For and Against Dialogue with Syria

Sami Moubayed, writing for World Politics Watch, "What Can Syria Deliver in Iraq?" discusses what assistance Syria may be be able to offer to the United States towards decreasing the violence in Iraq. Here is a section of the interesting report:

The United States wants cooperation in Iraq. Syria wants a free hand in Lebanon. The Syrians believe that if they can give on Iraq, then they can take on Lebanon.

But can Syria really give on Iraq? It was easy for Syria to control Lebanon from 1990 until 2005 because Syria had the money, the connections, the business network, the political entanglements, the military might, and it knew the country well. Syria has none of that in Iraq. It influence parts of the Sunni street, through former Baathists who are based in Damascus or supportive of Syria, but it has no control over Iraqi tribes. That is why it has began to court Syrian tribesmen, who have connections and relations with their cousins in Iraq, hoping that they can serve as a stepping stone toward the Iraqi Sunni street. Most of the new leaders of Iraq, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki and President Jalal Talbani, were based in Syria during the Saddam years, but their acquaintance is of little value to the Syrians since they are not the Sunni leaders of the insurgency, nor are they community leaders in Sunni Iraq. Former Baathists like Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, on the other hand, are close to Syria and could curb part of the insurgency.

Another problem is that the Iraq insurgency is not 100 percent Sunni. According to CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, the Sunni tribesmen and former Baathists who are carrying arms against the Americans number "in the low tens of thousands." The number of Sunni al-Qaida fighters in the 40,000-strong insurgency is only 1,400. The rest of the insurgency is Shiite, over which Syria has absolutely no control. The keys to that insurgency are in Iran. And even within the Sunni street, Syria does not have total control because a large proportion of Iraqi Sunnis are loyal to, or on the payroll of, Saudi Arabia. As long as Syria and Saudi Arabia are experiencing a rough political relationship, due to their conflicting interests in Lebanon, the loyalties of the Iraqi Sunni street will remain divided between Damascus and Riyadh.

Nawaf Obeid, a security analyst and adviser to the Saudi government, recently wrote a very telling article in the Washington Post in which he said there will "be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis." Obeid added, "The Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraqi policy. Options now include providing Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps) with the same type of assistance — funding, arms, logistical support — that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years." If Saudi Arabia does this, then it would hamper any Syrian efforts to calm the Sunni street.

As long as Saudi Arabia remains supportive of the anti-Syrian majority leader in Lebanon, Saad al-Harriri, then the chances of Riyadh-Damascus reconciliation are minimal, to say the least. The chances of rapprochement were further damaged on Dec. 7 when Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah gave a thundering speech in Beirut, accusing the Saudi-backed March 14 coalition of having collaborated with Israel against Hezbollah during the July-August Israeli war. Nasrallah, who remains very close to Syria, accused the ruling coalition of treason. He called for the downfall of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora as masses of anti-Siniora demonstrators continued their Beirut sit-in, aimed at bringing down the Harriri administration….

On the same site, also see the interesting article outlining EU attitudes toward Syria and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs recent visit to Damascus.

Flynt Leverett, who wrote "Inheriting Syria," has been muzzled by the White House. The Washington Post reports that Ex-NSC Official Says White House Is Stifling His Criticism of Iran Policy. Big hunks of an op-ed for the NYTimes were censored for security reasons even though they had already been published in an earlier article and passed CIA censors. Leverett also takes a swipe at Kenneth Pollack, the author Gathering Storm, the breathy scare job that helped the US take the leap into Iraq. New York Sun's Eli Lake comes to Pollack's defense and flings mud at Leverett in his American Dissident? December 20, 2006. Here is a bit –

Now he [Leverett] poses as a victim. In his remarks he derided the individual who fired him from his brief stint at the Brookings Institution, Kenneth Pollack, who wrote in an op-ed for the Times, which the CIA approved this month, that Iran had provided help to America in Afghanistan. Because Mr. Pollack wrote a book in 2002 claiming Iraq was concealing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs before the war, he was allowed to write for the Times, according to Mr. Leverett.

MARTIN KRAMER in his latest intervention at WINEP on Democracy Promotion prescribes a delightful "plan B." [addendum Dec. 21: I originally wrote this section suggesting that the quoted material was Martin's actual words. They are not. Martin's actual words were summarized by a rapporteur.] The rapporteur explains that Kramer judiciously, explained that the notion of freedom "cannot be applied indiscriminately, because in some places it might make things worse and contradict U.S. interests." In particular, the U.S. should "downplay this policy dimension" when it comes to our friends, such as "Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt" because they can be of "considerable utility," Rather, it is our enemies who should get the gift of "the U.S. democracy rhetoric," in particular countries such as "Iran and Syria," for whom the "rhetoric" was originally intended and where "the issue of freedom of identity is most acute." The rapporteur continues with his summation:

There needs to be a basic distinction in the region between homogenous societies and diverse societies — and different rules will apply to each. The notion of freedom of identity cannot be applied indiscriminately, because in some places it might make things worse and contradict U.S. interests.

Now the state system in parts of the Middle East is coming under tremendous pressure. Iraq is of course the prime example, but similar processes may begin elsewhere. Some of the borders now printed on maps could become so weak as to become virtual; other lines may become actual borders. Although the United States has consistently been committed to maintaining existing borders, it may not have the power to do so.

Sen. John Kerry emerged from his meeting Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad even more resolute in his belief the United States must begin talks with Damascus as it seeks a solution to the turmoil in Iraq. “We explored the whys and wherefores of a number of the choices he’s been making,” said Kerry of the Assad meeting.

“I feel quite confident in saying this was a conversation worth having and that the (Bush) administration ought to pursue it,” Kerry said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Jerusalem, where he traveled after meeting with Assad in Syria. “I feel very strongly about that. … It’s worth following up on a number of avenues.” 

Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., both prospective 2008 presidential candidates, met with Assad for about two hours as part of a Mideast trip. Kerry described the meeting as “a candid and thorough discussion.”

Kerry said he and Dodd “tried to understand what (Assad) might or might not be prepared to do” in relation to Iraq. Kerry said it is important to at least begin a dialogue with Syria. “It’s a question of finding out what they say,” Kerry said. “These things are step by step.”

Kerry said he and Dodd are prepared to brief Bush administration officials about their meeting, and did not want to share specifics of their talk with Assad until they had done so. “I certainly came away with a sense that it’s worth pursuing as a dialogue,” Kerry said. “It’s worth following up on, on a number of avenues. It certainly validated the judgment of the Iraq Study Group.”

David Hammerstein, the EU Parliament member who visited Syria this week, had a similar message. He said "Syria's peace intentions are genuine and insisted that Israel would be missing an important oportunity if it doesn't respond to Syria's offers.

The Syrian moves opposite Iraq, including in the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two states, the improvement of the relations with Turkey and in the fact that the Syrians did not thwart the deployment of the international force in Lebanon testify to the fact that this is not a Syrian manipulation, Hammerstain explained.

Hammerstein said he believed Israel and the West must listen to Syria, as they will eventually be able to bring about a change in its support – from Iran and Hizbullah to the West. This is the time to take advantage of the window of opportunity and the Syrians must be given a chance, he urged, concluding that Olmert would be making a big mistake by missing this opportunity.

