Syrian filmmaker Mohammed Malas was banned from traveling to Paris for work. It said that the 63-year-old film director was at Damascus airport late last month preparing to fly to Paris when he was told he could not leave, in line with the list published by the security services…. Malas, who is working on a children’s film for Al-Jazeera television, told AFP that he had met with the security services in Damascus to discuss his position on freedom of speech and human rights. In the past he directed a documentary on Syrian political detainees.

Lebanon arrests cell suspected of working for Israel’s Mossad since 1980s, Haaretz

authorities are investigating a possible link between the ring and the assassination of Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing last February in Damascus. The Lebanese investigation also revealed that the cell has been monitoring sensitive security areas in Damascus, reports said.

Some of the Lebanese army’s past statements regarding covert Israeli activities in Lebanon have turned out to be reliable.

Now Lebanon:

As-Safir newspaper reported on Monday that army command’s intelligence directorate had completed investigations into the two arrestedbrothers Ali and Youssef al-Jarrah, suspected of spying for Israel, under the supervision of the Prosecutor General Office.

A Palestinian leader in Central Bekaa told As-Safir that Ali al-Jarrahbecame a member of the Popular Front- General Command and that before resigning and moving to Fatah al-Intifada, he was granted military passage permission between Beirut and Damascus, which has been renewed repeatedly.

The leader also said that Jarrah often moved over the Syrian territories easily to meet with Palestinian factions’ leaders.

[Landis Comment:] Yoav Stern makes a sweeping statement about Jihad Makdissi’s short note published on Syria Comment. In fairness to Makdissi, he did not write that Syria rejects the Saudi peace plan, as Stern writes in his headline. He questions Peres’ and Barak’s motives in raising it as a new initiative. As Ambassador Moustapha made quite clear in his interview on SC: “It is important to understand that any Syrian approach to peace with Israel falls under its endorsement of the Pan Arab Peace Initiative. Therefore, any long-term relationship with Israel will ultimately fall within a broader Arab strategic plan.”

Syria rejects Israel’s calls to pursue Saudi peace plan
Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

Syria has rejected calls by President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to pursue the , a plan touted by the moderate Arab elements across the Middle East.

The initiative, a broad proposal for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, calls for Israel’s withdrawal from territories captured in 1967 in return from normalized relations with the Arab world.

Syrian embassy spokesman in London Jihad Makdissicalled Israel’s recent revival of the initiative “another attempt to bluff and evade peace.” Makdissi made his remarks in a letter to leading Syrian blog Syria comment. In his letter, he said that any pan-Arab initiative would not let anyone but Syria negotiate with Israel over the fate of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War…..

The Prospect Of An Odd Couple,” By Kevin Peraino | NEWSWEEK

Waiting for a Chance: Obama with Netanyahu during a July meeting in Jerusalem

…. So why is Netanyahu surging in the polls? Partly because the Likud leader was one of the few secular Israeli politicians to push back against Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan from Gaza. Netanyahuhas long opposed unilateral measures, and when Hamas seized power just months after the withdrawal, many Israelis thought events proved Bibi right. There also aren’t many appealing alternatives; Ehud Barak is viewed as a has-been, and Livni is weakened by her role in the 2006 Lebanon war. As for Obama, it is yet to be seen how the dovish American would work with a hard-line Israeli counterpart. At the King David meeting, Obama smiled and tried to find common ground. Still, according to the Israeli source, “They didn’t really go into the details.”

Ami Isseroff:

In the worst case, Bibi Netanyahu, the Likud and its right-wing partners will come to power. Israel will have an obstinate government that will very likely face a US ally bent on wringing concessions from Israel as it beats an ignominious retreat from Iraq. 2009 will be a bad year for Israel, the Palestinians and the peace process in all likelihood. As for Shas, don’t worry about them. No matter who is in power, it seems they always get their money in the end.

We may well have Bibi Netanyahu to kick around some more, or more likely, it is he who will kick around the rest of us.

Israeli attorney-general greenlights Olmert’s bid of talks with Syria, 2008-11-03

JERUSALEM, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — Israeli Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday greenlighted outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s bid to resume indirect talks with Syria, turning down calls for him to examine Olmert’sauthority, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported.


Jerusalem (dpa) – The hardline opposition Likudparty submitted a bill to parliament Monday, which if passed would make it illegal for any Israeli transitional government to conduct peace talks and give up territory.

