“Landis: Syria Key to Middle East Peace Process,” CFR Interview with Gwertzman

Landis: Syria Key to Middle East Peace Process
Council on Foreign Relations – New York, NY,USA

Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

December 5, 2007

Joshua Landis Let’s start with the Annapolis Middle East peace conference last week. I think many people were surprised that Syria showed up, albeit with a deputy foreign minister instead of a foreign minister. How did this happen?

Syria was wooed. There was intense diplomacy prior to Syria’s accepting. The prime minister of Turkey, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, apparently called the Syrian President Bashar Assad four times. The Saudis called him as well. King Abdullah of Jordan visited him. It was the first time he’d done that in years, and he was very solicitous. Various European foreign ministers visited Lebanon and they talked to the Syrians. Everybody was pushing the Syrians to come.


Because this is a turning point and Syria is key to the peace process. If you keep the door closed on Syria, many people believe the peace process can go nowhere. The Saudis did not want to come and genuflect to the whole peace process if the Syrians were not along, because they needed Arab nationalist cover. And there were two agendas going on here: One agenda was to push the peace process forward and try to get the Bush administration committed to it in a serious way. The other factor on the agenda was to create some sort of Arab community in order to isolate Iran and raise the pressure on Iran, because I think it’s widely understood that the only way you’re going to isolate Iran in the future is to repair the deep schisms and divisions between Arab states—and this schism is primarily between Syria and Saudi Arabia, because Iran’s reach into the Arab world, and its influence, is largely through Syria. Of course it’s through Iraq as well, but we can’t do much about Iraq. The idea of flipping Syria has been on everybody’s lips. If you can draw Syria away from Iran and back towards Saudi Arabia, then arms cannot get to Hezbollah in Lebanon because they go through Syria from Iran. Hamas, in Palestine, also would become much more isolated than it is now. It would have no support within the Arab world.

What actually happened at the conference? Did Syria say much?

They did not say much. They were very quiet, and they were jubilant. What happened at the conference was that, evidently, the Lebanese delegation was blindsided by the announcement that Michel Sulieman, chief of staff of the Lebanese Army, was being put forward as a compromise choice for that country’s new president. This was seen largely, and by the Lebanese delegation, as a victory for Syria and the opposition, Hezbollah, and a defeat for the March 14th group [an anti-Syrian political coalition set up in the wake of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon in 2005]—and for America, which had insisted that there should be no amendments to the Lebanese constitution and that the democratic process should carry forward according to law. In order to have the chief of staff become president, there needs to be an amendment to the constitution, because it is currently illegal.

What’s your opinion? Do you think this is a great defeat for March 14th, or is it a good compromise?

I think it’s an excellent compromise for Lebanon, and I think that many people, even within March 14th, felt that this is the best way forward for Lebanon. Unfortunately, because of the ideological divisions between America and Iran, because of the terrible bad blood between the opposition and the majority, everything is seen in terms of defeat and victory. Unfortunately, that’s where we stand, and it’s not clear that Michel Sulieman will come through this whole process, because there are many jealousies and there is a lot of anger in Lebanon.

So even though France and Egypt, who seem to be the main architects of this compromise, went up to the Lebanese delegation during Annapolis and said, “Congratulations on your new President,” and the March 14th group said, “Yes we will accept this,” it’s not clear that even the opposition had agreed. Because General Michel Aoun [a pro-Syrian Maronite Christian], who wanted to be president, is balking at this. He wants further compromise. There’s still a lot of factualism.

It’s not a deal?

It’s not a done deal. It’s just that France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the outside powers all support it.

I thought Aoun had said he backed it.

Well he’s now saying he would back it, but he said “Yes, but I want to guarantee that I have a position…” There’s a long list of things he wants. And, you know, everybody’s trying to get their last-minute extra. There’s a lot more haggling in Beirut. In a sense, though, this seems to be a major victory for Bashar Assad, because, two years ago, everybody was saying, “He’s on his last leg, he’s weak, and his regime is shuddering, it may fall.”

Syria is key to the peace process. If you keep the door closed on Syria, many people believe the peace process can go nowhere.