Israeli calls for dialogue with Syria can be found in the following articles: Haaretz editorial Dont Turn Syria Away; Akiva Eldar in Haaretz, Assad’s Fatal Attraction explains that Israelis and Syrians will meet in Spain next month. Yoel Marcus also in Haaretz writes First, say yes. (thanks Alex); David Hale and Lyric Hughes Hale write in USA Today, "A two-way street with Syria."

There are also many who believe talking to Syria would be a mistake. Here are a few

Mossad Chief Dagan: Syria "More Willing Now Than Ever Before" to take military action against Israel…. Zionist Organization of America (press release)
Israeli-Syria Talks Would Be About Golan Heights, Not Peace, Some …
William Harris in the National Review Online, recommends helping to nurture a coup d'etat in Syria. "Regime change in Syria will mean Iran losing its main ally in the Arab world and its conduit to Hezbollah in Lebanon…

Under such pressure the most likely scenario in Damascus would be a move from within the army and the intelligence services to displace the present ruling clique, followed by establishment of a new regime incorporating opposition elements, including the Sunni "Muslim Brotherhood." Contrary to self-serving scaremongering by the present Syrian regime, there is little chance that religious fanatics would take power in Syria. The Baathist dictatorship has fragmented all opposition. Indeed, the new ruling clique, apart from being friendly to the West and cooperative on the Iraqi border, would doubtless roll back the current Iranian presence in Syria and hunt down militant Islamist splinters co-opted by the present regime.

Secretary Rice in a long press conference was dead set against dialogue with Syria because the price would be Syrian influence in Lebanon, which the US is not prepared to conceed. She said of Syria:

they're looking for compensation to do that and that's a problem. Because when you go to the table, particularly in the circumstances now where you're going and saying, please, help us with the stability of Iraq, the potential that what they're really looking for is compensation. And then you have to ask — it's very high — and then you have to say, what is that compensation? Well, on the Syrian side, I suspect that the highest priorities are being played out in the streets of Lebanon including about the tribunal, including about Syrian power in Lebanon.  

On the economic front:
Syria is finally getting a postal service! It is high time. Mail is not delivered to private homes or businesses in Syria, which means everyone must go to a mailbox in a post office, which few bother to own. one cannot pay bills through the mail but must pay them in person. Unbelievable. The UNDP is to modernize Syria's postal services. It has signed an agreement with the Syrian Government that will bring UNDP expertise to reform Syria's postal services. Read

At a time when Iraqi Insurgents are Starving Baghdad of Electricity, Syria's Ministry of Electricity has awarded Iran's Parsian a contract to set up five power transmission plants in Aleppo. Read. Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, and attempts to repair power lines are falling behind attacks on the grid.

Iran is not nervous about the US "flipping Syria" (Thanks Alex)

Al-Hayat quotes Iran’s ambassador to Syria as saying that Iran is not nervous about the possiblity of Syria improving relations with Europe. On the contrary, he insisted, "it is Syria's right to seek improved relations with all countries." He claimed that "Syria has consistant and firm principles in it decisions so Iran does not fear the weakening of its relations with Syria. Since the days of Hafiz al-Asad, Syria has been trying to get back the Golan Heights. The return of the Heights is not only a goal of Syria, but it is also a goal of Iran," he said.

وسئل هل طهران قلقة من احتمال ابتعاد سورية عنها بفعل الانخراط الاوروبي، فأجاب: «من حقها كذلك ان تحاول تحسين علاقاتها مع جميع الدول وفي ضمنها اوروبا. لا يمكن ان نقول اننا قلقون من علاقة اوروبا مع سورية، بل نحن مسرورون من تحسن هذه العلاقات. وبعكس ما يتصور (البعض) نحن لسنا قلقين من اضعاف العلاقة السورية – الايرانية لأننا نعرف ان هذا لا يحصل ولن يحصل. سورية لها أصول وثوابت في قراراتها، ونحن على ثقة تامة بالعلاقات القائمة بيننا». وقال اختري ردا على سؤال آخر: «منذ أيام الرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد، قضية مشاركة سورية في محاولات السلام لاستعادة الجولان حاضرة. استعادة الجولان ليست من اهداف سورية فقط، بل هـــــي من اهداف ايران كذلك

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based crisis monitoring group that includes several former U.S. officials, issued a report on Iraq strategy today. It calls for more far-reaching policy revisions and reversals than did even the Iraq Study Group report, the bipartisan report issued two weeks ago. The new report calls the study group's recommendations "not nearly radical enough" and says that "its prescriptions are no match for its diagnosis." It continues: "What is needed today is a clean break both in the way the U.S. and other international actors deal with the Iraqi government, and in the way the U.S. deals with the region."

The Iraqi government and military should not be treated as "privileged allies" because they are not partners in efforts to stem the violence but rather parties to the conflict, it says. Trying to strengthen the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will not contribute to Iraq's stability, it adds. Iraq's escalating crisis cannot be resolved militarily, the report says, and can be solved only with a major political effort.

The International Crisis Group proposes three broad steps: First, it calls for creation of an international support group, including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Iraq's six neighbors, to press Iraq's constituents to accept political compromise.

Second, it urges a conference of all Iraqi players, including militias and insurgent groups, with support from the international community, to forge a political compact on controversial issues such as federalism, distribution of oil revenue, an amnesty, the status of Baath Party members and a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Finally, it suggests a new regional strategy that would include engagement with Syria and Iran and jump-starting the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process.

Poll: Arabs more negative toward U.S.

Survey underscores need for shift in U.S. Mideast policy, expert finds
Updated: 11:19 p.m. ET Dec. 14, 2006

WASHINGTON – A new survey shows Arab attitudes toward American people, products and culture grew increasingly negative last year, a finding that underscores the need for a change in U.S. Mideast policy, a leading expert on the region said on Thursday.

James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute, said the annual survey of opinion in five Arab countries found that U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Palestinian conflict were the main issues driving deteriorating Arab opinion.

"Our policies have not only had a worsening impact in terms of attitudes towards us but also in dampening confidence in the prospects for development and political stability and are therefore, I think, a real concern to countries in the region," Zogby said.

In previous years, Americans themselves had been viewed positively in most Arab countries, his group said.

President Bush is said to be preparing a change of course for the Iraq war after a bipartisan panel said U.S. strategy was not working and warned that Washington was losing its influence in the region.

The panel, led by former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, also called for a renewed U.S. effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way to defuse regional tensions.

"What the poll says to me is Baker-Hamilton are right," Zogby said.

"If America wants to salvage itself and improve its standing and get the credibility and legitimacy it needs to lead in Iraq, it needs to do something to earn the trust of allies in the broader region," he said.

The survey released by the Arab American Institute found that more than 80 percent of people in Saudi Arabia and Egypt had negative opinions of the United States, similar to previous years, but attitudes worsened in Morocco, Jordan and Lebanon.

The biggest increases were in Jordan, where negative U.S. ratings climbed to 90 percent from 62 percent and Morocco, where they grew to 87 percent from 64 percent.

Attitudes toward American people, movies and democracy were more negative than positive in most of the five countries.

Only U.S. education was viewed more positively than negatively in the five countries.

