Kurds Commemorate the “Intifadah” of 12 March 2004

Abdullah Ghadawi, an Arab reporter in Damascus sent me the following interviews with Kurdish students at the University of Damascus on the topic of Kurdish rights, Kurdish nationalism, and their attitude toward US pressure on Syria and serving in the Syrian military. The students were preparing to go out onto the streets of Damascus to commemorate the 12 March 2004 "Intifadah," as they have named the Kurdish uprising of three years ago.


How the riots began has been the subject of some debate. The version I heard many times is that a football game was being played in Qamishli, a north-eastern provincial capital, which has a mixed Kurdish and Arab population. Kurdish fans began to chant, "Long live George Bush," Arab fans responded by chanting, "Long live Saddam Hussein." A melee broke out and quickly spread to other norther Syrian towns where the Kurdish population is concentrated.


The political context of the riots was linked to events in Iraq. The interim constitution, guaranteeing broad autonomy to the Kurdish north of the country, had just successfully passed the Iraqi parliament, helped by strong American pressure. Included was an article stipulating that no future amendment to the constitution could be made that was blocked by three or more provinces. Because the Kurdish provinces are at least three, this meant that the constitution could not be changed without Kurdish consent. Kurds everywhere were ecstatic. many Syrian Kurds believed it would be the beginning of a sea-change for them as well. They believed America was on their side and that their status in Syria would change as a result. Some saw it as an event that prefigured the establishment of a greater Kurdistan.

Gary Gambill wrote an article arguing that the riots were not spontaneous, but  were planned as part of an effort to undermine the Assad regime amid rising tensions with the United States. "Although fueled by popular frustration in the Kurdish community," Gambill claims, "the riots were a politically timed initiative to pressure the Assad regime in the face of heightened Syrian-U.S. tensions and Iraqi Kurdish political gains." The report asserted that the Syrian Kurds were organized by Kurdish leaders in neighboring Iraq.

The Syrian government cracked down on the Kurds, arresting many and later releasing many. The suppression of the Kurdish population in the North-east continues, however. Human rights organizations such as Damascus based Shril continue to list the names of Kurdish intellectuals and activists who are arrested or go on trial each month. There was much hope that stateless Kurds in Syria, which number close to 300,000 would have their citizenship, which was taken from them in 1962 shortly before the Baath took power, restored in 2005. The Baath Party Congress of that summer announced that many would, but nothing has since materialized of this promises.

Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch wrote an op-ed, "The road to Damascus," published the eve of EU President Solana's visit to Damascus yesterday in which he writes, "Javier Solana's visit to president Assad signals a fresh start for the EU's relations with Syria. But human rights must not fall off the agenda." He brings up the issue of stateless Kurds.

Here are the interviews by Abdullah Ghadawi:

Ammar: Damascus University, Fourth Year, History. 24 Years of Age from Qamashli.


  • The one thing that brings Kurds together in the Middle East is the Newroz Day. Kurds consider it the Day of Freedom. In this day, Kurds wish that Kurds, and the world at large, will positive in freedom and democracy when the next Newroz comes.  
  • Kurds gather together on their historical land in the Middle East, that is, The Great Kurdistan which extends from south-east of Turkey to the south of the Syrian and Iraq and north-west of Iran.
  • We are proud – Syrian Kurds – of the Kurdish experience in North Iraq. What happened on March 12, 2004 was one of the products of that experience.
  • We hope solve the Kurdish case with Damascus. We have always sought to engage in dialogue with the regime.
  • We have no social problems with other Syrian ethnic groups. But we have political problem. We do not feel politically integrated.
  • I love to be Kurdish.
  • In the military service, I do not feel I serve a homeland country.
  • When it comes to foreign support and interference, we do not mind diplomatic and political interference from Europe and USA, but not military.


Kaniwar: Mechanical Engineering, second Year. 22 Years from Tal Tamr


  • Kurds in Syria lack the ability of self-expression and their culture and. nothing could achieve this freedom but the existence of the Great Kurdistan.
  • We suffer a clearly chauvinistic policy in Syria.
  • There exist no problems between Arabs and Kurds in Al-Jazeera (the eastern part of Syria) and this is created by the government. They take lands from Kurds and give them to Arabs. For example, they took around 300 hectares from Hajjo family and granted it to Arabs. This case has reached the European Union but no reply as yet. This problem will have real bad consequences in the future had the government done nothing to sort it out.
  • The Kurdish experience in Iraq has inspired the Syrian Kurds in a way that they have started to yearn for federalism like that of the Iraqi Kurds and it is a reasonable solution.
  • We are not against the idea of Kurdish-government dialogue but we are hopeless that the government will do something.
  • What does Islam mean to you?
    Nationalism first and then religion. We can never give up our nationalistic pursuits.
  • I love to be Syrian Kurd.
  • Military service is obligatory and we have no other choice. We encourage any foreign assistance, no matter what it is.
  • To engage in a dialogue with the regime is wasting time. They promise but they do not do. We will continue to demand our civil, cultural and political rights no matter what happens. We will never give up. As for violence, we do not want it and it is the last in our list.
  • Integration with the Syrian society is a relative issue. Generally integration depends on the other side – to treat in kind.
  • I wish to have a Kurdish identity and character but no problem in being like Iraqi Kurds – to be a Syrian Kurd.
  • For the time being, we do not want foreign interference but in case the government doe not listen to us, then foreign interference and support becomes a must for the Kurds.
  • Do you trust Arabs?
    Arabs cancelled 'the other' and they are racists. In this case, we can not live together.


Darios: Chemistry, Third Year. 25 years of age, from Qamashli.


  • All the Kurds in Syria share one real tragedy, which is the lack of freedom and democracy and the absence of the civil and cultural rights.
  • Kurds in Syria do not believe in military struggle. It is unacceptable in the international society, which is why it is not accepted in the Kurdish mentality.
  • Foreign interference will happen anyway, whether we like it or not. I believe that we need to make use of the foreign interference for our benefit. We have no problem with any side interfering in Syria affair as far as it is to our interest.
  • We will defend Syria forever but we are not going to defend the regime.
  • Economically, Kurds are suffering a lot and the problem is exacerbated by the regime trying to make Kurds poorer and poorer.
  • The Kurdish experience in Iraq is, in effect, of no paramount influence as the Kurdish political movement in Syria has always been strong before the war and till now.
  • Kurdish parties and Kurds in general are not against making a coalition with Muslim Brothers as a political party because the Brothers Party was the only Syrian party that supported and stood with the Kurdish uprising on March 2004.


Students demonstrating in Baramke in front of the Economics faculty. More about the commemoration can be read here. (Arabic)

Zozan: English Literature, Second Year. 22 Years of age from Tal Tamr.


  • It is the Newroz Day that unites Kurds and brings them together. Each Newroz, Kurds wish that the Kurdish people will be free with all their cultural and human rights acknowledged. In this day, we wish that we will be recognized as a nationality and as humans.
  • Kurds live in fear and anxiety all the time in Syria.  
  • Our everlasting message is to engage in a dialogue with the authorities and only the government has the key to solve the problems and it seems that the government does not want to do anything.
  • When it comes to integrity, generally we do not feel it with the Arabs. 'The other' think that we want to take something from them, even when we demand our own human and cultural rights. They feel that we do not have the right to have these rights. Even at school or university, nothing is mentioned about Kurds – Saladin in one example.
  • If the regime does not like foreign interference, let it solve the problems by itself.


          Rojeen: English Literature, 21 years of age, from Dirbaseeah.


  • We feel that we do not exist in Syria and we do not belong. Many Kurds are still treated like foreigners in Syria with no acknowledged rights. They do not have identity cards and they can not enter school or universities as if they did not exist.
  • It is difficult to integrate in the Syrian society. Many Syrians do not know who the Kurds are.
  • Separation from Syria is the solution. The solution to our national and cultural and existence problems and it is a very good solution for Kurds but it is also a difficult choice.
  • I wish to be Kurdish.
  • In fact, we do not want foreign interference but reality entails that that, whatever the interference is.


Ameen: Journalism. 29 years from Dirik, Qamashli.


  • Our goal, in general terms, is to establish the Great State (Kurdistan). In fact, all Kurds in the Middle East agree on the same case.
  • If Kurds obtain their civil and political rights it is then one step, but the ultimate goal is still the Great Kurdistan.
  • We are not separatists from the countries that we live in. We only seek self-determination in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. It is actually the step towards the Great Kurdistan.
  • Iraqi Kurdish experience has a great influence on Kurds in Syria. But now, before independence, we want an acknowledgement of us as a nationality and after that will work to achieve of the Kurdish Dream.
  • Dialogue with the regime is like talking to the deaf. Nobody hears and nobody understands the other. What the regime is concerned in is only its own self interest.
  • I can not work for a party whose slogan is: One Arab Nation. We are serving a group of people not a homeland.
  • Kurds, as a community, can and is willing to integrate with all communities and have no problems with any group, but the main problem is with the regime.
  • What will make Kurds more secure is a constitution-based recognition of their due rights. This recognition help Kurds live side by side with Arabs and encourage them give up the idea of independence or federalism.
  • We struggle for our full rights and equality with other Syrians.
  • Foreign interference is useful for us as well as other Syrians.


Houseen: journalism, 25 years of age from Ifreen, Aleppo.


  • Kurds have existed in nations not by their own will but because certain foreign colonist powers wanted that. No Kurd can forget that he or she belongs to a greater state, which is Kurdistan. Kurdish mentality is programmed on this Great Kurdistan.  
  • The Kurdish problem in Syria is not solely with the regime. It has started to be social as well. The government is trying to deepen it.
  • The demise of the Iraqi regime and the rise of constitutional Iraqi Kurdistan has given some vent to the Syrian Kurds. Kurds in Syria do not accept Damascus as their capital and so as the Kurds in Iraq, as far as I know. At the same time, it appears that Kurds is relying too much on a foreign interference to change unlike the Kurds in Iraq.
  • As for the centre of Kurds, they consider Amid ( Diar Bakr) as their Mecca and their political and historical centre.
  • We have no problem when it comes to engaging in a dialogue with the regime, as far as there is a genuine will to dialogue on the part of the regime. Today, it is the Syrian regime that needs us not the other way round. That is because it needs the Kurds to make a democratic change in the area.
  • Kurdish social integrity is something positive and they are integrated but not with the political system, and this is something shared with the majority of Syrians.
  • I only accept to be a Kurd.
  • Foreign interference is something sensitive because if we deal with the USA, we will lose Arabs and we live with Arabs not with Americans. However, we are not against European and US support of our human rights, and it is the optimal solution for us.

As far as the military service is concerned, there is a common saying among Kurds that goes like this: Instead of serving a country that is not our own, serve your homeland country, Kurdistan. This hints at the Kurdish revolution in Turkey caried out by the Kurdish Workers Party, led by Abdullah Ojalan. 

By: Abdullah Ghadawi                   

Comments (158)

Enlightened said:

Just read Michael Youngs response; here it is for those who wish to read it, its early here in Aus, so most of you will still be sleeping!

Hope it doesnt get edited or removed

By Michael Young
Daily Star staff

What is it about the blogosphere that can transform perfectly credible academics into unethical hit men? The object of my inquiry is one Joshua Landis, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma who hosts a widely read, once respectable Weblog called Syria Comment.

I make no pretense of maintaining the high road here. My question is prompted by Landis’ putting up a post on his blog last week that made serious and unsubstantiated allegations about me. Nor is this the first or second time this happens. Landis was so pleased with his text that he e-mailed it to various correspondents for dissemination.

On Sunday, Landis asked for my permission to post a rebuttal I had sent him. I agreed. But when I next checked his site, he was telling readers he wanted “passions to cool” before posting his response to my unposted comments. I mentioned his promise unkept; he offered an unpersuasive excuse, saying my rejoinder would go up on Wednesday. That calculated delay made any rebuttal meaningless, so I asked him to forget about it.

Having been denied a timely chance to respond on his site, I do so here. Why should a row matter? It matters to me because in the polarized Lebanese atmosphere, fabricated accusations can be irresponsible, even dangerous. The theme of Landis’ post is that Lebanon’s Shiites, since they are under-represented in Parliament, are comparable to black slaves in America. For some reason Landis makes me the embodiment of those Lebanese denying Shiites their rights. This is troubling for being visibly personal in intent, given how inconsequential I am in the matter of Shiite power; but also because I’ve repeatedly argued that the Taif agreement needs overhauling so Shiites receive a greater stake in the system. I wrote last summer that “Taif was designed to build a post-war state. It should be re-tooled to bring the Shiite community back into the Lebanese fold.”

Landis builds his case on false pretences. He writes that I believe “the Shiite Crescent is the true enemy of the West and liberty in the region.” I responded that he might want to supply a quote, since I rarely use the term “Shiite Crescent,” negatively or positively, find the idea simplistic, and have written so. Landis states that I back disarmament of “the Shiites” in South Lebanon by international forces. I again requested a quote. None was forthcoming, possibly because I’ve argued that such a step would be disastrous. In June 2005 I wrote here that “no one wants to see [Hizbullah] disarmed by force, nor is that a sensible option … [And] no one in Washington or Paris, let alone at United Nations headquarters, is contemplating going down such a reckless path.”

Most disturbing, Landis writes: “Young once said to me that if Taif were rewritten and Christians were allocated less than their present 50 percent share of Parliamentary seats, he might be forced to leave Lebanon.” Landis made this up, and I can confirm that through the four other people present at the dinner where the subject was broached. I wouldn’t make such a statement because I disagree with it.

Here is what I wrote in The Daily Star in August 2005, in a piece on how Taif might be used advantageously to reform Lebanon’s political system: “What is expected, first, of Christians, is to collectively initiate a process realistically assessing where they stand now … In that sense, the Taif agreement … offers guidelines to a system gradually moving away from political confessionalism: administrative decentralization, but also the elimination of a 50-50 ratio of Christians to Muslims in Parliament, and the creation of a Senate – probably evenly divided between the religious communities – to deal with major national issues.”

Landis confused our conversation with an exchange published on his blog, in which I plainly made reference to how I thought Christians in general might respond to elimination of the 50-50 ratio. I never mentioned how I myself would react – an issue pertinent here because Landis’ reference to my being “forced to leave” implies that I somehow fear paying a personal price if Muslims are granted a greater share of power. In fact, a peaceful transfer of power through the removal of the 50-50 quota in Parliament, provided there are institutional guarantees to reassure Christians, is the only long-term hope for the Christian community.

These illustrations, and others, are typical of Landis’ style. He chronically puts harmful words into the mouths of others, with no evidence for his sleights of hand. But when such behavior drifts into articles in respected publications, it becomes a different matter altogether, pointing to a far more worrisome abandonment of academic integrity.

Take a piece on the Syrian opposition that Landis co-authored in the Winter 2007 issue of The Washington Quarterly. In it he asserted that the Damascus Declaration, an October 2005 document signed by Syrian opposition figures calling for democratic change, “grew out of a clandestine trip to Morocco only a few months earlier by intellectual Michel Kilo to meet with [the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddin] Bayanuni to discuss a new initiative to unite forces.”

This item was quite damaging to Kilo, who had been languishing in Adra prison for having purportedly colluded with Syria’s enemies. Where did Landis get this information? In reading the article you see that the authors have footnoted an article by Andrew Tabler, which I happen to have read. But as an astute reader reminded me, Tabler only wrote that “two unnamed members” of the Syrian civil society movement had met with Bayanouni. There is no mention of Kilo at all in the piece, because Tabler could not confirm his presence in Morocco. One of two things happened: Either Landis read Tabler as carelessly as he reads everything else he quotes, which still doesn’t explain how Kilo’s name slipped in; or, knowing the impact of what he was saying, Landis mentioned Kilo intentionally, effectively justifying his arrest, then dishonestly attributed this to Tabler.

