Is Syria Putting a Price Tag on a US Brokered Peace with Israel? - Syria Comment

Is Syria Putting a Price Tag on a US Brokered Peace with Israel?

Is Syria setting a Price Tag on a US Brokered Peace with Israel?
By Ehsani2 and Joshua Landis
Syria Comment, 6 February 2009

Aleppine Textile Merchants

Aleppine Textile Merchants

No country has escaped the recent global economic catastrophe. The world is now caught in a vicious negative loop in which weakness begets more weakness. The Titans of banking are almost all insolvent.  Indeed, the recent global economic data have been breathtaking in their depression-sized declines. Although slow to respond, policy makers have recently thrown everything they have at the problem, but to little avail. Global wealth destruction has been too great and too fast to reverse. Stock markets have swooned by nearly 50%, losing some $30 trillion in wealth. The global drop in house prices is estimated to have caused a further $30 trillion in losses. The world’s pocketbook is $60 trillion lighter than it was a little over a year ago. This number is higher if one adds to it other assets that have also declined in value. The staggeringly large bailout packages are but a drop in the bucket when compared to the problem they are designed to solve.  At the beginning of the crisis, the consensus was that only the US would be effected by a problem that many saw as being distinctly American, but as 2008 wore on, it became clear that Europe and the emerging markets were being hit just as severely as the U.S. While the effect on individual countries has varied, no country has escaped unscathed.

What about Syria?

With an embryonic banking sector, low leverage ratios, and no stock market, Syria seemed ideally positioned to escape the brunt of the global rout.  But Syria has not been so lucky.  Gathering storm clouds are evident in the shifting statements of Syrian Government officials.

I list below a few examples of the worried pronouncements of Syria’s economic leaders during the last month.

Mohamed Al-Hussein (Finance Minister, Jan 26th): “If the Syrian economy slows down while the drought of the past few years continues, then the situation will be difficult” –

Two days later on the 28th, the Government decided to call a special cabinet meeting to “discuss the state of the manufacturing sector and the need to help and modernize it to help it confront the effects of the global economic crisis”

On Feb 3rd, the finance ministry issued a new decree restricting importers of Chinese products to stick directly to the country of origin. This measure was aimed at “protecting the local manufacturers”.

On the same day, the President issued legislative decree No. 6, establishing a commission for the development and promotion of exports.

Amer Loutfi (Minister of the Economy and commerce):  “The new challenges that Syria expects to face as a result of falling petroleum revenues, increased competition in global markets, and adherence to lower tariffs demanded by world trade organizations forces us to develop and diversify our exports and to help our domestic manufacturing base.

These statements and decrees indicate growing government anxiety. Syria is headed for difficult economic times. But it is Deputy Prime Minister for the economy, Abdullah Dardari’s interview with Reuters that really captures Syria’s revised economic outlook:

Here are some key quotes:

“The U.S. should lift its economic sanctions on Syria before relations improve between the two sides. The lifting of such sanctions will likely have a positive effect on increased foreign investment in the country”.

“Though the effect of the sanctions has been limited judging by the nearly 30% increase in foreign direct investment, the lifting of sanctions will remove psychological barriers for some foreign investors”.

On the subject of the impact of the global economic crisis on Syria, Mr. Dardari was blunt:

“Syria’s foreign trade makes up 70% of GDP and this means that the country’s dependence on external factors is very large. We are studying the ways this crises is affecting investments into the country. Syria hopes to attract investments in infrastructure projects that include energy, electricity, better roads and airports and it hopes to do this through a partnership between the private and public sectors.”

Mr. Dardari proceeded to specify that “Syria’s infrastructural needs are estimated to cost 50 billion dollars over the next 10 years.

In addition, Syria needs to build some 200,000 residential units within five years;  it must construct some 40,000 additional hotel rooms by 2015 in order to accommodate the expected 8 million tourists by that year.

Conclusions:

Syria’s politicians are much like those in other countries.  Few predicted the extent to which their economy would be hit by the global credit crisis. The Russian ruble is under serious attack by currency traders and has fallen more than ten percent over the last few days. On Wednesday, Kazakhstan was forced to devalue its currency by 25 percent. Scores of countries are experiencing the same economic losses.

While it is tempting to blame the global crisis for the inevitable economic weakness ahead, Syria’s manufacturing sector has been battling on a number of fronts for the past few years.  For decades, it enjoyed protection from foreign imports under a program called “national protection or Himaye wataniye“.  High tariffs on imports gave local producers a false sense of security as they sold inferior products at high prices.

Recent economic reforms have opened Syria’s doors to a great array of new imports; tariffs between Arab states have been eradicated, forcing Syrian manufacturers to compete with inexpensive imports for the first time. Chinese goods, falsely labeled as “made in the UAE” are now entering Syria with few mark ups. To make matters worse, the Syrian pound has risen in value against the dollar at the same time that the government has slashed subsidies on petroleum and electricity.  Local producers are reeling from these many challenges.

Government officials have responded with a few stop gap measures to protect local producers, such as restricting the source countries of products and by threatening to buy the products that carry suspiciously undervalued invoices. Importers commonly avoid paying import duties by low-balling purchase prices on their invoices for non-Arab produced imports. While such measures sound reassuring, they are notoriously hard to implement and police. Syrian import duties are simply too high and importers will continue to find ways to avoid exorbitant duties, whether by outright smuggling or by falsifying invoices. It is very hard to keep inexpensive foreign manufactures from getting into Syria. This is a war that local producers stand little chance of winning.

Syria needs to use the recent drop in commodity prices to devalue its currency and improve its export competitiveness. It also needs to broaden its tax collection base. This can be done by lowering exorbitant import duties that force merchants to cheat and by tightening income tax collection on the country’s wealthy and well off. If Syria’s burdensome system of subsidies is continued, the  government will have to find ways to rob Peter in order to pay Paul.

Mr. Dardari’s interview is noteworthy for two reasons.  Until recently, the official line of the Syrian government has been that the economic sanctions imposed by the United States were harmless because the country was able to attract the foreign investment it needed despite them.  Mr. Dardari now admits that the lifting of the sanctions will “remove a psychological barrier” to new investment.  Indeed, Mr. Dardari argues that the lifting of economic sanctions should be an important condition for resuming full dialogue with Washington.  One can only conclude that US sanctions have been a serious impediment to foreign investment in Syria and a drag on the economy. Undoubtedly, so long as President Bush was in the White House and calculating how he could hurt Syria, Damascus had to put on a good face and deny that sanctions were working, whether out of stuborn pride or simply to notify Washington that it would not “do a Qadhafi” or knuckle under to threats. Now that Obama is speaking the language peace and reconciliation, Damascus can be more honest.

While it is true that Damascus has incurred little foreign or domestic debt, the fact remains that Syria’s infrastructure must undergo massive improvements on the order of $50 billion over the next ten years in order to grease the wheels of commerce and keep its main industries, such as textiles, cotton spinning, plastics, cement, and canning from being done in by cheap imports. Oil refining, electric plants, modern ports, well built highways, and modern airports are all in short supply. Syria needs major capital outlays in order to prosper. Without proper infrastructure and dependable and inexpensive electricity, no company will chose to open a new factory in Syria. This is the first time that a Syrian official has attempted to place a price tag on the task at hand.  Attracting close to $ 5 billion a year will not be an easy, but it is not impossible if Syria’s stars are all alligned.

What are the political implications of Dardari’s statements?

  • Is the elimination of sanctions and $50 billion worth of infrastructure improvements a price tag being placed on a potential US brokered peace with Israel? Gulf countries, the World Bank, and other international investors and donors will undoubtedly be asked to contribute to Syria, whereas US taxpayers will have to subsidize the large compensation package that Israel will demand in for Golan.
  • Is Dardari floating a balloon in the never ending internal war between socialists and free traders? Is this only the latest chapter in the skirmishes between those officials who seek to protect vested interests in state-run companies, subsidies, worker unions, and Baathist politics and those merchants who want modernization, peace now, and pro-Western policies that place development needs over Syria’s regional role?
  • Is Dardari merely warning Syrians that they face tough times ahead?
  • Is he trying to shift blame for his inability to push economic growth to 7% by the year 2010, something he promised he would achieve five years ago?

Comments (109)


Innocent_Criminal said:

Ehsani,

I am not sure i get why would Syria have enough leverage to “demand” all this in return for a peace deal? they can’t even secure the land back, so do you think its realistic for them to demand all this finacial incentives as well?

February 6th, 2009, 8:28 am

 

offended said:

Dear Ehsani and Josh, very informative article indeed, thank you.

Do Syrian official have a solid and comprehensive plan for infra-structure development (what needs to be done first and for how much)?

Nonetheless, I felt remarkably better after I’ve learnt (though this article) that the government realize the antiquated state of our airports and roads, and is willing to improve it.

There should also be an oversight to immune this development plan against corruption, isn’t that imperative?

Also, what about military spending? Wouldn’t that be significantly slashed down after there’s peace? Wouldn’t that also save some money from being thrown into the bottomless pit of the army?

February 6th, 2009, 9:15 am

 

Shai said:

IC,

I think this article reinforces the likelihood that Syria will not allow itself to place preconditions on peace that involve the Palestinians too much, if by so doing it believes it will delay a potential agreement. Clearly, Syria will never allow itself to be deemed a 2nd-Egypt, but I think the current economic crisis will also make Syria far more likely to compromise on linking the two conflicts together.

On the issue of leverage, I’m not sure I agree with you. I believe the Obama administration will quickly come to realize (if it hasn’t already) that Syria’s contribution to the stability in the region is paramount. By simply continuing to nurture its relationship with Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah, and even Hamas, Syria is maintaining a significant leverage in the region.

February 6th, 2009, 9:25 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear IC,

I am not sure that Syria is “demanding” the financial incentives discussed above. Mr. Dardari seems to be demanding the lifting of the sanctions. He then uses the same interview to announce that his country needs $50 billion in infrastructure investments. This is why the article posed as a question and not as an explicit request.

Hello Offended,

Your points are well taken. From what I could gather, the number one priority is energy and electric power generation that the country urgently needs. I also agree that it’s refreshing to hear officials finally admit that a lot is needed rather than keep promising 7% growth endlessly.

February 6th, 2009, 2:01 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Shai,

Its nice when you say Syria will not allow itself to become a second egypt but you are not giving me tangible evidence on how it will achieve that. And you along with many are way too positive about what Obama will or even can do.

February 6th, 2009, 2:03 pm

 

Shami said:

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/domestic/10942362.asp?gid=244

Turkish prosecutors open probe into Israeli officials over Gaza operation
The chief state prosecutors office in Ankara opened an investigation into Israeli officials, including the president, prime minister and foreign minister, on the claims of “committing genocide and crimes against humanity” in Gaza, Hurriyet daily reported Friday.

February 6th, 2009, 2:57 pm

 

AIG said:

Great topic.

1) $50 billion is an understatment for what Syria needs. It probably needs three times as much. For Lebanon $40 billion was not enough and it is a much smaller country and less corrupt. Also, Syria is way behind Lebanon even with the consquences of the civil war. And its population is growing much faster. And, 40% of it is in agriculture.
2) Whatever the price of oil, in a couple of years, Syria will not have any to export and generate foreign capital.
3) Dardari wants Syria to have access to foreign debt markets. Because of the sanctions among other things, Syria has a very low credit rating and cannot get loans or issue bonds.
4) For all practical purposes Syria has only 2 ways to generate foreign capital: remitances from abroad and tourism. Both of these will fall while the world is in recession.

I think Syria is in a bind. If it takes foreign currency denominated loans, it will go bankrupt because it cannot generate enough foreign currency (even if it could get such loans). The awful drought we are having dooms crops like cotton that demand too much water. Even wheat suffers greatly. It cannot compete with China and others in manufacturing. It does not have enough natural resources. It is running out of water. It has only an advantage in tourism. But, that needs a huge investment too and also needs good relations with Europe and the US. I don’t think tourism plus remitances are big enough to support Syria. Some fundamental change is required or Syria will just fall apart eventually. It is not on any sustainable economic path.

February 6th, 2009, 3:50 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

A U.S.-Syrian rapprochement can snowball very quickly. The question is really about timing. If concessions are going to be necessary on the Gaza front (dealing with Hamas, opening up crossings) and in the West Bank (curbing settlements, etc.) then Israel may not be prepared yet to deal yet with Syria.

February 6th, 2009, 3:50 pm

 

Patriot2Syria said:

AIG, The picture you gave us looks very grim. What will happen to us and to our children? Would we dye of thirst and starvation? Should we escape from Syria?

