Changing Course with Syria

By Dr. Alon Ben-Meir |  Visit his site

Dr. Ben-Meir is the Middle East Director of the World Policy Institute at The New School, and a professor of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University and at The New School. Born in Baghdad and currently residing in New York City, he holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University

The notion that the focus of the Middle-East conference is to reach an agreement in principle between Israel and the Palestinians, and so other conflicting parties, such as Syria, are marginal to the deliberation, is fundamentally flawed. The Bush administration must quickly reassess its position regarding Syria if it wishes to achieve even a modicum of success at the conference. There are several reasons that support this argument:

First, any agreement achieved between Fatah and Israel is only half an agreement even pursued fully, which is in itself extremely doubtful. No agreement can be fully implemented without Gaza an area populated by 1.5 million Palestinians over which Hamas is in full control. There is very little that Israel or the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas can do to bring Hamas to heed. Since Syria's direct and indirect support of Hamas is critical to the organization, Damascus can exercise substantial influence over whether Hamas recants or mounts even greater resistance to any agreement between Israel and the Fatah-led government.

Second, although there is no time for Israel and Syria to reach an agreement prior to the conference, the Syrian presence at the conference offers a golden opportunity to reach a mutual declaration of intent with Israel to achieve peace through negotiations. Both Israel and Syria have openly declared their willingness to enter into unconditional negotiations. The Bush administration has, therefore, an obligation to embrace what both nations seek and not allow its obsession with regime change in Damascus to torpedo a momentous opportunity to bring about quantum change in the Middle East. It is ironic that while both Israel and Syria want and need peace, it is the administration that is preventing Israel from entering into any substantive negotiations with Syria.Third, it is a given that for the conference to achieve even modest success, the participation of other Arab states and mustering the collective Arab will behind any emerging agreement is absolutely essential. Although the administration is fully cognizant of this fact, it has hardly deigned to pay lip service to the Arab initiative, which is the only document that expresses the Arab states' collective political will to establish a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which must include Syria. Only a united Arab position can modify the direction of Hamas and other extremist groups. And only the full-fledged participation of Saudi Arabia (as the original author of the Arab initiative) and Syria (as the most critical conflicting party, besides the Israelis and the Palestinians) will improve dramatically prospects for the conference's success, so necessary to building future progress.Fourth, Syria, as a major Arab state and a critical antagonist of Israel, cannot be treated as an adjunct to the conference where the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict is being discussed. Although Syria was invited as part of the Arab League delegation, it is not likely to unless it is invited to attend on its own and given the opportunity to express its own grievances. From the Syrian perspective the current invitation is nothing more than a continuation of the administration's efforts to marginalize Damascus by portraying it as inconsequential to the region's future. The administration may wish this to be the case, but it is not. Syria has been, and continues to be, a major player for good or evil, depending on the prevailing geopolitical conditions and Damascus's threat perception to the present regime. There is no doubt that the administration can influence Damascus's future course of action but not to the detriment of the regime itself. America's conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, the turmoil in Lebanon, the level of instability in Iraq, Palestinian extremism, and Hezbollah's fortunes are all affected by what Syria does or does not do. This brings us to the fundamental question: Since the policy of regime change in Damascus, so vigorously pursued by the administration over the past six years, has by all accounts failed, is it not time to change such a counterproductive policy? All that the administration has been able to achieve is to push the regime in Damascus further and further into Iran's belly and to also force it to tighten control domestically. Syria is hardly foolish enough not to take American threats seriously, and thus has been compelled to take extraordinary measures, however unsavory some of these measures may be, to protect itself.
Regardless of the reality or the merits of American grievances against Syria, none can be settled by public recriminations and accusations. The agreement with North Korea regarding its nuclear weapons program should be a telling lesson to the administration. Only when it conceded to the North Korean demand for face-to-face negotiations was an agreement finally hammered out with Pyongyang, an agreement which could have been achieved five years ago and certainly before North Korea got to the point of conducting an actual nuclear test.

Inviting Syria to the peace conference is not a reward to Damascus for its alleged mischievous behavior; it is a matter of real necessity dictated by the prevailing turmoil in the Middle East to which the Bush administration has contributed so largely. The Middle- East conference offers the Bush administration an opportunity to change course toward Syria without loosing face not to speak of preventing a colossal failure.

Comments (59)

Enid Houston said:

Alex: The comparison of North Korea and Syria was well done…an almost epic summation of Realpolitik in the ME…within the genre of the blog essay and in the blog sphere of posted comments….

October 11th, 2007, 7:21 am


t_desco said:

Zarqawi Killed Hariri

A more cautious and sensible approach would have phrased the title as ‘Did Zarqawi Kill Hariri?’ But something I read today has compelled me to throw caution to the wind.

Yesterday, the Hezbollah-friendly Lebanese daily, Al-Akhbar, began to publish the initial sworn testimonies of the Al-Qaeda-related cell members who were arrested in Lebanon during January 2006. The details broadly follow the narrative that was released in April 2007, and which I had translated here. Kindly follow that last link to get the whole background to what follows.

The timing of Al-Akhbar’s “scoop” is hardly surprising: these revelations aim to further muddy the political waters as the Lebanese inch closer towards the looming deadline for choosing a new president—an issue of much contention between the Hariri and Hezbollah blocs.

However, there are two new revelations in Al-Akhbar’s stories: the first is that Faisal Akbar’s nationality is reaffirmed as a Saudi rather than a Syrian. The second—this blew my mind—is the mention in two sets of affidavits of a character called ‘Nabil’.

Both Faisal Akbar and Hani al-Shenti mention ‘Nabil’ as a high-level member of their cell who was killed in Iraq in the summer of 2005. Al-Shenti adds that ‘Nabil’ was also known as ‘Abul Ghadieh’.

This would make him ‘Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri’, the pseudonym of Khalid Suleiman Darwish, who was killed in the town of Al-Qaim on the Iraqi-Syrian border during June 2005 in an American airstrike, and who was later eulogized by Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi.

Abul Ghadieh was a veteran of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. He was a dentist by profession. It seems that he relocated to Jordan in the 1980s where he married a Palestinian-Jordanian lady. He joined Zarqawi in the Herat camp in Afghanistan in early 2000, and was instrumental in building-up the Zarqawi network in Iraq. In many ways, there would have not been a Zarqawi had it not been for Abul Ghadieh.

This is the first time whereby Abul Ghadieh is being publicly linked to the Al-Qaeda cell that allegedly had some role in assassinating Hariri. This would mean that someone like Ahmed Abu Ades, who was shown in a video taking credit for the Hariri assassination on behalf of this cell, was not linked to second or third tier flunkies in the Zarqawi network, but was rather linked directly to Zarqawi’s right-hand man—Abu Ghadieh!

Abul Ghadieh was killed four months after Hariri was assassinated.

I had speculated back in January 2006 about a possible role for Abul Ghadieh:

“Interested parries should also look into a possible role, if any, for Syrian terrorist Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri, another Zarqawi aide killed in June 2005. I’d wager that the multi-talented Al-Souri was the mastermind behind establishing Al-Qaeda’s recruiting/funding/operations network in Lebanon and Syria.”

This new information about Abul Ghadieh’s alleged role lends further credibility to Al-Qaeda’s culpability in assassinating Hariri: such an operation would have had to be micro-managed from the very top of Zarqawi’s network, and Abul Ghadieh would fit such a bill.

I now find that this idea—that Zarqawi was directly involved in killing Hariri—very convincing. Surely, I will get plenty of flak for this statement from those whose are wedded to allegation that the Syrian regime was behind the assassination. Maybe Syria controlled Abul Ghadieh? Who knows? But as far as I’m concerned, the “Whodunnit?” part of the murder mystery—the smoking gun and the finger on the trigger—has traveled a great distance towards being solved with today’s revelation about Abul Ghadieh’s role in all this. Who provided the gun and pointed to Hariri is a whole different mystery.

But then again, I’m of the opinion that the Zarqawi network represents a completely new paradigm for Islamist terrorism because it is fully independent of state sponsorship and/or guidance. There is currently a raging debate among intelligence and analytical circles on whether that is true or false.

I should also mention that Ahmad Fetfet, Lebanon’s current Minister of Youth who was also the acting Minister of Interior during the period when the Al-Qaeda cell was being interrogated by the Internal Security Apparatus that fell under his jurisdiction at the time, vehemently dismissed any link between this cell and the Hariri assassination as a journalistic fabrication when I met him at the Grand Serrail in Beirut last July. So that’s what the Hariri side is likely to say in response to Al-Akhbar’s reporting.
Nibras Kazimi

October 11th, 2007, 8:16 am


Akbar Palace said:

Dr. Ben-Meir is the Middle East Director of the World Policy Institute at The New School, and a professor of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University and at The New School. Born in Baghdad and currently residing in New York City, he holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University

Professor Josh,

Whatever this person’s credentials are, it is clear to me he doesn’t have a clue.

