Feb 14 Raises the Rhetoric

Government forces in Lebanon turned up the rhetoric today, the anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. Downtown Beirut was filled with demonstrators, who were regaled by a sting of government figures.

Jumblat described Syrian President Bashar Assad as "a snake, the missing link, the despot of Damascus, a beast, an Israeli product, a liar, a criminal," and a number of other colorful epithets. "This year will witness the creation of the international tribunal, justice will be served and the punishment will be a death sentence," Jumblat pledged.

Geagea warned of "dire consequences for those standing in the way of the international tribunal." In his opinion column, Michael Young claims the international community, including Russia, is preparing to break the Lebanese logjam moving decisively and unanimously against Syria. He insists a new chapter in Syria's misfortunes is about to be opened: "Syrian intransigence may be leading toward an unintended consequence: passage of the tribunal under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter."

The governing alliance, in a statement after an emergency meeting, urged the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council and the international community to "shoulder your responsibilities in lifting the Syrian regime's aggression off Lebanon."

The statement called for imposing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and for dispatching U.N. peacekeepers to "control the Lebanese-Syrian borders that would halt the flow of weapons to tools of this (Syrian) regime."

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman has vowed to dedicate himself to ensuring that "international partnerships" benefit Lebanon and propel it toward independence and democracy.

In the US, Zvika Krieger writing in the New Republic says that Hezbollah is calming some of the bloodiest Shia rituals, but not for the better. "The Shia holiday of Ashura," she writes, "generates an endless supply of gruesome images: thousands of enraged young men slicing their foreheads with swords, beating themselves with chains, and screaming their allegiance to Allah in the streets of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, and across the Muslim world–scenes that perfectly encapsulate Western fears of militant Islam…."

Former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab, currently a columnist for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, writes that "the cooling in Iran-Syria relations may lead to the end of their partnership and even to intense hostility between the two countries."

Gulfsands Petroleum and Emerald Energy tanked as poor test drilling results from a joint venture in Syria proved inconclusive.

Supporters of the Opposition are striking back, however.

Ibrahime Al-Amine, chairman of the board of directors of Al Akhbar insists that America and French officials are pushing the "Lebanese military to suppress the opposition no matter the price and to tighten the siege on the resistance." They do not want a mediation of the conflict.

Hizbullah authorities echo this by claiming the government's onslaught is "aimed at scuttling the Saudi-Iranian and Arab initiatives."

Nabih Berri the Shiite leader and President of the Parliament also insists that the true aim of the government in accusing Syria of the bombings and asking for sanctions to be imposed on Damascus, is their fear of "breakthroughs, solutions and a positive outlook." He suggests the Arab League attempts to broker a deal are bearing fruit.

Dardari forecasts higher GDP growth: Syria’s Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow by 5.6 percent in 2007 according to Abdallah Dardari, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs. Dardari also recently readjusted growth estimates upward for the Syrian economy during the past two years because of the positive impact of trade with and currency inflows from Iraq.

The US will accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of the year. Some will come from Syria.

Here are bits from some of the stories refered to above:

Opposition accuses Geagea and Jumblatt of using speeches to poison mediation efforts, by Hani M. Bathish, 15 February 2007, Daily Star

Beirut — BEIRUT: Hizbullah accused the March 14 Forces on Wednesday of trying to "scuttle" initiatives aimed at breaking the political deadlock in Lebanon through "inflammatory speeches" made during the rally to mark the assassination two years ago of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said the speeches made in Martyrs' Square by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt were "aimed at scuttling the Saudi-Iranian and Arab initiatives."

In a statement issued a few hours after the speeches, Hassan said Geagea and Jumblatt had been given orders by "Washington and Paris to destroy the initiatives, just at a point when the possibility for a compromise seemed at hand."

The speeches were aimed at the Syrian regime, and followed hot on the heels of a March 14 statement issued Tuesday blaming Damascus for the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq that killed three and calling for sanctions to be imposed on the regime.

Jumblatt described Syrian President Bashar Assad as "a snake, the missing link and the despot of Damascus," among other colorful appellations. Geagea warned of "dire consequences for those standing in the way of the international tribunal."

Hajj Hassan said Jumblatt's words were "not worthy of a man of his stature," but saw Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri's words as "moderate."

Hajj Hassan said he "has proof that Jumblatt wants the international tribunal to pass based on a US design."

"Four weeks ago, Jumblatt said he does not accept altering a single word in the draft agreement for the tribunal," he added. "But we have serious observations on the draft that need to be taken into consideration."

"The case of Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination has been manipulated politically, as have all other assassinations even before the draft of the tribunal was approved," Hajj Hassan said.

Responding to Jumblatt's call for all weapons to be in the government's hands, Hajj Hassan said he wondered "whether the martyr Adnan Shamas was killed on January 25 by government or PSP weapons."

Hajj Hassan reiterated that Hizbullah's arms would "not be used internally."

"Why the campaign by ruling team, France, & U.S on army & its commander?"

Berri said the statement, accusing Syria of the bombings and asking for sanctions to be imposed on Damascus, "shows that some among the pro-government forces are beginning to fear breakthroughs, solutions and a positive outlook."

He wondered why "some insist on spreading negativity and closing doors in the face of resolutions to the crisis."

Speaking of Arab League chief Amr Moussa's recent trip to Damascus, the speaker said it had not passed without "results," adding that Moussa said he wanted to complete what he started and needed to take further necessary but difficult steps.

Berri added that the March 14 coalition's statement had placed "some of the responsibly for the bombing on the shoulders of the opposition," which "cannot possibly target an area, the North Metn, considered to be supportive of the opposition."

"The bombing was a dangerous precedent, as it targets innocent civilians," he added.

Meanwhile, President Emile Lahoud, in response to Geagea's speech Wednesday, said in a statement that "the Lebanese have not forgotten that the man speaking to them about a free, sovereign and capable state today was himself among those who crippled the state, struck at its institutions and usurped its resources and presented federalism as a model for a formula."

Ibrahime Al-Amine, chairman of the board of directors of Al Akhbar, an independent pro-opposition newspaper, commented in the February 14 issue on the latest developments in the Lebanese political situation. American and French requirements from the head of the Lebanese military include suppressing the opposition no matter the price and increasing the pressure and tightening the siege on the resistance along with implementing steps to normalize the situation along the southern borders."

Al-Amine added: "The recent incidents resulted in the results contrary to what was hoped. The eye of the ruling team is now on the army!…In those guys' opinion, the army should have suppressed the opposition during their strike on Tuesday two weeks ago, and should have participated in shooting at the people on black Thursday. It should not break into any house to arrest any of the suspects in the shootings on civilians and soldiers. It should have also rooted out the protestors from downtown Beirut and should have cleared the Ozza'i area from the protests of the families of the victims of the gangs of the ruling team…" – Al Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon

Click here for source

"French sources reveal to Al Hayat background for resolution 1559"

Al Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, reported in its February 14 issue about the background of the issuance of Security Council resolution 1559. The newspaper wrote: "On the second anniversary of the assassination of the ex Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, knowledgeable French sources revealed to Al Hayat the circumstances which pushed the major powers to take the decision to revive democracy in Lebanon and restrain the Syrian influence [-] which caused the birth of Security Council resolution 1559. Sources in the French administration revealed that "since 2003, Al-Hariri was interested in Lebanon regaining its sovereignty through a gradual withdrawal of the Syrian forces from its territories". The sources pointed out that in November 2003 and in the light of the circumstances in the region following the American invasion of Iraq, there were two countries under American surveillance: Iran and Syria."

The newspaper added: "Three European countries, France, Germany, and England, suggested that they negotiate with Iran to help it avoid being accused of violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The sources announced that France, Germany, and Russia on the other hand decided to direct a strong message to Syria to push it to implement an initiative that expresses its desire to return to its natural position in the international community. The French presidential advisor Maurice Gordo Mauntanieh went to Damascus carrying the directives of the presidents of the three countries and suggested to President Bashar Al-Assad that he implement an initiative because the situation is extremely dangerous and Syria must do something to help itself in the regional and international context. He also clarified to Al-Assad that the three countries do not want to impose a specific initiative on Syria because of their respect for its sovereignty."

The newspaper continued: "The sources clarified that the French and Russian presidents and the German chancellor were thinking along the lines of Syria closing down the offices of the terrorist organizations in Damascus and resuming the peace track started by Denis Ross or performing some initiative on the Golan Heights. The sources announced that their ideas also included Lebanon but the French envoy intentionally kept this hidden. The Syrian president's answer was that all that he was being offered were part of an American plan. But the French envoy announced that it is not an American plan[;he] then left Syria and went to Lebanon where he informed Al-Hariri of his negotiations then [he] went to Saudi Arabia where he also informed the Saudi king of them then returned to France where he informed his Russian and German counterparts of the results of his negotiations."

The newspaper added: "The sources added that this was not followed by any Syrian response which caused the dialogue to be ended between the two factions. The sources announced that the French envoy had been in constant communication with his American counterpart back then, Condoleezza Rice, to whom he always stressed the necessity of expending efforts to help Lebanon gain its independence and sovereignty and the importance of working with Syria to reach these goals…" – Al Hayat, United Kingdom

Click here for source

Syria: Upcoming Elections: the Arab Reform Bulletin of the Carnagie Foundation for Peace summs up the new laws governing Syria's elections.

In light of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April, on January 3 Syrian President Bashar Al Assad approved an amendment (Arabic text) to the 1973 electoral law that includes strict regulations on campaign financing. The new law prohibits candidates from providing “services and financial assistance” prior to elections, limits campaign spending to 3 million Syrian pounds (US$57,466), and obligates candidates to use an accountant to supervise expenditures during the election campaigns. The legislative elections are also expected to operate under a new political parties law which has not yet been passed. The draft law requires that new parties be “allied to, created by, or friends of the Baath” and that party founders be over 35 years old, have no criminal record, and be proven supporters of the Baathist March 8 Revolution. Political parties cannot be based on religious, sectarian, or tribal identities and cannot have operated before 1963 (only the Baath Party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and the Communist Party are exempted from the last restriction). According to the draft law, the decision to grant a new party a license will be made by a committee that includes the head of the Shura Council, the ministers of justice and interior, the minister of state for people's assembly affairs, and three independent judges.

The presidential referendum whereby all eligible Syrian voters will be called upon to give their confidence to Assad for a second seven-year term is scheduled to take place at the end of May.

Municipal elections—the first under the new local administration law introduced in September 2005— will be held in August. The new law abolishes the “closed lists” system in existence since 1971 under which Syrians voted for candidates for provincial councils from a list set by the National Progressive Front, the ruling coalition of parties overwhelmingly dominated by the Baath Party. The law, however, continues to allow the cabinet, headed by the president, to appoint provincial governors by decree.

Comments (156)

Enlightened said:

“The presidential referendum whereby all eligible Syrian voters will be called upon to give their confidence to Assad for a second seven-year term is scheduled to take place at the end of May.”

should read ” The Sham Presidential referendum whereby all eligible voters will be called upon to rubber stamp a second term for Assad is scheduled for May. No one has a hope in hell of defeating him by democratic means or otherwise. So do your duty Syrians and amend the constitution or ballot papers, WE WANT BASHAR FOR LIFE”

For those amongst you living in the Diaspora, let us know your thoughts on this future Sham election, I personally dont see the point of why the public has to go through this charade?

But then again some observers will say, ah we have no alternative! What a hoax and an insult to all our collective intelligence! This election should be condemned far and wide will all our voices!

Addendum: Any one on the site exhibit skills as a snake catcher?

February 15th, 2007, 2:42 am


Gibran said:

Former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab’s analysis linked by Josh in this post may have been prophetic. We could perhaps say the same thing abou Michael Young’s analysis linked also in this post of Landis. Jonblatt, after all, may not have been predicting Bashar’s demise based on rhetoric only as Josh would like to look at it.
SA demands actions from Tehran. Looks like Iran is ready for just that. How many more cards left in Bashar’s hands, Dear Josh? Is he ready to surrender? Dr Landis, do you still think time is on his side? I believe in one of your earlier posts you said something to the effect: The US will “creep” to Damascus to accept Bashar’s terms for its formal surrender.
How do you see it now?

سعود الفيصل طلب من طهران أفعالا وليس مناقشات
تقارب سعودي إيراني حيال أزمة لبنان بعد زيارة لاريجاني للرياض
قام رئيس مجلس الأمن القومي الإيراني علي لاريجاني بزيارة خاطفة للرياض، التقى خلالها نظيره السعودي الأمير بندر بن سلطان بن عبد العزيز مدير مجلس الأمن القومي السعودي، وتناول اللقاء سبل تجاوز الأزمة الراهنة في لبنان.
هذا وأفادت مصادر مطلعة للعربية بأن الطرفين ابديا ارتياحا للتقارب الحاصل بين الجانبين السعودي والإيراني فيما يخص الخروج من الأزمة السياسية في لبنان.
وأعرب المسؤول الإيراني عن حرص بلاده على التوصل إلى رؤية سعودية إيرانية مشتركة لمساعدة لبنان على الخروج من أزمته المتعلقة بالحكومة وموقف الأطراف المختلفة من المحكمة الدولية.
وتطور السعودية اتصالات مع ايران لمحاولة المساعدة في نزع فتيل التوترات الطائفية في لبنان. وزار الامير بندر طهران وموسكو وباريس الشهر الماضي بعد اشتباكات بين مؤيدين للحكومة اللبنانية المدعومة من الغرب والسعودية والمعارضة التي تساندها ايران.
وزار لاريجاني الرياض الشهر الماضي وأجرى محادثات مع مسؤولين سعوديين تناولت ايضا الدور الايراني في العراق.
وقال وزير الخارجية السعودي الامير سعود الفيصل للصحفيين الاربعاء ان السعودية وايران ترغبان في التحرك لوقف الصراع الطائفي الاخذ في الخروج عن السيطرة.
وقال مشيرا الى زيارة لاريجاني للسعودية الشهر الماضي “أعربوا الايرانيون مؤخرا عن قلقهم من تقسيم العالم الاسلامي بين شيعة وسنة ونحن قلقون بخصوص هذا الامر ونتمنى ألا يحدث”.
غير أنه اعرب عن تطلعه ليس للمناقشات والمباحثات فحسب بل الى اتفاقات وافعال على أرض الواقع لتقرير ما يمكن ان تفعله الدولتان لمنع حدوث ذلك. وقال “نحن ننتظر افعالا من جانب ايران ونحن نقف على مسافة متساوية من جميع الاطراف المسلمين”.

February 15th, 2007, 5:49 am


Alex said:


So Mr. Saud Al-Faisal is saying that they heard sweet talk from Iran before but it didn’t lead to action. If you would like to conclude Looks like Iran is ready for just that. How many more cards left in Bashar’s hands .. then, great conclusion.


I find this part to be the most interesting one:

The newspaper added: “Three European countries, France, Germany, and England, suggested that they negotiate with Iran to help it avoid being accused of violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The sources announced that France, Germany, and Russia on the other hand decided to direct a strong message to Syria to push it to implement an initiative that expresses its desire to return to its natural position in the international community. The French presidential advisor Maurice Gordo Mauntanieh went to Damascus carrying the directives of the presidents of the three countries and suggested to President Bashar Al-Assad that he implement an initiative because the situation is extremely dangerous and Syria must do something to help itself in the regional and international context. He also clarified to Al-Assad that the three countries do not want to impose a specific initiative on Syria because of their respect for its sovereignty.”

The newspaper continued: “The sources clarified that the French and Russian presidents and the German chancellor were thinking along the lines of Syria closing down the offices of the terrorist organizations in Damascus and resuming the peace track started by Denis Ross or performing some initiative on the Golan Heights. The sources announced that their ideas also included Lebanon but the French envoy intentionally kept this hidden. The Syrian president’s answer was that all that he was being offered were part of an American plan. But the French envoy announced that it is not an American plan[;he] then left Syria and went to Lebanon where he informed Al-Hariri of his negotiations then [he] went to Saudi Arabia where he also informed the Saudi king of them then returned to France where he informed his Russian and German counterparts of the results of his negotiations.”

The newspaper added: “The sources added that this was not followed by any Syrian response which caused the dialogue to be ended between the two factions.

Because it confirms Bashar’s claim that his problems with France did not start because of that silly story about Chirac being upset that Syria awarded an oil contract a non-French company (supposedly because Rami wanted it that way) instead, it was this new tone of “suggesting” to Syria a number of policy changes such as terminating their ties to Hamas and Hizballah, and starting peace negotiations with Israel. Of course Mr. Sharon at the time was ridiculing Syria’s proposals to talk peace because he knew the international plan was to weaken the Syrian regime.

So basically, they wanted Bashar to surrender, or else.

And it was the or else which we got into.

For those who continue to count everything he did as a big mistake, it helps if you try to understand the choice he was given: play by our rules like a good boy, or we will corner you and take you out anyway.

February 15th, 2007, 6:02 am


Alex said:

Interestng, Imad got invited to the state department for consultations.

ذكرت مصادر مطلعة في العاصمة الأميركية واشنطن أن وزارة الخارجية الأميركية دعت السفير السوري في الولايات المتحدة الدكتور عماد مصطفى لاجتماع تشاوري في مبنى الوزارة، وهو أول لقاء رسمي يعقد بين مسؤول سوري رفيع ومسؤولين في الخارجية الأميركية منذ عام 2005. السفير عماد مصطفى الذي لم يكشف النقاب عن فحوى المشاورات نقل عنه ارتياحه للاجتماع الذي يأتي بعد تصريحات للوزيرة رايس تحدثت فيها عن مشاورات مع سورية بشأن اللاجئين العراقيين. ودأبت سورية التي تعرضت لعمليات تشويه وابتزاز منذ الاجتياح الأميركي للعراق على التعاطي بإيجابية مع هذا الملف دون القفز فوق ثوابتها الوطنية على خلفية رغبتها في إقامة أفضل العلاقات مع الأسرة الدولية وخصوصاً الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ودول الاتحاد الأوروبي. يذكر أن الوزير الأميركي الأسبق جيمس بيكر وزميله عضو الكونغرس لي هاملتون رئيسي لجنة العراق قد اجتمعا بأكثر من مسؤول سوري وفي المقدمة وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم أثناء زيارته لنيويورك العام الماضي للمشاركة بأعمال الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة.

February 15th, 2007, 6:08 am


Gibran said:

OK Alex. Larijani just likes keep going back and forth from Tehran to Riyad. He probably enjoys the flight. Or may be he is collecting Air Miles. Who knows how these guys think? I personally like to collect Air Miles.

February 15th, 2007, 6:35 am


Alex said:


Ok. That was funny.

A Saudi friend sent me a year ago some report prepared by a Saudi Think tank (yes, they have one, or more). The section on Iran was roughly concluding something along these lines:

The Iranians continue to be more motivated than us in communicating and exchanging visits. They promise to cooperate on everything and they assure us that they will not interfere in Arab affairs. Yet we don’t see anything practical out of this process. We can not take their promises at their face value.

So, that’s why I read it as a continuation of the Saudis’ long term frustration with Iran’s so far meaningless overtures to Saudi Arabia.

And if you read my previous comments the past few months, I trust Saud Al-Faisal and I think he usually says the truth.

As for Larijani’s current shuttle diplomacy … you probably know that most similar efforts in the middle east did not reach any useful conclusion.

So I was merely saying that we can’t jump to decisive conclusions such as “Looks like Iran is ready for just that”

February 15th, 2007, 6:51 am


Gibran said:

OK Alex. Once again, Larijani just likes keep going back and forth from Tehran to Riyad. He probably enjoys the flight. Or may be he is collecting Air Miles. Who knows how these guys think? I personally like to collect Air Miles.

February 15th, 2007, 7:09 am


Ammad said:

Mr. Jumblat is the future of Lebanon, I like this man, he is a patriot. I bet that the whole Assad family fears him a lot. Mr. Jumblat is a national hero.

February 15th, 2007, 8:45 am


why-discuss said:

AMMAD, Jumblatt, a national hero???? you must be joking… He has no other power than shouting, provoking, insulting and making mea culpas, just to make himself important, he is a dummy…

February 15th, 2007, 9:53 am


t_desco said:

I thought this may be a good occasion to take a closer look at the last Brammertz report, but let me begin with a nice contradiction between Mehlis I and Brammertz III:

Mehlis I: “175. As noted above, in the course of their investigation, the Lebanese interviewees included Mr. Abu Adass’s friends and associates, former neighbors, acquaintances from the mosque, colleagues from former jobs, and classmates. A number of these individuals were re-interviewed by UNIIIC … ; most reported that they shared with their interrogators their view that Mr. Abu Adass was a loner and introvert who did not have the intelligence to be capable of committing such a crime.”

