IMF Report: "The Syrian economy did remarkably well in 2006" - Syria Comment

IMF Report: “The Syrian economy did remarkably well in 2006”

The following IMF report is consistent with much anecdotal evidence and the readily apparent consumer and building boom going on in Syria. Government bureaucracies remain inefficient. Everyone is preparing for the stock market and companies are getting educated about going public. Alison Brooks, the woman from whom I am renting my apartment and who recently sold the financial education company that she ran for 20 years in Britain, has been approached by a number of firms to consider offering financial education classes here. Many Lebanese and Egyptian firms are putting in bids because the few good Syrian economists are overstretched and cannot fulfill the demand for financial expertise. The six public banks that dominate Syrian banking have no formal human resource development or training departments. The lack of training and financial know how is tremendous. There is a huge need for education and technical know how. An EU funded Syrian Bank Training Center has been set up in Damascus to offer training and expertise. Damascus has the feel of the wild West as banks and newly licensed financial intermediaries, brokers, dealers, investment managers and consultants scramble to get in on the ground floor.

The Arab European University – one of Syria's new private universities – is establishing a set of new courses in business administration. A teacher at the university told me that the university could not find local professors to teach the needed courses and went to Beirut to recruit Lebanese. The Lebanese professors asked for $4,000 a month and got it. That is a king's ransom to Syrian professors, but indicative of the new salaries being offered. One must remember that there are almost no taxes.

There are perhaps only 20 or so companies preparing to go public and of these, I am told, only about 6 or 7 have already established modern book keeping that completely separates corporate from family finances.

Syrian Arab Republic
IMF Article IV Consultation
Mission Preliminary Conclusions
May 16, 2007

1. The Syrian economy did remarkably well in 2006. Despite an unsettled regional environment, the economic recovery that started in 2004 remained on track. Non-oil GDP grew at a brisk pace (tentatively estimated at 6-7 percent), job creation picked up steam driving unemployment below 10 percent, private investment gathered momentum, and exports made strong gains, particularly in some Arab markets. The surge in the volume of investment approvals hints at brightening investment prospects with companies jockeying to position themselves in the fledgling market. Not only was Syria able to raise the living standards of its own citizens, it also offered shelter, food, medicine, schools, and hospitals to the 1½ million Iraqis that sought refuge in Syria. Despite the large demand shock this represented, inflationary pressures have been fairly contained thanks to tighter credit policy and fiscal discipline.

2. This economic revival owes much to the reform impetus initiated 2-3 years ago and sealed by the adoption of the ambitious 10th 5-year development plan. Broad-based reforms have made significant changes in the economic and financial landscape. The exchange rate has been effectively unified and virtually all restrictions on access to foreign exchange to finance imports have been eliminated. Most economic sectors have been opened to private enterprise, boosting the contribution of the private sector to non-oil GDP above 80 percent. A dynamic private banking sector is now leading financial sector growth, and the Damascus stock exchange is set to open early next year after being closed for 40 years. A new investment law has liberalized the investment regime further, created a one-stop-shop for investors, and put foreign and domestic investors at par. Complex, opaque and prohibitive taxation has been replaced by more efficient and equitable taxes and tax administration has been modernized to support the new tax legislation. In addition, law number 51 enacted in October, 2006 unified tax incentives for investment. The local industry has been exposed to greater international competition through several rounds of tariff cuts—which brought the average tariff rate to 14½ percent down from close to 20 percent three years ago and the maximum rate from 225 percent to 60 percent; a reduction in the number of prohibited imports; a relaxation of import licensing procedures; and a simplification of customs clearance. Strides are being made in building the regulatory frameworks to govern the new market economy, most notably in the banking, insurance, and capital markets, and in housing and real estate. Last but not least, improvement in the efficiency of the taxing system and strict fiscal discipline ensured a timely adjustment to a large and precipitous loss of oil revenues.

3. Notwithstanding the progress in the reform agenda the remaining challenges are still daunting. According to the latest projections of oil production, government revenues from oil, which have fallen more rapidly than initially anticipated, are projected to decline by a further 5 percentage points of GDP in the next 10 years, while the net oil import bill could reach US$6 billion (about 7-8 percent of GDP) ten years from now. Macroeconomic instability will heighten and the growth momentum will falter if the government will to undertake the difficult fiscal reforms ahead wanes and if the structural reform drive is not sustained and accelerated. Under this scenario, time could be bought by drawing down the large stock of international reserves. This would support the nominal exchange rate for a few years, but monetary financing of the widening budget deficit will fuel inflation and crowd out the private sector through an appreciation of the real exchange rate, dampening the economy's growth potential. Once international reserves are exhausted, a forced adjustment through an inflation-cum-depreciation spiral would become unavoidable. An additional cumulative fiscal adjustment of some 10 percent of GDP in the next 10 years is needed to avert this scenario.

Analysis of recent economic developments is increasingly constrained by data weaknesses. These have been amplified in the recent past as the acceleration of structural reforms has severely tested the ability of a weak statistical infrastructure to cope with the changes. The situation in Iraq added to the challenge. The main drivers of the ongoing economic revival, namely exports, private investment, and private sector activities in general are not adequately surveyed. Pervasive subsidies and weak accounting standards in public enterprises (PEs) are a major challenge to the weak methodological framework underlying the compilation of the national accounts and introduce a significant margin of error in growth estimates. The move to a new CPI, although based on a more representative consumer basket, has unfortunately introduced uncertainty about the level of inflation and its trend. Revisions to weak customs data—to account among other things for the intensification of shuttle trade with Iraq—have blurred the picture as to the underlying strength of the non-oil current account balance.

5. Economic analysis and macroeconomic management are complicated in this statistical vacuum, and the authorities are encouraged to be vigilant in monitoring the state of the economy, particularly inflation and foreign trade. Utmost priority should be given to mobilizing the needed expertise to upgrade statistics. Pending tangible improvements in the quality of the data, research units at the Deputy Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the Central Bank, and the State Planning Commission should not be constrained by the use of "official data" and should be encouraged to work closely together to fill in the data gaps with economic analysis and consistency checks among the key sectors (fiscal, monetary, external, and real sectors) to come to a reasonable understanding of current developments. Given the data weaknesses, the mission's assessment is only tentative.

I. Recent Developments and Near-term Outlook

6. Staff estimates growth of non-oil GDP at around 6-7 percent in 2006. Given a 6½ percent drop in oil production, this would be consistent with an overall growth of 4½ -5 percent. Growth appears to have been mainly driven by private consumption and non-oil exports and may have been supported by some strengthening of private investment. Private consumption was boosted by employment and wage gains, a good harvest (particularly for olives whose production doubled); and the boom in real estate and rental prices, which translated into a significant wealth effect for property owners; amidst the influx of Iraqis. The strong performance of non-oil exports, which are estimated to have increased by about 30 percent in 2006, reflects the surge in exports to Arab countries, which were boosted by stronger demand as well as the granting of free access under the Great Arab Free Trade Area.

7. The improved business climate might be supporting a steady growth in private investment, but a real take-off does not seem to have materialized yet. Nonetheless, the impressive volume of approved projects under Law No 10 in 2006—which reached SP 470 billion (US$9.2 billion and 26 percent of GDP) more than 2½ times the level in 2004—and their diversity augurs well for growth prospects in the near- to medium-term. 1 Almost three-fourths of the volume of these investments are in increasingly diversified industrial projects (including cement, steel, food processing, pharmaceutical, textile, and power generation), and another 20 percent are in the transport sector. Investment in the much publicized real estate projects (consisting of commercial, recreational, and other services associated with government housing projects) represented only about 15 percent of the total approved projects in 2005 (SP 60 billion) and their social returns—which are feared to be low in some circles—may actually be quite high if they are part of a well diversified investment strategy. The share of foreign direct investment (FDI) is estimated to have remained fairly stable at about 20 percent.2 Diversity in the investment strategy is also evidenced by the equally strong growth in investment approvals in tourism. Prospects in that sector are strengthening, with the ministry of tourism now preparing to launch mega projects, based on the success it achieved in attracting investors' interest in smaller projects.

 

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8. The build-up of inflationary pressures since mid-2005 seems to have abated in recent months. While average inflation increased from 7.2 percent to 10 percent in 2006, trend inflation as measured by the increase in the price level in March 2007 compared to March 2006 has come down to 4 percent, bringing average inflation to below 8 percent. Half of the increase in inflation in 2006 is attributed to an increase in food prices, which may have reflected weather-related shortages plus stronger domestic demand as well as demand from neighboring countries hit by similar inclement weather. The increase in the dollar price of imported non-fuel commodities together with some pass-through of the exchange rate depreciation at end-2005 may have been additional contributing factors.

9. The large influx of Iraqis put strong pressures on the economy. The number of refugees grew by 40 percent in 2006 to about 1.5 million (8 percent of the Syrian population). In addition to contributing to inflationary pressures, including notably in rental and real estate prices, the surge in refugees strained government expenditures, particularly on energy and food subsidies, and spending on health and education.

10. Credit policy played a useful role in controlling domestic demand. State banks were instructed to slow their lending to the private sector, which helped cool the credit boom experienced in 2004-05. The actual pace (18½ percent), while still fast, reflects the process of financial re-intermediation related to the nascent private banking sector, whose loan portfolio increased by more than 100 percent, accounting for almost half of the credit growth in 2006. The increase in net lending to the public sector contributed the largest share in the increase in money. Administered deposit interest rates, which turned negative during most of 2006, are now back to positive territory, thanks to the deceleration of inflation.

11. Timely and significant fiscal adjustment largely offset the decline in oil revenues, thereby containing the fiscal deficit. Over the last three years, fiscal policy had to contend with a loss of oil revenues in excess of 10 percentage points of GDP. This has reflected both a sharp contraction of oil production from about 480 thousand barrels per day to about 400 thousand and a galloping growth in domestic demand (an annual average rate of 10½ percent) owing to a decline in the prices of refined products in real terms, increased smuggling to neighboring countries, and the impact of the Iraqi refugees. A cumulative improvement in the non-oil budget deficit of 7 percentage points of GDP narrowed the non-oil budget deficit to about 10 percent of GDP, strengthening significantly the medium-term prospects of fiscal sustainability.