February 6th, 2009, 5:08 pm

 

Shai said:

IC,

I believe that by involving itself in the Fatah-Hamas and Israel-Hamas conflicts, Syria is already doing more than Egypt has done after 1979. Plus, by the mere fact that Syria can point to the Israeli-Egyptian “peace”, and clearly state that without a just solution to the Palestinian problem, there will be no real peace with Israel, it is already differentiating itself from Egypt. Signing a peace treaty is not making peace, as we can clearly see with both Egypt and Jordan. It’s what comes afterwards that determines whether there will be peace or not, and I think here Syria can certainly warn Israel and Israelis that there will be a direct relationship between the two issues.

As for what Obama can or will do, I have no idea. The fact that Mitchell will be shuttling back and forth to the region, rather than Ross, is a good sign. The fact that American representatives have already sat with Syrian officials in Damascus, is a good sign. But what comes next, who knows. I would say, however, that Obama does seem to have a very different vision than his predecessor did, and at least he declares he’ll opt for diplomatic solutions far more than GWB’s administration did. Rumors also suggest that high level officials have been talking to the Iranians. So there’s room for optimism, I believe, but of course the difficult issues have yet to be addressed.

February 6th, 2009, 7:07 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

An informative commentary. But as several have intimated not an entirely definitive one.

From an overall regional political/diplomatic view either by ommission or commission one would have to say that Syria can sit tight and await offers more to its advantage than being brokered.

At the moment a “new Warsaw pact” is being formed by Russia; the President of Turkey is making a historic visit to Moscow; the Obama administration is being forced to reconsider its policies towards Iran because of Afghanistan and according to several Israeli analysts. “Israel is on the verge of being taken over by lunatics and is in dire straits”. And last but by no means least the Devos get together has ushered a socalled “new world order”

From a reading of the above indications suggest that the losers at the present in the Middle East are not the Gazans, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Turks, or the Russians. But then since its the Middle East well everyone sees the world through different lenses.

February 6th, 2009, 8:02 pm

 

jad said:

Good article Ehsani,Thank you. although I don’t see the link your question has regarding money and peace…other than that it’s an eye opening and good debate starter.

AIG,
You gave a realistic and good analyses and you are right in many points, $50billion is not enough for infrastructure of a country like Syria.

From a very humble and NON ECONOMIC SPECIALIST point of view;
I think this is where the Syrian government should start pushing Syrians to become more creative and really push hard toward this issue by supporting productive research and modernizing the whole way of thinking.
Tourism, agriculture, oil are not the only answers for a sustainable economy, the Syrian government should encourage ‘smart industries’ I think Pharmaceutical, green hightech, organic agriculture and recycling might be a good industry to use any loan they might get and start competing with them on the international stage. And I bet they win if they manage it right.
The water and energy shortages are the biggest challenges we face as a country and those two can be solved or at least become under control if we generalize the solar energy application as well as a national water control plan.

February 6th, 2009, 8:09 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Syria will not get loans .. Syria will be given grants.

Your Israel cost the united states so far hundreds of billions of Dollars, the Iraq war (again largely for Israel’s sake) will end up costing over one trillion dollars .. for what?

This economist estimated at 2002 Israel’s cost to the US at 1.6 trillions!

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/p16s01-wmgn.html

Imagine by 2009 what it reached.

Syria will get 50 billions and will do much more in return that Israel which contribute nothing but violence to the region.

Syrian WISDOM will be worth it AIG … it is something you have no idea how to value while you are busy with your GDP and F16s

Very simply, if Ehud Barak did not “get cold feet” with Clinton and Hafez Assad in 1999, by now we would have had no Iraq war … no Lebanon 2006 war … those 50 Billions for Syria will be the best investment that the Arab Gulf states will pay on behalf of America.

For your information, few decades ago, both Egypt and Jordan got tens of billions in reductions of their debt as gifts for their signing peace treaties with Israel.

I know Syria gets on your nerves, but in today’s money 50 billions is nothing.

Syria will easily get it.

February 6th, 2009, 8:23 pm

 

Alex said:

Thanks Ehsani and Joshua

This was very educational.

Ehsani … How do you think the Syrian people would react to a reduction in Syria’s currency against the dollar (that you are recommending)? … in Syria this is equivalent in people’s mind to a realization that the economy is in terrible shape … wouldn’t that generate excessive negative expectations that would end up costing Syria even more?

February 6th, 2009, 8:30 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

Thank you for the kind words on the article. I am delighted to hear that you liked it.

You are absolutely correct with regards to the potential ramifications of currency devaluation.

On the one hand, exporters will rejoice as their products can be priced more competitively. The government will also feel the reduced burden on its finances as it pays its local bills and salaries with devalued currency relative to its hard currency earnings. On the other hand, the vast majority of the people on fixed incomes will suffer as they pay for imported products with a weaker currency. Just like before, you will need to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The exchange value of the Syrian Pound is mostly a political decision. The strength of the pound has been synonymous with the strength of the economy and the country at large. In purely economic terms, this need not be the case of course. Take Japan for example. The latest strength of the Yen during the crisis has sent shivers through the Japanese political system as exporters have suffered in international markets. While economies suffer globally, most countries have looked to “weakening” their currencies to remain competitive in a brutal world economy with collapsing demand.

Syria is not a major exporter. The President’s latest decree however underscores the importance that the country started attaching to its export performance. It is with this in mind that I mentioned the devaluation of the Pound as an item for discussion.

February 6th, 2009, 9:57 pm

 

Alex said:

ألف ألف شكر يا أستاذ احساني

: )

February 6th, 2009, 11:03 pm

 

Enlightened said:

This is the best post that we have had in a while.

Ehsani, one has to wonder about the $50 billion price tag, whether this might be enough as AIG suggested. Currently in Australia the Federal government has put aside $85 billion in the last few years from the resources windfall it received to fund infrastructure improvement across Australia (to build metros’, transport links, expand port facilities etc), and quite frankly this figure is not enough even by our developed standards here.

So $50 billion is a small, very small sum in economic terms, although it would be a good start.

The government should prioritize however in this order:

1. Electricity generation.
2. Water extraction (desalination plants etc) or combine the two through civilian nuclear generation once peace is achieved ( and not to upset AIG’s and Akbar’s sensitivities)
3. Agricultural development ( Israel leads the world in water drip applications for agriculture and has done so for a very long time)
4. Infrastructure for ( rail, ports, and domestic transport)
5. Develop some key industries that might help its exporters derive some benefit from any future EU agreements that have been put on hold.

However none of this can take place with out some internal political and bearucratic reforms that tackle corruption and inefficiencies.

Alex: By the way Syria doesn’t get on my nerve like it does for AIG, there is a “hell” of a lot of potential within Syria especially in Tourism if one looks at it from a non belligerent perspective. A lot of my “older” clients tell me of the wonderfull, fun times they spent in Syria and Lebanon in 50’s and 60’s. ( they all preferred Lebanon however lol)

February 7th, 2009, 1:47 am

 

Alia said:

Shami,

Thanks for this information. It will be very interesting to see how far this legal action can go in the Turkish Judiciary . MAZLUMDER did good work in the Balkans a few years back…Let’s see.

February 7th, 2009, 2:14 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

how much devaluation? probably 50%.
50 bilion in 10 years is not much money.
Syria can ask for this money in return for making peace,this is an incentive.

February 7th, 2009, 5:57 am

 

Shami said:

Inshallah Alia ,

Even the secular liberal groups in Turkey actively take part to the aid campaigns for Gaza.

ISTANBUL – The Turkish Red Crescent Society and Doğan Media Group have organized a joint aid campaign for the people in Gaza to be broadcast on television.

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/domestic/10947213.asp?scr=1

February 7th, 2009, 10:47 am

 

HARBOOK said:

the real reason for the 50 billion
is that it would stimulate the economy
where every $1.00 invested in infrastructure
would return $1.59 into the economy.
obviously this forecast by moody’s relates to
US markets but at least syria is attempting
to learn from the difficulties in finance.
this is also essential to tourism growth…
the airport is horrendous and needs to
be demolished sheesh

February 7th, 2009, 2:15 pm

 

Ras Beirut said:

Great article. One area that should be given top priority is population growth. A major educational campaign in family planning should be launched. I think a successful campaign will go a long way in alleviating the long-term issues being raised.

I’m sure it won’t be easy, but you have to start somewhere.

February 7th, 2009, 4:20 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Ras Beirut

Syria should take example on Iran that, with proper incentives and education, have reduced the its population growth significantly.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has a comprehensive and effective program of family planning. While Iran’s population grew at a rate of more than 3%/year between 1956 and 1986, the growth rate began to decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the government initiated a major population control program. By 2007 the growth rate had declined to 0.7 percent per year, with a birth rate of 17 per 1,000 persons and a death rate of 6 per 1,000.” Wikipedia

Egypt June 2008 : Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali announced an $80 million family-planning campaign Tuesday, with the slogan “Two children per family — a chance for a better life.”
Is it never too late!!

February 7th, 2009, 5:27 pm

 

Alex said:

W-D

in 1979, Jihan Sadat, wife of ate president Anwar Sadat got interested in introducing Egyptians to family planning (tanzeem el-7aml?).

The first year was …. not good. She was called the worst names you can imagine. It was a mistake to let her be the spokesperson for family planning and birth control education.

By now Egyptians are used to it.

I wonder if Syrians (in 2009) are ready for someone to talk to them about family planning.

The internet is there for them to learn if they wanted to know about the how and why not …

How can the state make a difference?

February 7th, 2009, 9:03 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

This economist estimated at 2002 Israel’s cost to the US at 1.6 trillions!

Alex –

“This Economist” doesn’t have a clue.

WSJ Columnist Overstates U.S. Aid to Israel by Almost $1 Trillion

In an Oct. 8 column entitled “Getting to Know Our New Buddy: OPEC,” Wall Street Journal opinion writer Holman Jenkins overstated U.S. aid to Israel by almost a trillion dollars. He wrote: “By one count, Americans have spent nearly $1 trillion on this cause since 1973 (and another $1.7 trillion in defense of Israel)” (emphasis added).

According to statistics available in the U.S. Agency for International Development U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants annual (also called the “Greenbook”), total U.S. economic and military expenditures on Israel (including loans and grants) were $79.1 billion from 1973 to 2001. Military expenditures alone (loans and grants) were $49.7 billion in the same period. This source is available on-line at http://qesdb.cdie.org/gbk/index.html.

When presented this information, Mr. Jenkins responded by citing a Spring 2003 Middle East Policy article by an economist named Thomas Stauffer to back up his $1.7 trillion figure (“The Cost of the Middle East Conflict, 1956-2002: What the U.S. Has Spent”). But, as economist Howard Fienberg noted in the Washington Times (Dec. 22, 2002), Stauffer’s data “present[s] half the story,” because while “inflating the costs of American support for Israel, he ignored the discounts and many benefits.” Thus, while Stauffer considers all the ostensible costs that Israel is heaping on America (including such far-fetched items like aid to Egypt and Jordan), he neglects the savings that America received in return. For example, Fienberg writes that “thanks to Israel’s pre-emptive action in 1981, Mr. Stauffer does not have to consider one more frightening cost–that of an Iraqi nuclear bomb.”

In addition, Fienberg wrote that Stauffer included any loan or loan guarantees as costs, predicting–without evidence–that Israel would default on its loans and the U.S. would have to cover the principal and interest.

According to Fienberg, Stauffer also “counts ‘economic damage’ inflicted on the United States. He blames Israel for the Arab oil embargo, because the United States came to Israel’s aid when Arab states tried to destroy it in 1973.” Stauffer blames the recession on the oil embargo, despite the fact that many factors–such as reduced American productivity–played a role.

Among other deceptions, Stauffer also outrageously counts private contributions from American Jewish individuals and organizations–totaling as much as $60 billion in grants or bonds. He complains that those donations are a “net drain” on the U.S. economy.

In fact, U.S. annual aid to Israel is about the same as what we spend to defend South Korea, and far less than what we have spent annually to defend Western Europe since 1945. If money is at issue here for Jenkins and Stauffer, why are they harping on aid to Israel and ignoring the far larger amount of money spent to subsidize the defense of South Korea, Japan and Western Europe, including our less-than-stalwart French allies?

Given that Stauffer’s figures are controversial at best and outright deceptive at worst, CAMERA urged the Wall Street Journal to print a clarification regarding Mr. Jenkins’ article. However, an editorial page editor declined to run a clarification, stating: “This looks to me like a case of dueling statistics, and both sides can make a fair claim to being accurate.”

How can these “dueling statistics” both have a “fair claim to being accurate” when Stauffer absurdly adds aid to Arab countries as part of aid to Israel?

The usually fair Wall Street Journal missed the boat this time.