October 11th, 2007, 10:34 am


MSK said:


As always, we are all indebted to your sleuth-work that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame.

Two questions:

(1) Is it possible that there was more than one “Abu Al-Ghadiyah” who was killed in Iraq in the summer of 2005? Don’t get me wrong: your analysis makes a lot of sense, but in such cases I’d like to be very sure before making or accepting conclusions.

(2) Why would an Islamist group go through all the trouble to kill Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005? I am not saying that such a group couldn’t’ve done it, I’m wondering about motive. Hariri was very well protected – so it took considerable preparation & logistics. Why do it? Why him? There were (& still are) more logical targets for a Sunni Islamist group – in Lebanon, in the region, etc. Out of all people, Hariri isn’t particularly high on the list. And if they were/are so capable, why didn’t they go after more targets? Why not any target among the Syrian, Jordanian, etc. leaderships? Zarqawi & his ilk HATE Shi’ites – why was there no attack against any Hisbollah official?

What do you think?


October 11th, 2007, 11:08 am


Alex said:

And why did Nasrallah just few days ago blame Israel. It would be interesting to know what Nasrallah thinks of the alleged Zarqawi link.

October 11th, 2007, 2:44 pm


ausamaa said:

Akbar Palace says about the above article by Dr. Alon Ben-Meir:

“Whatever this person’s credentials are, it is clear to me he doesn’t have a clue.”

On the contrary, I think his words are wiser than many Expert Arabs, Americans and Isralies. What he is advocating is a wise and balanced and The logical approach to solving such issues.

The only two points where I might fault the article is where it says that ISRAEL wants peace with Syria now, which I doubt that it is ready to do right now. It still is gambling on Bush making a bigger mess in the area so the Peace Issue gets shelved for a while longer.

The second remark is that if Syria does not attend the confrence, Saudi Arabia would not even dare contemplate attending such a gathering without Syria’s presence (unless it has Bush assurances and promiss that Iran and Syria will be finished of before Bush leaves office if Prince Bandar still has a say in the matter).

Finally, I doubt that the neo-cons and Bush give a damn about solving anything right now. They are just trying to put the best face on a disastrous situation by appearing (only to themselves) that they are seeking peace, while in fact they keep trying to subdue the whole area despite the continuous failurs they have met so far.

We have only to hope that the Next US Admin will learn from the mistakes of this one; a thing that rarely happens!

But on the whole, it is nice to see that sane people with good intentions are not extinct yet.

October 11th, 2007, 2:49 pm


ausamaa said:


The language and mannerisem of the Interrogators, and the first sentences in the statements given by the detainees lead me to think that they were made in the presence of International Invistigators. The politness of the language of the questions also.

So, and if Al Akhbar can get such detailed accounts from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior run y Fatafat and Siniora, who must be upset by the revelations of those statements, then the question is: was those statements and accounts “leacked” by someone in the frustrated and fed up Brammertz committee?

Nassrallah names Israel as the culprit, Bush and mini Hrriri in Washington complain about the “Slowness” of the Invistigation, and now this Al Akhbar reports.

Had any denials been issued by the Seniora crowd of the same? I did not see none, nore have I seen the seniora government threatening or charging Al Akhbar with violating the secrecy of the invistigation?

What do we know!!

October 11th, 2007, 3:09 pm


Alex said:


Dr. Ben Meir speaks Arabic, he travels to the Middle East often and he listens and learns. Compare him to our dear friend Akbar who after a year on Syria Comment he still tells everyone here to go back to their Madrassa in the slums of Damascus.

AS for he “conference” … I believe it started as America’s way of making their allies, the useless trio (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan) look like they have a better approach to solving the Arab world’s problems … this was after Syria and its allies Hizbolla and Hamas were quite popular in “the Arab street” after HA’s performance against the IDF last summer. The idea of the conference is to show the Arab world that only America’s allies can get back occupied lands, not the Syria group.

Also, the conference was President Bush’s way of bypassing the Baker report which recommended he speaks to Syria and Iran. Baker claimed that there is no other way, and President Bush took two months to think about the Baker report … at the end of those two months he decided to disagree with Baker and to show him that YES there is another way … he really does not need to talk to Syria and Iran.

So the conference was, to a large extend, about the ego of President Bush and the ego of the “Moderate Arab” rulers.

But at this point the Saudis do not seem to be happy with the way this administration is orchestrating the pre-conference effort. I think there is realization in the Arab world that this administration is only capable of starting unnecessary wars. Peace making is not one of its skills.

October 11th, 2007, 3:13 pm


Friend in America said:

T_Decso is on to something. While I, and others, in the past have pointed fingers at Syria for the Hairi assasination, Al Quada could be the perpatrator and this possibility should be ruled out and more direct evidence of Syria’s involvment is needed before there is certainty. The Al Quada connection needs to be explored further.
Al Quada believes its best opportunites are in civil strife. There are numerous instances in Iraq of Al Quada induced terrorism with both Sunni and Shia as victems. In the battle for Bagdad it was the Sunnis that Al Quada tried in street courts and then shot. They consider Sunnis who do not agree with them as backsliders who must be removed.

Dr. Ben-Meir’s article warrants serious consideration.

October 11th, 2007, 3:14 pm


ausamaa said:


Nassrallah blamed Israel for the Assasinations by “reasoning” that Israel is the main Beninficiary.

Also, maybe he is trying to send a message of :See, we can let you (Harriri/Saudi/Feb 14) off the hook for the Harriri mess that you participated in (advertantly or otherwise) by blaming Israel and keeping your stupid involvement quite if you modify your behavior?
Notice also his same-speach call on Saudi not to attend the Annapolis gathering which is still to recieve a proper reply from a serious Saudi quarter.

What a World we live in!

October 11th, 2007, 3:23 pm


ausamaa said:

When it rains, it pours; take this from Elaph now:

Brazilian Justice release Rana Qulailat from jail after months of being interrogated by the Brammertz InternationalInvistigation committee

القضاء البرازيلي يطلق رنا قليلات
GMT 13:30:00 2007 الخميس 11 أكتوبر
الياس يوسف

بعد أشهر على إستجوابها أمام لجنة التحقيق الدولية
القضاء البرازيلي يطلق رنا قليلات

October 11th, 2007, 3:39 pm


ausamaa said:

قد يكون امر مهم لسورية

October 11th, 2007, 3:44 pm


ausamaa said:

Assad casts doubt on Syrian participation in peace summit

By The Associated Press

In an interview with two Tunisian newspapers, Syrian President Bashar Assad made his most concrete statement yet casting doubt on his country’s participation in a U.S.-sponsored peace conference scheduled for next month.

“Syria has not received an invitation to the conference, and even if it did, it will not take part in a conference that lacks the chances of success,” Assad said.

The Bush Administration has said it will invite adversary Syria to the
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onference. But Assad had said earlier that his country would not attend the meeting if it did not address Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day war.

In Thursday’s interview, Assad said the conference should have serious and clear goals and should include all peace tracks including the Golan issue.

“The Syrian track is essential and the Golan issue is number one,” he told the Ach-Chourouk and Le Quotidien newspapers.

The United States has kept quiet on the most basic details about the meeting, including precise dates, the guest list and the location – though it is expected to be in Annapolis, Maryland. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be on the spot to fill in the blanks during a preparatory trip to the Middle East that is schedule to start this weekend.

Assad also said that Israel is trying to cover up the failure of an Israel Air Force strike on his country early last month.

IAF jets raided a target in northeastern Syria on September 6. Assad has described the target as an unused military building, while Israeli officials have maintained an unprecedented wall of silence over the affair. Foreign media reports – denied by Syria – have said that the target was a nascent nuclear facility being built with North Korean help.

Assad said Israel’s silence reflected the failure of Israeli or U.S. intelligence.

“They are trying to cover up their failure by shrouding it with mystery,” he said.

Assad’s comments on Syria’s participation in the peace conference come amid deep skepticism over the summit among other Arab governments, which have expressed doubts the planned gathering in November will tackle the main issues of the conflict with Israel. Top allies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have not said whether they will attend.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa predicted the conference would be a failure and said the United States was only hoping for a photo-op between Saudi and Israeli officials rather than real progress.

From Israel’s side, IDF Military Intelligence has also expressed doubts about the likelihood of success at the peace summit, saying the Palestinians would like to make immediate gains at the summit, but in return will postpone or fail to carry out their commitments.

In the Saudi capital Riyadh, the head of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council Abdul-Rahman Attiyah called Thursday for joint Arab-Palestinian action to set the conditions for the success the conference. He also expressed skepticism that the meeting would be successful, saying that Israel does not want peace.