Brammertz III: “45. Following extensive investigative steps and analysis of electronic data, documents, artefacts and other items, the emerging profile of Ahmed Abu Adass and his activities is becoming clearer. His profile is distinct in that he seemingly had more academic and intellectual interests and less technical orientation than that associated with members of terrorist groups engaged in the operational aspects of terrorist activities, at least in Lebanon.”

The conclusion is very similar, but the reasons given for it are diametrically opposed: in one case he is not intelligent enough and in the second case he is too intelligent. Needless to say that Brammertz is much more credible (and not just in this case). We can assume that Mehlis had access to pretty much the same “electronic data, documents, artefacts and other items”, but he probably didn’t bother to include them in his analysis because the answers given by the interviewees fitted very well with the preconceived notion that Syria was to blame.

For understandable reasons, Brammertz does not want to reveal his findings, but I think that there are clear signs of progress in his last report.

I had already quoted the following paragraphs:

(45.) “Ahmad Abu Adass and associated individuals
50. (In this regard, the Commission has) collected substantial quantities of computer and electronic information and documentation … .

51. In support of this work, the Commission has researched over 200 gigabytes of electronic data, … .

53. … To add to the complexity of this painstaking analytical work, some of the electronic data received by the Commission is written in code, some is encrypted and some had already been deleted.” (Brammertz IV)

Note that the very headline is already a sign of progress: previously Adass had only been associated to Khaled Taha, now several “associated individuals” are being investigated by the commission.

Earlier I had argued that the fact that “some of the electronic data … is written in code” may indicate that these are the communications of an extremist group. It is well known that internet savy extremists communicate in code in order to avoid NSA surveillance.

Interestingly, Khaled Taha showed suspicious behaviour that could be interpreted in such a way: “Further investigation revealed that three of Mr. Taha’s e-mail addresses went through Damascus and the fourth went through Lebanon itself while purporting to be in Turkey.” (Mehlis I, §174)

Having said that, I later discovered that the previous UN reports did mention a case of deleted data: the military intelligence archives which had been erased.

“Likewise, the Commission’s earlier suggestion to restore military intelligence archives for its review remains an ongoing line of investigative inquiry.” (Brammertz I, §37)

“The archives have been erased, but measures are being undertaken in order to restore the deleted data for further review.” (Mehlis II, §50)

As quoted above, Brammertz says that “some of the electronic data received by the Commission is written in code, some is encrypted and some had already been deleted.”

So it could also be data from the restored military intelligence archives.

In either case (data about Adass and associates in military intelligence archives or the communications of an extremist group), it is clear that significant progress has been made in the investigation.

To be continued…

February 15th, 2007, 12:15 pm


norman said:

Is olmert coming around to seek peace with Syria and respond to Asad calls,

Olmert: Israel wants peace with Syria

http://www.chinaview.cn 2007-02-15 20:47:36

ANKARA, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) — Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters here Thursday that he is “happy” to make peace with Syria, but Damascus must stop supporting what he called “terrorism”.

Olmert made the remarks in a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If there is a peace with Syria, “we will be satisfied and be happy,” Olmert said, urging for Syria’s abiding by the rules set up by the international community to stop supporting terrorism.

Olmert arrived in Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday on a two-day official visit, during which bilateral ties and regional issues will be high on agenda.

On Tuesday, a day before the arrival of Olmert, Erdogan criticized Israel for allowing excavation near Islam’s third holiest shrine al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, saying the objections of the Muslim world were justified.

Turkey would send a team of experts to Jerusalem to survey the archaelogical work near the al-Aqsa mosque, Erdogan told the press conference on Thursday.

Olmert welcomed the decision, saying: “We have nothing to hide

February 15th, 2007, 2:09 pm


Ford Prefect said:

In a previous post, Gibran asked me to elaborate on my hypothesis regarding the mistake that Syria made by imposing Hariri on Lebanon in 1992. Sure.

Rafic Hariri, now a national hero, worked his way up the Lebanese political ladder by using his vast fortune to buy support from the major political and military broker in the area – namely Syria. In the early 90s, the Lebanese people – emerging from a devastating 15 years of sectarian civil war – knew next to nothing of Hariri’s political leadership. But to assume that he was democratically elected based on his demonstrable political career is, well, another mistake. He was just a “successful” Lebanese businessman who made it to the list of one of the 100 richest men in the world. Hariri’s Taif Accord (a widely held belief is that Hariri was the main author of Taif) shifted the balance of power in Lebanon from the President to the Prime Minister and to the Speaker of the Parliament (a sensible 33% splitting of the pie, or so it appeared). Few doubted Hariri’s aspiration to become the next Mr. Lebanon – democracy notwithstanding.

The leadership that emerged from the Taif Accord was the lovely Hrawi-Hariri-Berri triplet supervised and conveniently-matched with the even lovelier Shihabi-Khaddam-Kanaan triplet. Under the military coercion of Syria and the financing of Hariri/Saudi Arabia, the happy Lebanese triplet went on to run the affairs of Lebanon starting in 1992, while the cheerful Syrian triplet supported logistically and militarily. The payout were handsome to the Syrian triplet: a Saudi citizenship to Khaddam and his family, an American green card to Shihabi, and healthy dose of Lebanese fun-filled nights for Kanaan. Not to mention the hearty bank accounts to everyone down to many deep circles of the triplet’s halo. One can logically argue, however, that, sideline flare-ups aside, the years between 1992 and 2004 were years of relative stability, good economic growth, and a return to normalcy in post civil war Lebanon. While the money engine of Hariri ran at full throttle, many benefited so much that it was impossible to deny or let go of that sudden windfall. Meanwhile, the Lebanese people’s welfare and well being was on someone’s to-do list, right there at the bottom.

I dare to say that this arrangement, with the help of Hariri’s money, is what kept Syria afloat and provided the Syrian people with yet another 20 years of the charming Ba’ath aura. If that is not corruption at the grandest scale, one would be hard-pressed to find it elsewhere.

So, Gibran, where did Syria go wrong in installing Hariri with the backing of military force? Everywhere. The re-gluing of Lebanon with the installation of two triplets and their cronies on both sides is something none of us, Syrian and Lebanese together, should ever forget or deny.

February 15th, 2007, 2:40 pm


Atassi said:

Very interesting
Shihabi-Khaddam-Kanaan team was the Lebanese policy makers in the 90’s. Did Hafiz “Allah Yourhamoo” and his late son “Allah Yourhamoo “interfere with them? One thing I know for sure, the Assad’s would never delegate a major security matter to none “ !” ..But again, I can be wrong…

February 15th, 2007, 3:02 pm


norman said:

Is it posible that Kanaan killed himself to hide the coruption he was envolved in with Harreri ,The election law of Lebanon that was done by Kanaan explain the relationship between Kanaan ,Khadam and Harreri.

February 15th, 2007, 3:11 pm


EHSANI2 said:

My friend FP,

I would like to hear your thoughts about the conduct of the new players that took over from the Syrian triplet as you called them. As I recall, as Kanaan and Khaddam were removed, in came Rustom Ghazali and his group. By all accounts, Mr. Maher was their man back in Damascus.

My question therefore is:

Did the corruption and money trail disappear after the change in guard or what we saw instead was a pure hand over of the corruption baton to new players who were desperate to get into the action themselves?

February 15th, 2007, 3:16 pm


Atassi said:

Israel agrees to Turkish inspection of holy site repairs

15 February 2007
Agence France Presse
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.

ANKARA, Feb 15, 2007 (AFP) –

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday agreed to a Turkish inspection of construction work near Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque which has sparked violent Palestinian protests and angered Muslims across the world.

The deal was struck during talks here with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, which is the Jewish state’s closest Muslim ally.

“Olmert showed me photographs of the construction … but they have failed to convince me 100 percent,” Erdogan told a joint press conference here. “I proposed to send a technical team to inspect on site the work that is being done and he (Olmert) has agreed.

Erdogan, who hails from a now-defunct Islamist party, had previously harshly criticized the construction work which aims to build a stone ramp to replace a damaged wooden bridge leading to the site.

Olmert said that his country was ready to cooperate on this issue.

“We have nothing to hide. We will not touch any place that is holy to both Christians and Muslims,” he said.

Israel has suspended the building work at Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site for Muslims, but said it was pressing on with archaeological excavations.

Olmert, who arrived Wednesday for a two-day official visit, said he had also discussed with Erdogan long-stalled efforts for peace in the Middle East and urged Turkey’s contribution in building a bridge between Israel and Arab countries that do not recognize the Jewish State.

Erdogan said his country was ready to help and underlined that a power-sharing agreement between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and the Islamist movement Hamas provided an opportunity for peace.

“First of all, there needs to be a strong government in the Palestinian territories,” Erdogan said, adding that he was planning to invite the leaders of the new government to Ankara to discuss prospects of peace.

“I think it would be beneficial if this (Palestinian) government held talks with Israel,” he said.

Olmert is scheduled to meet Abbas and Condoleezza Rice next Monday in Jerusalem to look into prospects of renewed peace talks that would pave the way for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The Israeli prime minister said he expected the new Palestinian government to abide by the conditions set down by the international community — to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements.

“The Palestinians must openly and clearly commit themselves to these principles,” he added.

Asked about prospects of peace between Israel and its long-standing enemy Syria, Olmert said Damascus needed to stop supporting terrorism.

“We want to make peace with Syria,” he said.”We especially want Syria to stop supporting terrorism and abide by the rules set up by the international community.”

Erdogan said he planned to hold talks with the Syrian leadership “in the coming weeks” and discuss the matter with them.

“We have to encourage positive developments between the two sides. I am personally optimistic … because if we stay optimistic, we will able to get results,” he said.

Secular, Muslim Turkey has been a main regional ally of Israel since 1996 when the two countries signed a military cooperation deal, much to the anger of Arab countries and Iran.

Ankara believes it is in a position to facilitate peace initiatives in the region, drawing on its close ties with both Israel and the Palestinians as well as the remarkable improvement in its relations with Syria.

The two leaders also underlined their commitment to strengthen economic relations between their two countries, particularly increasing trade volume which has approached some 2.5 billion dollars (1.9 billion euros).

Olmert is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and other senior officials before returning home later Thursday.

February 15th, 2007, 3:22 pm


3antar said:

i wouldnt say S-K-K were the policy makers in the 90’s as such. thats pushing it.
but surely you don’t expect the mar7oom to leave the confort of his office and sit in Beirut to supervise his investment. He delegated. after all, he’s only human. 😉

Norman, Kanaan had to be “terminated” for the protection of others. now whether he killed him self or not is irrelevant. I read an article once commenting on Kanaan’s character. From the view of the journalist, Mr.K appeared to love life too much and capable of anything but killing himself. but then you never know.

February 15th, 2007, 3:31 pm


Atassi said:

An updated for the above story
Muslim but secular Turkey is one of the few countries in the region to enjoy good ties with both Israel and the Palestinians as well as with Israel’s foes Iran and Syria. Ankara is keen to play a more active diplomatic role in the region.

“As a modern Muslim country Turkey can play a role building ties between Israel and Muslim countries that do not have relations with Israel,” Olmert said.

Olmert also reaffirmed his offer of peace to Syria as long as Damascus stopped supporting terror groups.

“We want to make peace with Syria, we are happy to make peace with Syria, but Syria has not stopped supporting the path of terror and instead needs to accept the principles that the international community has set,” Olmert said.

“I have no doubt that under such conditions it will be very easy to speak with Syria.”

Ankara has offered to mediate in fresh talks between Syria and Israel and the issue was again discussed on Thursday.

Talks between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, collapsed in 2000 after Damascus insisted on regaining control of all the strategic piece of land.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly signalled an interest in talks since Israel’s inconclusive war last year in Lebanon with Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.

The situation has been complicated by U.S. charges that Syria supports Iraqi insurgents, which Damascus denies, as well as Syria’s open sponsorship of Palestinian militants.

February 15th, 2007, 3:31 pm


3antar said:

coincidentally, and on that last topic posted by Atassi, i got forwarded the following,:


February 15th, 2007, 3:33 pm


Gibran said:

Thanks for the lively recount of this 90 era of Lebanon and by extension Syrian history.
First Hariri was not unknown in the 90’s. He appeared on the scene right after 1982. He began his career in Lebanon by establishing the Hariri foundation – a charitable foundation. The foundation is responsible for educating some 40000 poor Lebanese students from all Lebanese sects, allowing them to earn high degrees in major International Educational institutions. These young Lebanese would be carrying Kalashnikovs nowadays if it wasn’t for his foundation. He was also involved in many political discussions with various Lebanese politicians at various times during that era, mostly dealing with diffusing crises that erupted in Lebanon now and then. He was solicited on several occasions during that time to become the prime minister but he declined.
He was indeed the engineer of the Taef accord and that only adds to his credentials as the person who was able to put an end to the 17 years of internal Lebanese conflict. He went on to reconstruct destroyed Beirut. He was also capable of bringing Lebanon back on the world scene using his vast international connections until he rightfully earned the title of “Mr. Lebanon”.
He was the only politician in the history of Lebanon who “sought” office without being in need for the financial rewards.
You speak of corruption. You know very well that this is the hall mark of every ME politician. Speak to me about Rami Makhluf and Lahoud partnership. Or the Jamil Assad and the now newly emerging clan of Shawkat and co. Not to mention Bashar himself and his business interests.

Back to Syrian blunders in Lebanon. Syria is required according to the Taef accord (90 era) to withdraw its troops from Lebanon within a specified period of time. Syria reneged on its obligations and continued occupation of Lebanon until 2005.
Bashar insisted on extending Lahoud’s term against the will of the people of Lebanon (75% according to polls at the time) as well as the Lebanese constitution. I’m saying people here and not just politicians. Yet all that didn’t matter to the wonder boy of Damascus. Because he HAS to follow in the footsteps of his papa – “Lahoud is me and I’m Lahoud and this is all about proving myself”. The rest of the story is well known – UN 1559, Hariri assassination, Syrian expulsion from Lebanon etc… Do you understand now why over 75% of the people of Lebanon poured into the streets demanding Syrian expulsion? It wasn’t just Mr. Hariri, FP.

February 15th, 2007, 3:42 pm


Ford Prefect said:

You asked a profoundly good question that many Syrians have asked and continue to ask. If the world was a-la-Bush black and white, then this Syrian will say yes: the corruption trail did not end with the departure and the re-alignment of the double triplets. But, the issue a whole lot more complicated than one is led to believe.

But let’s us step beyond the immaturity of the black-and-white switched hymns and widen the scope of our otherwise who-done-it vision. Is it just the corruption of Ghazali, Maher, or whoever you want to choose from a long list is what is ailing Lebanon today? Is it really the Syrian occupation and the continuing Syrian meddling that is the root cause of the Lebanon’s problems today? Are the Lebanese warlords, after all, saints who were driven to the devil by the Syrians only temporarily and now they are born-again democracy huggers? Listening to the hoard of speakers shouting from behind the bullet-proof glass podium yesterday in downtown Beirut, the average Lebanese is innocently led to believe that Lebanon is a functioning democracy and a happy country living in harmony. No social problems, no economic problems, and no fundamental nationality problems. Only if it wasn’t for those evil Iranians and Syrians, Lebanon would be the world-leading example of harmony and co-existence.

Isn’t time to add to the rhetoric against Syria a matching one against sectarianism, bigotry, racism, social justice, tribalism, corruption, and truly what ails Lebanon? Did anyone address any of these ills to marching thousands yesterday?

February 15th, 2007, 4:47 pm


ugarit said:

“Lebanon: Brammertz To Quit
February 02, 2007 18 11 GMT

Chief U.N. investigator to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination, Serge Brammertz, will quit in June, Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri said Feb. 2. Brammertz will leave his position without making “final charges,” and will present a “technical report” concerning his investigation. French Ambassador to Lebanon Bernard Emie is said to have encouraged Berri to proceed with the international tribunal before the “report” is submitted to the attorney general.”


February 15th, 2007, 4:56 pm


ausamaa said:


“without making final charges”…, and we were made to think that this was supposed to be an open and shut case. Was it not?

Or maybe Brammertz is afraid Syria might assasinate him!!!!!!

Or that someone else may???

February 15th, 2007, 5:28 pm


Chris said:

Unfortunately, when I read “Chapter VII”, I laughed.

February 15th, 2007, 5:31 pm


Alex said:


Those 75% were then, not now… now it is anywhere between 35-65% depending on the issue and the event … the “majority” was formed at the peak of Lebanese anger after everyone was told Syria killed their prime minister.

My Friend Ford Prefect (by the way, even Joshua called you Ford PERfect when I talked to him this week) you described the people involved on both sides (Syria and Lebanon) who did a very good job as a team in running Lebanon. So why did that team have to be dismantled? What went wrong?

The answer to that question is mostly not at the personal level, remember that Khaddam in his interview mentioned that Bashar told him “What do you want me to do, you know that Kanaan is the one who picked Rustum Ghaazali” …

I’m sorry to repeat again and again, but it is more related to the way Saudi Arabia (backed by Chirac and this US administration) decided that Hafez’ death and Iraq’s imminent weakening provided the kingdom with a golden opportunity to take over the leadershp role of the Middle East.

You are seeing it now being played out in public (the Syria KSA confrontation), but it started in the late nineties as Hafez was getting very sick and not being able to follow up anymore on what happens everyday in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Lebanon can go back to the peaceful nineties when:

1) KSA and Syria agree to go back for co-management … the Saudis can enjoy playing with investments, the Syrians get an insurance of a friendly Lebanon …without an army in Lebanon this time, but without the super-ambassadors of France and the USA.

2) The United States stops confronting Syria.

THEN we get to the details about which corrupt politians affect things one way or the other.

February 15th, 2007, 6:00 pm


t_desco said:

Some (like Jürgen Külbel or Trish Schuh in a recent article) have missed the fact that the commission has already determined that the blast originated in the Mitsubishi van and that it was most likely triggered by a suicide bomber:

Brammertz IV: “18. Among the findings from the report, it was confirmed that there was only one blast, that the Mitsubishi van was the carrier of the improvised explosive device (“IED”), and that the blast originated from inside the loading platform of the vehicle.

23. The Commission’s view concerning the initiating system is that triggering an explosion in order to deliver an impact upon a moving vehicle requires a high degree of time precision. This precludes the possibility that a time-delay mechanism was used.

26. Third, the 33 human remains of the unidentified male that were recovered at the crime scene are very small. The physical state and size of these human parts, and the fact that these parts were all found in the same area west of the crater, indicate that this male was very close to the IED. Also, a small number of the parts show the presence of plastic material that possibly comes from electric wires associated with the device.

27. In view of the above factors, the Commission considers that the most likely scenario for the activation of the IED is that a person directly triggered the IED from within or immediately in front of the Mitsubishi van.”

Again, the easiest way to explain the presence of a suicide bomber is the participation of an extremist group in the attack.

It also seems likely that the bomber acted voluntarily. It would be too risky to force somebody to do it and to let him drive around freely with several tons of evidence which he could simply hand over to the authorities. I also doubt that a person under duress would be in a state of mind to act with “a high degree of time precision”.

The group may have acted on its own, but obviously collaboration, infiltration and/or manipulation are other logical possibilities. Any group can be infiltrated and it would probably also be possible to create fake groups with the sole aim of manipulating the unsuspecting members.

There are two unusual aspects about the “martyrdom video” of Ahmed Abu Adass:

1. It was released very quickly after the attack; e.g. the video of Mohammad Sidique Khan was published about two months after the London tube bombings.

2. We now know with certainty that it was fake, i.e. that Adass was not the suicide bomber as it was claimed in the “letter accompanying the tape” (Mehlis I, §79; I don’t know if Adass repeats the claim in the video itself).

Are there any other examples of fake “martyrdom videos”? In any case, this looks rather unusual and it raises the question why the suicide bomber himself did not appear in the video:

1. One possibility is that in comparison to Abu Adass he was too well known.

2. Another possibility (also considered by the famous witness Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq; Mehlis I, §108) is that he did not know that the attack was directed against Hariri and that he believed to be attacking somebody else.

Siddiq claims that he was an Iraqi and that he thought that target was Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, but Siddiq (or, more likely, his handlers) did not take into consideration that this would have created enormous logistical problems for the perpetrators as they could in no way be sure to be able to carry out the attack while Allawi was still in town.

3. A third possibility that has to be considered is that he did not speak Arabic well enough.

This is what Ghassan Ben Jeddou said about the first caller to Al-Jazeera:

“In the first telephone call, a man whom Mr. Ben Jeddou described as speaking poor Arabic in an African, Afghan or Pakistani accent, claimed that Al-Nasra wal Jihad was responsible for Mr. Hariri’s execution by a suicide bomb.” (Mehlis I, §78)

The suicide bomber spent only the last two to three months in Lebanon:

“The results of the expert report in this first phase of analysis show that the individual did not spend his youth in Lebanon, but was situated there in the last two to three months before his death.” (Brammertz IV, 31)

Perhaps it is possible to determine his geographical origin by identifying this peculiar feature:

“The upper right central incisor found at the crime scene in February 2005 and belonging to the unidentified male shows a distinguishing mark related to the lingual surface shape of the crown, which has the form of a spade. This feature is rarely seen among people from Lebanon.” (Brammertz IV, §34)

Investigative journalists should be able to find out in which country/region this feature is common.