I’m increasingly inclined to believe the latter. My theory, and take it for what it’s worth, is that Landis’ ambition is to be the premier mediator with and interpreter of Syria in American academic and policy-making circles – a latter-day Patrick Seale. In this context, and again this is just a coagulating hypothesis, Landis has frequently used his blog to prove his worth to the Syrians – perhaps to enjoy better access. He has also maligned those offering perspectives different than his own. In the post where he went after me, Landis harshly attacked the An-Nahar Washington correspondent, Hisham Melhem, as well. My conviction is that Landis felt he had to discredit us both, mainly because we fear that Lebanon will pay if the US engages Syria. As he once, revealingly, put it to me: “Your anti-Syrian line is the most coherent and best packaged.” I would dispute the term “anti-Syrian” and find his use of the word “packaged” peculiar. Perhaps I’m just not partial to Syria’s leadership.

Is court scribe really a role an academic should aspire to? And what does it say about Landis that he has consistently promoted the idea that the United States should sign off on renewed Syrian control over Lebanon in exchange for a deal with Damascus in Iraq? What kind of esteem does a scholar invite by wanting to return a recently emancipated, fairly democratic country to its former subjugation by a foreign dictatorship?

Consider Landis’ oblique, but very clear message in a PBS interview last November. It merits being quoted in full: “Syria is demanding a number of things. They’re demanding the Golan Heights back that was occupied in 1967 by Israel. They want influence in Lebanon, and they don’t want Iraq to fall apart … And, you know, the United States and Syria have dealt together for two decades. And the US in ’91, when it first went to war against Iraq in the Gulf, had Syria on its side, because in a sense it said, ‘You can keep Lebanon in your sphere of influence.’ And Syria said, ‘Yes,’ they kept Lebanon in their sphere of influence. And what happened to Lebanon during that period? It repaired itself in the Civil War. It grew. [Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri … rebuilt Lebanon. It was pro-Western. Because of Syrian influence … in Lebanon [it] does not mean that the country turns into … a small Iran on the Mediterranean. It means that Syrian interests are taken into concern, and it doesn’t mean the end.” Hariri might dispute the last observation. Then again, at a Brookings Institution conference Landis once famously remarked that the late prime minister had “died.”

One can cite copious contradictions in his posts, as the calculations change. Sometimes Landis will write that Syria is “doing the complete job of guarding [the Iraqi] border”; at other times, he will observe: “By refusing to deal with Syria, the US guaranteed that [Bashar] Assad would not police mujaheddin going in and out of [Iraq] and would work to undermine the US in Iraq.” Sometimes Landis will tell the Council on Foreign Relations that the “Christians in Lebanon are talking about how Israel would be a much better partner than Syria and that they should make peace with Israel”; elsewhere he will affirm that the most popular Christian leader is Michel Aoun, who is close to Hizbullah, and will refer to the “Maronite-Shiite alliance that really frustrated the Sunnis.”

I’ve long been a believer in the revolutionary potential of blogs, and was a regular visitor to Landis’ site when he used it as a platform to popularize his academic research. But something happened along the way. From an egghead unknown to the public, Landis morphed into a slapdash cyber-pundit, a pamphleteer, a willing agent of influence. Now he always seems to be hawking something. The thing is, his overall value has dived.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

March 14th, 2007, 11:28 pm


K said:

I used to think Landis was alright. He’s regressed into a media hitman for Syria’s Ba’thist regime. Making outrageous personal attacks, and promulgating the party line…

I’m sad it’s come to this.

March 15th, 2007, 12:02 am


ugarit said:


Can you elaborate on how Dr. Landis has regressed?

March 15th, 2007, 12:24 am


norman said:

Reading what these Syrian Kurds said and their lack of commitment and loyalty to Syria makes think that Syria should not give any more kurds a Syrian citizenship , Immagine America’s response if American of Mexican origin call for the seperation of Texas and making it part of Mexico , I think we will take away their American citizen and send them back packing ,Kurds should understans that Syria is like the US a country with multiethnic multicultural and multireligous population , all are Syrians and have the same responsibelity and obligation or they should , all should have the freedom to pray anyway they want and celebrate any holiday they want as long as it is not a sepretist holiday , The US will not be happy if american mexivan start celebrating Mexican national holodays , actualy there was alot of critisism of Mexican American raising the mexican flag during the debate about Immegration and illegal immegrants, It is ammasing to see the Kurdish student axcepting free education at Damascus university and still refusing to serve in the Syrian militery , I see that the problem in Syria is that there is no recent count for the people of Syria , people are registered where they come from not where they live which keeps area as Kurdish ,Alawat and Armenian ,Assyrian and other minorities , If they register people where they live then that will not happen , people should also have the right to live and register anywhere in Syria and be proteced by the law to do so , decenralisation is essential for people to feel empowered , and have local governing like city counsle , county exec , the Idea of the president assigning the county exec for the counties in Syria is close to the time of the Khalifs , county execshould from the same county and should be elected .

March 15th, 2007, 12:54 am


Fares said:

Josh, thanks again for making it look like the Syrian kurds hate to be in Syria and deserve to be treated this way.

Congratulation, you are now part of the trusted circle


March 15th, 2007, 1:40 am


Syrian said:


The apparant lack of commitment of the Syrian Kurds to Syrian society maybe a result of the way they have been historically treated in Syria. The treatment can be changed and so can the attitude.

I’m not privy to the Kurdish problems in Syria or anywhere else but the problems the Syrian Kurds seem to be facing are probably problems that all Syrians are facing. All Syrians are subject to a repressive, authoritarian government. The Kurds have the Kurdish identity to help them escape the reality of what it means to be a Syrian citizen, Arabs don’t.


While I appreciate your commitment to the Human rights issues in Syria, I’m starting to feel that you simply do not want to see anything that you perceive to contradict your views. The quotes provided are those of Kurds in Syria. Josh did not provide any commentary on the validity of the quotes. Now, if you find these quotes offensive, you should start a campaign to educate the Kurds to not speak what they think (I doubt you would want to do that).

March 15th, 2007, 2:18 am


norman said:

Syrian , I agree that there is things needs to be changed in Syria but loyalty to Syria not the regim should not be in doubt ,that will give them more cridebelity.

March 15th, 2007, 2:25 am


Fares said:


Thanks for leaving a nice comment on the painting in my blog.

There are a lot of kurds who have different opinions on things, most of the people interviewed and their opinion serve a purpose that they are not loyal in Syria which is the main message of this post.

But I think we are on the same wavelength. I think there are like 20 kurdish parties in Syria if not more and my experience with them when I was in Syria, they are lovely as long as you respect them and their culture and nothing is wrong with that. Very warm people and they want to live in peace not oppression.

March 15th, 2007, 3:08 am


Fares said:

I think the kurdish issues in Syria are very easy to solve if there is an official will to do it but like anything else nothing gets solved in Syria because the rulers care only about how to stay in power and keep all kind of issues internal and external boiling so people remain scared and intimidated or feel somehow lucky that it could be worse.

March 15th, 2007, 3:14 am


majedkhaldoun said:

-Micheal Young is deliberately vague,unconvincing,and the best is to ignore him.

the kurds has human rights ,but they are in Syria as guest, and we can not give every visitor part of Syria to claim that it is now his country,if they choose to be loyal to syria then they can stay, but if they are not loyal to syria, and some want foreign interferance,this is treason,and they can go to awwal al Hashr,just like banu Nadheer.

March 15th, 2007, 3:37 am


Alex said:

Dear Enlightened,

I want to ask you if you feel you were a fair and prudent judge when you said before posting Young’s article: “Hope it doesn’t get edited or removed”

Based on you experience here, how many times did one of your comments get removed or edited? … The answer is NONE. Only comments with bad language get removed or edited.

So if none of your comments were removed although they are often critical of opinions expressed by Dr. Landis, and if you noticed in the previous post, Dr. Landis listed many emails that criticized him in a constructive way, then what is your reason for believing that there is a serious chance that your comments here will be edited or removed?

Did you try to think in a neutral way, about why Joshua eventually decided to think twice about posting Michael Young’s additional comments? Maybe the original comments sent by Young were much more rude and angry, much less constructive and reasonable that the ones you read and copied? … maybe the only way to reply to those was to go down to that level?

I actually do agree with Michael Young’s proposals for a Lebanese senate that makes it easier for the Christians (and Sunnis) to lose some power (over time) to the Shiites who are growing in numbers, and I disagree a bit with Joshua’s case against Michael Young’s anti Shiites positions. I believe Michael Young is mostly Anti Syria and anti Syrian allies (Shiites or not) … he hates Syria and to him the scariest thing would be that there will be no punishment to Syria and there will be a deal made with Syria that will empower Syria again. Young only wants to get rid of those amongst the Lebanese Shiites who are aligned with Syria…. Today (according to the Poll we posted this week) most Shiites are pro Syria, so Michel Young would like to weaken them and to defeat them … but not because he hates Shiites.

In my understanding, Young’s proposals to allow the Lebanese Shiites to slowly have more power is contingent on the success of Israel, United States, and Saudi Arabia to weaken and marginalize Syria. Otherwise this process would be empowering Syrian allies … and that is Young’s Red line … let Lebanon be for ever in conflict, let it go into violent conflicts .. but do not allow Syria or its allies to score points… of course to make it sound like he has legitimate reasons for seeking the strangling of Syria, Young portrays it in a way that persistently leads his readers to get the impression that Syria wants to make a deal with America that allows it to send its Army back in to Lebanon and to steal and rape Lebanon.

Mr. Young explained that his rage after reading Joshua’s supposedly inaccurate statements regarding Young’s real opinions and motives by saying “Why should a row matter? It matters to me because in the polarized Lebanese atmosphere, fabricated accusations can be irresponsible, even dangerous.”

I wish Mr. Young made an effort to save some of his energy, most of which he allocated to the task of defending himself, save it in order to understand the real disappointment Joshua was expressing about Michael’s true mission for the past two years: satisfying his need for seeing Syria punished for its occupation of Lebanon… he needs closure.

To use his quote again “Why should a 100 anti-Syria Michael Young editorials matter? It matters to me because in the turbulent Middle East atmosphere, fabricated accusations against Syria can be irresponsible, even dangerous.”

Junblatt’s calls for a US invasion of Syria and a few mad republicans seriously thinking about that idea, is the kind of thing that could develop partly after reading young’s, and other Neocon, editorials that give the impression that “Syrian influence” in Lebanon surely means killing Lebanese democracy, advancing Iranian interests, helping terrorism … all your carefully chosen words that Young always hopes to convince few more in Washington to hate or fear Syria.

And if Mr. Young found Dr. Landis’ negative words this week “most disturbing”, we, Syrians, find his endless articles “most disturbing” too. Although his personal ego was hurt from the two or three times Joshua “misinterpreted” his motives… Syria has 19 million people .. their future counts a bit more than your ego Mr. Young.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

March 15th, 2007, 5:42 am


ausamaa said:

Michael Young, in the morning, while a bit too much for me personally, but I have been saving those words since I first laid eyes on your writings:



What is upseting you is that an AMERICAN professor is taking an impartial stand on Syrian issues. Not a mere naieve impartial stand, but one based on a well-informed, well-studied, and totally familiar with the ISSUES at HAND. And that he has Got a Participating Audience!

BUT TWO THING I WILL SAY FOR YOU; One is that you have good command of writing in English, and Two:YOU’VE GOT NERVES. OUR COUSINS HAVE A LESS KIND WORD to describe this trait: CHUTZBAH !


Michael Young at 9 AM!!! Where is the Panadol??

March 15th, 2007, 6:23 am


want press diversity said:

Ok, Here is a specific quote from Young’s own piece:

In June 2005 I wrote here that “no one wants to see [Hizbullah] disarmed by force, nor is that a sensible option … [And] no one in Washington or Paris, let alone at United Nations headquarters, is contemplating going down such a reckless path.”

Either this is the usual Michael Young pro-America rubbish or he is just half-informed or lying… possibly a bit of each. The Greater Middle East Plan/Clean Break/PNAC strategies were designed over a decade ago, and DID have provisions for disarming Hezbollah- by whatever means necessary- including force. The force option was solidly on the table from the outset.

Landis regularly takes an objective counterpoint, (usually smeared in american MSM as “anti-semitic” for censorship purposes etc) to the NYT/IHT affiliated Daily Star. Landis provides a very rare and welcome position from an american writer.
Young, besides being intellectually rambling/mediocre, is monotonously politically predictable… Oh, and how about a bit of disclosure on your ‘backers’ Mr. Young? And would they advocate a “fair and balanced” Lebanese census?

March 15th, 2007, 6:38 am


Alex said:

Oh, and since Michael mentioned the unfair attack of Joshua on the wonderful Hisham Melhem, Here is today’s report from Washington by Hisham Melhem for Annahar.

Same tactics like Mr. young … Syria is weak, syria is boycotted by everyone, Syria is bad, Syria begs everyone “oh please talk to me”, but the answer is still “forget it, we do not talk to thugs and backward killers like you”.

سوربري رفضت لقاء المعلم وايضاحات من رايس لتشيني

واشنطن – من هشام ملحم:
قالت مصادر أميركية مسؤولة ان وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم سعى الى عقد اجتماع مع مساعدة وزيرة الخارجية الاميركية لشؤون اللاجئين والهجرة أيلين سوربري خلال وجودها في دمشق مطلع الاسبوع، لكنها امتنعت عن ذلك، بحجة ضيق الوقت واضطرارها الى مواصلة جولتها.
وكانت سوربري قد ناقشت مع نائب وزير الخارجية السوري فيصل المقداد وضع اللاجئين العراقيين في سوريا، وهو الهدف الوحيد لزيارتها لدمشق، في سياق جولة اقليمية شملت الاردن ومصر ايضا.
وأوضحت المصادر ان واشنطن التي اكدت لدمشق انها لا تريد ان تكون زيارة سوربري بداية لحوار أوسع مع دمشق، ارادت ابقاء محادثاتها محصورة بالمقداد وبموضوع اللاجئين، ومن هنا تفاديها الاجتماع مع المعلم، الذي رأت المصادر الاميركية انه كان يسعى الى تخطي الخطوط الحمر التي وضعتها واشنطن بالنسبة الى الحوار مع دمشق، من اجل توسيع الاتصالات الاميركية – السورية لتشمل قضايا اخرى.
واكدت ان السوريين اوصلوا الى الاميركيين رغبتهم في حوار أوسع يتخطى زيارة سوربري ومؤتمر دول الجوار الذي انعقد في بغداد في عطلة نهاية الاسبوع الماضي والذي شاركت فيه سوريا ايضا. وبينما التقى السفير الاميركي في العراق زلماي خليل زاد الممثل الايراني في مؤتمر بغداد عباس أركتشي نحو ربع ساعة خلال استراحة قهوة، شدد خلاله على مطالب واشنطن من طهران في ما يتعلق بالوضع في العراق، لم يجر لقاء مماثل مع ممثل سوريا احمد عرنوس.

March 15th, 2007, 7:14 am


ausamaa said:

Yeh….the KURDS and the Kurdish Question.

Ask Sykes-Picot why they did this to us. Arabs, Turks and Kurds among others. What where the prioreties of Lloyed George back then? Was Oil all that caught his eye then? Mousel! the British said, and the uninterested Frensh agreed then.Is the quest for a a distinguished and independant Kurdish identity in the interst of all Kurds?

A serious problem with no ready -if any- solutions. A long suffering people, spread over Three wary States.

If tiny Lebanon, and huge Iraq can not be allowed to disintegrate and be undone into small Cantons, can the Kurds dream of acheiving a homeland? Why the Kurds took to Arms in Turkey and Iraq, but not in Syria and Iran? Is it on the Agenda? Whose Agenda?

– Are they suffering, well; there is no “well”, they are! Partly self-inflcted though.
– Do they deserve their own State? Shoul they dream of thier own State. In full fairness; Maybe! But they never had an independent state before. Why now? But, hell, an argument in favour of the establishment of a Kurdish state would carry a lot more wieght than the one justifying Israel’s!
– Is a future Kurdish State feasible? I really doubt it! Not in any concerened party’s interest.
– What would a future independent Kurdish State positivelly “contribute” to a Suspicious Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq? I doubt the question has even occured to the Kurds themselves!
– Is the call for Kurdish independence “seen” by the stakeholders as a “pure” expression of self-determination, or is it seen as a “tool” used by
others to destabilise the area? The Later for sure! Perceptions are Important factors, not realities, whatever realities are on the ground.

