Bush’s Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives

Bush's Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives
By Joshua Landis
for Syria Comment, 29 August 2008

Washington's latest refusal to talk to Syria does not make sense. There is no hope of changing Syria's behavior by the refusal to talk. On the contrary, it is costing the lives of US soldiers.

General Petraeus wanted to travel to Syria last December in order to restore intelligence sharing between the two countries. He believes that by working with Syria on joint policing of the long Syria-Iraq border, lives of his soldiers will be saved. Petraeus's people are convinced that dialogue will help stop foreign fighters from penetrating into Iraq; cooperation will reduce the number of suicide bombers and US dead. This is not complicated. Petraeus was refused permission to visit Syrian.

Syria is eager for this cooperation. It welcomed renewed intelligence sharing at the famous Sharm al-Shaykh meeting between Rice and Muallem in May 2007. Syria was prepared to receive two top US generals in Damascus to find ways of catching infiltrators. Muallem asked that the US re-assign an ambassador to Damascus as a token of the renewed cooperation between the two countries. (The US withdrew its ambassador in 2005, following the Hariri assassination. The UN is pursuing an investigation into his murder.) Rice could not send a new ambassador to Syria or restart official communication between the two countries. Damascus demurred in its willingness to receive clandestine generals.

Petraeus's officers are likewise forbidden from contacting their Syrian counterparts in order to work on joint security measures and to catch the 30 or so jihadists believed to be getting across the desert border into Iraq. Likewise, State Department officials are forbidden from talking to their Syrian counterparts. This policy of silence precludes an easy and obvious method to reduce the deaths of American and Iraqi soldiers.

One could justify this higher death rate among American soldiers, if Washington had a reasonable chance of winning political concessions from Syria. Unfortunately, Washington has no workable plan for gaining Syrian concessions.

Yesterday, the White House restated US policy to preclude dialogue with Syria unless Damascus decides "to play a positive role, stay out of the internal affairs of Lebanon, stop supporting terrorists and be a productive player on the world scene." Syria cannot do this without US help.

Syria supports both Hizbullah and Hamas as instruments to pressure Israel to give back the Golan, territory Israel conquered from Syria in the 1967 War. By refusing to support Syria's peace talks with Israel, Washington ensures the Golan will not be returned and that Syria continues to support its allies in reconquering occupied territory. So long as Washington refuses to be a productive player itself, it cannot expect Syria to be one. The White House could save US soldiers' lives through intelligence sharing with Damascus. Why it refuses to do so is a mystery.

[End of Landis Analysis]

News Round Up:

US refuses to follow France's lead and talk with Syria
August 28, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States refuses to follow France's lead and will not talk to Syria until it decides to take a "positive role" in international affairs, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday.

Wood declined to comment on French President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement Wednesday that he would visit Damascus on September 3-4, after welcoming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Paris last month.

The spokesman, however, restated US policy that precludes any dialogue with Syria unless it decides "to play a positive role, stay out of the internal affairs of Lebanon, stop supporting terrorists and be a productive player on the world scene."

"Today, it has not been" the case, Wood added.

"Until Syria plays a positive role in the region, it is going to continue to isolate itself," he said.

Washington continues to blacklist Damascus as a state sponsor of terrorism.

On announcing his trip to Damascus, Sarkozy rejected the idea of isolating Syria, preferring to take "another route, more risky it is true, but more promising: open dialogue leading to tangible progress."

Making a diplomatic comeback after years of ostracism, Assad was among more than 40 leaders who on July 13 in Paris inaugurated the new Mediterranean union, Sarkozy's flagship project to bolster cooperation between Europe, the Middle East and north Africa.

Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac severed ties with Syria in response to the 2005 assassination of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, after accusing Damascus of involvement in the murder. Syria has denied the allegations.

[Landis Comment] The following Washington Times editorial arguing that the US should not advance the peace process that both Syria and Israel say they want, would seem to be based on misapprehensions. One can only presume it is an effort by the Washington Time's editorial board to justify the latest refusal of thee Bush administration to allow open dialogue with Syria. President Clinton in his memoirs said it was not Assad who "sabotaged" the peace process; rather, he wrote that Barak got "cold feet." The problem was that from Israel's point of view, Syria was asking for too much land. The price was not right. Getting to the right price is something Washington should be helping with, not hindering.

EDITORIAL: An Israel-Syria 'deal'?: Washington Times

…….. Maybe there is a geopolitical sea change taking place in Damascus. If so, the Assad government has thus far hidden it very skillfully. In March 2000, President Clinton put the prestige of his office on the line in the hope that Mr. Assad's father was ready to make a peace agreement with Israel. Hafez Assad showed by his actions that he was not, and then proceeded to sabotage Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's efforts to withdraw from southern Lebanon. We shouldn't be deluded again.

US sanctions could derail Airbus deal with Syria
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Reuters, August 28, 2008

DAMASCUS- Airbus is finalising a deal that could secure it a multibillion-dollar order from the Syrian government, but U.S. sanctions could torpedo the purchase, sources familiar with the talks said on Thursday.

Habib Feqih, president of Airbus Middle East, is in Damascus to sign the cooperation framework agreement, which involves the possible lease and purchase of a total of 54 aircraft between now and 2028, and help by Airbus to restructure Syria's flag carrier Syrianair, the sources told Reuters.

But the U.S. sanctions, imposed on Syria in 2004 for its support for anti-American groups, could complicate any Airbus sale to Syria, if not make it impossible, since the planes use American components, an industry executive said.

"I cannot see a way for Airbus to sell planes to Syria. I do not think it would be able to obtain export licences for the U.S. manufactured parts," he said.

A way around the sanctions could be if a limited number of aircraft were to be purchased by another airline or operator outside Syria, and then leased to a Syrian company, the executive added.

Under such a lease, the lessor would also provide the crew and take care of maintenance and insurance. Sham Wings, Syria's only functioning private airline, has leased at least one aircraft, a medium bodied McDonnell Douglas.

Another source said the cooperation agreement would amount to little if no legal way could be found to conform to the sanctions, with French officials assuring the United States that Airbus had no intention of breaking them.

"Someone has to convince the American government to make an exemption for a deal with Syria to go through. Airbus has a huge business in the United States," the source said…

Syria Issues Listing Rules for Its Bourse, Al Watan Says
By Nadim Issa
Bloomberg, August 28, 2008

The Syrian Commission on Financial Market Securities ratified the rules and regulations required to list on the Damascus Securities Exchange, Al Watan reported, citing a statement by the commission.

In order for companies to list they have to be established for over three years from the start of their activities, have an average net profit of at least 5 percent in the past two years and their paid up capital should not be less than 300 million Syrian pounds ($6.5 million), the Syrian newspaper reported.

In the secondary market, the companies' capital should not be less than 100 million pounds and they have to be established for over two years from the start of their activities, the newspaper reported.

For non-Syrian companies to list, they have to get the approval of the commission; have an average net profit of at least 5 percent for the past three years and be listed in their country for over two years, Al Watan reported.

Russia's case on Georgia territories: Like Kosovo or not?
By Robert Marquand
The Christian Science Monitor, August 28, 2008

In the wake of Russia's recognition of two separatist Georgian republics Tuesday, Moscow is moving swiftly in another war – how to define and present its legal case to the world. One chief area of this battle is Kosovo, the Serbian province that declared its independence in February – something Moscow had long warned would "legitimize" the separation of territories such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia.

Yet hours after Russia recognized the independence of those republics Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov turned the tables. Taking a new legal tack, he called any parallels between Kosovo and Georgia "irrelevant," and offered an interpretation of events that essentially makes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili a worse war criminal than former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Despite strong warnings from then-President Vladimir Putin leading up to Kosovo's declaration of independence, the US and 20 of 27 European Union nations have since recognized Kosovo's new status.

Now, much of the world's media is explaining how Kosovo led to Russian tanks in Georgia. This week, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, something that took the West a nine-year process of careful negotiation, minority rights clauses, and statebuilding to do in Kosovo partly because of due diligence over Russian warnings about a "Kosovo precedent."

Russia looking for China's backing….

Europe must stand up to Russia says UK
By Julian Borger and Ian Traynor
The Guardian, August 28, 2008

Britain yesterday raised the stakes in the scramble to contain Russia, pledging support for Moscow's regional rival, Ukraine, and calling on the international community to stand up to Russia's campaign to redraw the map of Europe and make it pay a higher price for its actions in Georgia.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary tipped as a future Labour party leader and potential prime minister, went to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to deliver a speech aimed at flying the flag of western democracy on Russia's doorstep, while seeking to avert a new crisis boiling over on the Crimean peninsula, home to an ethnic Russian population and Moscow's Black Sea fleet.

The speech represented the strongest criticism of the Kremlin from a leading European government official in years, delivered in a country that is Russia's neighbour and which Russians view as the cradle of their civilisation.

Miliband declared a turning point had been reached in Europe's relations with Russia, ending a nearly two decade period of relative tranquility. He said Tuesday's decision by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia represented a radical break and a moment of truth for the rest of Europe.

"[Medvedev's] unilateral attempt to redraw the map marks a moment of real significance," the foreign secretary said. "It is not just the end of the post cold war period of growing geopolitical calm in and around Europe. It is also the moment when countries are required to set out where they stand on the significant issues of nationhood and international law."

"The Georgia crisis has provided a rude awakening," the foreign secretary said. He responded to Medvedev's boast that he was not scared of a new cold war, saying: "We don't want a new cold war. He has a big responsibility not to start one.

Miliband arrived in Kiev at a time when Ukrainian officials are jittery over concerns that Russia could orchestrate a conflict over its Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, under a lease agreement with Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say Russia has been distributing passports to ethnic Russians living in Crimea, as it did in South Ossetia, and fear that a row over the use of the base may be employed to stir up separatist sentiment as a precursor to calling for a referendum on seceding from Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian president, has riled Moscow by suggesting that Russia should pay a higher rent for Sevastopol and could be subject to more stringent conditions on its use. Miliband urged the Ukrainian government to "stick to the letter" of the lease agreement.

In bilateral meetings yesterday, Ukrainians pressed for British support in their bid to begin membership proceedings for both the EU and Nato. They are looking for positive signals from an EU-Ukraine meeting next month, and hope to be offered a membership action plan at a Nato ministerial meeting in December. Miliband signalled that Kiev had Britain's backing.

"My visit is designed to send a simple message: we have not forgotten our commitments to you," he told Ukrainians, asserting that the relationship between Moscow and Kiev could not be that of "master and servant".

In the harshest criticism of Russian conduct since the Caucasus crisis erupted three weeks ago, he accused the Kremlin of shredding the rulebook governing international relations and of "torpedoing" the work of the UN security council.

"Over Georgia, Russia has moved from support for territorial integrity to breaking up the country in three weeks, and relied entirely on military force to do so. In between, it signed a ceasefire agreement which included international mediation as the way forward. If her word is not her bond then she will not be trusted by anyone … Russia needs to ask itself about the relationship between short-term military victories and longer term economic prosperity." Miliband said the west must now "raise the costs to Russia of disregarding its responsibilities". In particular, Europe should hit back on the oil and gas market, with measures aimed at loosening Russia's powers as a monopoly seller.

"Europe needs to act as one when dealing with third parties like Russia," he said. To do that, the EU should invest in gas storage facilities, build up an internal market and negotiate as a single entity, rather than cutting separate deals.

Russia, Miliband said, "must not learn the wrong lessons from the Georgia crisis: there can be no going back on fundamental principles of territorial integrity, democratic governance and international law."

But the foreign secretary argued against isolating Russia. "Russia is too enmeshed in the world economy. It would be counterproductive," he said. The approach should be one of "hard-headed engagement". For example he opposed Russia's expulsion from the G8 group of industrialised countries, but instead called for the G7 (the group minus Russia) to hold discussions when necessary without Russia.

Last night G7 foreign ministers issued a joint statement condemning Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and deplored Moscow's "excessive use of military force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of Georgia".

While Miliband delivered his broadside in Kiev, his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, warned that Ukraine and Moldova, which also has a pro-Russian breakaway region, Transnistria, could become the next targets of a newly assertive Russia.

Yushchenko, who met Miliband yesterday, said Russian actions in Georgia were unacceptable. "What has happened is a threat to everyone, not just for one country. Any nation could be next. When we allow someone to ignore the fundamental right of territorial integrity, we put into doubt the existence of any country."

The Biden factor in US-Iran relations
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times Online, August 28, 2008

Senator Barack Obama's choice of Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate for the Democratic ticket for the US presidency is a good omen for troubled US-Iran relations and will likely translate into positive developments on that front in the event Obama moves into the White House.

Biden, who has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a strong advocate of engagement with Iran and a vocal opponent of any military action against Iran as a result of the nuclear standoff. He has participated in a number of forums sponsored by Iranian expatriates in the US, and has denounced some anti-Iran measures, such as the US's labeling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist outfit.