Notably, residents had negative attitudes toward most U.S. policy in the region. Opinions were most negative about the Iraq war and the Palestinian conflict, but also opposed the United States' policy on Lebanon, its promotion of democracy in the region and its challenge of Iran's nuclear program.

The surveys were conducted in mid-November in face-to-face interviews. Sample size ranged from 600 to 800 in each country, and the margin of error for each sample was between 3.5 percent and 4.7 percent.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

Comments (51)

Akbar Palace said:

Before I would diaglogue with Syria, IMHO, I would like to see the Syrians dialogue with themselves.

Without getting arrested, of course.

December 21st, 2006, 3:09 am


Anonymous said:

Jerusalem Post
Dec. 20, 2006 21:06 | Updated Dec. 20, 2006 21:36
Olmert envoy meets with Syrian ambassador to US

A representative of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli businessman Daniel
Abrams, met with Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Mustaffa on Wednesday and
received “positive and moderate” messages from him, Channel 10 reported.

The two met several weeks earlier in the Washington, D.C. area. Following
the meeting, Abrams met with Olmert in Israel.

December 21st, 2006, 3:51 am


Anonymous said:

ذكرت صحيفة «هآرتس» أمس أن وزير الخارجية الإسباني، ميغيل أنخيل
موراتينوس، نجح بعد في إقناع الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد بإجراء لقاء علني بين مسؤولين سوريين ووفد إسرائيلي رفيع المستوى في العاصمة الإسبانية مدريد.

وقالت الصحيفة إن اللقاء، الذي نجح موراتينوس في التمهيد له بمساعدة عدد من نظرائه من الدول الاسكندنافية، سيجري بعد ثلاثة أسابيع، وستشارك فيه من الجانب السوري، وفقاً لـ«هآرتس»، وزيرة شؤون المغتربين بثينة شعبان. أما من الجانب الإسرائيلي فسيشارك وزير الخارجية السابق في حكومة ايهود باراك، شلومو بن عامي، والوزيران السابقان من الليكود، دان مريدور وروني ميلو، إضافة الى الرئيس السابق لشعبة الاستخبارات العسكرية اوري ساغي، ودافيد كمحي الذي شغل سابقاً منصب مدير عام وزارة الخارجية والمتخرج من جهاز الموساد، واخرين.

December 21st, 2006, 3:55 am


Anonymous said:

يا للعار من بشار

December 21st, 2006, 3:58 am


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

Again, not to gainsay the brillance of Professor Landis’ posts but, and, in our last exchange Professor Landis, did not disagree with me here, most EU heavyweights, are not, repeat not interested in diplomatic pourparler with Syria at this time. An example of which is the statement made by the Italian foreign minister (head of the largest Left party in Italia) in which he stated that:

“the International Community has certain expectations that should be met by the Syrian regime” (see the article by Hani Bathish in

It is for the above reason, that the foreign minister will not be visiting Damascus, he says.
Unless of course, Syria does an about face. Also,
Assad fils, meeting with Putin, in Moscow are interesting, by virtue of what has not been said,
id est, Putin offered Assad, no real concrete support for Syria’s position on either Lebanon or
Golan. For an analysis see the article in the Moscow Times, in

The point I am making here, is not to deny the value, per se, of diplomatic interaction with
Syria, although, the article, which was posted today, repeated something that I have stated any
number of times, both on this journal’s comment space, and, in my own online journal (, to wit: that Damascus in point of fact, has little concrete to offer Washington in terms of assistance with dealing with the insurgency and sectarian violence in Iraq. From an intelligent
American perspective, dialogue with Syria should be aimed at the following topics: a) arranging a deal over the Golan; b) working out some type of
modus vivendi over the Lebanon, id est, using Syria’s ‘good offices’ to assist in a settlement
(assuming that Syria sincerely wants to do so…); c) trying to get Syria to reduce its reliance on, and alliance with Persia, in favor of a more balanced position. Nota Bene: Syria will however, never give up in toto, its ties with Persia, it may however, reduce them to something less one-sided than at present; d) get
whatever assistance [probably very very meager at best] Syria can offer to help with the insurgency
in Iraq.

The above, in descending order of importance and
likelihood, are the topics for an American/EU dialogue with Damascus. However, with President
Bush in the White House, that is not likely to occur anytime soon. Again, Professor Landis is a bit more optimistic on that score than I think
past form, warrants.

December 21st, 2006, 5:10 am


Anonymous said:

اعتقال فايق المير
اعتقال ثاني


في حوالي الساعة السابعة من مساء يوم 20/12/2006 قامت دورية من الأمن العسكري في حلب باعتقال الرفيق محي الدين شيخ آلي- سكرتير حزبنا، حزب الوحدة الديمقراطي الكردي في سوريا (يكيتي)،وذلك من مقهى النخيل السياحي- قرب محطة بغداد في حلب، واقتادته إلى مكان مجهول، ولم يعرف مصيره حتى الآن.
إننا في الوقت الذي ندين فيه بشدة هذا الأسلوب الهمجي في عملية الاعتقال ،فإننا نطالب بإطلاق سراح الرفيق شيخ آلي، والكف عن مثل هكذا اعتقالات كيفية لقمع حرية الرأي والتعبير، وإرهاب مناضلي شعبنا الكردي وردعهم عن النضال من أجل غد أفضل ووطن حر، لا مكان فيه للاضطهاد والتمييز. ونناشد أنصار الحرية ودعاة حقوق الإنسان والقوى الوطنية والديمقراطية للضغط من أجل إطلاق سراحه، وإعادة الطمأنينة لرفاقه وذويه.
– الحرية للرفيق محي الدين شيخ آلي
– ولجميع معتقلي الرأي والضمير.
في 20/12/2006
اللجنة السياسة
لحزب الوحدة الديمقراطي الكردي في سوريا

December 21st, 2006, 5:13 am


Ford Prefect said:

Let’s also keep in mind that the current US policy towards Syria and Iran is underwritten by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the Washington. Here is the latest from the Economist regarding the resignation of Turki, the current Saudi Ambassador:

“It is also clear that Prince Turki did not resign in order, as he diplomatically averred, to spend more time with his family. His move was announced obliquely in Washington, and had yet, a week later, to be confirmed by any statement from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He took up the post only 17 months ago, and won much praise for a quiet but approachable style that contrasted with the flamboyance of his predecessor (and cousin and brother-in-law), Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had forged close friendships with every American president since Ronald Reagan.
Much of the current flood of rumour swirls around ostensibly strained relations between the two princes. Since leaving Washington last year, Prince Bandar, whose father, Prince Sultan, is Saudi Arabia’s defence minister and next-in-line to the throne, has served as national security adviser to the Saudi king. In that post he is said to have advocated a more aggressive foreign policy for the kingdom, in a break from the quiet chequebook diplomacy long pursued by the Faisal brothers. He is also said to have pursued initiatives independent of the now-ailing foreign minister, including a recent unannounced visit to Washington where he is said to have encouraged Bush administration hawks to resist mounting calls to engage with Iran and Syria. Prince Turki, for his part, has called America’s refusal to talk to Iran a mistake.”