The Syrian opposition said, “We’re going to be in Damascus in six months.” The Syrians were anxious. Today, there is no anxiety about this. Now, what do you do with this? A diplomatic victory only takes you so far, and Syria is a poor country, a weak country.  It’s got to turn this upswing into money and a chicken in every Syrian’s pot. The economic question is the big question going forward: can this government carry out economic reforms and really drag Syria into the globalized world?

It would seem to me, as a non-Syrian expert, that a peace agreement with Israel would be the highest priority, because that would open up Syria to outside investments.

It would. That’s what’s dividing Syria from Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia essentially wants to team up with Israel against Iran. That undermines Syria’s position. The more the Arab world forgets about the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict and teams up with Israel, the less Israel has to care about making peace with Syria, and the less leverage Syria has to get back the Golan heights. So Syria has to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict alive—with Hezbollah, Lebanon, Hamas, or with any proxy it can, because Syria does not have the capability to hurt Israel militarily.

Now let’s talk a bit about the Golan Heights. Back in 2000, Israel and Syria were excruciatingly close to a peace agreement. Can it be revived?

The problem is that Syria is weaker than it was then. You know everyone argues about whether the war in the summer of 2006 was really a win for Hezbollah or a win for Israel. And, in the long-run, although in the short-term it seemed to be a win for Hezbollah, in the long-term Israel has made considerable gains.

What Syria has done is announce that it is willing to bargain. It’s not going to stick with Iran against the United States, come hell or high water.

Hezbollah has had its ears pinned back. It’s now about twelve miles away from the Israeli border, and even though it’s trying to rearm and so forth, it’s not clear that Hezbollah would want to or can carry out another confrontation with Israel.

Israel frightened Hezbollah and set them back, and this was a lesson to Syria. Israel in September carried out this air raid on Syria [against a suspected nuclear plant] without any repercussions, seemingly. It’s very clear that Syria does not have the kind of military option it had before through proxies, when Hamas seemed to be victorious in the occupied territories, and Hezbollah was the greatest power in Lebanon.

You know, it’s interesting, because there’s been a lot of speculation that, because the Palestinians are so divided, with two different Palestinian governments, that it would be easier for Israel to negotiate a deal with Syria.

The trouble is that Syria is too weak.

You mean it can’t give up a strip of land?

Yes, but it’s too weak in a sense that all the Israelis I talk to say, “Syria’s asking too much for the Golan.” In other words, they want too much. They have to make some major concessions. And, most recently, we’ve seen a number of Israeli politicians say, “Well, let’s have a hundred-year lease for the Golan.” That seems to be the starting point for an Israeli negotiation: Let’s roll back to where we were in 2000.” A lease evokes a very different sort of relationship, and this is what the Israelis are putting forward, so it means the Syrians have to negotiate back from this kind of idea. And they, of course, want everything according to international law.

I see. So the Syrians want what the Egyptians got in the 1979 peace treaty with Israel—the return of all the occupied land in the Sinai?

They want everything. They say, “Let’s follow the line, let’s follow international law.” And, even there, international law is a little bit ambiguous, because there are several different lines. There’s the 1923 line, there’s the 1967 armistice line, and they want the one that is the most favorable to them, which is 1967.

Okay, so in your view the likelihood of any negotiations starting is what, slim?

Well for official negotiations, I think it is fairly slim. But on the other hand, everybody wants to keep the door open for a number of reasons. Israel wants the peace process, and not necessarily peace. I know this is the phrase Israel usually uses against the Syrians, but in this case I think it’s been reversed.

Why do they want the process? For two major reasons: One, it means that Hezbollah will stay down in the farm, because as long as Syria is trying to woo Israel, it’s going to put the brakes on any activity from Hezbollah. Secondly, Israel can carry out negotiations with the Palestinians more easily, so long as Syria is being sweet. Because they can always threaten the Palestinians: “Well, if you don’t make a deal with us, we’ll just go off and make a deal with the Syrians and you’ll be totally isolated and we’ll kick you around. We’ll put more pressure on you.” It’s a much better negotiating position for the Israelis, to have both countries.

What does this mean in terms of the Syrian-Iranian relationship?

What Syria has done is announce that it is willing to bargain. It’s not going to stick with Iran against theUnited States, come hell or high water. Over a year ago, Bashar Assad had said if the Golan is on the table, he would put relationships with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas on the table. Everything is on the table. By coming to Annapolis, he upset the Iranians. He upset the Palestinians.