As in the famous “Adam” case, foresic DNA and isotope analysis will probably produce a relatively clear picture of where the suicide bomber came from and where he spent his life.

In another sign of progress, Brammertz seems to have received additional (non-forensic) information about him:

“The Commission has also received other information concerning geographic origin which it is unable to disclose at this time.” (Brammertz IV, 31)

It is particularly interesting in this context that the communications analysis undertaken by the commission also has an “international dimension”, involving 17 States (Brammertz III, §42) and that at least some of it is related to Ahmed Abu Adass:

“The Commission also continues to examine local, regional and international linkages between numbers associated with Ahmed Abu Adass and other individuals, … .” (Brammertz III, §44).

Brammertz mentions that 10 Member States have not responded to requests by the commission (IV, §103), and I think that this may (at least in part) be related to aspects of the communication analysis.

To be continued…

February 15th, 2007, 6:05 pm


Alex said:

Yup, another technical report.

They should now bring back Mehlis … he can manage a link to Maher or Bashar in a day or two. He’s really efficient. He won’t waste everyone’s precious time trying to analyze 200 gigabytes of deleted and 128-bit encrypted files. I heard he plans to base his next report on interviews with a new witness that Junblatt introduced to him… then Syria will have to face international justice.

February 15th, 2007, 6:17 pm


Atassi said:

What if Syria got an insurance policy stating that Lebanon will be friendly to the brotherly Syria, But the US did not stop confronting the Syrian regime!! Would this mean that Syrai will keep on breaking down Lebanon on the heads of the Lebaneses until the US and KSA do so?

February 15th, 2007, 6:25 pm


Alex said:

At least some good news in Palestine, they finally agreed on the details and the new government is formed.

Although it seems the United States will still not deal with any minister in the new government (even the independents) until there is a formal recognition of Israel .. which ain’t happening anytime soon.

Which is good news for Lebanon since it implies that the Palestinians can continue to be another place for the US and its allies to fight Syria and Iran…. if everything went smoothly in Palestine, regional conflicts would have to be fought exclusively in Lebanon.

قدم رئيس الوزراء الفلسطيني اسماعيل هنية استقالة حكومته الى الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس في اطار اتفاق على تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية.

وقد اعاد عباس تكليف هنية بتشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية جديدة.

ودعا عباس هنية في كتاب التكليف الى احترام قرارات الشرعية الدولية.

وأتت هذه الخطوة بعد أن تمكن هنية وعباس في اللحظة الأخيرة من التغلب على كل العراقيل أمام الاتفاق على تقاسم السلطة الذي تم التوصل إليه في مكة الاسبوع الماضي.

وكانت الاشتباكات بين مسلحين من حركتي فتح وحماس قد ادت إلى مقتل حوالي 90 شخصا منذ شهر ديسمبر/ كانون الأول.

ولا تزال هناك شكوك بشأن ما اذا كانت الولايات المتحدة سترفع الحظر الذي تفرضه على حكومة حماس.

وقال بيان صادر عن وزارة الخارجية الامريكية إن واشنطن لن تتخذ قرارا إلى أن يتم تشكيل الحكومة الجديدة.

وقال مسئولون فلسطينيون انهم ابلغوا من قبل الولايات المتحدة بانها ستقاطع الحكومة الفلسطينية المزمع تشكيلها ما لم تعترف وبشكل واضح باسرائيل.

وقال المسئولون ان المقاطعة المفروضة سلفا على الحكومة الفلسطينية بقيادة حماس ستشمل كل اعضاء الحكومة الجديدة كانوا اعضاء في حماس او في غيرها من الفصائل الفلسطينية.

الا ان العقوبات الامريكية لن تشمل الرئيس عباس .

February 15th, 2007, 6:27 pm


Gibran said:

Do not delude yourself by regurgitation. Clocks will not turn back. And there will be no regional wars in Lebanon. Syria is out of Lebanon for good. It will have ZERO influence from now on. Its tails will soon be cut off and thrown to the dogs. Do you know any history about Lebanon in the early 60s? Just to give you an idea of what to expect. I know you’re fond of predictions.
Don’t bother asking the question. Syria (Bashar) will try doing what you said. It (he) will not succeed in breaking a rock in Lebanon any longer.
Josh, I will post that description of the Middle Eastern art of coffee cup reading very soon.

February 15th, 2007, 6:44 pm


Alex said:


“the Syrian regime” means many things …

To the “Arab moderates”, the Americans, Chirac, the Israelis, the Lebanese “majority”… “the Syrian regime” is a never ending obstacle to their “New Middle East”… which is absolutely true.

To you and to many other fine Syrians it means “corrupt dictators” which is often very true.

To Ehsani, it means “wasted economic opportunities for faster growth, and bad management of resources …” .. and he is more or less correct too.

To a majority of Syrians (more than 50%, but not the official 95%) it means among other things “defending Syria’s national interests”.

You know how when Hariri was killed, most of Lebanon united against his killers (Syria, they believed at the time)… although a week before the assassination most of the same Lebanese were sick of hariri’s corruption? … a similar majority of the Syrian people are now sticking with their leader, despite the corruption, because they know he, and their country, are subjected to an organized campaign to discredit and weaken both regime and country … most Syrians believe the country is also targeted, and not only the regime.

February 15th, 2007, 6:48 pm


Alex said:


I hate to tell you that I have been getting it right so far.

And you don’t want to read what I am saying “the Syrian army will not go back to Lebanon” … but Syria will eventually have the number one influence (with secondary balancing role given to Saudi Arabia or the US or France …etc).

The form or tools or symptoms of that influence will change depending on the state of war and peace in the Middle East.

The extent of the influence will vary depending if the wonderful people in Lebanon mature enough to learn to deal with their own challenges in a way that is a bit more honest than we have seen until today (as Ford Prefect) explained above… the more mature you are, the less influence others (like those sticky Syrians) can have on you.

February 15th, 2007, 6:58 pm


Gibran said:

I hate to tell you that Syria and its despots need to become mature in more ways than one.
They still live in a bi-polar virtual reality world that bears no resemblance to the world we’re living in.
They also need to mature to the fact that they were kicked out disgracefully of Lebanon and there is no way back.
They also need to mature enough to the fact that relations between Lebanon and Syria will not move an inch forward before the Syrian criminals (including the highest up) responsible for political assassinations face justice. That means it is not possible while Bashar is the dictator of Damascus.
You need to mature enough to at least become non-regurgitating and become accustomed to the fact that you and the Syrians of your disposition will have no welcome or say in Lebanon or its affairs.

February 15th, 2007, 7:23 pm


Atassi said:

Thank you for your reply, you still did not answer my question,
Will the Syrian regime stop using Lebanon as a bargaining chip in the face of the so called “Axis of democracy defenders knights!!!” if Lebanon hand Syria a certified insurance policy stating that “Lebanon will be friendly to the brotherly Syria”

February 15th, 2007, 7:49 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

when I used to go from Damascus to Beirut,I have to pay 200 syrian pound,now and since a year ago,Syria raised it to 800 SP,this is unfair,I think they should cancel this tax, it should be free, Also we should go back and have one currency,issued by the bank of Syria and Lebanon.

February 15th, 2007, 7:54 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, I continue to be amused by your vivid description of tails being cutoff and fed to dogs. Alex brilliantly introduced the idea of regional hegemony now being orchestrated (with varying degrees of maturity) by KSA. I can’t agree more – a regional cold war is raging on while many Lebanese are still screaming Syria out.

The Regurgitating Camel Award this time goes to Gibran – who just cant get enough of let-blame-Syria-for-our-ills smorgasbord feast.

I am also equally baffled by the raging anger of Gibran over everything Syrians (oops, I forgot, Gibran likes Khaddam sitting in Paris – complement of Lebanon’s hospitality.) What happened to Israel who destroyed Lebanon at 3 times over? Do you feel the same rage against Israel over Kana, Sabra and Shatila, or over 20 years of Israeli occupation? Shouldn’t we as patriotic Lebanese and Syrians, together and hand-in-hand, offer the leadership back home with a balanced and rational view?

February 15th, 2007, 8:03 pm


Alex said:


I hate to tell you that until you get over the need to punish Syria and watch it being humiliated everywhere, you are actually punishing Lebanon.

Until then keep enjoying those dramatic words you love to type “Syria and its despots were kicked out disgracefully of Lebanon” and “I advice you to not come close to Lebanon because you are not welcome there” … and more threats that show your weakness like threats usually do.

Do you realize you are on this Syria blog for hours everyday?

People here are either because they love Syria or because they hate Syria … I doubt you love Syria.

oh, and sorry if I reiterate few things … like my proposal to you to go to Brammertz and offer him your irrefutable, indisputable, unquestionable evidence that the Syrian criminals killed Hariri … that poor Brammertz seems to be on the wrong track or something. You are the man! You are the savior!

February 15th, 2007, 8:28 pm


Gibran said:

What Israel are you talking about? We will sign a peace treaty with them and that’s end of story. Why should we put our hands in Syrian hands? They destroyed our country through their 30 year period of subversion and that’s why they’re hated in Lebanon. We are well aware of the regional cold war. And we are also aware that The Syrian dictator never gave up on his dream of having his foot back in Lebanon. So we need to keep reminding him that he is not welcome in Lebanon in any shape or form. And yes, his tails will be cut off and thrown to the dogs.

February 15th, 2007, 8:43 pm


Alex said:


sorry I forgot your question, Gibran’s post was more interesting apparently.

Ok, I think the answer to your question is mostly yes. They will have to switch back to using Palestine or Iraq : )

But seriously, the hypothetical scenario you mentioned can not become reality in isolation of the Middle East’s regional cold war as FP called it. It is all give and take … in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and the more complicated Arab/Persian competition.

Syria sees Palestine as being not as close as Lebanon and will therefore be willing to take the first step (like they did) to contribute to a semi-solution, at the expense of their perceived role. But they are now expecting the Saudis and others to reciprocate in Lebanon.

Lebanon is more than a card for Syria. Gibran’s objections notwithstanding, Syria sees Lebanon as Majed says … being much more closely integrated with Syria … economically, socially… not now but when the Lebanese people themselves will agree to join back to the extent they see in their interest.

February 15th, 2007, 8:51 pm


youngSyria said:


Love/hate is blind.

February 15th, 2007, 8:56 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You said earlier that after Hafez’s death, Saudi Arabia saw a “golden opportunity to take over the leadership role of the Middle East”.

Please elaborate for me what you mean by this. What is their objective and what does KSA expect to achieve by following this leadership role?

You seem to portray their moves as unilateral well-planned and deliberate attempt to lead the Middle East. You make it sound like Hafez was in their way. As soon as he was gone, they went into action. Bashar was soon to figure out this plan and voila we have all this mess. I am trying to simplify it to make my point (or may be your point).

It seems to me that the critical subject of Saudi –Syrian relationship needs to be analyzed in more depth. Perhaps Dr. Landis would offer us his thoughts on this. In the mean time, I am not convinced that by merely saying that the whole matter relates to KSA seeking a leadership role does the issue enough justice. Certainly, Bashar’s role in this deteriorating relationship must also be further studied.

February 15th, 2007, 9:02 pm


Atassi said:

Thank you for your reply. I would say
Syria by design located in a troublesome area and next to Lebanon, as FP say we are all aware that “Middle East’s regional cold war” created as a game
With an aim of “I will outsmart you”. It’s being played by the Levant inhabitants, some interested external players and a “would like to be the next regional super leaders”. The basic rule of the game is: maneuver around the murky dangers politics and be forced to chart in uncharted territory.
The players can be in the game as they possesses a strong balanced leadership, and a thick layer of economical and political dividends to support it in the event of being implicated in any bad acts against the of other parties. Over the past 6 years; the Syrian regime spent\lost the requirements needed to survive the game, the other parties realized it, but the blinded arrogant regime didn’t foresee it, it’s a BIG mistake to do bad deed while your short is down  mistake!! ….sorry KSA is being the game leader, We like it or not.

February 15th, 2007, 9:11 pm


Gibran said:

I must say to you Alex now based on your integration idea: O’ beast live until the grass grows.
It is somewhat vulgar in Arabic and I know that. But you know this is what you should expect when people tell you it is an ox and you keep replying get the milk out of it.

February 15th, 2007, 9:14 pm


Alex said:

Yes Ehsani, I think I should write a post that discusses your questions. This week.

As for your question regarding a zero-role for Bashar’s mistakes in the conflicts we are seeing today, remember, I rarely blame everything on one thing … so the Saudi “surge” is not to blame for everything.

February 15th, 2007, 9:30 pm


Alex said:


1) We do not know if the regime did the bad thing you are referring to. We will discuss it in 10 years inshallah when they show me the evidence.

2) Syria went through the Hindawi affair in the 80’s when British tabloids wrote “Syrian criminals get out” … then few years later Chirac admitted that Israeli Intelligence probably did it to frame Syria.

3) also in the 80’s syria was economically in a terrible shape, it came out of a lost battle in Lebanon as Israel reached all the way to Beirut, and it came out of Hama and three years of Muslim Brotherhood campaign to overthrow the regime … and King Hussein and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Saddam Hussein and even some Lebanese Christians were ALL supporting the Ikhwan, and the soviet union collapsed, and Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel … and what happened after?

Syria came out stronger than before.

I understand your reson for not seeing it this way … you believe Bashar is not Hafez … of course. But the difference is not at all as dramatic as the Saudi press and Chirac try to portray it.

Syria has a very good chance to repeat the 80’s outcome … this time Turkey is there, they have Hamas in power, Hizbollah won the war against Israel, a stronger Iran is more committed … Russia is coming back, Qatar and Dubai investments

Try not to look ONLY at the negatives.

February 15th, 2007, 9:39 pm


Atassi said:

“””Turkey is there, Hamas in power, Hizbollah won the war against Israel,a stronger Iran… Russia is coming back, Qatar and Dunbai investments …”””
O.K Alex.. I look forward for the repeat of the 80’s.

February 15th, 2007, 10:04 pm


Ammad said:

I agree with Alex analysis, Syria is powerful but I would strongly push up the idea that Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are the key players in the region and Syria’s fate are in their hand, Syria is actually trying to challenge them by playing their cards in palestine and I can say confidentially that they are involved in Iraq violince.

February 15th, 2007, 10:47 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) — The United Nations team investigating
the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has
been authorized to help determine who detonated bus bombs that
killed three people in Lebanon a day before the second
anniversary of his death.
The Security Council broadened the mandate of the commission
led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz to include the Feb. 13
bombings of two buses in Bikfaya, a Christian city in the Mount
Lebanon region. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora requested
the assistance in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The investigating team, whose original mandate to probe the
murder of Hariri was extended to cover 14 other terrorist attacks
and the Nov. 21 assassination of Industry Minister Pierre
Gemayel, has been authorized to “extend its technical
assistance” to the Lebanese government.
“This is a clear message to all of those who threaten the
integrity of Lebanon and its sovereignty that this council is
watching closely and will get to the bottom of this,” U.S.
Acting Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said. “The fact that this
latest series of bombings took place on the eve of the second
anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, the very mandate we gave
this commission to investigate, makes it clear to us there are
positive links that need to be explored.”
The bombings took place as the pro-U.S. government of
Siniora, a Sunni Muslim, is confronted by increasing divisions
between religious communities and opposition from the Iranian-
and Syrian-backed Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah. The attacks
increase concern that Lebanon is slipping toward a civil war.

February 15th, 2007, 10:52 pm


norman said:

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states always feared Iran’s revolution and employed Sadam to stop the Iranians in the 80th ,that war ended with Iraq devstated and Iran weakend , Iraq invaded Kuwait , Sadam became a villon and the US became the protector of the Gulf states ,Hafez Asad was proven right on the war between Iraq /Sadam and Iran , Syria and Hafez Asad were the only obstacle to peace with Israel at any cost ,Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states always feared Iran more than Israel and a peace between Israel on one side and Syria ,The Palestinians and Lebanon on the side will make it easier to side themselves with Israel , When Hafez Asad passed away the west ( the US and France ) and SaudiArabia saw an opprtionty to change Syria’s stand as they saw Bashar as a western educated axcidental president who lacks the butality to survive in the midleast ,they offered him support but expected him to be a puppet,he refused to abbandon Syria’s stand, they planed war against this young immature president as they perceived , we saw that from the attacks that Syria received from the Lebanese after Hafez died ,They were mistaken Bashar is no amature and proved so far that he can and did navigate Syria through very difficult times while helping the more than one milion Iraqies runing away from the Saudi suported Us invasion ,and the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese during the Saudi supported Israeli war on Lebanon , you know ,at one time during 2005 i felt fear for Syria and missed Hafez Asad wisdom , now i am proud of Bashar and most of all i am proud of Syria and our people in Syria ,They will never geg or ask for mercy ,they are proud they are Syrians.

February 16th, 2007, 3:28 am


Enlightened said:

Norman said:

“They were mistaken Bashar is no amature and proved so far that he can and did navigate Syria through very difficult times while helping the more than one milion Iraqies runing away from the Saudi suported Us invasion ,and the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese during the Saudi supported Israeli war on Lebanon , you know ,at one time during 2005 i felt fear for Syria and missed Hafez Asad wisdom , now i am proud of Bashar and most of all i am proud of Syria and our people in Syria ,They will never geg or ask for mercy ,they are proud they are Syrians.”

Norman you are a tried and true baathist, and your analysis here about Bashar’s presidency is littered with bias. A more accurate and less bias interpretation would not come to the conclusions you have. His record as president is amateurish at best, incompetent would suffice if you view his mis- handling of world events post 9/11, and down right thuggish in his ham fisted attempt to control Lebanon post Lahoud extension. While I admire that love for your country ( a lesson most of us Lebanese still need to learn) would preclude you from lambasting his tenure in office, a little honesty and retrospection is needed. I thik today with the Iranian alliance, and Syrias posturing in its neighbourhood leave it in a far more dangerous position than when Hafez was in power.

There are far better candidates in the Assad clan, to rule (Bushra for instance), however I feel Syrian ambivalence towards their political situation spurns most comments like yours norman.

February 16th, 2007, 4:55 am


habib said:

Syria is socially thriving. Erstwhile the Lebanese are at a distance from each other, and the Iraqis are at each other’s throats.

If you look at the “moderate arab regimes” in contrast, they have soaked themselved in consumerism. I think Syria is very much in the middle of all this…caught between passion for confessionalism and dispassion by laissez faire.

Are these really the two forces pushing arabs these days? It’s trite and so reassuring.

February 16th, 2007, 5:23 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

Why are people always zooming in on Bashar al-Assad as if he is the one in charge, the one “running Syria”, the one managing all foreign and domestic policy, the one making all decisions?

I find it quite surprising that among the SC commentership there is pretty much no discussion of the Syrian regime’s post-Hafiz internal power structure.

To simplify: How much power does Bashar al-Assad actually have? How are decisions made? By whom? Which other power centers are there in Syria? What are the relationships between them? Who is dominant?

I’ve come to think of the regime as “the gang of four” (you can wiki the reference) but am more and more convinced that the situation is much more complex.

Bashar al-Assad to me appears more and more to play the role of Iran’s Ahmadinejad – the populist fool that gets all the attention while people off-camera have the actual power and make the actual decisions.

Any thoughts on that? Alex? Ehsani2? Atassi? IC? Josh???



February 16th, 2007, 9:39 am


Ford Prefect said:

Alex is luminously correct. The battle for the Middle East hegemony continues. His notion about KSA trying to fill gap upon Hafez death is sensible and empirically supported. But here is the interesting part: in hegemony cold wars, more often than not, events do not necessarily have nicely-wrapped and logical explanations. Most explanations would end up providing passionate lullabies such as Gibran’s vivid bedtime stories of beasts, tails, dogs, and oxen.

February 16th, 2007, 9:50 am


3antar said:

I cant help but find your question addressing the issue of Functionalism and Intentionalism. How much say does Bashar have? Is he ultimately the one responsible for all decision making?

using those guide lines,
An Intentionalists would claim that orders were very centralized and would probably have been delegated right from the head of State himself. Hence fully liable.

Functinalist are might appear more defensive in that respect by spreading the blame and passing it down the ranks or perhaps individuals behind the scene. This could precipitate into blaming a large number of people.

either way, what implications do you think this will bring? You think he’s merely representing and acting on orders. does that mean Syrians in general should be put on trial? or his family? or the alawaits?


perhaps this is a misinterpretation on my part.

February 16th, 2007, 10:48 am


MSK said:


yes, your comment is a misinterpretation.

I said nothing about “Who’s liable?” That was neither content nor aim of my questions.