Steve Clemons:

“….This raises the question of why Israel and the United States don’t work to classify factions of settler extremists — organizing to propogateviolence — as terror organizations or terror-supporting individuals. Such classification of these groups and/or individuals would allow the freezing of their financial assets in the United States and would create penalties for those who aided and abetted in their violence. Some very wealthy Americans are financing some of the expansionist settler activity in occupied Palestinian territories — and creating penalties for this assistance could be one way of squelching the violent dimensions of settler activity…”

Israel Will Halt Funds to Illegal Settlements By ISABEL KERSHNER in NYTimes

The decision is one of a series of measures announced by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in response to a rise in violence by extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Maliki to show neighbours US-Iraq military pact
Agence France-Presse – 01 November, 2008

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malikisaid on Friday he will submit the text of the controversial security pact with the United States to all of his country’s neighbours.

He would do so after Baghdad receives a US reply to five proposed amendments made by Iraq, a statement from his office said.

Maliki “will dispatch delegations to Iraq’s neighbours, including Turkey, to show them the security agreement after receiving the American replies to the proposed modifications,” he was quoted as telling Turkish President Abdullah Gul in a telephone conversation…

Iraqi city wants US raids on Syria – Telegraph

Nineveh, the province surrounding Mosul, has a 227-mile border with Syria.

Mosul’s continuing turmoil barely registers outside the country. Even visitors to the city of 1.7 million view it as a distraction from the overall picture of falling violence in Iraq.

Khosro Goran, the vice-governor, said: “We have an open border with Syria and our neighbours are actively encouraging the terrorists.

“The majority of people don’t believe that Obama or McCain have a choice for a new American policy. President Bush removed Saddam and has been blamed for all the killing in Mosul. The American job is not finished because our enemies are backed by neighbouring countries.”

An American raid on a Syrian compound it believed was housing al-Qaeda operatives last month triggered calls for repeated sweeps beyond Iraq’s western borders.

An intelligence officer in Mosul said leading lieutenants of the late dictator Saddam Hussein and Islamists were directing attacks in Mosul from Syria.

The debilitating influence of the insurgent factions has sapped confidence within the security forces operating in the city, according to Captain Nabeel Mutlak, a policeman in Mosul since 1996.

Terrorist penetration of all ranks is so pervasive that his off-duty colleagues are regularly assassinated in cold blood, mostly in the street or at markets when shopping with their families.

A ‘loaded’ American provocation of Syria
By Abd al Bari Atwan of al Quds

….We do not expect the Syrian government to abandon its position of self-restraint, and risk provoking the raging American bull with wounds in the closing months of this defeated administration. It is behaving as other countries in the region and the world are, biding its time until the curtain is lowered on one of the most hostile American administrations towards Arabs and Muslims ever, in the hope that a new administration would learn from their mistakes and choose a policy of dialogue rather than confrontation in the Middle East.

“Obama’s historical uprising” by Abd al Bari Atwan of al Quds (Thanks to Mideastwire.com)

On November 3, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following opinion piece by Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan: “So far, one third of the American people have already voted and the polls confirmed that Barack Obama was ahead of his Republican opponent John McCain by more than ten points. This means that next Wednesday, unless a disaster were to occur, he will be crowned the new president of the United States. By electing Obama, the American people would have staged the greatest uprising in their modern history, an uprising against racism, class division, the extremist right wing and the Evangelists and against all types of slavery.

“All we have learned about American policy during the last two decades is now in the past and we are standing at a historical crossroads that might never be seen again, one in which a poor black man paved his own way toward heading the biggest superpower in history through the ballot boxes and despite the rejection of the ruling institution… Obama’s quasi certain victory will constitute a safety raft to America and the Americans and will achieve national reconciliation between the Americans themselves and between them and the entire world,

Comments (7)

norman said:

It looks that The people in Mosul that want more attacks in Syria are the Kurds , Does anybody still want to give the Kurds living in Syria citizenship , They will use their Syrian citizenship to break Syria , Syria can not take that chance ,

Any comment about their loyalty , They do not have any to Syria.

November 4th, 2008, 12:57 am


Alex said:


The Syrian Kurds living in Damascus are as Syrian as any one of us. They have been there for centuries.

As for the newer Kurds living in Syria near the Iraqi and Turkish borders (mostly Turkish refugees) … I agree that they need to understand that they can’t have it both ways … if they want Syrian citizenship in order to say “our numbers in north eastern Syria are now large enough to ask for autonomy”, there will be a problem.

And of course, not all Kurds in that region are that confused… some are quite attached to Syria.