With Iran looming as one of the major foreign policy issues in the presidential elections, Biden brings a measure of legitimacy to Obama's call for direct dialogue with Tehran, a position soundly rejected by his Republican rival, Senator John McCain.

The trouble with McCain's position on Iran, however, is that it does not sit well even with the Iran policy of the George W Bush administration, in light of the recent meeting of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, with US Under Secretary of State, William Burns, in Geneva. This meeting marked a clear turnaround from the previous US policy of setting stringent preconditions, such as the suspension of Iran's uranium-enrichment program, for any direct contact.

At the same time, the downside of having a clearer position on Iran is that it is not particularly favored by the strong pro-Israel lobby in Washington that tilts in favor of McCain. It is therefore possible that Biden's selection may cost Obama a share of the Jewish vote, particularly if between now and November hostilities between the US and Iran escalate. In the absence of any breakthrough in the Iran nuclear stalemate and the ongoing tensions in Iraq, that is not hard to imagine.

In turn, the chances are that, faced with the prospect of a Jewish backlash, the Obama-Biden ticket may harden its stance towards Iran, just as Obama did during his recent trip to Israel, when he stated categorically that he was in favor of keeping all options open (such as an attack on Iran) and that he would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The danger is that Biden might now sing the same tune and escalate his rhetoric against Iran, rather than remain consistent with his earlier positions that prioritized diplomacy almost to the exclusion of hard power.

This is an important issue that could be addressed in the near future, in light of a key article in the Washington Post by Michael Rubin, a staunch pro-Israel pundit at the American Enterprise Institute, indirectly criticizing Biden for his soft Iran positions, as well as his connections to Iran lobbyists.

It is almost a sure bet that Biden and Obama will show sensitivity to such subtle attacks on them and will try damage control by using more strident rhetoric against Iran. Equally possible is that Biden will resist pressure from Obama and his team and refrain from sounding bellicose against Iran, in which case we must anticipate a bifurcated Obama administration, should the Democrats win the presidential contest, with vice president Biden leaning more in the direction of soft power diplomacy toward Iran than the new president in the Oval Office.

However, should Iran respond well to the Democratic victory through a more flexible nuclear posture that would be amenable to reaching a compromise, then the Biden factor will definitely weigh in positively, both in the area of confidence-building as well as substantive progress in the divisive issues that remain between the US and Iran.

From Tehran's point of view, the replacement of hawkish Vice President Dick Cheney with the dovish Biden would be welcome news reflecting the beginning of an overdue adjustment of US foreign policy toward Iran. …….

Obama has shown only a superficial understanding of the Middle East in general and Iran in particular and this is a weakness that can be remedied by giving Biden considerable room to maneuver. Should the Obama team put a tight leash on Biden when it comes to Iran, it would mean sacrificing the potential for a breakthrough with Iran that Biden brings to the ticket. This is not to underestimate the difficulties in coordinating a unified and homogenous Iran policy between Obama and Biden.

Simply put, the Democratic ticket has no better chance to provide a serious change in US foreign policy than by charting a less-bellicose and more-conciliatory approach toward Iran. This is likely to be reciprocated by Tehran's leaders, including Ahmadinejad, who is still waiting for a response to his letters – one to Bush and the other to the American people.

Ahmadinejad's missive to Bush is unlikely to draw a response, but the chances are good to excellent that such an overture toward the US's first African-American president will elicit a productive response.

Should McCain be the next president, we should expect nothing more than business as usual in the troubled waters of the US's ties with Iran.

Make a Deal with Iran
By Nikolas K. Gvosdev
The National Interest Online, August 27, 2008

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, last year listed both Iran and Russia as threats to U.S. interests. Unfortunately, he did not offer a way to prioritize the challenges posed by Tehran and Moscow. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), for his part, has shifted his public statements in recent months, giving greater attention to Russia as a challenge for Washington and the West, and de-emphasizing (at least in his speeches) the threat posed by Iran.

Leaving aside whether their assessments are correct, let’s address a different question. How does one’s stance on Iran (or Russia) affect other foreign- and domestic-policy promises? Both Senators McCain and Obama have made a series of statements about what they would do as president. Among both their laundry lists: bring down the cost of energy—both to help American consumers but also to deprive “rogues” of petrodollars; help Europe diversify its energy supply so as to reduce dependence on Russia; bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO; make progress in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan—both to permit the withdrawal of U.S. forces and to prevent chaos; and deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

To achieve all of these goals—not just the last one—the next president needs a major breakthrough on Iran—one that would end the standoff that has lasted since 1979.

OPEC president Chakib Khelil has repeatedly noted that one of the factors keeping oil prices higher than they ought to be is the perception among traders and speculators that a clash between Iran and the United States—especially a prolonged military confrontation—is likely. Khelil recently observed that oil should be trading at about $70 per barrel, rather than the significantly higher prices we’ve seen in the last several months….

And with all of the concern about the concentration and consolidation of Eurasia’s energy resources by Russian firms and transport routes, Iran is the only feasible alternative to supplying Europe’s thirst for natural gas. Iran has an estimated 974 trillion cubic feet of natural-gas reserves, the second largest in the world. Pipeline projects like NABUCCO, designed to give European consumers feasible alternatives to other routes owned or controlled by Russia’s GAZPROM, are only cost-effective if some of Iran’s natural-gas bounty is committed.

Iranian energy flowing westward to European markets would balance Russian influence—not remove it altogether—but would guarantee that the Kremlin’s ability to wield a potential “energy weapon” would be lessened significantly.

And speaking of the Eurasian space, any fundamental reorientation of the region away from its traditional trade and economic links to Moscow can only occur if the Iranian “doorway” to central Asia and the Caucasus is unlocked and unbarred. Landlocked countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would benefit from having high-speed land links to Iran’s Persian Gulf ports.

The stabilization of both Iraq and Afghanistan would also be served by a rapprochement with Tehran. India has recognized this with its new transport policy of linking central-Asian states via Afghanistan to Iran—….

Finally, the United States would like to see Iran cease and desist its efforts to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran has presidential elections scheduled for 2009. It may be useful to recall that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, not on a platform of developing nuclear weapons or destroying Israel, but instead by promising to tackle corruption and deliver economic growth. If, prior to the forthcoming election, the United States and its European allies laid out a very specific and detailed program that included actual projects and the projected benefits to the Iranian people—rather than more generic assurances about goodwill and some small nickel-and-dime measure …

The United States is not in a position to “dually contain” both Iran and a resurgent Russia—if Washington decides that Moscow must be contained rather than engaged. ….As we have seen, Iran can “limp along” based on its trading links with Asia—especially India and China…..

Druse women join pilgrimage into Syria for first time
By Brenda Gazzar
The Jerusalem Post, August 28, 2008

Noflea Shker, a Druse resident of the Golan Heights, was nearly at a loss for words Thursday. She was about to cross the border into Syria, where she would see aunts and uncles for the first time in 25 years, her mother, who she had not seen in five years, and her seven-month-old grandson for the first time. "It's an indescribable feeling," said Shker, her eyes brimming with tears while she waited to disembark from a bus at the border crossing.

But Najwa Hamzi Amasha, another Druse resident, made no attempt to hide her disappointment at the rejection by Israel of her repeated requests to cross – she would not be meeting her siblings in Syria; she hasn't seen them in nearly three decades.

"The Jews of Sweden come to visit Jerusalem, their homeland, and their families," she said. "Why don't they let us – and we are 40 kilometers away – visit our families?" …..  "We want there to be continuous visits to our homeland, to our country, to our families," said Amasha, a widow with four grown children.

Thursday's crossing was the first time in more than eight years that the visit had taken place amidst open, albeit indirect, peace talks between Israel and Syria…. The Druse of the Golan Heights – who consider themselves to be Syrian and long to be reunited with their families across the border – perhaps more than anyone wish to see a peace agreement signed between the countries. ….

… "God willing, our president, Bashar al-Assad, will achieve peace… and the Golan Heights will be returned… The life of occupation is not a life." …

Meanwhile, at the Kuneitra crossing, 28-year-old Fida el-Shaer from Majda al-Shams decided to try her luck at getting permission to visit her family in Syria, although her request had already been denied. About one hour after she was escorted in by army officials only to be denied again, el-Shaer, who had broken into tears earlier in the day, remained outside the crossing in the stifling August heat. Asked why she was still waiting, she responded: "I have hope that maybe they'll still let me through. Without hope, one's soul would break."

Comments (142)

Akbar Palace said:

Bush’s Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives

Professor Josh,

Your thread title above is quite an allegation. Can you use your vast knowledge of Syria and the Middle East (along with your Phd credentials) to provide the math behind this statement?

Exactly how many lives is Bush’s policy costing the US?


Akbar Palace

PS – Since “The Surge”, the number of US casualties have decreased substantially. John McCain will certainly remind Barry about this next week…


August 29th, 2008, 4:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s see. The Syrians know about every anti-government organization, every piece of weapon not in government hands BUT they have problems finding the explosives and people that go into Iraq to blow themsevles up. Please. It is not lack of cooperation that is taking US lives, it is the Syrians DIRECTLY that are responsible for US deaths.

Syria can easily stop the jihadis entering from Syria into Iraq. Not by closing the border. That is a red herring. But by telling the muchabarat to stop these organizations that have freedom to work just because the Syrian regime thinks this is useful.

So, what is in fact happening is that the Syrians are blackmailing the Americans: Cooperate with us or we will continue letting the jihadis operate from Syria. Luckily, the Bush adminstration understands the situation for what it is. In the end the Syrian regime will pay the price for its ruthlessness.

August 29th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Alex said:

It is not a mystery Joshua.

It is their ego.

It is a total lack of wisdom and maturity.

August 29th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:

Well, maybe Norman is right, and Israel finally is learning something from Syria. After all, Israel really CAN stop its settlers from further stealing Palestinian lands, but it doesn’t. It could easily tell its own “Mukhabarat” (or even the Police) to stop these settlers, but it doesn’t. So, in essence it is blackmailing the Palestinians: Cooperate with us, or we will continue letting the settlers operate as they will. Hmmm… why do I sense a deja-vu all of a sudden?

Don’t be a hypocrite AIG, it really doesn’t become you…

August 29th, 2008, 6:39 pm


Shai said:


Judging from those pictures, the best Bush could have done is Marlboro commercials (without talking). Cheney, Jesus, he really does need a mini-me, and he can star as Dr. Evil.

August 29th, 2008, 6:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

So Shai, let’s suppose what you are saying is true about the settlers. How do two wrongs make a right? Both Asad and the settlers (and Israel doing less than it can) are wrong. This is Syria comment. Why are you trying to justify all Syrian actions based on some bad thing you think Israel or Israelis do? What part of your brain has been shut off so that you are happy to justify ruthless actions that lead to to the unnecessary death of many Iraqi civillians and US soldiers?

August 29th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Observer said:

Replubicans are desperate: a woman for VP to try to have some Clinton supporters; a postponement of the convention to avoid reminding people of Katrina as the anniversary of the disaster is marked by a new Hurricane approaching New Orleans; Dick Cheney to Kazakhastan and Georgia and Ukraine. Moscow has now trumped the unilateral policy of the US, divided NATO, secured the Black Sea fleet ports, and brought the Shanghai Cooperation Council together to back its overall stance. China has allowed itself some room but overall is behind Moscow.

Maliki has replaced the negotiator of the security arrangements excluding the foreign minister who is a Kurd, he is firm as the Sistani and Khamenei have instructed him to ask for a FULL withdrawal of all 145 000 troops by the end of 2010. He is going to wait out the current administration and not sign a SOFA agreement. The trillion dollars and the near 5000 dead and 35 000 wounded would have been for nothing.

Sarko le premier is coming to Damascus and Syria is opening up to Lebanon. Detleve Melhis has a lawsuit on his hands and no one is talking tribunal. Saudi money keeps flowing in and the only alternative to the Playboy militia of Hariri are Square beard and Short Sleeve Salafists that are totally out of control.

I predicted before a hot summer with the revival of the civil war but it did not happen as the US is still convincing the Awakening Council that there is room for them in the new political system. Now that the elections are postponed and Maliki has shown no interest in integrating the Sunnis, the slumber of the Awakening Sheiks will come to an end. This is another defeat for the Saudi King as he convinced his Sunnis to slow down their revolt and cooperate and they will have nothing to show for it.

The West is living a new delusion with the so called propaganda coup against Russia not realizing that the rest of the world sees Russia as fully justified in its actions. Well the news no longer come exclusively from the BBC or CNN or Fox News.

I hear a lot of saber rattling from the Israeli side, is this electoral blustering? If Bibi is the next premier, we can assume a very hot fall or perhaps in the spring. But I am not sure about this one.