– Have the Kurds attempted to present the people of the area with a winning argument or justification? NO!

– Or, have the Kurds, or some Kurds, always acted as the cat’s claw in the service of outsiders and hence helped ? For sure, yes!

A very difficult and troubling quetion for sure! But are we in the Nation-State era??

What to do?

At best, WE can do Nothing but mumble fathomless words of understanding and quickly duck back into the crowd. None of the concerned parties would like to lose a single kilometer of their lands, or an iota of their sovereignty. And none of the not-immediately-concerned seems to give a damn. At worst, we would shout bloody murder: the Kurds are thankless agitators and bomb them to kingdom come as did Saddam and Turkey.

Can the Kurds present an argument that May be able to win the hearts of minds here? Not when they are playing into Israel’s hand. Even Israel-friendly Turkey is upset over this.

Would popping up the Kurdish question serve any end? Sure. But what end?

Is there a Kurdish CAUSE? Or is it rather a Kurdish MINORITIES issue(s)that should be properly addressed as such?

What do the Kurds have to say?

March 15th, 2007, 7:26 am


Alex said:


That was a very interesting overview of the Kurdish challenge and its many quetions.

There is no question that most Kurds would love to have their own state. But there is also no question that Kurdistan would be another Israel … a state built by taking lands from all the other states in the area.

But Kurds will not have the Israeli lobby to sustain them in the United States.

So, the practical option is: how much autonomy can they be safely given? and how early? and what guarantees can THEY give each country that they will remain satisfied with autonomy instead of a proper state.

March 15th, 2007, 7:40 am


ausamaa said:


But why do we “presume”, then “proceede” with the notion that there is a Kurdish issue? A national Kurdish issue if I may call it; one that trancends the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran? Is there such a thing as a Kurdish Nation? Was there ever? Do the Turkeman in Iraq want to join Tureky? Are the Ahwaz Arabs going to seperate from Iran? How about Iskandaron? Do we redraw all maps here? And, What constitutes a Nation?

If a minority Issue only, How and Why did it, or does it, arise? Arose on its own, or inflamed by outsiders? Here again, this is the most troubling aspect in Kurdish affairs, the Kurdish “success” in identifying -or being labeled as identifying- with the “other side” against the country where they reside. Or is it bcause it is the only desperate Option they always have in the position they are in? But, are they really ,and distinctively, in such a desperate situation?

March 15th, 2007, 7:58 am


Ammad said:

Kurds in middle east have been ignored from a very long time ago, emergence of kurdistan is vital for middle east, I request the governments of middle east to stop their cruel acts against the kurds and stop to convert them to scared people.

March 15th, 2007, 9:06 am


MSK said:

Alex, Norma, Majed et.al.,

have you ever considered the possibility that Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran were founded on the “theft” of Kurdish land from the Kurds … and that the Arabs/Turks/Persians are “guests” there?

If you really believe in the right to self-determination and national sovereignty & all that … then why not let the Kurds in Syria – who live on their ancestral lands – secede?

Why should Kurds in Syria be loyal to the state & regime if the state & regime aren’t loyal to them?

I suggest that you stay consistent and allow Kurds to have the same rights as you (rightly) claim for Palestinians. In Qamishli YOU (Syrians) are seen to be the occupier. Ever thought of that?



March 15th, 2007, 9:49 am


Milli Schmidt said:

I am shocked and disgusted by a) the ridiculous willy-waving in this comment section and b) the cynical thoughts about a people that had their basic civil rights denied in all countries they reside in in the best case. In the worst case they have been bombed, raped and gassed to death. Israel was created because Jews all over the world had been treated this way. It is a shame that it had to come to that, but it is understandable. Denying a people such rights and denying them the possibility to progress and improvement out of racism and power-greed will always strengthen their nationalism. To spit on them the way that some of these commentators to is deplorable and ignorant.
Great shame by the way that no female Kurdish students were interviewed.

March 15th, 2007, 10:17 am


ugarit said:

“So among the 12 members of Fath-Al-Islam that were arrested by the Sanyurah government, four are Saudis. But Al-Hayat (the publication of Prince Khalid Bin Sultan) asserts that the Saudis were “misled by the organization and were not involved.” Will Al-Hayat also claim that the 15 hijackers on Sep. 11 were also “misled by the organization and were not involved” too? (thanks As`ad–not me)”


March 15th, 2007, 10:41 am


ausamaa said:

Has “somebody” highjacked the Lebanese Ministry of Interior?

Not known for their instinctive frankness or transperency,are they? so how come they are soooo brave as to “dare” mention the word “Saudies” even if the Saudies involved were later identified as poor misguided!

Sensetive “things” like this used to be skipped over or buried deep down.

Who is this new Highest Bidder???

March 15th, 2007, 11:29 am


ugarit said:

It’s very sad what has happened and what is happening to Kurds. They must have their own country or make Syria democratic, free and economically viable so that they are proud to be Syrians.

March 15th, 2007, 2:30 pm


pen Name said:

Zozan wrote: “It is the Newroz Day that unites Kurds and brings them together”. Now Newruz (New Day in Persian) is an ancient Perso-Iranian featival. We in Iran feel that we own it!

While Kurds may claim to be a distinct people, to us in Iran they are another group of Iranians with the same culture – speaking an Iranian language. In fact, the colors of the flag of the Kurdish Iraq are the colors of the Iranian & Tadjik flags as well.

We have 3 cultures in the Greater Middle East – Turkic, Arab, and Iranian. Kurds fall in the last category and that is the reason that they can never be at home in Syria, Iraq, or Turkey. In Iran, Newruz is the most important holiday of the year. And the Kurds, as an Iranian people, are more welcome in Iran than anywhere else.

March 15th, 2007, 3:06 pm


Alex said:


“have you ever considered the possibility that Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran were founded on the “theft” of Kurdish land from the Kurds … and that the Arabs/Turks/Persians are “guests” there?”

Have you ever considered that Lebanon was founded on the “theft” of Syrian lands from Syrians?

We will not go there .. because then you will say that Lebanon was founded on “theft” of Druze lands ..etc.

YOU need to be consistent, no? … because it does not take much to realize that if you start giving one group (ethnic or religious ..etc) its independence, then others (Druze?) will ask for the same… so if I understand you correctly, you believe it is a good thing to start such a process by giving the kurds their Qamishli?

And this assumes that everything cuts out cleanly … which it is not. You know that Qamishli and Hassakai are not totally “kurdish”. Hassakai is half Christian for example. And Christians are not happy to hear Kurdish claims to Hassakai which used to have a much smaller percentage of kurds 40 years ago before Kurds escaping from Turkey populated Hassakai … so does that make Hassakai part of “kurdistan”?

Assyrian organizations in northern Iraq are sending weekly emails (I receive them) complaining about Kurdish tyranny! … So in Hassakai and Qamishli, the Assyrians who are also very proud and many of them believe they should maybe have their own country, will be very unhappy living in a Kurdistan. Will you then carve out an Assyria out of parts of Kurdistan?

So the problem is yet another Middle East chicken or egg question … do the kurds want to separate because they are not well treated or are they badly treated because the moukhabarat knows they are working with America and others to try their best to separate from Syria? (and Iraq, Turkey ..)

Many Kurds in Damascus do not have the same aspirations like Kurds in Qamishli … Many Kurds are happy to be Syrian and many of them participated in Syrian politics (communist party) and there was more than one Kurdish Syrian prime minister.
So if they all really want to be Syrian I think there will be no problem.

March 15th, 2007, 4:00 pm


Alex said:

More on Aljazeereh (North Eastern Syria) that some Kurds today claim part of historic Kurdistan:

Historically, this area has been where Arab nomadic tribes of Shammar, Jubour, Baggara, Tay, and others have been grazing their herds and was not urbanized until Christians fleeing the massacres committed mostly by Kurds in Turkey, settled in northern Syria.

The major towns of the area: Hassakai, Qamishli, Derbasyieh were founded and inhabited since the 1920s by these Christians.

There were a few small villages along the border with Turkey that had mixed Kurdish and Syriac Christian populations, such as Qubur al-beed قبور البيض (today alqa7tanyieh).

The percentage of Kurdish population in the area was in the region of 5-10%.

Today, Kurds living in this region come mostly from those who fled Turkish attacks on their population in the 6o-‘s, 70’s and 80’s. Hence their lack of loyalty to Syria. This differentiates them from Kurds who live in damascus for centuries and have been Arabized and have produced several prime ministers as I indicated earlier: Ayoubi (in the 70’s), Miro (from Aleppo) and others

Legalizing the status of kurdish refugees and illegal immigrants is a humanitarian issue that is to some degree similar to the United States’ problems with Mexican illegal immigrants and Europe’s with African and Middle Eastern illegal immigrants whose situation have not been properly addressed even though they do not have the political and security implications of Syria’s Kurdish illegal immigrants.

There is no “Kurdistan” in Syria.

March 15th, 2007, 4:32 pm


Atassi said:

Agree … There is no “Kurdistan” in Syria,
We have syrian kurdishs as well others..

March 15th, 2007, 4:44 pm


Fares said:

Alex, I doubt that there is half a million mexican who have been in the US for 40 years don’t have any paper. True there is no Kurdistan in Syria but there is the minimum such as Syrian Citizenship to be given to them.

What do the kurds have to do to obtain that since they were promised many time that the problem be solved. When you treat some people badly they will react badly and Syria is great doing that to Lebanon and the Kurds and now to the Ahwasis who are arabs and that what we studied in the great baath books.

Add to you list Hanano who fought against the French mandate and many other kurds who keep contributing positevely to the Syrian society.
Saladin the great arab hero was kurdish. Kurds are part of the Syrian mosaic similar to Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmen, Jews, Syrians (christian) and they deserve to have their rights and be welcomed not looked upon with suspicions.

Yes being arab is great but denying the other is not what great societies such as our should do. I agree with you that the kurds have a big birth rate and they multiply in numbers but that is where you raise national awareness specially in the villages and poor areas to present the pros and cons of having huge families in these days and how that contribute to poverty etc…BTW that is not a kurdish problem only. Aleppo has more than doubled in size because of villagers who kept coming and settling in bad areas with their families and that contributed to the social and economical decline of the city.

Programs need to be implemented in terms of family planning instead of raising the slogans of big population is a national fortune and power. Syria needs to stay below 25 million people for the next 20 years for any chance of prosperity.

March 15th, 2007, 5:02 pm


Alex said:

Fares, I agree. but as I said … instead of being caught in a chicken and egg scenario, both sides need to understand the fears of the other side …the dilemma is that those Kurds who do not want to be part of Syria happen to be the ones who are asking for being treated as normal Syrian citizen. So they want to become Syrian in order to make their area not Syria.

Just like Miro was prime minister, they all will be welcome into Syria … but they can’t have it both ways.

You know Armenians are allowed to have their own schools and teach Armenians in those schools … there is no reason Kurds would not be allowed the same thing … if they were, like the Armenians, not interested in redrawing Syria’s borders!

And .. this gets into regional and international complications … as long as France and the United States are openly in conflict with Syria’s current leadership, and as long as the Kurds are allied with both countries, there is another reason for the Syrian authorities to be suspicious of hte Kurds.. especially the way Iraqi Kurds cooperated with the Israelis.

Kurds have to commit to Syria … Syria will take them and give them some cultural autonomy that they would like to have.

March 15th, 2007, 5:16 pm


Gibran said:

I propose that Syria be subdivided into 4 Independent States:
1) North east region will become part of Kurdistan
2)Southern region including Damascus, Houran, Toudmor, Jabal el-Arab may become part of Jordan.
3)The coastal region of Latakia up to the border with Iskandaron may become the Kingdom of Bashar and Co.
4) Central region including Homs, Hama, Aleppo and what remains of the coast becomes the Arab Republic of Syria.
That should have been done some 100 years ago. But better late than never.

March 15th, 2007, 5:21 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

it would be better when Lebanon a southwest province of Syria return to the mother land of great Syria.

March 15th, 2007, 5:56 pm


Atassi said:

Please “try NOT” to Reply to GIBRAN.
Ignore his comment; this is just an evil personality

March 15th, 2007, 6:02 pm


ausamaa said:

Great Idea !

March 15th, 2007, 6:07 pm


ausamaa said:

What has happened to Brammerz Report? Anyone?

March 15th, 2007, 6:09 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

Dear Joshua Landis and Readers,

I actually only intended to mention here that Javier Solana is not the ‘President’ of the EU, but it’s Foreign Policy Representative, aka ‘foreign minister’. However I am (very negatively) impressed, with the amount of patriotic gore (apologizes to Edmund Wilson), and balderdash, exhibited by various regulars who have responded to the posting on the situation of the Kurds in Syria.

Let us get down to cases: ‘history’, and, in particular demographic history, cuts no ice, when it comes to contemporary conditions. If one wishes to premise everything on HISTORY, than I can argue that HISTORY, should dictate that all Arab speakers should be kicked out of the entire Near and Middle East, because prior to 632, all of them were concentrated in the Arabian peninsula….So let us please drop any arguments
based upon history.

As I said, to premise any workable and plausible solution to the Kurdish problem in Syria, to whether or not, Kurds living there are ‘indigenous’ to Aleppo or Homs, or North-Eastern Syria, is a losing argument. The fact of the matter is that the regime in Damascus, must needs in the next ten to twenty years, come up with a workable and plausible (plausible to the Kurdish population that is) modus vivendi, in which Kurdish rights and existence are recognized, and under which Kurds will hopefully be able to acquire an allegiance to Syria, as their homeland.

As a practical matter, the regime in Damascus is too weak, both in terms of its economic base, and its hold over the population, to withstand a longterm Kurdish ‘problem’ akin to that seen in
Turkey or in Iraq in the period since 1921. So, unless the regime wishes to bury itself in its own grave, it will do well to think seriously about some type of agreeable solution to the status of the Kurdish population, in the hopes that by addressing them now, it will be able to forstall, complete popular dissatisfaction later on. One thing that history does show, is that, concessions, which at point ‘a’, might have worked, will most definitely not work, at point
‘b’….too late.

In five to ten years time, a continuation of the
current situation in Syria among the Kurdish population, will mean that any ‘Syrian’ solution will no longer be viable or plausible. Then at that point, only a ‘Kurdish’ solution will be on the table.

I would be interested in what Professor Landis’ take on this would be. Both as a historian (looking at nationalist movements in general) and, as a specialist on 20th century Syria of course.

March 15th, 2007, 6:19 pm


Ford Prefect said:

We’d need to spray it with rodent repellant first.

March 15th, 2007, 6:30 pm


Samir said:

Btw Alex ,Miro is not from Aleppo ,he is from al Tall near Damascus ,it must be known that several prime ministers and presidents of Syria are of kurdish origin ,like Fawzi Zilo,Adib Shishakli,Husni al Zaim,Ata Bey al Ayyoubi and the national leaders Rushdi Bey al Kikhia ,Yousef al Azmeh and Brahim Hanano and historical figures,Salahadin Ayyoubi,Sulayman Halabi,Abi Al Fida…..
The founder of damascus arab academy is Muhamad Kurd Ali and the most famous syrian painter Fateh al Mudaress was a kurd from Aleppo.

Also, many of the important families in Aleppo,Hama and Damascus have kurdish origins.

They are integral part of bilad al sham identity.

March 15th, 2007, 6:42 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D..

“..because prior to 632, all of them were concentrated in the Arabian peninsula….So let us please drop any arguments based upon history.”

Your information is grossly inaccurate, I am sorry to say. The Lakhmids, with their capital in Hira (today’s Iraq) settled in the year 266 AD. The Ghassanids, who came from Yemen, settled in the Hauran region (today’s Syria) in 250 AD. Both were Arabic tribes with dominant population in the region. Sorry, doc!