Comments (65)

Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh states:

So Syria has to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict alive—with Hezbollah, Lebanon, Hamas, or with any proxy it can, because Syria does not have the capability to hurt Israel militarily.

These are difficult times for terrorist-supporting states. It almost makes me cry.

Hey Josh, how was it that Sadat made peace with Israel? He didn’t “have the capability to hurt Israel militarily” either.

Is it really as complicated as you suggest or are you just a professional excuse-maker?

December 6th, 2007, 5:01 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Professor Landis:

1- See AP comment above. What IS your response Prof. Landis ? Please enlighten us. Is the only difference now, that Assad has seen the fate of Sadat and does not want to risk it for himself ?

2- Granting all the brainy analysis and agreeing with every point you make, please add now your value judgment on the use of political assassinations by Syria to subdue Lebanon. Do you professionally and ethically accept this as just standard politics ? Where else is this occuring ? Where has it occurred in history ? And what do you make of it ? Please share with us how you look at it ? Are you equating it with Israel’s targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders ?

December 6th, 2007, 5:13 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Honest Patriot,
While waiting for answers to your questions, can you meanwhile “enlighten” us with the evidence you have on how Syria conducted the political assassinations in Lebanon, how, and the names of those who did did it? It seems like you know something that UN investigation committee has certainly missed.


December 6th, 2007, 5:49 pm


ghat Albird said:

While one can admire the “individualism” of the Lebanese politicians as well as in general the population. A non-refutable fact is that the Lebanese and the Syrians must accept the reality that they have more in common with each other than the Lebanese have with the French and or the Elliot Abrams Americans as well as the Syrians might have with Iran or Turkey.

As proud as each one of them aspires to be. Logically they both will accomplish more as well as receive more respect than each one of them being swayed by their insignificant resistances,

A state that might provide an illuminating methodology that in some instances verges on getting away with murder as the saying goes is their next door neighbor Israel. A “rattatouille” society made up from Latvians, Russians, Poles, individuals from the Bronx, New Jersey, etc,.etc,. they have managed not only to get along but have been living literally off of the backs of the US taxpayers for over 60 years.

In this context it seems appropriate to question who has been more able to navigate the success in the quest of their societal needs? The Israelis or the extreme individualism of either the Lebanese or Syrians?

The goals of each are either justifiable and if so can only be accomplished in tandem or their respective goals are not justifiable and will never be accomplished.

Wish them both the best of luck.

December 6th, 2007, 5:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dr. Landis,

Excellent interview.

December 6th, 2007, 6:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t think Dr. Landis is making excuses on behalf of the regime. I think he is merely explaining its logic, namely:

(a) Israel holds something that Syria wants.

(b) Syria has a better chance of getting it, on its own terms if it is bargaining from a position of strength rather than weakness.

(c) Syria doesn’t have much military strength in relation to Israel.

(d) Hence the need for its proxies.

December 6th, 2007, 6:43 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Qifa Nabki said:

I think he is merely explaining its logic…


See Honest Patriot’s first comment. He agrees with me.

Professor Josh is not explaining anything logical. Sadat made peace and got the Sinai back. What’s up with Syria?

Perhaps it is more logical to assume that Syria doesn’t want peace. there are many more reasons to stay at war with Israel.

Logic? Suuuuure!

December 6th, 2007, 6:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


At what point does Aoun’s obstinacy become more of a hindrance to the opposition (and the Syrians) than an asset?

Which raises the related, more significant, and as yet unexamined question:

Where does Aoun go from here?

As much as his enemies like to portray him as a patent flip-flopper (which is, admittedly, not so difficult to do), I think that everyone would have to agree that he is a man on a mission. He returned to Lebanon with the attitude that he wanted to change the political order, which may be what put him at odds with the March 14th crew.

When he didn’t find a place for himself with M14 (although it was reported that he and Saad Hariri agreed on “90% of the issues), he managed to stay politically alive by yoking his wagon to Hizbullah and the Syrians, confusing many of his supporters. But everybody more or less understood that this was a small price to pay on the way to Aoun’s inevitable anointment as ra’iis.