November 4th, 2008, 1:08 am


norman said:


I agree , I had Kurdish freind in damascus ,I meant the people who call for separation and forign interference in Syria ,

November 4th, 2008, 1:26 am


norman said:

Students speak up for merits of cool Damascus
By Anna Fifield in Damascus

Published: November 4 2008 02:00 | Last updated: November 4 2008 02:00

In the concrete forecourt of Damascus University, blonde Americans in skinny jeans and retro sunglasses mill around in the sunshine among Syrian students in white headscarves.

Americans, Czechs, Japanese, Belarusans, Germans, Koreans, Britons, Malays: these Arabic language students are giving Damascus such a cosmopolitan air that a visitor could be excused for forgetting Syria’s reputation for isolation.

The Bush administration dubbed the country an outpost of tyranny, a state sponsor of terrorism. But now, thanks to its widely intelligible dialect and to the rejuvenation of the old city – Damascus is becoming the ‘Prague of the Middle East’ – the Syrian capital is now the cool place to learn Arabic.

“When I told people at home that I was coming to Syria to study, they were really worried,” says Leah Wawro, a 20-year-old New Yorker studying Arabic in Damascus as part of her international relations degree at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

Caroline Guenther, a 21-year-old from Boston who is on the same course, says: “We had a choice of Cairo or Damascus – and my mom really wanted me to go to Cairo – but we thought this would be better.”

Since September 11 2001, western interest in the Middle East and demand for Arabic speakers has increased markedly. The Central Intelligence Agency in the US and Britain’s MI6 are among the institutions crying out for Arabists.

Alongside the bustling souk and the fabulous Omayad mosque in the old city, cool bars and cafés with wi-fi have popped up, creating an enticing mix of the traditional and the trendy.

“In the past Cairo, Tunis and Beirut were the centres for learning Arabic,” says Ahmad Haji Safar, director of the Arabic Teaching Institute in Damascus, where 450 students from 60 countries study each term. He says demand is so high that he turns away as many as 700 students each term.

Although classical Arabic – the language of newspapers and government – is understood across the Middle East, the spoken dialect differs so much from place to place that an Algerian and a Lebanese are as likely to converse in French as in Arabic. Colloquial Syrian bears the closest resemblance to classical Arabic, making it an attractive dialect for students.

“I decided to come here because the Arabic is supposed to be better, the most standard,” says Sina Thiessen, a 22-year-old student from Germany.

Tuition fees are only $300 (€236, £189) a term and the cost of living so low that students can get by on $400 a month. Some students in Damascus’s language schools are Muslim, but as Syria gradually opens up to outside investment, others are learning Arabic so they can work for foreign companies in Syria or for academic reasons.

“I’m studying Islamic history in Japan, so a lot of the books I need to read are in Arabic,” says Megumi Okamoto, a 27-year-old graduate from Kobe University who arrived in Damascus a month ago. “But this culture is so different from Japan I’m a bit confused,” she admits.

Doron Davda, a 24-year- old from London, says it was a “natural step” to come to Damascus after completing his masters in Middle Eastern studies in the UK. “There is a general lack of understanding about the Middle East and this whole ‘clash of civilisations’,” says Mr Davda, who will return to London to work in the government service.

In addition to the low price, Mr Davda says, Damascus has the allure of being “a little bit intrepid”.

“Everyone has been to Cairo and up and down the Nile but not many people have been to the ‘axis of evil’ of Syria,” he says.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

November 4th, 2008, 2:35 am


Bush’s Final Violent Outburst Causes Exasperation « Middle East News and Comment said:

[…] 4, 2008 by js3262 Josh Landis: As Barack Obama prepares himself to become president elect, George Bush has sought to broaden the […]

November 4th, 2008, 3:58 am


Enlightened said:

Interesting Article from “The Sydney Morning Herald Titled”:

“Cheney’s day is done”

The most spectacular, and indeed sinister, conflict of interest in the world of politics and business must surely be the relationship between US Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton Company.

Cheney had been chairman and CEO of the oil services and construction giant Halliburton from 1995 to August 2000 when he signed up with George W Bush’s election campaign. Halliburton stands to benefit every time an oil pipeline is blown up in Iraq or a meal is handed out to the troops, and Cheney still has stock options in the company.

To give the Vice President the benefit of the doubt – an exercise which counters every journalistic instinct apart from the need to report both sides of the story – his supporters say he donates the proceeds to charity.

Cheney’s official position has always been: “Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president, I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest”.

Here are the available Halliburton stock option numbers sourced from the Vice President’s Federal Financial Disclosure forms:

100,000 shares at $US54.5000 (vested), expire December 3, 2007
33,333 shares at $US28.1250 (vested), expire December 2, 2008
300,000 shares at $US39.5000 (vested), expire December 2, 2009.