December 21st, 2006, 9:33 am


Ford Prefect said:

Akbar Palace,
FYI, I just returned from Damascus. Since I left in 1978, i have been going back to Damascus regularly about once a year. Never have I seen Damascus more alive than during my last trip. Building cranes everywhere. Shops, restaurants, offices, banks, hotels, the Souk Hamedieh, and everywhere I looked people are shoulder to shoulder full of life and energy. In the past I used to see a little progress here and a little backwardness there, but now I am truly flabbergasted! In other words, Syrians are fine and the do talk to each other. Ask your buddies neocons to first work with their friends to stop arresting dissidents and allow women to drive before talking about Syria.

December 21st, 2006, 9:45 am


t_desco said:

Kerry: Syria leader wants to assist in Iraq

“He offered some very direct and concrete ways in which they could be helpful in Iraq,” Kerry said in an interview conducted by telephone from Damascus. “I came away with a distinct feeling that there are opportunities here. There are fronts in which we can work together if people are inclined to.”
(Boston Globe)

U.S. and Britain to Add Ships to Persian Gulf in Signal to Iran

Flynt Leverett discusses Iran Policy with Kenneth Pollack on the Diane Rehm Show.

Flynt Leverett: “The discussions I’ve heard are that you would probably need at least two if not three carrier battle groups participating in such a campaign and this could be the beginning of an effort to assemble that force posture in the region.”
(my transcript)

I wonder who decided to “leak” this CCTV footage of the attack on the US embassy in Damascus (and to make sure that David Schenker was at hand to “comment” on it):

ABC Exclusive: Video Shows U.S. Embassy Terror Attack

One should point out (though none of the “experts” does) that the men are waiting for the car bomb around the corner to go off (perhaps they are even staging a diversionary attack). Of course, when the bomb fails to explode they are left in a very difficult position.

December 21st, 2006, 10:57 am


Anonymous said:

Under this regime, there is no hope for improvement, especially for the younger generation
nobody should be defending the Assad regime.

December 21st, 2006, 12:08 pm


Ahmad said:

وتضمنت رسالة الأسد إلى أولمرت النقاط الأساسية التالية:

*الدعوة إلى مفاوضات بين سورية وإسرائيل، بدون شروط مسبقة!!

*الموافقة على المحكمة الدولية بشأن اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري، بشرط أن لا تستدعي المحكمة شخصيات بارزة سياسية وعسكرية من النظام السوري.

* التباحث في مصير الجولان، بدون شروط مسبقة، أي بدون الالتزام الإسرائيلي سلفاً بإعادة كل الجولان. إلى الوطن الأم سورية.

*سورية ستعمل على ضبط الحدود السورية-العراقية والمحافظة على الأمن، كما هي الحال على الحدود بين إسرائيل وسورية!

*العمل مع قيادة “حماس” في الخارج للحدِّ من تأثيرها على الحركة في الداخل.

* منع وصول الأسلحة عبر الحدود السورية إلى حزب الله في لبنان.

على الرغم من هذا الانبطاح (الذي لو لم يقم به رئيس بعثي لسميناه انبطاحاً ذليلاً!) فإن إهود أولمرت رفض دعوة بشار الأسد. وقالت الدوائر الرسمية الإسرائيلية إن على الأسد “أن يبرهن بشكل قاطع” أنه فعلاً يريد السلام ولا يناور، فقط.

December 21st, 2006, 12:26 pm


anonymous said:

Ford Prefect said: (December 21st, 2006, 9:33 am /
do you really think that US policy toward Syria and Iran is written by Prince Bander
I really feel sorry for people like you. aaa but you just came from Damascus….. that’s why?
look you are old to know that US policy is not writting by Saudi prince…..
funny you…

December 21st, 2006, 12:33 pm


t_desco said:

Lebanon seizes explosives from pro-Syrian group

BEIRUT, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Lebanese police found and confiscated large quantities of explosives, detonators and timers in houses owned by members of a pro-Syrian group in north Lebanon on Thursday, security sources said.

They said police had also moved to encircle some offices of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Beirut after making some arrests in the northern Koura province.

A police statement confirmed the seizure and arrests but did not say to which group the detainees and the explosives belonged.

“A force from the Internal Security Force raided these houses and found inside them a large quantity of explosives, electrical detonators and timers in addition to a large cache of weapons,” the statement said.

Police Arrest Pro-Syrian Gunmen, Confiscate Weapons and Explosives

Police on Thursday arrested five members of the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) in the northern province of Koura and confiscated weapons and explosives, security sources told Naharnet.

One source also said the SSNP office in the Lebanese capital’s plush Ras Beirut district was surrounded by police, while members of the Syrian-backed party evacuated another office in the city.

He said the bust was aimed at arresting “suspects in the ongoing investigations in a series of assassination attempts.” He refused to elaborate.

It could not be determined if the bust and arrests were related to the Nov. 21 assassination of Industry Minister and member of parliament Pierre Gemayel in Beirut’s northern suburb of Metn, an SSNP traditional stronghold.

The source, who refused to be identified, said police also confiscated two stolen cars and a “truck load of weapons and explosives.”

Police, in a brief statement, said “after receiving information about a quantity of explosives in houses in a number of villages and towns of the Koura province, and in accordance with instructions from Attorney General Saeed Mirza, a police unit busted these houses and found a large quantity of explosives, electrical detonators, timing equipment and a large number of weapons. The related persons were arrested.”

It said investigations were “underway.”

(my emphasis)

December 21st, 2006, 2:00 pm


Ehsani2 said: expands on the Bashar letter to Olmert and claims that Asma is involved with establishing contacts through her “British Connections”

December 21st, 2006, 3:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect clarifies:

“Since I left in 1978, i have been going back to Damascus regularly about once a year. Never have I seen Damascus more alive than during my last trip. Building cranes everywhere. Shops, restaurants, offices, banks, hotels, the Souk Hamedieh, and everywhere I looked people are shoulder to shoulder full of life and energy. In the past I used to see a little progress here and a little backwardness there, but now I am truly flabbergasted! In other words, Syrians are fine and the do talk to each other. Ask your buddies neocons to first work with their friends to stop arresting dissidents and allow women to drive before talking about Syria.”

Dear Ford Prefect,

I am glad that the economy in Syria is going well and all looks optimistic. Sometimes I hear differently, so I wonder if your description is a bit one-sided. The per capita GDP in Syria is $3900 for FY 2005.

I do not question Syria’s right to exist, nor do I believe in arming terrorists in order to capture Syrian soldiers or to fire missiles into Syrian population centers.

OTOH, the only thing I have against Syria is, of course, their government for their support of terrorism.

And just a reminder, terrorism isn’t just a problem for Israel, it’s a world-wide problem.

So if the Syrian government/people want to get out of this so-called “isolation” and if they want the Golan back, they will first have to renounce their support of terrorism in every way: through their media, through their clergy, through their pocket book, and through the use of their roads and highways.

December 21st, 2006, 6:38 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Isreal is the root of all our problems in the middle east, why did God inflict us with this malignant disease?, I hope one day we get rid of this bug.