Now that it looks like he will not be president, what is the man to do? Is there one last piece of self re-definition left in the old gun?

Is there room even in Lebanon’s capacious political landscape for a pro-Syrian, reform-espousing, Maronite, ex-general, who no longer has the hope of being president?

December 6th, 2007, 6:55 pm


Atassi said:

I don’t think it’s possible in the short term for the Syrian forfeit its alliance with Iran, there are greater deal of risks form any outstanding liabilities may arise against some of the key regime pillars, in the event the Hariri investigation concludes them as the culprits behind the assassinations. Also, there are many unclear issues surrounding the price for returning the Golan to the Syrian hand.
I would even speculate that Iran my sell its alliance with Syrian\or\ Hezbollah as a price for achieving an Elite status in the middle east newly developing arrangements, something similar to the role it had during the Shah golden days, When the western world and GCC recognize Iran as an important contractive power they must deal with as Russia and china have been doing, it will become clearer to everyone if the Syrian\ Iranian alliance is truly genuine or just “ Moutta affair” 🙂

December 6th, 2007, 7:23 pm


Alex said:


Very good interview, not excellent.

You should have said that Syria is very strong, not weak : )

Akbar, the answer to your question:

For Israel, taking Egypt out of the Arab world was worth “the painful concessions”. Sadat was ready to live with no Arab ambassador in Cairo. Egypt was the largest Arab country by far .. taking Egypt out was enough for Israel .. they did not need to give Syria the Golan on top of that .. Mr. Begin annexed the Golan after peace with Egypt. Israel was not ready to offer Syria what they offered Egypt.

Joshua … regardless of what you heard about leasing the Golan for a 100 years. The Israelis know where an agreement with Syria will end… giving back the whole Golan within few years. Any other “opening position” that Israel might decide to adopt wold be only a waste of time.

I have full confidence in Syria’s negotiating skills and their experience with negotiations with Israel. Farouk Sharaa is still there.

December 6th, 2007, 7:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let see how Sharaa does with Netanyahu, Mofaz and Lieberman.

And the clock is ticking for Asad and his minions: no peace, no foreign investments, more sanctions… the economic abyss beckons. Israel is well aware that the regime does not have all the time in the world and will use it in any negotiations. Israel does not mind wasting time. Who knows, maybe Sharaa will like the leasing idea in ten years? Let’s wait till then and find out. After all, in 10 years, the Israeli economy would have grown another 60% making Israel even stronger. And in any case, nobody is shooting at anybody in the Golan or the Lebanese border, so what is the rush?

December 6th, 2007, 8:12 pm


Joshua said:

AP asks:

How was it that Sadat made peace with Israel? He didn’t “have the capability to hurt Israel militarily” either.

On the contrary, Egypt did hurt Israel in the 1973 War. Before 1973, Egypt was like Syria. It could not interest Israel in a deal, hence the failure of the Roger’s plan and Egyptian peace feelers.

After 1973 the situation changed. Not only did Israel have new respect for Egypt, but so did the US, which had been forced to send emergency supplies, suffer the oil embargo, and risk nuclear alert with the USSR. The US sweetened the pot for Israel by offering large dollar amounts and significant security and oil guarantees.

Assad had hoped that the Summer War of 2006 would be his Suez Crossing, but it has not been. Israel continues to turn up its nose at Syria’s peace offers. So does the US.

Either Syria has to change the military balance of power or ask for less.

December 6th, 2007, 8:16 pm


Observer said:

The cards in the ME are being reshuffled as we speak. The Annapolis conference which presumably was meant to start final status negotiations and provide for a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict had two aims: diffuse the conflict and therefore deprive the hard liners of a raison d’etre including Iran’s influence across Iraq and into Syria Lebanon and Palestine.
Provide cover for the Saudi regime to normalize relations with Israel so that full cooperation can proceed to limit Iran’s influence.
No doubt the Marsh 14 group payed the price of the deal to have Syria provide for Arab cover.
I thought that the second aim was to provide cover for an attack on Iran in whatever form it takes, be it tactical nuclear strike, covert operations, of outright full scal bombing. I am no longer so sure about that as the NIE publication essentially took out the option completely.
The NIE has also left the Europeans especially Kouchner with an embarrassing situation as they toed the line of the US and assumed a hard line position. Now, China and Russia will effectively block any further sanctions at the UNSC and even the resolution asking for suspension of uranium enrichment looks dubious at best especially if Iran allows for more intrusive inspections.
In my estimation, the latest developments offer an oppørtunity to flip Iran rather than to flip Syria. Iran could be offered to be a full partner in security and economic development in the Gulf, strengthen its relation with China, enter into a dialogue with the US, and eventually abandon both Syria and HA and Hamas. It effectively would allow for Iran to be recognized as a regional power and be accepted as one the pillars of stability and free flow of oil ( no longer cheap oil ). Russia will find itself further isolated and surrounded by such an arrangement as its policy is to insure complete control over central asian and Caspian oil reserves as well as natural gas resources. China will emerge from this establishing its role as another source of stability in Asia and would replace Japan, Australia, and South Korea as well as Taiwan as the ally of the US and the regional power to contend with.
Syria has to contend with the above situation and ask itself: what will Iran do, abandon Syria or even further control and direct the regime as one more asset in its cards? what leverage does Syria have if Iran is flipped? Will Lebanon be the reward for Syria to ease the swallowing of the bitter pill of grand strategic reshuffling of the cards?
What would Iran, Israel, and the US do right now is the main question>
For those of you who do not know this game, I would urge you to buy it for Christmas as I played it more than 25 years ago and continue to do so once or twice a year. The game is called Diplomacy and is a board game depecting the map of the world in 1901 with the seven super powers vying for total control through all the means of diplomacy and warfare. The 21st century is showing signs of being similar to the late 19th century as we are witnessing the shrinking of American power rather rapidly.
South American independence
European integration and monetary and business competition
Chinese industrial development with refusal for the US navy to enter HK harbor
North Korean defiance
Iraq defeat
Afghanistan quagmire.

December 6th, 2007, 8:42 pm


Alex said:

AIG .. the clock has been ticking for Assad since 1981 when Mr. Sharon thought by invading Lebanon “successfully” he finished the Syrians.

Keep waiting… remember the story with your crazy soldiers who were killing Palestinian children because the wonderful soldiers were bored? … stay at war with your neighbors and you will have more and more of those.

But your GDP would be very good!! .. who cares if your youth turn into evil psychos, right?

December 6th, 2007, 8:44 pm


Seeking The Truth said:

To those Syrians living now in the West, and are optimistic about a bright future for Syria under the current leadership, why don’t you return and help in developing your country of origin, which surely needs you more than the West does.

December 6th, 2007, 9:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joshua and AP,
The Sadat-Israel deal has to be seen in the context of the cold war. The Americans were keen to do the deal because it broke up a major Soviet alliance in the middle east and made the major Arab country part of the US camp. Given this constraint, Begin’s Likud party rationalized all the other excuses for why to accept the deal (and they were very good reasons to accept but not coherent with Jabotinsky’s teachings).

Sadat entered the 73 war from a once in a life time position that he knew he could never repeat: total surprise, initial mass use of SAMs and the first effective anti tank missiles. Given that the war would have ended in utter catastrophe for him if there were no US mediataion or a Soviet nuclear threat (the Egyptian Third Army was totally trapped and at the mercy of Israel), the chances he would repeat such an adventure were quite small.

So while the short term traumatic effect in Israel of the 73 war was big, the peace with Egypt was a direct product of the cold war and not a deliberate strategy on the part of the Likud party. In fact, given the mistrust of the Israeli right of the Arabs, the fact that Egypt’s army would be westernized as part of the peace deal was a big military minus. From the Israeli Right’s point of view, this made Egypt a bigger military threat, not a lesser one.

Had Labor been in power, I am quite certain that Begin would have used all his power to try and stop the deal. But apparently, the American sticks and carrots were too much for him as Prime Minister.

December 6th, 2007, 9:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Oh, I’m scared, the Israeli youth are becoming psychos! Any other bizzare factoid that you would like to threaten Israel with? Israel has been at war 60 years and on any objective scale, Israeli youth are just as sane and insane as youth in any other western country.

When people disagree about the future, the only solution is to wait and see. Given the economic situation in Syria, my estimate is that Asad cannot afford to wait long. Maybe I’m wrong, let’s wait and see. At this stage Israel has nothing to gain from peace on Syria’s terms and it will only hamper democracy in the middle east for decades. It would undermine people like Bashmann who are working to build a better Syria.