A lot of people keep saying that we are not back into 1914, I say we are back into 1905 and I do not see that the current leaders are any more wise than those that plunged the world into the first and then the second world wars. Merkel wants a revived confrontation with Russia, and the Russians could easily remind her of what her predecessors did when they came visitng on June 22 1941.

August 29th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Alex said:


When you assure the Syrians that their country is next on the list for a chaotic bloody invasion, what do you expect them to do?

I know you would wanted them to be scared, to surrender and to turn into another Jordan … an “Arab moderate” country with no taste and no vision.


Remember why I told you I liked Livni? … she can easily admit she made a mistake!

But look at the gentlemen wearing those cowboy hats … they made a number of huge mistakes … can you imagine them saying “we messed up. Let’s fix what we broke”?


Actually the best they could do was to allow Turkey, Qatar, and France to start fixing their mistakes… starting by talking to Syria’s president.

President Bush and V.P. Cheney wouldn’t do it though … they just can’t.

August 29th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Shai said:

“… based on some bad thing you think Israel or Israelis do?”

I think it… And you? You don’t think it? Are you maybe uncertain about Israel doing nothing about our settlers? Do you need some more time to think about this? To research the topic thoroughly, before you come to some thoughtful conclusion?

I didn’t say what Syria is doing in Iraq is good, nor did I ever justify it. As usual, you put words in people’s mouths. You seem to like that, and be quite good at it.

But I do think it is just a tiny bit hypocritical of an Israeli to point to Syria, and blame her for not doing enough against her own criminals. Unless, that is, you don’t think stealing Palestinian land is a criminal act. Maybe you don’t…

August 29th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Alex said:


Please tell me is Bashar is not humble enough for your taste:

August 29th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Karim said:

Observer ,more than 90% of the muslim and arab world is Sunni not only Saudi Arabia.
And …Syria is more Sunni than Saudi Arabia.

August 29th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Shai said:


Are you sure you want to be back in 1905? Back then, the Japanese were fighting the Russians! 🙂 Doesn’t Merkel like the Japanese?…

August 29th, 2008, 7:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am in fact saying much more. I am saying Syria knowingly sends the jihadists. They were invited to Syria and are being used as a leverage point against the US.

Really? You are not justifying what Syria is doing? You seem to think that the only person in the world that can criticize Syria is a saint or perhaps a newly born baby that has never had a chance to sin. I’ll even make it simpler for you to understand: Can a thief complain against a murderer? Of course he can. How about a thief about another thief? Still the answe is of course yes. Let me ask you this: What gives you the right to complain about ANY Israeli politician? Are you a saint? But lo and behold, you have every right to complain and criticize. Sainthood is not a prerequisite for criticism.

As for Israeli settlers, they should be dealt with to the full extent of the law. Most of what you call “stealing” is approved by the government and is therefore lawful. But, any vandalism on the settlers part, and this happens occasionally should be dealt with and is dealt with harshly.

August 29th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Shai said:

Dear AIG,

It would be nice if you spent at least as many hours in Israel as you do on SC. You might find out then, that the problem with many settlers isn’t “vandalism”, but rather illegal takeover of land. Large patches of land. Hilltops, and many acres around them. And illegal extensions of neighborhoods, and the creation of new, illegal settlements.

Again, if you’d actually live in Israel, you might know that about 95% of these acts are NOT approved by government. And most of those 95%, will find their way to court. And when in almost every case (when the cases are heard) the court judges against the settlers, the police or army are instructed to remove the settlers. And, guess what? They don’t. And the reason they don’t, changes daily almost like the weather does. Perhaps they use your famous “AIG’s Book of Excuses”.

A thief can be a thief, and he can complain, and he can bark, and he can give excuses. But in this case, he is also the hypocrite. I don’t have a problem with you being a hypocrite. But I think you should.

August 29th, 2008, 7:23 pm


Karim said:

Yes Alex,what’s so funny?
He said that he uses internet for information ,is syriacomment one of his sources of information?

August 29th, 2008, 7:26 pm


Akbar Palace said:

…can you imagine them saying “we messed up. Let’s fix what we broke”?

Alex –

What did Bush and Cheney break beside Saddam’s neck and the will of the Iraqi insurgents?

August 29th, 2008, 7:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

So let me state for you again so we are completely clear on the issue. Israel’s government should immediately implement the court orders and take care of the illegal settlements.

Now can you explain to us how whether I am an hypocrite or not is related to the fact that Syria ruthlessly uses jihadis to kill Iraqi civillians and US soldiers? Is there anything you want to say on this issue? Do you “understand” them? Would you do the same in their position?

August 29th, 2008, 7:30 pm


Shai said:


I see it’s stand-up comedy time on SC. And I haven’t purchased tickets. So I better leave, before it gets nasty… 🙂 Have fun!

August 29th, 2008, 7:30 pm


ausama said:

“Bush’s Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives”

A shallow and misleading understement whichever way you look at it..

I suggest that a Much more proper title would be:

“Bush’s Policis have Cost US Lives EVERYWHERE”. And the cost in lives because of those policies is a minor aspect of what the true cost to America would be.

Why limit it to Syria only??? Syria-related issues are the least costly aspect of Bush’s failed adventures in a world which he does not understand and where the “facts” were being explained to him by neo-cons with an evil agenda which they could not even hope to acheive if they were not so strategically shallow-minded and moraly bad-intentioned as they were!!!

But Nations usually learn from their mistakes. Let us hope this will be the case in a new America.

August 29th, 2008, 7:39 pm


offended said:

I don’t know if you guys have picked up the story of IHT; apparently, the CIA had managed to penetrate Abdul Qadeer Khan’s black marketeering network and convert top agents (Swiss engineers)to work for them. They’ve allegedly managed to even sell Iran sabotaged centrefuges through those moles.


Me thinks it’s too good to be true, it sounds more like a spy novel.

August 29th, 2008, 7:53 pm


Alex said:

No Karim,

The point I was making is that Bashar is humble enough to realize it when he makes a mistake which makes it possible for him to fix that mistake.

The clip I linked to shows you, if you were not blind, his character.

And if you do not want to analyze a clip, remember how Bashar’s ego did not make him foolishly repond to Israel when Israeli fighters flew over his presidential palace few years ago.

Akbar Palace,

I’m sure you can google it … try to pick the right keywords to find out what neutral observers (not Syrians like Alex) think of this administration.

August 29th, 2008, 7:54 pm


Shai said:

Offended, like I said, stand-up comedy hour… 😉

August 29th, 2008, 7:55 pm


offended said:

Shai, if only 10% of mankind were as transparent and honest as you are; we’d be in much, much better world!

August 29th, 2008, 7:56 pm


offended said:

Israel’s government should immediately implement the court orders and take care of the illegal settlements.

AIG, untill they do, why don’t you cut me some slack and allow me to be biased in favor of my country too?


August 29th, 2008, 7:59 pm


Shai said:


Apparently my views are suicidal, and I’ve lost touch with reality – https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=843#comment-213283

The world cannot be a better place with someone like that around…

August 29th, 2008, 8:00 pm


offended said:

Shai, I concur. Maybe we should both seek therapy with the neocons?

Or shall we try to call 800FREEDOM helpline (as an alternative to 800suicide)?

August 29th, 2008, 8:05 pm


Shai said:

I’ll make the call, and pay for the first session. I’ll be the Israeli sitting next to that cowboy with the label “Dick” on his hat…

August 29th, 2008, 8:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, have it your way. You and Shai convinced me. It is ok for Syria to send jihadists to Iraq because Israel is not perfect. Furthermore, we should undertand Syria and in fact donate money so that they can send more jihadists. Then, we should also use Asad’s methods in Israel because he is Shai’s hero and a much better leader and politician than the wimpy demcoratic ones we have in Israel who lack vision (unlike Asad who is a prophet and a superman, but also humble).

Yes, it does seem Shai is not happy to be constrained by reality.

August 29th, 2008, 8:11 pm


jad said:

(What did Bush and Cheney break beside Saddam’s neck and the will of the Iraqi insurgents?)

If Bashar looks like this
Someone here will approve and Bashar will be totally accepted for the 90% Sunnis in Syria and he should build MADRASA which will totally improve his ONLY Sunnis nation……
BUT for Bashar being humble and for the first lady (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asma_al-Assad) to get the prize for being the most outstanding Arab woman of 2008 yet being very humble is forbidden! And a shame that we should all Syrian condemn.

Hi Shai, I agree with Ofendded when he said (Shai, if only 10% of mankind were as transparent and honest as you are; we’d be in much, much better world!) well written

August 29th, 2008, 8:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said:

I know you would wanted them to be scared, to surrender and to turn into another Jordan … an “Arab moderate” country with no taste and no vision..

Alex, this is the first chauvinistic statement I’ve ever heard you make, ya zalameh.

And against the poor Jordanians? Our brothers? Wa lak 3ayb 3alayk. 😉

August 29th, 2008, 8:49 pm


Karim said:

And if you do not want to analyze a clip, remember how Bashar’s ego did not make him foolishly repond to Israel when Israeli fighters flew over his presidential palace few years ago.

LOL Alex ,of course in front of Israel he is a gentleman (remember the favourite maxim of our lebanese brothers for asad , arnab bil golan ….asad …3ala masakin Hama w Lebnan ,Michel Kilo and Aref Dalila).

Anyway Alex,for Israel ,the Asadian regime is a necessity.
This is exactly what they want for our people ..

Alex ,i know many many people more humble ,more intelligent,more honest,more patriotic than Bashar ,and you are one of them.

August 29th, 2008, 9:25 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,only 10% of the syrian muslims are bigots ,the majority are for a civil and secular state and so are most of the sunnis in the world.(even in Pakistan,what is the size of the islamic parties there?).

August 29th, 2008, 9:30 pm


jad said:

Pleas give me your census sources because you always amaze me with your accuracy and percentage numbers for every aspect of Syrian population whenever you have a comment.
Now it’s 10%, It was 30% one sec ago…your censes change like the stock market.
BTW, I do agree with you that there (many many people more humble ,more intelligent,more honest,more patriotic than Bashar)
Talking rationally though,Bashar Alasad is the President of Syria (not anyone of the people you know) and for us to improve and develop our country we have to work with him not against him on personal levels because we sound like kids doing that, we have so many problems facing our country on every aspect you can imagine and the least one of them is the personal feeling and impression we have for him.
To do our part properly we should keep pointing out the real problems and try to fix them not adding more of what we already have.

August 29th, 2008, 9:37 pm


norman said:

Syria and Obama share the same economic adviser and Syria contracted him first,

باراك أوباما يتقاسم مستشاره الاقتصادي مع سورية الاخبار السياسية

حائز جائزة نوبل في الاقتصاد سيقود مشروعا لتنظيم الاقتصاد غير المنظم في سورية

قالت مصادر مطلعة لسيريانيوز إن سورية والمرشح الديمقراطي للرئاسة الأمريكية باراك اوباما تشاركا في الخبير الاقتصادي الدولي هيرناندو دوسوتو الذي زار سورية مؤخرا.

وذكرت المصادر التي رفضت الكشف عن اسمها أن دوسوتو وافق على قيادة مشروع وطني لتنظيم الاقتصاد غير المنظم في سورية والذي يشكل حسب تقديرات الخبراء نحو 40% من الاقتصاد السوري.

وأضافت المصادر ان دوسوتو ,الحائز على جائزة نوبل في الاقتصاد, وافق لاحقا على عرض من المرشح الديمقراطي للرئاسة الأمريكية باراك أوباما ليكون مستشاره الاقتصادي.

وتابعت أن دوسوتو أبلغ أوباما بأنه كان قد ارتبط مع سورية من اجل قيادة مشروع اقتصادي هام, إلا أن أوباما رد عليه “ليست هناك مشكلة .. سوف نتقاسمك أنا وسورية”.

وكان دوسوتو زار سورية في شهر حزيران الماضي وشارك في ورشة عمل حول القطاع الاقتصادي غير المنظم بمشاركة خبراء دوليين آخرين.

وعلمت سيريانيوز أن الخبير الدولي سوف يعود إلى سورية الشهر المقبل حيث سيطلق المشروع الوطني لتنظيم الاقتصاد غير المنظم في سورية يوم 15 أيلول.

يعقوب قدوري – سيريانيوز

August 29th, 2008, 9:44 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Let’s see. The Syrians know about every anti-government organization, every piece of weapon not in government hands BUT they have problems finding the explosives and people that go into Iraq to blow themsevles up. Please. It is not lack of cooperation that is taking US lives, it is the Syrians DIRECTLY that are responsible for US deaths.

It is funny AIG how “Israelis and Americans” pretend to believe (= demand) that in less democratic countries Arab nations the leadership and their secret police know everything that is going on and what is “going on” is always lead by them. Come-on not in the most darkest regimes, and Syria is far from those, that has not been possible.