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=8&x_nameinnews=133&x_article=596

A conservative estimate of direct aide: $108 Billion 1949 – 2006

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14083.htm

UN to probe Hamas for use of children

Now that’s a topic I’m SURE we’ll get a lots of comment on…

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304702123&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

February 7th, 2009, 10:48 pm

 

Alex said:

عالية مشان الله جاوبيه لاكبر بالاس الزكي

February 7th, 2009, 11:02 pm

 
 

norman said:

Things are moving in syria’s favor,

Hof to be named new US ambassador to Syria
By Sami Moubayed, Correspondent
Published: February 07, 2009, 23:00

Damascus: Frederic C. Hof, who currently serves on the National Advisory Committee of the Middle East Policy Council, will be the new US ambassador to Syria, according to sources here.

His appointment to a post that has been vacant since 2005 signals a new page in Syrian-US relations, which are expected to improve under President Barack Obama.

The new US leader has repeatedly signalled a willingness to engage with Syria to bring about regional peace, words that have been echoed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since mid-January.

The US withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2005, after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Harriri. During a visit to Syria in December, former US president Jimmy Carter said that a new ambassador would be appointed once Obama began his term of office.

——————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————–

Hof is the former director of Jerusalem field operations for the Sharm Al Shaikh fact-finding committee headed by then-senate majority leader George Mitchell.

In 1983, as an officer in the US Army, he drafted a report investigating the October bombing of US Marines at Beirut International Airport.

In the 1960s, he served in Vietnam, and then as a Middle East foreign area officer, studying Arabic in Tunisia, before becoming army attaché in Beirut, and then working in the Office of the Secretary of Defence as a specialist on Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestinian Affairs.

In 1990-1993, he served as a mediator on water rights issues between Jordan and Israel. He has written extensively on Middle East affairs, one of the most influential being Beyond the Boundary: Lebanon, Israel and the Challenge of Change.

Factfile:

– Frederic C. Hof is the former director of Jerusalem field operations for the Sharm Al Shaikh fact-finding committee.

– In 1983, as an officer in the US Army, he drafted a report investigating the October bombing of US Marines at Beirut International Airport. n In the 1960s, he served in Vietnam.

– In 1990-1993, he served as a mediator on water rights issues between Jordan and Israel.

February 8th, 2009, 12:36 am

 

Alia said:

A.P.

I thought you were giving your grey matter a break today! ( and our nerves). The economist !! Fienberg your article is quoting so finely does usually market research on any topic you hire him to do. It is not as if his specialty is international financial aid So I wonder who hired him to do this “so called research”.

The whole thing is put together so contentiously you can see that there is an agenda- what does he mean that private donations frm individuals and organizations should not be counted- as far as I can tell up to 2005 private donations form the US were equal to the “stated” public aid which did not include the loan guarantees and gifts.

Sorry I have to go out- I hope to read more of your fascinating post when I get back…

February 8th, 2009, 12:38 am

 

nafdik said:

Thanks Ehsani, Josh for this excellent article.

Mr Dardari has been a very refreshing voice of candor and reason that we rarely see in Syrian officials.

I am not sure devaluing the currency is a good idea, the devaluation will have the following results:

– Inflation that will wipe-out most of the competitive advantage desired

– Capital flight

– Loss of faith in the currency leading to block of any future loans or investments made in the SYP

– Reduction in the real wages of government employees (this could be a positive development if it is the intent of the devaluation). Other wages will adjust to reflect their real market value and follow the inflation.

February 8th, 2009, 1:17 am

 

Observer said:

I liked the post this time as it did a good description of the macroeconomics of Syria. I would add another problem though and that is the loss of jobs of the expatriate community in the Gulf as their economic situation contracts.

Foreign affairs has a very good issue that I just read quickly through indicating that the economic decline in the West will accelerate the shift of power to Asia, and will also be associated with a loss of credibility of the Western model of at least financial structure. This is crisis of the system at its core.

I am glad that the cost to the US taxpayer in supporting Zionism is now under some scrutiny. If one counts the direct donations both private and public and counts the indirect cost of maintaining all the military posture through the cold war and beyond and finally the staggering cost of the Iraq war; it is clear that this is a huge enterprise indeed.

My questions for Ehsani if he has information are:

1. What is the status of the Israeli economy in view of its dependence on a healthy West

2. What is the status of the Saudi economy in view of the huge drop in the oil price and especially in view of their enormous young population that is coming of age looking for jobs and work and education and housing.

It is interesting how the original alliances of Israel in the region which aimed to bypass the Arab world have turned 180 degrees with Turkey and Iran now in the hostile camp ( with differences ) and the close Arab regimes and I insist the regimes are in favor of an accommodation with Israel in the form of Jordan and Egypt.

So here is the latest good reading

http://conflictsforum.org/2009/imagined-affinities-imagined-enmities-the-strange-tale-of-iran-and-israel/

One final question, whatever happened to the Hariri tribunal?

February 8th, 2009, 2:22 am

 

norman said:

Ehsani , that is a great assessment , Thank you,

De-valuating the Syrian pound seems to be a great idea , It will help Syria build it’s infrastructure by giving the contracts to Syrian companies using Syrian labour , in addition to improving export as others mentioned ,

We have to remember that China keeps it’s currency devalued so they can keep their export advantage , The Us had problem with China about that until recently ,

The 50 billion is a small price the West and the US should pay for resettlement of the Palestinians in syria as that will be the price that they will ask from Syria,

February 8th, 2009, 4:13 am

 

Shai said:

Qunfuz,

Thank you for the article. Yes, I also agree with it, and of course understand how difficult (and perhaps impossible) mobilizing tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would be. But I have three points to make:

1. Adopting non-violence doesn’t mean you must give up any form of violent resistance. Here I agree with Joe M. – if I was a Palestinian, chances are I’d also belong to some militant group fighting for my freedom. But, I’d also understand if some of my people claimed non-violence could achieve more.

2. I think Gandhi was more powerful (certainly in the eyes of his adversary) for continuously preaching non-violence, more so than for actually practicing it. And, as the article suggests, the British knew that behind every single british soldier stood tens of thousands of Indians. And the British had seen the consequences of massacres already. What’s missing for me, is the Palestinian “Gandhi” that will achieve this image (and gain enough support by this people). The gain could be tremendous, I am still sure of it. Even if some armed groups continue to resist by force.

3. How do I know that massive gatherings / protests, that are repeated again and again, from town to village, time after time, could work? Because I once heard a lecture in the Army demonstrating precisely how the IDF has no answer to such an occurrence. The lecture gave an example how an entire settlement in the Gaza Strip (Kfar Darom) could be taken over by a mob of a few thousand women, children, and elderly. With all the high tech weaponry, world-class intelligence, and even trigger-happy soldiers, the conclusion the Army reached was: there was NOTHING we could do! The IDF might have planes that can kill 250 people in a single day (that horrible first Saturday in Gaza), but it is still not “built” for ground massacres.

But I reiterate, I too would fight…

February 8th, 2009, 4:53 am

 

Alia said:

A.P.

Did you actually read that article that you linked?

The ” oh so promising title has nothing to do with the content: This in effect what Mrs Coomoraswamy has to say on the matter:

“We have not yet dealt directly with the human shield issue, but we will now mention it in our reports,” Radhika Coomaraswamy said in an exclusive interview following a four-day visit to the region.

“It is still very difficult for us to say that it was actually happening and we still need to conduct a full investigation into what exactly took place… but we are not denying that it happened; it is absolutely possible that Hamas was using its civilians as human shields,” she said.

However, Coomaraswamy said that the UN’s policy not to meet with leading members of the Hamas government – because it was officially considered a terrorist organization – seriously hampered all types of humanitarian relief work in the Gaza Strip.

============

February 8th, 2009, 5:21 am

 

Shai said:

Alia,

I don’t know if there are international rules and regulations pertaining to militant resistance movements fighting for their people’s freedom. That Israel, and other interested parties, are attempting to equate Hamas with a regular-style army, serving on behalf of a people with a nation, and thus point to its own “crimes” of using humans as shields against the IDF, doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate discussion. If I were Hamas (or the Palestinian people), I wouldn’t argue that I never used human shields, I’d argue that I’m not an army, and can’t be judged as one.

Btw, I challenge anyone to show me a single army in the modern era that fought its entire war on its own territory, and DIDN’T use its own population, its own cities, towns, and villages, as “shields”. To the wise ones who’ll try to say “Israel” (AP, AIG, I know you’re dying to…), first, Israel’s military history is such that almost without exception battles took place on its rival’s territory either within hours, or days, of the start of its wars. And second, where do you think Irgun, Etzel, Lehi fighters hid most of the time from their British foe? In open fields? Or in homes, synagogues, schools, and hospitals?

I know hypocrisy is a trait normally reserved to bearded men who just don’t seem to want to die, but occasionally, maybe we can also suffer a little from it… no?

February 8th, 2009, 6:17 am

 

Shai said:

Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv are reporting that in return for Gilad Shalit, Israel is willing to release 1,000 prisoners, including Marwan Bargouti. If true, this could be a very interesting (and hopefully positive) development. Many high-level officials, including top security ones, have long argued that Bargouti should be released, in order to offer a better alternative to Mahmoud Abbas. At a certain point, even the puppet-master can occasionally realize he’s created a puppet… Barak is apparently doing everything possible (using Turkey’s help) to get an agreement for the release of Shalit before the elections 48 hours from now… Always good to have a few extra seats, no? It’s not about politics, nah.

February 8th, 2009, 6:33 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Shai,

How dare you accuse politicians of playing politics with people’s lives? You should be ashamed of yourself 😉

February 8th, 2009, 8:19 am

 

Shai said:

IC,

Yeah… I know.

February 8th, 2009, 11:59 am

 

norman said:

The US is opening up to Syria,

Report: US providing parts for Syrian airline

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 8, 2009
DAMASCUS, Syria: A Syrian government newspaper says the U.S. Trade Department has agreed to provide Syria with spare parts to rehabilitate two Boeing 747 planes out of service for years.

Sunday’s report by Al-Baath newspaper could signal a move by the new U.S. Administration to reach out to Damascus and end an economic embargo of Syria.

Al-Baath quoted Syrian Transport Minister Yarub Badr as saying his ministry received the U.S. approval to repair the two planes two days ago.

An official at the U.S. Embassy refused to comment on the report.

In May 2004, then-U.S. President George W. Bush issued an executive order banning all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine.

February 8th, 2009, 2:07 pm

 

offended said:

Spare parts?

Can’t wait for the porn and the condoms.

February 8th, 2009, 2:30 pm

 

Alia said:

Shai,

To my knowledge in order to decide that civilians are being used as human shields, you have to show intent- this is usually done by gathering specific incidents with eye-witnesses willing to testify against those who have used them as such and then an investigation with the accused party…

More generally, the politicians everywhere taking advantage of the human tendencies to be indoctrinated, to react in a knee-jerk fashion and to blame rather than investigate, a whole language has been developed that does not stand scrutiny but is nevertheless efficacious. With the average, American, Israeli, European – the repetition of words like human shield, terrorist organization, Islamist regime, insurgents, WMD, antisemitism, Holocaust denier…. results in a knee-jerk reaction that is very comfortable in letting people respond in the way they “need” to, like a herd.

Look at the headline of the article and its effective content.
AP clearly did not read this article, he was just happy with the title.

I know what Mrs. Coomoraswamy is saying: If we cannot talk to all the parties involved including Hamas we will not be able to decide whether they did or did not commit intentional crimes, we will not be able to give effective aid, and more importantly we will aggravate the situation within Gaza.

WE do not have to live like cattle. The only solution is knowledge and fearlessness.

February 8th, 2009, 2:57 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Jad,

In your response to AIG, you said:

Tourism, agriculture, oil are not the only answers for a sustainable economy, the Syrian government should encourage ’smart industries’ I think Pharmaceutical, green hightech, organic agriculture and recycling might be a good industry to use any loan they might get and start competing with them on the international stage.

Surely you’re right but how does one “encourage” all of the industries you are calling for. You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run, etc.

February 8th, 2009, 3:23 pm

 

Shai said:

Alia,

Amen to that! I see what’s happening right now, right here in Israel with Yvette Lieberman the fascist pig that is closing up on Kadima/Likud with more seats than he’s ever dreamed of, despite his racist remarks, and endless (and ongoing) investigations into corruption. He’s brainwashing so many people with his “No Loyalty, No Citizenship” crap, and no one’s paying a single moment of thought into his message. Indeed cattle… not a molecule better.