You immediately understood my comment in the context of “who’s to blame” but that means you’re putting things into my … errr … keyboard that aren’t there.

My question is one of pure and simple information: What is the organizational structure of power and decision-making in contemporary Syria?

Re: Bashar looking like playing the role of public face but unable to truly run a show like they Syrian regime – well, you saw the Diane Sawyer interview …

Fahimt ‘aleyyyyyya???



February 16th, 2007, 11:06 am


Ford Prefect said:

Dear MSK,
I know you have not asked me to comment on your latest posting, but I find your inquiry to be exceptionally tempting. Therefore, I will hereby comment, albeit uninvited, while waiting for the real experts to give us more enlightened views on this important topic.

Syria’s decision-making process is not much different than it was back during Hafez time: haphazard decisions based on current realities on the ground. There was no policy generation process back then, and it is clear that there none today either.

This notion of policy-less driven society is indigenous and deeply engrained in the social fabric. It is directly related to the still mainly agrarian society and the relatively constant weather patterns. Policy-driven political systems are products of Western culture and the Industrail Revolution and they are yet to hit our shores.

So who is driving Syria today? No single person in particular. The institutionalized wait-and-see process is still prevalent, with “federated pods” of decision making taking turns in reacting to emerging realities.

Waiting for real experts to chime in.


February 16th, 2007, 2:24 pm


Gibran said:

‘Saudi hegemony luminous theories’? Let’s see. Is it new? Or is it something bad?
It is not something new. It goes back to the 1967 defeat of Egypt and Syria and the beginning of the end of nationalism. Since then Saudi role began ascending and was recognized as the major decision maker when it comes to Arab issues. Hafez comes, Hafez goes has nothing to do with that. In fact, he was always under their will and that’s why he survived ruling Sunni Syria for so long
Is it something bad? Not at all. Saudi system of government is the oldest, most stable and wisest among all the Arab anarchical regimes. Most Arabs have more affinity with a Sunni ruled Saudi regime than a minority within a minority Alawi Syria or a Savavid heresy of a Wilayat al-Faqih rule of an Iraninian pretender to the ‘championship’ of Arab causes. So, if such ‘Saudi hegemony’ is happening it is because of the need of the vast majority of the Arabs to put things back in order as we’ve witnessed recently with Hamas and the PA. So ‘SA hegemony’, if true , is a good thing for most Arabs and let it happen.

February 16th, 2007, 2:25 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, this Arab Sunni has no affinity to any system that prevents women from driving (let alone allowing them to share in the overall development of the country), forces shops to close for prayers, and prevent people from freely practicing their faiths. Again, you keep generalizing and lumping everyone in one bucket. Are you again referring to your infomous 75% (but really like 99.9%) ratio?

February 16th, 2007, 2:46 pm


Gibran said:

Take it the way you want. This is real politics and this is the Arab world. Are you not a proud green card carrier with some UCLA affiliation? I guess that puts you square with your roots. The Arabs, including Syrians, will also find their roots that have less to do with Alawi and Savavid heretics.

February 16th, 2007, 2:56 pm


MSK said:

Dear FP,

mea ultima culpa and a thousand & one “ana aasif”.

For some reason I thought you were out drinking with Slartibartfast … 😉

I actually don’t agree with your “the Syrians aren’t that modern yet” assessment. And, in any case, my understanding is that under Assad Sr., decision-making was quite centralized. Ya’nii, he was pretty much in total control, balancing various traditional & emerging factions against each other.

Assad Jr. doesn’t seem to have that kind of control, and even more, not even the Gang Of Four seems to have it.



February 16th, 2007, 2:57 pm


simohurtta said:

Saudi system of government is the oldest, most stable and wisest among all the Arab anarchical regimes.

The hate against Syria must have “blinded” you totally. If the Saudi system of government is the best, why does Lebanon not select one of the thousands of Saudi princes as the King of Lebanon. Then you would have a “better” system than Syria and the fast growing royal family would bring much amusement to you. No more drinking in Beirut, Sharia law and bin Ladens rebuilding Lebanon. Hmmmm … you would probably move to Syria under one year.

Soon you Gibran probably say that Israel is a model example of a multicultural moderate peaceful democracy.

February 16th, 2007, 3:23 pm


Atassi said:

I am belonging to the school of believers that the regime interests contradict with the interests of the Syria as a functioning state. Since Bashar took over the helms’ of the Assad family corporation, his family and clan members took a key security and military positions, this narrow base composition proved to be very efficient and strong enough to survive the backlashes of humiliating withdrawal form Lebanon and so far the Hariri investigation affair.
His brother Maher, his brother -in-law Shawkat, Bushra and her mother possesses a powerful influence. we need to keep in mind and not discount the Shia Axis factor its substantial supportas of the regime

February 16th, 2007, 3:40 pm


Ford Prefect said:

MSK, thanks buddy; I appreciate the invite. Yes, you are correct; I had to take my friend Arthur Dent out for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster drink and explain to him that I am about to save him from the imminent destruction of Planet Earth to make way for the new Super Galactic Highway 😉

I am sorry; my intention was not to come across as saying “Syrians are not modern yet.” I intended to say that the policy-formulation process has not arrived yet. This is mainly due to the still-occurring cultural transformation. This is not meant to be a derogatory statement, just my impression of how things are decided. If I sounded derogatory, my apologies, purely unintended (damn British keyboards!)

And yes, I agree with you, decisions during Hafez time were centralized and they emanated from the core outwards. But, nevertheless, they were mainly reactionary decisions and, in general, were not based on any prescribed long-term agenda or executable master plan.

Today’s decision-making process is “pod-oriented” with pockets struggling to superimpose their mostly reactionary decisions on other competing ones. Therefore, we notice the inconsistency and unpredictability of what is coming out of Damascus.

In both cases, however, one can notice the lack of real working agendas that will lead to the adoption of a policy (or policies) for the future. Today they just operate on principles with a constantly shifting center of gravity.

Gibran, huh? UCLA? No, sorry, I prefer the Sooners over the Bruins 😉 For civil rights and freedom, however, I prefer the ACLU.


February 16th, 2007, 3:53 pm


MSK said:

Dear FP,

how many “pods/pockets” are there? Who are the members of each “pod/pocket”?

(As for Sooners vs. Bruins – in any contest you’ll lose SOONER than later!!!)



February 16th, 2007, 4:26 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Bravo. Well said.

Atassi, correct, I hear you loud and clear. But evolution did solve and continues to solve malformed species problems. Democracy-in-a-box from Washington, Riyadh, or Beirut is neither a democracy nor a box. I have seen the receipt.

February 16th, 2007, 4:29 pm


Bilal Nawaf said:

I have posted a comment last night that was not published?

February 16th, 2007, 4:43 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear MSK,
I take it that you are no Trojans fan either 😉 Go Terps!

Wow, you are asking me very tough questions. If I knew the answers to your questions, I would be dangerously undermining my role as a hitch hiker through the galaxies. I was just casually observing while anxiously awaiting expert opinions to your prodding question.

February 16th, 2007, 4:46 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear MSK,

To say that the Syrian leadership is opaque is an understatement. Hardly anyone can claim to have an inside knowledge about what goes behind the Presidential Palace walls. The Assad family has been able to survive in power against all odds and for longer than anyone could have imagined. This has been achieved through ruthless internal security apparatus and central decision-making powers at the top of the political pyramid.

I want to answer your question first before I elaborate:

Is Bashar running the country?


In my humble opinion, those that think otherwise are badly informed and sadly mistaken.

The security of the family’s grip on power is in the hands of Maher. By heading the security of the Presidential Palace, he controls the coveted tanks division. No one party can engineer a military coup without access to the tanks. This is a known fact for all dictatorships. Can Maher unseat Bashar? Technically and based on the facts on the grounds, the answer is yes. In reality, this is highly unlikely.

Asef Shawkat’s role is internal security. While he has grown more powerful over time, it is highly unlikely that his power will ever exceed that of Maher when it comes to having the final say on military or security issues.

I am always intrigued by comments like “Bashar is not in control”. Such statements are made without ever putting forth an alternative name. If not Bashar then who?

The reality is that Ali Douba, Ali Heidar or Adnan Badr Hasan are no more. The old generation that could have had something to say has all but disappeared from the scene. Even Khaddam himself admitted after his defection that all matters of the state are in the hands of the President. He often calls this “tafarrod bil-sulta”.

He is absolutely right.

Bashar alone runs the show. You can take my word for this.

February 16th, 2007, 5:02 pm


Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta said:

“Soon you Gibran probably say that Israel is a model example of a multicultural moderate peaceful democracy.”

Considering Israel is made up of Jews from every corner of the world, from the US, India, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, France, Argentina, etc, along with a 20% Arab population, I would have to agree with what Gibran probably will say;)

Gibran said:

“So ‘SA hegemony’, if true , is a good thing for most Arabs and let it happen.”

Gibran, please tell the king “thank you” for keeping the price of oil down to reasonable prices. We appreciate that. Also thank him for trying to steer clear of the Iranian prophet president Mahmood. However, there still something bothering me; and I would like to see some more improvement in this area if it is possible: the export of their Wahabist doctrine and intolerance in their funded mosques, schools, and madrassahs.

Perhaps you can ask them if they can moderate these views a little and “tone down” the rhetoric. Too much brainwashing doesn’t help anyone if you know what I mean…


February 16th, 2007, 5:18 pm


MSK said:

Dear Ehsani2,

you just contradicted yourself.

You said “Bashar alone runs the show” and then talks about how Maher controls this & Asef controls that …

Can anyone of them do anything (not unseat Bashar, but run little operations) outside Bashar’s knowledge? What’s the role of businessmen? How much does Bashar depend on them for the economic policy? What about Mu’allim? What about Tlass?



February 16th, 2007, 5:20 pm


Alex said:

FP, good to see you here again. Your comments are always PREfect-ly balanced.

Gibran (although I am not really talking to you), your praise of Saudi rule explains everything. I’m glad you made that comment. Now I understand everything… basically you love all minorities and you are a very open minded, peace loving democracy fighter … The Lebanese “majority” must be proud to have you as one of their typical supporters and especially as their outspoken representative on this popular Syria forum. Keep up the good work.


You want my honest opinion about the Syrian regime’s power structure? … no idea!

American and Israeli intelligence do not know much more than we do. They managed to collect some observations which often led them to conflicting conclusions.

If there is one thing our regime is specialized in, it is secrecy… and even better, they will be happy if everyone got the wrong impression about anything they do not want you to know.

If you listen to Khaddam, he certainly does not think he was only an implementer of Hafez’s foreign policy … Khaddam claims he was The Great Architect himself.

Also quoting Khaddam, he claimed that Bashar asked him to prepare a couple of studies concerning long term strategies for Syria… I assume then it was either an old, or at least new practice to make those studies.

Also, we now have a real Syrian Think Tank! 🙂

It is called Asharq think Tank I think. Meets twice a week and includes some respectable, western educated political analysts.

Conclusion: policy making in Syria is probably SOMETIMES the way FP sees it, some other times it simply follows long-established rules, other times it is very much … special!

Syria is different! 🙂

February 16th, 2007, 5:26 pm


Atassi said:

It’s also a known fact and simple to say that basic structures of the predominance ‘sect: Close to 90 percent of the officers commanding the major military formations are ‘form one or two sects and most of the top echelons in the various security services holds the informal power
And their influence derives most of all from the basic fact that they hold the ruling coalition together

February 16th, 2007, 5:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:


No contradictions I think.

Bashar does not outsource decision making to anyone.

Can Maher and/or Asef make unilateral decisions without Bashar’s knowledge?


Can anyone else?

No way.

As I said, the tanks and the French Gazelles are in Mahers’s hands. This is a fact.

This does not mean that Bashar is not in charge. Again, please tell me who else is in charge?

There is no one. Alex is right to say that top secrecy is the name of the game.

Bashar, for a good reason, trusts no one to delegate responsibility to.

While we all would like him to be more democratic, he has a job to do and that is to stay in power.

Were we to be in his job, it is conceivable that we may have followed the same tactics that we all hate to see today. He is paid nothing to take unwarranted risks with a system that has worked incredibly well for the family in power.

As to the power of the economic decision makers, it is zero.

Everyone of them is dispensible in 5 minutes.

The same goes for the so-called business man.

It will take less than 5 minutes to put anyone of them away for breaking some law over life time.

Ditto for any army officers. They are regularly moved around and none of them hold an indispensible position that can threaten the system. Even top Alawi officers are not fully trusted. Again, for good reason.

This is absolute power. Make no mistake about it

February 16th, 2007, 6:03 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I do appreciate your earlier analysis and you are providing a compelling argument. First a quick comment followed by a quick question for you. Governments or leaders capable of producing actions must be based on some sort of legitimacy. Max Weber (1947) divided the legitimacy of authority into traditional, rational, or charismatic. If Bashar is the end point for Syrian authority, what is the basis for his legitimacy in your opinion? (I am referring to legitimacy in the Weberian sense.) In other words, why and how would anyone fear Bashar?

February 16th, 2007, 6:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I am on my way to the airport.

The basis for his legitimacy is absolute power and sheer force.

Ask anyone who has attempted to question his legitimacy how things turned out.

Ruthless , surgical and feared internal security.
Very well designed Palace security and protection.
Army officers that have no indispensible power.
Baath party apparatus to help solidfy the above.

It is a combination of the above that has given him ligitimacy.

February 16th, 2007, 6:55 pm


MSK said:

Ya Ikhwaan,

I disagree with Ehsani2’s notion of “legitimacy”. He mistakes “method of staying in power” for “legitimacy”.

The Syrian regime, like most governments on the globe, has a bit of all three Weberian aspects.

Mashi, I’ve put off writing that Syria post for over a week now. You’ve pushed me to do it.



February 16th, 2007, 7:01 pm


Alex said:

“Mashi, I’ve put off writing that Syria post for over a week now. You’ve pushed me to do it.”

What do you mean? : )

February 16th, 2007, 7:16 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Fair point. I am describing two different things.
Methods of staying in power and who is in charge is what I am describing.

Deeper questions of legitimacy I shall give a pass to in my rush

February 16th, 2007, 7:17 pm


Gibran said:

Yes AP. I second you in what you replied to SH. Price of oil has already been lowered from $70 to $50-$60 for reasons well known. It can be brought down even further if need be. Don’t worry about Wahhabi’s. They’re under control and docile. When ideologues come up with all kinds of so-called ‘luminous’ theories (such as SA hegemony etc…) on which they base their argument in order to make it look intelligent, then you have no other way but to respond the way I did. I mean are we going to be ruled by one ‘infallible’ mullah sitting somwewhere in Qom and as you said a messianic prophet issuing edicts to bring the end of the world to suit his ‘heavenly’ visions???!

February 16th, 2007, 7:50 pm


Atassi said:

اللله.. سوريا.. بشارا وبس
Get ready to for this slogan. The referendum will be presented very soon in the Syrian local stages near you..
سوريا الاســـــد للابد
.. I am getting it!!!
الأســـــــد قـائدهـا

February 16th, 2007, 9:25 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Based on my business contacts in Syria, it is widely reported that business conditions have become very slow recently. A friend of mine who runs a business that sells products worth $30,000 a month was only able to sell a total of $6000 this month. His other business, which usually does very well, is also down by at least 25%.

My other contact manufactures a number of products in the country. His products had long found their way to Iraq and other export destination. This morning, he also reported a dramatic fall in his sales.

In a way, this is not surprising. In such a political environment, the shock will be if business was well.

Sadly for the country, things are most likely to get worse before they get better.

February 16th, 2007, 9:51 pm


Ford Prefect said:


You might have left already to catch a flight, bon voyage! My original question is not really related to the mechanism of staying in power (you answered that clearly) but rather how did Bashar contract that absolute power in the first place. MSK has a point; it is very difficult to match the Weberian distinct tripartite to an authoritarian ruler – a cocktail of all three is more plausible in this case. But I still do not see how Bashar could have gained any level of Weberian aggregation to legitimacy. I understand how his father did, but again not Bashar. I believe that question remains highly unanswered. Until it can be empirically proven otherwise, I believe the current ligitimacy is consensus-driven and institutional-based rather than Bashar-based.

February 17th, 2007, 12:11 am


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, I just re-read your last posting. Yes, indeed. Syria is different and has baffled Israeli, US, and Saudi intelligence services for years. Syrian power legitimacy even baffles its owners more than anyone else! What you said is true: Syria is different.

February 17th, 2007, 12:23 am


Enlightened said:

Just got emailed an old Memri Article from a friend doing some research, here is an excerpt on their analysis of the Lebanese Syrian brotherly relationship:

Syria Leaves Lebanon With Only Two Options: To Accept the Return of the Syrian Forces, or to Risk Constant Escalation of the Situation

“According to Syrian propaganda, Lebanon is the arena of a struggle… to save Syria’s brothers [i.e. the Lebanese] and to protect the Syrian regime. If [Lebanese] are hurt in the course of [Syria’s struggle for their sake], this is [only] because their country has become a base for foreign [forces] that must be eliminated. [Moreover], as everyone knows, liberty comes at a price, and the price is sometimes paid by innocent people. But even if [these innocent people] are killed by their [Syrian] brothers, they are… victims [of the foreign interference in Lebanon],… [since] Syria has the right to defend itself in any way and by any means against the Lebanese leaders, who cannot be anything other than foreign agents.

“Another implication [of the Al-Shara’ principle] is that it leaves the Lebanese with only two options: either to [accept] Syria’s return to their land, or to be subjected to a variety of ever-escalating [measures], in which [Syria] is entitled to use any [available] means to achieve its goal of protecting itself against Lebanon. This will be achieved either by the return of the Syrian forces into Lebanon, or by bringing Lebanon to the point where it agrees to [Syrian] limitations on its sovereignty, and accepts [Syria’s] right to determine [Lebanon’s] policy and interests, and even to control [Lebanon].

“This is the Al-Shara’ principle. Therefore, do not expect any breakthrough or improvement in Syrian-Lebanese relations unless the Arab [states] – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, etc. – invest tremendous efforts in modifying this principle and [Al-Shara’s] mentality towards Lebanon. Moreover, the Al-Shara’ principle will not be the last escalation, and the painful events recently experienced by the Lebanese [people] will not be the last [either].”

Gibran what do you think do you want them back in?

February 17th, 2007, 1:36 am


Atassi said:

Can you please elaborate more on your comment that the current legitimacy of Bahar is consensus-driven and institutional-based rather than Bashar-based.!! Whom consensuses were granted, and by what mean? What kind of institutions, civil, military or mutually? Your comment is very important

February 17th, 2007, 1:54 am


Alex said:

Interesting analysis from Ibrahim Hamidi in Al-Hayat today (tomorrow, actually)

A very rough translation:

The Syrians say they are confident Iran is not planning to diverge too much from the Syrian positions on Lebanon and Iraq.

They are admitting to some differences

1) Iraq: Syria wants a consensus that includes the Sunnis and the more neutral baathists, Iran is more interested in helping their Shia allies.

2) Lebanon: Iran is more willing than Syria to compromise on Lebanon. Out of all regional conflicts, Syria is probably most concerned with Lebanon.

3) On Palestine there is almost no disagreement.

Here is the proper article in Arabic.

دمشق «مطمئنة» عشية زيارة الأسد إلى طهران أن إيران لن تذهب بعيداً من المصالح السورية
دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي الحياة – 17/02/07//

تكتسب زيارة الرئيس بشار الاسد الى طهران اليوم، أهمية خاصة بسبب التطورات الحاصلة في الملفات العراقي والفلسطيني واللبناني. ومن المقرر ان يجري الاسد في زيارة العمل التي تستمر يومين ويرافقه فيها وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم، محادثات مع مرشد الجمهورية الاسلامية علي خامنئي والرئيس محمود احمدي نجاد ورئيس مجلس تشخيص مصلحة النظام علي أكبر هاشمي رفسنجاني.

وقالت مصادر سورية رفيعة المستوى لـ «الحياة» امس ان زيارة الاسد «ضمن الزيارات الدورية بين البلدين» وانها تتزامن مع احتفالات ايران بذكرى الثورة الاسلامية، قبل ان تشير الى ان «التوقيت يعطيها اهمية اضافية بسبب التطورات الحاصلة في المنطقة».

وجرت العادة ان تجري قمة سورية – ايرانية مرة كل سنة، اذ ان الرئيس احمدي نجاد زار دمشق في كانون الثاني (يناير) العام الماضي ردا على قيام الاسد بتهنئته بالانتصار في الانتخابات الرئاسية نهاية العام 2005. وبعد هاتين الزيارتين، لم يكن يمر اسبوع من دون قيام وفد سوري بزيارة ايران او وفد ايراني بزيارة دمشق، بهدف تعميق التعاون في المجالات السياسية والأمنية والعسكرية والاقتصادية والتجارية، بحيث بلغت قيمة الاستثمارات الايرانية اكثر من بليون دولار اميركي. وعلى هذا الاساس يرأس رئيس الوزراء السوري محمد ناجي عطري ونائب الرئيس الايراني برويز داودي في طهران اجتماعات اللجنة العليا التي تجتمع سنوياً بالتناوب.