Moussa warned of a likely failure of the conference during an international economic forum Wednesday night in Cairo.

“All what they [the Americans] want, as some say, is that the [Saudi Foreign Minister] Saud al-Faisal shake hands with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, that the two take pictures. This is a joke, it’s not serious,” Moussa said.

“Prince Saud al-Faisal will not do that… it has been decided,” he said.

In the interview, Assad acknowledged that relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt were not as they should be but said his country was open to any initiatives to improve ties.

Damascus’ relations with longtime U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been cool, partly over what they see as Syria’s role in promoting the interests of its ally Iran in the Arab world.

He warned against any U.S. military action against Iran, saying it would be foolish and detrimental to the region and to the world. He did not elaborate.

Assad also confirmed that Turkey was trying to mediate between his country and Israel.

“We have told them [the Turks] that our stance toward peace does not change… All we want is a clear declaration by Israeli officials of their desire for peace and returning land to Syria,” he said.

“We also want guarantees that the full territory would return,” he added.

October 11th, 2007, 3:51 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Alex states:

Dr. Ben Meir speaks Arabic, he travels to the Middle East often and he listens and learns. Compare him to our dear friend Akbar who after a year on Syria Comment he still tells everyone here to go back to their Madrassa in the slums of Damascus.

Guess who also speaks Arabic, travels to the Middle East often and listens and learns: right, Daniel Pipes and Bernard Lewis.

Anyway, not knowing at all who Dr. Ben Meir is, I skimmed an older article of his dated prior to the fall of Oslo and Camp David(Jan. 10, 1997). I love to see how these “esteemed” professors pontificate and then, after the flow of time, are shown to be empty vessels of naivete…

Here are some quotes (try not to laugh):

There will always be a Jewish presence in the West Bank and a Palestinian presence in Israel proper.

The heated debate that engulfs the Israelis is not about the mere exchange of a parcel of land for peace, as was the case with the Sinai or might even be with the Golan Heights. For hundreds of thousands of nationalist religious Jews, Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for the West Bank, are sacred lands that belong to the Jewish people by biblical birthright.

Some Jewish American and Israeli leaders would like us to believe that Rabin’s murder by another Jew was a historical fluke alien to Jewish values and teaching. This is not so.

The Israeli government, however, does not have the strategy and still lacks the political will to use force, if necessary, to deal with Jewish terrorists.

The Oslo agreements offer the only viable formula for coexistence. Netanyahu must sooner rather than later produce an alternative plan acceptable to the Palestinians, instead of engaging in demagoguery.

Arafat, on the other hand, should adopt a strategy to realize his national objective that is strictly limited to nonviolent means. He needs to finally grasp the necessity of reining in violence as a prerequisite for the continuation of the peace talks.

Arafat must enhance his credibility in the eyes of that majority of Israelis who seek a permanent peaceful solution, including the possibility of a Palestinian state. He must learn to condemn anti-Israeli violence quickly and unequivocally and take all necessary measures to prevent it, regardless of source or circumstances.

Arafat must understand that unless the PLO charter is rewritten, there will be insurmountable right-wing opposition to any meaningful concessions made to the Palestinians that bring them closer to a statehood.

Fourth, the Palestinian leadership should try to make the Clinton administration its best advocate with the Israelis. America’s stakes in the Middle East are extremely high, and President Clinton, who has invested so heavily his time, energy and resources in the peace process, can be expected to exert tremendous pressure on both sides to move the peace talks forward. The international community, on the whole, is supportive of Palestinian aspirations for a nation-state, and the Americans can be persuaded to follow suit, provided that the Palestinians do not torpedo their own prospects through a strategy of violence.

I’m already bored; I’ll stop here. It’s lunchtime.


BTW – Who is in more “denial” me or Iraqi-born Alon ben-Meir?

October 11th, 2007, 4:10 pm


Bashmann said:

The National Salvation Front calls upon world leaders to lift the international cover of the Syrian regime

In an unprecedented step for the Syrian opposition, the Secretariat General of the National Salvation Front addressed a letter to the Heads of Member States in the Security Council and the European Union, and to the President of the European Parliament and called upon them to “lift the international cover of the Syrian regime and to stop cooperating with Bachar al-Assad’s authority”. The Secretariat General also called upon world leaders to assist the opposition in its “struggle for the establishment of a Syrian democratic regime where all citizens are equal in rights and duties irrespective of their religion, confession, race or gender”.

In this letter, the Front described “the suffering endured by the Syrian people under a totalitarian regime led by a corrupted ruling family that has imposed an emergency law on the country for more than four decades”. According to the NSF, which includes an important number of the major Syrian opposition movements, “in a time where most of the world is living in democratic regimes that respect public and individual freedoms and the citizens’ rights to free choice of their governments, the Syrian people is living under a regime that uses oppression, the cancellation of political life, and the violation of basic human rights as tools to exercise its power”.

Moreover, the Secretariat General of the Front, mainly represented by the former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and the General Observer of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria Aly Sadderdine al-Bayanouni, also explained that “Syrians are worried about the growing feeling of injustice and frustration because of their deprivation from their basic rights notably the freedom of thought, expression, and choice in addition to an unprecedented spread of poverty, unemployment, and depression in Syria as a result of corruption”.

The letter also revealed that “what shocks the Syrian people the most is all statements made by the world leaders criticizing the regime in Syria because of its practices in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine while completely omitting to mention its oppressive practices in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people”. According to the Front “it is not realistic to ask the regime to change its behavior, because this behavior is a product of the regime and not the opposite, and no totalitarian regime has had, throughout history, a behavior that contradicts its nature”.

The Font also asserted that “totalitarian regimes generate, by nature, oppression inside their borders and violence abroad, and the terrorist acts that are perpetrated by the Syrian regime in Lebanon and Iraq, despite the calls for a change in behavior, confirm this truth”.

Finally the Secretariat General of the NSF called upon leaders of the free world to “take all necessary decisions and measures that can bring the right of free choice of a democratic regime back to Syria”.

October 11th, 2007, 5:02 pm


Nour said:


If Khaddam and al-Bayanouni are not representatives of democracy, transparency, and honest government, then I don’t know what is.

October 11th, 2007, 5:21 pm


Bashmann said:

Nour, Khaddam and al-Bayanouni are only the well known members of the NSF, many others representing the full political spectrum are also with the NSF yet they seem to be eclipsed by the famous ones.
The NSF has made a tremendous progress in galvanizing the opposition outside the country which is a commendable step taking into consideration the history of the Syrian political opposition. These demands fall in line with the hopes of every true patriotic
Syrian inside and outside the country. I would even dare to speculate Alex is included. 🙂


October 11th, 2007, 5:46 pm


Nour said:


I don’t doubt there are genuine opposition groups and figures within the NSF, but let us remember that the world powers will exploit and use certain groups and individuals to further their own interests. This is why they prop up people like Khaddam and Bayanouni. While I respect the hopes and demands of the opposition in general, I am not willing to risk chaos in Syria in order to bring someone like Khaddam or Bayanouni to power.

October 11th, 2007, 6:09 pm


Bashmann said:

Nour, Chaos is what the regime would like you to believe would be the result of true democratic reforms. Let me ask you a few questions that might be able to shed some light on this propagandist theory of “Chaos” which the regime has been selling the people in Syria since the start of the American invasion of Iraq.

First, let’s pretend that Bashar today issues a decree to lift the Emergency Laws that have been in effect for over 40 years, what harm would that bring in terms of chaos? Would people go out and organize a resistance movement to topple the government? I doubt it very much. Would people be praising Bashar courageous act in times of tremendous pressure being exercised on Syria today? I bet they would.

Second, let’s say he releases all political prisoners and issues a decree allowing for individual freedom, including the freedom of speech, press, and affiliations which will include the creation of multiple political parties and free elections to be established under the guidance of the constitution. (By the way these rights are guaranteed by the current Syrian constitution but who is listening). Would such an act create chaos? Not a chance.
In fact it would bring many benefits to the country, first by giving the Syrian people what they have always wanted and improving the image of Syria internationally. Heck I bet Israel would then ask him to come into Jerusalem and give speech for his courageous efforts to be the first to bring true democracy to an Arab country and on top of it they might be obliged to give him the Golan back.

Khaddam and Al-Bayanouni will be marginalized once true choice establish a foothold among the population. I’m not minimizing the threat of chaos, however, I’ll take all the ups and downs of a true political change in the country anytime over the status quo.
The NSF is calling for a peaceful transition. I’m afraid the alternative might be a rocky transition, but the time and place is now, otherwise the regime will leave the country to its demise and escape with their millions of dollars to a comfortable life in the West while the rest of the population will endure the true chaos you are talking about on the hands of a foreign invader. We have all seen the consequences of dictatorship in Iraq, we are working hard for it not to happen again in Syria.