Syria has millions of refugees from Iraq coming an going. Huge amounts of goods and people cross the border daily. There is no secret police in the world who could get full control of such a situation. The only way of controlling that situation would be to close the border. If Syria would have not offered a “vent valve” for USA in taking the refugees, the whole situation would have exploded to Bush’s face much worse as it has done. It is fair to say that Syria has saved thousands of American lives.

The so called Jihadist (in US/Israeli propaganda) suicide bombers both in Israel and Iraq are mostly people who have suffered in the past severe personal losses by occupier not extraordinary religious people. Of course they use religion for their “own sake” to get the final drop of determination, as do all soldiers around the world, before the attack. Let’s remember the countless rabbis and priests providing spiritual relief for the US cannon fodder in Iraq and Afghanistan or for Israeli cannon fodder guarding their slave camps and on their regional punishment tours. AIG all armies and soldiers use religion in their fights, even you “atheistic” Jews. Didn’t you AIG use that your black hat in ceremonies during your honourable service time in the IDF?

August 29th, 2008, 10:00 pm


Karim said:

JAD ,i mixed the things between the 10 % of bigots and the 30% of those that are likely to give their vote to religious parties.
So that’s why i rectified

August 29th, 2008, 10:11 pm


jad said:

No worries Karim and don’t take it that seriously, I was just joking with you, we all edit our comments after we publish them…cheers.

August 29th, 2008, 10:16 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,Bashar Asad is our president and Makhlouf our minister of economy and Maher Asad our minister of defence …so good luck with this triumvirat…We had their fathers for 40 years what will change with the sons who are more corrupt and less smart than their fathers ?
Jad ,Syria deserve very much better …and Asad is only a bad era in Syrian history.If Bashar really care for Syria ,he should resign for the sake of 20 millions.And if he is so popular ,so let him to be elected democratically.

August 29th, 2008, 10:20 pm


jad said:

Honestly, I wish if it is as simple as you mention it, unfortunately it isn’t. You are not seeing the whole picture, me neither and many people on this site don’t see it.
Developing a country doesn’t happen that easily even in a peaceful and non violent era, what if you put that country (don’t forget how many religion and sects we have, we are unique regarding that in the middle east, try to keep it this way otherwise Syria is not Syria) in the heart of the Middle East and paralyse it with all kind of sanctions and manipulations; it will take much much longer.
Talking about Makhloof, I totally agree that he uses his powers to get what he wants yet with the money he has and the company he has how many work opportunity his company gave, are all of the people working in that company from one religion and from one part of the Syrian society? NO, they are SYRIANS and they are supporting their family with that work. Can you imagine how many family will effect if we simply closed those company?
Is he the only person who gets rich and used his power to get there, what about other rich men in Syria? Don’t you think that even in the west people use their power to get money?
I’m not defending him or any corrupted man in Syria I’m just showing you that what you are asking for is not in the favour of many Syrians. And whoever will come to power they won’t be that much better, why should I always ask for the extreme while I can do the improvement I want without destroying what I already have.
It will take long time before you see any results of developed Syria and from what I read and from what I see whenever I visit Syria, it looks that the government are trying to do something and even the president and the first lady are engaging in many activities, you were mocking the first lady in one of your comments with no proper reason, do you know anything about her work? Did you see what her organization is doing for people in the village or in education? If you don’t see that as an improvement of ordinary Syrians, you need to open your eyes.
Even Turkey that you admire, didn’t get to what it is right now in 10 or 30 years…it’s been almost 100 years now and yet they struggle.
Be optimistic my Syrian brother, and keep pointing out the problems.

August 29th, 2008, 11:09 pm


jad said:

I don’t agree with you that Asad was a bad era, we had much worst than his, you have to look at all kind of improvement we had at that era, unfortunately you always concentrate on the Ikhwan period and you always blame Asad for that forgetting how many people the Ikhwan killed and how many bombs they did and the fact that they were terrorising the whole society, you always tend to forget that….from your comments and your critics about the government being unjust with Sunnis it sounds as if Syria doesn’t have enough mosques and religion schools. We have plenty believe me and Sunnis have all the right they can ask. Just curious what are the rights that you think you as Sunnis are not getting?
Back to Asad era, How about Women rights, Educations, Health, Religion? All of those aspects were improved from what is was, at the same time the economy went terrible and still not doing great but improving, politics and human rights went terrible and even freedom of speech…BUT you can’t always look at one aspect. To justify your judge about Asad era you need to look at every aspect of the era you judge then give your verdict.
Again be optimistc…

August 29th, 2008, 11:56 pm


Rumyal said:


Though my political views are closer to yours than AIG’s I find it really disturbing that when it comes to answering his concerns you become the opposite of the courteous and sharp person that you are when you engage with the Arab folks here.

You wouldn’t dream of talking down to, say, QN like you do to AIG, just because he’s an expat. Nor suggest that he doesn’t have a clue because of this. Expats many times have much better grasp of what really is going on—sometimes the distance gives you better perspective. Give this theme a break, you have no right to shut anybody up based on where he chooses to live.

You would also never accuse any of the Arab folks here of hypocrisy when they point out Israeli deficiencies that their own governments also exhibit, regardless of whether the person supports his government or not. This would just be 2nd rate intellectual discourse, wouldn’t it? I mean, they may be hypocrites, but that’s usually not the topic of discussion, pointing this out is just a cheap way to deflect an inconvenient discussion.

August 30th, 2008, 1:03 am


Alex said:


Shai treated Simohurrta the same way he treats AIG.

And with AIG it started when AIG called Shai “a useful idiot” …

August 30th, 2008, 5:12 am


Rumyal said:


Ouch, I didn’t know that. Just trying to make sure things stay cordial…

August 30th, 2008, 8:03 am


antika said:

I think the invisible harm done in syria is much greater than all the destruction we see in many parts of the world. destroying buildings takes days to fix while destroying humans takes generations. hope you can understand what i mean. how can you restore value for people to have happy, honest, free, clean and clear life? it will take ages if it strated now. meanwhile we are still going in the opposite direction with a life where lies, valuelessness, dishonesty, dirtness, fear, freelessness, injustice, lawlessness, poverty and sadness control every action of our life. I am afraid -God forbid- things will get to a point of no hope but this time without the interference of any external powers. the nightmare of what happens in Iraq makes my hands and legs feel cold. Hope things will drammatically chnage for the better to spare the people of syria the horrors of what i have seen and heard from Iraq.

August 30th, 2008, 10:14 am


antika said:

just waht to add. if THEY want to put syria on the true track they only need to reestablish the law of the land but the question here is IS THIS POSSIBLE?

August 30th, 2008, 10:17 am


why-discuss said:

Why noone objected when Hariri senior was growing his fortune in Lebanon by transforming it into his dream of a arab Monaco with carte blanche from the governement and abuses of citizens interests. I don’t see Syria’s millionaires acting the same way…

August 30th, 2008, 10:40 am


Shai said:


First, you’re right. I do treat AIG differently and, to be honest, I wish I didn’t. He and I have a long history of mutual-disrespect… It really doesn’t matter anymore who started, and who continued. What Alex said is true, AIG did find some rather interesting titles for me over the past 6 months or so.

Unlike with most commentators here (including anti-Zionists, even a few anti-Semites believe it or not), with AIG it is near-impossible to conduct a real conversation. At least for me, as the other Israeli. AIG has labeled me a long time ago, and refuses to consider other opinions. His basic mantra is “Peace after Democracy”, not a minute before. This, despite the fact that every commentator on SC, with the exception of one or two, tell him he’s unrealistic. Not a single Israeli Prime Minister, even from AIG’s beloved Likud party (Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu, Sharon, Olmert) have ever placed democracy as precondition to peace, but AIG does! And he responds to any criticism of Israel by counter-attacking the Arabs’ existing regimes. When pushed enough, he occasionally concedes that maybe Israel is in the wrong on a particular issue or two… (Settlers, for instance).

For me personally, I find it very hard to respect Israelis (or even former Israelis) who end up, by not accepting criticism, justifying the continuation of Israel’s Occupation (which I do believe is the root of many evils). They refuse to acknowledge the inter-connectedness of everything in our region, attempting to discuss each issue separately (for instance, Syria’s stance on Iraq, or its support of Hezbollah and alliance with Iran). They see no connection for any of those with, for example, Israel’s Occupation of Palestine, or America’s Occupation of Iraq. I believe they DO know that Israel is continuing to commit horrific crimes against the Palestinians, but they refuse of course to admit it. When I admit to certain racism in Israel (against Arab-Israelis), they don’t acknowledge this, but instead suggest Israel is no more racist than any other nation. I have yet to hear AIG accept any real criticism of Israel’s harshest crimes.

AIG’s stubbornness, his inability to accept criticism of Israel, his modus operandi of labeling anything and anyone who disagrees with him, and his exhaustive “Democracy First” mantra, all make it nearly impossible for me to actually conduct a normal conversation with him. My “enemies” here on SC show me more respect than my own so-called countryman. What can you do… 🙂 (I no longer expect any more of AIG).

August 30th, 2008, 10:54 am


Joshua said:

Dear Ras Beirut,

You take me to task in the last comment section, writing:

it is ok for Syria to support/equip HA & Hammas in order to recover the Golan. Wow!!!!… Poor Lebanon and its population pays the price?

I agree with you that it is wrong for Syria to arm Hizbullah. It is also wrong that Israel has annexed the Golan and that 300,000 Golanis languish in refugee status, denied the right to return to their land and homes. The Palestinians have also been denied their rights. In turn, Israel is subjected to attack from Hizbullah and Hammas. This violence does little to right the wrongs of the region. Usually it kills innocent Israelis.

The injustices abound. The waste and destruction is maddening.

I don’t think we disagree about the stupidity and unfairness of this. Perhaps we do disagree about how an end to this suffering is most likely to be achieved?

I argue that the easiest and most realistic starting point to ending this vicious circle is for a Syrian-Israeli deal over the Golan. Syria has promised to stop arming Hizbullah if it gets back the Golan. This would help stabilize Lebanon. Syria will not stop this without getting back the Golan. Both Israeli and Lebanese efforts to destroy Hizbullah or kill its leadership have failed. Perhaps there is a different way?

You argue that Syria should mass its troops at the Golan and invade Israeli held territory in an act of “valor.”

There is a certain Geronimo-like emotional appeal in such a full scale assault on Israel’s superior forces. I am not sure it would lead to anything but Syrian defeat and humiliation, which may be the point of your suggestion. Would this be good for Lebanon? I doubt it. It would not be good for Palestinians, nor, I would argue, would it be good for Israel.

Why not seek a solution to the many injustices of the region that actually stands a chance of realization – one that is possible and would help stop the bloodshed, rather than compound it?

August 30th, 2008, 1:50 pm


Dolmades said:

So, it looks like Jean Kahwaji has been appointed as Lebanon’s new Army Chief, representing yet another diplomatic victory for Syria there. It seems like Syria’s is slowly regaining its influence on Lebanese affairs without the expense of 30,000 troops there. In a way, Hariri’s assassination and Syria’s military exit was the best thing that ever happened to Syria.

Another proof to the yet-unconverted that going against Syria in Lebanon is a losing proposition, notwithstanding your regional or global sponsor.

August 30th, 2008, 2:02 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh states:

I agree with you that it is wrong for Syria to arm Hizbullah.

Dear Professor Josh,

Clearly, you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth. If you were honest, you would not have said:

Syria will undoubted encourage Hizbullah to turn up the heat on Israel if peace talks go no where. What else can it do?

Thank you for providing such a stark example of pro-Syrian double-speak.

August 30th, 2008, 2:08 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Ras Beirut,

You said:

“You tell me Mr. Landis why should the Lebaneswe sacrifice everything including destrutcion, so you can get back the Golan without “You” fighting for it.”

Dr. Landis and Alex both replied to your comments with their own explanations and rationale.

Lebanon is a lovely but weak country. It is its glaring weakness that invites its more militarily powerful neighbors to use it to advance their own agendas.

Lebanon is too easy to manipulate.

If you were in Bashar’s shoes, would you send your own army into Israel to capture back your land or would you instead rely on proxis from the country next door?

Is it fair? No.

Lebanon must not blame others for using their country as a launching pad for their own geopolitical aspirations. This is a treacherous neighborhood. “In lam takon ziiban akalatka alzeabu”.