وتأتي زيارة الرئيس الاسد وسط تردد معلومات في أوساط ديبلوماسية في شأن «تعمق التباين» بين سورية وايران ازاء لبنان والعراق بعد قيام ايران والسعودية بطرح افكار لحل الازمة اللبنانية وبعد تعميق دمشق لعلاقتها مع «بعثيي» العراق واستقبالها لرئيس «هيئة علماء المسلمين» الشيخ حارث الضاري.

لكن مصادر سورية رفيعة المستوى اكدت لـ «الحياة» امس اول من امس: «ان الخلافات جزئية وتكاد لا تذكر بالقياس الى التنسيق والتشاور القائم بين البلدين»، مشيرة الى ان «ايران لا يمكن ان تذهب بعيدا من حدود المصالح السورية».

فبالنسبة الى العراق، تدعم ايران حكومة نوري المالكي والائتلاف الشيعي اللذين يقفان بقوة وراء موضوع الفيديرالية. كما انها تدعم «المجلس الاعلى للثورة الاسلامية» في العراق بزعامة عبدالعزيز الحكيم، بينما ترى دمشق ان الحل في العراق هو «سياسي وليس أمنياً» ووجوب ان تشمل المصالحة جميع الفئات العراقية بمن فيها «البعثيون» وان ذلك يعني تشكيل جيش وطني والمؤسسة الأمنية على أسس وطنية وحل الميليشيات، اضافة الى مراجعة الدستور، وخصوصاً ما يتعلق بموضوع الفيديرالية. كما تشدد دمشق على ضرورة ان تدرك الحكومة ان «العراق لا يحكم الا بالتوافق مع السنة».

واذ تدرك دمشق بعض التباينات إزاء الملف العراقي، فإنها لا تهمل الزاوية التي ينظر منها المسؤولون الى العراق باعتبار ان البلدين خاضا حربا استمرت ثماني سنوات وان بين البلدين تاريخا معقدا، على عكس دمشق التي تشارك بغداد في «الهوية العربية».

وتنظر كل من سورية وايران الى لبنان من زاوية مختلفة، ذلك ان دمشق تأخذ في اعتبارها العلاقة التاريخية معه وكونه خاصرة امنية لها، وصولا الى القلق من احتمال استخدامه منصة للاستهداف السياسي واستهداف الاستقرار السوري، في مقابل رؤية ايران للبنان ضمن التصور الاقليمي.

وكان الامين العام لمجلس الامن القومي الايراني علي لاريجاني اطلع المسؤولين السوريين على الافكار المتداولة مع السعودية لحل الأزمة اللبنانية، ضمن تصور أوسع يهدف الى تخفيف الاحتقان الطائفي. لكن في المقابل، تتمسك دمشق برؤيتها لحل الازمة في لبنان القائمة على اساس «التوافق اللبناني» وضرورة عدم انحياز الوسطاء الى طرف من دون آخر مع تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية تعكس التمثيل النيابي. واذ تذكر سورية بأنها ابلغت مجلس الأمن بأن لا علاقة لها بالمحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي، فإنها تلاحظ الخشية التي تبديها قوى لبنانية من تسييس المحكمة واستخدامها كأداة سياسية وليس كأداة لكشف الحقيقة باغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري.

ولدى البحث في الموضوع الفلسطيني، تبدو الفجوة أصغر بكثير، ذلك ان سورية وايران تدعمان «حماس» في سعيها لتشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية مع «فتح»، الأمر الذي يفسر تزامن وجود لاريجاني مع زيارة الرئيس محمود عباس الأخيرة الى دمشق. لكن في الوقت نفسه، تختلف الأمور لدى الانطلاق من تأييد دمشق لاتفاق مكة بين «فتح» و «حماس» والتشديد على تنفيذه وصولاً الى البحث في عملية السلام، باعتبار ان لدمشق مصلحة في تحريك عملية السلام واستئناف المفاوضات مع اسرائيل لاستعادة الجولان السوري المحتل.

February 17th, 2007, 2:09 am


Gibran said:


Please see History of Violence by Lee Smith at:


The nature of the Syrian regime is now well understood by all the civilized nations of the world. Previously, the regime relied on its experience in Taqiyya (dissimilution) to achieve certain aims. It is now completely exposed and no amount of Taqiyya will help to give it cover. The Sharaa behavior as well as the regime as a whole is normal with regimes of similar nature – for example Romania’s Ceausescu before his collapse or Pinochet or even Hitler and Mussolini just before they met their ends. One commentator on this blog recently linked an article by Daniel Pipes describing the history of this clan ruling in Syria. It is a long article and I read it all. The conclusion of the article is prophetic and at the same time carries ominous implications of a spectacular and sudden fall of this rule. Please go and read it if you can still find the link on this blog.
In my opinion, Syria’s connection to Lebanon is severed for ever (at least as long as this regime is in power) due to its unbearable intransigent behavior. The people of Lebanon will under no circumstances accept a repeat of a Lahoud appointed by the boy of Damascus. A minimum for Lebanon to consider resuming any sort of normal relations is the handing of the criminals, no matter their positions, responsible for political assassinations in Lebanon to face justice. The Syrians think they can scuttle the International court by stirring trouble in Lebanon. They are deluding themselves. The court will be formed before the end of March whether approved by Lebanon or not. As for Syria’s tails in Lebanon I am confident as I said previously, they will be cut off and thrown to the dogs.

February 17th, 2007, 2:24 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,Just to make it clear to you ,I was never in the Baath or any other party ,I never paid any bribes in Syria more than what i pay for tips in the Us ,my love for Syria comes from the fact that i went to public schools in Syria , I went to medical shool in Damascus univercity ,I payed nothing for my education ,I am gratfull for everything Syria did for me and my brother and for every Syrians who were good enough to have good grades and did not have to go out of the country for education , yes I am gratfull for Syria forever.

February 17th, 2007, 2:51 am


Enlightened said:


you took my comment too literally!! Please read it again i was speaking figuratively while calling you a true Baathi ( lol ). I re iterate the point that i viewed your comment as biased about Syrias fortunes under Bashar, I think that Syria is in far more danger under his rule than his fathers.

I am glad that you were afforded a free education, my father unfortunately had to emigrate because he feared that we could not, and my father never had the opportunity to be eductaed. We hold 6 degrees amongst nine kids here ( Law, business and Education) and we were grateful for the Australian education system ( almost free if you compare it by US standards). Re read my admiration of the love of your country ( a lesson that most lebanese havent learnt) and i Say this also to let you know that my wife has relatives in Syria as well ( lol imagine the tension in my house when I tell her my lack of fondness for the Syrian Leadership).

Norman would you go back and live in Syria under this administration? Be honest now, I bet you wouldnt!


I have read that article a long time ago, also out of interest read the article about dominant minority rule in the Mid east- equally interesting. I agree with you about the court and in its inevitability, but there will be a sour lemon for all the people in Syria nd Lebanon to swollow. Some how though i still feel The US will still inevitably sacrifice Lebanons interest and soverignty for a dime!

Ps were r u commenting from in Lebanon or abroad?

February 17th, 2007, 3:16 am


Gibran said:

Lebanese people are always mistrustful of the US and that’s understood based on Lebanon’s history in the last 30 years. You must realize now that beginning with UN 1559, US and International support to Lebanon took the form of reclaiming Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence from foreign interference, in effect enforcing Syria’s withdrawal as required by Taef. The support was further legitimized under other UN resolutions and hence it is International legitimacy which is at stake and not just the US. The strong UN presence under UNIFIL in the south further proves the will of the international community to shield Lebanon from regional conflicts. Furthermore, there is genuine realization by the US in particular that Lebanon is at the forefront in the war against terror and extremism. Mrs. Rice’s latest statement today confirms US commitment to Lebanon’s integrity based on this realization. The US is currently a major donor to Lebanon’s reconstruction. All these are indications that Lebanon will eventually chart its way into independence and full sovereignty. For the first time in 30 years the US is actively involved in modernizing the Lebanese army which has proven its effectiveness in the latest riots, as well as being the catalyst which created the Hezbollah free zone in the south thus enforcing a UN sponsored ceasefire of the Hezbollah instigated war against Israel. In the end it is the will of the people of Lebanon which will ensure their success. This will seems to be getting stronger as the enemies of Lebanon plot against the country, and that is only normal considering the tragedies that the Lebanese went through in the last 30 years.
I am confident that Lebanon will weather the current storm and will emerge stronger. As you may well know the Hezbollah gambit to stage a coup d’etat has failed and the tents in central Beirut are now empty. Agree with you about the sour lemon for Lebanon but it will not be very sour and won’t last long – May or June at the most. As for the Syrians, I feel sympathy to their plight, but it is their call at this point in time to stand up and take their fate into their own hands.
As for me, I live in British Columbia. But, I travel to Lebanon and other places often. I am also in constant contact with Lebanon.

February 17th, 2007, 4:03 am


norman said:

Enlighted one, You are right ,I will not live in Syria at this time ,As you know in the Midleast it is difficult to generate wealth if you do not come from wealth and i do not , when i have enough and can contribute to Syria medicaly i will go back ,i Hope to go back one day and to open a cancer center with medical oncology and radiation therapy it was very hurtfull for me to see my aunt’s husband go to Lebanon for radiation theray , yes Syria has many internal problem but what i see is that Syria has very clear position on Iraq ,Palestine and the Golan a position that i agree with ,all the problem that Syria has internaly can be corrected when Syria feels safe that no body will interfere in it’s internal affair .

February 17th, 2007, 4:12 am


Ford Prefect said:

Quoting articles from the Weekly Standards finally shows your true neoconic colors. No wonder the “democratic” and “civilized” (civilized is double underscored, italicized and bolded as some readers are awfully dumb!) leaders of today’s Lebanon are well received and supported by the neocons and the AEI. It is clear that those same neocons – with their stellar successes in instilling democracy all over Iraq – have Lebanon’s best interest in mind. Who are you going to enlighten us with next time, Michael Ledden, John Bolton, or Daniel Pipes? We just can’t wait.


February 17th, 2007, 12:15 pm


habib said:

Gibran got the article from Michael Totten. It shows from which trough he feeds. Totten is a jackass.

February 17th, 2007, 2:19 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Norman; What year did you graduate from Medical school?
Rice in Baghdad,Bush calls KSA king,american military build up in the arabian gulf,Putin visited KSA,Iran is having talk with KSA,Abdullah Ghol of Turkey is in KSA,it is obvious that KSA is becoming a center for major actions in the next two months.

February 17th, 2007, 3:24 pm


Alex said:

So today, both “sides” are taking more confrontational hard line positions:

first, US and Israel:

Livni: PA coalition gov’t fails to meet Quartet demands

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Saturday a unity government deal between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas did not satisfy the demands of the international community.

Her comments marked a hardening of Israel’s public response to the deal. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier this week that Israel “neither rejects nor accepts the agreements”.

“Unfortunately, before the formation of the future Palestinian government, the understandings do not meet the requirements of the international community,” Livni said with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at her side.

Rice arrived in Israel Saturday evening. She is scheduled to meet with Olmert on Sunday to prepare for the three-way summit with Abbas on Monday.

Then Syria and Iran:

Assad, Ahmadinejad vow to form alliance against U.S., Israel

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

The presidents of Iran and Syria on Saturday vowed to form an alliance against what they called U.S. and Israeli conspiracies against the Islamic world.

Iran’s ISNA news agency reported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that the Islamic world in general and Iran and Syria in particular should maintain their vigilance and neutralize conspiracies aimed at sowing discord among Muslims.

Ahmadinejad said that what the U.S. really aims for under the pretext of development in the region “is just another effort to strengthen its own status and that of the Zionists.”

ISNA quoted Syrian President Bashar Assad as saying that expansion of Tehran-Damascus ties would help resolve the problems of the Islamic world. He accused the U.S. of trying to attract public opinion within the Islamic world by undermining Iran-Syria relations.

The Syrian leader said Muslims worldwide should be informed about “the evil aims by the U.S. and Zionists” which he said were sowing discord among Muslims.

February 17th, 2007, 8:10 pm


Enlightened said:


You should be proud of your achievements! and your cause to open a cancer hospital in Syria is a noble cause ( it touched a soft spot in me since i lost my father to the disease 4.5 years ago). I hope that in goood time you will see your endeavour come true.


As a Lebanese descendent, my father chose his exile in the mid sixties, because he saw no hope, I feeel that we need to be careful when we criticize Syria and Syrians. If the criticizim is levelled at the government that is fair game I feel, however the red line is The Syrian people and that is where I draw the line, because as I grew up and mixing with Lebanese and Syrian kids and the more i read and grew up and matured and knew the truth about their situation the less inclined i could hold them responsible for their governments actions, as time went by my anger and hatred subsided and found it was unwarranted because it focussed on the people as well rather than the fault or where it laid- The Government.

I say this to you even though we have had family members killed by the Syrian army, and that hatred leads us no where. ( I am speaking about my own experience here and in no way presumng that you feel or have felt the same thing).

There is nothing more than what i would like to see fair and democratic governments in Syria and lebanon with freedom, deomcracy and rights for all, however I dont think I will see it in my lifetime. So we will al grow old and live out our exiles in strange lands while our hearts are always looking to where our roots and origins are.

This I think is a sad reality especially since I have two grandmothers i havent seen since i was six, and are both approaching their time.. All Sad

February 18th, 2007, 1:38 am


norman said:

Enlighted one , I am sorry about your DAD ,

Majed , I graduted in 1979 and left for the US in 1980.now you know my age.

February 18th, 2007, 3:43 am


Gibran said:

Thanks for your revelations. I think we are both saying the same thing about the Syrian people. These were my words:
“As for the Syrians, I feel sympathy to their plight, but it is their call at this point in time to stand up and take their fate into their own hands.”
It is a clear distinction between the people and their rulers. Isn’t it? There is no talk of blind hate in this, I believe. I too hope they overcome their predicament.
Thanks again and sorry for your dad and the losses you experienced in your family.

February 18th, 2007, 4:03 am


Alex said:

State department Invited the Syrian Ambassador to strictly “humanitarian discussions” about Iraqi refugees in Syria. He told them Syria is not interested in their discussions about the symptoms of the problem… only about the causes of the problem.

اكدت مصادر سورية مطلعة لـ «الحياة» امس ان مسؤولين سوريين ابلغوا مسؤولين في وزارة الخارجية الاميركية رفضهم «البحث في موضوع الضيوف العراقيين في سورية» مشيرين الى ان هذا الموضوع شأن سوري – عراقي. وأبدوا استعداداً لاجراء «حوار موضوعي وبناء يتناول جميع الامور السياسية».

واوضحت ان هذا الموقف نقله السفير السوري في واشنطن عماد مصطفى الى نائب مساعد وزيرة الخارجية لشؤون الشرق الاوسط روبرت دينين. كما ان القائم بأعمال السفارة الاميركية في دمشق مايكل كوربون تبلغ هذا الموقف من مدير ادارة المراسم في الخارجية السورية امير الصمادي.

وكانت وزيرة الخارجية الاميركية كوندوليزا رايس فوضت كلاً من مساعدها وكوربون اجراء «محادثات انسانية» مع سورية على خلفية قرار دمشق تنظيم وجود العراقيين في الاراضي السورية. واوضحت المصادر السورية ان الصمادي ابلغ كوربون انه «غير مخول» البحث في موضوع العراقيين معه فضلا عن ان دمشق «تعتبر العراقيين ضيوفاً وليسوا لاجئين». كما ان مصطفى ابلغ دينين ان «تهجير العراقيين هو من نتائج الحرب الكارثية على العراق» وان دمشق غير مستعدة للبحث في النتائج بل البحث في «حوار سياسي يتناول جذور المشكلة».

وتابعت ان دمشق «لا تريد البحث في موضوع العراقيين لأن سورية تريد حواراً موضوعياً يتناول جميع القضايا. الحوار البناء شيء تريده دمشق، وانتقاء موضوع من نتائج الحرب والبحث في موضوع العراقيين بصفتهم لاجئين شيء آخر ترفضه سورية».

February 18th, 2007, 9:12 am


Alex said:

Jihad Elkhazen in Alhayat today …

الموقف الأميركي من سورية أسوأ، فالدول العربية كافة تريد من الولايات المتحدة أن تفاوض سورية وايران، إلا أن ادارة بوش لا تفعل بل إنها تمنع اسرائيل من التفاوض مع سورية، وثمة معلومات متطابقة من مصادر اسرائيلية وأميركية وعربية عن الموضوع وجدتها غير منطقية في البداية فلم أصدقها، غير أنها تكاثرت وبتّ مقتنعاً بصحة مصدرها، فإدارة بوش اختارت مواجهة سورية مع ايران بدل أن تسعى للفصل بين الأولى والثانية، خصوصاً أن المشكلة الحقيقية مع ايران، إن لجهة برنامجها النووي، أو تنامي نفوذها في العراق.

الحكومة السورية صرحت غير مرة بأنها مستعدة للتفاوض مع اسرائيل، وقد سمعنا كلاماً بهذا المعنى من الرئيس، ومن المشاركين السوريين في مؤتمر مدريد الشهر الماضي الذي عقد في الذكرى الخامسة عشرة لمؤتمر مدريد، والحكومة الاسرائيلية تريد التفاوض لأن النجاح على المسار السوري سيغطي على فشلها في الحرب على لبنان، غير أن ايهود أولمرت الضعيف ليس في وضع يمكنه من تجاهل الرغبة الأميركية.

اسخف ما في الموقف الأميركي من سورية أن هذه قادرة على التأثير في الموقف الايراني اذا وجدت أن مفاوضاتها مع اسرائيل تسير في شكل ايجابي، وأن الدول العربية «المعتدلة» التي تحاول الادارة الأميركية استمالتها ضد ايران بالعمل على النزاع الفلسطيني – الاسرائيلي، ستكون أكثر استعداداً للمساعدة اذا انضمت سورية اليها، فهي كلها تريد أن تعود سورية الى حظيرة العمل العربي المشترك. ثم ان أي حل «شامل» للنزاع مع اسرائيل لا يستحق اسمه اذا لم يشمل سورية.

February 18th, 2007, 9:13 am


Alex said:

Excellent article by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz today:

Rice’s road map is full of holes

By Zvi Bar’el

How easy it is for the United States to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: It is both sticking to the road map and not committed to it; Washington seeks democracy but can also dismiss its results; it is opposed to settlements, not to speak of outposts, but has already accepted them as a fait accompli; it is in favor of a final accord, but before this is achieved, it has defined its prior conditions.

In short, solving this conflict is not essential, it’s a luxury item – from Washington’s point of view. The conflict that brings Condoleezza Rice to the region conforms to the “turkey principle,” which stipulates that if you have wings, this does not mean you can fly, but you can feel free to make noise.

For example, that noise about the road map. There is no document that is more vague and more unfocused; it’s almost impressionistic: Everyone can find what he wants in it. Resolutions 242 and 338, the Arab initiative, the Arab League decisions of 2002, an end to terror and a functioning democracy in the Palestinian Authority and even, believe it or not, an Israeli commitment to enable Palestinians to lead normal lives. This entire salad is spread over the map, which is like a lacy tablecloth and has the pretension of resembling a work document only because it includes stages and a timetable. A timetable, by the way, which already ended in 2005.

Even if Rice declares that she is committed to the road map, it would be good if someone asks her to which part of it she is committed? To the longed-for Palestinian democracy? The same democracy that brought Hamas to power? Or, perhaps, the section that requires Israel to enable the Palestinians to conduct normal lives? Or could it be the first section of the document, in which the Palestinian Authority commits to take effective steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terror? Ah, but the terror infrastructure of 2003 is the same Hamas that is now running the government after winning the democratic battle Washington so wished to see.

Many other sections in the initial stage of the road map need to be realized, the first of which is that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace, while declaring a complete cease-fire. But a cease-fire already exists between the PA and Israel and, in the meantime, the Mecca agreement was also signed. But this, as we know, is an odious agreement, one designed to deceive the world, only to bring about a lifting of the embargo on the Palestinian Authority.

For a long time now, the road map has not been a suitable mold in which to pour the contents of a diplomatic process. It was written and approved on the basis that Arafat would live forever; that Hamas would not want or be capable of participating in political life in Palestine; and that Fatah would always be Israel’s contrarian interlocutor and thus eliminate the need to make concessions. Despite these assurances, Israel took the trouble of submitting countless reservations about this map, as if it really were about to become a work plan.