October 11th, 2007, 6:43 pm


Nour said:


I agree with everything that you said. I didn’t mean to imply that chaos would result from true reforms. What I was suggesting is that the world powers are not interested in turning Syria into a democracy, and therefore they would like nothing more than to prop up people like Khaddam and Bayanouni. I am 100% for a change in regime in Syria, and what I mean by that is a change in the system of governance, not an exchange of a few individuals for another few individuals, while keeping the same system, which is what the US would prefer.

I believe strongly that the emergency law should be lifted and that we should open up the press and other aspects of Syrian political and social life. I don’t think any of that would lead to anything harmful to Syria. In fact, I think that if this regime wants to gain more popularity it would be in its interest to take such steps. But I support all changes to come from Syrians themselves and not to involve foreign powers with clear interests and agendas that are not in line with the true desires of the Syrian people.

October 11th, 2007, 7:39 pm


t_desco said:

I should stress that the analysis above is by Nibras Kazimi, not by me. Follow the link to his blog.

October 11th, 2007, 8:48 pm


ausamaa said:

Akbar Palace says:

“BTW – Who is in more “denial” me or Iraqi-born Alon ben-Meir?”

If you can not figure this one out on your own based on the replies to you have been getting here on your comments during the last year or so, Akbar, believe me, YOU DO have a problem.

And what does Dr. Alon Ben-Meir’s being born in Iraq have to do with anything?

Is that bad or good in your book Mr Civility and Enlightenment? You still firmly beleive in the big difference between Ashkanazi or Sephardim?

Akbar, sorry to say this, but please do get lost. At least for a while.

October 11th, 2007, 9:05 pm


abraham said:

Akrood Palass,

He doesn’t have a clue? Or you don’t like what he has to say, and so you pooh-pooh him?

The latter, my dear braying jack-ass, is the actual reason.

You, on the other hand, truly do not have a clue. Maybe you can find one to buy on eBay?

October 11th, 2007, 9:38 pm


t_desco said:

Suspects in German train bombing appear in Beirut court

Al-Bobo also denied his links with the German bombing plot, but said he met Saddam al-Haj Dib through a common friend called Osama al-Shahabi who usually send Muslims to fight in Iraq.

He was arrested and put in a Lebanese jail because he threw a bomb at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in the north of the country. (sic) …

Osama Amin al-Shihabi is yet another member of the Dinniyeh group who managed to escape to Ain al-Hilweh. He is also listed among those officially accused of being members of Fatah al-Islam.

According to previous reports, al-Bobo was involved in a bomb attack on a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut.

October 11th, 2007, 9:49 pm


anotherisraeliguy said:


Please explain why these articles answer the basic question you are evading:
Why do democratic reforms in Syria have to wait until the Golan is returned and the Palestinian problem solved?

All the rest, is just excuses. I am not interested in peace with Bashar. I want peace with the Syrian people. That won’t happen until Syria is a democracy, if at all. I am against giving the Golan to a dictaor. I will be more than happy to give it to a democratically elected government.

October 11th, 2007, 10:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ausamma asks:

He doesn’t have a clue? Or you don’t like what he has to say, and so you pooh-pooh him?


No, he doesn’t have a clue. All the quotes that I cut & pasted from Alon Ben-Meir’s 1997 article (where, if you read most of it like I did, is just an anti-Netanyahu diatribe) were either proven (later in time) to be false or grossly naive.

It is not that I don’t like what he had to say, it is just that what he said has been proven to be grossly incorrect. I respect “experts” much more if, over time, their words were proven correct.

I recall being told 15 years ago, when the Oslo piece process was just emerging, that it wouldn’t work. The person who told me this was very matter-of-fact and quite sure. Very sure. I argued with him on several occassions.

He was right.

October 11th, 2007, 11:47 pm


why-discuss said:

The regional situation is so tense that it is certainly not the right time for Bashar to do anything about the Emergency Law. Syria is probably squirmimg with israeli spies, muslim brotherhood agitators, al-Qaeda sympathisers and ex-iraqi baathists plotting. All have benefitted from the generosity and corruption to infiltrate the country and probably waiting for a relaxation of the security to act..
I believe that Syria is under serious threats. If the US has the Patriot Act with phone tapping etc, why is that the emergency law in Syria so criticized?

October 11th, 2007, 11:53 pm


why-discuss said:


Do you consider Egypt as a democracy? yet Israel has no immediate problem with it. Iran under the shah was a real ruthless dictatorship and the best friend of Israel. South Africa was an apartheid and Israel’s close friend. Why is Israel reluctant to have peace with Syria?

October 11th, 2007, 11:58 pm


Enlightened said:

Ausamma Said:

“Is that bad or good in your book Mr Civility and Enlightenment? You still firmly beleive in the big difference between Ashkanazi or Sephardim?”

You hit the nail on the head! That is the problem!

October 12th, 2007, 12:09 am


Enlightened said:

Article From AFP:

Following months on not commenting on The Lebanese situation President Assad follows and old formula;

Assad slams Lebanese parties who follow Israel

7 hours ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad slammed Lebanese who he said had chosen to side with Israel and submit themselves to foreigners instead of taking the Arab path and that of resistance.

In an interview published on Thursday, Assad said of the neighbouring nation where it was powerbroker for nearly three decades: “It is impossible to build a relationship with some parties who in Lebanon … are close to Israel, submit themselves to foreign countries and do not believe in Lebanon.”

He told the Tunisian daily al-Shuruk, in an interview reprinted in official Syrian media: “Most of the forces who hold power in Lebanon have adopted this position which rebounds on Syrian-Lebanese relations.”

Lebanon has been in crisis for months since pro-Syrian ministers pulled out of the government of Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, creating political paralysis.

Assad said “there have always been in Lebanon forces attached to the Arab (identity). But there are also forces which, since Lebanon’s creation and even before, have tied their fate to the West, thus putting (their country) in danger.”

“These forces link Lebanon’s fate to that of regional conflicts, which signifies that Lebanon will not know stability in the near future.”

Referring to the agreement which ended Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, the Syrian leader said: “Lebanon knew stability after the Taef accord when it chose the Arab path and resistance against Israel. The day it went back on this choice it again experienced instability.”

Under the Taif agreement, all factions disarmed their militias with the exception of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah which fought last year’s war with Israel.

Hezbollah, seen as Lebanon’s legitimate resistance, was also credited with forcing Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon in 2000 after years of occupation.

Lebanon’s political establishment is split between pro- and anti-Syrian camps. The two sides have been deadlocked over the choice of a new president to replace pro-Syrian incumbent Emile Lahoud and a first parliamentary session convened last month to elect a successor failed to achieve a quorum.

Assad stressed: “Lebanon was stable when it followed the Arab line, supported the resistance and opposed itself to Israel.”

October 12th, 2007, 12:32 am


Nour said:


I don’t doubt that there are serious threats to Syria and that the situation is deliberately made unstable by the US through its continuous threats of regime change. However, I do believe that there are certain things that can be done that will not really lead to a security threat to Syria. For example, the whole censorship issue with the al-akhbar newspaper, which led them to stop distributing in Syria is really not to Syria’s benefit and does not reasonably protect Syria from outside threats.

There are certain steps that Syria can take which I believe will actually strengthen the government, rather than weaken it. One of these is to encourage the creation of free, independent news and media sources, which would actually enhance Syria’s image without being considered a mouthpiece of the regime. Also, a serious reduction in beauraucracy would tremendously help the economy move forward without posing any threat to the regime. I am not criticizing the government for solidifying its security, but I am unhappy with the Baath’s unwillingness to open up a little bit more and give Syrians room to achieve their potential.

October 12th, 2007, 12:33 am


Alex said:

Anotherisraeliguy said:


Please explain why these articles answer the basic question you are evading:
Why do democratic reforms in Syria have to wait until the Golan is returned and the Palestinian problem solved?

Hmmm .. I do not think we will have “democracy” in Syria this year. And I don’ think Israel will return the Golan this year. So how about we retire the two impossible thoughts until next year?

For this year we have one possibility: Chaos … the only question is: To what extent?

When there is less dogma in Washington, we will discuss every good thing we hope for in the Middle East

For this month, Watch Lebanon … poor Lebanon.

October 12th, 2007, 12:33 am


Enlightened said:


I have been reading your exchange with IG and AIG (abreviated aliases makes them sound like models for durable white goods LOL )
Given Assads interview today which i have pasted above, please read it.

Since I have been on this site you have maintained a steady line of stability before reforms, Syria has known Political Stability for 40 years now, Economic reform has been slow in the last few years but it is preceding never the less.

For forty years under various American administrations, whether they engaged Syria or not , Syria has been the Sphinx in the Middle East, Steadfast , never changing always bent on confrontation (through its proxies never through direct military confrontation since 82), always having a veneer of confrontation, but never having the ability, strength or resources to confront Israel.