12. The quality of the fiscal adjustment was commendable. During the last three years, corporate income tax rates have been lowered drastically—with the top marginal rate coming down from 65 percent in 2003 to 28 percent in the latest amendment—and tariffs rates have been reduced significantly. Tax administration improvements together with higher growth fully compensated for the cut in rates and helped maintain a stable tax intake as a percent of GDP and increase its total volume. The bulk of the fiscal adjustment has been contributed by caps on investment spending and an increase in dividend payments from profitable public companies, mainly in telecommunication, which boosted nonoil revenues by close to 3 percentage points of GDP during 2004-06. The compression in capital spending is largely believed to have represented cuts in wasteful spending, and at 9 percent of GDP, its level in 2006 is still fairly high. The creeping rise in current expenditures reflected mainly the increase in subsidies to loss making PEs and pension and social assistance payments.

13. The growth outlook for 2007 remains favorable. The critical mass of reforms implemented in recent months, the continued direct and indirect support of aggregate demand from the Iraqi presence, and favorable growth prospects globally and in the region are expected to continue to underpin private consumption and non-oil exports, as well as a possible strengthening of private investment. These factors could sustain the growth momentum at about the same pace as in 2006. Any slowdown of capital inflows associated with the Iraqis will dampen aggregate demand directly and through second round effects, including an unwinding of the wealth effect induced by the real-estate boom. However, a normalization of the political situation in Iraq could open a large market for Syrian products.

14. To keep inflationary pressures in check, macroeconomic policies should remain appropriately tight. The current level of benchmark interest rates is appropriate and state banks' lending should remain in line with the monetary objectives. Fiscal policy should aim to reduce the overall budget deficit to about 5 percent of GDP mainly by phasing out petroleum price subsidies and further rationalizing of expenditures. Civil service wage policy, which leads wage policy in the rest of the economy, has a major role to play in curbing inflation, by ensuring that wage increases do not run ahead of productivity gains.

II. Building for the Future

15. Syria needs to continue to grow faster but it also needs to grow better in the coming years. The growth acceleration in the past two years seems to have been largely driven by private consumption, with an initial impulse originating from the influx of Iraqis. For this growth to strengthen and solidify, it is important that the sources of growth be rebalanced toward investment and durable gains in external market shares. Stronger investment growth and higher productivity are the bedrocks of high and sustainable growth in the long run.

16. To rebalance growth, Syria should continue to strengthen its macroeconomic policy frameworks and to accelerate structural reforms. Policies geared toward accelerating reforms and preserving financial stability could validate investors' expectations and strengthen savers' confidence about returns on Syrian assets. A positive synergy—such as the one witnessed in the rapid take-off of private banking—between an increased willingness on the part of savers to invest their funds in Syria rather than abroad or in idle foreign currency, and an increased willingness of investors to take the risk of starting new projects could turn the promise from the large increase in investment approvals into a reality.

17. The remainder of this statement focuses on: (i) policies to protect fiscal solvency, (ii) a more explicit monetary policy framework in the context of the unified exchange rate regime to anchor price stability, and (iii) key structural reforms.

Fiscal sustainability

18. The timely adjustment to the secular trend decline in oil revenues in the past three years is highly welcome. Looking forward, there is a need to sustain this effort as oil revenues continue to dwindle. Addressing all the pockets of inefficiency in public spending associated with technical losses and across-the-board subsidies to consumers, producers, and public employment will achieve durable fiscal savings while enhancing the supply side of the economy. A large share of the freed up resources could be channeled to finance targeted support to the most vulnerable segments of society and to productive expenditures on basic infrastructure, higher education, and research and development. This will complement private investment by enhancing its potential returns.

19. In this regard, a comprehensive public expenditure review is essential. It should focus on: (i) settling the inter-enterprises arrears among PEs and stopping any such accumulation in the future as this practice dampens incentives for sound and transparent financial management and leads to a lack of accountability; (ii) reviewing the efficiency and effectiveness of expenditures in major sectors such as education, health, and public transportation with a view to reprioritization and deep reforms; and (iii) reviewing the social protection system—the current system is mostly based on rationing (coupons) and on inequitable and inefficient price subsidies. It needs to be reformed toward means-tested targeted transfers.

20. Phasing out the inequitable petroleum price subsidies (PPS), whose cost exceeds 15 percent of GDP, is a key pillar of fiscal reform. Beyond large fiscal savings, it would provide significant efficiency gains, improve equity, entail a smaller negative fiscal impulse, and contribute to BOP adjustment. We are encouraged to know that some preparatory work is being done to launch this reform, and urge the authorities not to delay it further. Each day the public coffers loose SP 750 million (i.e. close to US$15 million, three times the annual budget devoted to promoting tourism) on a policy that has lost all purpose, while so many legitimate claims on public money remain unfulfilled.

21. Stepping up preparations to introduce a VAT is needed to ensure that the VAT is phased in on time to help offset the future drain on oil revenues. The mission agrees that an ill-prepared launch could damage the credibility of this new tax, and indeed many steps, including the adoption of a tax procedures code and an integrated IT system, have yet to be completed. However, preparation could move much faster, if the authorities were to choose a simple design, an option that would very much be in line with the new vision driving tax policy reform toward simpler taxes and lower rates. A uniform rate with very few exemptions lowers the compliance costs on taxpayers and the burden on the tax administration and closes loopholes, which create opportunities for corruption. Concerns about social equity are best addressed by excises on luxury goods, well targeted spending programs, or by enhancing the progressivity of income taxes.

22. The authorities view the PE reform as an important element in the reform program. For that the authorities issued:

Comments (69)


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

“Damascus has the feel of the wild west”.

After years of being in a deep coma, the country is finally ready to come out of its 43-year old self-imposed economic isolation. Were the leadership to really embrace this, the sky is indeed the limit. The country’s financial services industry is non-existent. A functioning capital markets needs to emerge. I think that this is going to be the most critical step. Once this takes shape, things will quickly start to fit into place.

This is a very exciting dream. Let us hope that it will soon turn into reality. For the first time, I am guardedly hopeful. As for the geopolitical background, I am still rather concerned.

June 21st, 2007, 1:22 am

 

K said:

TONY BADRAN ON SYRIA’S CLOSURE OF THE LEBANESE BORDER

The Syrian Gangsters

Just as the Arab League’s committee arrived in Lebanon after the government lodged a complaint against Syria’s violation of UNSCR 1701 through its continued smuggling of arms and terrorists across the border, the gangster, terrorist regime of Bashar Assad closed a border entry with Lebanon. I’m also told that they will shut down another one tonight.

Assad’s internet propaganda outlet, Champress, had called yesterday (in anticipation of this move, of course) for “choking” Lebanon by closing the borders in response to Lebanon’s complaint about Syria’s smuggling of arms and terrorists across its borders.

In other words, along with using violent terrorism against Lebanon, through bombs, assassinations, and dispatch of terrorist proxies, the murderous Syrian thugs are now applying economic terrorism.

There should be an unequivocal response to the all-out terrorist war being launched by that deranged mobster in Damascus. A clear threat in the only language he understands.

Lebanon should lobby Jordan and Iraq to shut down their borders with Syria so long as Lebanon’s passageway to the Arab states is blocked, and should lobby for sanctions against Syria unless it abides by the UN Security Council resolutions demanding it cease its undermining of Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty.

Politically, Syria is bankrupt in Lebanon. It possesses only terrorism. These are the last remaining cards in their possession after everything has failed. As the tribunal that will hold this terrorist accountable begins to takes shape (and as the Army, contrary to Syrian calculation, subdues one of its terrorist export), Assad will escalate his terrorism (look next for attacks on UNIFIL, as Assad threatened) in order to solicit an ever-elusive “deal” (one which would allow him to continue with his terrorism unmolested). He will not get that deal.

These are pure, unadulterated terrorists, killers, and gangsters. They should be treated as such.

Addendum: The US-based flack of the Syrian regime always likes to use the phrase: “starve the Syrians into compliance through economic sanctions” when describing US policy towards Syria.

Like most everything this dishonest individual says, this is of course a twisted distortion and a lie.

Furthermore, this same flack had the nerve to say this in the past about Syria:

It has to be remembered also that the Lebanese trade with inland countries has to go though Syria, so Syria stands over Lebanon with a formidable economic hammer. What is more, Syria has the ability to funnel arms to Hezbollah and Palestinian groups as well as radical Sunni groups which allows it to destabilize Lebanon if its interests are ignored. (Emphasis mine, a propos Fateh al-Islam, which now this flack denies Syria is supporting, as per the official line in Damascus.)

As always, this apologist not only acknowledges Syria’s terrorism and extortion, but also approves and justifies it, despite its screaming violation of international law. Then, this flack turns around and waxes indignant about actions to punish Syrian terrorism. And now when Lebanon takes action to counter Syrian terrorism and violation of international law, the Syrians resort to more terrorism, the kind approved by said flack in the quote above.

Whenever I quote the apologists, flacks and mouthpieces of the Syrian regime (Landis or Champress, the only difference is one is English the other is in Arabic) I cannot help but recall Michael Young’s terrific line: “even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the thugs they represent.”

June 21st, 2007, 3:26 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

K said “(look next for attacks on UNIFIL”
No, no one dare do that, it means sanction against Syria, it means major military threat to Syria, it would be miscalculation,K; you are exaggerating .
as for funneling weapons to HA,we need to remember,HA never fought lebanese,did not use their weapons against Lebanese, they used it against Isreal,who attacked Lebanon several times,with much evil intentions , as usual,as they killed children in Qana, HA has to be re-armed to the teeth,to teach Isreal a lesson ,they will never forget.
As lebanese you should be proud of what they did last july,Nasrallah gave stomach ulcers to the supporters of Isreal,and next time,they will get Diarrhea,too.

June 21st, 2007, 4:13 am

 

MSK said:

Dear Josh,

This a very interesting report. I am a bit concerned, however, about the issue of data. Basically, the report says “Look, here are all those wonderfully positive numbers, but, actually, because of the almost-nonexistent credible statistics in Syria, there is no way to really know what the data is.” That kind of puts such claims to success like “unemployment under 10%” and all that in question, no?

I am also shocked by the item on Syrian companies – even those who are ready to go public – in general not keeping personal and corporate accounting separate.

Too bad that those shiny, new private universities only focus on business & hard sciences, and leave social sciences & humanities by the wayside. I wouldn’t mind living in Damascus on $4,000 a month. 😉

MajedKhaldoun,

I’d wanted to keep ignoring your claims that “HA never fought lebanese,did not use their weapons against Lebanese” but you keep doing it every other day and it’s getting silly.