We have said nothing yet about the section in the map that requires Israel to demolish illegal outposts built since March 2001 and to freeze all settlement activity. Rice can say what she wants about the road map, but besides words, Washington has really done nothing to demonstrate this commitment.

This conflict needs a new working paper, one the current administration in Washington is incapable of producing. Primarily this is so because it does not think a strategic threat is involved, because the administration knows how to deal with real strategic threats, rather than imagined ones: When necessary, it conducts practical negotiations with the head of the axis of evil, North Korea; it conducts effective talks with Libya; it is ready to talk with Iran about Iraq and to conduct a dialogue in Iraq with terror gangs that are accorded the title of “rebels” or “insurgents.” Because when there is a real threat, one does not get bogged down in the fine points. Instead, one talks with everyone and pays in legal tender. In Palestine, from Washington’s perspective, it is possible to continue to market values, to aspire for a utopian state with a utopian regime, and to compose documents in its honor, because there is no immediate danger if they are not implemented.

February 18th, 2007, 9:15 am


Ford Prefect said:

Regarding your question about authoritarian legitimacy, I will offer an explanation in general, but I am far removed from the specifics of the true science of politics in Syria. That is why I invited comments from subject matter experts in Syrian politics. I am just a computer scientist 😉

Authoritarian governments (Syria, Egypt, KSA, and almost all other Arab government) derive their ability for making decisions from some sort of an internal legitimacy. Hafez Assad, for example, did not physically intimidate Mustafa Tlas to accept Hafez into being a president after their coup d’etat in 1970. Hafez gained his legitimacy (and subsequent support) by displaying one or more of Weberian traits of traditional, rational, and charisma. Being at the top for 30 years is, in scientific terms, underscores the existence of his legitimacy.

Bashar, on the other hand, remains a mystery to me. Ehasnai argued that he is the absolute leader where his say is the ultimate word in Syria. Maybe and probably true, but I respectfully disagreed. I do not see yet how Bashar, inheriting deeply engrained cronyism and entangled security and economic interests, can gain internal legitimacy to be the absolute leader Ehasani is talking about.

Bashar is today ruling by institutional-based consensus, favoritism, and the aggregated common interests of the ruling elites including the famous and powerful names in commerce and trade in major Syrian cities (majorities and minorities included). There is too much to risk and loose if Basahr or the rule of the institutions is comprised. (Wait minute, guys, please, hear me out before you start yelling. I know the word “institutions” bothers you. But it is true. There are established “Assadanian” institutions in place already. They have been functional for 30 years. Bashar is using them daily.)

Changing and updating these institution is, however, a different story. Bashar would need a strong Weberian tripartite element to effect core changes. We can observe elements where Bashar tried to display strong leadership, but with mixed end results: the Damascus Spring, the chaos ensuing from the Hariri murder (where Bashar told Amr Moussa one thing and the official Information Ministry saying another), and many other examples that some how show who Bashar’s leadership is contested and often undermined. So far, Bashar legitimacy (in the Weber terms) is non-existent at worst, or work-in-progress at best.

So how national decisions are currently being made? Haphazard. Decisions, speeches, newspaper editorials, SANA, Foreign Ministry, and actions all bear the haphazard common denominator. Of course, internal matters ranging from security to finance are still based on established mantras that Bashar has completely outsourced to the current technocrats.

If Bashar was the absolute leader that his father was, the evidence is clearly lacking, to me at least.


February 18th, 2007, 1:38 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened said:

There is nothing more than what i would like to see fair and democratic governments in Syria and lebanon with freedom, deomcracy and rights for all, however I dont think I will see it in my lifetime.

So let’s see, the way to get “democratic government in Syria and Lebanon with freedom, democracy, and rights for all” is to:

1.) Ignore the dangers of Hezbollah and Hamas

2.) Go to war with the Zionist Project

3.) Never demonstrate for freedom

4.) Never demostrate against Islamic fundamentalism

Makes perfect sense to me…

February 18th, 2007, 1:55 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

HA and Hamas are dangerous to who?To the zionist who by force and help from england and USA,are killing innocent palastinean,and lebanese,who is the dangerous party?,it is the zionists who occupy palastine kick palastinians from their homes and forced them to become refugees.some have their facts twisted.
we love to demonstrate for freedom.
zionism is equal to terrorism, the united nation decided that,so yes zionism must be fought.
why we should demonstrate against islamic fundamentalism, and not fight against jewish fundamentalism( zionism),or any fundamentalism,who believe in hate and want to fight other religion.

February 18th, 2007, 4:48 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Majedkhaldoun said:

“HA and Hamas are dangerous to who?”

Those interested in peace. Those interested in freedom and democracy.

Besides that, I guess they’re fine.

“…are killing innocent palastinean…”

Oh please, last month 90 Palestinians were killed by Palestinians. And what did the Arabs do about it besides blaming the evil Zionists?

Arabs kill Arabs and Israel gets blamed. So what else is new? Try a new approach. Try peace instead of terrorism.

February 18th, 2007, 5:33 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Those interested in peace. Those interested in freedom and democracy.
Then it is not Isreal, who only interested in killing palastinians

February 18th, 2007, 5:55 pm


Alex said:

Akbar my friend,

Too many Jews and Arabs died because of the conflict. Most people on both sides are very sensitive and bitter… which is understandable. But if you are bitter (and that goes to both sides) you can not communicate… you can only complain and confront and threaten …

You often make valid arguments, and I like how your participation here is much less confrontational than the first days you started, but they are still often combative in style.

It would be much more pleasant to see all of you change strategy … maybe try to tell Majed about Amira Haas and other Israeli peace activists who prove that “Israel” is not only about killing Palestinians, and Majed can try to convince you that Hamas and Hizbollah are not only about trying to kill Israelis… that they can not be reduced to THE label… “terrorists”

February 18th, 2007, 6:46 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

ثلث سكان العراق فقراء و5% في فقر مدقع
it used to be the Iraqis are the wealthy among the arab

February 18th, 2007, 8:14 pm


Alex said:

By next month we’ll know

بهية مارديني من دمشق: أكدت مصادر دبلوماسية لـ”ايلاف” ان الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز سيرسل موفدا سعوديا حاملا رسالة الى الرئيس السوريبشار الاسد تتضمن دعوة لحضور القمة العربية المقرر عقدها في السعودية اواخر الشهرالقادم.

واكدت المصادر” ان التوتر الذي خيم على العلاقات السورية السعودية منذ اغتيال رئيسالوزراء اللبناني السابق رفيق الحريري ، واثر حرب تموز في لبنان ، والموقف المتناقضللبلدين من المقاومة وحزب الله ، هذا التوتر الطويل الذي لم تعهده العلاقات بين البلدين الى زوال “.

وعبّرت المصادر عن تفاؤلها بالاتصالات السعودية الايرانية، واعتبرت ان هذهالاتصالات في مصلحة سوريا ، وليس كما يتردد اقصاء او تهميشا لها.واشارت المصادر الى” ان حضور الرئيس السوري القمة ، ولقائه الملك السعودي سيكونكفيلا بحل اية خلافات وحلحلتها على الاقل وترتيب العلاقات بشكل افضل” .

ونوهت المصادر الى “وصول مسؤول سعودي في وزارة الخارجية السعودية الى دمشق منذ ايام لبحث بروتوكول القمة العربية” .وحول وساطة مصرية باتجاه تحسين العلاقات السعودية السورية نفت مصادر دبلوماسية عربية لايلاف هذا الدور ، وقالت” ان مصر تتمنى ان تكون العلاقات العربية العربية في احسن حال” ، وردا على سؤال عن تخلي مصر عن هذا الدور لايران نفت المصادر ذلك بشدة، وتابعت “ان مصر لاتتخلى عن دورها ، ولكن انه ليس مطلوبا من مصر باستمرار ان تقوم بهذا الدور” .

وحول العلاقات السورية المصرية قالت المصادر” ان العلاقات جيدة واللجنة العلياالمشتركة عقدت في الشهر الماضي ، ووقع الجانبان على العديد من الاتفاقيات ،والاتصالات جارية ومستمرة بشكل ايجابي بهذا الاطار”.واكدت المصادر “ان كان ثمة اختلاف في وجهات النظر بين البلدين قريبا سيتم تجاوزها”. وحول هل سيكون هذا التجاوز لاختلاف وجهات النظر في القمة العربية القادمة في السعودية تمنت المصادر ذل

February 18th, 2007, 9:35 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

“You often make valid arguments, and I like how your participation here is much less confrontational than the first days you started, but they are still often combative in style.”

I was responding to Enlightened, who said he wanted more freedom and democracy in Lebanon and Syria. I agree with him/her. I think more freedom and democracy is a WIN/WIN for everyone, including Zionist Project-ers.

“It would be much more pleasant to see all of you change strategy … maybe try to tell Majed about Amira Haas and other Israeli peace activists who prove that “Israel” is not only about killing Palestinians, and Majed can try to convince you that Hamas and Hizbollah are not only about trying to kill Israelis… that they can not be reduced to THE label… “terrorists” “.

Alex –

With all due respect, it was the Israeli Peace activists that brought us Oslo. Yossi Beilin, Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid and the rest of Left were once in power and powerful members of the Knesset. And to make a very long story short, the peace activists were discredited.

Now, if the Palestinians cannot accept the right of Israel to exist in peace, then we’re just going to have to sit and wait until they do. It’s really not complicated.

Amira Hass and the rest can whine all they want, and rest of the world and the mainstream Israelis will continue to ignore them.

So if you want me to tell Majed that there are lots of very liberal Leftists in Israel who would be willing to make peace with Arabs at the expense of Israel’s security, I would say yes, there are a handful of such individuals, and they’re put up with in Israel’s free society.

And if it’s not too much trouble, tell me about the liberal, Leftist Arabs who write articles in Palestinian and Syrian newspapers.

That would be pleasant too.

February 18th, 2007, 9:53 pm


Gibran said:

Before aiming for freedom, get your daily bread – most effective weapon in the hands of despots – make them busy with getting the daily bread and non one will mention freedom.

Assad handles crises, but regime suffers

Associated Press Writer
Sun Feb 18,

On the face of it, the worst appears to be behind Bashar Assad. There’s much less talk of regime change in Damascus, or of prosecuting the Syrian president over the murder of a Lebanese politician.

Syria’s international isolation has eased a bit, and Assad has managed to split the Israeli leadership with a well-timed peace overture to his country’s longtime enemy.

The country’s close links to a strengthening Iran and an increasingly menacing Hezbollah in Lebanon have given it renewed leverage, after a period in which it seemed badly weakened.

“There is very little left that anyone can do to hurt Syria,” said Ayman Abdul-Nour, a reform-minded member of Assad’s ruling Baath Party, reflecting a mood of confidence that Syrians are a tough, resilient breed, and that they hold the key to peace in the Middle East.

But appearances may be deceptive.

Below the surface, analysts say, the regime is embittered by its isolation, frustrated by its inability to win back the Golan Heights, lost to Israel 40 years ago this June, and worried that its opposition activists, now small in number, could grow in strength if America helps them.

Assad’s frustration with Washington’s refusal to deal with him was clear in an interview aired Feb. 5 with ABC television. He insisted his country could help calm the violence in Iraq if the United States would only ask him.

He accused President Bush of rejecting dialogue and said Bush’s “administration is not willing to achieve peace — they don’t have the will and they don’t have the vision.”

But the United States isn’t alone in cold-shouldering the 41-year-old former eye doctor. Washington’s influential Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — all but shun Syria. They blame it for the destruction in Lebanon during last summer’s war between Hezbollah and Israel. And Syria’s close links to Hamas have worsened tension with Washington and its Arab allies.

There also is a rising feeling, as Assad wraps up a trip to Iran, that Syria’s alliance with Iran may be rocky. The presidents of both countries denied any rift Sunday, but some Arab diplomats have said Syria feels betrayed by a joint Iranian-Saudi Arabian effort to clamp down on Lebanese violence.

So lonely does Syria feel that a visit by politicians of Spain’s Catalan region makes the front page in the tightly controlled state-owned media.

But most damaging to the regime’s standing is its failure to make any progress to win back the Golan Heights — Syria’s no. 1 issue since it lost the strategic plateau in the 1967 Middle East war.

Negotiations between Syria and Israel on the fate of the Golan collapsed months before Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, died in 2000.

Lately Assad has offered unconditional peace talks with Israel, and some influential Israelis have called on their government to accept.

But to do so would mean breaking Syria’s isolation and angering Israel’s chief ally, Washington, which has led international efforts to isolate Damascus, accusing it of allowing Sunni insurgents to cross its border into Iraq, and of destabilizing Lebanon’s Western-backed government.

Lebanon is the most spectacular debacle Assad has faced. After the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, angry Lebanese took to the streets blaming Syria, and brought an end to nearly 30 years of Syrian military presence in the country.

The U.N. investigator into the assassination initially implicated top Syrian and allied Lebanese security officials, and there was even speculation Assad himself could be indicted. But the investigation’s later reports made no further mention of Syrian complicity.

Legal experts say the draft agreement for the creation of the tribunal that will try the case does not touch on the subject of presidential immunity, and also does not exclude prosecution of superiors for their subordinates’ actions. The draft has been approved by Lebanon’s government but is stalled in parliament by the political feud between a U.S.-backed majority and a pro-Syrian opposition.

A Beirut-based Western diplomat closely monitoring the case said the tribunal’s decisions could have major implications on the survival of Assad’s regime, particularly if top Syrian officials are put on trial. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Writing in the Arab daily Al-Hayat, columnist Yassin al-Haj Saleh says the regime is benefiting from a public perception of Bush as the author of “the climate of siege and pressure,” and that if that hostility toward America were to change, the anger would shift to domestic failures — economic stagnation, weak public services and the lost Golan Heights.

After inheriting the presidency from his father, Assad ushered in liberties previously unknown, freeing hundreds of political prisoners and allowing critics to voice grievances in the press.

Where his father cultivated an image of lofty omnipotence, the son attends soccer matches to root for Syrian clubs, dines with children from orphanages and strolls the streets of Damascus with his wife.

But the new liberties have been watered down. The government has mounted waves of arrests of activists, closed independent newspapers it had licensed and failed to introduce meaningful political reform.

“It is much better now compared to the days of Hafez Assad,” said Akram al-Bunni, a leftist opposition lawyer who spent 17 years in jail before his release in 2002. “Critics are not terrorized like before but they are made to realize where the limits are.”

Al-Bunni’s brother, Anwar, is under arrest and is being tried with others for anti-state activity.

Some activists are barred from traveling abroad, others are stripped of their civil rights and opposition groups are denied permits to operate legally.

The reformists have narrowed their demands for reform and hope to field candidates for the 85 seats set aside for independents in May elections for the 250-seat parliament. Assad’s seven-year term ends in July, and he is expected to seek another term as sole candidate in a “yes” or “no” referendum.

Elias Murad, editor-in-chief of Al-Baath, Assad’s Baath Party newspaper, insists the regime must be cautious with reform at home at a time when it is under pressure from abroad.

“Any regime that respects itself cannot turn a blind eye to individuals who try to enlist the help of foreign powers to work against it,” Murad said.

Marwan Kabalani, a political science lecturer at the University of Damascus, maintains that what Syrians want most is not democratic reform but to make ends meet.

Grumbling about rising food prices, unemployment and the gap between rich and poor have been growing louder in recent months, both in the business-oriented media and in private conversations.

“People are hungry for bread and stability and not freedoms,” said Kabalani.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.

February 18th, 2007, 10:07 pm


Alex said:


There is a need for those from the left you do not like much (I know), and there is a need for the Menachem Begin types who are tough negotiators in peace negotiations … but there is nothing good to be expected out of those who are anymore extreme to the right… from both Israeli and Arab sides.

Life is all about the right balance… if you do not like extreme leftists, without them Israel will sound like a hopeless case to Arabs … an enemy to Arabs and Muslims, nothing more promising.

One of the reasons you have moderates on the Arab side who do not hate Jews and would be very willing to live with a peaceful Israel side by side, is that we are partially sustained by those you do not see a use for in the Israeli left.

If there was no Rabin, no Abba Eban, and no Yossi Beilin, Israeli politics would be more to your liking perhaps, but … you will have continuous intifada and much more violence… maybe you can live with that, but I doubt it… maybe you still think the Israeli army can handle anything and solve any problem and teach everyone a lesson they will never forget … no, they can’t.

If you define those in Israel who believe in UN resolution 242 to be weak, then I hope you do not want us on the Arab side to mirror your way of thinking .. in that case you would be encouraging us too to support Hamas types who find those who believe in 242 to be a bit too soft and too willing to trust and compromise with the evil enemy.

You can not take failed examples from the past to generalize things. Let me explain to you why those initiatives failed:

1) they were trying to be more to ISrael’s liking than to be perfectly 242 based.

2) They were excluding Syria.

And finally, there is today a lot that you will like in the Arab press… the Lebanese and Saudi and Egyptian press is full of opinion writers who always advice Syria or Hamas to become more “moderate” and just sign peace with Israel under any terms available.

Syrian press can not go too far because as you know they are not free to diverge much from teh official Syrian government position on Israel … but there is no secret that Syria is eager to start peace negotiations with ISrael.
I’ll give you a sign of how the Syrian press “publishes” articles friendly to Israel … they now publish Haaretz opinion pieces translated to Arabic … it used to be absolutely impossible in the past. But now the way they introduce those articles (on popular Syrian internet sites) you can tell tey are being friendly to the Israeli opinion writer who wrote them.

Israel is the one who is still the stronger side … Israel will need to take the leadership in improving the environment int eh Middle East. Assad repeated a million times this year he wanted to negotiate peace with Israel … nothing came out of it in the Israeli side .. Olmert is lost.

February 18th, 2007, 10:22 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

“One of the reasons you have moderates on the Arab side who do not hate Jews and would be very willing to live with a peaceful Israel side by side, is that we are partially sustained by those you do not see a use for in the Israeli left.”

I don’t believe that. I believe there are moderate Arabs with or without Haaretz, Peace Now, Meretz, Amira Hass, and Betzelem. You don’t have to tell me all Arabs aren’t terrorists or Al-Queda supports. I KNOW they aren’t, it is just their voices are muted.

Peace was conducted between Sadat and Begin (who was about as “hardline right-wing” as you can get). Gaza was returned by of all people Ariel Sharon (in exchange for NOTHING except Qassam missiles).

So, my point of view is that there are Arab moderates who are reasonable and who accept a Jewish State in the Middle East*.

*With one small caveat – they also are convinced the “Zionist Project” isn’t going anywhere and cannot be defeated. Certainly, after the Yom Kippur War, a few Arab regimes came to that conclusion. And definately, not any time before that.

“If there was no Rabin, no Abba Eban, and no Yossi Beilin, Israeli politics would be more to your liking perhaps, but … you will have continuous intifada and much more violence…”

Like I said, I don’t buy that. After the 6 Day War (1967), Abba Eban gave his famous speech in front of the UN and in return he got the “3 Nos”.

Did the Israelis change? Did the Arabs? Or both?

February 18th, 2007, 11:03 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, moderates and peace lovers will prevail. They always do.

February 18th, 2007, 11:45 pm


Enlightened said:

Akbar Said: “So let’s see, the way to get “democratic government in Syria and Lebanon with freedom, democracy, and rights for all” is to:

1.) Ignore the dangers of Hezbollah and Hamas

2.) Go to war with the Zionist Project

3.) Never demonstrate for freedom

4.) Never demostrate against Islamic fundamentalism

Makes perfect sense to me…

Akbar are you trying to bait me again my Jewish brother? You tried the same trick two months ago ( LOLZ) I told you last time that i dont believe in violence Pure and simple!!!

Of Course we need to demonstrate, I wonder have you bee in hibernation as to what was happening in Lebanon? ( Ie they are demonstrating both sides that is)

Of course we need a less militant society in the arab lands, but the Israelis need the same ( your militant settlers hold your society to ransom , right? )

Akbar change your spots, seriously your memory is failing you , your last attempt at baiiting and antagonising me revealed to you , and your words wwere ” Thanks for your honest response”, check the posts, you need your bottom smacked!

February 19th, 2007, 12:01 am


Alex said:

Of course FP! … I am just hoping the others do not destroy the Middle East before moderates prevail.


Arabs, like most human beings, would first react to unwelcome events by resisting and trying to change them back to their liking if they can … I have no doubt that if Israel only had the same army the Vatican has, there will be no Israel today… Arabs really wanted to try to liberate Palestine for a while… Jewish people would have done the same if any other country tried to take Jewish lands against their wishes … so it is a normal human reaction.

The 1973 war had two types of effects … Israel did ok there, but for us in Syria we were very happy with the results … if Egypt did not split in 1977, Syria was still very much proud of its performance in that war … ask Kessinger if the Syrians negotiated the cease fire agreement from weakness or strength.

And of course, after that Israel kept winning initial battles then losing wars … twice invading Lebanon and ending up on the losing side.