December 21st, 2006, 6:57 pm


anonymous said:

Olmert + Asad = WILD ANIMAL

December 21st, 2006, 7:49 pm


Gibran said:

I’m glad you see the benefits of isolating Syria. I support what you said 100%. One more thing you have to remember. Assad regime does not want the Golan back. This has been the policy of Hafiz and Bashar is following suit. The purpose is to keep making trouble in the region for the purpose of projecting some kind of regional power broker status. It is the overblown ego stuff plaguing the Syrian regime and many of its misguided citizens. They simply cannot live with their current status as a wasted and conquered backyard in the region. Nor do they take concrete steps to improve their lot in a positive manner as normal people would do. So do not be fooled by cheap calls for peace. As I mentioned previously there is no legitimate partner for such proposal yet.

December 21st, 2006, 8:23 pm


Alex said:

Another Haaretz Editorial asking Olmert to not make a big mistake by ignoring Assad

Respond to Assad, convince Bush

December 21st, 2006, 8:29 pm


Atassi said:

Don’t you all have a feeling that Assad badly wanted to posture to the WORLD as a peace maker, so he can empower his weakening regime? I am sure he fully understand and knows the fact that the Israeli and US will not be bailing him no matter what he say” he always say, never do” !! It’s known to Assad and his top advisors that the road to the US pass through KSA. I think it’s more rightful for him to lower his head to the Saudis and submit to their requests for now. please stop sending hot balloons since the message is clear..

December 21st, 2006, 10:08 pm


Atassi said:

Assad will abandon Iran if Israel talks peace with him
Yossi Beilin

— The Iraq Study Group report reached a series of obvious conclusions. Everything is linked. The United States cannot remain in the Iraqi swamp much longer; nor can it abandon Iraq and leave it in its current chaotic state. In order to leave Iraq gradually there is a need for a pragmatic Arab coalition that assists the shaky Iraqi government. The cooperation of the pragmatic Arab states can be ensured if they can justify themselves in the eyes of their publics, and for this to happen the US must make a major effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Baker and Hamilton are the answer to six years of an American foreign policy march of folly, particularly in the Middle East. For President George W. Bush to accept their recommendations he must admit serious mistakes. Hence, he almost certainly will not accept them unless American public opinion forces him to. The ISG’s co-chairmen, James Baker and Lee Hamilton, understand the extent of the damage caused by the American boycott of Syria, Hamas and other actors in the Middle East and beyond. They are right to propose holding talks with those actors and trying to develop genuine dialogue with them. Personally, I doubt whether talks with Iran would bear fruit; in contrast, I believe that talks with Syria could contribute to a change in the regional map.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has proposed negotiations with Israel. The latter, for the second time in its history, has set preconditions (the first time was about two years ago, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon turned down the Syrian offer). Assad is apparently doing so because his country’s economic situation is becoming increasingly difficult – in four or five years its oil reserves will run out – and because Syria’s talks with the European Union have been frozen and he feels isolated. Peace with Israel would offer him an opening to the world.

Assad holds “negative cards” in his hand: a war option with Israel, patronage of terrorist organizations as the host of their headquarters, and the ability to transfer weapons from Iran to Hizbullah. He won’t forego those cards if Israel sticks to its conditions for opening negotiations (particularly as long as Israel’s prime minister declares up front that as long as he’s in office we won’t give up the Golan Heights). Yet there can be no doubt that he will have to give up those cards in order for negotiations to conclude successfully.

An Israeli-Syrian peace, which would of course comprise an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, would deprive the extremist Palestinian organizations of Syrian backing, just as it would neutralize Hizbullah’s power. And it would constitute a setback for the Syrian-Iranian alliance – a pact of convenience between two very different actors: Baathist secular Syria and Shiite Islamist Iran. An Israeli-Palestinian peace signed by the government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization and backed by a Palestinian referendum, together with an Israeli-Syrian peace, would pave the way for Israel and Lebanon to make peace and facilitate realization of the Arab initiative – ushering in normalization of relations between all the Arab countries and Israel. This would leave Iran all alone facing an unprecedented coalition, and would render it very difficult for Tehran to pursue its current policies.

Granted, these are not easy steps. Yet I am convinced they are doable. It will not be easy to reach agreement with the Palestinians when Hamas is so significant and so opposed to peace. Nor will it be easy to persuade Israelis to concede the Golan Heights and the West Bank. But it is possible.

The alternative is as obvious to us all as the Day of Judgment: the dangers for the Middle East are far greater than the internal controversies over the extent of the price to be paid for peace. The message of the Baker-Hamilton report is another opportunity to create an alliance of the sane against the lunatics of our region. The report’s publication reverberated widely, yet this does not guarantee its implementation. Politicians in the US and the region can render it a mere passing event, just as they can cite it as justification for change. They bear a huge responsibility, one that in recent years they have not proven worthy of. Now they have a second chance. For the peoples of the region this is a fateful opportunity.

Yossi Beilin is a member of Israel’s Knesset and chair of the Meretz-Yahad party. This

December 21st, 2006, 10:33 pm


t_desco said:

Great analysis by the International Crisis Group:

Lebanon at a Tripwire

The recommendations on Syria:

Settling the question of Syria. Washington’s strategy of pressure, isolation and implicit threats of regime change has backfired. Damascus has proved it may destabilise Lebanon if what it considers its vital interests are ignored or if it feels cornered. There can be no stable solution for Lebanon without a viable solution for Syria. Washington and Damascus need to discuss each other’s concerns regarding, in particular:

Lebanon: the accommodation here would include normal diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beirut, with Syria forsaking direct political or military interference and relying on legitimate tools – its historic Lebanese allies and Lebanon’s dependence on Syria for trade – to seek to maintain its influence.

The Hariri investigation: this should continue so as to ascertain responsibility, but with an understanding (assisted by amendments to the tribunal rules of the kind mentioned above) that the objective is not to destabilise the current regime but rather – assuming evidence implicating Syria is produced – to deter it from future malfeasance in Lebanon.

Hizbollah: Syria will not loosen its ties with one of its few remaining strategic assets, as long as the Golan Heights remain occupied. However, in the context of renewed engagement with the U.S., it should exercise its influence to ensure Hizbollah maintains calm on the border with Israel.

Israel: The U.S. should cease opposing the unconditional resumption of negotiations between Syria and Israel that President Bashar al-Asad repeatedly has stated he accepts. To condition this on cessation of Syrian support for Hamas or Hizbollah is to ensure negotiations do not take place. An agreement entailing return of the Golan, security arrangements and normal relations between Syria and Israel would represent a strategic shift of enormous consequence for the region as a whole.

Iraq: The exploration here, as explained in detail in Crisis Group’s 19 December report, After Baker-Hamilton: What to Do in Iraq, should be whether the U.S. and Syria can agree on an end state that is neither side’s preference but violates neither side’s redlines.”

In contrast, the Bush administration seems to be in favor of escalation. See, for example, this analysis of the “surge” by Vali Nasr:

Surging into the Abyss
America Abroad/TPM

Why run the risk of provoking a Shia insurgency? Perhaps because they are planning actions that would provoke a Shia insurgency anyway?

Finally, the problem of anonymous security sources in a nutshell:

“Sources from the Internal Security Forces told local daily An-Nahar that Al-Manar’s claims “were completely false.”

However, other sources in the Surete Generale were quoted by An-Nahar Thursday as saying that the plane might have arrived from Tel Aviv.”
The Daily Star

December 21st, 2006, 10:45 pm


Ameen Always said:

I have read Mr. Ford’s commentaries in the last two threads of this blog, and I was very impressed in every one of his interventions. I agree with him a 100% in all points.