August 30th, 2008, 2:35 pm


Karim said:

Jad,i dont know your age,i also didnt live the pre asad era.
But what you said is not accurate ,Syria in the beginning of the 70’s was better economically and socially than most of today economic tigers like Turkey(I think that Ehsani can confirm this fact) ,Malaysia and even far better than South Korea.Jad it was not 100 years ago.About education ,we had quality …it’s more important than quantity …you can also say that Albania has 0 % of illiteracy but where is the Albanian elite which was very dynamic under the Ottomans.As for the women ,there is no doubt that the environment was less hostile for them in the 70’s than today,Asad has encouraged prostitution and bad culture instead and destroyed civil society ,this situation as reaction pushed the syrians towards extremism and sectarianism,it was weak feeling before Asad ,today Alawite is synonym of Mukhabarat and corrupt bureaucrat …As for the Religious field ,Our sheikhs were great scholars and with deep knowledge of philosophy,Sufism and history …like Sheikh Kamil al Ghazzi or Ragheb Al Tabbakh of Aleppo or Yahya Osman of Damascus who were the best Syrian historians.
As for the press freedom and publishing,only in Aleppo we had 50 newspapers and magazines ,and some of the best publishing houses with Beirut.Today Syria is nearly a desert in the field of culture and knowledge.
Jad ,Asadian era is synonym of Nawarization of Syria …And don’t laugh ,Ibn Kaldun the founder of sociology had the same approach when the city is corrupted by external forces,he would have said ,Beduinization of Syria.

August 30th, 2008, 3:03 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Assad is the most sophisticated and likable leader in the ME.

August 30th, 2008, 3:25 pm


Karim said:

NAC,,compared to the other dictators? Khadafi and Mubarak ?

Wait Sayf al Islam Khadafi and Jamal Mubarak are coming…

BTW Nur,did you saw the daughter of Khadafi,if you are a fan of the young arab dictators sons of dictators you would love her too.

August 30th, 2008, 3:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The bottom line is simple. Shai is here not to discuss the issues but to create a “feel good” atmosphere that hides the real issues and was the core reason why Oslo was a catastrophe.

Let me give you a concrete example. Shai is happy to label Israel as a racist country but on the other hand he supports Alex who says that Syria treated well its Jewish community. There are basically no Jews left in Syria and there were 50,000 in 1947.

Furthermore, ask Shai about Syria supporting Hamas and the second intifada. You will learn that he “understands” what Syria is doing and that he would do the same in their position. Try to find the difference between what Shai means with “understands” and “justifies” and you will see he has no way of explaining it in any way that shows a difference.

Regarding the democracy issue, Shai has characterized my position correctly. But what is Shai’s position? His position is DIRECTLY opposed to the position of all the Syrian opposition movements. How will these movements have a chance if Israel and the US legitimize Asad? How will democracy ever come to Syria when the international community strengthens Asad even more? See in Egypt how the peace with Israel and US backing has entrenched Mubarak forever and after his death there will be his son.

Of course, Shai, who is very sensitive to any human rights violation in Israel, does not care about giving Syrians a chance at a real democracy. That is why he finds support among the Syrians on this blog who are afraid of democracy in Syria just as the Sunnis did not want democracy in Iraq. When occasionally Syrians supporting the opposition write on this blog, they support my position. I really believe in democracy and in its ability to maximize human potential. Shai of course does not believe this and thinks I am just for keeping the Golan. I have stated many times, once there is democracy in Syria, Israel should give the Golan to Syria as a gesture of good will.

August 30th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Dolmades said:

Agree with Nur. Regardless of the shoddy way he inherited the Presidency, and regardless of whether you agree with him or not, we can’t dispute his popularity on the street.

August 30th, 2008, 4:50 pm


Ras Beirut said:

Dr. Landis,

Thanks for the reply, and I fully understand your & Syria’s position vis a vis recovering the Golan. It’s a moral imperative to get that land back in my view, because it is Syrian land period. It’s how to get there the issue. So there won’t be a misunderstanding, nothing will please me more than to have a full and just peace between the arabs and Israel (we come from the same family tree). In this context two issues come to mind, that I would like to share my views with this enlightened panel.

1. The never ending the arab/israeli conflict
2. Lebanon’s high price of maintaining a never ending conflict front

On the first point, I do place the lion share of the blame for prolonging the conflict on the door steps of Israel. Full stop. After 67 to this day the arabs have tried in vain to have a comprehensive peace with Israel based on a just formula as embedded in UN resolutions and have the moral acceptance of pretty much the entire planet. Instead, Israel wanted to do the peace process in a divide and conquer fashion as it was intoxicated with its military victories and knew it had the unquestionned backing of the US, regardless of whether its course of action was legal or moral.

So Israel signs peace treaties with Egypt & Jordan using US purchasing power and gets its wish of going thru the process piecemeal. However, things didn’t turn out as planned. Building settlements and subjucating civilian population thru pointed guns, didn’t earn it a moral position among the league of nations, and so the conflict festered and got ugly for all involved including Israel.

In this context, it is very understandible to see Syria frustrated.

It is Israel’s moral duty to right things and go back to the 67 line (with minor adjustments and bartering to reflect changes on the ground). The arab league offered this in 02 in Beirut. What is so unfair about this offer? Forget about Israeli public opinion that they like the Golan for a summer vacation. Israeli leaders should be straight with their people and staight talk to them, that this land is not ours under international law and it belong to someone else, regardless if grape vines grow there or you can ski. It’s the moral thing to do.

On the second point of Lebanon. I do feel that my poor Lebanon always gets the short end of the stick in this whole process, and gets it from both Israel & the arabs.

Yes I do understand that Lebanon is fractured, but at the same time I don’t think that it is morally right for the others to take advantage of the situation. It is not easy to manage a country with 18 sects. Outside manipulation is very easy, but still not right. Just because someone can rob a bank, doesn’t make it right.

The arabs have been even more abusive of the situation, from the Cairo agreement to this day. They all shout death to Israel and only keep an active front in Lebanon, while they go around sign treaties with Israel and leaving the smallest arab country to get a beating day in day out.

It is in this context that my criticism is directed at Syria & Israel. If Syria claims to be as powerfull, have its own men fight for its rightfull land. What happened to the half-men thingy, or only Lebanon has men of valor. By the same token, Israel should see thru this veneer and deal with Syria directly.

It seems that both prefer to have Lebanon as a battle ground, and that’s just unfair pour mon Liban.

August 30th, 2008, 5:02 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Ras Beirut,

Although you addressed Dr. Landis, let me commend you on your reply. Your last sentence essentially said it all. The crux of your argument is that this whole game is “unfair” and “morally wrong”.

Regrettably, morality and fairness are not the standards by which this region’s geopolitics works.


Asad has encouraged prostitution?

I had a long exchange with you when you made a similar remark before. Statements like this undermine your credibility.

August 30th, 2008, 5:12 pm


Jad said:

karim, I’m sorry but most of what u wrote isn’t the whole picture
it seems that you froze yourself and all your reflection into religion, you need to go out of that. It doesn’t make you fair and you only concentrate on the negative side. I was trying to have some good exchange with you but you always go away from being balance and you tend to classify syrians according to their background and religion, and in an amature indian hiarchy. Peace of advice, when you want to convince people of your idea stay away from religion and social classification.
I also want to be clear, I like our president and I beleive that he is doing his best for all syrian not for one religion group, and Syria is getting better unlike some baseless comments on here.
Be optimistic

August 30th, 2008, 5:21 pm


Shai said:

AIG said:

“Shai is happy to label Israel as a racist country…”

Wrong! I am certainly NOT happy to attribute racism to my nation. I can’t think of anyone who would be. I am rather ashamed of it.

“… but on the other hand he supports Alex who says that Syria treated well its Jewish community.”

Wrong! I never made a single comment about this issue, as I happen to know very little about it, unfortunately.

“… he has no way of explaining it (Syria’s support of Hamas and the second Intifada) in any way that shows a difference (between understanding it and justifying it).”

Wrong! I’ve stated on numerous occasions that while I understand why Syria is supporting Hamas, I certainly don’t agree with it, as it is harming my people directly. One can understand his enemy, yet not justify its actions. Until there is peace, I unfortunately have to fight my enemy, while he does the same towards me, whether directyl, or indirectly. But I certainly don’t justify it.

“Shai… does not care about giving Syrians a chance at a real democracy.”

Wrong! I certainly care about democracy and freedom in Syria. I just don’t think they are a prerequisite to making peace with Syria.

“I really believe in democracy and in its ability to maximize human potential. Shai of course does not believe this and thinks I am just for keeping the Golan.”

Wrong! I never claimed you didn’t believe in democracy. I did claim that the link between returning the Golan to its rightful owners, and waiting before those owners have a democracy, is ludicrous, irresponsible, and endangering the security of Israel and the lives of its citizens. Not to mention the lives and well-being of everyone else in this region.

August 30th, 2008, 5:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you care about democracy in Syria, you would listen to the people who are trying to democratize Syria, the Syrian opposition. But, you choose to listen to the equivalent of the Iraqi Sunnis in Syria.

If you give the Golan to Asad, you are delaying democarcy in Syria for decades. You cannot have it both ways. Your position is inconsistent.

August 30th, 2008, 5:36 pm


Shai said:

I listen to Syria’s opposition, and I listen to those who disagree with Syria’s opposition. The main disagreement I happen to have with Syria’s opposition groups, is regarding their demand of Israel not to deal with Syria, until Bashar Assad is removed. I think that this unfortunately cannot happen, as we must make peace with ANY Syria, whether it is a democracy, or not. Waiting for that to happen is irresponsible and dangerous. Opportunities for peace in our region do not occur every other Sunday, and when they finally do knock on our door, we better not shut it (as we’re so used to doing, for the past 40 years). It is our responsibility to our children, and to theirs, to make peace once and for all. And not to wait for “perfect conditions”, which satisfy this opposition group or the other. Peace you make with your enemy, not your puppet, nor your best friend. And you do not have the luxury of deciding what your enemy should look like.

While I’m certainly less qualified to discuss democracy in Syria than about 95% of the commentators here, I have a strong feeling that it can be achieved in Syria much faster, if there is peace in the Middle East, if the Golan has been returned, if the Palestinians have their own nation at last, and if no more “excuses” can be given to the Syrian people (defense, resistance, emergency laws, etc.)

August 30th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Jad said:

Stop lecturing us about democracy, if you were so pro democracy you should’v sit with Hamad when they elected. Hipocracy

August 30th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,what have i to win to be sectarian ?Syria is 85 % Sunni and more than 90 % of the Muslims and the Arabs are Sunnis.
So this sectarian feeling can not invade me even not in reaction against Bashar’s sectarianism.
But Bashar and his regime are deeply sectarian and he is very concerned that this paranoia must prevail amongst the minorities.Is that policy cements the Syrian body ?
But there is no escape ,we should think for the future ,for the post Asad era …is the regime policy of today will not have bad impact on the post Asad era ?
Bashar must not believe that he will stay till death in power thanks to the international cover and instead of looking towards Israel or the west for protection he should make peace with the Syrian people and then there will be no place for fear that Syria will know a peaceful transition from a dictatorial sectarian regime to a liberal democracy like Turkey.

August 30th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Karim said:

Ehsani Bey ,it’s less obvious in Aleppo but go see in Damascus and ask the Damascenes themselves.

August 30th, 2008, 6:11 pm


Alex said:


Please stop cross examining Shai. This is not what readers of this comments section are interested in reading.

Ras Beirut, Joshua

Syria will not attack Israel. Look at 1967 … It was Israel that attacked Syria, Israel defense minister Moshe Dayan admitted his country took the Golan heights out of greed. Yet until today (41 years later), Israel’s diplomats at the UN argue that Israel HAD TO take th Golan because of the threats coming out of Nasser and other Arabs at the time.

If Syria “attacked” today … Israel’s friends in Washington, Europe and elsewhere will make Syria pay for it for decades.

Even in 1973, Hafez Assad was very clear that he is only interested in recovering the Golan … that was the extent of his war effort.

Today, Israel is much more in control of how Washington and Europe react to Israel’s conflict with any of its Arab neighbors. Attempting to recover the Golan by force can be portrayed in congress as a savage attack on innocent Israeli civilians, and Syria will be put under international sanctions forever.

There is no international backing for a Syrian attack on Israel … not even Russia will support such a war.

Syria will fight Israel ONLY if obliged … that is, if Israel decided to launch an attack on Syria. In that case Syria will not “lose”.

Despite the carefully designed “successful” surprise attacks on Syria by Israel’s air force, I seriously doubt Israel can win a full, long-term war against Syria.

Syria’s army is not as weak as many like to suggest. I hope we never get to experience it, but the same way Syria’s political position turned out to be much stronger than the way some of Syria’s adversaries like to see it, Syria’s defensive capabilities can also surprise (and disappoint) if the time comes to demonstrate those capabilities… defending against an Israeli attack.

August 30th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:


Israel will not launch a war against Syria. But if it does go (foolishly) on some “adventure” against Iran, I certainly hope Syria won’t join in. It’s enough that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas will…

August 30th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Alex said:


You know my position on that possibility. I think the whole Middle East will be involved regardless what Syria decides at the beginning.

August 30th, 2008, 6:51 pm


Jad said:

karim, could you please enlighten us about the rights of your brothers Sunni that they don’t have in Syria now?
You are the one who is always looking back not us. The president is moving forward.