I put this to you, The Baath regime is not interested in getting back the Golan, it never has, it has always prized Lebanon and hegemony over Lebanon over the Golan. Secondly It fears a real peace with Israel because its rule and legitimacy will be questioned once this issue is settled, because reforms will then be inevitable and since the regime is a minority regime (whatever cloak it chooses) it chooses this strategy as the best to stay in power. Please dont respond with every one else is not democratic, i know this, every one else is in need of reform, but since this is Syriacomment lets keep the issue salient!

October 12th, 2007, 12:59 am


why-discuss said:


Freedom of press is a two-edge weapon.
In Egypt 7 journalists have been jailed and the international is criticizing Egypt but as it is a “friend”, criticism is mild. With the demonizing campaign of Syria going full speed now, I rather have current censorship than have syrian journalists being jailed. That will be taken and publicized at nausea by the western press as “confirmation” of the dictatorship in Syria.
It is certainly the wrong time to make any move whose consequences can be used against the syrian government. The removal of Bush in 2008 will be a much better time. A few more months to wait and things should move.

October 12th, 2007, 1:15 am


Bashmann said:


You sound like the Teshrin or Ba’ath newspapers. You must have a weekly column in each of them.

“The removal of Bush in 2008 will be a much better time. A few more months to wait and things should move.”

Typical late Assad’s strategy, he is there awaiting the peacful transition of power in the US. Sure what is the rush. Bashar will be there for the next few decades.

What a joke ..


October 12th, 2007, 2:26 am


anotherisraeliguy said:


Now you are threatning Lebanon?

You are advocating for the return of the Golan now, but have a problem with anyone advocating democracy in syria now. Yet, you won’t explain your logic.


You promised an answer to IG. Where is your answer? All what you say rings hollow if you can’t answer this question. What you say smells like cheap propoganda and a way to confuse and dishearten the pro-democratic forces in Syria while justifying Bashar staying in power.

October 12th, 2007, 2:56 am


Alex said:

My dear enlightened friend,

By now you should give up on convincing me to not use the “they are all bad” arguement : )

I’ll get back to your question, but first, I will post a small “they are all bad” story from yesterday:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney as a “disaster” for the country and a “militant” who has had an excessive influence in setting foreign policy.

Cheney has been on the wrong side of the debate on many issues, including an internal White House discussion over Syria in which the vice president is thought to be pushing a tough approach, Carter said.

“He’s a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military and he has been most forceful in the last 10 years or more in fulfilling some of his more ancient commitments that the United States has a right to inject its power through military means in other parts of the world,” Carter told the BBC World News America in an interview to air later on Wednesday.

“You know he’s been a disaster for our country,” Carter said. “I think he’s been overly persuasive on President George Bush and quite often he’s prevailed.”

Back to Syria.

Before I partially agree with you, I will discuss your last comment

1) Virtually all the American presidents and secretaries of state who dealt with Hafez Assad in the 70s and 90s (Reagan and Schultz boycotted Syria in the 80’s) wrote books in which they did not seem to have any doubt that Hafez was working very hard to get the Golan back… the whole Golan.

Kissinger, Carter, Baker, Clinton …

He was never offered the whole Golan. He got close twice, once prime minister Rabin was killed, and once Mr. Barak “got cold feet”. I heard Hafez took steroids to go to Geneva few weeks before he died … clinton told him that he is getting the Golan back… Read how Al-Ahram described him that day.

Your hpothesis is logical, but I don’t think it is easy to ignore the evidence.

So, Hafez is not here anymore. Does Bashar want the Golan back?

I think the answer is yes… but I can’t easily prove it 🙂

I don’t have Carter and Baker to quote.

But if you want my opinion, here is why Bashar wants the golan back:

1) His people want the Golan back … all of them! … I have not met a single Syrian (other than some U.S.-based “opposition”figures) who accept to not have the whole Golan back.

When Akiva Eldar published his news of the secret agreement between Abe Suleiman (Syrian American Harvard prof) and Alon Liel that included a small “peace park” in the part of Golan that Israel was not comfortable returning to Syria, it was clear that if Assad went for such an agreement he would be considered a traitor! … many moderate Syrian readers on many Syrian blogs had the same reaction … no one accepted that agreement! … regime supporters criticized it, regime opponenets immediately expressed their conviction that Billions will be deposited in Assad’s secret Swiss account if he approved that deal.

By the way … I accepted it! … provided the area (the peace park) was very small.

If you think that since Bashar is “a dictator” and he can make his people accept any deal, you are wrong. Even Hafez consulted with all his aids before he approved anythig when he met with Kissinger (read Kissinger’s book).

Sadat and rabin were killed for their perceived weakness.

The Golan logo I made for creative Forum is now at facebook with 2000 Syrian teens and young people joining the Syrian Golan group… Most of them born after the golan was annexed by Israel.

2) Bashar want economic progress in Syrai … he wants to build modern Syria. He believes his father spent his time fortifying the foundation … which was not visible to most observers.

Bashar wants to build the visible part … the fancy building.

In order to do so, it really helps if the Unite States is with you, not against you.

In order to gain the United States as an ally you need to either become their puppet, or to force them to recognize your role.

The first option is much easier … King Hussein’s option was so much fun … you visit Washington .. you visit London .. you visit Paris .. they all reeive you as a good freind … they make your life easy… you get to achieve your dream of building Syria and getting praised by everyone for your amazing achievements.

But they won’t help you get your Golan back.

The second option, the one Bashar adopted, is difficult and stressful. No fabricated praise by al-Hariri’s newspaper … no president Bush calling you a man or peace …

But it is the only option that keeps the door open to the possibility of retreiving the Golan.

IG and AIG will obviously disagree … they believe that if Syria drops all its cards and if Bashar comes to Jerusalem smiling and saying “oops, sorry for my mistakes in the past” .. then Israel will give him the Golan Heights.

How many Syrians believe that to be true? (besides my friend Bashmann from washington)… not many.

If Bashar is only interested in his survival as your hypothesis suggests … then wouldn’t it be much easier for him to simply be America’s freind? … America will stop bothering him .. Saudi arabia will never support the Muslim brotherhood again … sarkozy will visit Damascus and stay a week in a small boutique hotle in old damscus … it will be wonderful for a president who is only after his own selfish goals.

If Bashar is not maximizing his own pleasure and interests then he wants the Golan.

As for Lebanon vs the Golan … we want the Golan first then Lebanon .. we want both!

I’m joking : )

Syria had at some point 62000 troops in Lebanon … it was reducing them gradually until in 2005 Syria had only 14000 troops left in Lebanon… there were no assassinations of M14 group in 2005 … Amin Gemayel and Pierre Gemayel and Jubran Toueini were anti-Syria for years and years when the Syrian army was in Lebanon … Syria was not assassinating them… and Syria never annexed Lebanon like Saddam annexed Kuwait and Mr. Shamir annexed the Golan.

I would love to See Lebanon and Syria one country again … but only if and when the vast majority of Lebanese and Syrians want the same. Bashar, and most Syrians feel the same way about Lebanon … and for now, I assure you that most Syrians including Bashar do not want want to hear about Lebanon.

But they will … this month.

October 12th, 2007, 3:27 am


Enlightened said:

Alex; Firstly we agree on one thing, I think that Syria and Lebanon will have some sort of union, but several preconditions have to be met first, free and fair elections in both countries, and a referundum on the issue, lastly I think a loose confederation of Arab states is inevitable, if we have democracy, Human rights and respect for the law.
But this is a pipe dream for the forseeable future, there is too much vested interest in those that rule in Arab lands to line their pockets and stay in power.

I will disagree with you one one point! The Syrians have never worked towards getting the Golan back, most serious academics, far better analysts than you or I, point that it is too much of an existential threat to the eventual survival of the regime, too want it back. Most Syrians want it back of course, but the political leadership has had almost 40 years to get it back and the results ? Ditto!

Your warnings about Lebanon!

I think if violence erupts in Lebanon, Syria is not in a win win situation, the world will clearly point the finger at Syria (whether rightly or wrongly ), and I think the regime has put itself in a corner regarding this situation ( I think Nasrallahs speach absolving Syria and pointing the finger at Isreal is ludicrous, furthermore if the radicals did it some one will point the finger at Syria’s hand in it ) , again not a win win situation.

By Allying with Iran again a no win win situation, both regimes will lose this fight ( although it would be bloody).

I can not see any long term hope for Syria’s situation in this, and yes it will be an interesting month!

October 12th, 2007, 4:28 am


Alex said:


“far better analysts than you or I, point that it is too much of an existential threat to the eventual survival of the regime, too want it back”

So you don’t like my analysis??