February 8th, 2009, 4:58 pm

 

AIG said:

Patriot2Syria,

The water problem is shared by everybody in the middle east and the only solution is desalination. However, that is expensive and requires much investment. Israel will go that path BUT will also significantly reduce agriculture. Other countries may be more afraid to do this because they cannot be sure to have the foreign currency to buy food from abroad. The biggest mistake is sitting on the fence and doing nothing. Because then you wreck your aquifers and make the problem much more difficult.

The demographic problem is especially difficult in Syria and Egypt. Something has to be done NOW. There is no time to wait with that. As an authoritarian state Syria could do something just as China did, but it is reluctant. The Chinese “miracle” would not have happened without the one child policy. Syria has zero chance of improving if it does not limit population growth significantly and immediately. Why not implement the Iranian program which is very successful?

With globalization and with the ability to open factories wherever investors want, Syria has to significantly reduce corruption and build infrastructure before people decide to open a factory there instead of Vietnam or China. For this, democratic reforms are needed and leaving the “resistance camp”. I see no other way.

If you are a Syrian patriot you should do two things. First, try to solve the problems. Second, make sure you have an option to live somewhere else if the regime chooses to ignore them.

February 8th, 2009, 5:04 pm

 

jad said:

QN,
Thanks for the reply,
Actually in Syria, they have couple of the mentioned industries are already in progressive, the pharmaceutical and the organic agriculture and both are doing ok, the problem they face are marketing, the legal challenges and not enough investment to push them to the level where they become a major industries to support the national economy.
The government part in encouragement could be by easing the bureaucracy for specific industries giving very low interest rate long term loans, and above all have a clear vision of the goal to create a parallel base for ‘smart industries’ to grow quick to a level where internationally Syria become a hub for that particular market.
(You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run, etc) I agree but IF they have the will and the vision, they can do it. ‘smart industry’ market is not burned yet and we should take advantage on that.

February 8th, 2009, 8:01 pm

 

offended said:

Here are people we can learn a thing or two from:

A $10 Laptop In India?
by Nathaniel Whittemore

The tech blogosophere is aflutter with news that Indian government officials are planning to announce a new $10 laptop as the centerpiece of an ambitious e-learning campaign to connect thousands of colleges around the country.

From the Guardian:

The computer, known as Sakshat, which translates as “before your eyes”, will be launched as part of a new Rs46bn “national mission for education”. This envisages a network of laptops from which students can access lectures, coursework and specialist help from anywhere in India, triggering a revolution in education. A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system.

The only specs they’ve released suggest that the laptop will have Wi-Fi and about 2GB RAM. Although Indian companies has a history of launching super cheap products (such as the Tato Nano $2,500 car) there are many who are skeptical that the computer can actually be produced as cheaply as is being suggested:

Rajesh Jain, managing director of Netcore Solutions and a pioneer of low-cost computing in India, said: “You cannot even [make] a computer screen for $20. And India does not build much computer hardware. So where will the savings come from?”

I hope that the Indian government is actually able to deliver on this. They only have a prototype and no manufacturing partner right now, but regardless, the downward pressure on the computer industry is a good thing. One Laptop Per Child hasn’t been the magic bullet it intended, but it’s certainly opened a conversation about cheap computing that is incredibly important. There need to be financially viable computing options for the developing world. And even though I think mobiles will get people online faster than computers, there are still serious advantages for people having a cheap, capable laptop.

http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org/blog/view/a_10_laptop_in_india

February 8th, 2009, 8:09 pm

 

jad said:

QN, just for fun!
Marketing, Syrian style!
This is the answer to my hallucinations………..

http://www.champress.net/?page=show_det&select_page=1&id=34805

February 8th, 2009, 8:40 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

How far should Syria go in devaluing its currency?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7865259.stm

: )

February 9th, 2009, 12:23 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Zimbabwe is a basket case. It is a totally different proposition.

Syria’s devaluation is by no means a clear cut case. I simply mentioned it as an item for discussion. The strength of the Pound has hurt exporters and the government coffers. But, it has helped cushion against more inflation as subsidies were lifted.

February 9th, 2009, 12:33 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

It should be slow moderate and accompanied by Raising salaries and compatible with the decrease of prices of commodities .faster pace will push people to run away from the Syrian pounds to forign currencies , one of the risks is that investors might become reluctant to invest in Syria if they feel that their investment will lose value by the exchange rate.It has to be very slow and stay steady when it reached it’s goal , I wonder if it would be better by letting the pound float in the open market and increase spending which will decrease the value of the pound.

February 9th, 2009, 1:16 am

 

Enlightened said:

Beirut Named best destination to travel in 09 by New York Times:

Heres the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/11/travel/20090111_DESTINATIONS.html?8dpc

Read it and weep my Syrian brothers!

February 9th, 2009, 2:59 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one ,

Did you see this ,from LA Time , Alex put it up , HA HA ,

From LA Time, Syria is top 10,

Syria

Some trips you actually take; others you take only in your mind, which may be the case with Syria. The U.S. State Department says it harbors terrorist organizations and notes that it has been the scene of anti-American demonstrations.

So why does everyone I know who’s been there — including archaeologists and foreign correspondents — say that Syrians are friendly to Americans and that tourists have not been the targets of violence?

They also say it’s a Middle Eastern idyll, at the heart of the ancient cradle of civilization. Syrian cuisine, highlighted by hundreds of varieties of mezes, or appetizers, must be tasted to be believed, and the country’s souks or marketplaces teem with treasures. Best of all, isolation has left it untrammeled and intense. I don’t know how long that will last, so I want to go now.

My dream Syria tour would take in the capital Damascus with its Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites; the ruins of ancient Palmyra, where legendary Queen Zenobia mounted a rebellion against Rome in the 3rd century; Aleppo, a Silk Road trading mecca with a seven-mile-long covered souk, citadel and nearby Simeon, the Stylite monastery where the ascetic early-Christian saint lived atop a pillar for 37 years.

http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-tr-ultimateworld8-2009feb08
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February 9th, 2009, 3:09 am

 

Enlightened said:

LOL Ammo Norman:

No I cant say I remember it, but yesterday at my sisters wedding we were seated next some very old family friends his wife is Syrian, and guess what the topic of conversation was “Syrian , Lebanese cuisine and sites within Syria, needles to say my wife Sue and our old family friends got on like a “house on fire” as they both new the subtleties and both have frequented Syria on many occasions.

The family friend swore blue and blind that Syria was a better tourist destination, while her husband a die in the heart beiruti, kept giving her the look.
This brought up the old question of when I was going to visit, and they both urged my wife to ensure that I visit within the next two years.

It was very interesting.

February 9th, 2009, 4:13 am

 

why-discuss said:

Re: Frederic Hof possible US ambassador to Syria

American Perspectives on Hezbollah
July 25, 2006

\”Both addressed the possibility of Hezbollah trying to create a broad Sunni-Shi’a alliance. While Perry did not believe that Hezbollah is trying to create a Sunni-Shi’a bloc, Hof argued that Hezbollah is seeking to transcend its Shi’a identity and appeal to Sunni Arabs, noting that there is currently widespread Sunni support for Hezbollah\”

He turned out to be right.. Hamas?

http://www.mideasti.org/summary/american-perspectives-hezbollah

February 9th, 2009, 10:11 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Ehsani and Joshua,
As usual, yours is an excellent article. I was concerned however with the end result of the 50 Billions price tag, which to my understanding focuses on maintaining existing industries such as textiles, canning, and cotton spinning. Are we talking about industries producing for internal consumption or industries that have a shot at exports. We have discussed some of the problems plaguing Syrian industry and industrialists a while ago, and I am concerned anytime Syrian merchants get their way, most of their focus is on import not exports, and one gets the sense that tax cheating practices described in the post are mostly relevant to imports. Even when a merchant decides to venture into industry it is usually simple consumer product industry with the least amount of processing such as perfumes, clothing, or the like.
Jad keeps asking about industries and I will again second his concerns as I agree with him. Much of the value in today’s Syria is in real-estate and/or agricultural land. A couple of extended droughts and few dry wells will result in losing a significant portion of the agricultural wealth (as investment), and unless investment is made to irrigate more land with less water (improved efficiency) Syria’s food imports will skyrocket and will become a dominant portion of the trade balance/imbalance with no source of currency for food stuff purchase, the country needs to invest in reinventing its industrial base as well as it needs a hard look at its agricultural base. I suspect that within 20 years, Syria’s cotton farming will face a major challenge regarding whether to maintain it or convert the highly water consuming crop to other types of cash crop or food crops out of mere necessity and with that result in eliminating textiles and cotton spinning as major industries. There is obviously much need to re-think how to target foreign investments and how to selectively attract quality investments that yield high paying jobs and sustainable economic growth. I have no clue as what these targets should be, but my gut feeling tells me that hotels and big real-estate developments that most Syrians can not afford are not the type of targets a nation should focus on. A national level policy must be adopted whereby investment is not only used to accommodate the needs of the growing population, but primarily to develop new frontiers. Syria must develop industries that are essential for the well being of higher industries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. This would be the crawling step QN talked about. I am always distressed when my friends and relatives who have some reasonable savings go back home and add to their real-estate portfolio yet another empty apartment at an increasingly expansive distance from the city center. I keep asking, so who is investing in industries, who is developing the next line of non-trivial exports, who is investing in developing the next medical center or pharmaceutical research facility so that licenses originate in Syria, and the questions keep lingering with no answers.
I am not sure that Syria’s development can be separated from its regional role. A vision of the country as both a center for commerce and a place where highly skilled labor force is ready to take on evermore challenging enterprises is not the vision of a merchant. Merchant’s planning horizon is two years at most, and such mentality is not conducive of advanced industry. Syria can probably devalue the currency with all sincere intentions, but unless we diversify our industrial base and venture into more advanced industries, the country will end up relying on tourism as its only major source of income. I do not want Syria to turn into pure service economy country, it is not sustainable, nor desirable. It is the type of economy where the shrinking middle class will disappear completely.
Finally, the Syrian government and its partners, with their insistence on controlling the internet and its infrastructure are preventing the country from accessing a wonderful opportunity to develop an information technology industry. There is no point in educating the thousands of computer science majors in Syria if they can not build IT firms because of the lack of access to fast lines and selective blocking of certain sites, and absolute control of outward traffic. I think this monopoly-censorship policy, whether by the government communication agency or its private partners is one of the major hindrances that prevent the country’s highly capable technical workforce from joining this wonderful sector of economic progress. It is about time it stops. It runs counter to every declared principle by the Syrian president, who was the chair of the Syrian Information Society at some point in time.

If by any chance I was misled, please correct me, I love nothing more than to be wrong in what I just typed. All of it.

February 9th, 2009, 11:27 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Many valuable comments were made above.

It will be very interesting to watch how Syria navigates and structures its economic future to address the challenges ahead.

The task at hand is not easy. The country’s very identity is at stake. There are no easy solutions. Making the correct decisions is going to need bold leadership that can put the country’s long term needs above what seems more acceptable in the short term.

Bold leadership and the avoidance of half-pregnant measures are going to be prerequisites for success.

In a future post, a list of such measures will be discussed.

February 9th, 2009, 2:32 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

I suppose before “dreaming” of Syria to become a centre of modern industries the country has to get first its “legal” system to a decent level (property laws, corruption to a acceptable level etc) and achieve peace with Israel. The society must function relative well and have no great external threats before the big industrial investors get interested. Nobody wants to invest billions to a petrochemical plant if there is a danger that Israel in the coming years will come and “teach a lesson”.

I would not undermine the tourism industry’s importance. Many nations especially among Mediterranean countries have accumulated their national wealth by tourism, which they then have used to more developed and demanding industrial enterprises. Tourism is rather labour intensive and it also feeds a large commercial and service sector. Also tourism doesn’t demand especially big investments nor highly trained labour. The coast of Turkey, Spain etc would be rather poor regions without tourism. But now they are wealthy regions and the money transferred from the pockets of tourists has been invested in to “real industries”.

Syria’s best opportunities with industrialization are linked to oil and gas. Syria is on the natural route to link the Gulf regions oil and gas resources to pipelines delivering oil and gas to Europe. But also Israel has big oil dreams. Israel has for example a oil pipeline (goes near Gaza) Trans Israeli pipeline to bypass the Suez canal. It was originally made in the 70’s to deliver Shas’ (Iran) oil from Eilat to Ashkelon and Haifa to be delivered further.
http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=71893
Also USA and Israel have some dreams of delivering Iraqi oil to Haifa.

The “big” problem is will Israel tolerate really developed Arab/Muslim countries in the neighbourhood. It is not so “certain” as we can see with the hostility targeted against Iran. Iran has been able to create a relative convincing industrial basis. Israel is not afraid of the few nukes Iran could in the future develop. Israel (and some Arab nations) is afraid of economically strong industrialized Iran. Surely a nation of 66 million with huge amount raw materials would in normal circumstances be superior over a nation of 6 million (7 – Arabs as Lieberman wants).