August 30th, 2008, 7:00 pm


Karim said:

Iran is not stronger than Saddam’s Iraq or even Syrian army..its power is exaggerated by the americans and by the iranian regime .It’s no more the Iranian Army of the Shah which was the most modern in the region.
As for the chaos that would follow, after Iran is attacked ,no other than Hezbollah will move…Iraq had more public support than Iran and nothing important happened.

August 30th, 2008, 7:02 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,the Sunnis are not my brothers alone ,all the Syrians are…Alawites included.Freedom and democracy are for my more important than 10000 mosques and even more important than religion itself.And nobody is better than the other ,a bad Sunni equal a bad Christian.

August 30th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:

Karim, I did not mean to say that the whole Middle East will rise up to defend Iran … What I meant to say was that a war against Iran will ignite many side fires in the area … and those fires will expand until they connect and feed each other.

It is already too hot and dry in the area … fires can start easily in such an environment.

But I’ll tell you when a possible attack on Iran might be limited to Iran … if by next year a fair and reasonable new American administration does the right thing with Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians, and makes a good friendly offer to Iran … THEN if Iran continues to resist joining the constructive efforts of all other sides, Iran would be almost alone.

But not this year, and not before the United States tries harder to be fair and just in the Middle East.

August 30th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Jad said:

From your comments i don’t think nawarstan/ asadian and all other lower/diferent syrians than your royal backgrounds are consider brotheres to you, are they? In your coming comment don’t tell me that you love everybody, you over do it whenever it comes to your true beleifs, I don’t buy it.

August 30th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Ras Beirut said:


I fully agree with your analysis. I only raised the syrian front issue in a rhetorical way so to speak to highlight the issue that Syria should wish on Lebanon what it wishes on itself as far as the bad effect of an active front. As I believe that the region have had more than its fair share of wars and destruction. Especially Lebanon.

The pursuit of peace should be the goal for all. That’s why I think that Lebanon should have been on the table in Turkey as well, even as an obsever, so the Lebanese don’t feel that deals are being done behind their backs that are not to their advantage.

It’s doable if the will of the parties is genuine. Genuine, I mean with concrete action on the ground. For example, if I were the Israeli negotiater, I will point blank challenge the syrians about the inconsistency of wanting peace, yet at the same time arming HA. It’s a very valid issue to raise on their part. By the same token, Syria should challenge Israel about true peace. Do you want peace? well the price is to give us what is our rightfull land. Israel is the one holding the cards, and if truely wants peace and normalization, it shouldn’t be that hard at all.

Hopefully, the right choices will be made, and all can have a dinner party in Zahle, Halab or Haifa.


August 30th, 2008, 7:17 pm


Karim said:

Jad ,the Nawar,Kurbat,Hajiat,Shawaya all these people are not Alawites.

August 30th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Jad said:


August 30th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Shai said:

Alex, I agree.

Karim, while this latest statement from Iran http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1016530.html may be exaggerated, I certainly cannot imagine Hezbollah and Hamas sitting by watching. And if they attack Israel, you can imagine what Israel will do to Lebanon and Gaza (this time, with the added goal of settling an old score). Alex is right, it would indeed ignite the whole region. Having potentially many thousands of missiles landing on towns and cities throughout the country, Israel would feel like it is facing the worst existential threat yet. And then it will feel justified to very severely punish all those responsible. So you see how quickly this snowball could turn into an avalanche.

Lets hope we never see this take place.

August 30th, 2008, 7:25 pm


Jad said:

aren’t they as Syrian as you are Karim pasha?

August 30th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Karim said:

Alex,only some small regions in the middle east may react ,but not all the middle east.And i don’t see other than Hizbollah ,even not Badr Brigades in Iraq.

August 30th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Jad said:

as shai previousely wrote, this is getting a stand up comedy and I didn’t buy a ticket… Smile

August 30th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Karim said:

LOL Jad ,they are but they are primitive people(don’t take it pejoratively,but in its anthropological aspect).Would you accept for your sister a Nawari husband ?I’m sure the answer is no.
And i’m not Pasha and i don’t belong to an Aristocratic family.

August 30th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Shai said:

Ras Beirut,

I think both sides are beyond that already. I believe that we’re quite close to a final draft. As Joshua pointed out, Syria already knows the price it has to pay for the Golan (stopping to arm Hezbollah), and of course Israel knows the price we have to pay (giving back the Golan). The two remaining points, which I can’t guess at the moment, are where exactly both sides will agree are the June 4th lines, and whether there will be any mention of the Palestinians in the final agreement (and what it would say).

If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll soon hear some amazing news from Olmert and Assad. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But better that, than the alternative…

August 30th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Jad said:

LOL my sister husband is a big nawari they live in a tent at the lebanese border and they have two kids named karbati and shawi.

August 30th, 2008, 7:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well you are just plain wrong. It is a fact that peace has not helped democracy neither in Egypt nor in Jordan. It just strengthened the dictator and moved democracy decades into the future, in fact already 30 years in the case of Egypt. This is what will happen in Syria and therefore the Syrian opposition groups must be heeded. By signing a peace with Asad, Israel will betray them and the ideals of democracy.

August 30th, 2008, 7:37 pm


Alex said:


Ok .. enough with this broken record.


Please don’t reply to him. Let him win this argument for now.

Jad and Karim, do you know what Karbat means? the origin of that word?

August 30th, 2008, 7:44 pm


Shai said:


Here, I’ll make it simple for you, and please let’s take a break for a while.

At the moment, I care far less for the “ideals of democracy” in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, or Burkina Faso, than I do about Israeli lives. I want to see Syrians enjoying freedom one day, but I want my own nation to first be safe in our region. I believe, that Syria is the key to stability in the Middle East. It has good relations with all our enemies. It therefore makes perfect sense to make peace with Syria. Once that takes place, Syria can help Israel make peace with everyone else, and it will.

We cannot gamble, and wait. I’d rather “betray” some Syrians who wish to have the current regime isolated for another 50 years, until it dies of old age, and not betray my own people, by continuing the state of war in the region. I think it is truly noble of you to care so much about the Syrian people, but with all due respect, I think you should focus a bit more on your own.

(Sorry Alex, I saw your comment only after submitting mine… You can delete it if you like… 🙂 ) Btw, have you checked your mail lately?

August 30th, 2008, 7:51 pm


jad said:

according to Karim pasha,
they are primitive non alawit and non fully syrians? and apparently they are the majority pepople (ask him for the %, he might have it) in the very very very bad Asad ear that encourage prostitution.

August 30th, 2008, 7:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Isn’t that the criticism that has usually been leveled at the US and the West in general? That it has cared more about its own citizens than the citizens of the countries that it gets involved in? You are just repeating the same mistake. It is time to look at the big picture and understand that only democracy will bring real and long term peace. All the rest is an illusion.

August 30th, 2008, 7:56 pm


Shai said:

Yalla, you win. Make Democracy, not Peace! 🙂

August 30th, 2008, 8:01 pm


norman said:

Does anybody know how many misters Syria has in it’s government and what their religious affiliations are .

August 30th, 2008, 8:05 pm


jad said:

you need to ask Karim, he has all the data you need.
I have to leave now. No hard feeling Karim,

August 30th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Alex said:

Jad : )

Here is from where we got the word Karpat:

Gypsies used to live in that Romanian Karpat mountain!

August 30th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Shai said:


I didn’t buy tickets either. Wait for me, let’s go get a beer! 🙂

August 30th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Karim said:

Norman and Jad ,as i said better late than too late …Bashar has the power not me …but there is one absolute certainty ,this regime will end sooner or later ,he must act now before it becomes too late,it’s a rare opportunity and if Bashar is really smart he should not be preoccupied by how his son or brother will inherit power from him or remains prisoner of the mukhabarat and their sectarian logic.
And about the ministers ,this is not important ,the important is that the rule of law prevail and for this reason these ministers should hold the power that make them capable to refuse the 49% deals of asad and makhloufs for example ,if not they are useless and their power is very limited by bashar family self interests.And btw ,our parents were not obliged to leave Syria in order to survive because according to the Gold price ,the syrian civil servants had 3 or 4 times the salary of today civil servants(this is before that Syria became oil exporter).And may be more than 50% of the syrian people survive thank to the syrian workers abroad and specially those in khaliji countries ,this is not normal at all for one of the natural wealthiest nations in the world.So i ask where this difference of assets goes?
Jad and Norman ,no problem if we had 10 christian ministers instead of one but they should be effective ,not humiliated by corrupt people who order them ta3a ta3a rouh rouh.Two of the best syrian economists ,Isam Al Zaim and Ghassan Al Rifai were ejected from their posts of ministers without any valid explanations after that they abandoned their prestigious seats of head of department in the UN and the world bank for the sake of Syria.
Bashar has no more time to lose ,he should push for radical change ,if he can not ,it means,that he is powerless and he is himself prisoner of the mukhabarat,in the case that he is clean and not part of the family mafia.

August 30th, 2008, 9:22 pm


Karim said:

Alex ,are the Kurbat also Ghajar ? In fact the origin of the gipsies is India not Romania.We should be very careful with such homonyms.

August 30th, 2008, 10:00 pm


Rumyal said:

Shai and AIG,

I’m sorry I don’t have the bandwidth that you two have to comment here. I apologize in advance if my comments are terse or are far in-between (please tell me sometime where you find all the time to comment here. I never find the time to even read all the comments, not to mention respond. Shai I believe you said some time ago that you have little children, do they get your attention only after the SC baby? :-))


AIG’s mantra is peace after democracy. If that was really the long and short of it, would he be spending here so much time as you do? It would have been sufficient to simply state this position once and move on, until a regime change is affected in Syria. The reason he spends his time here is because, however weird this may sound, he *cares* about both democracy in Syria and peace between Israel and Syria a lot. He really believes that the Syrians should follow a different path that will make them much happier and successful, and he wants to have peace. Now he may be really and utterly misguided about this (I believe so), but at least let’s agree that this is the most rational explanation for his behavior. If you agree with this, then we can conclude that no matter how dogmatic he is, he is extremely well intentioned. In fact, I think he would be considered a “dove” in Israel, because let’s face it, generally people in Israel don’t really care what happens in Syria or in any other Arab country. They just want to pretend they live in Europe. If that is the case, then let’s give him the respect he deserves.

AIG (and Shai),

The most important thing I’d like to say though, is this: SC is not an Israeli property. When we bring ourselves into the discussion we should be really thankful for Alex and company tolerating us given we are still formally “enemies”. There is a lot to be said about the form and style of what we say, which matters even more than the content. Let’s think of SC as a metaphor for a Syrian family sitting down for dinner and discussing issues like politics and economy that are of interest to Syrians. They hear a knock on the door and to their surprise they see a bunch of Israeli folks who are inviting themselves to the table. In their hospitality, the Syrians welcome the Israelis to the table and cautiously start bringing them into the conversation. Here are a few things that the Israelis should do at the point:

1) Never forget that they are guests, and guests need to be polite and aware of the sensitivities of their hosts.

2) Never forget that their hosts had some hot topics to discuss that weren’t necessarily related to Israel and that they may wish to continue their discussion without the Israeli factor coming into play especially when it is not totally relevant.

If we believe that squatting on property that’s not ours in the physical world is bad, the same should be true for the virtual world.

Maybe this all just indicates that there is a need for a blog or a forum that will be specifically targeted to discuss Syrian-Israeli relationships?

August 30th, 2008, 10:07 pm


norman said:


I do not think that you answered my question,


I think AIG does not want peace or democracy for Syria , He knows that at this time with Israel occupying the Golan and Syria not fighting aggressively for it’s return in addition to seeking peace with Israel The fundamentalist Jihadies will be elected like what happened in Palestine and with that we all have to say good by to peace ,

Aig will be happy and have a nice excuse for not seeking peace ,
Then , why should he care , he lives in the US .

August 30th, 2008, 11:06 pm


norman said:

Syria: Exiled former vice president sentenced to life in prison

Posted: 30-08-2008 , 20:11 GMT

A self-exiled former vice president of Syria has been found guilty by a military court of lying to U.N. officials investigating the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister, a lawyer said Saturday. Former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who left the country in 2005, has accused the Syrian president of having threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before he was assassinated in a February 2005 bombing.

From his home in France, Khaddam has also called for the Syrian government’s overthrow.

According to the AP, the lawyer who brought the case against Khaddam said the First Military Criminal Court convicted him in absentia on Aug. 17 of giving false testimony against the Syrian government to U.N. officials investigating Hariri’s killing. Khaddam was convicted of a dozen charges in total and sentenced to life in prison and hard labor, said the lawyer, Hussameddine Habash.

Among the other charges, Khaddam was found guilty of conspiring with a foreign country to carry out “aggression against Syria,” Habash said. Khaddam was also convicted of having contacts with Israelis because of an interview he gave to an Israeli journalist.