March 15th, 2007, 6:47 pm


Gibran said:

Interpol calls for arrests in Argentine bombing
POSTED: 11:28 a.m. EDT, March 15, 2007
Story Highlights• Interpol plans to issue requests for the arrest of six in a 1994 Argentina blast
• Police agency turns down request for help in arrests of three former top Iranians
• Iran denies involvement in bombing of Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires
• Five Iranians and a Lebanese militant are among those Interpol plans to target

PARIS, France (AP) — Interpol plans to issue international requests for the arrest of five prominent Iranians and a Lebanese militant in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, the international police agency said Thursday.

Interpol turned down Argentina’s request for help in the arrests of three other former top Iranians, including former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Argentina requested help from Interpol after Argentine Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral said last year he was seeking the detentions of Rafsanjani and eight others. Argentine prosecutors have alleged that the attack was orchestrated by leaders of the Iranian government and entrusted to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Iran has denied any involvement in the bombing and said it would oppose any attempt to detain Iranian citizens. Both countries are members of Lyon, France-based Interpol.

Interpol said it would issue “red notices” for the Iranians on March 31 unless either Iran or Argentina appeals the decision. In that case, none would be issued, and the matter could go before Interpol’s general assembly in November.

A “red notice” is an Interpol request that a wanted person be arrested with a view to extradition. While the measure cannot force countries to arrest or extradite suspects, people with red-notice status appear on Interpol’s equivalent of a most-wanted list.

The six people that Interpol plans to issue red notices for include former Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahijan and a Lebanese militant, Imad Mughniyah.

Interpol declined to issue red notices for Rafsanjani, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and the former ambassador of Iran in Buenos Aires, Hadi Soleimanpour.

Eighty-five people were killed and 200 wounded when a van packed with explosives blew up outside the seven-story Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.

March 15th, 2007, 7:03 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Thanks for the insightful information. Indeed, Kurds were part of Bilad al Sham since the early ages. Let’s not forget one testimony of their presence, Crac des Chevaliers, or in Arabic Husn al Akrad which was built in 9th century.

March 15th, 2007, 7:08 pm


Gibran said:

على ذمة تقارير روسية
“اللسعة”.. عملية لضرب منشآت إيران النووية في السادس من إبريل

موسكو- وكالات

ذكر تقرير صحافي روسي أن الإدارة الأمريكية ستشن عملية عسكرية أطلق عليها اسم “اللسعة” على إيران في الساعة الرابعة من فجر السادس من إبريل/نيسان المقبل، تقوم فيها بضرب نحو 20 منشأة نووية، ما قد يؤدي إلى تعطيل البرنامج النووي الإيراني مدة لا تقل عن 5 أو 7 سنوات.

ونقلت وكالة أنباء نوفوستي الروسية عن التقرير الذي نشرته صحيفة”ارغومينتي نيديلي” ان هناك معلومات “تفيد أن الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ستشن عملية عسكرية أطلق عليها اسم “اللسعة” على إيران في الساعة الرابعة من فجر السادس من إبريل وتستمر حتى الساعة الرابعة بعد الظهر”، وقالت إن تلك العملية تتضمن “ضرب حوالى 20 منشأة خاصة بالشطر الخفي من البرنامج النووي الإيراني بالصواريخ التي ستطلقها الطائرات والغواصات (ولن تتعرض محطة بوشهر النووية التي تشيدها روسيا للهجوم)”.

وذكر التقرير أن المسؤولين الأمريكيين يفترضون أن تعطل هذه العملية البرنامج النووي الإيراني لمدة لا تقل عن خمس أو سبع سنوات.

وذكرت نوفوستي ان مصدرا في الإدارة الروسية وجه “تحذيرا إلى القيادة الإيرانية قال فيه إن روسيا لن تدعم إيران إذا لم تُجب الأخيرة عن أسئلة الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية”، وأضاف: “لن نلعب مع الإيرانيين لعبة ضد الأمريكيين”.

ويرى خبراء عسكريون روس أن التخطيط لشن هجوم أمريكي على إيران تجاوز نقطة اللاعودة في 20 فبراير/شباط الماضي بعدما فشلت المحادثات بين الإيرانيين ومدير الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية محمد البرادعي في فيينا.

أما بالنسبة للرد الإيراني المحتمل فإن “الإيرانيين يلمحون في الأحاديث الخاصة إلى أنهم استعدوا للقيام برد ثأري يستهدف الولايات المتحدة كتفجير الجسور في جزيرة مانهاتن في نيويورك”.

March 15th, 2007, 7:10 pm


ausamaa said:

Charles G. Coutinho,

But why? I, for one, was mildely surprised by the soft and tolerant reaction of the majority of the readers. Most appeared to agree that yes, there was a problem, and many tended to “identify” with the issue at hand. Yes, few have had harsh words on account of what appeared as lack of loyality to the country by some of the surveyed Kurdish students, but again, some of the answers of the respondants to the survey were little provocative (i.e. did not want to serve in the army, felt no loyality to the State, but, wanted full nationality previligaes and wanted to seperate themselves from Syria).

And mind you, it is an issue we are not very familliar with. And a sensetive one if it envolves separetist implications. Yet, most readers were kind of balanced and open minded. The kurdish dealings with Israel was not delt with kindly, but should we expect otherwise?

Taking into account how the Kurds were dealt with over the decads in Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Syria had the best record by comparison. Not many readers here took shelter in this fact to shelve the issue.

March 15th, 2007, 7:15 pm


Samir said:

Ford is right,
The arabs were present in Syria since the akkadian era.(at least 2000 BC).
Btw all of these semitic people,like the assyrians,aramaics,chaldeans,akkadians,amorite were at the begining beduin tribes from the syro-arabian desert.It’s known that the first cities in south mesopotamia were founded by the Sumerians,they were non semitic people and their origin is not yet established,so these early sumerian cities had since 3000 BC a semitic population migrants from the syro-arabian desert as the Amorites and Akkadians.
Also the Arabs in Yemen have founded a sophisticated civilization since the old antiquity.

March 15th, 2007, 7:19 pm


Gibran said:

After reviewing some facts, I found that the 3rd item of my proposal regarding the subdivision of Syria into 4 independent states needs modification. It will now look like this:
3) Only Latakia and the surrounding mountains known as the Jibal Al-Alawiyyin (Alawite Mountains) will make up the Kingdom of Bashar and Co. We cannot give Bashar Banias and the coastal region to the north where he doesn’t have any constituencies.

Now item number 4 will remain the same:

4) Central region including Homs, Hama, Aleppo and what remains of the coast becomes the Arab Republic of Syria.

I hope Atassi will see less evil in this modified proposal.

March 15th, 2007, 7:37 pm


ugarit said:

Philip The Arab was emporer of Rome from 244 – 249 AD and was from Shahba which is about 55 miles south southeast of Damascus.

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the above link:
“Later tradition, including the historian Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, stated that Philip was the first Christian Roman emperor. This is doubtful because non-Christian writers do not mention the fact, and throughout his reign Philip continued to follow the state religion. Eusebius’ claim is probably due to the tolerance Philip showed towards Christians.”

March 15th, 2007, 7:43 pm


Samir said:

Gibran ,they tried to divide syria during the french mandate with the help of some alawites,it’s said that the grandfather of hafez,sulayman was on of them but they failed….u should understand that syria has a spine which contain the majority of the syrian population from Bosra and Deraa of Horan to the northern Muhafaza of Aleppo(aleppo-damascus axis),thanks to this reality syria can not be divided…and as u said ,the coastal cities are related in one way or an another to the aleppo-damascus axis.

March 15th, 2007, 7:49 pm


Atassi said:

I think Charles Coutinho implying the fact that the death of the prophet in “632” was the turning point of the Islamic expansions outside of Arabia…
He is mixing between Arab as a race and the Islamic State

March 15th, 2007, 7:52 pm


Gibran said:

Thanks Samir for the information. But at least you’re providing some historiacl basis to my argument – not like some self righteous good vs. evil personality that gets him no where.

March 15th, 2007, 7:55 pm


ugarit said:

ATASSI said: “He is mixing between Arab as a race and the Islamic State”

Since when have Arabs become a race? BTW, there is no such thing as race. It’s an artificial artifact.

March 15th, 2007, 8:11 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

Dear Joshua Landis and Readers,

Being not a specialist on the subject, but, somewhat familiar with the literature, I am bemused, but not surprised, the local chauvanists, try to make for some ‘Arab’ presence in the Levant, and or Near East prior to the conquests of 636-638. In point of fact of course, based upon all the objective, written and,
archaeological evidence, there is no, repeat no,
serious historical basis to state that any of the
above regions mentioned had any large scale
Arab speaking populations, either migratory or
settled. For people who are interested in the subject, I highly recommend the following two
books: Fergis Millar’s The Roman Near East, and Maurice Sartre’s La Syrie Antique & D’Alexandre `a Zenobie: histoire du Levant Antique (Nota Bene: ‘Philip the Arab’ aka Marcus Julius Philippus, was referred to as ‘Philip the Arab’, not because he either spoke some Arabic dialect, nor because he was of ‘Arab’ origin (it would appear that his family background was that of a
Roman settlers), but simply because he was born in the (Roman) province of ‘Arabia’).

To posit otherwise, is mere provincial chauvinism, pur et simple. To use a more demotic
form of expression: ‘get real guys, and, drop the
historical arguments’. Once you get there you will lose, because you guys were not there first.
Sad but true. So, let us deal with the contemporary realities, and, not some outdated,
historically illiterate mode of argumentation.

I would be interested in Joshua Landis’ view of all this, by the bye.

March 15th, 2007, 8:19 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D.,
Who are the Ghassanids and the Lakhmids then, Martians?

March 15th, 2007, 8:24 pm


ugarit said:

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph.D. said: “To posit otherwise, is mere provincial chauvinism, pur et simple.”

I don’t think anyone meant any malice or hatred towards others by discussing the “Arabness” of certain peoples and civilizations; therefore, the use of chauvinism is quite misplaced here.

I do agree with you that historical arguments are very problematic.

March 15th, 2007, 8:31 pm


ugarit said:

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said” “‘Philip the Arab’ aka Marcus Julius Philippus, was referred to as ‘Philip the Arab’, not because he either spoke some Arabic dialect, nor because he was of ‘Arab’ origin (it would appear that his family background was that of a Roman settlers), but simply because he was born in the (Roman) province of ‘Arabia’).”

It would be interesting to know who was it that referred to him as ‘the Arab’.

So little is known of Philip the Arab so how can one state that his family background was that of Roman settlers? How do you know that he did not speak some dialect of Arabic or he wasn’t an Arab? He may have spoken a form of Nabatean, but who knows. All this being said he may not have been an Arab what ever that means.

It’s interesting that you quote Arabia, as if there is only one proper definition.

March 15th, 2007, 8:41 pm


Samir said:

Yes Philip the Arab Emperor of Rome was an Arab the son of an Arab sheikh.(tribal chief) and has no european origin.
Charles Phd;you are mixing Roman citizen with Roman settler.

March 15th, 2007, 9:06 pm


Samir said:

Charles Phd:point of fact of course, based upon all the objective, written and,
archaeological evidence, there is no, repeat no,
serious historical basis to state that any of the
above regions mentioned had any large scale
Arab speaking populations

Sorry but you are wrong again,most of the inhabitants of Palmyra were in fact Arabs ,even the Belgian Jesuit and orientalist Henri Lammens,one of the founder of Saint Joseph University who was an anti arab racist recognized the heavy arabization of Syria before Islam,this is a well established fact.
In every old syrian city ,like in Damascus,Aleppo,Hama and Homs there were quarters called Al Hader ,those were the arab populated quarters of the hellenistic period.
And one of the earlist forms of arabic writting was discovered in northern Syria.

March 15th, 2007, 9:18 pm


Gibran said:

Dr. Charles D Coutinho PH.D. (AKA Person, Headless, Dumb)
You’re not going to come here to the blogsphere of the sly Landis and tell me (GIBRAN the Phoenician) that I’m not Arab. No, hold on please and move no further because you’re making a fool of yourself and you seem to intend to make a bigger fool of Landis than what he is already. Now, we the Phoenicians know exactly where we came from. And we don’t listen to amateurs like you hiding behind a Person, Headless and Dumb title telling us who we are. Who the hell are you and where do you come from? We came from the eastern Arab Peninsula and we still have roots down there. Now, we migrated all over the place and we even sacked Rome at one time. So neither you nor Landis is going to decide for us. We see exactly what you guys are doing but believe me you’re making fools of yourselves. Now for your own information as well for Landis’, the Phoenicians predate the Romans as well as many late comers like you and Landis by millennia. We’re still around and we will be around when people like you and Landis disappear from this planet. In fact, without the Phoenicians amateurs like you and Landis wouldn’t have been able to hold a pen and write legibly or even speak two words back to back.

March 15th, 2007, 9:21 pm


ugarit said:

A “Phoenician” would not call himself Phoenician. That’s a term used by Greeks to describe the inhabitants of the coastal Levant. What did the “Phoenicians” call themselves? Canaanites.

March 15th, 2007, 9:27 pm


ausamaa said:

See, perhaps this is how the Kurds get always forgotten!

March 15th, 2007, 9:29 pm


Gibran said:

You’re becoming tooooooo ridiculous UGARIT. The Greeks didn’t even exit when the Phoenicians were there. I told you previously to go find your life somewhere else. What else do you want? We’ll give Bashar and his Co. a Kingdom in Latakia and the surrounding mountains. Go and live there and become Canaanite if you want.

March 15th, 2007, 9:32 pm


Samir said:

Ugarit:A “Phoenician” would not call himself Phoenician. That’s a term used by Greeks to describe the inhabitants of the coastal Levant. What did the “Phoenicians” call themselves? Canaanites.

I agree

March 15th, 2007, 9:37 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

april 6th,iran will be hit, this will create whole new strategy, Iran will be weaken, Syria will be weaken too,the response will reverberate to Lebanon, a major war might result, Syria will be part of it,too many people will die, if Iran recover, george Bush may well need a room in mental hospital,he will need help to recover from alcoholism, american policy is going crazy.

March 15th, 2007, 9:53 pm


Gibran said:

This issue has been debated sometime ago and we proved that Phoenicians and Canaanites are not the same people. I respect your opinion, but we don’t have the time to go through the same argument once again. So take it from me. A Phoenician is a Phoenician. And a Canaanite is a Canaanite. For example when you speak of Lakhmids, every one knows they originate in Yemen. That’s quite a distance to Eastern Arab Peninsula where the Phoenicians come from. Again, the Ghassanids originate in the northern part of the Peninsula. I’m not going to go into the details of the history of Ancient Arabia. But roughly speaking the history is divided according to Ibn Kathir into two major eras: The era of the Arabs that Withered (Al-baeda) and the era of the Arabs the Migrators (al-Ariba). There are also the Arabized Arabs of Ishmael through Abraham who actually originate in UR (Present day Iraq). Now Ishmael married a Yemenite and she begot him 12 sons. Their descendants constitute the present-day major Arab tribes who have real claim over Princehoods. So, in short let’s not go there and call the Phoenician a Phoenician and the Canaanite a Canaanite. The important point I need to stress here is that people like this Coutinho (AKA PHD) as well as the Sly Landis don’t have the knowledge nor the expertise nor even a trace of Arab blood in them to come and tell us you guys are not Arabs. Let’s get rid of their nonsense and then we can deal with these different strains of Arabs (Phoenicians, Canaanites, Assyrians, etc…) among ourselves.

March 15th, 2007, 9:57 pm


ausamaa said:

Yes GIBRAN, Yess. Can we also ask the French and American Ambassodrs to stay out of our affairs as well?

March 15th, 2007, 10:02 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

I will forebear from further comment, except to note, that with the mention of the magic word ‘history’ as it pertains to the Arabs, and their post-633 presence in the Levant, that almost immediately the conversation turns samersault like back to Abraham and Issac.

Rather along ways away from the original topic of Professor Landis’ posting. And, proves my point that, grounding arguments based upon ‘history proves that we have lived here since day x, hence, this land belongs to tribe / people y, leads purely to a cul de sac. A dead end.