Amusing example of the “industrial” propaganda by Israel is that story Greece holding ship bound for Iran over missiles on board . The story tells about 80 tons of CK22 steal on board, which Haaretz says can be used in missiles. CK 22 steel is a simple standardized product (EU norm number for it is EN 10083, the U.S. equivalent is SAE 1020, 1023). Any decent steel mill produces these, including Iranian. More in
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2009/02/another-scary-iran-story.html

February 9th, 2009, 4:05 pm

 

idaf said:

Ehsani, Joshua,

Excellent analysis as usual.

The 50$ Billion price tag is too low. Iraq was sanctioned to paying $50 Billion dollars to Kuwait and other gulf states after Saddam’s invasion that lasted months (see Sami Moubayed’s story below).

Milking the Golan for 42 years and counting should have a much much larger price tag (regardless if it has to be paid by Israel or those who supported her occupation).

A commitment for couple of Trillion dollars of similar compensation to the Palestinians could actually be a formula for sustainable peace settlement on its own between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinian state which would be the beneficiary will have an existential interest in a stable and economically strong Israel (no more wars and shooting rockets across the boarder). A similar argument could also be made the other way around.

Debt as a unifying power in Iraq
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – In one of his classics, Syrian political playwright Muhammad al-Maghout speaks of a village unified by one central cause, living on occupied rich farmland usurped by a traveling settler.

The village chieftain is unable to liberate the occupied territory, and is held increasingly responsible for being unable to deliver. He decides to inject his village with petty rivalries, playing people against each other, to force them to forget – or get distracted from the one cause that unites them.

The play received a standing ovation when it was performed in Baghdad in the 1970s, and perhaps Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki attended it as a young man, or saw its reruns on television, during his long exile in Damascus. What he is doing today is the exact opposite of what the chieftain did; rallying Iraqis around a unifying cause that makes them forget their petty rivalries while hailing him for speaking of their collective national interest.
..
..

February 9th, 2009, 4:05 pm

 

idaf said:

An interesting related story on the economic transformation taking place in Syria..

Emerging from economic shadows
Stephen Glain

For years, Zhouheir Yassar Sahloul was the most powerful rogue trader in Syria. As the head of the country’s largest money changer, he was the linchpin between Syria’s struggling, isolated economy and its huge diaspora that remits billions of dollars a year to families back home.

In a country that was saddled with strict foreign exchange laws, it was Mr Sahloul’s agents who ensured Syrian merchants had enough hard currency to do business with partners overseas.

In 2005, when the Syrian pound was on the verge of collapse because of regional political tensions, the Syrian government turned to Mr Sahloul because the country’s central bank lacked the resources to support the currency on its own.

All of this was happening underground. Money changers were illegal but tolerated in Syria, particularly when it came to heavyweights such as Yassar Sahloul and Sons. Ordinary citizens would troop to Mr Sahloul’s offices with plastic shopping bags swollen with banknotes and the authorities would cast a blind eye.

That is changing, however. In recent years, a reformist government has liberalised the Syrian economy and Yassar Sahloul and Sons is now a licensed foreign exchange trader. In June, it will launch an Islamic bank with a Yemeni partner and a capital base of US$100 million (Dh367m). Mr Sahloul hopes that someday Yassar Sahloul and Sons will be the holding company for a diversified concern that will include shipping and property investment assets, as well as banking and finance. Everything will be registered with the government.

“My vision is for a group of companies with the right combination of advisers and a smart board of directors to guide us through investments like real estate development,” he says. “It is important to have outsiders as part of an independent board.”

Such a passion for transparency is just the kind of thing the Syrian government is promoting as it tries to flush its vast underground economy to the surface. In a country with a long history of commercial expertise, there is no shortage of family-owned mid-sized companies employing several hundred labourers and generating tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue.

But given the country’s clannish customs and a deep suspicion of the central government, which in any event lacks the resources to go after tax evaders, much of that economic activity is unreported.

So the Syrian government is trying to strike a deal with entrepreneurs such as Mr Sahloul. It has already cut income taxes by up to 33 per cent and is now offering a special tax rate of 2.5 per cent of the value of any assets registered from 2008 to 2010. In an effort to add depth to the Syrian stock exchange, which is due to begin trading in the summer, it will knock that rate down to 1 per cent for assets offered for public trading.

“This issue is very important,” says Mohammed Hussein, the finance minister. “Most Syrian companies are family-owned and we’re trying to coax them out of the shadow economy.”

Syrian newspapers these days are full of stories about well-known family-run companies that are agonising over whether it is time to come in from the cold. Mr Sahloul, for one – although not, apparently, with the wholehearted support of his family – embraces the daylight.

Since Yasser Sahloul and Sons was awarded its licence a year ago, the company has dutifully submitted its daily reports of all single transactions valued at more than $10,000, part of a new regulatory framework aimed at combating money laundering. It has declared its asset values and last year it submitted its first annual report to regulators.

Together with Tadhanoul Bank of Yemen, Yassar Sahloul and Sons is launching an Islamic bank with a shared equity ratio of 39 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, with the balance to be listed on Damascus’s new bourse soon after it opens its doors.

Mr Sahloul is eager to pursue corporate clients in addition to the retail business, such as car loans and mortgage lending, that so far dominates Syria’s fledgling financial sector. In the meantime, he is restructuring the company’s shipping assets – the first family business established by his father in the 1960s – as well as its portfolio of property investments.

“When you compare things to the way they were just a few years ago, there have been some dramatic steps forward,” Mr Sahloul says. “But it is virgin territory in the more sophisticated products.”

Mr Sahloul has 12 siblings. Five of them have seats on Yassar Sahloul and Son’s board and their spouses are deeply involved in the company’s affairs. When asked how the rest of the family feels about his reform agenda, he becomes uncharacteristically vague. “It’s not easy moving a family-owned company into a corporation,” he says. “There will always be members of the family in opposition, but the majority shares my view.

“In this process I have made some mistakes. I have tried to learn from those mistakes but unfortunately there are family members who focus on the mistakes and nothing else. But I am confident we will continue to go down the route I am recommending.”

In general, according to economists, state-controlled economies in the process of deregulation are lucky to achieve flat growth. Since it launched its reform drive in 2004, Syria, owing to a combination of luck and judicious reforms, has managed an average annual growth rate of 5 per cent and is expecting another 5 per cent increase this year.

But many Syrians are concerned that the rush to modernise – including the expected signing of a landmark trade agreement this year with the EU – might lead to the abandonment of traditions built up over centuries.

Mr Sahloul is keenly aware that his own reform campaign might end with the break-up of his father’s company as well as a painful family schism. The only thing worse for his clan and his country, he says, are the costs of standing still.

“When you become a corporation, the decision-making process gets spread out among different departments. It shouldn’t die upon the death of the owner. I am trying to ensure this company will survive me.”

February 9th, 2009, 4:08 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

Having heard of the old story of the Levantine six year old in a math class respond to the teacher’s question of how much 2+2 is? Responded, “it depends on whether you’re buying or selling”.

I would proffer the not asked for advice on “putting a price tag on a US brokered peace” that Syria demands “an amount equal to the trillion dollars the US has given Israel” since its establishment in the old British Mandate of Palestine as a a good faith effort and knock off 10% if the whole is signed sealed and delivered in 90 days.

February 9th, 2009, 6:05 pm

 

jad said:

Dear OTW,
Thank you for the explanation and obviously understating my points, I’m glad for your help in adding more valuable notes and suggestions, I’m a big fan of your comments! 🙂
I personally don’t think a reduction in the currency would help an agricultural country like Syria, since we sell raw materials.
I agree with you and Simo about the legal system and the necessity of taking steps to get rid of the economy-political-monopoly which is number one reason for investors to run away from Syria followed by corruptions.

Ehsani, you wrote
(It will be very interesting to watch how Syria navigates and structures its economic future to address the challenges ahead.)
I believe that we don’t have to just watch we can help do more if we all agree on raising our concerns and humble ideas straight to the top and start a constructive conversation by writing an open letter on this site to either the president or to the prime minister instead of just waiting, it might sound crazy but it’s the simplest thing we can do to be heard.
May I suggest to Alex and Prof. Landis to summaries all the valuable ideas we got out of this humble discussion and publish it as an open letter? Is that possible?

February 9th, 2009, 7:40 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

I had long argued that Mr. Dardari’s optimistic economic forecasts will prove to be off the mark. The global economic crisis made things worse to be sure. However, even without the effect of crisis, the long term direction is untenable.

Due to woefully low purchasing power, standards of living are under stress.

http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=90306

The comments are as interesting as the article.

A significant and bold change is needed.

February 9th, 2009, 8:15 pm

 

offended said:

Quiet revolution in the playground

By Madeleine Morris
BBC News, Jerusalem

Tucked discreetly at the end of a car park, in between a Jewish and an Arab neighbourhood, Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand school is effecting a quiet revolution in Arab-Jewish relations.

In Israel, nearly all educational institutions are segregated – Arabs in one school, Jews in another.

But at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem, each group makes up exactly half of the student population.

The has recently grown in size, and now has 460 pupils attending its largest campus in the neighbourhood of Patt in southern Jerusalem. The Jewish and Israeli Arab children study side by side in both Hebrew and Arabic.

The school’s philosophy is clearly producing a genuine affection and understanding.

“Kids need to meet the other side more,” says Jamie Bregman, a Jewish Israeli who, now aged 15 and in ninth grade, was one of the school’s original class intake.

“If you ask a kid from a regular neighbourhood “What’s an Arab?”, he’d say a worker or a suicide bomber, and that’s not right at all. They’re like us, they’re human beings. They just need to meet each other.”

The general election on Tuesday 10 February is clearly weighing on the children’s minds.

Jamie’s friend, 14-year-old Aboud Ayyad is particularly worried about what the outcome will mean for him and his Arab friends and family.

“The elections won’t do a lot for either side,” he says.

“If Tzipi [Livni] or Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] get in, they’ll just do exactly the same and it will be bad for Arabs.”

Difficult choices

Aboud predicts that in the next 10 to 15 years many Arabs will leave Israel and the Palestinian territories because it will become harder to move and work, especially in the West Bank and Gaza.

“They’ll just go to Canada or America and Israel will become more Jewish,” he says.

Avery Burrows, aged 12, is already fed up with politicians.

She says she doesn’t talk about politics much with her parents who immigrated to Israel from America.

But as she sits playing with the hair of her Arab friend Areen Nasheef she is adamant about the quality of the country’s politicians.

“No-one’s really good enough to run this country,” she says defiantly.

On the subject of Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, Jamie, Aboud, Avery and Areen are all agreed.

Avigdor Lieberman’s hardline policies on security and the country’s Israeli-Arab minority have grown in popularity amid a general swing to the right among an electorate strongly supportive of Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza.

His policies include the proposed introduction of a law demanding Israeli-Arabs pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state.
“Avigdor Lieberman shouldn’t even be in this country. He’s really racist and no-one should vote for him,” says Jamie, shaking his head.

Areen is visibly upset by the subject.

“It makes me feel bad, what he says about Arabs. He says we’re not connected to Israel, and they want to take us off this land which belonged to us before. So how can they take one of the most important parts of this country and make it into only a Jewish state?”

At the age of 12, Areen is already articulating the frustrations felt by Arab-Israelis, who make up 20% of the population, but are underrepresented in all public spheres, including the Knesset, the country’s parliament.

Genuine friendships

“I don’t blame my Jewish friends for what happened in 1948, but I do feel that this was mine before,” Areen says.

“I was born here and grew up here and I am a citizen. But every time I feel like I’m enjoying the country the other side of me feels as though I shouldn’t because they took my grandparents’ land and they killed people.”

Mustafa Hssean has been in the same class as Jamie for the past nine years and the two clearly share a genuine affection and friendship.

But Mustafa’s views on the recent conflict in Gaza are just as clear.

“I think both sides are stupid. Every time Hamas sends rockets to Sderot the Jews hate more Arabs, and every time the Jews bomb Gaza, the Arabs hate more Jews,” he says with resignation.

His greatest fear is that in 15 years from now the state will throw him and the rest of the Arab community out of the Israel, declaring that it is not their land.

His smile belies the weight of the words coming from his 14-year-old mouth.

“This is my home. I have to be here. I love this place.”