HA used its weapons against Lebanese during the Civil War. In its drive to become the dominant force in the South and among the Shi’ites, it slaughtered (literally) quite a sizeable number of Lebanese Communists of Shi’ite background. It also militarily fought (Lebanese) Amal.

Since the end of the Civil War it has used its weapons to intimidate the Lebanese central government, its security services, and regular Lebanese citizens. Just look at the recent incident of a few days ago, where three policemen who chased criminals were “arrested”, disarmed, and interrogated by HA because they allegedly had “entered the ‘HA Security Square’ in the Dahyeh.”

If I pull a gun on you and threaten to shoot you if you don’t give me your money, and then you hand it over and I leave, and no shot was fired & you’re not physically hurt – it still counts as me having used my weapon against you.

I don’t know where you live, but if you’re so gung-ho about fighting Israel, why don’t you just DO it instead of ranting here?

–MSK*

June 21st, 2007, 6:22 am

 

Joshua said:

Dear Ehsani,
Yes, the capital markets that are at the very beginning of beginning have many people excited, or should I say, “guardedly” excited, as Wall Streeters like to hedge. Syrians love capital and love markets, so I imagine they will figure out how to put the two together according to the modern requirements rather quickly.

Muhammad Ali Imadi, the head of Syria’s Securities Commission and counterpart to the S.E.C. in the States, is assuring everyone that there will be tight oversight of the markets. He claims that Syria has learnt from the Saudi experience last year, when its markets took a real dip because of insider trading and other shenanigans. They have borrowed language from the various regional stock markets, including the Turkish markets, in order to capitalize on their experience. There seems to be plenty of awareness here that Syria needs to do this correctly and that many people will be waiting for them to stumble or behave like boobs. Damascenes have always thought of themselves as natural bankers and savvy businessmen. They don’t want to be seen as boobs.

45 years is a long time to be cut off from global markets. Undoubtedly, a certain amount of stumbling around is to be expected, but Syrian ex-pats play a major role in financial markets in the region and the West. I suspect some of this experience and talent is already fixing its attention on Syria’s emerging market and considering the move home.

During a long lunch with a civil-society friend, who had spent 10 years in jail under Hafez, we were discussing the absence of any real Syrian opposition and how it had been so easily crushed.

He is a translator and was explaining how much work he has been getting from the financial sector, which needs handbooks and proposals translated into Arabic. Then he suggested that perhaps the hope for Syrian civil society is through globalization, much as it has been in China or the many Asian countries.

He argued that with the build up of capital markets that require security and oversight, new monied interests will become powerful enough to demand law and order and it will spread from there. Perhaps?

June 21st, 2007, 8:17 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

MSK said to Majedkhaldoun

I don’t know where you live, but if you’re so gung-ho about fighting Israel, why don’t you just DO it instead of ranting here?

Yes, but if Majedkhaldoun fires Katyushas, then it is the Lebanese that will unfortunately pay the consequences.

However, as a symbolic gesture, rocks would be OK. Anyway, this is what I’ve been told by the authorities.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Edward_Said_thowing_a_stone_at_Israeli_soldiers.jpg

June 21st, 2007, 9:53 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

I cannot argue with anything you said. The fear of making mistakes must not slow down the process that it already starting way too late.

It is more important that the leadership puts its full weight behind this project and has 100% conviction in its merits. Mr. Imadi cannot achieve miracles unless he has the full blessing and mandate from the top. As I said once, all it takes is for Mr. Assad to stand next to him publicly and state that he is personally behind this project and that by a specified date in the future he expects delivery. Leadership from the leadership is all that is needed. The rest is very easy to achieve. Rocket science this is not. Expertise is readily available to help. Profit seekers will quickly fill the void and ensure a fast transformation of the landscape. All they need to see is that the leadership WANTS to do this and that it has the conviction in this endeavor.

Surely, if Namibia (up 20%), Botswana (up 49%) and Nigeria (up 50%) have their own equity markets up and running, Syria must deserve its own by now.

June 21st, 2007, 10:05 am

 

Zubaida said:

The second half of the IMF report warrants careful reading, as it highlights the scale of the challenges that lie ahead. The reforms initiated by Abdullah Dardari and Adib Mayaleh have so far only scratched the surface. The momentum will need to be sustained and even accelerated if Syria is to stand a chance of achieving the quality of growth that the IMF refers to–productive, investment led, rather than predominantly consumption-led as has been the case over the past couple of years. Will the Assad regime have the political nerve to push through VAT and fuel subsidies cuts next year? Will it be prepared to give the central bank sufficient leeway to set up a robust supervisory system for the banking sector, with an adequate budget to hire talented people to run it? Will it dare to embrace privatisation? The prospects for the capital market do not look encouraging if the best people that can be found to run it are Mohammed Imady and Rateb al-Shallah, veterans of an economic “reform” programme that has been idling in the slow lane for more than 20 years. With oil rapidly depleting (down by 9% last year), foreign aid drying up and foreign investment still negligible (although growing from a low base thanks largely to Gulf real estate plays and the odd genuine project, such as the Orascom-Firas Tlas cement scheme in Aleppo and some of the new banks) serious fiscal and balance of payments difficulties loom.

June 21st, 2007, 10:50 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

ZUBAIDA,

You make some excellent points. In a nutshell, the challenges are simply enormous. The political will that I was alluding to has been lacking. I am yet to be convinced that much has changed materially.

June 21st, 2007, 10:57 am

 

ugarit said:

I don’t see a section in the IMF report about how the lives of ordinary Syrians is being affected by “reforms”. Perhaps I missed it.

How can a country that just got over a million refugees reform its economy? We’re going to blame this on the regime?

June 21st, 2007, 11:59 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

UGARIT,

First, things were not exactly brilliant before the refugees came.

Second, it is not necessarily the case that the refugees have been a net negative for the Syrian economy.

Third, the reforms that are being discussed have nothing to do with the refugees. Starting capital markets, privatization, the lifting of subsidies, education reform, tax reform and legal reform have NOTHING to do with the refugees.

Dr. Landis,

The Syrian economy incidentally is described as an “embryonic” market rather than an emerging one.

June 21st, 2007, 12:10 pm

 

Joshua said:

Dear K.
I am flattered as always by Tony Badran’s considered attentions. Thanks for bringing his latest golden nugget to my attention.

He is the true maestro of mudslingers. One cannot but admire the energy and elan he musters for the well turned barb. No one with such charm could be a thug. Certainly, he does not sound like one.

He is, of course, quite correct that Syria is playing hard ball in Lebanon. He lists its infractions of international law with precision. I am only relieved that the US administration so laudably resists the all too human impulse to pursue its national interests through spreading the dark art of death and arming opposition parties.

He objects to my writing that the US intended to “starve” Syrians into compliance with economic sanctions. Perhaps Washington only meant to put the Syrians on a “diet,” as an Israeli official once explained was the intention of its sanctions on the Palestinians?

Tony must have a long hit list. Secretary of State Rice has repeatedly explained that the reason US sanctions have failed to restrict the Syrian palate is because European governments have refused to join America in its culinary recommendations to Syrians. Perhaps Tony will find some salutary prod to spur the Europeans into action? I could suggest “surrender monkeys,” but fear he may have already used it.

There are, of course, a long list of smart statesmen who recommend the same solution to the Lebano-Syrian wrangle that I do: engagement and diplomacy.

It is quite clear that Syria will not relinquish its support for Hizbullah until it gets back the Golan. This is what Syrian authorities have repeated for years now. As President Clinton has explained, the deal is there and could be struck in 30 minutes.

Rather than try diplomacy, Tony proposes that the best way to win Lebanese sovereignty is to defeat Syria and refuse its demands for a regional peace plan. In this, he makes common cause with the right wing pro-Israeli financiers who pay his salary and keep his diet leavened with greens.

Perhaps Tony’s strategy of lobbying the Jordanians and Iraqis to close their borders to Syria will bear fruit? Perhaps the Lebanese army can be armed sufficiently to defeat Hizbullah where Israel failed? My suspicion, however, is that these policy proposals will not succeed, and Tony will end up more apoplectic than he already is.

Tony argues that Syria is bankrupt and stands on the door of defeat. It doesn’t appear that way living in Damascus. The IMF report copied above doesn’t suggest Syria is bankrupt. I don’t know what encourages Tony in these conclusions other than wishful thinking.

Both Lebanese and Syrians would be better served if the US could find the courage to nudge Israel and the other actors in the region toward the negotiating table. All the peoples of this small region have legitimate gripes that should and can be hashed out. Not to try is foolishness. Tony’s conclusion that Syrian statesmen use force because they are evil is nonsense. Those who act on such assumptions will only do greater harm. Rather than refining his skills as an insult-walla, Tony should come up with solutions that might actually work.

June 21st, 2007, 12:23 pm

 

G said:

Solutions like getting the killers off the hook, and letting them dominate Lebanon, eh regime employee?

June 21st, 2007, 12:32 pm

 

G said:

He is, of course, quite correct that Syria is playing hard ball in Lebanon. He lists its infractions of international law with precision. I am only relieved that the US administration so laudably resists the all too human impulse to pursue its national interests through spreading the dark art of death and arming opposition parties.

Are you suggesting, regime employee, that Syria and the US pursue the same methods? If so, then you’ll get a fat check this month I’m sure, but you’ll also prove how you are an employee of Assad.

If the US did pursue the same methods, then bombs would be blowing up in the nice cafes you loiter in in Damascus you regime agent.

Furthermore, you fall into your own trap. First you label it “hardball” (to soften its true nature), then you go ahead to bash the US for something far less and conveniently leave out the Syrian terrorism of your paymasters. A liar to the bone.

Rather than try diplomacy, Tony proposes that the best way to win Lebanese sovereignty is to defeat Syria and refuse its demands for a regional peace plan.

Diplomacy has been tried. Your paymaster only killed more Lebanese. You just also show how much of a liar you are. The point that I saw in K’s post is that actions should be taken to deter Syrian terrorism. You lie through your teeth, and you get paid for it.

June 21st, 2007, 12:37 pm

 

ugarit said:

“If the US did pursue the same methods, then bombs would be blowing up in the nice cafes you loiter in in Damascus you regime agent.”

If the US did pursue the same methods? That’s what the US has been doing to the world for about a century.