As per the personal invectives, well I am somewhat habituated to that from memories of my
days teaching undergraduates. Except in their cases, they made no claims to be experts in history of the Levant, Syria or elsewhere.

Enough said.

March 15th, 2007, 10:20 pm


syrian said:

Has anyone here ever met a Phoenician or a Cannanite. Unlike the Kurds, these ethnic groups no longer exist or do they?

March 15th, 2007, 10:24 pm


Gibran said:

Brammertz links Hariri killing to election law, 2005 polls
Report fails to identify non-cooperative states
By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff
Friday, March 16, 2007

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza received the latest report of the UN International Independent Investigating Commission into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri late Thursday. The head of the probe, Serge Brammertz, submitted his report to the UN secretary general earlier in the day.

In the report, Brammertz requested his mandate be extended beyond its June expiration and provided a thorough explanation of the possible political motives behind the Hariri assassination. Contrary to media reports, he did not name the 10 states accused of not cooperating with his investigation.

Brammertz said it was unlikely that the commission will complete its work before its mandate expires in June 2007.

The Lebanese government decided last month to ask the United Nations to extend the panel’s mandate by a year. The commission’s interim report noted the cooperation of the Lebanese and Syrian governments in the investigation.

Referring to the 10 uncooperative states, Brammertz said that while responses from them were “overdue,” “the commission held a series of meetings with relevant ambassadors to discuss past requests, and as a result, almost all outstanding matters were resolved to the commission’s satisfaction.”

Brammertz said that Syria had cooperated, adding “cooperation remains an important component of the commission’s work.”

The commission also continued to make linkages between the assassination of Hariri and 15 other bombings and attacks in Lebanon in the past two years.

For the first time, Brammertz linked the assassination to the election law, which was due to be debated in Parliament the day of the assassination.

“In the last months of Hariri’s life, he was very focused on the forthcoming 2005 elections,” the report said. At another point Brammertz said that “Hariri was killed on the day Parliament was scheduled to debate the electoral law.”

Brammertz reiterated that one above-ground blast killed the five-time premier.

As in his previous reports, he refrained from naming official suspects, saying only that the investigation has “made progress in collecting new evidence and in expanding the forms of evidence collected.”

The report said that investigations had uncovered 33 different pieces of a human body that is believed to have belonged to the man “likely to have detonated the device.”

The report added that the man was exposed to lead pollution in an urban environment up to the age of about 12, “and that such exposure was low during the last 10 years of his life, possibly indicating that he lived in a more rural environment during this period.”

A total of 112 samples from 28 locations in Lebanon and Syria have been collected. Additional samples from three other Middle Eastern countries and from abroad will be collected to “advance this line of inquiry.”

On the Ain Alaq bombings in February, which killed three and wounded 24, Brammertz said that “it remains unclear at this stage what the motive was in executing these attacks, in the place, on the date and at the time they occurred.”

Brammertz said the commission has identified 250 individuals to be interviewed, with 50 to be interviewed in the next three months.

Brammertz presented his report to Ban Ki-Moon one day after the UN secretary general handed in his own report on Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the summer 2006 war with Israel.

In his report, Ban urged Israel to reconsider its daily overflights of Lebanese territory, a policy he said Israel claims to be “a necessary security measure” until two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah on July 12, 2006, are released and alleged arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border is put to an end.

The secretary general’s report is based on information provided by Ban’s special adviser on Lebanon, Michael Williams.

A UN source in Beirut told The Daily Star that copies of the report were distributed to the representatives of the 15 members of the Security Council ahead of a planned meeting of the body next week to discuss the report.

The secretary general criticized both Israel and Lebanon for violating Resolution 1701.

He said, however, that authenticating detailed information from Israel about alleged breaches of the arms embargo across the Lebanese-Syrian border would require independent military assessment.

Ban nonetheless said he was pleased that the overall commitment of the governments of Israel and Lebanon to the resolution “remains strong.”

He suggested that Security Council member states “consider supporting an independent assessment mission to consider the monitoring of the border” to ensure full implementation of the resolution.

Ban warned that without progress on “core issues,” including the release of Israeli and Lebanese prisoners, resolving the issue of the disputed Shebaa Farms, halting Israeli overflights of Lebanon and respect for the arms embargo, “progress on 1701 could be severely tested in the months to come.”

Ban said the Shebaa Farms, captured by Israel during the 1967 war, “remains a key issue” in implementing the resolution. The United Nations maintains the area is Syrian, but Lebanon says the territory is Lebanese, a claim backed – at least verbally – by Syria.

Ban singled out a significant increase in Israeli air violations of Lebanese airspace in February and early March, but said he was encouraged by the near full deployment of a UN peacekeeping force and the Lebanese Army in South Lebanon and the absence of any other “positions” along the Blue Line, an apparent reference to Hizbullah.

“However, this report is submitted against the background of an acute and continuing political crisis in Lebanon and mounting Israeli concerns about the unauthorized transfer of arms across the Lebanese-Syria border,” he said.

Ban called on all Lebanese parties to recommit to the government’s seven-point plan, which says that the Lebanese state should be the only authority in the country and sole possessor of the use of force.

March 15th, 2007, 11:27 pm


Enlightened said:


Given the inflamed passions regarding the post, it was my sincere wish that it was not removed, but that was only 5% of my thinking, it was merely a wish that it wasnt, that was all.

No never has any of my comments being removed, I have never written anything vulgar here, towards anyone, and try very hard to respect other opinions expressed here, even when others have tried to goad or bait me (sometimes). I try and respect everyone and their opinion, I am also trying to interact with other ARAB bretheren because here in the diaspora because I also need to grow as an individual and also learn more about my heritage and culture.

As for being fair and prudent, I try to be all the time, maybe except once when i had a argument with ausamma about Syria’s role in The Lebanese civil war is one exception, but it didnt dissolve into personalities or vulgarity, we chose to differ in opinion.

Posting Youngs comment here i felt was important, because we needed to see his side, its not a question of who is wrong or right, but only thorugh dialogue can we solve problems. I do not question Joshuas integrity or sincerity, and know he was trying to cool matters down, often when arabs argue it becomes heated, and josh having resided in the in the mid east aware of the culture and manners etc, it was better to calm things down for another day. ( My dad said to me never argue with an angry arab).

Ausamma, I know that you have no love for michael Young, but I dont think he is a fully fledged member of the LF or Kataeb (arabic), and I dont think that that the LF stands for the same principles that its founder espoused, they have evolved, how much is a matter of opinion. Yes he is ant syria, and so are a lot of others either thorugh choice or opportunism (Jumblatt for instance), but these are the realities today.

I have abundance of panadol at the moment, I just finished renovating a house my wife and i bought, I have an over supply , I will gladly send you some by air freight, if it helps to cure the headache that i caused you.

I take your point about Josh, being the only academic taking a pro arab stance and that is rare in America, I remember the attacks that Edward Said had to endure during his lifetime, but a stoush is a stoush, we are all the better for divergent opinions.

March 15th, 2007, 11:36 pm


Samir said:

Whatever his political affiliation is, Michael Young is a good writer and most of Young’s articles that i have read are reliable.

March 15th, 2007, 11:52 pm


ugarit said:

Gibran said “You’re becoming tooooooo ridiculous UGARIT. The Greeks didn’t even exit when the Phoenicians were there.”

That’s funny because I thought that the Greek alphabet was derived from Canaanite [Phoenician].

March 16th, 2007, 12:10 am


ugarit said:

“Has anyone here ever met a Phoenician or a Cannanite. ”

Many Syrians are the descendants of Canaanites.

March 16th, 2007, 12:12 am


ugarit said:

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said “.. almost immediately the conversation turns samersault like back to Abraham and Issac.”

No such thing happened in this case. It was all in your imagination. No one even talked about the mythical characters Abraham and Isaac.

March 16th, 2007, 12:16 am


Alex said:


If you do not like to base your analysis on “history” then … where does “history stop?

This is not 633AD “history” … Those who established the cities of Hassakai and Qamishli in the early 1900’s will not accept to become citizens of Kurdistan! …they want to remain proud Syrians… when Qamishli kurds (Turks who immigrated illegally to Syria) want to be real Syrians, like the Christians who escaped from Mardin and Dyiarbekir, then I am sure Syria will be happy to give them citizenship.

Your second point was: Syria is too weak to chose! … Syria better take the Kurds now or else…

I want to introduce you to your president who for the past two years told us that we are too stupid to understand… Syria must do as it is told or else!

But I like president Chirac … he has the courage to adjust his failed policies.

Charles, if you are still shaking your head in disappointment, you are welcome to engage us in a point by point debate … but hopefully without reminding us that you are a professor, please… no need to rate our opinions on a true and false scale.

March 16th, 2007, 12:21 am


EHSANI2 said:

Syria’s role in Lebanon was not optimal. Lots of mistakes were made and there were plenty of “tajawuzat” that could and should have been avoided. The cumulative effect of such acts took their toll on the way a lot of Lebanese felt about Syria and particularly its government. The recent trend however went further than one would have hoped. Still, one ought not be too surprised with the way the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated. I am not trying to give some of the Lebanese a pass when it comes to their recent stand against Syria. I am merely trying to tell my Syrian compatriots here to be a bit more sensitive about the way our country committed some of the blatant “tajawuzat” that we could have done without. My impression is also that some of the Lebanese politicians who are attacking Syria’s role should have done a much better job at not antagonizing the country’s “people” by making sure that they direct their criticisms exclusively at the country’s government. Saad Harrii himself is married to a Damascene Syrian. He, for one, should be leading the charge to calm the passions and anger of Syria’s people by keep repeating that it is the government and not the people that he is challenging.

I find this exchange between Michael Young and Joshua Landis regrettable. Both are very smart and well informed. Both have a different view about the optimal future course of action for the region. Niether of them has a monopoly over the truth. Their different viewpoints ought to be welcome and discussed in an open and transparent manner. I wish both of them would challenge each other in writing more regularly. I think that would be a treat for us all.

As to the issue of the Kurds, I think that it very important to note the difference between the plight of the Kurds and the Armenian in a country like Syria. Kurds and Assyrians are not allowed to teach their respective languages in schools. Niether can publish a newspaper in their language. The Christian Syrians (Assyrians) have tried to do so for years but failed. The Kurds have had a similar experience. On the other hand, the Armenians can do both freely. Their schools are vibrant and so are their newspapers.


Armenians are regarded as “qawmiya Muhajjara” They are foreign to the land and have no claim to an inch of the country. Kurds and Assyrians are different. They are very much a local “qawmiyyat”. Once they are allowed to have their languages taught in their schools and for their newspapers spread and prosper, calls for independence will soon follow. Unlike the Armenians, their so-called historic homeland is not between Turkey and Russia.

March 16th, 2007, 12:33 am


Syrian said:

When you say many syrians are the descendants of Canaanites do you mean they can trace back their family trees to pure canaanite. With all the civilizations and cultures that passed through and settled the region I would be absolutely shocked is any “Canaanite” descendant can attribute with any certainty any portion of their blood to that era. However, if you are claiming canaanite heritage based on the fact that the canaanites once populated the area then why not go further back or not quite so far back? what is so special about the canaanites that we need to stop there?

March 16th, 2007, 12:38 am


Gibran said:

Charles G. Coutinho (AKA PHD)

The greatest folly a person of your demeanor would commit would be to engage in a topic that he knows almost NOTHING about. Apparently, even with your pompous PH.D. Title, you never heard of Ibn Kathir because your reference to Abraham and Isaac clearly shows you don’t understand that the Arabs have their EXPERT historians; and that, when Ibn Kathir speaks of the Arabs that Withered (Al-Arab Al-Baeda) he is referring to an even much much earlier period than the time of the famous Patriarch. So I support you fully when you say enough said. Go back to your undergraduate classes and entertain your folly of amateurish knowledge of Arabia with like-minded amateurs.

March 16th, 2007, 12:45 am


Samir said:

Alex,go out your minority complex.

Most of al jazeera christian families have left the country for Europe and America.
And i dont see how this haemorrhage will stop as long as this qardahi minority is in power.

Is that normal that so many Oilfields workers and civil servants in al Jazeera region are from the coastal mountains ?
Who push this nice people to expatriate ,the kurds ?

March 16th, 2007, 1:11 am


Samir said:

Ehsani,despite all the cinema ,we syrians know since the begining that willy nilly israel is an ally of the syrian regime ,israel has no interest to see a regime change in damascus and this is normal position from our eternal enemy.this is in reality their most powerful card.

March 16th, 2007, 1:33 am


Samir said:

Mission délicate pour Javier Solana à Damas
De notre correspondante à Bruxelles ALEXANDRINE BOUILHET .

Le Figaro

PROCHE-ORIENT Un accord secret viserait à épargner à la famille du président Bachar al-Assad les poursuites d’un tribunal international, après l’assassinat de l’ancien premier ministre libanais Rafic Hariri.

EN VISITE aujourd’hui à Damas pour une rencontre longtemps attendue avec le président Bachar al-Assad, le chef de la diplomatie européenne n’a pas une mission facile. Le mandat de Javier Solana est signé par 27 États membres, dont la France, qui, à la surprise générale, a accepté, dès avant le départ du président Jacques Chirac de l’Élysée, de lever son veto antisyrien. Dans un tel contexte, la marge de manoeuvre du haut représentant pour la politique étrangère de l’Union reste étroite. « La France le surveille de très près ! » convient-on à Bruxelles. « Sur le fond, il n’est pas question de modifier d’un iota la politique européenne », affirme un diplomate européen.

Sur la forme, cependant, le régime syrien a marqué un point : ce sont les Européens qui font le premier pas, aujourd’hui, alors que Damas n’a encore fait aucune concession. « Je compte parler franchement au président Assad », a indiqué Javier Solana, depuis Beyrouth, où il a entamé sa tournée moyen-orientale lundi. « L’indépendance du Liban est, à nos yeux, un élément de stabilité très important dans la région », a-t-il ajouté.

Centrée sur la souveraineté du Liban et l’instauration d’un tribunal international pour juger les assassins de Rafic Hariri, la liste des exigences européennes à l’égard de la Syrie est longue, fondée sur différentes résolutions de l’ONU. Mais pour convaincre Damas de s’y associer, Bruxelles ne dispose que de maigres « carottes », comme la reprise d’un accord d’association entre la Syrie et l’UE, gelé en 2004. « C’est toute la difficulté de la mission de Solana, convient-on à Bruxelles. Quel intérêt aurait la Syrie à céder aux exigences européennes maintenant, alors qu’elle est plutôt en position de force dans la région ? »

La réponse à cette question réside dans le détail des propositions présentées par Javier Solana. Depuis le retrait de l’armée syrienne du Liban, en 2005, la mesure la plus attendue par les Européens et les Libanais, et la plus visible, serait la mise en place rapide du tribunal pour juger les assassins de Rafic Hariri.

Les Syriens multiplient les obstacles

Sans reconnaître la légitimité de ce tribunal, les Syriens coopèrent avec zèle à l’enquête du juge Serge Brammertz, mandaté par l’ONU. « Les commissions rogatoires sont exécutées le jour même ! » raconte un familier de l’enquête. L’attitude syrienne est plus butée lorsqu’il s’agit de définir le statut du tribunal et son délai de mise en place. Peu pressés, les Syriens multiplient les obstacles. Ils exigent, par exemple, que ce soit leur droit pénal qui s’applique et non le droit international.

Ces tracasseries dissimulent une crainte de voir s’asseoir dans le box des accusés un membre de la famille du président Bachar al-Assad, comme son beau-frère, soupçonné par les enquêteurs d’être le « cerveau » de l’opération Hariri. Pour amadouer les Syriens, les Chancelleries occidentales seraient tombées d’accord, en secret, pour que le futur tribunal s’abstienne de juger la famille du président syrien. Cette forme d’impunité risque de ne pas être acceptée par tous les Libanais.

March 16th, 2007, 1:48 am


Alex said:


My Syrian minority’s “complex” is very simple: They do not want to see any violent conflicts in Syria … they do not want you to have anger at the “Qurdaha minority”, and they don’t want the “Qurdaha minority” to fear you or oppress you or hate you.