December 6th, 2007, 9:52 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Alex said: “The Israelis know where an agreement with Syria will end… giving back the whole Golan within few years. Any other “opening position” that Israel might decide to adopt wold be only a waste of time.”

Alex, And that’s why you don’t see Israel starting negotiations with Syria.
There’s a huge difference of the perception of the prizes of peace, between Syria and Israel.

For Syria, the Golan Heights is a ‘must have’ item.
On the other hand, for Israel, peace with Syria is not more than a ‘nice to have’ item – at best.

Israel doesn’t want to give the Golan to Syria and doesn’t see the peace that Syria is willing to offer as a fair balance between what it gives and what it gets from such a deal.

Since the odds that Syria will flip after a peace deals are slim, Israel sees such a deal as a poor one.

Syria’s worst enemy is how it’s being perceived by average Israelis – who create the public opinion, which is overwhelmingly against giving the Golan.

In the Hafez al Assad days, Israelis both respected and even feared Syria, at least to some degree.
They saw Syria as a dangerous military power that could threaten Israel directly.

They respected Assad Sr. and saw him as a smart, foxy, worthy opponent – something which poured a lot of added value into a future peace deal and created a more comfortable public opinion climate for a one.

However, today Syria is being perceived by Israelis in a totally different way.

They see Syria only in the context of a minor trouble maker, not as an independent strategic military threat.

Current Syria is being viewed by Israelis as a relic from old days when it was a worthy enemy.
the name Syria remained the same, but it’s a different country with different weight.

Syria is being viewed here as a dark and pretty primitive dictatorship, who didn’t join the 21st century and still stuck somewhere in the 70’s of the previous century in all aspects of economy, infrastructure, culture, politics, laws and even Soviet days style PR.

They view Syria as a paper tiger and as one of the capitals of middle eastern backwardness.
Bashar is being viewed as the regional village fool.

This public opinion perception is the #1 enemy of Syria, because unlike in the past, the Israelis don’t place peace with Syria high on their agenda.

Most of them will be ok with a cheap peace for peace agreement but if it can’t happen – no big deal, as far as they’re concerned.

The will to pay a high price for peace is simply not there.

December 6th, 2007, 10:02 pm


Alex said:


Yes we’ll wait and see … I will only remind you of a time (two weeks ago?) when you were very confident that the next Lebanese president will be not to Syria’s liking and that Syria will therefore realize how weak it is.


I agree with you totally. But the only difference is that I am quite confident that talking to Syria will gradually “flip” public opinions … at least the 20-30 percent needed to have enough support (in addition to the existing 30%).

By the way… I am not always an optimist, but in this case I am … because I know in reality that there is much more value added to all parties involved that it will be unrealistic to be pessimistic.

We’ll wait and see again : )

December 6th, 2007, 10:40 pm


SimoHurtta said:

AIG doesn’t the Russian aircraft carrier group going to dock in Tartus along with the Iranians little change the game situation? The Russian warships are not any more so rusty as they were ten years ago.

December 6th, 2007, 10:42 pm


Atassi said:

How dare you write about MY Syria this way, Your arrogant and ugly personally can only reflect on the what the Syrians and Palestinians people face and deal with on a daily bases. It’s not your choice to deal or not to deal with the issue of returning the Golan back to Syria, This not a matter of realestate business deal, YOU are occupying our land and you should pay the high price for doing so..

December 6th, 2007, 10:47 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Atassi, I’m just describing the Israeli public opinion towards Syria.
I’m sure that if you’ll describe the Syrian sentiment towards Israel, it won’t be rosier.

Am I wrong?

December 6th, 2007, 10:54 pm


Atassi said:

Very Worng..

December 6th, 2007, 11:03 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Go ahead, enlighten me… : )

December 6th, 2007, 11:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This is what Israelis read about Syria:

December 6th, 2007, 11:11 pm


Alex said:


What is wrong with what that gentelman said in the interview?

“The possibility that Israel were to infringe upon Syria’s sovereignty is a possibility that exists and that we’re not ruling out, although at the same time, we are not looking to reach this stage and we do not want to escalate the situation,” he said in the interview.