June 21st, 2007, 12:42 pm

 

G said:

No. If the US did pursue the same methods, Mr. landis might be walking to the market one day and he’d be blown to bits by a car bomb intended for one of his bosses.

June 21st, 2007, 12:43 pm

 

ugarit said:

EHSANI2 said: “Third, the reforms that are being discussed have nothing to do with the refugees. Starting capital markets, privatization, the lifting of subsidies, education reform, tax reform and legal reform have NOTHING to do with the refugees.”

Habibi EHSANI I am aware of that. However, a 5% increase in population in a couple of years is a huge burden on any economy. That’s equivalent to 15 million people all of the sudden showing up in the US and needing refuge. I do agree that some of this can have its economic benefits.

Again how are the average Syrian affected by these reforms?

The IMF is notorious for recommending “reforms” that have detrimental effects on ordinary citizens.

June 21st, 2007, 12:49 pm

 

ugarit said:

G said: “No. If the US did pursue the same methods, Mr. landis might be walking to the market one day and he’d be blown to bits by a car bomb intended for one of his bosses.”

Ah, so killing about a million Iraqis and creating a few million refugees is not as bad as car bombs. Oh and by the way the US killed over two million Vietnamese. The US is the only nation to have used atomic bombs on cities. Don’t use the US as an example.

That being said the Lebanese should not have to live this way. It is simply wrong.

June 21st, 2007, 12:53 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear G,

Please do not be offended if I offer you a piece of advice.

You are totally entitled to your opinions. Many people may share your thoughts. You are clearly a passionate defender of your view of the world. Clearly, Your camp and Dr. Landis do not agree on lots of things and that is perfectly understandable.

Do you think that you can do away with calling names? Is it really important to brand someone a paid agent and a liar?

It has been confirmed to me many times that Dr. Landis does not exactly live a life of excess. His yearly income makes a mockery of the term paid-agent. He also does not lie. What he wrote here today is what he believes. I to do not personally happen to agree with most of what he believes in. He may look at things from a different prism than you and I. No one is asking us to agree with his “engagement” theory. You can disagree with it as vociferously as you do. You will, however, be much more effective if you stick to a more civil but effective rebuttal rather than this silly regime apologist and paid agent terminology that undermines your credibility. You may ask why should I be civil to a person who holds views that I strongly oppose. But, isn’t this what civil debate is all about?

June 21st, 2007, 1:32 pm

 

Observer said:

The leadership in Syria had to remove the old guard to allow change to happen. The old guard did not want to have anything changed lest they lose power and they panicked at any prospect of losening the political grip on the country. The EU offered to build business administration schools provided they are not corrupted and it took the intervention of the presidency to make it happen. In essence the EU has realized that to be able to do any business with Syria they had to educate some people on the modern economic scene and it had to happen in an non corrupt way. There are many dangers to this approach for the regime and this will come from all those cadres that were sent to the Eastern Bloc countries and where they got a shoddy education that will not permit them to enter into the work force in all fields. The other threat is the disfranchised poor people that will drift fully to the fundamentalist orbit and are totally out of control. I was shocked to see that these groups are circulating openly in many areas in Lebanon and during my last visit to Damascus a year ago I saw a great many fundamentalist identifiable by their garb and beards. It is like coming back to a place you visited 5 years ago here in the US and discovering that a third of the population is now Amish ( albeit the Amish are very peaceful and I say it as an analogy ). The third threat is the extreme corruption that pervades all levels of the administration to the point that even the goverment could not prevent the closest members from being bribed. Therefore the mentality is so skewed towards the corrupt way of doing business that many businesses may flee. This happened to Chevron that explored and found oil in the southern part of the country and decided to bag it because the cost of corruption and the very heavy bureaucracy precluded any successfult business dealings. One way for the regime to get the house in order is to bring back some expatriates who have made their fortunes elshwhere and who may be able to improve the scene without having to get involved in the shady deals.

June 21st, 2007, 1:50 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

To MSK;
please understand that Hasan Nasrallah has nothing to do with 1975 war,he was not in a leadership position then,second; when some one attack you, you have full right to defend yourself.
You also talked about the three soldiers who entered the military and high security zone for HA,you are aware,I hope that there are many spies in Lebanon, and Hasan Nasrallah life is threatened by Isreal and their allies,like Samir Ja’ja’.if you consider this as evidence against HA you are way wrong.
“but if you’re so gung-ho about fighting Israel, why don’t you just DO it instead of ranting here?”
who is ranting but you,what you are implying,that I should not speak the truth,your hatred to the Shiite is blinding you,from being fair and honest,here you and Akbar joining as friends,what a shame.

June 21st, 2007, 2:43 pm

 

K said:

BADRAN VS LANDIS 🙂

The Mind of an Apologist

The dishonest regime flack in question decided to respond to my post. And as usual, as he did with Michael Young, he constructed a typically dishonest strawman argument, that bares no resemblance to anything I said and obviously evaded the point. But such is the job of regime apologists and flacks.

He is the true maestro of mudslingers. One cannot but admire the energy and elan he musters for the well turned barb. No one with such charm could be a thug. Certainly, he does not sound like one.

A thug, Mr. Landis, is the person who intellectually and morally justifies what his pals in Damascus have been doing in Lebanon and calls on the world to “abandon” the government of Lebanon to your pals’ tender mercies, and, after receiving a note from Imad Moustapha, stop mentioning how the Syrians killed Hariri, and instead turn that into “Hariri died.” A thug is the one who, despite Lebanon facing a terrorist war from your pals in Damascus, turns around and calls Lebanon “an aircraft carrier to attack Syria,” justifying your pals’ terrorist war that continues to harvest Lebanese journalists, MPs, ministers, judges, and politicians, and making it seem as though the war was being waged in the opposite direction. A thug is the person who lies on behalf of murderers. Which is why Michael Young’s phrase quoted below is so fitting: even the tedious functionary of despotism ends up sounding like the thugs he represents, Mr. Landis.

He is, of course, quite correct that Syria is playing hard ball in Lebanon. He lists its infractions of international law with precision. I am only relieved that the US administration so laudably resists the all too human impulse to pursue its national interests through spreading the dark art of death and arming opposition parties.

The thug, Mr. Landis, is the person who actually tries to draw a parallel and equivalence between US policy and that of your terrorist pals. Secondly, the difference is not only between the US and your terrorist pals. The difference is also between Lebanon and Syria. Syria is pursuing a terrorist war against a country that hasn’t lifted a finger against it. The US is putting sanctions against a state sponsor of terrorism that is responsible for the murder of US soldiers in Iraq and that has waged a war by proxy against the US. But then again, a dishonest flack wouldn’t make such a distinction.

No, Mr. Landis. The US policy has been to work with allies, to work with the UNSC, and to work with the law. Hence the tribunal, which never once makes an appearance in your writing (as per the note from Moustapha, I’m sure). As one of your readers put it, had the US been truly pursuing the same terrorist policy your pals are, then the next time you’d be walking to the market, you could be blown up in a car bomb intended for one of your terrorist pals, as so many innocent Lebanese have been. If the US is truly pursuing the same terrorist policy as your pals in Damascus, then you’d be seeing new proxies attacking the Syrian army on a daily basis, and planting new guerrillas in military bases, supplying them with arms and fighters, like your pals are doing in Lebanon. Now you can pull all the Hersh material you want, in reality, as always, your argument is dishonest and full of it. You are just involved in what you do for a living: whitewashing murderers who are targeting civilians and the state institutions of a sovereign state. In other words, declaring a terrorist war against a sovereign member of the UN. That makes you a flack, and indeed, an intellectual thug.

He objects to my writing that the US intended to “starve” Syrians into compliance with economic sanctions. Perhaps Washington only meant to put the Syrians on a “diet,” as an Israeli official once explained was the intention of its sanctions on the Palestinians?

As usual, the slime oozes out. The dropping of Israel in there is of course aimed to rouse the sentiments of his readers, but naturally, other than being cheap, it actually works against him. If he has spent so much time defending the cause of the Palestinians, one would think that if he thought it was parallel to what the Syrians were doing in Lebanon it would solicit an equal condemnation, no? Of course not. A regime apologist does not engage in such things. A regime apologist and professional whitewasher uses terms like “hardball” (or “sphere of influence” or “Hariri died,” and so on).

Second, let’s go back to the real point, which Mr. Strawman always tries to evade (one of the necessities of the job, I know). The point raised in my post was that US or UN sanctions (should they ensue) would be in response to Syrian terrorism and violation of international law (and Syria has been on the list of state sponsors of terror since 1979). To draw an equivalence between Syrian terrorism, and international mechanisms to hold them accountable and deter them from pursuing terrorism is the peak of dishonesty, corruption and flackdom. This is why the EU is involved in sanctions on Iran, for instance. This is why the EU hasn’t signed the Association Agreement with Syria, etc.

But I guess that’s not as noble and “legitimate” as Syrian “hardball.”

There are, of course, a long list of smart statesmen who recommend the same solution to the Lebano-Syrian wrangle that I do: engagement and diplomacy.

Yes, the indirect attempt at self-puffery through the reflection of other people’s credentials will lead you nowhere. There are equally smart, if not smarter people who have argued for the opposite, including people who have tried “diplomacy” with Syria.

It is quite clear that Syria will not relinquish its support for Hizbullah until it gets back the Golan. This is what Syrian authorities have repeated for years now. As President Clinton has explained, the deal is there and could be struck in 30 minutes.

Here’s the heart of the strawman. The red herring itself. This is the “art” of dishonesty that Mr. Landis masters like no one else. The question is not “Syrian support for Hezbollah,” (despite the fact that this is in violation of multiple UNSC resolutions.) That wasn’t even the point of my post. The question always was Syrian terrorism, which you approve, support, justify and whitewash. The question is Syrian car bombs, Syrian proxies like the PFLP-GC and Fateh-Intifada (and/or -Islam), assassinations, and lastly, an attempt at economic strangulation (or, as you eloquently put it, “economic hammer”).

Although this is irrelevant, President Clinton of course is full of it, as my friend Lee Smith noted. But all this is a huge red herring, and a typically dishonest attempt to dilute the terrorism of his pals in Damascus.

Rather than try diplomacy, Tony proposes that the best way to win Lebanese sovereignty is to defeat Syria and refuse its demands for a regional peace plan. In this, he makes common cause with the right wing pro-Israeli financiers who pay his salary.