Al Jazeera Christians heard from their parents the stories of how over a million family members were killed in Turkey in 1915… so excuse them if they have developed an anti violence and anti hate “complex” … when you already lived the results of hate, suspicion, revenge, extremism, and anger, you start seeing the danger well in advance and you try your best to warn everyone to not go there.

I understand your frustrations. I hope Syria will become as democratic and as logical as my current country, Canada, one day. But to go there, I want Syria to take the path of least resistance … not the most risky, bloody or confrontational path.

And I hope you realize that my opinion has nothing to do with religion … I am as opposed to your anger at the “qurdaha minority” as I am opposed to Michael Young’s revenge seeking, and opposed to the jailing of secular, non-violent political prisoners in Syria.

March 16th, 2007, 2:15 am


Samir said:


Dont be arrogant, Canada is Canada,Syria is Syria,i only want back all my rights hijacked by Asad and co.

It’s not a sectarian feeling at all,but on the contrary the asad familly monopolies is the origin of the problem,the asads only believe in the death or alive logic and what should we expect at the end,other than a big explosion somewhere ?

Be honest,once and Taking into account all the factors and realities in Syria;is that so difficult to find in the 20 million more qualified ,more honest ,more patriotic than the sons of hafez asad and his dirty familly ?

March 16th, 2007, 2:55 am


Samir said:

Anyway ,Alex you didnt answer the question .

Why christian families of al jazeera are expatriating in big numbers to North Europe and America ?

March 16th, 2007, 3:08 am


norman said:

SAMIR , It is simple ( THE KURDS )made their life misreble.

March 16th, 2007, 3:20 am


Samir said:

Norman this is a lie ….

Why they didnt expatriate before al asad era ?

March 16th, 2007, 3:22 am


Samir said:

This is a general trend in Syria ,observed in Christian regions like Wadi al Nassara between Homs and Tartous empty from kurdish population.
In Aleppo ,before Asad the christians were 25 % today less than 7 %.How do u explain this ?

March 16th, 2007, 3:26 am


Samir said:

Norman i invit you to read the last article of Michel Kilo before imprisonment.

March 16th, 2007, 3:29 am


norman said:

Samir, look around you man , Islamic fundimentalist is on the rise , Christians are being persecuted , they are being killed in Iraq , Syria is the only country that they can feel safe in and yes that is because of the Asad and the Baath party and untill others assure the minorities in Syria that their rights will be protected ,all minorities of Syria would preffer safty to Iraq kind democracy.

March 16th, 2007, 3:34 am


Samir said:

Norman,for Iraq it’s normal,they had wars and endured 13 years of inhuman embargo.
Syria is for them a temporary step to wait for A Visa to join a relative in Australia or the west.

But in Syria ,as u say ,we have stability and security so why the christians are leaving Syria .

March 16th, 2007, 3:40 am


Samir said:

Before i go to sleep ,

Thanks for your advice about the path of less resistance i think this is the way that Bunni,Kilo,Dr Labwani,Prof Dalila and many other great syrians have chosen…but it’s useless for me,the spies around me are doing their job…..and i’m not as brave as Bunni,Michel Kilo and Prof Dalila….

So i would like to know that…. what’s your advice to asads and makhloufs?

March 16th, 2007, 4:05 am


Alex said:


First I am fully with you in being disappointed in the unnecessary and unjustified treatment of Bunni, Kilo, Dalila type of dissidents. I also understand (but do not accept) the regime’s reasoning (except in Dalila’s case which is totally puzzling to me).

As for the other two points you raised

1) Christians are fleeing from everywhere in the Middle East They are scared from the violence and the anger around them, not only violence targeted at them … as I explained above, Christians want to see calm and open minded people all both sides. Your anger does not help, arresting Kilo and Dalila does not help.

Also, Syrian Christians, like many other non-Christian Syrians and Egyptian and Jordanians … are moving to places where they can better realize their education or economic dreams.

2) If you are asking about my advice to the Assads: Communicate better with those who hate you. And give them hope that if things do get better then reforms will indeed be accelerated.

Samir, I won’t be able to make you like my way of seeing things. Maybe I can do that in a 3-hour long conversation… but not here.

March 16th, 2007, 4:33 am


Alex said:

The full Brammertz report .. in Arabic

Where is T_DESCO?

March 16th, 2007, 4:55 am


Enlightened said:


Did you miss my response?

March 16th, 2007, 4:58 am


Alex said:


I swear I was about to reply this moment!

: )

But I was only planning to thank you for your pleasant response!

And you are absolutely right about the different way some of us motivated Arabs communicate, compared to an American WASP professor of history.

By the way, it is not only Arabs .. most Mediterraneans are just as bad! (or “good”) in raising their voices.

Instead of getting into Mr. Young’s detailed analysis, I like to focus on general observations: Joshua often apologizes for his mistakes, Michael Young rejects ALL claims against him!

I do not respect people who are not capable of admitting a single mistake or accepting criticism, or even doubt. Not very wise, not very mature, no matter how “intelligent” one’s writing skills make him sound.

This is the popular blog of one of Michael’s best friends. He is as abusive as his friend, and he actually removes readers’ comments he does not like which made his blog totally one sided, the way he likes it! … just like many “Democracy advocates” who think just because they can call for “Democracy” then they are always equal to the truth, to justice and to all the good things.

Here is his other abusive comments on Seymour Hersh. Anyone they don’t like they insult him and accuse him of being non credible.

Thank you again for your kind response.

What time is it in Australia?

March 16th, 2007, 5:24 am


Enlightened said:

Alex Its 4.38 in afternoon! have to go pick up my 8 month pregnant wife its our first child, Il have to swap email adresses.

best regards

March 16th, 2007, 5:39 am


Alex said:

click on “contact us” on my site.


March 16th, 2007, 5:53 am


ugarit said:

Samir asked: “However, if you are claiming canaanite heritage based on the fact that the canaanites once populated the area then why not go further back or not quite so far back? what is so special about the canaanites that we need to stop there?”

I am not claiming Canaanite heritage and nor am I claiming that Canaanites are special. Syrians are genetically diverse due to the strategic location of Syria.

March 16th, 2007, 10:50 am


ugarit said:


Your site is impressive.

March 16th, 2007, 1:50 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Ugarit!

March 16th, 2007, 2:56 pm


norman said:

That is why Syria is the heart of the Arab world , Syria is helping the Iraqies Arab while the Saudiws are buying and selling real state , isn’t that right Alex.

An Emerging Iraqi Refugee Crisis
By Ulrike Putz in Damascus, Syria

Syria has so far taken in 1.2 million refugees from Iraq without any help from the outside world, but there are indications that things could be about to change.

Ulrike Putz
The movement of Iraqi refugees across the border into Syria has become impossible to control. Syria is already harboring some 1.2 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor.
A refugee drama of the kind usually seen in Africa is currently underway in the Middle East — and it has taken the world a long time to take notice. About 1.2 million Iraqis have sought exile in Syria, and some 700,000 more have fled to Jordan.

The fact that this mass flow of refugees long went unrecognized by the West may be the result of the behavior of Iraq’s neighbors in Syria, who merely saw this generosity as a matter of course. Still, for a country of 19 million to take in 1.2 million refugees is comparable to Germany having to take in 5 million.

The result is that Syria’s economy is now groaning under the strain. The population suffers from water scarcity, electricity blackouts, increased competition for jobs and higher rent and food prices. But so far, the Syrians have accepted these burdens without complaint — and the government in Damascus continues to cultivate an open-door policy. Iraqis are neither turned away nor deported.

Find out how you can reprint this SPIEGEL ONLINE article in your publication. Lauren Jolles, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Syria, is full of praise. “Jordan and especially Syria are bearing the greatest burden without complaining,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Both countries have accepted the adverse effects on their own infrastructures and economies, Jolles said, “but every Iraqi child can go to school here. That means there are now between 50 and 60 children in one class, instead of 20 or 30.”

The hardship created has gone unrecognized for too long, he said, adding, however, that the United States “is gradually acknowledging that they have handed over responsibility.” But the international community ought to have rung the alarm much earlier, he said, before adding: “We have all abandoned Syria.”

Large aid package needed

A United Nations aid conference scheduled to be held in Geneva in mid-April may now bring relief for the 2 million Iraqi refugees outside the country and the 1 million displaced persons inside Iraq. “We will analyze the situation and see what is required,” Jolles said. But one thing is clear, in his view: “The result will have to be a very large aid package.”

Even though the desperate situation of the refugees in Damascus is “less visible” — because they have found accommodation in the suburbs and not in tent camps — exiled Iraqis are suffering from ever-greater problems. “First the middle class arrived, bringing along with it its savings,” Jolles explained. “But those savings are gradually running out.” The refugees arriving today are often poorer. They had no apartment to sell in their home country and therefore lack money, according to Jolles.

Sign up for Spiegel Online’s daily newsletter and get the best of Der Spiegel’s and Spiegel Online’s international coverage in your In- Box everyday.

The UNHCR now expects social problems to develop and worsen. “These people have been uprooted. They’ve been torn out of their neighborhood and their working environment,” said Jolles. Worse yet, they have hopes for any kind of future.

It’s a situation that has the Syrian government in a deep state of worry. “It’s trying to expand its capacities in order to keep the refugees under control,” Jolles said, explaining that Damascus wants to prevent the violence between Sunnis and Shiites from spreading across the border into Syria. But it is very difficult to keep an eye on such a massive number of people.

“The fear and the tension are growing,” Jolles said.

: Blogs discussing this story

Exodus to Syria: Iraqis Find Peace Across the Border (03/14/2007)
Photo Gallery: Iraqi Refugees in Damascus

March 16th, 2007, 2:58 pm


Rancher said:

Norman said “Immagine America’s response if American of Mexican origin call for the seperation of Texas and making it part of Mexico , I think we will take away their American citizen and send them back packing”.

Some have, Google “Reconquesta”, but we need not send them packing, in fact as American citizens we can’t and surely shouldn’t. The Reconquesta crowd is mostly comprised of ignorant reactionaries that represent a very small percentage of Hispanic Americans. The reason for that is most Hispanics are Americans first because they are citizens and participate in all the benefits freedom and Democracy allow. Give your Kurds the same opportunity and they may exhibit a bit more loyalty. A side note: Hispanics will soon become the majority in America.

Thank you for these interviews Joshua, we don’t hear enough of the plight of Syrian, Iranian, and Turkish Kurds.

March 16th, 2007, 3:49 pm


Atassi said:

Repaving the road to Damascus
Geoff Elliott
17 March 2007

The Australian

A change of mood in Washington means a thawing in its problematic relations with Syria, writes Washington correspondent Geoff Elliott
IMAD Moustapha is Syria’s genial envoy in Washington who, like any diplomat, is able to makes friends easily. But he had become used to rejection. Since Condoleezza Rice took over as the Bush administration’s Secretary of State in January 2005, he had been frozen out. The last promising diplomatic exchange had occurred in late 2004, when then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage made a high-profile visit to Damascus. But when Armitage departed the administration along with his boss, Rice’s predecessor Colin Powell, the line went dead.
Instead, Rice and President George W. Bush made a point of saying to Damascus, as well as the likes of Iran and North Korea, that they knew what they had to do to re-establish a dialogue in Washington and until then, well, forget it.
“For two years I can say there was not a single visit by me to the State Department,” Moustapha tells Inquirer. . “They never invited me, I never requested a meeting.”
To be sure, a big reason the Bush administration went cold on Syria early in the second term was thanks to allegations that Damascus’s fingerprints were on the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. For his part, Moustapha says Syria is co-operating with the UN inquiry into the matter and stresses that Damascus condemns the murder.
For the past two years Moustapha, who holds a doctorate in computer science, has not been idle. He got busy deepening his links with the Syrian-American community, had a busy speaker’s diary attending institutions he said represented the “healthy centre of American politics” and clocked up the occasional visit to the US Congress to meet representatives there.
Then, last month, things changed. Moustapha was asked to come in from the cold. On February 12 the State Department called and later that day he made the trip across Washington to meet Richard Albright, director of the State Department’s Office of Assistance for Asia and the Near East. And things have been moving rapidly since. He’s constantly up on Capitol Hill and yesterday he was due to head back to Congress to meet representatives talking about sending a delegation to Syria.
In Damascus this week Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, met Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad. It was the highest level visit by a Bush administration official to Syria since Armitage’s trip and
the most tangible sign yet of a thaw since the US withdrew its ambassador following the Hariri assassination.
Sauerbrey’s trip followed last weekend’s Baghdad regional security conference, where US, Syrian and Iranian officials discussed how to quell the violence in Iraq. There were plenty of robust verbal exchanges but the ice has been broken.
Officially, the administration is playing down the talks with Syria and Iran. Sauerbrey’s visit to Damascus is only in the context of the humanitarian crisis surrounding Iraqi refugees, State Department spokesman Tom Casey says.
But the evidence of a wider policy shift abounds, given that until this year the White House regarded any move to open direct talks with Iran, Syria and North Korea as leaving the administration open to extortion. In December last year, Bush told a press conference: “These countries have now got the choice to make. If they want to sit down at the table with the US, it’s easy; just make some decisions that will lead to peace, not to conflict.” But nothing much changed, and now suddenly breaking bread has become fashionable again.
Consider North Korea, which has gone from being an “axis of evil” nation, in Bush’s words, which detonated a nuclear bomb just last October, to holding direct discussions this month in New York in which officials talked about normalising relations.
“If you think about where they were in the first term and their policy vis-a-vis North Korea and sitting down with the Iranians, and if you fast-forward a year or two, well, you feel a little bit like Rip Van Winkle of American folklore,” says Chip Blacker, who served as a national security adviser to former president Bill Clinton. “You fall asleep and wake up and things are radically different but the same people are in charge.”
Blacker, a leading academic at Stanford, and Rice are close friends. “I think the last thing people in any administration want to admit is that you are undergoing a policy change, that what is being done is completely consistent, evolutionary and responsive to changes on the ground.”
Others point to the change in administration personnel, particularly the departure of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld who, with Vice-President Dick Cheney, championed the idea of brawn over brain when it came to geopolitics.
Philip Zelikow, counsellor to Rice until earlier this year and now a history professor at the University of Virginia, told The Washington Post this week that “the change at the Pentagon helped”. He added that the “political difficulties of the administration have strengthened Rice’s willingness to join with the President in offering some strong leadership in this area”.
Blacker says that while Rice served in Bush’s first term and was his national security adviser, her power to help shift policy came when she was appointed as Secretary of State. “I think Secretary Rice has very subtly and very skilfully made it clear that she is going to try to drive policy towards the greater Middle East that might actually eventually lead to a settlement based on the two-state solution [of Israel and Palestine]. I have watched with a bit of awe as she has kind of redirected US efforts vis-a-vis Iran and the DPRK [North Korea].”
But what changed specifically? Why did Syria’s Moustapha suddenly get the call on February 12?In fact, several days earlier Rice was being grilled in Congress over what the US was doing to try to help neighbouring countries share the burden of displaced persons from Iraq. There had been little attention to the issue in Washington until media reports began highlighting the extent of the problem.
Iraq’s neighbours have borne the brunt of the biggest humanitarian displacement in the region in more than 50 years. Syria has had it worst; 1.2 million Iraqis are estimated to have crossed its borders.
Under pressure to explain the US position, Rice — having earlier noted that talking to Syria would be a downside for Washington in Lebanon — revealed some action with Damascus was afoot.
“I have authorised the US charge in Syria to discuss this [the refugee issue] with the Syrians,” she said. “We obviously have discussed it with the Jordanians. I’ve said many times we have diplomatic relations with Syria, and so when we have something that we wish to talk about, we have a charge who is there.”
But Rice described the diplomatic approach as based simply on humanitarian grounds. To others the door has been opened. “There is apparently … a change in position of the US towards Syria,” Moustapha says. “It’s even more remarkable when you consider that during the past few years, when a third party like Europe wanted to talk to Syria, the Americans would exert pressure on them, saying: `Don’t talk to Syria.”‘
He says Washington has realised that trying to isolate the Syrian Government has not worked. It’s a point Armitage has consistently made, too: that Washington should engage Damascus.
Rice is still likely to be first Secretary of State since before Henry Kissinger not to make a trip to Syria while in office. But in the next month a meeting with foreign ministers from North Korea and Iran is on the agenda. And Damascus, after Sauerbrey’s visit this week, is making serious overtures, too. Meqdad says Syria wants a serious dialogue with Washington.
Moustapha tells Inquirer no country in the world can afford to have bad relations with the US and hopes things can get back on track. “The US has had political problems with Syria and Syria with the US for the [past] 30 years, but we always maintained a solid working relationship,” he says.