Can I ask you then how come Mubarak survived getting Sinai back and now he is preparin Gamal to replace him and Washington gave Gamal a very nice reception last year.

Now I am jealous … who are the analysts who are far better than you and I?

And are they more knowledgable about Hafez than Kissinger who met with him over 20 times? .. 5 hours each time.

Why are you dropping the opinion of Kissinger (and Alex!) and adopting instead the opinion of those anonymous “far better analysts”?

As for Lebanon … it is not a lose-lose sitation. It is definitely not known at this point what the final outcome will be. On this one, I will sit and watch.

October 12th, 2007, 4:44 am


Enlightened said:

Alex I forgot one funny piece to put on Remember Karfan?:

Just to refresh your memory on his last post:

Karfan continues:
Did you listen to Nizar’s poem King Lion the 2nd?
I beg your pardon my King, the Resistance Age will never come
I beg your pardon my King, you will never liberate Jolan
For liberation needs an army, and army needs brave men
But we are cowards for we’ve been raised on fear
And we are disgusted for we’ve been brought up on mistrust
Too disgusted to lift a finger, not even in your face
Why don’t you take your fingers out of our anus for two days
Why don’t you go and fight, show us how men should be
And Take the rest of your gang and elite merchants with you
We, will be watching you from here
On a cup of matteh

Your lawful servant

The deal was done with Sadat, he lost his life from the Brotherhood! Mubarak took over in the implementation stage, I think the jury is out on Gamal replacing his father, it is not a done deal, and I personally think that the Egyptians will not let it happen, with or with out American support.

I dont think that Kissinger had the handle on Hafez, Hafez was simply to wily for him, it was a good starting point reading Kissingers memoirs to get some insight, Patrick Seale’s The Struggle will have more pointers regarding Assad, read that and you will find many pointers regarding your super hero (lol)

Ps: Do you think that there will be compromise re situation in Lebanon? or are you as pessimistic as me?

October 12th, 2007, 4:54 am


Alex said:

Karfan was very funny.

I hope he is not the analysts you were referring to though : )

Kissinger, Baker, Carter. Clinton … are all not good enough for you?

Let me try one more way: Farid Ghadry and Ammar Abdelhamid along with many many other anti-Assad Washington think tankers consistently lobbied or argued against giving the Golan to Assad .. because that will give him a new life as president and it will therefore delay democracy. So you also do not agree with those in the Syrian opposition and in Washington on this one, right?

As for Lebanon … I am more pessimistic simply because the Saudis are again talking to the Iranians to try to solve the problems in Lebanon! … the ego that is preventing them from talking to Syria will bring a disaster to Lebanon.

When every party in Lebanon is classified as pro-Syria and anti-Syria yet everyone is discussing the possible solutions while ignoring Syria … I do not trust their judgment.

But of course Syria will be blamed for everything.

By the way, today Nabih Berri speaking to the Saudi TV station Al-Arabia said the following: I call especially on Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah and the Syrian leaders to try to agree only on Lebanon, since they can not agree on many things… Only on Lebanon … because my country is facing a disaster.

October 12th, 2007, 5:26 am


Alex said:

Akbar .. look! .. another clueless Israeli! … second one today!

Outgoing IDF deputy chief of staff calls for talks with Syria

These chiefs of staff and heads of Israeli intelligence agencies don’t know a thing about Syria .. they should ask Akbar!

October 12th, 2007, 5:31 am


IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, Kaplinski called for talks with Syria.
Only a minority in Israel will refuse to such talks.

Why not sitting with the Syrian counterparts and discussing various possible solutions to the conflict?

I’m for it too.

As you know, there’s a peace conference soon and I hope that Syria will join the talks.

October 12th, 2007, 8:07 am


t_desco said:

“Everything is connected”:

Khalil al-Boubou’s telephone number was found inside one of the suitcases containing bombs that were planted on German trains but failed to explode.

Apparently, he was also involved in a grenade attack on a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut.

Now As-Safir reports that he had visited the mother of the fiancé of Badieh Hamadeh in prison.

After the attack on the barracks, a caller to the newspaper Al-Balad claimed responsibilty for it in the name of al-Qa’ida. He demanded the release of the mother and the fiancé of Badieh Hamadeh and he said that the attack was in retaliation for the arrest of the now famous “cell of 13”, linked to Khaled Taha and Ahmed Abu Adass. The call was traced back to a phone booth in Ain al-Hilweh.

Badieh Hamdeh was linked to Ahmed Miqati. Hamadeh could even be the “Abu Obeida” of the first Mehlis report, though it seems more likely that those reports were referring to Jihad Mustapha, also called Abu Obeida. In any case, both were linked to the Dinniyeh group.

Khalil al-Boubou told the court that he “met Saddam al-Haj Dib”, the brother of one of the train bombers, “through a common friend”, Osama Amin al-Shihabi who was also a member of the Dinniyeh group who fled to Ain al-Hilweh (like Ahmed Miqati).

Saddam al-Haj Dib was a leader in Fatah al-Islam who was killed in the initial battle with the Lebanese army in Tripoli.

October 12th, 2007, 8:40 am


Akbar Palace said:

Typical late Assad’s strategy, he is there awaiting the peacful transition of power in the US. Sure what is the rush. Bashar will be there for the next few decades.


I see you’ve caught on. You haven’t been brainwashed. You haven’t been reading Ha’Aretz. You haven’t been attending Madrassa.

I’m willing to bet a huge amount of money that you aren’t a professor of Middle East studies;)

Pro-Hamas Alex opines:

These chiefs of staff and heads of Israeli intelligence agencies don’t know a thing about Syria .. they should ask Akbar!


As you rightly know, I don’t get too impressed by people’s titles. It’s my nature, whatever….since I’m a free American citizen, I feel comfortable questioning authority.

Whether the person is a Secretary of State, President-for-Life, Defence Minister, Member of Knesset, Congressman, Senator…rest assured I will scrutinize.

There are gobs of Israeli military people who have made HUGE errors in judgement. The Yom Kippur War, of course, comes to mind as well as Oslo, and the last Lebanese war.

Israeli intelligence agencies have had great successes and have made huge mistakes. Negotiating with Assad, IMO, would be a mistake.

October 12th, 2007, 11:22 am


why-discuss said:

Typical late Assad’s strategy, he is there awaiting the peacful transition of power in the US. Sure what is the rush. Bashar will be there for the next few decades. What a joke ..

Bashar is practising realpolitik, not dreampolitik. It is obvious for everybody that dealing with the present hysterical US administration is a waste of energy and time.
Bashar has no rush and no pressure of being re elected or a congress that would oppose his decisions. Therefore his priorities seem to keep Syria safe until this ‘disaster’ bunch moves out the White House and to develop ties with powerful neighbors: Iran and Turkey. The rich arab countries’s attitudes and decisions have been dissapointing and failing all along: the war against Iran where all the arab countries, except for Syria, supported Saddam, the war against Hezballah where most arab countries were in collusion with the US to crush them, the total ineptitude of the arab league in solving regional problems etc..
Bashar is smart enough to develop ties with Turkey and Iran instead and just wait…

October 12th, 2007, 2:22 pm


why-discuss said:

Thanks for your postings that I am following eagerly.
The thoroughness of your research is impressive. It seems like a very complex spider’s web you are documenting. I believe some sort of diagram of the connections may help in better understanding.

October 12th, 2007, 2:27 pm


Bashmann said:

Akbar Palace;

Thanks for the compliment. I’m also free American-Syrian thinker and proud of it. Note that I placed the word “American” first as here is where I belong. However, I’ve seen most of your posts and I find myself agreeing with you on lots of points and disagreeing on many others. The one thing I would like to mention to you as a friendly observation is to stay true to your Americanism as you stated;

“since I’m a free American citizen, I feel comfortable questioning authority.”

I could not agree with you more here. But I find it sometimes puzzling that most of our Jewish/American friends and cousins 🙂 place the interests of the State of Israel ahead of the interest of their USA when it comes to foreign policy. I find this dual loyalty disturbing to say the least. It reminds me of those whacked CUFI members under the guidance of Pastor John Hagee, you should hear his speech, he sounds like Ahmadinajad of Iran both represents each side of the same coin.


October 12th, 2007, 2:54 pm


Akbar Palace said:

But I find it sometimes puzzling that most of our Jewish/American friends and cousins place the interests of the State of Israel ahead of the interest of their USA when it comes to foreign policy. I find this dual loyalty disturbing to say the least.


Thank you for your words; you are most welcome! I feel like you, and I am proud of my American citizenship. I consider my American citizenship a valuable privledge.

I appreciate your candidness and your feedback. I look forward to reading more of your posts, opinions and getting more of your feedback.

As far as your concern about Jewish-American “dual-loyalty” and placing the interests of the State of Israel ahead of the USA, I will be happy to address that with you and the forum.