Do you take a breath between lies, Mr. Landis? The fact of the matter is, the US, the EU, and the Arab states have all tried diplomacy, and failed. The US kept diplomatic lines, including high-level visits, until the Syrians killed Hariri… I mean until “Hariri died.” But that was just “hardball,” as was the murder of Kassir, Tueni, Gemayyel, Hawi, Eido, the bomb in Ain Alaq, etc. and the attempt on Chidiac, Hamade and Murr. What’s the big whoop? Didn’t they all “die”?

The Europeans have tried it too. Just ask Solana or D’Alema, how “encouraging” their trips were. Just as the Saudis, who have since not talked to the Syrians. I know “smart” people like you and like the ones you quote to puff yourself think they know better and can close the deal in 30 minutes, but the fact is, that a host of nations have hit a brick wall in Damascus every single time. Why? Because we’re dealing with terrorists and with terrorist demands. The same terrorist demands you put forward on their behalf: “abandon the Seniora government,” make the tribunal “go away,” get rid of UNSC resolutions 1701, allow Syria to use Lebanon as an open front for war against Israel, and such. Gee, it’s a surprise talks with Syria led nowhere. I’m sure you and your smart friends know why. After all, you’re articulating the terrorist demand on their behalf.

And finally, you’d tried the Israeli-baiting thing before with me. It’s typical of you and who you are. But I’d take FDD over Imad Moustapha and your murderous pals in Damascus any day of the week.

Perhaps Tony’s strategy of lobbying the Jordanians and Iraqis to close their borders to Syria will bear fruit? Perhaps the Lebanese army can be armed sufficiently to defeat Hizbullah where Israel failed? My suspicion, however, is that these policy proposals will not succeed, and Tony will end up more apaplectic than he already is.

Again, the dishonest master of the red herring strikes. First, I said the Lebanese should lobby for that so long as Syria does it with Lebanon. If this is the game Assad wants to play, we should see if we could deter him. But then again, you seem to have a problem distinguishing deterrence and accountability for violation of international law on the one hand, and terrorism on the other. I mean, with friends like yours it’s a bit understandable that you’d lose discernment.

Second, you’re a liar. I never advocated anywhere (not in this post or anywhere else) that the Lebanese Army should be armed to take on Hezbollah. That’s just a flat out lie by a master liar. This is the same stuff you pulled with Michael Young, and he called your lie. Don’t think you can do it with me.

As for being “apapleptic” [sic], being angry at a terrorist war being waged against my country, and seeing intellectual thugs like you justify it and cheer it on is better than being a slimy flack for murderers.

Tony argues that Syria is bankrupt and stands on the door of defeat. It doesn’t appear that way living in Damascus. The IMF report copied above doesn’t suggest Syria is bankrupt. I don’t know what encourages Tony in these conclusions other than wishful thinking.

Again, Landis lies through his teeth (or maybe, his reading skills are as good as his spelling skills). I didn’t say Syria is “bankrupt” (as in financially). I said Syria is politically bankrupt in Lebanon, in how it has failed to determine political outcome and now relies exclusively on terrorism… ooops, I meant “hardball” in flack parlance.

The IMF report which you were salivating over actually says a lot of things, most of them rather alarming for Syria. Read the comment by Zubaida in your comments section. But again, this is beside the point.

There is no wishful thinking here. It’s that you are constructing red herrings and distorting what I said, as you do with everyone, and as you did repeatedly with Michael Young, who finally called you on it.

Both Lebanese and Syrians would be better served if the US could find the courage to nudge Israel and the other actors in the region toward the negotiating table. All the peoples of this small region have legitimate gripes that should and can be hashed out. Not to try is foolishness. Tony’s conclusion that Syrian statesmen use force because they are evil is nonsense. Those who act on such assumptions will only do greater harm. Rather than refining his skills as an insult-walla, Tony should come up with solutions that might actually work.

Once again, the apologist for terrorists comes in to bank on his pals’ terrorism, asking us to reward that terrorism. I mean listen to this thuggish, gangster formulation: “you’d be better served if the US does what we want!” This precisely proves the point of my post. It wouldn’t be the first time Landis put forth this mobster formulation. Remember this one? “America, I think, is going to be forced to bend to that. If it continues to resist, we’re going to see more violence.” Who’s the thug again, Landis?

The point is not peace talks, as Landis himself has proved in the past. The issue is the re-domination of Lebanon, the termination of the tribunal, the assassination of its leaders, journalists, judges, and politicians, as well as its civilians. The issue is the terrorist war being waged against a sovereign country and its institutions by a terrorist rogue regime.

Landis wants to turn this terrorist war against Lebanon into a “legitimate grievance,” as though Lebanon has control over the Golan! This is so pathetic it’s almost funny, were it not used by this corrupt individual to justify a terrorist war against Lebanon. It’s as funny as the old “Syria wants to get back the Golan, but it doesn’t know how” idiotic line that Landis spit out in one of his radio appearances. Yeah, poor Syria. It “doesn’t know” how to get back the Golan, so it just goes about murdering Lebanese people. Cut it some slack, won’t you!? Terminate the tribunal, give it Lebanon, let it kill unmolested. It has “legitimate grievances” for crying out loud!

But here’s the really morally repugnant heart of this apologist’s propaganda: “[the] conclusion that Syrian statesmen use force because they are evil is nonsense. Those who act on such assumptions will only do greater harm.” This is an astonishing statement, but so telling about the person who wrote it and his job.

Note the disingenuousness: Syrian “statesmen” use “force.” If there’s an example of Landis’ corruption and dishonesty, this is it right here. If he sanitizes the language (as in “sphere of influence” to replace “colonization” or “Hariri died” to replace Syria obliterated him with a 1.2 to car bomb), then the foulness of what he’s whitewashing should disappear too. They’re not terrorist murderers who order assassinations and car bombs against civilians. They’re “statesmen.” You see? This is like what any Western official would do! They use “force.” Force as in assassinate journalists, MPs, judges, party leaders, ministers, and civilians. Wait, I got it. Bin Laden is a “statesman”! A terrorist war is “realism”! And if we insist on condemning it, we “do greater harm”! Amazing! Now, we’re the one responsible for the terrorism! Landis has transfered the evil of his pals in Damascus onto us. We can’t even call it “evil” (although, naturally, this was not part of my post. This is another typical Landis distortion.) Now he can sleep better at night.

This reminded me of a line by Landis’ idol. His senior colleague and dynasty scribe, Patrick Seale: “Some would say that Chirac’s personal obsession with Hariri and his anger at Syria have affected his judgement. He seems to have refused to recognize that, so long as the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, Syria has vital security interests in Lebanon, where it cannot tolerate a hostile government, or the influence of a hostile external power.”

And presto, terrorism is justified. Chirac — indeed all of us — we are told, should have “the better judgment” than to actually try and fight terrorism. We should “recognize” that Syria has the right to use terrorism against a sovereign state and its people, because it “cannot tolerate a hostile government” and because it has, to use Landis’ term, “legitimate grievances.”

A clearer apology for terrorism, there is not. And Syria, according to these “smart” individuals, should also have the right to determine what politician is “hostile” or not, and whether the government supported by more than half of the Lebanese people is to be toppled, by assassination if necessary.

In other words, all Syria has to do to get a carte blanche to murder people is to continue to have the grievance of the Golan! That sounds like a deal to me. This is precisely why a ten-year “process” led nowhere. With this kind of props, who wants the Golan back?!

I mean if there were to be a single line to describe this evil pathology, this would be it. The moral repugnance is astounding. The dishonesty is staggering. The thuggishness is overwhelming.

I’m sorry, I don’t know what a “walla” is, but you bet I will continue name and attack this kind of intellectual thuggery and apology for terrorism and support for murderers. As for your “solutions”: abandoning Lebanon to the Assad terrorists, accepting and justifying and whitewashing murder, trashing international law, and waging war against a sovereign state, well, you can keep those to yourself.

June 21st, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

norman said:

Syria is the only Arab country with a common sense
.
Syria says peace with Israel not possible within Fatah-Hamas split
The Associated PressPublished: June 21, 2007

DAMASCUS, Syria AP) — Syria warned Thursday that peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be impossible within the current split between the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction and the more militant Hamas group.

“Fatah, even if it is supported by the international community, cannot marginalize Hamas… The accusations between the two sides must stop,” Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said.

His comments to Syrian journalists at a briefing in Damascus came as Egypt announced Thursday its call for a peace summit of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders next week that aims to boost Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas after its takeover of Gaza.

The regional gathering to be held Monday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik will be the biggest show of support yet by Arab states for Abbas’ Fatah party in his bitter showdown with the Islamic militants, who seized control of Gaza last week.

In the wake of the Gaza takeover, Abbas dissolved the national unity government with Hamas and set up an emergency cabinet of Fatah members.

Today in Africa & Middle East
Arab leaders uneasy over Hamas victory in GazaTop PLO body approves Abbas decision to form governmentViolence explodes in once-sleepy Iraqi city as Shiite rivals clash
Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian president would call for a resumption of peace talks with Israel, arguing that only progress toward Palestinian statehood can serve as a true buffer against Hamas.

But Syria’s al-Sharaa, whose country hosts exiled Hamas leaders, said Syria encouraged dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. “It is vital even if it does not lead to direct results, but dialogue must start again,” he said.

“No faction can cancel out the other,” he added.

Back to topHome > Africa & Middle East

June 21st, 2007, 3:18 pm

 

Milli Schmidt said:

Mini Liquidity Boom

remember that this is an IMF IV consultation report, which relies very heavily on available data, simple macroeconomic indicators (nothing about distribution, productivity etc) and on top of all that has to be very diplomatic. Check out similar consultations on really bad cases like Angola and you will only find passing references to “governance problems”, when in fact the whole country is captures by the kleptocratic elites.

The other matter to remember is that the whole region is awash with billions of dollars that have disappeared into unknown channels in Iraq and which are fuelling a mini-liquidity boom in the region. This of course also feeds into Syria, which has become a major supplier to Iraqi suqs. Check that the report states “growth largely driven by consumption and exports” – this is the additional money plus the sales to Iraq.

The Iraqi refugees also bring money in and are additional consumers. It’s far from clear whether the situation will transfer into durable, steady growth that will benefit the majority of the population. I also believe that the stock-market, which has been touted for years, remains a chimera. If there are only the small handful of mentioned economists, who would ever run this very complicated operation and where is the staff with the necessary IT skills? And then, remember the constant internet-cuts? 24 hour trading? Hm.