August 30th, 2008, 11:09 pm


norman said:


This is for you,

Arabs for Netanyahu,

Arab Opinion: Netanyahu favored by moderates

Arab Opinion: Netanyahu favored by moderates

Posted: 24-08-2008 , 16:12 GMT

With elections looming in problematic Israel, the race seems to be down to right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu and center party candidate Zipi Livni. Surprisingly, many Arabs favor a win by the seemingly more hawkish Netanyahu.

The considered opinion of political and business leaders in the region is that Netanyahu offers stability and the possibility of peace, while the inexperienced Livni brings a likelihood of volatility and crisis.

An Egyptian-trained economist pointed out the differences between the two Israeli candidates: “Netanyahu is an experienced politician who has the highest likelihood of bringing a stable government to Israel. A stable Israel means a stable region, and right now this is very important; the coming years are a crucial time for many Arab countries to develop their economies, and an unstable Israel makes that unlikely. Netanyahu’s agenda is centered on economic growth as his top priority, so he needs quiet and stability as much as everyone else, and maybe more.”

“Livni, the centrist Kadima party candidate, has an unclear agenda at this stage. Although her outlook is assumed to be less hawkish then Netanyahu, there is a strong feeling that her inexperience will lead to increased risk of conflict. She is unlikely to enjoy a firm power base in Israel, and this, combined with her inexperience in foreign and security affairs, means that her handling of crisis will likely escalate situations. Moreover, such a weak leader is too much of an opportunity for groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah to ignore, so crisis situations seem sure to turn up.”

Surprisingly, Netanyahu’s appeal to the Arab moderates is also based on a higher possibility for peace, the Egyptian scholar explained: “When you look at actions instead of rhetoric, the only Israeli leaders who have actually made land concessions to the Palestinians and the Arab states have been the right wing Israeli prime ministers – Menahim Begin withdrew from occupied Sinai, and Arial Sharon vacated the Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip. In both cases they used their own army to forcefully evict the Israeli settlers from the occupied lands. Israel’s right wing leaders are obstinate but they understand reality, and they have the authority to impose peace agreements on their public. A weak leader like Livni will not be able to push through any potential deal with the Palestinians or with Syria.”

Peering south along the Mediterranean coast towards Tel Aviv, residents of Beirut also ponder which of the leading candidates for the leadership of Israel offers the best prospects to Lebanon. Much of the city’s business community favors opposition leader Netanyahu over government minister Livni.

A trader in the Beirut stock exchange explained it simply: “When the wolves smell weakness they attack, but we have seen these attacks, no matter how successful, always involve an Israeli retribution. Sadly, when this happens it is Lebanon’s economy that pays the heavy price for adventure. We are just getting back to being a success after the summer of 2006 nearly wrecked us. We need a few years of quiet now, not a renewal of fighting. Livni is weak and inexperienced, and this is too much for our wolves to resist. Netanyahu is not nice, but he is strong, not a pushover. I believe that he is our best chance for quiet.”

A shopkeeper in the city center also had a similar opinion. Smiling at the Saudi tourists filling his shop, he asserted that Netanyahu makes a far less tempting target than Livni. Noting his interest in maintaining peace and quiet in Lebanon, he said that “The problem is that we have some people that just look for an opportunity to make trouble. The best way to avoid this is simply not to give them the opportunity”.

The political analysis in the Hizbullah-dominated neighborhoods of Beirut seems to be the same, but with opposite conclusions. When questioned about their opinions, several young men there noted that the election of Livni will open a window of opportunity to make further advances against the Jewish state, noting the fighting in 2006 as a significant victory.

But not everyone was bent on direct action. One man said that even if the resistance movements do nothing, a Livni-lead government would weaken Israel and hasten “the day of their collapse”, adding “We should only take action when our leaders decide it is in our interest.”

August 30th, 2008, 11:17 pm


Rumyal said:

Dear Norman,

You say AIG needs excuses in order not to have peace with Syria, and that he doesn’t care becuase he lives in the US.

If this was true, what is he doing here at all?

I think the elected-Jihadist scenario you brought is likely. But isn’t it also possible that the Jihadists will take over anyway, even if peace was brokered soon? The plausibility of such an option should at the very least mean that raising contrarian views is not necessarily a sign of having bad intentions.

August 30th, 2008, 11:45 pm


Ras Beirut said:


With all due respect, I hear your point, but I’m guessing (I could be wrong, since it’s not my blog) that the original intention of Josh & Alex to have a blog is that it would also atract participants from the other side of the fence to see how they feel and read things. This is a good thing and very healthy in many ways. It’s healthy, that even in Israel you have a Shai & an AIG with differing views regarding peace talks or AIG’s flagship of Democracy first.

Though, I do harbor respect for AIG’s commitment to his democracy call for Syria if it is genuine and from the heart. I think it is a bit off place, since the major issue at hand is peace between nations. Whether, Syria becomes democratic and such is for the Syrian populace to decide and deal with. It is their problem period, any outside involvment in that regard is not productive given what has been happening in the Levant since the 1920’s.

Needless to say, I do enjoy AIG’s posts. They do challenge the others. It would not take much effort to debate him on the stated premise that Israel is a true democracy, especially the point of seperation of state & church clause. Maybe it’s a delay tactic, who knows, but to insist that Syria overnight becomes Great Britton, before Israel sign a peace treaty, is either not genuine and using the good old delay tactic, or not solidly grounded to reality.

Making a just & valuable peace should be the overriding goal, and that’s why I have lots of respect for Shai. He would be an honest negotiator, won’t sell the farm as AIG keeps on suggesting, yet have a positive view of his supposed enemmies. He’s willing to sit down and talk, because he knows that his opponents are good people (from the same historical & DNA lineage) will also more than match him in goodness, hospitality, generosity & kindness if it is perceived & felt as genuine.

August 31st, 2008, 12:10 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Ras Beirut,

It’s nice to have another Ras Beiruti around. And, of course, I agree with your points.

On the subject of Lebanon attending the peace talks in Turkey, stay tuned for my next contribution to SC, which I’ll post later tonight, on precisely this topic.

August 31st, 2008, 12:15 am


jad said:

Dear Norman, he missed the fun part of your question, if he got it right I’m sure he will give you some accurate % of them.I would guess that he wax busy cleaning his royal, sorry, Sultani suite…
How can you get someone so indulge in his sect yet denying that he is more sectarian than anybody else and he write some unrelatd sentece in his comments about having 10 humiliated Christians ministers, like I give a dam.

Shai, I would be happy to have a drink with you.

August 31st, 2008, 12:27 am


Ras Beirut said:

3la Rasna ya QN. Somehow, I had the feeling deep inside that you’re a Ras Beiruti ya sahbe. I was born there, but been in the US for a long, long, long time, but could never extingwish the magical feelings of my Ras Beirut childhood.

Alla ma3ak ya QN. Will wait for your report. I’m sure it would be great. Wouldn’t expect any less from a Ras Beiruti.

August 31st, 2008, 12:37 am


norman said:


Ras Beirut answered you better than i could ever do.

So Thank you Ras Beirut,

August 31st, 2008, 12:37 am


norman said:

You are right ,


I want to make it easier for you , most the minsters in Syria are Sunni aren’t they?.

Good and bad have no ethnic or religious exclusivity , some people are good and some people are bad , I like the good ones no matter what their religion is and do not like the bad ones no matter what their religion is.

August 31st, 2008, 12:48 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Does anyone else find it the least bit humorous that the new commander of the Lebanese army is called General Qahwaji (“coffeehouse owner”)?

I guess that they want to stick with the hot beverage theme, after Adnan Daoud, the general who famously served tea to the Israelis.

May the draught he serves be bitter and grainy… 🙂

August 31st, 2008, 2:33 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ras Beirut,
First, it is really not up to Syrians if they become a democracy or not. History has proven that the Arab despots are very good at neutralizing any public movements with ruthless force if need be. Heck, I find what you say extremely strange given the lack of freedom the Lebanese have in deciding how to manage their country. What makes you think Syrians have more options? A small part of the population in Syria has hijacked the country and is keeping the rest down by ruthless intimidation. Saying that Syrians have a choice in the matter is naive.

I am not advocating a war for regime change in Syria. But I am certainly advocating all non-violent means to get regime change. Peace with Israel is not really the problem of the average Syrian. How will the average Syrian be better educated or richer if the Golan is returned? The only thing that will bring those things to Syria are real democratic reforms. What will delay these reforms for decades is legitimization of the Syrian dictatorship. Landis has said it clearly himself: There will be no democracy in Syria because the Syrian elite do not want it. Ergo, the West must act to make the Syrian elites understand that democracy is the only way forward. This means sanctions, not legitimacy for the Asads.

Syria will not become a democracy overnight, but with enough determination from the West, it can have serious and real reform in a few years. How about letting free speech in Syria take hold so the Syrian can hold a genuine internal discussion about what THEY want? Is that such a “dangerous” demand?

AS for your allegation that Israel is not democratic because there is no strict separation of church and state, that is just plain wrong. There is no separation of chruch and state in the UK and it is certainly a democracy. Israel is a democracy because there is freedom of speech, accountability, one man one vote, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary etc. and most importantly because there have been many peaceful exchanges of adminstration in Israel in which the ruling power relinquished its power because it lost elections. The ruling parties are really accountable to the people unlike in Arab countries in which the rulers treat the people as dirt.

Syrians and Lebanese in general are good people. The people Israel has to negotiate with are not. Asad is a ruthless SOB who learned his trade from a mass murderer of his OWN people. He leads a corrupt regime where most of the spoils go to his close family. About the Lebanese politicians I do not need to tell you.

So, on one hand you complain correctly about how Asad treats Syria but then you recommend negotiating with this “good” person. Why should we in Israel take you seriously? This is just another manifestation of the March 14 politicians lining up to kiss Kuntar.

I say this to you and QN. What you are peddling is not “nuance”. It is appeasement. Either you stand up to the Syrians or you don’t. The Syrian (Asad regime) argument is and always has been the following: We are strong and will do in Lebanon as we please. And if not, we will destroy Lebanon. Talking is not going to change their opinion. So decide where you stand and let us in Israel know. Because for me and many other Israelis, actions count much more than words and right now you guys are firmly in the camp licking Asad’s butt.

August 31st, 2008, 4:05 am


Karim said:

Norman ,i know the number of christians in the syrian government.1 or 2 but this is not important ,what can they do in front of Rami Makhlouf or Mukhabarat officers businesses ?I want 10 christians 10 alawites and 0 Sunnis ministers ;but with true power.And above all ,some dignity for our people ,justice,rule of law and freedom.

August 31st, 2008, 4:07 am


Alex said:

Thank you so much Rumyal … you are welcome here anytime.

You and Shai are interested in communicating with Syrians with the hope of achieving good things … among those good things you would like Syrians to feel comfortable after talking to Israelis like you.

AIG has a different agenda.

August 31st, 2008, 4:19 am


Shai said:


I appreciate your attempt to describe AIG in “lighter terms”. At first, I thought exactly like you. But then, after hundreds of hours with AIG on SC (literally), I realized this wasn’t the case. AIG has been suspended from SC by Alex more than anyone else. He’s been limited to 4 comments a day more than anyone else. And all that, by his Syrian “dinner hosts”. By the way, I completely agree with your depiction of a Syrian family here, and a few Israelis are barging in uninvited. I wrote Alex yesterday that I apologize for taking it too far with AIG. Most of you are certainly not here (at this “dinner table”) to hear two Israelis going at each other’s throats.

You should know, that the one question I’ve asked AIG more than any other is, in fact, why he keeps coming back to SC. He does have a single mantra, “democracy first”, and his endless anti-regime comments are, endless, boring, and exhaustive. This is not only my impression, it is shared by most commentators on SC, and AIG knows it well. Yet he continues.

Here’s a typical sentence by AIG (just from the comments above): “Peace with Israel is not really the problem of the average Syrian.”

Now be honest. Don’t you find that just a tiny bit arrogant of him? Who is he to say such a thing? Even a Syrian couldn’t say it. But he can?

Look at how he ends his long comment to Ras Beirut: “… and right now you guys are firmly in the camp licking Asad’s butt.”

Is this a way to talk to your Arab hosts, at their “dinner table”? So you might say “ok, he’s got a problem with style…” But in reality style is the smallest problem. It’s the repetitive content and, more importantly, the agenda. Alex, the chief moderator and our “dinner host”, knows AIG far better than all of us do. Ask him about AIG’s agenda. Please don’t think I haven’t tried a very different, more polite and understanding, style with AIG. I believe I gave him far more credit than he deserves.

Still, I will limit my exchanges with him, to the benefit of all… 🙂

Btw, I only go on SC when my girls are asleep, or out of the house. As much as I like this place, my daughters will always come first… (my wife might disagree with me, however).