No Jew I know places the interest of Israel over the interest of the USA. We believe supporting Israel, her democracy, and her survival is in the best interest of the United States. This is my opinion, this is the opinion of AIPAC, and more importantly, this is the opinion of the majority of Americans.

Also, I think Americans understand the importance of democracy as a way of stabilizing rogue states and insuring government accountability. Democracy encourges fairness, freedom, rule-of-law, the economy, tolerance, and peace.

Of course, it has been goal of anti-semites and terrorists states to place a wedge between the US government and Israel as a way of weakening Israel. This has had mixed success.

Jewish-American support of Israel is really no different than Italian-American support of Italy, Irish-American support of Ireland, German-American support of Germany, Lebanese-American support of Lebanon, or Korean-American support for Korea.

Be well,


October 12th, 2007, 4:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Here’s one question I found that I would love to answer, but I won’t:

One woman whose son died fighting Israeli troops in 2000 said his death had made her proud — unlike that of another relative who had died during the June battles: “I am happy my son was killed by the Jews and not by Palestinians.

“How could a Muslim kill a Muslim? How could a brother kill his brother?” she asked. “It is against our religion.”;_ylt=ApywdP4K5Z4EUbqVD0CCPgUE1vAI

October 12th, 2007, 4:45 pm


Bashmann said:


Reading your dissertation above now convinced me that you have Buthaina Sha’aban telephone number in your address book. You sound like a broken record I’ve heard from the government of Syria for the past 40 years. Your excuses for Bashars’ policies are simply miserable and frankly pathetic.

Let’s go over few things you state and discuss them from a point of view you might have deliberately ignored;

“If you think that since Bashar is “a dictator” and he can make his people accept any deal, you are wrong. Even Hafez consulted with all his aids before he approved anythig when he met with Kissinger (read Kissinger’s book).
Sadat and rabin were killed for their perceived weakness.”

Since when did the staff or any in the government of Syria had a say into what Hafez ordered or made a decision on in foreign policy? Are you kidding me!!! You must be deluding yourself. The late Assad word was sacred and went all the way down to the appointment of the smallest officer in the army. Not a cockroach can pass through the government hallways which Assad did not know about. Yes, Hafez Assad was the ONLY
man where the buck stop and your statement about Assad consulting his aids is a joke. If he did it is only to feel what they think but never to take their advise nor value it.
As for Sadat and Rabin getting “killed for their perceived weakness” is a gross incomprehension on your part. Many great other leaders were killed for their bravery in making tough and brave decisions, where they broke ranks with the mainstream popular sentiments and saw the distant future for the benefit of their countries. Remember Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. just to name few.

You also state;

“2) Bashar want economic progress in Syrai … he wants to build modern Syria. He believes his father spent his time fortifying the foundation … which was not visible to most observers.
Bashar wants to build the visible part … the fancy building.
In order to do so, it really helps if the Unite States is with you, not against you.”

How did Bashar’s father “fortified the foundation” in terms of economic progress?
Did he open up Syria for free market economy? Did he try to ally himself with capitalist nations in the West? Or was he busy maneuvering his enemies to establish the family rule for Basil and his grandkids.
Now as for your other statement about Bashar wanting to “Build the visible part” you never seem to run out of contradictory positions. Does Bashar want the US to be with him and against him in the same time? If you want to be a friend of the leader of the world you better listen and do what is mutually beneficial for both of you. Not pretend you are the center of the world and wants the US to come on its knees begging you to do the things they want. The world belongs to the victor and the most powerful, you either join them or stay out of their way. Our problem in Syria is “US”, we still think we are the center of the world.

Have you lived in Syria for the past 7 years? When Bashar inherited the chair from his father, he ordered all pictures of him to be removed from every shop or market corner. He still carried some of the West ideals with him at the time. Now, take a trip back to Damascus today, you will see his pictures all over the country, in Taxi windows and restaurants halls and fronts, in some corners he is portrayed with Naserallah, as the resistance duo, and you dare to come here and tell us all including IG and AIG that
Bashar is NOT interested into prolonging his grip on the chair?!! Who are you kidding!

Statements like these;

“If Bashar is only interested in his survival as your hypothesis suggests … then wouldn’t it be much easier for him to simply be America’s freind? … America will stop bothering him .. Saudi arabia will never support the Muslim brotherhood again … sarkozy will visit Damascus and stay a week in a small boutique hotle in old damscus … it will be wonderful for a president who is only after his own selfish goals.
If Bashar is not maximizing his own pleasure and interests then he wants the Golan.”

Contradicts every action Bashar has taken since he took over?
Yes, please explain to me what is stopping him from being America’s friend?
Would not that get him closer to his goals which you stated earlier of building a strong economy for Syria?
Who would not want to be America’s friend?
Do you think Israel would have reached where it is today had it not been for its good relations with America?
What harm would Bashar have done, had he listened to the demands of the US?
We all know the demands, stop meddling in the Lebanese affairs, stop the flow of the Jihadist’s into Iraq, stop supporting revisionists and radical elements such as HA and Hamas and respect human rights of your citizens.

Had Bashar listened to these demands would you not think Syria would have been in a better position today with International backing to open talks about the Golan?
Would you not think Syria could have gotten all the assistance they needed to help with the Iraqi refugee problem? You bet.
Would you not think Syria could have gotten all the monies from Saudia Arabia and other gulf regions states to help alleviate the economic burden on its infrastructure? You bet.
Would you not think Syria could have been removed from the list of countries supporting terrorism and improved its international image? You bet your life it would.
The benefits to such a strategy would have eclipsed any Arab nationalist stand he seemed to think he was making when he called the rest of the Arab leaders “half-men”.

If you put these same questions to every Syrian on the street, are you ready to make me a bet that the answer would be “We would rather be friends with the US and Saudia Arabia, than Iran and HA”

Bashar created his own nightmare ‘cause of the lack of political vision and insight on his part. No one pushed him to make those foolish decisions. No one told him to tell Rafik Harriri to “stay out of the Lebanese elections or I’ll turn Lebanon upside down on your head”

Bashar is on a power trip, he reminds me of Citizen Kane and idealist that had been corrupted by power.

Alex, stop your propagandist apologies and tell the truth for once.


October 12th, 2007, 4:46 pm


Nour said:


If Alex has Buthaina Shaaban’s number in his phone book, then you must have Dick Cheney’s number in yours. It’s amazing how you oversimplify the situation into one where Assad should have merely “listened” to the US and everything would have been fine and dandy. Please, let’s get back to reality.

Do you really think the US cares in the least bit about Lebanon and its so-called “democracy”? The US has only one interest in mind; that of Israel’s. The US is not pressuring Syria because it wants Syria to stop meddling in Lebanon, or because they want to turn Syria into a fledgling democracy. It is pressuring Syria because they want Syria to capitulate, accept Israeli hegemony over the region, and give up all stands protecting its interests. This is nonsense.

Again, as Alex has stated, it would have been much easier for Assad, from a selfish viewpoint, to take the Mubarak and King Abdallah route and become a tool of the US. The US would have praised him, called him a man of vision and peace, visited him in Damascus and invited him to Washington, etc. The US would also have assured the protection of the regime and fought anyone attempting to bring about a change in Syria. This is the reality of the situation.

So, from a selfish viewpoint, why in the world would Assad not submit to American demands? Why would he risk the survival of the regime by opposing US dominance of the region and insisting on the full return of the entire Golan? Why would he support the resistance in Lebanon against Israel, when he could have easily gained US backing by putting a stop to all opposition to Israel? You have not provided any valid answers to such questions.

No one is denying that Syria is ruled by a dictatorship, but to suggest that if only Assad obeyed the US then everything would have been rosy is rididculous. The US could not possibly care less about the interest of the Syrian or Lebanese people. They care about advancing certain interests that have nothing to do with the well-being of the people there. In addition, the US will NEVER allow any country there to become more than a consumer society dependent on the US and Israel for goods. So the minute you take a position of trying to advance your country industrially, technologically, and scientifically, be sure that you will face the wrath of the US and you will again be accused of supporting terror, building weapons of mass destruction, any other accusation the can concoct to justify an aggressive position against you.

October 12th, 2007, 5:16 pm


Alex said:


I understand your confusion.

Please pay attention to specific words in my comments. Words like “if” or “most” … or “optimize” … or “not only” …

You have the right to be upset if I claimed that Bashar is not interested in maintaining control and staying in power.

But I hope you can be a bit more understanding if my claim was that Bahsar is NOT ONLY interested in his selfish interests.

I was simply stating that Bashar is like many other rulers … trying to succeed (so that everyone would respect him, and his people would love him) but is also trying to make sure he remains the leader of his country.