June 21st, 2007, 3:38 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

A thug, Mr. Landis, is the person who intellectually and morally justifies what his pals in Damascus

Oh my, must such screeds be posted? I suppose in this view, the IMF are “thugs”, too!

Such pathetic trollery.

June 21st, 2007, 3:44 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

K said:

In other words, all Syria has to do to get a carte blanche to murder people is to continue to have the grievance of the Golan! That sounds like a deal to me. This is precisely why a ten-year “process” led nowhere. With this kind of props, who wants the Golan back?!

It’s a great deal.

The armies of the West and even of Israel are meant to counter ground wars and troop movements. Armor.

The Middle East has made up for their lack of military might with jihadism, terrorism, and a huge pile of Leftists who buy into their “grievances”. It is Carte Blanche is the truest sense.

Now my sense is that the jihadists like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Iranian government are not going to silently walk off the stage when the Zionist Entity is still living and breathing. Syria, under a more secular Baathist rule, could.

Assuming Syrian-Israeli peace talks resume, what are the chances that Assad and his “waterboys” will be satisfied? Let’s assume they get back the Golan.

My guess is….let me think….my guess is it will NOT be sufficient.

I call it the “Arafat Syndrome”. A despot MUST have an external enemy to justify his existence and his hold on power. Peace with Israel and Lebanon will open up a huge sore that has been swept under the rug of “military rule” for so many years. I just don’t think it will work unless democracy is part of the bargain.

June 21st, 2007, 4:25 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear tony,

It is a bit simpler than that.

1) If James Baker and ex-Israeli intelligence chiefs agree with Joshua that the world needs to talk to Syria and to involve Syria in attempts to reach solutions to every thing in the Middle East .. does that imply they also “received a note from Imad Moustapha”?

Is James Baker allowed to have that particular opinion, but Joshua is not?

2) Those who “tried diplomacy already” and “failed” … know why they failed … because they offered Syria terms that the Syrian people (and not only the regime) do not accept … Syrians do want their country to be strong and influencial in its environment. You would like to think that this is necessarily equivalent to a basket of bad things (interfering in its neighbors, murdering their politicians …) … I do not want to comment on “who dun it” … that part we will probably never know, but you need to visualize the difference between relations at times of peace, and relations at times of chaos .. like these days.

When America and its allies (Israel, Jordan, KSA, Israel, and some in the M14 group) stop their relentless efforts to weaken Syria’s role, then Syria will stop resisting.

In this case, we know what came first … the Chicken, not the egg. When President Bush first came to power, American was offered full Syrian cooperation… the Bush administration was not interested. Sending Syria Colin Powell with a list of demands instead of a list of areas of potential opportunities for cooperation started this trend. And another thing .. relying on cheap lies was also symbolically started in that same meeting between Powell and Asad … Powell at the time expressed his disappointment that Assad is not fit to be someone the US or anyone should trust and cooperate with … later, (this year) as you know, Powell admitted that he lied .. that Assad offered a lot in that meeting and that the US should have cooperated with him.

Diplomacy with Syria will work perfectly well, and the Middle East will be in a much better shape when the United States and its friends stop bargaining with Syria and give it the regional POSITIVE role it wants to play … Syria wants to play a big role, but a very positive and effective role.

Why? .. because, Syria is wiser and more experienced in that area (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) than any other country. KSA can not manage that area, the US can not. Egypt or Israel can not.

Proof? Syria explained how Camp David will not work .. Egyptian people still hate Israel and the Middle East is not at peace. Syria opposed Saddam when everyone else was praising him and arming him. Syria opposed Oslo and explained that it will not work, Syria stopped the Lebanese civil war and was willing to allow Saudi Arabia a role in Lebanon (through Hariri) to help rebuild Lebanon, Syria was the only one who knew the Iraq was will be a huge disaster to the area as well as to the Untied States, while everyone after the fall of Baghdad was sure that the US got the whole Middle East under its control now.

As long as the US is still resisting Syria’s healthy and natural role, things will never work. Diplomacy will not work. But the blame is on those who are still not getting it. Syria will not surrender its regional role… and Syria has the staying power until this, and next administration come and go if necessary.

As for Lebanon, I think if Aoun and Salim Hoss are your leaders, Syria will immediately send an ambassador to Beirut as an immediate sign of its respect of Lebanese sovereignty. What you wish for Lebanon is only doable through a balanced approach to relations with Syria. Aoun and Hoss can deliver.

Would you be happy with such a positive outcome? or would you insist on punishing Syria, even at the expense of Lebanon.

June 21st, 2007, 5:10 pm

 

G said:

Alex, you’ve just confirmed what Hazem Saghieh wrote the other day about Syria’s “project.” He called it a “decaying imperialism.”

It’s what I had said you represented: colonialism. You are not just a supported and defender of killers, you’re an imperialist.

June 21st, 2007, 5:29 pm

 

MSK said:

MK,

My “hatred for Shi’ites”? Hahahahahaha … I’ll tell my Shi’ite friends about that one tomorrow & we’ll have a good laugh …

So … let’s look at your “arguments”:

– Hassan Nasrallah was not in a leadership position in 1975. That’s true, but the slaughter of Communists (many Shi’ites) and the fight against Amal happened in the mid- to late 1980s, when he was in the HA leadership. And, contrary to your personality-cult-like image of “Hizbullah = Nasrallah”, there’s more to that organization than its secretary-general. In any case, you didn’t say “Nasrallah never used his weapons against Lebanese” but you said “Hizbullah” never did. And that’s simply wrong. The Communists didn’t attack HA, btw.

– His threats against fellow Lebanese, since they are backed by the best-equipped and -trained military force in the country – IS using weapons.

– As for the 3 policemen who were doing their duty and chased criminals, they simply followed and enforced the LAW that is also binding for HA members, since they are Lebanese citizens. There is no extra-law for HA. Or do you think that the M14 politicians or the anti-Syrian journalists could just start having private “security zones” where no policeman can enter?

– You seem to indicate that government employees (in this case Police) could be spies for Israel/US against HA. Well … so could Hizbullahis be spies for Iran/Syria.

– I am not implying that you cannot say whatever it is that you want to say. I AM however implying that you come across as somebody who is frustrated, spiteful, and vengeful … yet doesn’t really do anything about it. Maybe I’m totally off the mark – but that’s what your comments project.

As for AP quoting me … that’s not my fault. I am not going to stop saying something because some idiot might repeat it. He’s about as paranoid as you are, and look – I even communicate with you.

Seeing the world through a black/white prism doesn’t work. Maybe one day you’ll understand it …

–MSK*

June 21st, 2007, 5:43 pm

 

K said:

Majedkhaldoun and Akbar Palace,

Just to clarify, the long posts above are not my own words, they are copied and pasted from the blog of Tony Badran, “Across the Bay”. (I do not necessarily agree with them). Respond to them directly at: http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com

June 21st, 2007, 5:55 pm

 

Alex said:

G,

I support for Syria to play the same Role Saudi Arabia plays in the Arab gulf region. A leading role, not occupation or interference in the daily affairs of the neighbors.

I understand you do not respect or want Syria’s role, but that is where we differ.

It has been three decades since Syria’s role has been challenged on and off. In the early Eighties, after Israel easily invaded Lebanon and destroyed 90 Syrian planes in one day, people like you started to believe that Syria is finished… especially after years of confrontations with the Muslim Brotherhood, and with “the moderate” Arab countries financing and backing their attempts to overthrow Assad.

A year later, TIME magazine put Hafez Assad on its cover and called him the strong man of the Middle East.

The cover says:

Syria: Clashing with the US, bidding for a bigger role.

While Tony Badran and Michael Young go over every single detail in Joshua’s comments, they are not seeing the big picture right. It started in the late seventies. US administrations will come and go, but history and geography will not change.

June 21st, 2007, 5:59 pm

 

G said:

history and geography will not change.

You sound like the true Assad supporter Baathist that you are.

June 21st, 2007, 6:07 pm

 

Alex said:

I am a supporter of giving Syria a carte blanche for 5 years. If the Middle East is not in a much better shape, then I will support G for president.

June 21st, 2007, 6:11 pm

 

Alex said:

Announcement of a major breakthrough!!

ok, I’m exaggerating, but I solved the case of the disappearing comments on SC!

They were going to the SPAM folder!

I just checked it and it has 2000 spam messages and many non-spam messages from Atassi, me, K …

I will see if we can do anything to make it exclude the names of the regular contributors here from passing through the anti-spam plugin.

Michael Young will be happy to know that it was not Joshua who was blocking his comments.

June 21st, 2007, 6:18 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Alex,
We will need to report the above mishap with the spam folder to the Hariri International Tribunal. They deal with every issue that has to do with Syria and Syria Comment.

June 21st, 2007, 6:32 pm

 

G said:

Carte blanche for 5 years eh?

Three words for you: Chapter Seven Tribunal.

June 21st, 2007, 6:39 pm

 

Alex said:

G,

Three words for you:

wait few years.

June 21st, 2007, 6:59 pm

 

Alex said:

Ford Prefect,

You are Akhbar Balace I ain’t talking to you anymore.

June 21st, 2007, 7:05 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex
you said”I am a supporter of giving Syria a carte blanch for 5 years”
I am not sure if are requesting five more years for Syria or the regime, I am sure Syria has all the time she needs, But, I am afraid the regime is being entangled and trapped in a web of conflicting external forces, and it’s looking more and more as “living on a borrowed time”!! then being granted 5 more years.

June 21st, 2007, 7:36 pm

 

Observer said:

I do not think that there is significant differences between the various regimes in all the countries of the ME. My observation is that the regime in Syria feeling besieged acted with Iraninan help and advice and decided to be pro active in its protection. Regardless of the legitimacy or the cleanliness of the methods used by the regime to achieve this goal, they largely succeeded so far in creating consensus and stability within the country and to stave off all the other threats. In contrast to what I call the three stooges SA, Egypt, and Jordan who left their entire policies to the US state department, Syria does not seem to be overtaken by events on the ground. The others are now in disarray including Siniora and the Marsh 14 group. For to ask the Arab League to mediate and intervene is truly a good measure of how little support they have.The Arab league is nothing more than a forum for lunchs and dinners. As usual the West will promise and will not deliver and the Abbas regime is on its way out. I have yet to see anything delivered to the Siniora regime and to Lebanon after the devastation of last year’s war. In the past there used to be alternatives that the US would keep in reserve but in this situation there are no alternatives they can rely on in any of the countries mentioned above. The king of SA is watching the collapse of his entire political initiative and the bankrupcy of the peace plan. He has spent his entire political capital and is now without his Bandar to help consolidate any role that the kingdom may have in the future. I will not be surprised to see a white coup within Saudi to replace the king with Sultan as all efforts are faltering and Iran is ever more ascendant. The news from Iraq continue to be bleack and the surge is not working. In that sense the US is out of Iraq and the defeat will be felt in all of the halls of power. Perhaps the three stooges are going to have to answer for their mistakes.