But this is good … because Israel is still surely strong enough to defend itself, but not strong enough to force its will on the Arabs to surrender and accept a humiliating settlement.

To have sustainable peace it has to be between two sides who have some fear (an not too much fear) of each other … as long as Israel wants to claim “there are no peace partners” while ignoring a million calls from Syria, and while Israel is acting unilaterally while withdrawing from south Lebanon and from Gaza without negotiating an overall settlement for the Arab Israeli conflict… we will have the failures you talked about, but don’t blame them on peace loving Israelis or on Arab terrorists who want to kill the poor Israelis who withdrew from Gaza … blame it on the big mistakes of trying to use Israel’s military superiority, and its total backing from the US, to force a non-negotiated, unbalanced, settlement with the Palestinians, and to ignore the Syrians and their legitimate demands based on UN resolution 242.

When time comes for the Israeli people to have a more balanced reevaluation of their country’s position in the Middle East, then don’t worry about the Arabs … most of them have learned to accept that Israel will be there to stay … if Israel does not force its conditions that dilute the terms of UN resolution 242, and if Israel acts friendly and helpful to the Arabs, expect much more friendly attitudes with time … somethings take time to develop … you seem to expect that Israel will be formed then magically all the Arabs will accept the new status quo, and Israel will unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and magically a week later there will be no support for Hamas anymore…

It is healthy to be cautious with the future of your country and your people… but to be either paranoid, or to be greedy (wanting to keep the Golan as a prize from the 1967 war) is something else… those in Israel who are still refusing to start peace negotiations with Syria today are blinded by either paranoia, greed, or excessive pride in the IDF and a longing for the return to the glorious days when it can smash the enemy.

By the way, I met Menachem Begin when I was 13. In Egypt.

Get a storng leader like Menachem Begin, who has the vision that Rabin has and the wisdom and diplomacy that Abba Eban has, and there will be peace int he Middle East … but Israel is a split country that lost its vision.

February 19th, 2007, 12:32 am


Gibran said:

There is no doubt moderates will win. There is also no doubt despots and terror supporting regimes (Syria and Iran) are on their way to extinction.

Rice slams Syria & says Lebanon on front line of the struggle
Saturday, 17 February, 2007 @ 9:12 PM

Beirut- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Lebanon is “on the front line of the struggle between extremism and responsible states” and slammed Syria for trying to stir trouble in the country.

Rice also said on Friday that it was necessary to support Lebanon in expanding its control over entire Lebanese territory and backing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s reform plan presented to the Paris III donors’ conference last month.

“Lebanon is really on the front line of the struggle between extremism and responsible states. We do have a young government in the Siniora government that’s under enormous pressure, principally from Syria — something that Syria could release at any time, if it wished to do so,” Rice told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

“Syria is not reconciled to the fact that its forces were made to leave Lebanon…nor is Syria reconciled to the fact that there is going to be an international tribunal…So this is a time to support the Lebanese government, to support them in extending their authority through their territory with their armed forces, but also in support of an economic reform plan that is backed by and supported by the international financial institutions,” she said.

Rice urged the subcommittee to approve $770 million in aid the U.S. pledged at the Paris III conference to help rebuild Lebanon and bolster Siniora. The funding comes on top of $230 million that the Bush administration promised last year.

She also reiterated that her government will not enter into direct talks with Syria.

“There just isn’t any evidence that they’re trying to change their behavior,” she said.

February 19th, 2007, 1:55 am


norman said:

The failiur of the moderate empowers and emblods the radicals who keep saying to the masses ( YOU SEE, COMPROMISE DOES NOT HELP ,THE US AND THE ISRAELIES UNDERSTAND ONLY FORCE)THe Moderate should run toward peace before it is too late . now we have to hope that some leaders have the vision and the hart to save the people of the midleast ,I would not count on President Bush.

February 19th, 2007, 2:00 am


Mo said:


you mentioned the names of Israeli peace activists. Can you please explain to me the position of Yossi Beilin (and other ‘doves’) in the summer war? You know he was advocating and calling for extending the war to Syria, once and for all (Olmert was against, remember?); and now he speaks about the long-awaited peace with Syria..
How can you expect from Syrians to trust these peace activists? From war to peace in 2 months? And you debate the seriousness of Arabs towards achieving peace?

February 19th, 2007, 6:22 am


Dameem said:

First of all, It’s nice to have an internet after such a long time.
Secondly, If that’s true, then that’s a big slap to APees face and to most of their so called peace activists
(A young boys perspective)

February 19th, 2007, 6:56 am


Ford Prefect said:

This is the reality of the Arab streets that the democracy lovers wish to ignore repeatedly. Notice that Syria is missing from the latest Zogby Poll.

A face-to-face survey of 3,850 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) found that close to 80% of Arabs consider Israel and the United States the two biggest external threats to their security. Only 6% cited Iran.
And fewer than 25% of Arabs polled believe that Iran should be pressured to halt its nuclear program, while 61%, including majorities in all six countries, said Tehran had the right to pursue it even if, as most believe, the program is designed to develop nuclear weapons.
– The above poll, the fifth in an annual series conducted by Zogby International and designed by Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, was carried out in November and early December—after last summer’s Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon but before the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

February 19th, 2007, 11:11 am


Akbar Palace said:

FP said:

“Alex, moderates and peace lovers will prevail. They always do.”

I agree.

Alex –

… I have no doubt that if Israel only had the same army the Vatican has, there will be no Israel today… Arabs really wanted to try to liberate Palestine for a while…

Alex –

“Wanted”? They still do Habibi. Palestine, Lebanon/Hezbollah,Iran. That’s “moderation” for you.

“… so it is a normal human reaction.”

And so is self-defense.

“…Israel is still surely strong enough to defend itself, but not strong enough to force its will on the Arabs to surrender and accept a humiliating settlement.”

Let’s investigate, today, what “surrender” means:

1.) Making a peace treaty with the State of Israel.

2.) Not being able to reclaim all of Palestine and Jerusalem.

3.) Not being able to reclaim all of the Golan.

4.) Not being able to incite violence against Jews.

5.) Not being able to free murderers of Israelis.

So if this is surrender, I wouldn’t want to force it on you. My people have a country to run and to defend, and we can also wait for the “moderates and peace lovers”.

“…blame it on the big mistakes of trying to use Israel’s military superiority, and its total backing from the US, to force a non-negotiated, unbalanced, settlement with the Palestinians, and to ignore the Syrians and their legitimate demands based on UN resolution 242.”

The Israeli government has decided (at this time), that negotiating with Assad (given his reputation thus far and his continued support of Hezbollah and assassinations in Lebanon) is not a partner for peace. Like Arafat, he is talking out of both sides of his mouth. The US concurs.

“… you seem to expect that Israel will be formed then magically all the Arabs will accept the new status quo…”

I have no expectations.

“It is healthy to be cautious with the future of your country and your people… but to be either paranoid, or to be greedy (wanting to keep the Golan as a prize from the 1967 war) is something else…”

Yes, we are “paranoid”. With Katyushas falling all over the population centers of the North and with Ahmadinejad threatening to “wipe Israel off the map”, it is beyond me why the Israelis are this way.

“… but Israel is a split country that lost its vision.”

The US is a split country as well. Don’t let that fool you. These are times where we all have to make difficult decisions. Who to trust, who to make peace with, how to defend against murderers who have shown to have no compunction starting wars against Israel and killing Arabs and Palestinians who stand in-between.

Mo asks:

“Can you please explain to me the position of Yossi Beilin (and other ‘doves’) in the summer war?”

Can you explain why the Israelis shouldn’t return fire when Hezbollah fires missiles into Israeli population centers?

February 19th, 2007, 11:57 am


ugarit said:

“Beirutis have a saying about Hariri: Ammar hajar wa dammar bashar–he built the stones and destroyed the people. But my favorite obituary of Hariri is more charitable. It came from the mother of a friend of mine, an old woman who has seen decades of zaims, of warlords with the same last names, come and go. As we walked past the patch of seafront where the big man was killed, she shook her head. “Hariri kaan mujrim, allah yirhamu,” she sighed, with ironic resignation–Hariri was a criminal, may God have mercy on his soul.”


February 19th, 2007, 12:40 pm


ugarit said:

“Geopolitical Diary: Examining Syria’s Fears
February 19, 2007 10 50 GMT

In the Middle East, there was a series of events on Sunday that point toward growing pressure for Syria.

First, Syrian President Bashar al Assad paid a visit to Tehran, where Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him Damascus needs to support the government in Iraq, and al Assad spoke out against rumors of a rift between Syria and Iran. The state-owned al-Baath daily in Damascus seemed to support his statements, writing — in the context of Iranian-Syrian relations — that, “Though their visions are not identical on everything, they however agree on two basic issues: Iraqi unity and the departure of the occupation forces, and the support of the political process in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, Stratfor received word of a deal that Saudi Arabia has offered to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who (along with some other Hamas officials) is based in Damascus. Riyadh apparently has offered to provide protection and diplomatic status to Meshaal and other members of the movement’s politburo, without preconditions, should they experience any pressure from Iran or Syria to renege on the agreement signed in Mecca with the rival Fatah party.

The implications of such an offer to Hamas are, for Syria, significant. The Syrians have been harboring Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian groups in hopes of using them as a bargaining chip with Israel, from which Damascus would hope one day to regain the Golan Heights. The Saudis, however, recently were able to bring Hamas and Fatah leaders together to forge a power-sharing deal — one which appears to be making progress. This raises concerns that Damascus might be losing its influence over Hamas. The concerns are underscored by the offer Riyadh reportedly made to Meshaal, since it means the Islamist Palestinian movement could find an alternative sanctuary.

An even more terrifying prospect for the Syrians, however, would be for Iran to pursue its own national interests in partnership with others, leaving Damascus completely out in the cold, regionally speaking. This is not necessarily an irrational fear — and it would explain al Assad’s decision to visit Tehran at this particular time, as well as a comment he made, in calling for closer cooperation between Iran and Syrian, that the United States and Israel are trying to sow discord among Muslim states.

It is clear that securing its influence in Iraq is one of Tehran’s primary goals, and Syria recognizes that Iran might be willing to cooperate with the United States and the Arabs to achieve this end. Moreover, the Alawite-Baathist regime has not been blind to recent negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, or the fact that Iran has called for cooperation between Hamas and Fatah. The perception is that Iran is willing to help ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in exchange for U.S. concessions in Iraq.

The Syrians’ worst nightmare, of course, would involve Iran and Saudi Arabia working out a deal to stabilize Lebanon. Saudi-Iranian dealings in recent weeks prompted Hezbollah to back away from demonstrations that had been designed to bring down the Lebanese government. And it would not be beyond the pale for Iran to acquiesce to a broader agreement between Hezbollah (its proxy) and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies, if Tehran was able to secure its goals in Iraq in exchange.

Such a deal would be immensely detrimental for Syria, given its significant interests in Lebanon. The only way to ensure that something like this does not come to pass is for Damascus to work closely with Tehran. Iran, of course, wants Syria to cooperate on Iraq, as Khamenei clearly stated on Sunday.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether Iran and Syria can work out a mutually acceptable arrangement. But from all appearances, the rumors of a rift between Iran and Syria may indeed have some merit. ”


February 19th, 2007, 1:13 pm


Gibran said:

It seems now it is Ford_Perfect’s turn to regurgitate by using a previous outdated post of Dr. Landis. Please see,


and one of my replies was as follows:

“This so-called poll is meaningless. Reason is simple. A proper poll of Arab public opinion about this issue would ask the following questions: 1) Would you agree to a Khomeini style Government in the Arab world or part of it. The result would be (rest assured) 95% against. 2) Do Syrians (or Arabs in General) approve of a strategic alliance with Iran at the expense of its relation with the other Arabs? Then I’ll leave that to you to explore as a proper academic assignment for your next article.
Typical Landis presentation of sensationalism as distorted objectivity!”

I would now add another question to be asked in a future poll to Syrians:’ Do you agree to the Alawis ruling Syria?”

Just as a reminder this presumed Zogby poll took place sometime in November after the Lebanon summer war when expectedly Arabs, who strangely enough tasted nothing of the destruction brought upon Lebanon due to the Hezbollah instigation of the war, would be emotionally charged against Israel and the US. They are equally charged nowadays but in the opposite sense against Hezbollah due to its recent actions in Beirut. Will a new poll produce the same results? I doubt it!
UGARIT, Beiruti’s and Lebanese love Mr. Hariri and they will not rest until they bring your Bashar to justice which will soon happen. Your subversive Syrian despots will have to learn to live with ZERO interests (read subversion instead) in Lebanon.

February 19th, 2007, 1:35 pm


Atassi said:

Thank you for your reply. I will shoot you an e-mail later on..

February 19th, 2007, 1:41 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Katusha rockets falling on Israel? Well, let’s see. According to UN Relief Coordinator David Shearer, during last summer’s 34-day war against Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired some four million cluster munitions at southern Lebanon., “Nearly all of these munitions were fired in the last three or four days of the war.” At least one million of these unexploded bombs are still waiting in ambush for unwary farmers and children. Further, and according to the UN, the IDF destroyed airports, harbors, water and sewage plants, electrical generators, 80 bridges, 94 roads, over 900 businesses, and 30,000 homes. Retreating Israeli soldiers systematically destroyed the infrastructure of villages and deliberately polluted water tanks and wells. According to the Lebanese government, some 1,189 Lebanese were killed, 4,399 wounded, and one-quarter of Lebanon’s population—approximately one million in all—were turned into refugees.
Ever anyone wonders why Arabs, even in countries where they have signed a peace treaty with Israel, consistently view Israel as the enemy?

February 19th, 2007, 1:42 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Bashar to justice? Hmm, again, shouldn’t the evidence be shared with the UN immediately? I mean the investigation team coupled with Lebanese, FBI, CIA, Mossad, and French intelligence services, along with mobile calls recordings, credible and clown witnesses, a pen that recorded the conversation between Bashar and Hariri, a recorded meeting that happened with top Syrian and Lebanese security agents to plot and execute the crime, satellite imagery, forensic evidence liking the van to Syria’s terrorist training grounds, and two years into it would love to get into the evidence that Gibran has so they get it over with. What is the wait for? Go Gibran go.

February 19th, 2007, 1:56 pm


Gibran said:

The Lebanese government acted properly in the summer to protect Lebanon in the face of the subversive acts of Hezbollah acting on behalf of Syrian and Iranian despots. Since Lebanon had no interest in this war, the government of Lebanon acted in accordance with international law by dissociating itself from the aggressive actions of a foreign supported militia and at the same time pressured the UN to call for a ceasefire in the south. The Lebanese army was then ordered to head south to be enforced by UN troops in order to create a Hezbollah free zone which is the proper thing to do. Just a reminder to all those who may not be familiar with the civil war that took place in Lebanon in 1975. The actual cause of the war was the irrational decision by the Arab governments in Cairo in 1969 after their defeat in 1967. In their meeting under Arab League, the Arabs forced the PLO into South Lebanon and gave it virtual control over the south of Lebanon to the detriment of the authority of the Lebanese government. The presence of an armed PLO created the first ever series of confrontations between the State of Israel and the inhabitants of the South of Lebanon since 1948. Had it not been for the incompetence of the Arabs at the time, Lebanon would have never seen any such internal conflict, and the Syrians would have never dreamt to set foot on Lebanese soil. The Lebanese government later annulled this 1969 Cairo imposed deal on Lebanon in the mid 80s. This was the proper thing to do and the presence of UNIFIL nowadays in the south is also the proper thing for Lebanon. We hope that the UN will soon move to assign UN personnel to monitors the Syrian/Lebanese border in conjunction with the Lebanese army in an effort to prevent any arms transfer to militias such as Hezbollah.

February 19th, 2007, 2:02 pm


Gibran said:

I just wonder about the authenticity of Ugarit’s sources regarding the presumed rift between Syrian and Iranian despots. I believe she is now practicing what I may refer to as political taqiyya (political dissimilution. Are you alawi by the way Ugarit?). All the news reports agree on the final outcome of these meetings to indicate a total agreement on the so-called mutual confrontation of the two despot states against the US and Zionists in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon in order to ensure their (US, Zionist) failure. Is this a desperate attempt by a regime propagandist?

February 19th, 2007, 4:56 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Hmm. Well, here is today’s Le Monde headline:
Tehran and Syria cement their alliance against US ‘plotting’.

February 19th, 2007, 6:39 pm


Alex said:

صفقات اسلحة روسية لسوريا بتمويل ايراني

GMT 17:45:00 2007 الإثنين 19 فبراير

بهية مارديني

بهية مارديني من دمشق: اكدت مصادر دبلوماسية على عمق العلاقات السورية الايرانية، واشارت الى معلومات عن صفقات تسليح روسية للجيش السوري بتمويل ميسر وطويل الاجل من طهران ، لافتة الى ان حجم الاستثمارات الايرانية في سورية وصلت الى اكثر من مليار دولار خلال اقل من عام . واكدت المصادر الى ان العلاقات السورية الايرانية اكبر من ان تتأثر في اختلاف وجهات نظر حول ملف معين مهما بلغت درجة اهميته .

وحول زيارة الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد الى طهران والتي اختتمت امس قال الدكتور جورج جبور عضو البرلمان السوري في تصريح لايلاف “ان تبادل الزيارات بين الرئيسين الايراني والسوري انما هو امر مألوف للتشاور بين البلدين حول شؤون المنطقة بل والعال”م . واعتبر جبور “ان مايجمع البلدين هو احساس واضح بان من الضرورة بمكان استقرار المنطقة من خلال ان يحق الحق في دول التأزم “.

ورأى البرلماني السوري الذي شغل منصب مستشار الرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد “انه ليس من ثمة شيء استثنائي في هذه الزيارة الا انها اتت في ظرف استثنائي” ، واضاف “الظرف الاستثنائي هو دخول الموضوع الفلسطيني مرحلة حساسة بتشكيل حكومة الوحدة الوطنية التي يتوجب دعمها” .

فيما اكد ان “العلاقات السعودية الايرانية تندرج ضمن المخطط العام الذي يامل في تحقيقه العرب والمسلمين كافة لمزيد من الاستقرار في العالم “.

المحلل السياسي احمد الحاج علي المستشار السابق لوزير الاعلام اعتبر في تصريح لايلاف” ان الظروف صعبة ومتحركة ومن الطبيعي ان تحدث مشاورات ومباحثات بين سوريا وايران “، وقال “ان الخيارات مفتوحة وغياب الاطراف المفصلية سوف يتيح ان تبقى الفتنة قائمة” .

واضاف الحاج علي “ان واشنطن تحاول ابعاد مراكز التأثير على تمرير المخطط الاميركي في لبنان وفلسطين والعراق” .

ورأى الحاج علي “ان لقاء الرئيسين السوري والايراني رد فعل طبيعي ولكن فيه فعل واضح بان المنطقة ليست تحت تصرف المخططات الاجنبية “.

واعتبر المحلل السوري “ان اميركا تحاول ان تمرر خياراتها من خلال اللعب على العداء لكل من سوريا وايران عبر اتهامات غير صحيحة”.

واضاف ان مواقف البلدين واضحة اساسها محاربة اي تدخل خارجي واعطاء القرار الى كل بلد عربي باتجاه سيادته الكاملة ، وقال “ان سوريا وايران قوة ممانعة امام ماتريد واشنطن تحقيقه من تدخل وابقاء على الاحداث المتفجرة وهي سمة مستقرة في السياسة الاميركية نحو مزيد من الفتنة وسفك الدماء”. و انتهى الحاج علي الى القول “ان السياسة الاميركية فقدت امكانية اثيرها لذلك تعتمد على نقاط الضعف في الوطن العربي”.

February 19th, 2007, 7:31 pm


Gibran said:

For those who do not understand Arabic, Alex just confirmed in his last post that Syrian/Iranian relations are not suffering from any rift. In fact, they seem to be in total agreement in their aim to confront so-called US-Zionist plans in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. Thanks Alex for confirming my suspicions. We can now be more confident Ugarit was indeed practising ‘political taqiyya’ and he/she may be indeed alawi regime propagandist.

February 19th, 2007, 7:38 pm


Ford Prefect said:

If the US, Israel, and their Lebanon “democratic” surrogates want to look at Iran’s strongest influence in the region, they should not go far. The best example is right there, under their nose, in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Soon after Bush received the Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim at the White House – complete with high-level meetings with minds like his from top officials; we learn three weeks later that American forces had to raid Hakim’s headquarters to arrest Iranian operatives. Al-Maliki’s government, known for its close ties to Tehran, promptly overruled the arrest of the Iranian operatives and set them free. They are now safe in Tehran. Hmmm…

February 19th, 2007, 7:51 pm


Dameem said:

Akbar Palace said:

Mo asks:

“Can you please explain to me the position of Yossi Beilin (and other ‘doves’) in the summer war?”