December 21st, 2006, 11:35 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

in Lebanon:
If HA wants 1/3 plus one, and the christians want 1/3 plus one,and Sunne and Junblatt want 1/3 plus one I came with three thirds plus 3, mathmatically I can not solve it.

December 22nd, 2006, 12:09 am


Alex said:

Majed I think Amer Moussa is stuck, trying to do the same calculations

Atassi … the rest of us Syrians, we do not want Bashar to bend his head to Saudi Arabia or any one.

Can you explain to us what will happen if he does not bend his head to the Saudis these days?

December 22nd, 2006, 1:08 am


Ahmad said:

Ford perfect
Never have I seen Damascus more alive than during my last trip. Building cranes everywhere. Shops.

How many people are alive? 100? 1000? 10,000?1000000? Syria’s population is 19 million. What about the rest? Did you visit other than the sheraton and the 4 seasons?
Of course some people benefit from that regime. The rest, God will take care of them.

December 22nd, 2006, 1:54 am


Gibran said:

When it comes to speaking as we Syrians, Atassis have more to say than others. Their history in Syria is well known unlike some obscure unknown going by an alias.

Robert Gates declares from Iraq: US is in the Gulf to stay. Meaning: Real politics in the Middle East will acquire a new major player.

December 22nd, 2006, 2:52 am


Atassi said:

I am sure many Syrians; don’t want to be represented by someone weakened by self created isolations, self inflected grave mistakes and expired political strategy to bend over to the Israeli in our “ Syrians” names, I am sure his father is toasting in his grave …
I am wondering how long the dividends accumulated by Hafez will last for Dr Bashar !!

December 22nd, 2006, 4:30 am


Akbar Palace said:

“majedkhaldoun said: (December 21st, 2006, 6:57 pm / #)

Isreal is the root of all our problems in the middle east, why did God inflict us with this malignant disease?, I hope one day we get rid of this bug.”


Is your life that empty?

December 22nd, 2006, 4:58 am


Alex said:


1) there is a right time for saying and doing the right thing. If Bashar called on Israel to talk peace 2 years ago when Syria was seriously surrounded and weakened, then I would have agreed with you. But today, I realize you don’t see it that way but, Syria is considered very strong and very confident. This is the only time when it is right to take that kind of initiative.

2) the difference between Bashar’s calls for Israel to talk peace with Syria, and “bending the head to the Saudis” is very clear … I am sure you read the million articles in Israel asking Olmert to reply to Assad’s calls before it is too late .. before another war erupts (like 1973’s war which came after Israel’s prime minister at the time refused to accept Sadat’s calls for peace) … Israelis are not interpreting Bashar’s calls as a weakness .. they are interpreting them as strength. All they want is assurances from him that after peace Syria will not continue to support groups that are hostile to Israel. And everyone in Israel agrees that “the known price for peace” is the Golan Heights … exactly what Syria wants. So I’m sure you are not against Bashar trying to take this opportunity to regain the Golan.

But look at Saudi Arabia ! … wow! … read Asharq alAwsat, read Al-moustaqbal … every day there is a number of silly stories and opinion pieces ridiculing the Syrians, calling them backward, undemocratic, criticizing their continued role in Lebanon, even attacking them for not being true Arab nationals!

As if Saudi Arabia is the most democratic defender of Arab rights … as if Prince Bandar does not plot dirty wars to enjoy his power in Washington, as if Saudi Arabia did not appoint Lebanon’s prime minister!

I leave you with the latest from Mamoun Fandy … The Saudi star attacker against Qatar, who usually also manages a Syria comedy routine once a month:

«القوميون العجم»

طوال الأسبوع، وبعد متابعة الشأن اللبناني خصوصا، والإقليمي عموما، ألح علي سؤال آخر، وهو: لماذا انقلب القوميون العرب فجأة وراحوا يناصرون مشروع قومية أخرى كانت على الدوام تستعلي على العرب والعروبة؟!

لا شك في أن معركة لم تعد مستترة، تدور رحاها بين العرب وإيران في عراق ـ الصدر، ولبنان ـ نصر الله، وفلسطين ـ هنية.

أين القوميون العرب عندما نحتاجهم؟ ولماذا أصبحوا قوميين عجما في ليلة وضحاها؟ هل تحولوا نكاية بأميركا؟ وهل هناك احتلال محمود، واحتلال مذموم؟ أم اننا نحارب الاستعمار «بالاستحمار»؟!

ولكن رغم أهمية هذه الحالة، إلا أنني قررت أن أكتب هذا الأسبوع عن الجردل.

«الشرع والشارع»

إلى أي شرعية يستند فاروق الشرع عندما يطلق تصريحاته التي تعكس مراهقة الشارع لا نضج الدبلوماسية في هذا الجو الإقليمي المعقد؟ نائب الرئيس السوري لا يستمد حتما شرعية من الشارع السوري، فهو معروف كناقل رسائل بمرتبة وزير، كوزير الشطرنج الذي تحركه يد اللاعب العليا. وهذا ليس غريبا على الساحة السورية، فليس الشرع وحده الذي كان وزيرا صوريا، ألم يتندر السوريون طويلا على أن مصطفى طلاس يعمل وزيرا للدفاع في أوقات فراغه!.

إذن، إلى ماذا يستند الشرع في عنجهيته؟ هل يستند الى قاعدته الشعبية من «القوميين العجم» ؟ وهل قلب العروبة النابض في زمن تهدد فيه الهوية العربية، أصبح اليوم قلب العجم النابض؟.

أسئلة كثيرة تدعو إلى الاستغراب. ومع ذلك فضلت الكتابة هذا الأسبوع عن الجردل. والحديث عن الشرع نقلة معقولة للحديث عن الجردل.

So basically, he is calling the Syrians “donkeys” …

Excuse me, but I am much more interested in friendship with Israeli moderates than with these hypocrites.

It is ok, we can have Turkey, Iran, Russia, Qatar, Dubai as allies… The Saudis can take their time enjoying their power-games in Washington and Texas.

By the way, I want to make an exception … Prince Saud al-Faisal who is a very decent man (like his father). It was a bit sad to see him suffering during his latest appearances. Who would replace him as foreign minister of Saudi Arabia?

December 22nd, 2006, 7:02 am


Innocent_Criminal said:


the Post and Al-Arabiya are pushing the Adel Jubair

December 22nd, 2006, 9:12 am


t_desco said:

Robert Baer offers yet another explanation for the resignation of Prince Turki al-Faysal:

Why Did the Saudi Ambassador Quit?
Here’s a new theory: Turki resigned because he’s needed back home – to prepare for a possible war with Iran

But someone who saw Turki before he left Washington advised me to consider another explanation: Turki was recalled to prepare for the possibility of war with Iran.

After all, the controversial Nov. 29 Washington Post op-ed written by Turki’s political consultant Nawaf Obaid — in which Obaid writes that Saudi Arabia will fight to protect Iraq’s Sunnis if the U.S. were to begin withdrawing its forces from the country — was authorized by King Abdullah. When I asked this person why the Saudis immediately denied Obaid spoke for the Kingdom — and in fact dismissed him from his official duties — he said: “It’s all a smoke screen. The Saudis want to deliver a message, but they also need plausible denial to preserve their options.”