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/7879505.stm

Published: 2009/02/09 17:38:54 GMT

© BBC MMIX

February 9th, 2009, 11:57 pm

 

norman said:

This is intersting and promising,

A Syrian cure to Mideast travails
http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/09/02/10/10283932.html

02/10/2009 12:00 AM | By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News

The much-loathed US-embargo on Syria is weakening, thanks to joint efforts of Washington and Damascus in acting in good faith since the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in January. The initiatives started when Syrian President Bashar Al Assad sent Obama a congratulatory letter on his inauguration, promising cooperation on a basket of Middle East issues, mainly regional peace.

This offer was followed by two back-to-back speeches by the Syrian leader, on BBC and at the Doha Summit over Gaza, stressing that Syria was ready for peace and wanted to cooperate with Obama, for the sake of restoring the occupied Golan Heights to their rightful owners. Al Assad has said he hopes the new US leader will be different from his predecessor.

Last week, the US approved the rehabilitation of two Boeing 747 airplanes on the Syrian fleet, turning a blind eye to the Syria Accountability Act, which prohibits American government and companies from doing business with Syria. The Syrians broke the news, adding through several Syrian websites, that “sources” in the US had confirmed that Obama was reviewing the law.

The Syrians realise that lifting the sanctions at once will be difficult, since it takes time to do away with provisions after they become embedded in US law. The sanctions on Syria are picked from a menu, however, and what can be done is establish a “de-ticking” process in which they are lifted on a gradual basis, in anticipation of removing them altogether.

Another welcome step for the Syrians would be the removal of Syria from the state sponsors of terrorism list. That would be easier, since this does not need Congress, and is related to the State Department. Sending a new ambassador to Damascus is also a must, filling a post that has been vacant since 2005.

In January, a team from the Congress-funded US Institute of Peace (USIP) visited Syria and met Al Assad. It included Ellen Laipson, a former adviser under Bill Clinton and a member of the Obama team, and Bruce Jentleson, an adviser to ex-vice-president Al Gore, who described the meeting in the following words: “His phrasing [Al Assad’s] was 70 per cent of our interests are potentially shared and 30 per cent are not. And he said: let’s work on the 70 per cent.” Shortly afterwards, a senior Congressional delegation landed in Damascus, headed by Adam Smith, a Democratic member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. In a significant remark before leaving Syria, he expressed America’s willingness to turn a new leaf in relations with Syria.

Former president Jimmy Carter is expected in Damascus in the next two months for his third visit in one year, and is to be followed by Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, after the forthcoming Israeli elections. Another senior delegation is expected on February 17, followed by a high profile visit by Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Clearly, the Americans are seeking solutions to the Middle East crisis through Syria. After many years of deliberate neglect under George W. Bush, the Americans realise that if they want solutions to Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iraq, they need Syria’s help. That doesn’t come without a price as the Syrians have always said and that price would include: removing sanctions imposed on Syria by Bush, starting a dialogue with Damascus, hearing out Syrian worries, and giving Syrians the Golan Heights.

Smaller gestures would be finding a solution to the issue of 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria, and ending the media war against Syria in the Western press, spearheaded previously by the US.

Renewed peace talks are a must, but they cannot be bilateral, either direct or indirect, between Syria and Israel, after what happened in Gaza. The Syrians are waiting to hear of a comprehensive peace plan from the US leader, or as some are putting it, a continuation of the Madrid dialogue, chaired by Obama. They also think that any mention of Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah cannot be a pre-condition for peace talks.

Syrians want to be seen as problem-solvers rather than problem-seekers. They want to show the world – mainly the US – that just as they can deliver on Palestine, they can deliver in Iraq and Lebanon. Former US secretary of state Warren Christopher wrote in The Washington Post about his encounter with Syria in the 1990s and how the country influenced the leaders of Hezbollah to stop the conflicts with Israel in 1993 and 1996. He said: “We never knew exactly what the Syrians did, but clearly Hezbollah responded to their direction.”

The Syrians can still “do things” in the Middle East and Obama seems to understand that well, and is learning fast from the mistakes of his predecessor.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine.

February 10th, 2009, 1:21 am

 

HARBOOK said:

I love Helen Thomas. Did anyone
catch her underhanded question on
Israel. It’s amazing how nuclear
policy wonks won’t admit to the
existence of nuclear weapons in one
“nation” but will fore-warn against
it’s existence in another. That seems
like state schizophrenia. Existence
is an interesting word isn’t it,
especially when one is taking about
two theocracies. Is this moral
relativism or moral nihilism?

February 10th, 2009, 3:06 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

He avoided the question,he knew that she was refering to Israel.

February 10th, 2009, 3:10 am

 

HARBOOK said:

i got the same word (connect)
in the spam-box. spam is full
of goodness, even in a box.

what is not good is how in our foreign
policy we use the same tired ideals that
have brought us into this mess in the
first place! a nuclear bomb is type of
bomb…that’s what it is…
i’m tired of people on the other side
getting so caught up in zionist ideology
that brought us here. we can talk about
rational disagreements on issues, but
these theories have proven to fail.(drinks from glass)
Why would I follow the same policy advisors
who got us in 2 wars and funded religious
intolerance to the teeth, huh. I was in
Gaza today and saw these people under blockade
with no jobs, no healthcare, without a real chance(lowers voice)
these are the people we need to help, and only
our government can do that. We are the people we have been looking for.

or so i wish

February 10th, 2009, 3:33 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Harbook,

Did Helen Thomas say anything about the Israeli and the Iraqi elections and how they might be a good idea in other Arab countries?

I didn’t think so.

February 10th, 2009, 12:49 pm

 

norman said:

Syria Faces Triple Economic Whammy
Tue, Feb 10 2009, 03:48 GMT
http://www.djnewswires.com/eu

Syria Faces Triple Economic Whammy

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syria is bracing itself for a tough financial year as drought, falling oil exports and losses by state-owned industries aggravate the impact of the global credit crunch.

Finance Minister Mohammed al-Hussein has admitted the economy faces “a very difficult year” and says the worldwide financial crisis “combined with the drought” which is parching Syria for the third year in a row makes him “very worried” about the outlook.

An economy ministry study forecasts that the credit crunch will cause a 30% drop in foreign investment, along with price increases plus a fall in remittances from Syrians working in other countries, worth $850 million in 2008.

Analysts also highlight the plunge in the price of crude oil, the country’s main source of income, and a fall in all the country’s exports. These sank by half in the final months of 2008 and could weaken again in 2009.

Syrian crude oil production dropped 2.8% last year and was down 7.6% from 2007, the Middle East Economic Survey reported.

Syrian manufactured products are no longer competitive with goods from China, India and South East Asia, especially following the scrapping of government subsidies, according to Edouard Mkarbne, vice-president of the chamber of trade in the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s economic hub.

The authorities are also worried by the difficult position of state-owned businesses, which are a drain on public finances.

“Of 260 public sector companies, only about 20 generate revenue for the treasury,” Hussein said, highlighting the national oil company, the commercial bank and the telecoms operator. The others make a loss or just break even.

Syria has launched major reform policy granting the private sector a bigger role in the economy, including setting up a stock exchange where dealing is scheduled to begin next month.

Industrial businesses, particularly in textiles, were long considered a jewel of the economy, but many have been badly hit.

“Scores of factories have closed down in Aleppo in recent months,” Al-Iqtissadiya economic weekly reported.

Investment by oil-rich Gulf countries, which boosted the economy, “may slow down,” entrepreneur Razek Mamarbachi said.

Syria “is posting losses because of the fall in crude oil exports and in non-petroleum exports, particularly textiles, and the possible shrinking of investments by Gulf countries,” economist Nabil Soukkar said.

“On the other hand, it will benefit from lower prices for imports of petroleum-based products and raw materials,” he said.

Abdallah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic matters, says Syria needs $14 billion of investment in the next two years to ensure the economy grows at the targeted rate.

The World Bank forecasts Syria’s economic growth at 2.5% in 2009, half of last year’s rate, while the International Monetary Fund projects inflation at a mighty 14%.

To counter these trends, the authorities have announced measures to support domestic industry, such as lowering fuel prices and creating an organization to develop exports.

“The new challenges that Syria faces because of the fall in oil revenues force us to develop and diversify exports,” said Economy Minister Amer Hosni Loufti.

Click here to go to Dow Jones NewsPlus, a web front page of today’s most important business and market news, analysis and commentary: http://www.djnewsplus.com/access/al?rnd=BuCmGFFQrc67Caa%2Fmp1lvQ%3D%3D. You can use this link on the day this article is published and the following day.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 09, 2009 22:48 ET (03:48 GMT)

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

February 10th, 2009, 1:08 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AP,

Do you mean the elections that led to Hamas’s victory?

February 10th, 2009, 1:08 pm

 

norman said:

الحكومة ترفض منح الجنسية لأبناء المرأة السورية .. ومشروع معدل في البرلمان الاخبار المحلية

محمد حبش: الحكومة رفضت المشروع خشية تسلل توطين الفلسطينيين من خلاله

علمت سيريانيوز أن أعضاء في مجلس الشعب يستعدون لتقديم مشروع قانون معدل يقضي بمنح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية بعد أن رفضت الحكومة مشروعا سابقا قدم إليها.

وقال عضو مجلس الشعب محمد حبش في تصريح لـسيريانيوز يوم الثلاثاء إن “الحكومة وقفت ضد مشروع القانون الذي قدمناه سابقا حول إعطاء المرأة السورية الحق في منح الجنسية لأبنائها”, مشيرا إلى أن “الرفض الحكومي جاء على خلفية ما اعتبرته تناقضا مع قرار لجامعة الدول العربية وافقت سورية عليه ويقضي بعدم منح الجنسية للفلسطينيين”.

وكان 10 من أعضاء مجلس الشعب, بينهم حبش, تقدموا بمشروع قانون أواخر العام الماضي يتضمن منح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية, حيث يعطي القانون السوري الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أب سوري فيما يحرم من يولدون من أم سورية حيازة الجنسية, وذلك على عكس ما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم.

وكشف حبش عن عزم الأعضاء الذين تقدموا بمشروع القانون السابق “التقدم بمشروع قانون جديد ينص على منح الأم الجنسية السورية لأبنائها بما لا يتعارض مع قرارات الجامعة العربية”, مشيرا إلى أن ” المشروع الجديد سيتلافى مأخذ الحكومة على المشروع القديم والقائم على خشية تسلل توطين الفلسطينيين من خلاله”.

وترفض سورية كما هو الحال بالنسبة لكل الدول العربية توطين اللاجئين الفلسطينيين على أراضيها احتفاظا بحق العودة لهم إلى أراضيهم التي نزحوا منها بعد الاحتلال الإسرائيلي لها.

وأعرب حبش عن أمله أن” لا تعارض الحكومة مشروع القانون الجديد”, مشيرا إلى أن “هذا القانون سيرفع الظلم عن المرأة السورية ويمكنها ويعطيها حقها”, مشيرا إلى أن ” السوريين ملتزمون بقرارات الجامعة العربية إلا أننا بإمكاننا من خلال تعديل مشروع القانون إعطاء الأم السورية المتزوجة من أي شخص غير فلسطيني حق إعطاء الجنسية لأبنائها”.

وتعتبر قضية حق الأم السورية في منح أبنائها الجنسية مثار جدل بين العديد من الحقوقيين والاجتماعيين وعدد لا يستهان به من أصحاب هذه المعاناة, حيث يعتبر أبناء السورية التي تتزوج من غير سوري أجانبا ولا يتمتعون بأي حقوق يتمتع بها المواطن السوري.

وتطالب سوريات ممن يعانين من هذا الأمر بحقهن في نقل الجنسية السورية إلى أولادهن أسوة بما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم، وخاصة في الغرب، حيث يتزوج بعض العرب من أجنبيات بغية نيل الجنسية لهم ولأولادهم من بعدهم.

لوركا خيزران-سيريانيوز

2009-02-10 13:30:12

February 10th, 2009, 2:09 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Not your Mother’s style of Democracy

AP,

Do you mean the elections that led to Hamas’s victory?

Eshani2,

Absolutely, although I’m not sure what happens if you vote for the wrong party. I’m hearing stories of Fatah loyalists getting murdered by the democratically elected regime thugs. Elections are great when there is no opposition. Syria is a prime example.

BTW – when is the next election in Gaza? I’m wondering if the Hamas victory will increase their support.