Can you explain why the Israelis shouldn’t return fire when Hezbollah fires missiles into Israeli population centers?

I say:
Can you explain the fires from Hezbollah came after or before the fire from the Israeli Army which was after or before the kidnapping of the two soldiers?
(A young boys perspective)

February 19th, 2007, 8:13 pm


Alex said:


If you suspect a thing and its opposite, then it would be easy for me to help confirm at least one of your suspicions.

You started at the top of this comments section by suggesting that Saudi Arabia was able to take Iran away from Syria and Bashar lost the Iranian card …here is what you said “SA demands actions from Tehran. Looks like Iran is ready for just that. How many more cards left in Bashar’s hands”

Now you suspect that Ugarit is practicing political taqiyya when she/he insinuated that Syria and Iran have differences … but you want her/him to know that she/he can not fool you because you are sure Iran and Syria are closer than ever.

Which one you prefer? Iran is dumping Syria and listening to Saudi Arabia and Bashar lost his Iranian card, or that the Shia evil alliance of Iran and Syria are still closely cooperating to plot against the good guys such as … all your heroes in Lebanon.

February 19th, 2007, 8:59 pm


Gibran said:

Before I answer your question Alex (I promise I will), I need you to please explain to me how me saying:
“SA demands actions from Tehran. Looks like Iran is ready for just that. How many more cards left in Bashar’s hands”, can be interpreted by you:
“Saudi Arabia was able to take Iran away from Syria and Bashar lost the Iranian card.”?
Lacking a reasonable and convincing explanation from you, I will have serious doubts this time about your comprehesion skills!!!

February 19th, 2007, 9:41 pm


Alex said:

The answer to your question Gibran, in case you really need an answer, is also in the way you sarcastically ridiculed my first comment to your initial comment… I tried to convince you that it is not necessarily true that Larijani’s nice talk to the Saudis means that “Iran is ready to take action” and dump Syria … you replied “OK Alex. Larijani just likes keep going back and forth from Tehran to Riyad. He probably enjoys the flight. Or may be he is collecting Air Miles.”

Except if you were not sarcastic? you really meant that YOU believe Larijani likes to collect Air Miles?

February 19th, 2007, 10:04 pm


ausamaa said:

Why does have to get soooo personal and provocative? “Doubt…about your comprehesion skills”!!! I beleive “Political Attitude” or “Political Orientation” would have nailed it right on the head in an acceptable manner.

And Alex… You do have Staying Power!!! My sympathies..

February 19th, 2007, 10:09 pm


Alex said:

Ausamaa, this is more fun than my actual work : )


Before you come up with more denials about your initial suspicions, here is what you posted few days ago in order to make the same point (that Iran is dumping Syria in favor of becoming friendly with the Super KSA) … quoting your favorite reliable source the Kuwaiti Assyasa …

Here is the other Al-Seyassah gem:

طهران ترفض زيارة الرئيس السوري

»السياسة« – خاص:
طلبت طهران من رئيس النظام الحاكم في سورية بشار أسد تأجيل زيارته الى وقت آخر لان الظروف الراهنة التي تشهد توترات في العلاقة مع أميركا, ووساطات سعودية يقودها الامير بندر بن سلطان رئيس مجلس الامن الوطني السعودي حول الازمة الراهنة في لبنان.. لان هذه الظروف لا تسمح باتمام الزيارة والعمل على نجاحها.
وقالت المصادر المطلعة وشديدة الخصوصية ل¯ »السياسة« ان بشار اسد, الذي يشعر بالقلق جراء تقدم التفاهمات السعودية – الايرانية, طلب زيارة طهران لملاحقة التطورات الجديدة فافاده الرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد بالموافقة, لكن بالعودة الى مرشد الثورة علي خامنئي تبين ان الرجل الاول في ايران طلب تأجيل هذه الزيارة معللاً رفضه لها بأن الوقت غير ملائم لانجازها.
وقد تأجلت زيارة بشار اسد الى طهران من دون تحديد موعد لها.

Then you told Joshua to wake up and stop embarrassing himself and learn the art of coffee cup reading from you instead.

So, did Bashar go to Tehran, or did Khamenai tell him to go to hell (or “delay the visit indefinitely”?

And what lesson should we learn Gibran? about Assyassa?

February 19th, 2007, 10:16 pm


ausamaa said:

That was a nice one for Al Siyasah newspaper..

Since Ahmad El Jarralah news item was proven incorrect, then was he merely over doing himself, or was he mirroring a “failed expectation” of his Saudi mentor ?? I would beleive that it was the second, and that it has to do with one of Bandar’s gimmicks… Meaning that they are a bit out of the proper circle…

February 19th, 2007, 10:27 pm


ausamaa said:

Which is good news!

February 19th, 2007, 10:30 pm


Gibran said:

Alex my Dear, You can’t quote me out of context. Yes I was trying to embarass Josh for his interview in Al-Seyassah (what kind of person would want to be interviewed by al-Seyassah?). So I copied more articles from his (Josh) source in order to make him ponder over his interview. This is my full post from where you copied that section:

Dear Josh,
I found your recent interview in Al-Seyassah to be interesting to that point that I felt compelled to search for further information on the newspaper site.

I found couple articles that were of equal importance to your interview and may relate to your current posting. The first article seems to reveal that Bashar may have lost the keys to Damascus while searching in vain for the lost keys of Beirut (just quoting Moubayad). It seems the lion of Syria is running out of men to trust including his own brother in law and some key Generals in some key positions. Here is the whole works:

حافظ مخلوف يتجسس على اللواء فؤاد ناصيف
وعلى التجار ورجال الأعمال لصالح شقيقه رامي
الأسد فقد الثقة بضباط مخابراته
ووضع آصف شوكت تحت المراقبة

»السياسة«- خاص:
كشفت مصادر سورية مطلعة عن صراع يدور بين الضباط القياديين في جهاز المخابرات السورية وعن اهتزاز ثقة الرئيس بشار الأسد بصهره رئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية اللواء آصف.
وذكرت المصادر ان الاسد عين نائباً ثانٍ للواء شوكت هو اللواء علي يونس رغم ان العلاقة بين اصف وعلي يونس سيئة جداً بينهما وكان اللواء اصف يريد ان يرسله لخارج المخابرات العسكرية وهدف التعيين هو كي يقوم بمراقبة كل تحركات اللواء آصف خوفاً منه والمشكلة ان الصراع بدأ مباشرة بين اللواء اصف ونائبه المخلص له اللواء سعيد سمور وبين هذا النائب الجديد الذي اعطاه الرئيس صلاحيات الاتصال معه مباشرة اسوة باللواء آصف وابقاه كذلك رئيساً للفرع 293 فرع الضباط وهو اخطر فرع في المخابرات العسكرية.
وحيث ان اللواء آصف كان عين العميد نزيه مسعود كرئيس لفرع المخابرات العسكرية في طرطوس وقام بنقل العميد محمد الشعار رئيس الفرع في طرطوس وذلك في شهر مارس 2006 وعينه رئيساً لفرع دمشق بسبب اثباته الاخلاص والولاء له حيث كان يساعد آخ اللواء اصف مفيد شوكت في كل اعماله التجارية ويحل له كل المشكلات في مختلف المديريات في طرطوس, فقد قام اللواء علي يونس بالاقتراح على الرئيس بنقله الى حلب لابعاده عن دمشق من اجل جلب شخص يكون ولاؤه للرئيس وليس لاصف وفعلاً تم ابعاد العميد الشعار بعد اقل من ثلاثة اشهر وكذلك اقترح اللواء علي يونس نقل اللواء ديب زيتوني »رئيس فرع حلب للمخابرات العسكرية« الذي عينه اصف لخارج المخابرات العسكرية وفعلاً تم نقله كنائب ثان لرئيس ادارة امن الدولة في خلال اقل من شهرين?
اما بالنسبة لامن الدولة فقد تم تعيين العقيد حافظ مخلوف »اخ رجل الاعمال رامي مخلوف – ابن خال الرئيس« كرئيس لقسم دمشق في أمن الدولة الكائن في الجسر الابيض وذلك لمراقبة رئيس امن الدولة اللواء علي مملوك وكذلك لمراقبة رئيس الفرع الداخلي اللواء فؤاد ناصيف وبعض التجار يقولون بأن لرامي يداً في تعيين اخيه لانه يؤمن له مراقبة هواتف واتصالات وتحركات كل التجار ورجال الاعمال كي يعرف الاسعار والمعلومات ويسرق منهم العمل والمناقصات.
وحول جهاز الامن السياسي فقد كشفت المصادر انه تم تسريح العميد وليد اباظة »نائب رئيس الامن السياسي« على خلفية انه شركسي ولا يمكن ان يكون هو شركسي ووزير الداخلية »اللواء بسام عبدالمجيد« شركسي بنفس الوقت وذلك خشية من أي تنسيق بينهما قد يصب في غير مصلحة النظام.
وبالنسبة للامن الجوي فقد قام العميد العلوي اديب سلامة »رئيس فرع التحقيق« بالتحقيق مع العميد السني حسان الشريف »رئيس فرع دمشق« على خلفية ما نسب اليه بانه الاحق ان يكون رئيساً لادارة المخابرات الجوية خلفاً للواء العلوي عز الدين اسماعيل الذي تقاعد في ابريل الفائت وقام الرئيس بتعيين اللواء العلوي عبدالفتاح القدسية بدلاً منه بعد ان نقله من خارج الامن الجوي وذلك بدلاً من تعيين العميد حسان الشريف لسبب بسيط انه سني ولا يمكن الوثوق فيه.
حتى محمد ناصيف »معاون نائب رئيس الجمهورية- رئيس امن الدولة السابق« والاقرب للرئيس والذي كان يعالج كل الملفات السرية للنظام لم يسلم من الرقابة والتدقيق حيث تم الطلب منه بعدم ارسال زوجته »بسمة شحادة خليل« مجدداً لزيارة اختها »هديل« المقيمة في الولايات المتحدة خشية ان تكون تحمل رسائل او معلومات للتنسيق بين محمد ناصيف والادارة الاميركية من دون علم النظام.
كما تم منع سفر جميع المسؤولين السابقين وضباط المخابرات والجيش المسرحين من مثل علي دوبا وعز الدين ناصر وعبدالقادر قدورة, وتم توزيع سيارات جديدة دفع رباعي كهدية من القصر الجمهوري لعدد من المسؤولين السابقين بغية ضمان ولائهم علماً انها تتضمن اجهزة تعقب واقتفاء أثر.

Bashar may have also become more of an international pariah even among his own peers while seeking reprieve from his American jailers. It looks like the issue of talking to the US about Iraqi refugees (the ‘toe’ which you seem to have been its main architect as a US grown Syrian PR) did not sit well with the Iranian grand Mullahs! The lion of Syria was bluntly asked to delay his planned Tehran visit until a more appropriate time becomes available! For God sake Josh, Bashar was not able to make Meshaal and Abbbas get together for a meeting in Damascus! How could he make the Iraqis get together? Do you really think he can make two ordinary Iraqis to meet at his behest? Here is the other Al-Seyassah gem:

طهران ترفض زيارة الرئيس السوري

»السياسة« – خاص:
طلبت طهران من رئيس النظام الحاكم في سورية بشار أسد تأجيل زيارته الى وقت آخر لان الظروف الراهنة التي تشهد توترات في العلاقة مع أميركا, ووساطات سعودية يقودها الامير بندر بن سلطان رئيس مجلس الامن الوطني السعودي حول الازمة الراهنة في لبنان.. لان هذه الظروف لا تسمح باتمام الزيارة والعمل على نجاحها.
وقالت المصادر المطلعة وشديدة الخصوصية ل¯ »السياسة« ان بشار اسد, الذي يشعر بالقلق جراء تقدم التفاهمات السعودية – الايرانية, طلب زيارة طهران لملاحقة التطورات الجديدة فافاده الرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد بالموافقة, لكن بالعودة الى مرشد الثورة علي خامنئي تبين ان الرجل الاول في ايران طلب تأجيل هذه الزيارة معللاً رفضه لها بأن الوقت غير ملائم لانجازها.
وقد تأجلت زيارة بشار اسد الى طهران من دون تحديد موعد لها.
والاقتصادية والسياسية ايضا.”

By the way Josh, are you familiar with the art of coffee cup reading? I am thinking of posting a brief description of this very exquisite Middle Eastern art.

So, Alex are you now willing to prove to me that you are capable of proper comprehesion?
I’m still on my promise.

February 19th, 2007, 10:38 pm


t_desco said:

US ‘Iran attack plans’ revealed

US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country’s military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack – if ordered – would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon – which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
BBC News

I wonder what these contingency plans say about Syria.

February 19th, 2007, 10:39 pm


Alex said:

Ausamaa, you are assuming that they (at Assyassa) actually do make an effort to post accurate news and predictions with high probabilities associated to them … I am not sure of that.

I think when it comes to Syria, the past two years they managed to invent the most hilarious collection of predictions, like this Bashar trip cancellation… almost ALL their predictions turned out to be wrong.

And you know what? … no one questions them. Gibran will still be a sponge that absorbs anything that comes out of Assyassah and Hariri’s Al-Mustaqbal …

February 19th, 2007, 10:47 pm


Alex said:


Some in Washington eventually agreed to the military buildup near Iran when the neocons told them “we need to bluff in order to scare the Iranians a bit”

The problem is, those Neocons are probably not bluffing… for now they managed to send their forces to the area … now all they need is the right excuse … Congress can not stop them if the US troops get attacked.

February 19th, 2007, 11:06 pm


Alex said:

It sounds like Salim Hoss it trying to see if Syria Iran and Saudi Arabia will all be happy with him leading for 6 months a transitional government.

I believe this particular “solution” can be the one… Syria will go for it for sure .. so will Hizballah. If the Saudis approve, it is close to being a done deal.

By the way, notice that Lahhoud said that he will not allow anyone who is not going to maintain Lebanon’s unity to replace him as president .. sounds very interesting .. does it leave the door open to another extension if necessary?!! …if seniora’s government does not reform or resign by then, Lahoud is staying … that’s how I read it.

لحود يتوسم خيراً و”اللقاء الديمقراطي” يتوقع تصعيداً سياسياً

بيروت، دمشق – الخليج

واصل المأزق السياسي اللبناني مراوحته في انتظار وصول المشاورات الخارجية، الإيرانية السعودية تحديداً، إلى صيغة تسوية توازن بين إقرار نظام المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي في قضية اغتيال رئيس الوزراء الأسبق رفيق الحريري بعد إدراج الملاحظات عليها، وبين تشكيل حكومة الوحدة الوطنية التي تصرّ قوى المعارضة على حصولها على ما تسميه “الثلث الضامن” فيها، وهو الأمر الذي لا يزال رهن متابعة من السعودية، ومن الجانب الإيراني، وعبره مع
وأكد أنه لن يتهاون بما يملك من صلاحيات في موضوع السلم
الأهلي حتى آخر يوم من ولايته، وأنه مصر على تسليم الأمانة كما حافظ عليها طوال فترة حكمه، بعيدا عن الاستغلال الطائفي والمذهبي والمناطقي، وقال إنه لن يسلم رئاسة الجمهورية إلا لمن يحافظ على لبنان موحداً.

وسرّبت وسائل إعلام ومصادر سياسية احتمال تولي رئيس الوزراء الأسبق الدكتور سليم الحص رئاسة حكومة انتقالية ل 6 أشهر، تعمل على إقرار قانون انتخابي عادل وتحضر لانتخابات رئاسية ونيابية مبكرة. وبرزت بشكل لافت حركة الحص المكوكية على خط الرياض دمشق طهران، فقد زار السعودية بدعوة من الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز، وبحث معه آفاق الأزمة السياسية الراهنة، وتزامنت الزيارة مع وجود رئيس تيار المستقبل النائب سعد الحريري في الرياض، وكذلك وزير الإعلام غازي العريضي موفداً من رئيس اللقاء الديمقراطي النائب وليد جنبلاط، بدعوة من قيادة السعودية للبحث في الحلول والتسويات للأزمة أيضاً، وكانت الأزمة الراهنة محور مباحثات أجراها أمس الحص مع الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد في دمشق، وقالت وكالة الأنباء السورية إن المباحثات تعلقت بتطورات الأوضاع الإقليمية والدولية، وخصوصا على الساحة اللبنانية.

وأفاد المكتب الإعلامي للحص أن اللقاء كان “مناسبة للتشاور في كل القضايا التي تهم البلدين الشقيقين، في ظل الأخطار الجسيمة التي تتهدد المنطقة في فلسطين والعراق، وجرى البحث في الواقع السياسي المأزوم في لبنان وسبل معالجته، إضافة إلى العلاقات بين سوريا ولبنان، وكانت أجواء اللقاء إيجابية”.

ويُتوقع أن يزور الحص نهاية الأسبوع الحالي إيران ويجري مباحثات مع القيادة الإيرانية. وعلمت “الخليج” من مصادر موثوقة أنه سيجول اليوم على رؤساء الجمهورية إميل لحود ومجلس النواب نبيه بري والحكومة فؤاد السنيورة ليضعهم في نتائج جولته في الرياض ودمشق.

وكشفت مصادر اطلعت على زيارة الحص إلى دمشق أنه سأل الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد عن اجتماعه به أمس بكل صراحة وشفافية عما إذا كانت سوريا ضد المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي فنفى الأسد ذلك، لكنه قال إن لسوريا ملاحظات على مسودة المشروع، تماماً كما هي ملاحظات اللبنانيين عليها، واستدرك بالتأكيد على أن كل ما يتفق عليه اللبنانيون توافق عليه سوريا. ونقلت المصادر عن الحص تساؤله عن الحكمة في بدء الحكومة في التصديق على مسودة مشروع المحكمة وهي اليوم تبدي استعدادها لمناقشة الملاحظات على بعض بنودها، معتبراً أن وضع الحكومة حالياً غير سليم حتى من دون الدخول في النقاش الدستوري والقانوني.

February 19th, 2007, 11:18 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Alex is making a very good point, but I certainly hope he is wrong (sorry Alex!) From the perspective of the neocons, the mission is not yet accomplished in the Middle East. The master plan of permanently rearranging the Middle East in favor of Israel has not worked as planned. Even installing a US-Israeli sponsored government in Lebanon did not work as planned. The neocons know their days in power are numbered and Israel might be forced to finally accept 242 and retreat to pre-1967 borders. The neocons need another “catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor*” to happen in Iraq. Such an event must be linked to Iran and thereby necessitating a retaliatory strikes on Iran. These strikes will weaken, but not defeat, Iran and will awaken dormant sectarian feelings, get the Kurds mobilized, and will get Iran busy for years to come. So do their little, reckless brains work. While both conscientious Democrats and Republicans are working hard to stop this madness, time might be running out. Expect such a “catastrophic and catalyzing” event soon.

* “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” A Report of the Project for the New American Century, p.51, September 2000. http://www.newamericancentury.org/defensenationalsecurity.htm

February 20th, 2007, 12:11 am


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, Israel’s hawks and the US neocons will never accept any government in Lebanon that does not answer to them directly as the current one does. They have too much already invested in the current government. Any election law that is not engineered by Khaddam/Kanaan to make Hariri/Jumblatt win, will render them irrelevant.

February 20th, 2007, 12:24 am


Gibran said:

Lahood can say whatever he wants. This is what the Lebanese Army has to say. He soon will face the fate Aoun faced in the 90’s. If he doesn’t get kicked out sooner, Lahood cannot stay a minute longer than september:

Daily Star staff
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Expressing his rejection of military rule in Lebanon, Suleiman dismissed claims that he was considering running in the presidential elections.

“I will not violate the Constitution, which stipulates that first-rank employees should resign two years before running for the position of president,” he said.

“My current goal is to rescue the country and the army before holding democratic presidential polls … After that, I will quit the army command,” he added.

“Lebanon cannot be governed by its military or through a dictatorship … It is a country satiated with democracy … but such a great amount of democracy in Lebanon might lead

to chaos.”

Asked about the army’s red lines, the army commander said national unity “is more than a red line that the army cannot surpass or allow anyone to do so.”

“The army does not execute any decision that harms national unity,” he added

February 20th, 2007, 1:06 am


norman said:

When Lahood term expires what happens and how many members of parlement the president needs to be elected ,If there is no consences on one person will Lahood stays in power.?

February 20th, 2007, 1:17 am


Gibran said:

FYI Norman,
The President needs (64 + 1) MP votes to be elected. Currently March 14 has 74 MPs. Can you guess who will be the next President?

February 20th, 2007, 2:28 am


norman said:

I thought the president to elected he needs 2/3 majority ,is that not true.

February 20th, 2007, 2:45 am


Gibran said:

No that’s not true in the case of electing a new President. The 2/3 rule applies to his impeachement only. Sorry Norman the next President will be Chamoun-like. That’s my Lebanese hero.

February 20th, 2007, 2:48 am


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