August 31st, 2008, 4:38 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, my agenda, my mythical agenda. I just write what I believe and do not try to hide my beliefs or sugar coat them. Also, I attempt to argue the points I make unlike others that view unbridled optimism as a winning argument.

August 31st, 2008, 5:06 am


Karim said:

Dear AIG ,if Syria and Egypt become prosperous democracies ,it will mean that they will become stronger than Israel ,no?so when we will be there ,how the small Israel would manage his policy in front of such neighbors ?

August 31st, 2008, 6:17 am


Rumyal said:

Ras Beiruti,

I agree with your comments regarding the ultimate goal of peace and how to go about it.

I still feel uncomfortable when discussions here take a nose-dive due to the Israeli pull (OK let’s say it clearly—due to AIG), but I’m glad to know that you can sustain it and that it’s helpful for you overall. I feel I have belabored my point (which was tangential to begin with) way too much. This is something that the blog moderators ultimately have to decide how they want to approach.

PS: the first google hit for “Ras Beirut” is pretty interesting, seems like a cool place

August 31st, 2008, 6:23 am


Rumyal said:


I will defer to your judgement. His style does make me cringe. I think limitting your exchanges with him is a good idea no matter how you look at it. I will not bother you with this any more.


August 31st, 2008, 6:27 am


Shai said:


You’re certainly not bothering me. I do appreciate your attempt to also bring peace to this forum.

Btw, are you an Israeli? Your English is superb.

August 31st, 2008, 6:31 am


Ras Beirut said:


You raise so many issues, where some are valid and some are not, it would take me writing a book to give you a real answers on a point by point and prove you absolutly wrong.

Why is Israel negotiating with Syria today? If there is no hope at all according to you. Then why do it. Is it just an exercise in buying more time?

You sound like you don’t welcome these talks at all, and throw in the catch of unless Syria becomes more democratic than Australia you wouldn’t talk to them and try to resolve differences that have costed endless and unwarranted losses on both sides of the divide.

It seems to me that even if Syria reaches the democratic system level of Australia, this won’t be enough for you, as you will then choose another measuring stick that is even higher. All just to hide your true intention of delay and killing time while you absorb lands that is not legally or rightfully yours.

Get down to earth AIG and face the truth. In the context of this this dispute, it is none of your business what government system Syria has, it is up to the Syrians to decide/suffer/struggle, whatever, it is theirs to do. They have good people and they will eventually figurfe it out, but it should theirs to do.

In the meantime, Mr. AIG, illegally you took someone else’s land using a gun, against any moral or legal rule. For you to demand how the other side government structure should be as a prerequesite for you to do what’s rightfull, will only bring your true intentions into question. You must love delay and killing time.

BTW, you seem to have such lofty standards about democracy, maybe you can advise your own PM on how to avoid money scandals. As they say about glass houses, etc…

August 31st, 2008, 6:33 am


Rumyal said:


Thanks for the compliment. I’m an Israeli from Haifa, spent there the first 30 years of my life (excluding army service) but I’ve been living in the US for the last eight years, so my English has improved 🙂 I’m coming from an engineering background though so writing about politics and ethics is a little bit of a stretch for me, both in terms of language skills and in terms of basic knowledge. We’ll see how it goes 🙂

August 31st, 2008, 6:53 am


Shai said:


So first of all, Baruch Haba.

Second, when Robert McNamara was asked by John Kennedy to serve as his Secretary of Defense, he responded: “But Mr. President, aside from serving in the Air Force for 4 years in WWII, I don’t believe I am qualified…” And JFK’s response to that was: “Well Bob, I don’t think there’s a School for Presidents either…”

So feel completely at ease talking about politics and ethics. Very often it is exactly those who have no “training” in this field, who are able to see things more clearly, and make the most sense.

Btw, I could have sent your regards to your home town yesterday. I took my wife and kids to the science museum in Haifa yesterday. They especially liked the dinosaurs…

So I guess you missed out on all the “fun” two summers ago, eh? I have some close friends from Haifa who felt quite a few of the missiles dropping very nearby… Let’s hope they don’t have to experience that again.

August 31st, 2008, 7:03 am


rumyal said:


Thanks for your kind words and encouragement again. Now speaking of you, I would bet that you are a professional diplomat.

Just saw the addendum to your previous post: I was in Haifa this spring for 5 weeks and we also went to the science museum. Always loved the architecture of that structure. Yeah I did miss on the “fun” of 2006 but my wife and kids were there on “vacation”. They had a lot of stories to tell to their American classmates once they have finally returned to the US.

Hopefully we’ve all had enough of that!

August 31st, 2008, 7:35 am


norman said:


By the way i was not trying to see how many Christians in the government , i was trying to show you that many of the minsters were Sunni and still were not to be proud of , so the religion has nothing to do with good work,

August 31st, 2008, 9:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

YES! When Egypt and Syria will become successful democracies they will become stronger than Israel. That is inevitable. But I look forward to that day because people in successful democracies are much more self confident and more willing to compromise and are much less likely to fight wars that affect them directly.

Once Egypt and Syria become successful democracies we will be on our way to the United Middle East the Shai dreams about.

August 31st, 2008, 3:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ras Beirut,

Israel is negotiating with Syria in order to try keeping it out of a conflict with Israel once Iran is attacked and as a stunt for Olmert.

Why do you assume I have bad intentions and do not mean what I say? I specifically said that it would be enough for me to see a serious internal Syrian dialogue based on freedom of speech as a sign that Syria is on the right track.

And of course it is my business what kind of government there is in Syria just as it is the Lebanese and Syrian business what kind of government there is in Israel. Why are the Lebanese and Syrians worrying whether Livni and Netanyahu will be elected? What happens in Syria influences me and vice versa. And currently, the average Syrian has zero power to discuss what he wants let alone change his government.

Whose land did I take illegaly with the gun and when? Was the land taken in 48 legal and the one taken in 67 not legal? What is your position? And if you think all of Israel is illegaly taken land, why are you for talking at all?

As for your last comment about Olmert, it shows that you really do not understand Israel. I am happy he is under investigation. In Israel no one is above the law unlike in your country.

Attacking Israel verbally or otherwise will not solve any of Lebanon’s problem. Appeasing Syria and Hizballah will not solve them either. You better figure out another way of doing things.

August 31st, 2008, 4:10 pm


Ras Beirut said:


It’s the 67 land that is not legal. Check UN resolutions for reference, as I’m not making these up. The UN resolutions on this subject are crystal clear. Look them if if you care. Hence, that’s why there are peace talks. Land for peace, get it?

August 31st, 2008, 4:23 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ras Beirut,
If you want to play the legalese game with me then I have a simple answer for you. There is no binding UN resolution regarding the 67 lands. There are pleny Genral Assembly resolution but there is not ONE UN Security Council resolution that is binding.

Second, the Arabs rejected the initial UN resolution partitioning Palestine and after 67 refused to negotiate at all (the three NOs at Kahrtoum).

And how about the BINDING resolutions regarding the dismantling of militias in Lebanon which you happily ignore but insist Israel follow non-binding resolutions?

And I can go on. But the truth is I think International Law is a joke. Why should I give any weight to something Kadafi, Mubarak, Asad and a bunch of other dictators voted for. The truth of the matter is that the Arabs wanted to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by force while they thought they were strong, and when they realized they cannot do it by arms they had an “epiphany” and suddenly they support international law. What do you think we are in Israel? Idiots? And if really the Arabs cared about international law they would implement such things as the Declaration of Human Rights which is at the core of international law. But of course that is very far from the case.

I am for giving back most of the 67 lands as a compromise with the Palestinians. But not because these lands are less legally Israeli than the lands of 48. Frankly, I do not see the difference and neither do many Arabs.

August 31st, 2008, 4:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said:

I say this to you and QN. What you are peddling is not “nuance”. It is appeasement… So decide where you stand and let us in Israel know. Because for me and many other Israelis, actions count much more than words and right now you guys are firmly in the camp licking Asad’s butt.

I love it. Both you and Ausamaa agree that I’m a peddler of falsehoods masquerading as nuance. Except you disagree about whose butt I’m licking. Agree on that, and we’ll solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

PS: How exactly am I appeasing Asad? I barely know the guy and just because I give him free hot oil massages whenever he orders me to, that doesn’t mean that I’m not, you know, independent and stuff.

August 31st, 2008, 6:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What do you call a situation where you accept that Lebanon should negotiate with Israel only if Syria agrees? Is it appeasement? Beaten wife syndrome? Is your optimism based on the same optimism that a beaten wife has the this time her husband will change? How much more explicit do Syria and it supporters have to be about the fact that they are going to use the weakness of Lebanon primarily for Syria’s interest? And isn’t it clear that the interests of Syria and Lebanon regarding the “resistance” are diametrically opposed?

August 31st, 2008, 8:06 pm


Ras Beirut said:


Thank you for the kind words. Do not worry about AIG spoiling the atmosphere, it doesn’t bother me one bit. He’s entitled to his opinion, eventhough, I think he has the wrong approach.

My wish is to break barriers with our neighbors in the south and resolve this never ending and useless conflict, based on recognizing each other rights, and we know what they are. It is the least that we can do for our children and their children. Enough blood have been shed, enough mayhem have been created. It is time to reconcile.

We are both good and strong people and share the semetic blood. It is time to heal and build a fruitfull future for the younger generation, void of hate and misconceptions.

Nchalla ya rab, we’ll get there, and I think we will eventually, since there isn’t any other viable alternative, and all can work hard to build a better future for the coming generation.

August 31st, 2008, 8:09 pm


Shai said:

Ras Beirut,

We have a saying in Hebrew (though I’m not a religious person): “From your mouth to God”!

August 31st, 2008, 8:17 pm


Jad said:

Shai, we have the same saying in arabic,
“from your mouth to the sky (heaven) gates”

August 31st, 2008, 8:21 pm


Shai said:

JAD, how do you say it in Arabic? I want to collect (and learn) some useful sayings… 🙂

August 31st, 2008, 8:24 pm


Jad said:

It’s a dialect not classical Arabic
min timak la bwab alsama
From, your mouth, to, gates, the sky,

August 31st, 2008, 8:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ras Beirut,
I am sorry I cannot share your optimism. We are not even in a situation where a Lebanese politician can say that peace with Israel would be good for Lebanon. We are in a position that Lebanese politicians, fearing public opinion, are compelled to line up to kiss Kuntar.

But apart for the Lebanese aspect, what is happening in the Arab world in general is that the young people are getting poorer and more religious while their number is growing exponentially. Something will have to give, and it will not give peacefully. Israel on its part has to be ready and understand the long term trends in the Arab world. Eventually the Muslim Brotherhood will first rule Egypt and then Syria just as it rules the Gazans. I think it is inevitable and not that bad and it is a step towards democracy in the Arab world. But pretending that the Islamic tsunami is not coming, especially since Mubarak and Asad are showing zero signs of willing to reform, is in my opinion not responsible.

August 31st, 2008, 8:36 pm


Ras Beirut said:


Is the cup always half empty for you. Cheer up. Many difficult world conflicts have been resolved in the past, and foes became best friends. No reason, why it can’t be done in this case.

August 31st, 2008, 9:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ras Beirut,
No, I am usually quite optimistic. There are many reasons why this conflict is so different. For example, the problem Israel has with Hizballah is directly related to the way the other sects treated the Shias in Lebanon. Do you see the Shias in Lebanon getting equal political rights in the near future? The reason Syrian ex-pats would fight for democracy in their adopted countries but in their homeland is because they are scared. The Arab world can only make real peace with Israel when it has made peace with itself. Otherwise, there will always be an extremist group willing to screw things up. That is why I think democracy is crucial for peace because it is a social contract people accept as fair.

August 31st, 2008, 9:22 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

What do you call a situation where you accept that Lebanon should negotiate with Israel only if Syria agrees?

I give up. What do you call it?

Is it appeasement? Beaten wife syndrome?

Why is Lebanon always the wife in this duo? During the independence intifada days, she was the harlot who strayed from the conjugal bed, and now she’s the beaten wife? Sheesh.

Is your optimism based on the same optimism that a beaten wife has the this time her husband will change?

AIG, my optimism is based on the fact that Bashar al-Assad has said that he wants to negotiate an end of hostilities in exchange for the Golan Heights. What is the alternative? More war and misery.

What exactly do you want me to do? I’m not a politician, so I only have one option: to observe. Now, I can do this while being completely bitter and cynical, or I can be guardedly optimistic, which is what I am.

If time shows that Syria has absolutely no intention of following through on this deal and is only interested in continuing the resistance game in order to keep the Asads in power (which is, by the way, the default assumption of plenty of Lebanese) then the Lebanese opposition to Syria will re-emerge as it did in the 90’s and we’ll go through another long and painful process. Let’s cross that bridge if/when we come to it.

August 31st, 2008, 9:53 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Fair enough, if you define yourself as an observer.

August 31st, 2008, 10:30 pm


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