March 16th, 2007, 4:49 pm


Gibran said:

Hariri probe ‘progress on motive’

Before working at The Hague Mr Brammertz was a federal prosecutor
The chief investigator into the death of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri has said his inquiry is making progress on a possible motive on his killing.
In his latest interim report to the UN Security Council, Serge Brammertz said he had obtained promising new evidence.

He said his inquiry was focussing on political motives, such as trying to affect the outcome of 2005 elections.

The investigation has so far implicated Syrian intelligence officials, although Damascus has denied any involvement.

The Lebanese have already arrested four pro-Syrian generals in relation to the case. They also maintain their innocence.

Mr Hariri had not formally launched his parliamentary election campaign when he was killed in February 2005, but had been perceived as the likely winner, Mr Brammertz said.

Mr Brammertz, 44, is a former deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and before that was federal prosecutor in his native Belgium.

March 16th, 2007, 5:09 pm


ugarit said:

Dr. Landis quoted: “Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch wrote an op-ed, “The road to Damascus,” published the eve of EU President Solana’s visit to Damascus yesterday in which he writes, “Javier Solana’s visit to president Assad signals a fresh start for the EU’s relations with Syria. But human rights must not fall off the agenda.” He brings up the issue of stateless Kurds.”

Here’s As’ad Abu Khalil’s comment:

“On the occasion of Solana’s visit to Syria, a Human Rights Watch staffer wrote an editorial in the Guardian on human rights violations in Syria. Good. But I wrote to Nadim to ask him whether a Human Rights Watch staffer is planning to write a piece on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia because Solana also visited Saudi Arabia. (I don’t have his permission to cite from the exchange).”


March 16th, 2007, 6:01 pm


ausamaa said:

Can someone tell us what Brammertz really said in this last report?

1- He reitrates the prominance of the Political Motive.
2- Syrian officials continue to praise his profissinalisem and to cooperate with him.
3- He acknowedges Syria’s cooperation, distingushes between the different degrees of the qualities of this cooperation, but still finds it neccessary to mention that continued Syrian cooperation is important.
4- He seems to be saying that he kind of knows who has planned it, and who knew of it, and who participated, but he is missing the “link” between those which he is still working on.

Was the operation planned , as a mere contingency by some one, and then highjacked and executed by someone else?

Or is he throwing sand in the eyes of a lot of people?

Will they allow him the luxuery of a real free hand and of finding the truth? If he came close, that is?

March 16th, 2007, 6:01 pm


ugarit said:

المعارضة: فرع المعلومات يخفي أدلة على تورّط سعوديين في التفجيرات


March 16th, 2007, 6:03 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I did not find in Brammertz report anything substantially new, I think the yield is dwindling and getting scarce,I am about to give up on him.
the arab summit is nausiating, the arab league needs major hauling, but nobody is doing it, I think it is time to watch Jad Shuwairi.

March 16th, 2007, 6:19 pm


husien said:

i think the kurdish issue in syria will not resolve by foreign interference , we have to build a civil peace between kurds and arabs instead of thinking in foriegn iterference that will make us as traitors not to syria but to our region (middle east).

March 16th, 2007, 6:21 pm


Atassi said:

New terror outfit sprouts in Lebanon, says report
16 March 2007
Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies

New York, Mar 16 (PTI) A new terror outfit which vows to attack the US and has links to Al-Qaeda has been formed in Lebabon by a hardcore Islamic militant and is an image of “the re-emergence” of the terror network, a media report said Friday. The organisation titled “Fatah al Islam” is led by a Palestinian named Shakir al-Abssi, a former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the Mesopotamia based leader of Al-Qaeda who was killed last summer, the New York Times reported. Abssi has a militia that intelligence officials estimate at 150 men and an arsenal of explosives, rockets and even an anti-aircraft gun within four months of his arriving in Lebanon from Syria. During a recent interview with The New York Times, Abssi displayed his makeshift training facility and his strident message that America needed to be punished for its presence in the Islamic world. “The only way to achieve our rights is by force. This is the way America deals with us.

So when the Americans feel that their lives and their economy are threatened, they will know that they should leave”, he was quoted as saying by the daily. According to the paper, Abssi’s organisation is the image of what intelligence officials have warned is the re-emergence of Al-Qaeda. Shattered after 2001, the organisation founded by Osama bin Laden is now reforming as an alliance of small groups around the world that share a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam but have developed their own independent terror capabilities. American and Middle Eastern intelligence officials view Abbasi as a dangerous militant who can assemble small teams of operatives with acute military skill. “Guys like Abssi have the capability on the ground that Al-Qaeda has lost and is looking to tap into,” an American intelligence official told the paper. Abssi has shown himself to be a canny operator, the paper said, stressing that despite being on terrorism watch lists around the world, he has set himself up in a Palestinian refugee camp where he is largely shielded from the government. The camp also gives him ready access to a pool of recruits, young Palestinians whose militant vision has evolved from the struggle against Israel to a larger Islamic cause. Besides, he has also recruited around 50 militants from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries who were fresh from fighting with the insurgency in Iraq, Intelligence officials were quoted as saying. Earlier in 2002, Abssi was sentenced to death in Absentia along with Zarqawi for assassinating an American diplomat, Laurence Foley, in Jordan. The officials say they fear that he is seeking to establish himself as a terror leader on the order of Zarqawi. “He is trying to fill a void and do so in a high-profile manner that will attract the attention of supporters,” the American intelligence official said. Abssi has recently taken on a communications adviser, Abu al-Hassan, 24, a journalism student who dropped out of college to join Fatah al Islam and assigned him with a project: a newsmagazine aimed at attracting recruits, the daily said.

March 16th, 2007, 7:05 pm


ausamaa said:

Ahhh, very interesting, so much is known about this charecter and his group, and he still operates freely in Lebanon! Heck, with a Communications Advisor (cute isn’t?), and interviews by al Nahar and the N.Y.Times no less!

Why allow him Access and Publicity?

What the hell is that midget of an interior minister -Al Sabbae-, and his Support Team out of DC, doing about it?

Is the Siniora Clan in contol of things down there? Do they understand the full magnitude of all this? In Lebanon!

March 16th, 2007, 7:26 pm


ausamaa said:

If the DC Support Team is involved in all this, as Hersh said, don’t they know that it will backfire! Ask Israel how Hamas backfired?

Sh…! This IS playing with fire.

March 16th, 2007, 7:31 pm


ausamaa said:

And take this,

Israeli Intelligence is contradicting the Bush Team ( in public!); KSM is not what you say KSM is.

DEBKAfile reports: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confession inflates his role

March 15, 2007, 11:19 AM (GMT+02:00)

Our al Qaeda analysts strongly doubt the “A to Z” share he claimed – according to the transcripts of three military hearings at Guantanamo Bay released by the Pentagon – in the 9/11 bombing, the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl or the 2002 Bali and Mombasa bombing attacks.

There is no evidence that Mohammed, who was captured four years ago in Karachi, was in contact with the Saudi hijackers of Sept. 11.

DEBKAfile has Mohammed down as al Qaeda’s chief of recruiting and technical(not tactical) logistics, in which capacity he would have been familiar with all the organization’s world networks. But he was not chief of operations at the time of 9/11. He was outranked by Muhammed Ataf, a prominent member of Ayman Zuwahri’s Egyptian Jihad Islami band, who was killed in Afghanistan during the 2001 invasion.

Mohammed’s capture in 2003 gave away Pakistani ISI links with al Qaeda. The intelligence service would not have betrayed him to the CIA (who he claims tortured him) without the nod from al Qaeda, who had no further use for him. Indeed, up until then, he had been inactive for some time, living quietly and openly at his Pakistan home.

At the Guantanamo hearings, the al Qaeda operative chose to inflate his role and deeds for the sake of a big part on a historical stage, but also to lighten the weight of accusations against the real powerhouses of al Qaeda.

The Pentagon also released transcripts of the hearings of Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh, both of whom refused to attend, and three other al Qaeda prisoners

March 16th, 2007, 7:38 pm


Gibran said:

Of course AUSSAMAA, the man and his team are agents of Syrian Intelligence sent on Oct. 29 last year to do Syria’s dirty work in Lebanon. You think Seniora and Sabaa don’t know or even the Lebanese Army? Not a single mouse can cross the borders of Syria and Lebanon without being marked by the Lebanese authorities. It is time for Bashar and his thugs to quit their terrorist acts in Lebanon because they’re the only ones that will get burnt. As I said before, expect gallows to be erected soon. All Syrian agents and their tails will get hung and put on display.

March 16th, 2007, 8:28 pm


ugarit said:


How irresponsible of the Lebanese government to know on the 29th of October and have them all marked, as you stated, and then let them blow up the buses conveniently a couple of days prior to that infamous anniversary. 😉

March 16th, 2007, 8:37 pm


ausamaa said:

Gibran, Whatever you say.

March 16th, 2007, 8:37 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

As you recall, I have long held the view that the Syrian economy’s prospects were in a much worse shape than was commonly believed.

On their part, most government officials had followed the unified and consistent theme that there was nothing wrong with the economy. Indeed, all we heard was that investments were soaring and that a 7-8% economic growth was in the offing.

The article below needs no comment. I expect it to be the first of many that will start to warn the public that the country’s finances are in a desperate position. Only three sectors in the public sector are not in the red. Oil is going to be experiencing a deficit as early as 2008. If higher tax collections is going to indeed be the only source of future revenue, then God help this country’s economy.

When the country’s Finance Minsiter claims that the government’s “revenues are in danger”, there is not much else to say for the rest of us.


March 16th, 2007, 10:07 pm


syrian said:


What do you make of a Syrian Minister talking about potential financial difficulties for the government.

It can indicate that the government is prepping the ground for privatization and possible government layoffs (get rid of the bloated bureaucracy). Remember they are working (supposedly) on establishing a stock market by the end of 07 which would serve as a great tool to dump the big government owned businesses that do nothing but bleed the economy. So, in a sense, that can be positive news. I will have to read the article again more slowly since my Arabic is not what it once was.

March 16th, 2007, 10:32 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You are absolutely right. They are laying the groundwork for the lifting of subsidies and “hopefully” for the divestiture of some of most bleeding public sector companies.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures.

In this case, hopefully privatization and the lifting of the subsidies will be the means to turn this ship in the right direction after 44 years of sailing into the abyss.

March 16th, 2007, 10:37 pm


ausamaa said:


There are immense difficulties for sure, and balanced privatiztion is important, but lifting of subsidies? I doubt it!

As to the Finance Minister, on the two occasions when I met while he was doing the rounds outside Syria, he was for privatization but he was worried about a repeat of the Egyptian experience.

As to the news about the falling Oil revenue, I would take that with a pinch of salt. The true figures of the oil reserves were never publicized. The fields are extensions of the Iraqi fields. Very close actually.

His message in the Article four fold:

1- We intend to tax the “evaders” and will be tough with them, BUT the courts have the final word.
2- We need investment and we depend on it, so investors are safe,
3- Public Spending has to be curtailed
4- We need HELP, our Oil revenues are falling

But I do believe that it should be taken in the general context of the political dialouge going on. He is primarily highlighting the fact: Don’t forget that we need financial help!

But again Ehsani2, what is needed most is the Human Element. The managerial and the entrapernual element. They will bring in the money. They know where it is, they know how it is made, they helped make it for the investors, and they speak the language of those investors. Their mere presence would be an assurance to investors and to the country.

March 16th, 2007, 11:14 pm


Gibran said:

Brammertz: Lahoud’s Term Extension a Motive Behind Hariri Killing
A U.N. commission probing the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri said the extension of President Emile Lahoud’s term was one of three motives behind his killing.

March 16th, 2007, 11:19 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

corruption, and money taken out of the coubtry by Asad family and his loyalist, such as Khaddam Shehabi Makhloof etc. are major reason for the budget to be in such condition, one will ask how come real estate prices are such high,yet the tax on real estate is low,my bill for property tax on my house in Maliki is $20 , I was told my house worth $20 million lira last year, the same house in the USA have a tax bill of 2400 dollar, the goverment must be reduced, 2 million employee is too large for Syria, probably 1/4 of them are security forces,this is the cost of dictatorship.

March 16th, 2007, 11:21 pm


ugarit said:

$20 tax for a $400,000 dollar home! No wonder the government is running out of money. Where I live in the US the rate is 0.88/100 dollars.

March 16th, 2007, 11:31 pm


ausamaa said:

ABC White House corrspondent just started his comment on the irrate situation in Iraq by saying: “This surge KEEPS getting bigger”.!!

March 16th, 2007, 11:37 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The system is broken. The example that you cited is one of so many things that need a total overhaul.


The minister is telling you that oil is running out. Most independent analysts confirm this. Just because Iraq has an abundance of oil does not mean a neighboring country of her will also have it in abundance.

Your last paragraph was as follows”

“They know where it is, they know how it is made, they helped make it for the investors, and they speak the language of those investors. Their mere presence would be an assurance to investors and to the country.”

I am sorry but I don’t get it. The capital that is outside Syria is massive. It has not come back. What has come back to the country is a tiny fraction. Such investments do very little to improve the fiscal position of the government’s ledgers. I cannot see how this government can embark on a credible wave of privatizations or lifting of subsidies. Instead, the changes that are likely to come will be of the too-little-too-late category which has been the hallmark of this government’s economic policy.

The Syria of today is in desperate need of bold, decisive and visionary economic policy. Regrettably, what it will get is a cautious, indecisive and slow set of reforms that will do little to address the challenges facing it.

March 16th, 2007, 11:58 pm


ausamaa said:

Ehsani 2,

Oil, we will not know about. The oil minister says 2022!

What you Qouted was in reference to my saying that the Human Element is important. The Manegerial and Entrapernual Element; hence the “they know where the money is, they know how to get it..”

And, no Sir, I am not talking about “Syrian” money outside. I am not counting much on “such” money! I was talking about the massive capital you mentioned which is outside Syria. Gulf primarily. They are just looking for a way to invest it. Out of frustration, most of it is being pourd in Real Estate projects in Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar.

And your last paragraph seem to only highlight my point: the Human Factor. “Bold, decisive and visionary economic policy”, can not be expected to grow on trees. Sure, not on the existing trees. You are talking about total shakeup. With which I cannot agree more. It is needed. But is it gonna happen? Not if it is TOTAL. You are asking incumbants to vaccate their seats, and you have no assurance of the compatibility of the successors. And So, you have to accept a somewhat slower pace with a Big input from the outside. You need good change management. I would not trust the System to implement it, but at the same time I would not want to see it left to the likes of Ernest Young and KPMG alone.

I wish it was simpler!

March 17th, 2007, 12:17 am


EHSANI2 said:

“You are asking incumbants to vaccate their seats, and you have no assurance of the compatibility of the successors.”

This is not what I said. Syria’s economic system is akin to a patient diagnosed with a dangerous disease. The government keeps convincing us that an advil will do the job. It will not. I am afraid that the patient will end up dying.

March 17th, 2007, 12:27 am


Syrian said:

I would be interested to hear the reasoning that leads you to be so pessimistic.

March 17th, 2007, 12:29 am


EHSANI2 said:


Which part would you like me to expand on? The fiscal situation? The labor situation and the low GDP growth relative to the growth of the labor force? The lack of an export policy? The insufficient infrastructure to attract business?
The lack of property rights? The subsidies system?