June 21st, 2007, 7:54 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi my friend,

“looking” is a big key word …

None of us has the benefit of clairvoyance, we can reach our different conclusions after we look at the picture today, or look at the long movie that started in the mid seventies.

To Michael young, it is “looking” like Syria is THE source of evil in the Middle East (not Israel, the US or the different fundamentalists)

To you, it is “looking” like the regime is “living on borrowed time”.

To me, it is “looking” like it looked the past 30 years … a cyclical trend that repeats in an almost predictable manner. On the surface, “the regime is living on borrowed time”, but in reality, it is the negative part of the cycle that will be followed by the positive part… the regime stays, US administrations leave, “Arab Moderates” make peace with the regime… until they feel it is time to try to remove the regime again when they see some “window of opportunity” in the future … Let’s summarize the previous few windows od opportunities for removing the regime and transferign Syria’s regional role to “the moderates”:

1) Sadat leaving Syria alone (after Camp David) …
2) The end of Syria’s main backer (the USSR)
3) Israel’s “successful” invasion of Lebanon in 1982
4) Europe boycotting Syria in the mid 80’s after the Hindawi affair … And finally,
5) Neocons determined to do Syria next after they walked into Baghdad with ease.

Something seems to make Syria (or the regime, if you prefer to see it that way) not an easy target.

If it survived the smarter American efforts int he past, I don’t see why it will not survive the clumsy American efforts today.

And I described the Cycle’s two phases as “negative” and “positive” because I do want to see Syria managing the area (not controlling the area), instead of others from as far as Saudi Arabia, or Washington. The up cycle meant the end of Lebanon’s civil war, and Hariri securely re-building Lebanon, peace talks with Rabin that almost got us a peace agreement… a good agreement, not an Oslo, May 17th, road map type of an agreement.

June 21st, 2007, 8:01 pm

 

Atassi said:

I agree Alex, the current clumsy US administrations will be leaving soon to the dusty history book, and a new chapter will emerge as part of the democratic civilized world. In this case the US will prosper!
The Assad’s will continue on ruling Syria shrewdly and zealously. They will continue to out smart the world and any new adversary as they have done in the past. In this case Syria may inch up little or stay idle since most of the regime resources are being spent on self preservation.
Alex, what makes you believe the next administrations will be keen and friendlier to the regime!!

June 21st, 2007, 8:42 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi,

The next administration will need to deal with Iraq. The choices are really limited

1) more troops
2) less troops
3) Empower the Arab “moderates” (Abbas, Mubarak, Abdullaha and Abdallah)
3) talk to Syria and Iran.

This administration tried the first option. it is failing. It will try another option next … it won’t work as long as Israel is not ready to go back to 1967 borders, the only thing the moderates can sell to their people.

Then what?

Of course Iraq is in such a mess by now that even the Syrians and Iranians will not be able to deliver a Hollywood like happy ending.

But things can be considerably better and Iraq will slowly recover, as long as Syria, Iran, the United States, and Saudi Arabia are not competing.

June 21st, 2007, 8:50 pm

 

t_desco said:

“In a newspaper interview published earlier Thursday, Murr vowed to defeat the militants. He also cautioned the country’s politicians against concluding the Fatah Islam militants have links with Syria, saying it was too early to tell, according to Nahar Ash-Shabab, a weekly supplement of Lebanon’s leading An-Nahar newspaper.

“Does the government so far have an official confession about the links of these (Fatah Islam militants) or some of them to Syria? So far, there is no answer, and we have to wait for the next days,” Murr was quoted as saying.

Murr said a number of militants were arrested in Tripoli before the fighting erupted in Nahr el-Bared, including members of Fatah Islam, al-Qaida and a group that attacked the Lebanese army in the northern region of Dinniyah in 1999.”
AP

“Murr said in a newspaper interview published earlier that some of the fighters arrested were members of al Qaeda. “There is a section of them which belongs directly to al Qaeda,” Murr told An-Nahar newspaper.”
Reuters

June 21st, 2007, 9:01 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

MSK
” you come across as somebody who is frustrated, spiteful, and vengeful ”
these words describe you, not me
Also I am sunni,not she-ah,I am opposed to what they believe,God said in ISRAA’ ( last verse)that he has no WALI, they believe that Ali is Wali, for that I believe they violated Quran,I disagree also on many issues.
obviously you have paranoid personality,my question is,have you been treated in mental institution?,if not you ought to check in one of them,soon.

June 21st, 2007, 9:30 pm

 

Alex said:

That’s right MSK!

You are so aggressive, what is wrong with you???!!!!

: )

Yalla, baseeta, both of you. Forget the Middle East. Imagine you are here.

June 21st, 2007, 9:49 pm

 

t_desco said:

Terrorism charges filed against 16 suspects, said to be Fatah Islam members, for Lebanese bus bombings

A Lebanese prosecutor filed terrorism charges against 16 suspected militants on Thursday, accusing them of commuter bus bombings that killed three people earlier this year, a judicial official said.

Of the 16 suspects charged by Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza, nine are in police custody, the official said. They include seven Syrians, a Lebanese man and a Palestinian woman.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give statements to media, told The Associated Press that all 16 belong to the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group.

Shaker Youssef al-Absi, the Palestinian leader of the Fatah Islam militants in Nahr el-Bared, and his top aide, a Lebanese citizen identified as Shehab al-Qaddour but who is more known as Abu Hureira and who is also in the northern camp, were among the seven suspects charged in absentia Thursday.

Apart from al-Absi and Abu Hureira, the suspects at large also include three Syrians, another Palestinian and one Saudi, the Lebanese National News agency reported.

In March, Lebanese troops arrested several suspects who they claim confessed to carrying out the bus attacks. At the time, the authorties identified the detained group’s ringleader as a Syrian, Mustafa Sayour. He was among those charged Thursday.
AP

June 21st, 2007, 9:52 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Alex,
You told me “you are Akhbar Balace I ain’t talking to you anymore.” Well, first, it is Palace and not Balace – you uncivilized and undemocratic Bozo.

Second, if you don’t like bombing civilian targets repeatedly, using internationally-banned weapons – including cluster bombs, white phosphorus bombs and land mines targeting civilians, invading Lebanon at least three times over (30% of those who died in the last aggression against Lebanon were children under the age of 13 according to UNICEF), facilitating the massacres of thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugees camp, being the only and longest occupying force in the world today, building an illegal wall twice as high as the Berlin Wall in the name of preventing terrorism, the daily humiliation of thousands of Palestinians in their own land, defying at least 68 UN Resolutions, doubling Israeli settlements illegally since 1993, the 11 August 2006 Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning “grave Israeli violations of human rights” in Lebanon, and many more human rights violations, international law violations, illegal detentions and imprisonments, systematic ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, repeated collective punishment of civilians, the continued possession of WMD including nuclear, biological, and chemical agents, and failing miserably and repeatedly to bring peace to Israel for over 60 years, then I swear I will bring democracy to your country, Syria, too. So be nice to me, now that my cover as a Syrian Agent has been blown by the genius extraordinaire.

June 21st, 2007, 10:52 pm

 

ugarit said:

K:

It better to put the text between

. Then it’s more clear that it’s not yours.

June 21st, 2007, 10:59 pm

 

G said:

Alex, Saudi Arabia at least has money and natural resources. Syria wants to become a mini empire based on what? You have nothing.

This is where we confront the truth, the truth about why you support Syrian terrorism. That, as Shaker al-Nabulsi recently wrote, is the only thing you have. Without Syrian support for terrorism, Syria is nothing. This is why Syria will never relinquish terrorism. That’s the argument serious people make, and it’s true. The other argument is simply false.

June 21st, 2007, 11:23 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear G,

becoming “a mini empire” is not what Syria wants. The word I use “manage” is similar to playing a number of simple roles .. fire fighter, a policeman …the village priest or imam …

Despite having modest Oil reserves, Syria has much more potential than Saudi Arabia. Go to the city of Homs, and you will see nothing interesting, but meet the brilliant minds that come out of that city and you’ll understand what Syria is.

Besides, Syria has KNOWLEDGE about the area. Saudi Arabia knows its neighborhood, and Syria knows its neighborhood.

June 21st, 2007, 11:42 pm

 

G said:

fire fighter for the fires they set through terrorism. we know the game alex. we’re not stupid. you just proved my point. You only have terrorism.

All the brilliant minds are abroad. you don’t have enough human resources to start basic financial sector you have to rely on the lebanese, as you shut the border with them to terrorize them.

Go sell this stupid “knowledge” nonsense to some other schmuck. WHo do you think you’re dealing with here?

And quit deluding yourself with the classic Syrian racism towards the Gulf. They’re miles ahead of you. They are sending their children to learn in Europe and the West. They have financial know how, they have attracted the best minds of the region (mainly from Lebanon, the same who now you need to run your finance sector) and Asia. You suck in comparison despite your “pride” and haughty racism.

You live in an anachronistic frozen imagination. It’s quite pathetically sad really. Your vision of Syria has no resemblance to fact. The only time you come close to fact is when the little terrorist supporting baathist within you emerges every now and then.

June 22nd, 2007, 12:42 am

 

norman said:

Alex ,
This is another example you and Syria can be proud of.

http://www.dmu.ac.uk/faculties/cse/eng_and_tech/staff/engtech_staff_marouannazha.jsp

June 22nd, 2007, 12:50 am

 

G said:

Yeah, and he lives in England for a reason!

June 22nd, 2007, 1:17 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect writes; Akbar Balace edits:

Alex,

You told me “you are Akhbar Balace I ain’t talking to you anymore.” Well, first, it is Palace and not Balace – you uncivilized and undemocratic Bozo.