In 2001, he was paid deferred salary by Halliburton of $US205,298. In 2002, deferred salary was $US162,392, in 2003 $US178,437 and in 2004 $US194,852.

End is nigh

Thankfully, tomorrow’s US election will bring this breathtaking conflict of interest to an end – it is a issue which has been chronically under-reported in the US media – and Halliburton’s stock price is faring poorly. It dropped another 7.3% to $US18.36 overnight, well down on this year’s July highs of $US55 a share.

The stock was trading around $US20 a share before Operation Enduring Freedom was unleashed in March 2003 and it subsequently shot up.

Halliburton has racked up some $US20 billion in revenue from the war. Meanwhile, 4,190 US troops have been killed, an estimated 100,000 have been injured and the Iraqi body count is documented at 97,000, although the real figure is would likely to be higher as there are no accurate records.

According to Congressional research data, the cost of the “Liberation of Iraq” to US taxpayers is now over $US596 billion. The cost now runs at $US12 billion a month ($US16 billion if Afghanistan is included) compared with original Pentagon estimates of $US50 billion all up .

In 2007 alone, the war and its concomitant “nation building” cost US taxpayers $US121,000 per Iraqi citizen.


If Barrack Obama gets up in tomorrow’s presidential election Halliburton is likely to come under pressure. The company and the administration have managed to kill a plethora of Federal probes.

Some relate to the well-documented success of Halliburton in winning contracts in Iraq which were not even put to public tender.

Others related to the myriad of corruption allegations. The war in Iraq has largely been outsourced, privatised if you like, and Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown Root, have been the greatest beneficiaries in dollar terms.

Should the Republican candidate John McCain defy the polls and beat Obama to the White House, Halliburton can breathe easy, or more easily, at least.

Despite his positioning as a “maverick” and some credibility as an independent legislator, McCain would come under all sorts of sway from the Republican Party base and its donors to suppress potential recriminations arising from the conflict.

Further, Halliburton would presumably continue to rake in billions of dollars from the prosecution of the War as McCain has vowed to “win”, whatever that means and there is no timetable for withdrawal. He was even pilloried by Democrats for suggesting that the US could stay in Iraq for 100 years.

No surrender

Given Iraq’s enormous oil reserves and looming energy security issues for the US, this is no laughing matter. Yet oil is another story.

“It’s a tough war we’re in. It’s not going to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars,” he told supporters in a stump speech recently. “We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”

Obama is espousing a troop withdrawal as soon as practicably possible, perhaps in 2010 – an outcome which would leave a gaping hole in Halliburton’s revenues.

The company even picked up reconstruction contracts under the Bush regime from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina – apparently “no-bid” contracts again.

Cheney’s fortunes – or according to his aides, the fortunes of the charities to which he had pledged the income from his stock options – really ballooned in the heat of the Iraq conflict in 2004 when his 433,333 Halliburton options soared in value from $US241,498 to more than $US8 million in 2005.

Conservative finances

What is fascinating, though, in the light of the present market turmoil and the espousing of “ownership” and free market principles by the Bush administration, is just how conservative are the personal investments of Bush and his VP.

Going back to his 2006 financial disclosures, Bush had between 2% to 4% of his money in stock and balanced funds.

The rest of was tied up in, as one pundit put it “money-under-the-mattress investments”: bank checking accounts, certificates of deposit, money-market mutual funds and Treasury bills and notes.

Bush disclosed between $US4.6 million and $US9.7 million in these low-risk investments compared with just $US205,000 in stock and balanced funds.

Cheney’s investment strategy is more gung-ho. He had 28% in stocks, stock options and stock funds in 2006 with the balance spread among bond funds. Some $US1.6 million to $US6.3 million was locked up in the ultra-safe kind of investments favoured by his Commander-in-Chief.

While Bush and Cheney appear to have adopted extremely defensive personal finance strategies, their administration’s stewardship of the national wealth, particularly in relation to Halliburton, reek of the sort of crony capitalism which would have embarrassed a South American junta.

November 4th, 2008, 4:02 am


Akbar Palace said:

The Telegraph is telling a story that’s a bit different than the Syrian government and their spokespeople here on Syrian Comment:

Iraqi city calls for US raids on Syria
The US must launch a widespread offensive against Syria to have any hope of taking control of al-Qaeda’s last bastion in Iraq, it has been claimed.

By Damien McElroy in Mosul
Last Updated: 8:48AM GMT 03 Nov 2008


November 4th, 2008, 11:41 am


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