As for your trust in the United States and its goodness … claiming that if Bashar wants to be friend then the US would surely help him and his country in everyway … please allow me to give you my opinion:

The United states is a wonderful democracy… but that democracy applies within US borders. The way this administration decided to conduct business in the Middle East can not be ignored simply because internally America is a great country.

Unfortunately, when American citizens elected president Bush they did not try to pick a president who understood the Middle East, and definitely not a president who understood Syria.

So we have “A disaster” (quoting president Carter, not Buthaina Shabaan) in the white house from 2000 until 2008.

If we had president Clinton or president James Baker or president Carter or president Brizinsky (spelling?) .. I would be as upset as you are if Bashar failed to be America’s friend.

But please … you can not ignore (I will repeat for the hundredth time) what Colin Powell admitted this year that Bashar was in fact very reasonable in his meeting with him in 2003 but the White House did not take YES for an answer from Syria … they only wanted to start the Iraq war.

And you can not ignore what General Clarck said that he was told in the Pentagon at the time that they are preparing for invading Syria next (as soon as Iraq was a success)

Also, no matter how much Bashar cooperated with US demands, if Cheney promised his friend Prince Bandar that Lebanon will be transfered from Syrian to Saudi hands, the trouble was about to happen anyway.

I love the United States too … but it is not a blind love like yours.

Finally , I agree about the posters of Bashar. You are right there. Don’t forget also the posters of every person who ran for parliament in those silly elections.

But I will tolerate them for now as long as Bashar is one of the wisest and most balanced leaders in the middle East : )


October 12th, 2007, 7:11 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The King of Saudi Arabia just declared war on Syria by hosting Riffat in Mecca at the Eid prayers. Time to fasten those seat belts.

October 12th, 2007, 7:34 pm


why-discuss said:


It is obvious that your allegeance goes blindly to the US administration and as such you have become a docile american citizen with a clear identity ( not like the american jews..) and I congratulate you for that achievement. But don’t expect everyone to become docile obedient servants to a country that has done a lot of good to the world progress, but who seesm to have lost itself recently in a messianic hysteria to change the world to its image.
Nour is absolutely right:
In addition, the US will NEVER allow any country there to become more than a consumer society dependent on the US and Israel for goods. So the minute you take a position of trying to advance your country industrially, technologically, and scientifically, be sure that you will face the wrath of the US and you will again be accused of supporting terror, building weapons of mass destruction, any other accusation the can concoct to justify an aggressive position against you.
Iran is a good example of this… And the US is furious to see that Iran is developping nuclear knowledge, manufacturing cars, selling electricity to the neighbors and Oh scandal!, dare to help the development of South American countries that have benefitted for years of the CIA’s help in maintaining paralyzing dictatorships.
Be american, be proud of it, and please forget Syria.. it is better for both!

October 12th, 2007, 10:49 pm


Bashmann said:


I’m neither confused nor upset. You and I see things differently.
You do not trust the US intentions in the Middle-East which is a justifiable position taking into consideration the history of the US biased role towards Israel in the area. I do and I’ll tell you why.

I believe President Bush, whom I never voted for, original intention and challenge to bring democracy into the ME were genuine. Now, before you scream at the top of your lungs saying I’m delusional, let me be clear and on the record regarding the Iraq invasion, I believe it was a grave mistake, I also believe he did it for a personal reason as well as strategic American interests reasons.
The personal one was that he simply wanted to take out the guy(Saddam) who wanted to whack his father in Kuwait a few years ago.
The strategic reasons, and those what really count as solid American strategy, are for the sole purpose of American troops re-alignment from Cold world spots such as Europe to Hot and Important world spots such as ME in order keep up with the US military supremacy around the globe and guarantee energy sources for years to come.
9/11 with the help of AIPAC and the neocon’s surrounding president Bush, offered the perfect opportunity for the taking and the rest is history.

Now this does not mean President Bush had other ideological intentions on his mind. He might have found the time and the place to be perfect for taking on Saddam, but I would not for a minute believe that he planed to re-map the area as many have suggested or worked to guarantee Israel hegemony over the whole ME as Nour suggested. The former has been done a while back after WW1 in a messy fashion that we are still suffering the effects of it today and the US would not risk getting into such a plan to lose an already solid and long relationships with its traditional Arab allies, while the latter is a fact on the ground, Israel already have the upper hand militarily speaking in any conflict that might arise within the next few decades.

With this said, we go back to your “balanced decisions” statement about him. If Bashar was so “reasonable” with Colin Powell, and I do not doubt he was, why would he take the next risky step to form an alliance with Iran? What benefits he expected to reap from allying Syria with an outcast state that is already in isolation internationally and could be the target of the next war? Wouldn’t have been WISER for him to involve the traditional methods of diplomacy by engaging Egypt, Saudia Arabia, and Jordan into working the American Administration to his benefits? He was talking to wrong side of the administration on the impending war but due to his lack of foresight and novice political vision he could not see it. In fact, he did the exact opposite to anger and frustrate the American administration at the time when the rest of the world was getting ready to face another war in the ME.

The US is the sole superpower left in the world, weather you and I like it or not, and in my book I would rather be on its good side in every aspect when it comes to politics.

Therefore, you and I, will never meet when it comes to Bashar’s present and past decisions.


October 13th, 2007, 3:49 am


Bashmann said:


I am proud of being an American and I can assure you I’m not that docile as you think. I’m also not a great admirer of this administration as you claim. President Bush is not my kind of President nor would I vote for any of his caliber in terms of intelligence. I actually voted for the other guy in the last election, but he seemed to be too stiff to take on his opponent.
We all know what happenned during the first election term when Bush took office based on a Supreme Court decision, but that is another matter.

For our present discussion, please allow me to indulge in a few facts that might have simply slipped your mind;

America is not a full democracy but its the closest to it.
America will every now and then elect someone like president Bush but they usually spend their terms and move on. They don’t stick around for life!
Americans can and will participate in electing their leaders from multitudes of candidates unlike our beloved Syria where the choice is chicken, chicken or chicken on the table.

There is no reason why I should not be proud of a country that has given me all these rights were I was previously denied any of them in my own birth country.

I’m glad to see you also admit America has done a lot of goods to the world in terms of progress and may I remind you they still do.
As for your Iran comment, I wish you luck with the Islamic republic of Iran when they get the nuclear bomb. Better stick around here in the US if you happen to live here ’cause I’ll make sure that the rest of my family move over to the US as Syria would be the next battle front by then and damascus would be the lucky city to be nucked first by the Israeli or the US. Keep up the faith buddy, your nationalist ideals are still alive and kicking will eventually take you straight to the promised land.

Take my advise and go write your posts at Sana the official press of the Syrian government, they might use your esteemed anti-american pen, who knows you might debut on their first page.


October 13th, 2007, 4:19 am


why-discuss said:

Thanks for the advice. I have one for you: I think you should move the rest of your family now and live happily ever after in near-democracy promised land of USA among the “good” people while the “villains” iranians and Syrians, thousand years civilizations, are eliminated. I wonder why you are writing here? Is your syrian DNA itching?

October 13th, 2007, 10:45 pm


ausamaa said:


“America is not a full democracy but its the closest to it.
America will every now and then elect someone like president Bush but they usually spend their terms and move on”

Well, no body is perfect. But we used to think that American Democracy and the US Constitution could stand up to pressures. This time it failed to, or was rendered meaningless by Bush and the neo-cons.

We know that US Administrations come and go, but what remains is the military-industrial complex which is WHO rules America and whose elite direct US policy. For the last 60 years, the IGNORANCE of the American PUBLIC, coupled with the convergence of the intersts of this Lobby and AIPAC and the result were this uncontrollable havoc in the Middle East. Now, maybe someone in the America will wake up, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of victems in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and decide that the best way to insuring that most benifits can be achieved by the US through taming the loose Dogs of War in DC and consequently Tel Aviv, and to really cooperate with the Arabs and the people of the Middle East instead of trying to STEAL their Wealth and Subjegate them by (ineffective) military force.

If only because of the fact that the BUSH hegemony and US power had been shown (once again) not to be capable of RULING the WORLD even with the help of local unpopular regeims. And held at bay and by who? by splintered groups, middle-sized countries, shadow enemies – initially created by the US- and by the US neo-cons themselves.

If one lesson is learned through all those “exciting” years, it is the fact that Power had it limits, and they -thanks go both to the neo-cons and to the will of resistance of whoever is being subjected to the enslaought of their stupid use of power- appear to be more limiting than one use to think.

A CHANGE of DIRECTION is needed, for the US sake if not for our sake. Makes it easier for the US and the WORLD.

So, instead of urging people to go and write for SANA, why dont you start rethinking about the thinking and visions of your likes have done to American Democracy, the US Constitiution, and most important of all, to US interests worldwide.


October 14th, 2007, 8:44 am


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