March 17th, 2007, 12:40 am


ausamaa said:

Ehsani2, of course you did not say that. But it was implied in “the bold visionary economic policy”. You can not have Al Hassan and Dardarri wake up one morning and put out such a policy. The good persons they are. But it is just not gonna happen. Look at that example $ 20 per year on an Al Maliki house! Hell, we have four houses in Damascus, and I never really bothered what taxes we pay on them. Look at that example and tell me how easy it would be to reform such a system overnight. hell, you can imprison as many people as you want, and Damascus will be calm next morning. Try to implement that $0.80/$100 propert tax mentioned above, and next day the army would not be able to get to into Damascus.

Ehsani2, again, and without taking any from the importance of change, but it is not that easy or simple.

And why did you skip over my remark that I am not counting on expat “Syrian” money to come into Syria to develope it? I hope it was unintentional, because if like myself you beleive that we should not count on it, then this leads to a worse conclusion; the WHOLE system, people and government. And that leads to examining wider considerations relating to other more important areas.

“We” need To change! We can not just dump it on the System and turn our back. “We” are the System.

Not to imply that we should despair, but if we do understand our collective shortcomings, then we will have a hope.

March 17th, 2007, 12:47 am


norman said:

Ransher, I want to remind you of the Sixties in the US when blacks did not have their right to vote ,they were sitting in the back of the bus and having their own bathrooms , they worked for their civil rights , they did not call for the soviet union to invade as did the Kurds calling for the Us invasion of Syria , they did not call for the seperation and the indipendence of the back nation , and they look alot diffrent than the rest of the Americans and they were suffering alot more than kurds in comparison to the rest of the Syrians , I just want them to fight for their civil rights and every other Syrian as part of Syria.Is that too much to ask.?.

Ehsani2 and Syrian , I hope the subsidies in general and on a wide scale will be lifted but that should accompany support for the poor Syrians untill their income increase , rich Syrians should pay market value for products and that will decrease smugling to Lebanon and Jordon , they can do that like what we do in the US via subsdies on elecric and Gas bills for the low income Americans,most poor Syrians do not have cars to worry about Gasoline prices.

Majed , as you well know that many Syrians park their money in real estate , that make some people own many houses and with low taxes on real state owners do not have the presure to rent or sell empty houses ,that increases the problem of housing availabelty ,
To correct these problem ,first house should not have taxes (that will increase housing ownwrship )but taxes should be paied on all other houses and should be clear that money can not be given from father to children without paying gift tax so people will not avoid paying taxes by puting the after the firs house in the children names .having more houses available will decrease the prices and children will be able to start their families without living with their parents.

March 17th, 2007, 12:55 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I agree total overhaul is necessary, but should not include major increase in tax, nor it should be sudden, it must be gradual, remeber tax is close to be a crime.( I am from Milton Friedman school)
in USA the tax is extremely high, as for Ugarite, remember your tax on property is .11/100 dollar, the rest is to pay for schools,hospital and bonds etc,which is not for services for the real estate.
but again the cost of dictatorship is very high,since they need protection from the people.

March 17th, 2007, 1:01 am


Syrian said:


It is this statement that made me ask the question.

I cannot see how this government can embark on a credible wave of privatizations or lifting of subsidies.

Can you see a different government able to embark on a credible wave of …

What are the different charactaristics of this other government and can the current government do anything to morph into a credible one.

March 17th, 2007, 1:14 am


Syrian said:

P.S. I found this study (undated) which you may have seen. Just skimming through, there seems to be quite a bit of activity in the “reform” arena.

20 Page pdf file

March 17th, 2007, 1:17 am


EHSANI2 said:

Privatization and lifting of subsidies is likely to face a significant opposition. The security apparatus will warn against it. The Baath party dinasors will vote against it. The President is unlikely to push for it in this political environment. This is why I made the statement that I made. Taking risks is not the hallmark of this leadership. Maintaining the status quo has served it well. Versions of the status quo is what we will get. Changes are likely to be of the too-little-too-late category for as long as they eye can see. Indeed, Syrians have become genetically programmed to prefer the go-slow approach. Dramatic and bold changes are always met with calls of caution, patience and let-us-not-rush type of mentality. The Advil tablet approach rather than a cancer-removing surgery is what the nation has been taught to embrace. The result is Chinese-torture style cracking of the system.

March 17th, 2007, 1:34 am


Syrian said:

The opposition to wholesale privatization and lifting of subsidies is not likely, it is absolutely there. The problem is not one of will, it is ability. Fixing the Syrian economy fast will require measures that no one is able to accomodate. Massive layoffs, increasing prices and complete destruction of the production system (as lousy as it is, it still produces) is not an overnight undertaking. The attraction of foreign investment can indeed create jobs that are superior to the jobs granted by the government and can start the incentive process for people to seek those jobs.


In your opinion, can the government be in the process of building a foundation from which a private economy can emerge? If not, what things can they do to facilitate the process faster?

When I ask about what they can do, I am asking you to take into consideration the popular opposition to the different policy alternatives that they may come up with.

March 17th, 2007, 1:53 am


norman said:

Syrian , interesting discution.I am enjoying it.

March 17th, 2007, 2:04 am


majedkhaldoun said:

why should the syrians give Bashar another seven years?
Are we better off now than what we were seven years ago?
Is inflation is under control?
Is the eceonomy is better?
is our relation with the arab countries improving,especially Lebanon,KSA or Egypt?
did we get back the Golan Heights,or is our army is stronger today that there is hope of regaining the Golan Heights?
is the enviroment better,the health care is improvingthe goverment services are improving.
is there freedom of speach,or the people who talk are still go to jail,? did we abolish emergency rule?or law # 49,or military tribunals for civilians who speak their mind?
do we have democratically elected representatives?
seven more years of what?

March 17th, 2007, 2:04 am


ugarit said:

Let’s not forget the impact on the Syrian economy of the 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria.

March 17th, 2007, 2:06 am


ugarit said:

Let’s hope that Milton Friedman’s economic “philosophy” is not implemented in Syria. It would be a disaster.


March 17th, 2007, 2:09 am


EHSANI2 said:


A private economy can emerge when the government offers the sector an environment of reduced red tape and less burdensome regulation. The private sector is not allowed to enter into a fair competition in sectors where the public sector already has presence (and it is plenty).

What they “can” do is embark on an export drive concentrating on labor intensive industries. For that to happen, Syrian and foreign industrialists need to feel safe in investing the vast amount of money that is needed for such capital intensive manufacturing businesses. For that to happen, infrastructure needs to be overhauled. This is what they can do. I doubt that it will happen.


What “philosophy” would you recommend?

March 17th, 2007, 2:15 am


majedkhaldoun said:

investment can not succeed where there is dictatorship, you need democracy for investment to succeed.

March 17th, 2007, 2:20 am


norman said:

Majed , Spain under Franco was very successful.and that was a dictatership.

March 17th, 2007, 2:36 am


Syrian said:

What they “can” do is embark on an export drive concentrating on labor intensive industries. For that to happen, Syrian and foreign industrialists need to feel safe in investing the vast amount of money that is needed for such capital intensive manufacturing businesses.

1. Is it labor or capital intensive industries you are promoting.

2. Every industry in Syria is likely to be Labor intensive. With labor being the cheap resource, investors will either seek labor intensive projects or will substitute labor for capital in order to take advantage of the cost savings. To give you an example, since my wife is not of Arabic heritage, I tend to rely on canned products for my middle eastern cuisine. I had wondered why I was not able to find canned middle eastern food of Syrian origin. Well, one day I found a canned pickled eggplant product that was the product of Syria, and I had to get some. Wouldn’t you know that the kind of can used was clearly not the automated type (Had a top that could be pried open with a fork.) The stuff was clearly canned by hand and I could not bring myself to eat it because I was concerned about the contamination possibilities that come up when you are hand packing for exports. The point is, canning is much cheaper in Syria when done by people than it is when done by machines. And as much as the government would like to modernize and introduce efficient technology, the incentive structure is there to use people and not machines.

Infrastructure is expensive but I believe the system is being overhauled. It was not long ago that I read somewhere that the government was providing additional phone lines and communication lines. I had seen an estimate that private automobile ownership increased 50% after the government reduced the import tarrifs on automobiles. New roads will be needed to accomodate this growth in automobiles and the government will have to provide them. Also, do not forget about the proposed improvements to the Tartous harbor, proposed rebuilding of the Iraqi oil pipeline, talk of trying to build new oil refineries…

March 17th, 2007, 2:42 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I disagree IN 1995 a group of physicians(syrian american doctors) we presented the goverment with a plan to build GM factory in Syria,to build cars, it was denied.

March 17th, 2007, 2:47 am


norman said:

Majed, 1995 was before Bashar took office , try now to open a factory , I think you will see diffrent reaction.

March 17th, 2007, 3:01 am


Alex said:

لا لقاء بين الملك عبد والاسد قبل قمة الرياض
GMT 6:00:00 2007 السبت 17 مارس
صحف مختلفة

الرياض: قالت صحيفة الاخبار اللبنانية في عددها الصادر اليوم نقلا عن مصادر عربية واسعة الاطلاع ان لا لقاء سيعقد بين الملك عبد الله والرئيس السوري بشار الاسد قبل قمة الرياض وذلك على خلفية امتعاض السعودية من خطاب الاسد في اب الماضي والذي تضمن عبارة انصاف الرجال.وقالت الصحيفة ان زيارة الشرع الى مصر ومحادثاته مع الرئيس مبارك الثلاثاء الماضي اضافة للتوضيح الذي طرحه نائب الرئيس السوري لم تسفر عن أي اختراق حقيقي في العلاقات الثنائية السورية السعودية، رغم الكلام المعلن للمسؤولين المصريين والسوريين عن عدم وجود أي تدهور فى هذه العلاقات.
وقالت المصادر ان وساطات مصرية ويمنية لم تسفر عن اي نتائج وان الملك عبد الله اكتفى بالقول انه سيلتقي الاسد خلال القمة كغيره من الرؤوساء.

من جهة ثانية، تلقى الملك السعودي والرئيس المصري أمس اتصالين هاتفيين منفصلين من الرئيس الأميركي جورج بوش، بحث خلالهما معهما “الوضع في العراق وعملية السلام وتأليف الحكومة الفلسطينية الجديدة، والوضع في لبنان وإيران”، بحسب المتحدّث باسم البيت الأبيض طوني سنو.

March 17th, 2007, 7:29 am


DJ said:

What do you make of this interesting and rather alerting piece of news?


(You know we rely on your judgement:))

March 17th, 2007, 7:57 am


DJ said:

Oh!, I just realized there’s a discussion going on about it… let me try to catch up..

March 17th, 2007, 7:59 am


DJ said:

Well Ehsani2,
If the oil is running out, how come we’ve stricken a 2 $ billion deal with Shell to prospect for oil around Deer Al Zoor area?

March 17th, 2007, 8:08 am


DJ said:

Dr. Landis:
Given the significance of Minister Al Hussein’s statement, don’t you agree we need a fresh post dedicated only for discussing it?

March 17th, 2007, 8:14 am


t_desco said:

Unfortunately, I was unable to complete my analysis of the previous reports, but I am glad to see that the new Brammertz report confirms the impression that significant progress has been made in the investigation (they may even have found the video camera which was used to film the Adass tape (!); see §47) and that an extremist group was most likely involved in the attack, though it may not have acted on its own:

“44. … Another working hypothesis is that while an extremist group may have been involved in part in committing the crime as outlined in the tape and note, this group was actually manipulated by others for another objective not related to its own organizational aspirations.”

At the same time, the “motive to assassinate Hariri” discussed in §52-63 seems to point to Syrian and/or Lebanese opponents of Hariri rather than to an extremist group (e.g., it is unclear to me why such a group should be particularly concerned about Hariri winning the 2005 elections).

The new report merits a more detailed analysis and I will try to post more about it later.

March 17th, 2007, 1:38 pm


trustquest said:

I know some of the commentators are experts in their fields. My question is to Ehsani 2?
It seems to me that the government in Syria are too fragmented that the mister of finance on one wave and others on different waves. We hear from one minister but we do not see public and expert participation although there are plenty. This could be normal in Syria before 2000; however this is intolerable and is unacceptable in open economy. The government did not find their way in dealing with current and mounting economic problems. They need investors, experts and public participation but they keep all silenced. I believe they stuck with their own making and they are showing inability to find a way out of it. The recent news about widening Faisal Street and the confiscation of big part of the old city, shows how government is unable to stop its self from shooting themselves in the foot. Stupid acts continue, they could not realize that killing a sector dealing with building materials, a whole market, Almankhlia, with over 900 shops which has a face value (froogh) about 18 billion Syrian pounds, not to mention the chunk of the old city properties which is priceless is actually a removal of a big segment from the economic engine of the country. The old set of minds of the sixties, they still look at themselves as the savoir and at the merchants as the fat money mongers who are bad people who they should not worry about, are still life and well well. As an engineer working for a consultant in the USA, I find these types of projects are disastrous to the economy. Please if you can comment on this subject I do appreciate that.

March 17th, 2007, 1:56 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Trustquest and all the other participants,

One of the main areas of contention with my writing on the economy seems to concern the issue of the oil industry. Some believe that by 2010 the country will start to face a declining output. Many don’t believe this. Instead, they think that this is too alarmist and that 2022 is the earliest for such problems to surface. For the record, the issue is not whether the oil will run out. It is that the country’s demand for energy is running ahead of its ability to export it. As this product’s import bill exceeds what it earns from its exports, the government’s finances will suffer immensely. This is what this minister was trying to tell us.

More generally, the fact that we are even discussing and arguing over this point is a clear indication the country’s economic planning is non-existent. Given the importance of this sector to the country, one would have thought that a professional and objective study would have been performed and then presented to the public by now. The guesswork must stop. Syriacomment readers and others must rely on hard figures and data form the government rather than arguing amongst themselves with subjective statements that add little to our understanding of the basic facts. My comment here is not directed exclusively at the oil sector. The labor situation is very alarming. The number of jobs being created is far below the number of new people entering the labor force and seeking jobs. For the record, this occurs when a country’s economy grows below its potential (defined as the growth of the labor force plus productivity). The government seems largely silent on the issue and its repercussion on society.

But who is in charge?

As far as I recall, this President is yet to make a single appearance to exclusively discuss the economy. Why hasn’t he taken the time to make a speech to inform the public about the country’s oil sector and about the fiscal challenges facing its people? Instead, what we are left with is reading through the tealeaves to understand what Dardari, Hussain or others have to say. One is for privatization. The other is against it. One says that the oil sector could be in trouble by 2020. The other says that we need not worry till 2020.

This must stop. We need to learns “facts”. The president needs to step forward and articulate “HIS OWN” economic views and agenda.

One suggestion is for him to appoint one person to be the country’s economic czar. That person must report to the President himself. He must be a respected figure in international finance. He must have the respect of the international community of bankers and investors. He must set a new standard by declaring his full wealth before taking office. In sum, his integrity and qualifications must be beyond any doubt, He must finally get introduced to the world with this brief statement by the President:

“I have appointed this man to be the country’s economic czar. He reports to me directly. He promotes and represents my personal agenda. The buck stops at his desk when it comes to any questions or policy matters relating to the economy. I want to assure the people that I will hold a daily briefing with this man and will be personally involved in this critical issue given its importance to the country’s people”

March 17th, 2007, 2:47 pm


Alex said:


First, I do agree with you to some extent. Although, as I said before, they will manage somehow to keep things under control, like they always did int he past… for example, through increased foreign capital inflows for the next few years.

Another point that I discussed with you in the past; The mentality of leadership in Damascus is as follows: In our on-going role in Middle Eastern regional conflicts, if we are to succeed in projecting strength, we will need to generally avoid volunteering information that make us look vulnerable to pressure.

They hope that many conficts will be on its way towards settlements eirther within a year (If Bush and others decide to modify their behavior) or in three years (a year after this administration leaves office).

March 17th, 2007, 4:04 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

do you have any name to suggest?

March 17th, 2007, 4:11 pm


Samir said:

The syrian ministers are only for figurative purpose,the real minister of syrian economic affairs is bashar’s cousin.

March 17th, 2007, 11:36 pm


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