February 10th, 2009, 2:14 pm

 

norman said:

Our Dr Landis is in the news,

Syria may hold key to Middle East peace
William F. O’Brien
The Edmond Sun

February 09, 2009 10:55 pm

— The fact that President Barack Obama saw fit to appoint a special envoy to the Middle East, former Sen. George Mitchell, as one of the first acts of his presidency may be indicative of how important the goal of bringing peace to that region is to his administration. And many observes of the Middle East believe that if an understanding is reached between Syria and Israel the stage will be set for a comprehensive peace throughout that region.
One of the more knowledgeable persons regarding Syria and the Middle East is University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis. He serves in the OU School of International and Area studies and also oversees an influential Web site “Syria Comment” that monitors developments in Syria and in neighboring states.
In recent months, Landis, who is fluent in Arabic and French, has conducted interviews with international visitors who have come to OU that have been broadcast on the national pubic radio affiliate on the OU campus. He is also often quoted in national and international publications regarding Syria and the Middle East.
In the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, and the return of that land has been its major foreign policy goal since that time. Landis recently explained how Syria plays a role in several major areas in the region. They include the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, since Hamas is based in Syria, terrorism, because Syria uses Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups in support of its claim to the Golan Heights, and Iraq, since warriors from North Africa and Saudi Arabia who go to Iraq to fight against the American-backed coalition travel through Syria to get there. But in exchange for the return of its lost territory Syria may be willing to change its policies and play and work with the U.S. to bring stability to the area. Landis said the late Syrian President Hafez Assad, father of the current President Bashir Assad, almost reached a deal with Israel in the late 1990s that would have resulted in the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. The negotiations took place in Geneva and were overseen by President Bill Clinton, who later wrote in his memoirs that the Israeli government of Ehud Barak refused the deal at the last moment.
According to Landis, the government of Israel had similar misgivings about returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1979, but then President Jimmy Carter managed to convince Prime Minister Begin to relinquish in return for an infusion of American financial aid. Egypt agreed to recognize Israel after the return of that territory and the two nations have been at peace since that time
Landis recently explained how there were informal discussions between Israel and Syria that indicated those two adversaries possibly could reach some type of agreement that would include the return of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for Syria agreeing to recognize the Jewish state. Those negotiations were conducted with the assistance of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
The Euphrates River flows through both Turkey and Syria and Landis reports that Erdogan indicated that his government was willing to give Syria greater access to that waterway if it agreed to recognize Israel. The discussions also included a proposal that would have allowed Israel to maintain a site on the Golan Heights so they could monitor Syria’s military forces and also a U.N. peacekeeping force being stationed there as well. And Landis believes that if the U.S. were to support such an agreement that it could serve as a basis for peace between Israel and Syria.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

February 10th, 2009, 2:14 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

AFESD Chairman to sign agreements with Syrian gov”t – source

DAMASCUS, Feb 10 (KUNA) — Board chairman of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Dr. Abdullatif Al-Hamad, is scheduled to sign several agreements in Damascus on Wednesday with the Syrian government, a local media source reported on Tuesday.

The source told Kuwait News Agency KUNA, that Al-Hamad will arrive in Damascus tonight, where he will hold talks with Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Utri, and several government officials.
After meetings, the two sides will sign an agreement to finance the third stage of the Arab Gas line, which transfers gas from Egypt to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey and from there to Europe, and financing road projects, and the expansion of the electricity plants in Southern Syria.

Al-Hamad and the Syrian officials will concentrate discussions on projects discussed on the sidelines of the Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait last month.

AFESD finances important sectors in Syria, like electricity, roads, water, and sewage plants. The volume of loans presented by AFESD to Syria are estimated to more than KD 600 million.(end) tk.asa KUNA 101656 Feb 09NNNN

February 10th, 2009, 4:19 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

World tribune website headlines Gen. Hof as US ambassador to Syria.

link:http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2009/ss_syria0115_02_09.asp

February 10th, 2009, 4:22 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Another anti-semitic article from the Arab media. Gee, what a surprise.

This is certain to disturb the Yefeh Nefesh and the Peace Co-Director …

http://www.timesofoman.com/view_point.asp?details=on&ratopic_nd=238

February 10th, 2009, 5:06 pm

 

Alia said:

Interesting report from al- Jazeera, while the textile industry is suffering from the global economic downturn, the Pharma industry is experiencing it in a positive manner .

انعكست الأزمة المالية العالمية على صناعة النسيج في سوريا التي تعد عصباً هاماً ومصدراً أساسياً للدخل القومي في البلاد.

وبرزت تداعيات الأزمة مع ظهور تقارير عن إغلاق نحو ثمانين مصنعاً للنسيج أبوابها بسبب ازدياد الضغوط على أصحابها نتيجة الأزمة المالية العالمية، إضافة إلى ما تشهده هذه الصناعة من معوقات وصعوبات.

وحذر إدوارد مكرنبة نائب رئيس غرفة صناعة حلب من أن العديد من المصانع الصغيرة والورشات الصناعية في مدينة حلب مهددة بالإغلاق نتيجة الأزمة العالمية. وأشار مكرنبة إلى أن انخفاض أسعار المنتجات في الدول الأخرى وبخاصة النسيجية، والانفتاح الذي يشهده السوق السوري والذي جاء بلا ضوابط وبدون حماية للصناعة الوطنية أديا إلى هذه الأزمة.

وقال مكرنبة هناك الكثير من المعامل لم تتوقف بشكل كامل ولكن توقفت بشكل جزئي. وأضاف أن الصناعيين بدؤوا يتخلون عن أرباحهم السابقة والتي تتجاوز نسبتها الـ30% ليقبلوا بـ5-6%.

واستبعد المحلل الاقتصادي عدنان عبد الرزاق نجاعة الإجراءات الحكومية، مشدداً على ضرورة إيجاد خطة إسعافية للصناعة باعتبارها قاطرة التنمية.

من جهته أكد مدير شركة السعد الدوائية سعد الله كردي أن الصناعات الدوائية هي أقل قطاعات الصناعة تأثراً بالأزمة وقال لا يستطيع الناس الاستغناء عن الدواء، مضيفاً أن الأزمة المالية العالمية كان لها أثرُ إيجابي في انخفاض أسعار المواد الأولية للصناعات الدوائية فما كان يستورد بخمسمائة دولار للكيلو لبعض المواد الأولية الآن أصبح سعره 150 دولارا.

يشار إلى أنه يوجد في سوريا 48 معملاً دوائيا، بينها 32 معملاً في مدينة حلب توفر 85% من حاجة السوق السورية من الدواء.

وأقرت الحكومة السورية في جلستها الأسبوعية الثلاثاء الماضي مجموعة من الإجراءات لحماية الصناعة السورية استجابة للمذكرة التي رفعها الصناعيون.

وتضمنت إجراءات الحكومة السورية من بين أمور أخرى تسهيلات مصرفية ومالية من خلال إعفاء قروض الصناعيين المتعثرة من الغرامات وفوائد التأخير في حال تسديدها حتى نهاية العام الجاري.

يشار إلى أن الصناعة السورية تشكل حوالي 26% من الدخل القومي.

February 10th, 2009, 5:34 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

A definitely non anti-semitic report in Israeli press.

Headline News
Monday, February 09, 2009 Israel

Netanyahu promises to keep Golan, undivided Jerusalem

In a final campaign push prior to Tuesday’s general election, Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu told supporters on Sunday that if elected prime minister, he will not allow the surrender of the Golan Heights or the division of Jerusalem in exchange for dubious peace deals with the Arabs.

During a tree planting ceremony on the Golan marking the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat, Netanyahu stated: “Jerusalem will not be divided again and … the Golan will stay in our hands only if the Likud is victorious. If Kadima wins, we will leave the Golan.”

Asked about this week’s media reports of an imminent Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas that would include the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Netanyahu dismissed them as propaganda designed to boost the chances of his opponents.

Netanyahu warned that using Shalit to win additional votes could actually diminish chances of securing his safe release.

The Likud leader was highly critical of the Olmert government following the recent Gaza war for not making the downfall of Hamas one of its objectives. Instead, Israel has now been put in a position of having no choice but to negotiate indirectly with the Islamic terror group.

February 10th, 2009, 5:50 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

“This is certain to disturb the Yefeh Nefesh and the Peace Co-Director…”

During the Gaza massacre, I distinctly recall telling you that antisemitism will rise as a consequence, and you responded by suggesting it would drop… In Hebrew we have a saying: “You cooked it, you eat it!” Are you surprised there are antisemitic (anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli) sentiments across the Arab world?

But to be honest, on this day, as Yvette Lieberman’s fascist racist party is about to become Israel’s 3rd largest party, with a plan to provide Israeli-Arabs a “Loyalty Test” which, if failed, will lead to the renouncement of their citizenship… And YOU dare bring up some antisemitic article written somewhere, in the midst of the Gaza massacre? There’s another saying in Hebrew, it’s called “Chutzpah”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it…

February 10th, 2009, 6:04 pm

 

AIG said:

Since remittances are such an important factor in the Syria foreign currency mix, a devaluation of the Syrian pound could actually hurt foreign currency reserves. This is counterintuitive as a devaluation would help exports. BUT, if the pound is devalued, there is a lag before inflation catches up with the devaluation in which Syrians abroad need to send LESS foreign currency home to get the same purchasing power. So the size of the remittances relative to the additional expected exports need to be considered before a devaluation is decided upon.

By the way, what is the black market value of the Syrian pound relative to the official value?

February 10th, 2009, 6:33 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AP,

It is very touching and heartening to hear that you care so much about “stories of Fatah loyalists getting murdered”.

February 10th, 2009, 6:40 pm

 

HARBOOK said:

Akbar Palace,

you’re a snarky little guy. hmm a question for a question. i’ll answer that no she didn’t ask about elections. so that’s supposed to get me thinking about a country writhing in civil war that kills it’s own citizens, or one that kills it’s neighborlings.

how about iran. they have competitive elections, which i’m sure you’re aware of as a scholarly fellow.

how about i ask you a question…why did Meir Kahane say that “democracy and judaism are two opposite things. One absolutely cannot confuse them.” or more pointedly, how are the Jewish state and the democratic state anathema?

cheery-o, thanks friend.

February 10th, 2009, 7:18 pm

 

Alex said:

Why Did Obama Diss Helen Thomas?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/why-did-obama-diss-helen_b_165544.html

MJ Rosenberg
Director of Policy for the Israel Policy Forum

I love Helen Thomas. During the past eight years she was the only reporter who stood up to Bush, took on this rotten war, and, in general, acted like a journalist. Last night, the great hall looked like it was populated by a president, a reporter, and 11th graders from local high school newspapers. I think I saw a cub reporter from the Dillon, Texas high school paper. (sadly, not Lilah Garrity).

Ms. Thomas’ moment came when she asked the president about nuclear proliferation. Her question ended with the query: does he know of any Middle Eastern state with nukes?

Why did she ask that? She asked it to see if Obama would refuse to respond as previous presidents have. The answer is Israel, of course. And everyone knows it. In fact, the State Department has published reams of material about JFK’s concern about the Israeli bomb. Israeli politicians talk about it. Every Arab in the world knows about it. And Israel’s nukes are its number one deterrent against attack by Iran — and everyone knows that too.

But Israel has a policy of not talking about its nukes in any official capacity because acknowledging them might lead to Israel having to sign the NPT and opening itself up to nuclear inspection.

So Israeli Prime Ministers try (not always successfully) not to acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal while ensuring that everyone knows it does.

That may be a sensible policy…for Israel.

But why is it our policy? Why is the American president forbidden from being honest on such a critical subject. Answer: there is no reason, unless we are to believe that Israeli policy guidelines, by definition, apply here as well.

So why did Obama refuse to answer? Simple. Because if he did, the media would have reported it as a gaffe. Reporters either know nothing about the Middle East or, for the most part, have adopted Israel’s perspective.

Had Obama spoken the truth, the media would have made his “blunder” the story of the night.
He cannot afford that because, frankly, we have more important things to worry about, like rescuing the economy.

So I don’t fault Obama. But I salute Helen Thomas. Next time she should ask how he felt about those pictures that came out of Gaza. As the father of those two precious girls, we all know how he felt. But it would help America in the eyes of the world if he’d just say it.

February 10th, 2009, 7:53 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

[deleted by admin: repeated a thousand times]

Holbrook,

Meir Kahane was thown out of the Knesset. Shai forgot to remind you. Of course, Arab-Israeli Knesset members are allowed to support Israel’s enemies whenever they want.

Maybe today will be the start of a new, pro-Israel Knesset. We’ll see.

February 10th, 2009, 8:15 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

It is very touching and heartening to hear that you care so much about “stories of Fatah loyalists getting murdered”.

EHSANI2:

Who said I care? I’m merely pointing out how a Hamas “democracy”
operates just among their own people.

But most people here, I’d much rather focus on Israeli attrocities and their “chutzpah” for defending themselves against mortars and rockets.