“Don’t be mistaken,” my friend added. “Obaid is Turki’s creation, his employee. Obaid doesn’t freelance. And neither does Turki, for that matter. The op-ed was sanctioned by Riyadh. End of story. It’s tantamount to Saudi declaration of war on Iran” His call, then, was that “Turki was promoted, not fired.”

Warmongering in the Jerusalem Post:

‘Only military action can stop Iran’

“The Syrian military has beefed-up forces along the Golan Heights and Israel has done the same. In the Hermon, for instance, the IDF has doubled the number of troops.

“The feeling is unfortunately that another round is needed before we will be able to engage in a dialogue or peace talks with Syria,” the officer said.”

(my emphasis)

Flynt Leverett’s op-ed (or what’s left of it):

What We Wanted to Tell You About Iran

Washington’s “solution” for the crisis in Lebanon:

U.S. Readies Security Aid Package To Help Lebanon Counter Hezbollah

The United States is preparing a package of almost $500 million in aid for Lebanon’s military and police to help strengthen the security forces, part of almost $1 billion in total U.S. assistance to help the beleaguered Lebanese government, according to U.S. officials.

The package is part of an effort by the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others to shore up the Lebanese security forces so they can eventually extend their control over the entire country for the first time since civil war erupted there in 1975. It is also designed to strengthen the government’s hand over the influence of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s last militia and a force often better-equipped than the country’s army, the sources said.

December 22nd, 2006, 12:49 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

jews saw the miracles of Moses,who saved them from slavery,where their masters forced them to perform hard labor,took their money,raped their women,then Moses took them out of egypt, they witnessed his miracles,yet in few days he went to the mountain they turned against him and worship a golden goat they made themself,[….]


 edited by site moderator (MajedKhadloun – take your racist comments somewhere else)

December 22nd, 2006, 2:31 pm


Gibran said:

You want to tell a story, please narrate it right. First it was not a goat. It was a calf. So, there you go your narration is inaccurate. Secondly, could you please explain to us how the jews entered Palestine with Moses later on despite all the evil and deceptions they commited against the prophet? I believe your source of information confirms such entrance to the holy land. Are you aware of such information or do you need assisstance to find out?

December 22nd, 2006, 3:15 pm


t_desco said:

Police Display Confiscated Explosives Designed for ‘Terrorist’ attacks

Police on Friday said explosives, fuses and detonators confiscated in house raids that resulted in the arrest of seven members of the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) are weapons designed for “Terrorist” attacks.
The confiscated explosives were displayed to reporters at police headquarters in Beirut and an explosives expert told reporters such weapons were designed for “terrorist attacks and assassinations.”

The weapons included electronic detonators, pull-trigger fuses and rigged alarm clocks.

The Police sapper, who cannot be identified in line with standing rules, explained that the pull-trigger fuses can be “tied up to doors, car doors or any doors, and pulling the doors open would detonate bombs.”

He said the weapons were locally made.

Large quantities of TNT paste also were displayed, and the sapper explained that they can be used in the making of “explosives with a variety of shapes.”

Also confiscated was a four-wheel car owned by an SSNP member who had reported to police that his red vehicle was stolen.

The suspicious car, was repainted in black and the serial numbers of its body and engine were changed, although it remained in the possession of its owner who was arrested Thursday.

That, according to security sources, indicated that the vehicle was to be used in a major terrorist attack, either in an assassination attempt by a squad of gunmen or by rigging it with explosives and detonating it against a chosen target.

(my emphasis)

December 22nd, 2006, 3:18 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

jews entered palastine with Moses, …wrong Moses did not entered palastine, it was joshua,please correct your informations,

December 22nd, 2006, 3:20 pm


Atassi said:

I totally disagree with you that the Syrian regime currently calling for peace engagement because Assad feels the strength in his blood
Alex said,
Is this why Israel now insisting on preconditions “closing down the Damascus offices of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, stopping (Hamas leader) Khaled Mashaal’s activities in Syria and Syria must stop arming Hezbollah in Lebanon..
In the mean time, Assad and his minister dropped any preconditions Syria was seeking in the past “ Golan !!”.. Where do you see the strength signs . Where do you see the FULL man courage and the thoughtful and wise peace strategy.
Please enlighten us.
I am sure you have seen this
Former defense minister Ephraim Sneh is doubtful. “If Syria was to leave the ‘axis of evil’ that would have course be a good thing,” the Labor Party lawmaker told IPS. “But I’m afraid that is not the intention of the Syrian president. I don’t only listen to what he says, but I also observe what he does. His alliance with other members of the ‘axis of evil’ is too strong. He hosts Hamas, supplies Hezbollah and has a strategic alliance with Iran.”
For your own information, Syria historically trusted and relied on the strong support of KSA.
You sound like a baath MP  cut it please
For your own information, Syria historically trusted, relied and enjoyed on the strong support of KSA. Until your best friend got trapped in implementing his uncharted and unproven policy’s
I am sure you seen this one too:
“”So what is the downside of engaging Assad? Olmert’s aides argue that not only will Syria continue to back groups like Hamas and Hezbollah even if a peace treaty is in place, but if talks are launched and then break down the result could be military escalation along the Israel-Syria border.
What’s more, they insist, the motivation behind the Syrian leader’s call for renewed negotiations is not the desire to reach an agreement with Israel. Rather, they say, it is Assad’s desire to ease international pressure on Syria and to extract himself from Bush’s “axis of evil” by appearing reasonable and constructive.””

December 22nd, 2006, 3:37 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I said “underwritten” not “written” by the Saudi Prince. There is a difference. Get to your nearst eye doctor soon – some even offer discount coupons.

December 22nd, 2006, 3:46 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Caption under Professor Landis’ Photo says:

“Co-director, Center of Peace Studies University of Oklahoma”

majedkhaldoun said:

“americans will find the truth,and they will discover that the jews are the worst evil people on earth.”

Ahhh, another product of the Arab media. We should chat warmly to Assad and Abbas and Ahmadinejad while they brainwash and fund suicide bombers.

December 22nd, 2006, 3:46 pm


Alex said:


Again, to you I sound like a Baathist. Because I do not have the same severe selective attention that you have when you read and retain ONLY the certain paragraphs and quotes that reinforce your existing convictions, which are in turn based purely on your hopes and wishes.

I am aware of the good old days of Saudi Arabia’s positions on Syria.

So let’s look at the general outline of Saudi Arabia’s “relations” with Syria:

1) After the 1973 war, when Syria did relatively well against Israel, lasting few months after Egypt stopped fighting, Saudi Arabia (and Kuwait …etc) went out of their way to reward Syria. the seventies were good ..until

2) Late seventies when Assad opposed the US regarding Egypt’s Camp David accords, and when he intervened in Lebanon to save the Christians and fight the Muslim coalition. Then, Saudi Arabia covertly supported the violent activities of the Muslim brotherhood in Syria … trying to overthrow Hafez Assad.

Jordan, Iraq, and the United States also participated in those failed attempts.