Second, if you don’t like bombing civilian targets repeatedly, using internationally-banned weapons – including cluster bombs, white phosphorus bombs and land mines targeting civilians,…

“Although cluster bombs fall under the general rules of international humanitarian law, they are not specifically covered by any international legal instrument.” BTW – Israel rarely targets civilians. OTOH, your whining falls on VERY deaf ears because that’s all your terrorist buddies do: target civilians population centers, restaurants, buses, etc. RARELY military targets.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_bomb

… invading Lebanon at least three times over (30% of those who died in the last aggression against Lebanon were children under the age of 13 according to UNICEF),

Israel wouldn’t invade if terrorists stopped kidnapping and firing missiles into Israel. Believe it or not, Israel, like ALL countries have the RIGHT to defend themselves. BTW – The numbers of children who died is unfortuante, especially when the GOI warned residents to leave the areas where Hezbollah was firing rockets from (which, BTW is a war crime if that matters to you).

… facilitating the massacres of thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugees camp,…

Yes, I know. Israel gets blamed for Arab excesses. And the Lebanese Christians who did the murdering? What anti-Zionist and Leftist stooge ever demonstrated against them? > How many did Assad kill in Hama? Saddam kill in Iraq and Kuwait. I never hear people bring up these subjects;)

… being the only and longest occupying force in the world today, building an illegal wall twice as high as the Berlin Wall in the name of preventing terrorism,…

More mythology from the “terror apologist corner” of this forum:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_occupations

Tibet? And what about Syria’s occupation of Lebanon? Gee, that lastest for a loooong time too (that is, if we’re counting).

… the daily humiliation of thousands of Palestinians in their own land,…

Oh please, pass the tissue paper. And what could be more humiliating? Getting killed by Hamas or Fatah thugs these days? Where did that anti-Palestinian BBC news reporter go anyway? I hope he isn’t being “humiliated”.

… defying at least 68 UN Resolutions,

Yawn. UNGA resolutions are more common than pro-bin Laden supporters in Great Britain.

… doubling Israeli settlements illegally since 1993,

So what? Too bad is hasn’t quadrupled. BTW – The Palestinians were supposed to dismantle militant groups. Oh well. Coulda-woulda-shoulda.

http://www.jerusalemites.org/News%20In%20English/english/2007/January/221.htm

… the 11 August 2006 Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning “grave Israeli violations of human rights” in Lebanon, and many more human rights violations, international law violations, illegal detentions and imprisonments, systematic ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, repeated collective punishment of civilians, the continued possession of WMD including nuclear, biological, and chemical agents, and failing miserably and repeatedly to bring peace to Israel for over 60 years,

Does all this mean Arab anger may increase even more? I’m concerned;)

… then I swear I will bring democracy to your country, Syria, too. So be nice to me, now that my cover as a Syrian Agent has been blown by the genius extraordinaire.

As K (or his link) stated before: The Arabs will continue to be guilty of much worse: The Saddams, the al-Quedas, the Osama bin-Landens, the Assads, the Ahmadinejads, the Hamases, the Hezbollahs, the johadists, the insurgents, the fanantic clerics, the assassinations, the suicide bombers, the chemical attacks, the Scud missiles, the Katyushas, the Qassams, YET, the UN, the Leftist retards, and lastly, the CRY-BABY terrorist apologists and myth-creators will remain comfortably SILENT.

June 22nd, 2007, 1:24 am

 

norman said:

Yes his wife is English.

June 22nd, 2007, 1:25 am

 

Syrian said:

Ya Alex, Go sell this stupid “knowledge” nonsense to some other schmuck. WHo do you think you’re dealing with here?

Really man, the schmuck you’re trying to sell this nonsense to around here already bought into someone else’s nonsense.

June 22nd, 2007, 1:28 am

 

norman said:

I think ( schmuck) is a yiddish word for stupid , now we know who G is , at least A P does not try to hide his Hebrew heritage.

June 22nd, 2007, 1:54 am

 

Enlightened said:

Apologies for buying into an argument here, but is G’s IP adress the same as Akbar Palace?

Alex you can only answer this and anyone else with access to moderate the comment section.

Well tell me the suspense is killing me LOL

June 22nd, 2007, 3:16 am

 

ugarit said:

Akbar Palace: “The Saddams, the al-Quedas, the Osama bin-Landens, the Assads, the Ahmadinejads, the Hamases, the Hezbollahs, the johadists, the insurgents, the fanantic clerics, the assassinations, the suicide bombers, the chemical attacks”

I hope you do know that Ahmadinejad is not an Arab. He’s Iranian.

It’s disgusting what some of the s’s have done and will do, I agree; however, when one adds up the deaths caused by the s’s it will be a very small fraction of the deaths the US has exacted on civilians and not only in the middle east.

Our Osama is George W. Bush and our al-Qaida is the military wing of the US government.

June 22nd, 2007, 3:18 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened,

I just went through the last 15 comments and everyone is a real person with a distinct IP address .. even Berfect and Balace.

But I will tell you about the dinner I just had with a Syrian friend of mine who is visiting from Europe.

She told me that she loves creative Syria, but she is disappointed that I am not paying attention to the comments section because “everyone knows that all those who are commenting are Syrian intelligence gents”.

I think she meant Syria Comment and not Creative Syria. (she said the text has white background color. Creative Syria is either blue or Grey).

Idon’t know … Should we all publish our IP addresses?

But even then they will think we made up those addresses.

June 22nd, 2007, 4:07 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

the end of nahr al bared,with the victory for the lebanese army, is a victory to Seniora.
we all love to see Lebanon lives in peace,just like we like peace in Syria,after all they both are one people.

June 22nd, 2007, 4:20 am

 

Alex said:

G,

This is Dubai a decade ago, and this is Dubai today.

Those amazing buildings can appear in 10 years to make Damascus more to your liking (not mine, I like it closer to the way it is now).

Syrian bankers from Lebanon, like those who immigrated from Aleppo to Beirut in 1960, after Nasser made Syria socialist, can come back and help make Syria the success story that you would hate to see.

By the way G, Syria did not start the Iraq war … it did not ask Olmert to meet 4 months before the Lebanon war with his cabinet to plan the war they wanted to launch on Lebanon .. what you call “Syrian terrorism” is a small part of the troubles of the Middle East … everyone competing for his share of the pie is adding to “terrorism”.. and most of the killing and damage is the result of OTHERS trying to play dirty politics in the Middle East… the Syrians do not start bloody wars for nothing, they do not finance the Saudi Shiites to overthrow or separate from the Saudi kingdom. If they were really behind some of the political assassinations in Lebanon … take an excel sheet and enter in the first column the number of those Syria supposedly assassinated, in the second column enter those who died because of America’s mistakes as in Iraq, then in the last column enter Israel’s casualties from Palestine to Lebanon … then plot it and see for yourself who delivered 99% of the terror to the Middle East the past decade.

June 22nd, 2007, 4:28 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

Please re read my earlier comment about the Arab mind, it is a no win situaion about the intelligence agents, unfortunately in regards to your friends comments they are understanable, given the Security services history in Syria and other Arab security agencies. What this has resulted in I regret to say is a fearfull mindset akin to the Big brother syndrome or Orwells 1984, yes the thought police are out there, little do the Arab masses know that in the west we have more eaves dropping post 9/11 in every western country. It is a sign of the times and very sad.

However I came across something I was reading today and this was sent to me by a friend who I have known since I was six years old,he was getting frustrated with an association he is trying to set up and i want to share it with you all as it made me think then laugh.

” Before you criticise someone someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes” Frieda Norris.

Anyway that was my thought for the day.

Peace to all

It read

June 22nd, 2007, 5:10 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened,

Thank you for letting us know about those two additional benefits of walking a mile in someone’s shoes.

: )

As for those who are suddenly convinced that this is a Syrian Intelligence blog … I want to refer them to the real comments left by Syrian intelligence agents on Arab blogs (I don’t think they care about English blogs yet).

Typical comments by those gentlemen:

1) God will protect Syria against all those jealous from our beloved immortal president.

2) Syria has always been faithful to the Arab cause and all our brothers are grateful to the steadfastness of Syria’s courageous leader.

3) Walid Jumblatt’s origins are known. He is a known Israeli agent who is dirty and corrupt.

So, if my friend thought that Ford Prefect and Enlightened, and K are regime agents, then she should have been a big admirer of that regime that can set aside such an impressive quality of agents for Syria Comment alone.

June 22nd, 2007, 5:34 am

 

Enlightened said:

Agent Enlightened (talking into his shoe telephone ) signing off.

June 22nd, 2007, 5:55 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ugarit said:

… however, when one adds up the deaths caused by the s’s it will be a very small fraction of the deaths the US has exacted on civilians and not only in the middle east.

Our Osama is George W. Bush and our al-Qaida is the military wing of the US government.

You can equate the two if you want, but it wouldn’t be accurate.

Saddam’s killing fields/mass graves have been conservatively estimated
to accounts for around 300,000 souls. Iraq Body Count (an anti-Bush website that keeps track of civilian deaths) puts the numbers of dead civilians from the war at around 45,000 (I haven’t checked recently). IBC, for some strange reason, does not distinguish between civilian deaths caused by allied forces or from terror attacks. They also do not count deaths of armed “fighters”, suicide bombers, or insurgents. Lastly, IBC does not take into account deaths caused by Saddam’s “oil for food” scam, where Saddam pocketed millions/billions while Iraqis were getting no medical care, nor does IBC take into account Iraqis dead (thousands) from little wars with Iran and Kuwait.

Bush has a Looooog way to go to beat Saddam. But then again, who was screaming and shouting about Saddam when he was in power? Leftist and Jihadist “Waterboys” are good for nothing.

June 22nd, 2007, 11:23 am

 

Bakri said:

Alex,dont speak about hama, homs ,aleppo or damascus and their culture .Limit yourself to bashar,rami,monzer,maher,somar and co…

June 22nd, 2007, 12:51 pm

 

Alex said:

BAKRI,

Luckily, Syria [the country] is not waiting for the angry ones who boycott everything until they are in power.

It is easy to complain and criticize and express anger… some of us prefer to do something useful instead.

I’m sorry if your only question is [regime supporter or not regime supporter]. You know, in real life, there are more ways to judge people, their intentions, and their contributions.

June 22nd, 2007, 3:42 pm

 

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