February 11th, 2009, 12:56 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

AIG and Akbar here is a Finnish documentary from the West Bank, came out for the second time yesterday on Israeli elections day. The Israeli ambassador here must be jumping on table for presenting such “anti-Semitic” material on that “proud” day when Israel finally revealed its true “democratic” face. 🙂

Sad AIG and Akbar that you can’t understand Finnish, but I can assure you that Jewish Settlers and IDF are not portrayed in this documentary as the victims.

Lucky that we have a still free and independent media. By the way the most popular commercial channel here is owned by a Swedish Jewish family, Bonnier (originally Hirschel). So also we have a “balance”.

February 11th, 2009, 1:34 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

In Hebrew we have a saying: “You cooked it, you eat it!” Are you surprised there are antisemitic (anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli) sentiments across the Arab world?

Shai,

Surprised? Are you kidding? Anti-semitism increased during the wonderful years of the Oslo Peace Accords. Which, of course, counters your “hypothesis”.

Guess when anti-semtisim was at its lowest? That’s right, just after the ’67 War.

When the GOI takes care of their security, anti-semitism decreases.

When the GOI runs away from their security, anti-semitism increases.

But to be honest, on this day, as Yvette Lieberman’s fascist racist party is about to become Israel’s 3rd largest party, with a plan to provide Israeli-Arabs a “Loyalty Test” which, if failed, will lead to the renouncement of their citizenship…

Shai,

It could be a simple oath new immigrants to the US must make:

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=931696981298d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD

Germany is already back to their fascism:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/1506712/Germans-to-put-Muslims-through-loyalty-test.html

And YOU dare bring up some antisemitic article written somewhere, in the midst of the Gaza massacre?

Shai,

What is so “daring” about discussing the motives of a suicidal organization (that would prefer to kill Jews than do anything constructive) and their anti-semitic supporters in the Oman media?

The Israeli ambassador here must be jumping on table for presenting such “anti-Semitic” material on that “proud” day when Israel finally revealed its true “democratic” face.

Sim,

Israel’s true “democratic” face is open for all to see. That is why the US is clearly pro-Israel. You may have some bias on Finnish TV. The US isn’t “uptight” as the Europeans are when it comes to Joos.

February 11th, 2009, 4:01 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Shai,

It could be a simple oath new immigrants to the US must make:

Germany is already back to their fascism:

Akbar you seem not to understand the core of the Israel’s “problem”. Not a single country is demanding already citizens to prove their loyalty. It is rather normal and acceptable that new citizens are demanded to make a cultural/historical test, when they apply the citizenship of their new country. But what Israel is planing is simply equal to that that all Jews in USA, even they had been citizens since their birth, would be demanded to make a loyalty test.

Akbar what is the future loyalty test? Is it “I promise to obey the Jews” or kissing the religious Jewish items or something else? I am really interested read what that test will be. Isn’t it Akbar a little disturbing that a Jew coming to Israel from Moldavia has not to make any loyalty test but a Israeli citizen born in Israel has to when he/she is non-Jewish.

Sim,

Israel’s true “democratic” face is open for all to see. That is why the US is clearly pro-Israel. You may have some bias on Finnish TV. The US isn’t “uptight” as the Europeans are when it comes to Joos.

Sure Americans love Israeli religious democracy. They have no problems when the bearded people with small hats vote to power religious extremists and fascists, but strangely they have problems when Palestinians or Arabs vote for a religious party. Strange isn’t it Akbar? Well you and I know that Americans have some minor problems with their all-round education. Most Americans can’t even show on the map where Israel is or even New York.

By the way what is the bias of the Finnish television? Do you claim that those events in the West Bank and Hebron did not happen? Those events happened. I suppose that those tv stations which did not tell about the settlers’ and IDF’s behaviour are biased, not that who did tell the truth.

February 11th, 2009, 7:42 am

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

It’s one thing to let out a statement like “It could be a simple oath new immigrants to the US must make…”, without thinking, as you obviously did. It’s another thing to actually understand the meaning of your statement, even in retrospect.

Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that it’s a good thing for Israel to become more racist. Let’s pretend like Lieberman is clearly serving Israel’s best interests, especially in further dividing our society by placing Arab-Israelis in their own “special camp”. But to brainwash supporters like yourself with “No Loyalty, No Citizenship” crap-slogan? What does that mean? And let’s say we could come up with such a “Loyalty Test” – much like the one you suggested – ya’ani, we demand every single Arab (and non-Arab, “of course”) come to take a nice little oath, pledging “loyalty” to the State of Israel, under Benjamin Nentanyahu (because I’m not sure you’d accept a “Loyalty Test” to an Israel under Rabin, for instance). And in this pledge, the words Jewish State, and Zionism, and Jerusalem, and Eternal, would all be mentioned. Sounds good so far, no?

So how does it work? Do you physically round up people and put them on buses to take this Test? And those who don’t show up – what happens with them? Let’s assume we have lists of all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, so we can know who took the “test” and who didn’t. So we send out 3 warnings to those who didn’t (or won’t agree to take it), and like in Baseball, after 3 strikes, they’re out! Except that… what does it mean to fail the test, or refuse to take it? What does it mean to take back someone’s citizenship, when that person still lives in his/her country?

What if 1.5 million Arab-Israelis, and another 500,000 conscientious Jewish-Israelis, refuse to take this Loyalty-Test? It’ll be very interesting to see how 2 million people have their citizenship “taken away”… So do we stop paying taxes? Do we no longer have any responsibilities towards the State, since we’re no longer its citizens?

As I’m quite sure you’ve thought these things through, could you kindly enlighten all of us with a nice detailed explanation of how this “Loyalty Test” would work? I’m more than curious… 🙂

February 11th, 2009, 9:08 am

 

jad said:

Another example of a failure project in Syria;
In this example we can see how poor planning (actually no planning at all), along with water shortage lead by unhealthy national and regional water management, corruption by wasting a big sum of money over an unsuccessful dam construction, lack of direction by not taking the right decision on time, the big problem of specialists shortage, not to mention the environmental destruction and the unsustainable approach they are taking.

Does anybody of those in any high/med/low level position care about anything they do which will negatively affect their children and their grandchildren years from now??? Law 7mar kan it3alam, WABA..

http://www.champress.net/?page=show_det&select_page=14&id=34923

One last thing, I’m having problem to understand why we let couple meaningless comments about (anti-Semitism) meant (anti-Zionist) written by an Israelis to derail our important dialog regarding Ehsani’s article that actually matters for our country more than arguing with them.
Any proper explanation from my fellow countrymen?

To Whom It May Concern:
I’m a proud ANTI_ZIONIST, live with it or get lost!

February 12th, 2009, 12:01 am

 

norman said:

Jad,

do not get depressed , Thinks will get better and just ignore the Zionists,

By the way , Does anybody know the best place to build a medical facility in Homs, Is it on the road to Damas or Palmyra , Hama or Tartus,

February 12th, 2009, 1:05 am

 

AIG said:

Shai,
It is VERY simple. If you fail the test or do not take it after due warning, you lose your citzenship. That means no bituach leumi (social security, child benefits, unemployment etc.) payments and no free health care. It means also different taxation laws. You would of course still be paying taxes, like non-citizens in the US do. You will not be able to get a government job. You will be restricted just to the things permanent residents are allowed. Any children you have, will not be citizens etc. And yes, you will not have to serve in the army anymore. If you think that is worth it, don’t take the simple oath. Israel will have no problem dealing with 500,000 Jews who don’t want to be citizens. That is no big deal. I believe that most Arabs will take the oath out of pragmatic concerns.

And by the way, why won’t you say who you voted for? What are you ashamed of? If you voted Hadash, just say so. And if you didn’t, leading others on this blog to believe so is just dishonest.

February 12th, 2009, 1:18 am

 

ugarit said:

Norman:

Build it in Salamiyyah (سلمية) 🙂

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

February 12th, 2009, 1:56 am

 

norman said:

Ugarit,

How educated the people of Salamiyah, and how far is it from Homs .

I think Homs is more multicultural and at a cross road between north and south east and west ,

Another question , If you open a Medical facility in the free zone , Will you have to abide by the price control that the Syrian government has on prices ,or you can charge prices that we see in Lebanon.where many Syrian and people from the Gulf get care.

being able to charge higher prices to people that can afford it will make it easier to take care of some of the people that can not.

February 12th, 2009, 3:17 am

 

ugarit said:

Norman:

The people of Salamiyah are well educated and quite open minded.

Actually I was kidding about picking Salamiyah because it’s too far. It’s east of and 35km from Hama and about 45km from Homs.

February 12th, 2009, 11:47 am

 

offended said:

People of Salamiyah are indeed well educated and open-minded.

And they are good looking. : )

February 12th, 2009, 1:42 pm

 

norman said:

Offended, Ugarit,

Are you from Salamiyah?.

February 12th, 2009, 3:46 pm

 

offended said:

Norman, no, I am not from Salamiyah. I am from smackbang the middle of aleppo.

But i had colleagues from Salamiyah in college and I stand by my statement, they’re ARE good lookin’!

February 12th, 2009, 5:02 pm

 

ugarit said:

Norman:

My father is from Salamiyah and I lived there for 2 years and the remainder, while in Syria, in Aleppo, which I love. If I were to move back to Syria I would live in Aleppo.

Here’s this really interesting castle outside of Salamiyah:

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

PS: I may have to retire in Syria because about 50% of my 401(k) is gone! I may only be able to afford life in Syria 🙂

February 12th, 2009, 5:16 pm

 

Joshua said:

Dear Ugarit,

Syria may become even more crowed it all those with halved 401ks decide to return!! I am applying for Syrian nationality. 🙂

February 12th, 2009, 5:34 pm

 

norman said:

Joshua,

Granted ,

February 12th, 2009, 6:47 pm

 

jad said:

Ugarit, Thank you for the link, the images are beautiful, I never been to that part of Syria.
I believe that we have a great country with not enough management or a clear future vision.
I might sound repetitive but I will again raise the issue that we need to introduce a sustainable industries, smart industries, smart growth, taking care of our natural resources by introducing a national program for water, raw materials and energy saving strategies (not by forcing cities and towns to be thirsty and in the dark strategy we having right now) but by planning and better managing our natural resources and use them to the maximum efficiency without forcing our people to live in the middle ages.
Encourage Syrians to use their creativity in coming up with solution to problems that matters, not by being creative of how to get out of trouble or getting profits by manipulating the law. Forcing law on everybody with no exception, if you do something wrong you will pay for it regardless of who you are.
Introduce new building codes that enforce a better use of materials with less waste and no pollution. Produce new recycled materials to be used. (I’m using the construction business as an example because of it’s important in driving our economy)
If we can’t create our own code, let’s use LEED pointing system or any equivalent European system. Doing that we actually encourage creating new industries that support the construction business, saving our nature and export those recycled material outside, it costs a lot of money for the west to do it so they can depend on a cheaper processed materials from us (we can import theirs used materials like cars and recycle them) and with a good strict recycling system they don’t have to think of any paper work needed to get LEED points.
The government is responsible if not by financing, at least by encouraging and setting law to support the whole future vision movement.
I know that I’m being a dreamer here (with bad written English. I’m at work and in hurry, sorry) but dreams come true if we work on them. We just need to open our mind think clearly and go for it, it might take long time to do it but we are making our kids and grandchildren’s’ life more easy.

February 12th, 2009, 6:52 pm

 

norman said:

Jad,

what do you do?.

February 12th, 2009, 7:46 pm

 

ugarit said:

Dr. Landis said: “Syria may become even more crowed it all those with halved 401ks decide to return!! I am applying for Syrian nationality. :-)”

Most people don’t realize that when one has a 50% rate of loss one needs 100% rate of return in order to simply return to the original value. It will take decades to gain the lost value if at all. :-(. We’ll probably have a loss closer to 75% (300% return of return to recover) 🙁

February 12th, 2009, 9:56 pm

 

norman said:

Thanks Ugarit , Now I am realy depressed.Thanks a lot!.i will probably work for another 20 years.

February 12th, 2009, 11:53 pm

 

ugarit said:

Habibi Norman:

It is really depressing. It will be a bit better than my linearized model if one uses a more realistic compound interest one.

February 13th, 2009, 11:43 am

 

jonathan said:

Thoughts on Sen. Kerry’s trip to Syria?

Looking forward to a post about it, Syria Commentators!

cheers, JG

mideastbymidwest.com

February 13th, 2009, 6:50 pm

 

jad said:

Now we are talking!
This is a good news.
I hope they do exactly what the plan says.
http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=90575

February 15th, 2009, 4:09 am

 

Syria Comment » Archives » Can Syria Attract $55 Billion in Foreign Investment in 5 years? said:

[…] February 2009, Dardari said, “Syria’s infrastructural needs are estimated to cost 50 billion dollars over the next 10 […]

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