3) By late eighties, King Fahd, the realist, realized that he needs to work with Hafez, not against him. So he offered to cooperate in Lebanon. Asad accepted to give Saudi Arabia a role in Lebanon, the understanding was that Hariri (Saudi Arabia’s man) will be allowed a significant role within Syrian overall directions. Things went smoothly after that agreement and Lebanon did get out of its civil war for good.

4) After Saddam invaded Kuwait, President Bush Sr. (and the Saudis) realized that if they are to built a coalition that will fight an Arab country (Iraq) it better be supported at the “Arab street” … so they agreed that they can not do it without Syria (read Baker’s book). So the cooperation continued and the war was concluded successfully and quickly. The rest of the nineties were known for the Saudi Arabia/Egypt/Syria summits where all three leaders were equals. There was an understanding on each country’s role within the “leadership of the Arab world”

5)When Hafez died … 9/11took place, then the Iraq war followed … well, Bashar being half the age of the new King of Saudi Arabia … with Hafez out of the picture the impression is that Syria under Bashar is again susceptible to attempts to weaken it, or to overthrow the regime. Replace it with a non-Alawite, pro American regime. Or at least, the impression is that Syria should remember it is only “a little sister of Saudi Arabia” as one Saudi writer suggested in Al-Hayat last week.

So my dear freind Atassi, I remember the genuine Saudi love for Syria in the early to mid 70’s, and I remember the Saudi attempts to overthrow and even assassinate Hafez Assad in 1979-1982, and I remember the wise Saudi cooperation with Syria in the late eighties and all the nineties, and now I see the pathetic arrogance and lust for regional and international power that characterizes today’s Saudi “relations” with Syria.

If the Saudis did not make the wrong bet (again, like they did with the Muslim brotherhood) that they can overthrow the Syrian regime with the help of the Americans, and that they can rule Lebanon (through Hariri and friends), then Syria would not have gone that close in its alliance with Iran.

So while you would love to think that Bashar is the one who is making the wrong calculations, it is your wonderful “great” older sister, Saudi Arabia who seems to be making the big mistakes and are now considering some more foolish options with the help of their equally “great” but equally lost American friends… THEY are partly to blame for a lot of the past and the future bloodshed in the Middle East… with all due respect to prince Bandar, I suggest that he can learn a thing or two from the wiser men within the Saudi Royal family.

Lessons for the future (based on the 1980 and 2006 cases):

1) Don’t try to over throw the Syrian regime, no matter how tempting it might seem. When the Syrian people are fed up with their regime, they will overthrow it. It is none of Saudi Arabia’s business to change Syrian regimes. Except if they don’t mind Syria trying the same in Saudi Arabia.

2) You can have a role in Lebanon, but Don’t get too greedy. Lebanon was and will always be within Syria’s “sphere of influence” …not domination, but influence… Assad in power or not.

And one last reminder Atassi, the Saudis are the most corrupt dictators in the Middle East. While they give 1% of their income as charity to the hundreds of millions of other poor Muslims, they keep the 99% for their own personal bank accounts. They are among the most Alcoholic, biggest womanizers, gambling addicts. So don’t get too much in love with them please.

December 22nd, 2006, 5:41 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Alex you are condescending

December 22nd, 2006, 6:14 pm


Gibran said:

Your ansalysis is full of nonsense. It deserves a big ha ha ha. Stop ridiculing yourself in public.

December 22nd, 2006, 6:18 pm


Atassi said:

Good historical on the Saudi- Baathi Syrian era analyses Alex, Can you please if possible, give us some insight and you’re prospective on the pre Assad era?
And by the way, I am not a Saudi lover, I am a Syrian lover 

December 22nd, 2006, 6:22 pm


Alex said:

Gibran, I am happy my opinions are totally different from yours.

Majed, I said the good and bad … I was not negative with regard to ALL the Saudis, or all of Saudi Arabia’s historic positions.

Buit I am very much against most of Saudi Arabia’s policies today, and especially tomorrow … it seems a combination of their pride and their fears are going to make them do some terribly foolish things for which the Middle East may pay a heavy price. I hope we do not go there, but it is a real possibility apparently.

And the tone I use with Atassi is sarcastic sometimes, but we write to each other and he also uses sarcasm against me, there is not problem. We can both take it. He knows that I think he is a very intelligent man.

December 22nd, 2006, 6:59 pm


Alex said:

And to prove I have nothing against Saudi Arabia,

Here is a preview of the Christmas Greetings on Creative Syria

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Saudi Arabia, 1948

Season’s Greetings from Saudi Arabia, 1949

Merry Christmas from Saudi Arabia, 1950

I will poste these in the next poste as well since Joshua justs uploaded an update.

December 22nd, 2006, 7:08 pm


Gibran said:

You see Atassi the ‘genius’ preview of Pre Assad Syrian/Saudi relation.? And he claims he has nothing against Saudi Arabia! What a piece of crap. Mr. Atassi you have to remember the minority complex suffered by most minorities residing in Arab countries. Alex should be quite familiar with it being a resident of Quebec. Every one knows about the Quebecois minority complex in canada! Right Alex. We can read you man as an open page!!!

December 22nd, 2006, 8:07 pm


Alex said:


When I post historic photos here, they are usually of the light weight, fun types meant to calm a heated discussion (try to find the few other times I did the same in previous posts)

And why don’t you tell us about your understanding of “the minority complex suffered by most minorities residing in Arab countries.”

December 22nd, 2006, 8:18 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

I must admit that I am less than entirely

December 27th, 2006, 5:53 am


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

I must admit that I am less than entirely convinced by the substance of the Robin Wright
article. It seems to me, that the chief weakness of it is as follows: as per her analysis, Prince Bandar appears to be a sort of deus ex machina, operating and winning over both Prince Turki and
Prince Saud. The problem with this is that Bandars chief means of influence would be his own father, Crown Prince Sultan. However the facts argue against Sultan being a means for Bandars (alleged) ascent in Rihyad. As the BBC has noted, Sultan has notoriously bad relations with King Abdullah. Consequently, the likelihood that Bandar is winning out over his (alleged) rivals in the Kingdom appears to be questionable.
In fact, the whole storyline appears to be a sort of smear campaign against Bandar more than anything else. Especially, since Abdullah when Crown Prince in 2001, refused to allow the USA to
attack Afghanistan from American air bases in the Kingdom. The reasoning being that Saudi Arabia could not allow itself to be a base for attacking another Muslim country.

As per the article in the Middle East Wire, the whole idea of Bandar meeting Siniora in conjunction with the Israelis, seems again an exercise in discrediting him, more than anything else.

I of course, say all of the above, under correction, since I do not pretend to be an expert in the intricacies of the Saudi Royal House. If anyone else should have more knowledge about the matter, please feel free to correct me.

Nota Bene: as an academic historian, I should like to offer up my own little correction of an inaccurate assertion made in the comment section
above: to wit, that the west has been unsuccessful in intervening in the Levant since 1097. Actually, first, the Crusaders did conquer and hold on to the Palestine and much of the rest of the Levant for almost a century after
1099. Second, current mythology notwithstanding, no, repeat no, Arab speakers are indigenous to the Levant, as well as Egypt, and Iraq. Their presence in the area being by virtue of conquest (circa 640-645), and nothing more. Pur et simple.

December 27th, 2006, 5:54 am


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