Dr. Habash, one of the more prominent Syrian spokesmen in the media, was asked if Syria would be able to impede Israeli aggression. He answered saying: “The Dimona reactor is located within range of our missiles. Nothing will stop the fervor of the Syrian solder and the Syrian warrior in this situation.”

December 6th, 2007, 11:33 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Yes AIG, I read the same article on YNET’s Hebrew site.

One of the best barometers for Israeli public opinion, is the talkbacks, where people comment on the article.

The Hebrew article has some comments from Israelis and I translated a few of them:

1. He made me laugh
His ugly face is also within range of our missiles.

4. Blah, blah blah …
A barking dog…

(my comment: there’s a Hebrew phrase which says “A barking dog does not bite”).

5. This is the deal?
Are you offering to buy the Golan from us in exchange for half a million refugees. Right.
You know what? We’re not selling… We’ve changed our minds.
You stay with the refugees and we’ll stay with the Golan.
Yallah, see you in 50 years, if anything will be left of you by then.

6. If you’ll hit Dimona
You’ll die too… idiots.

12. Not the Golan and not Dimona, what bothers the Syrians the most is the half million Palestinians
The Syrians are dying to get rid of them like they’re leprosy.
What an amazing Arab solidarity and brotherhood.
Just like honey dripping Baklawa.
Honestly? On this matter I really understand them.

December 6th, 2007, 11:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As the recent Israeli attack showed, Soviet technology is almost useless. The Russians and their navy are literally sitting ducks if they interfere. Forget technology, just to reach equality in number of front line planes they would have to send 6-7 carriers to match the 350 Israeli front line planes, and this does not take into account that Israeli turn around per mission is 2-3 times the Russian because it is done from ground and not a carrier. For every mission the Russians fly, Israel can fly 2 or 3. Israel has on overwhelming advantage in air power that the Russians cannot ever hope to match by power projection using aircraft carriers. They currently have only one aircraft carrier.

So basically, the Russian naval presence is symbolic and cannot change the outcome of any war.

December 6th, 2007, 11:45 pm


Alex said:



Israel is STRONG!!!!

I like you .. you are a good guy … You love to talk about helping Syria with democracy … and about how easily Israel can kill anyone who does not shut up and accept Israeli theft of Arab lands and Israeli murder of innocent civilians who resist the Isralri occupation.

Remember Hizbollah’s few thousand fighters last year?

December 7th, 2007, 12:04 am


EHSANI2 said:

Here is the circular logic that we are being subjected to:

Your country is undemocratic. Israel will not give the Golan back to a non-democratic country.

Dictators thrive on a grand goal that they can point to as a reason why political and economic reforms ought to be delayed. Reforms rank low on the country’s priority in such an atmoshpere.

No Golan, less chances for reforms and democracy. This is the way it works.

Can anyone follow the circular logic of some of the commentators here?

December 7th, 2007, 12:04 am


Alex said:


Thanks for translating.

I am quite familiar with these comments which I read every time there was a similar article published anywhere in Israel.

As I said … I am optimistic that 20-30% of Israeli public opinion is flippable … the more motivated ones (like AIG) or like those who leave comments like the ones you posted here are not flippable … not easily … there will be many Israelis who will not support peace with Syria .. because they think Syria is too weak and they are infinitely powerful … Syria is too evil an their Israel is a sweet little harmless peaceful country … they are the Chosen people and the hell with anyone else.

We also have people who hate you and leave similar comments. After Hizbollah beat your IDf last year many Arabs were leaving comments saying that this is the end of Israel and that no one should negotiate with Israel but to wait until they unite to defeat you….etc.

It is one thing to read their comments, but it is another thing to let them set the agenda.

December 7th, 2007, 12:20 am


IsraeliGuy said:

Some more translated comments to the Syrian threat article:

14. Ahmed, during the last war we had with you, we’ve reached 36 KM from Damascus
You can only imagine what will happen the next time you’ll start a war against us.
Historically, the Golan is a Jewish land and it has a Jewish name for a reason (in Arabic the Golan has the same name – the Jolan).

16. The Syrians have scary threats. They threat because they’re scared.

18. Wait a minute… But Israel already attacked you and you remained silent like cowards
All of the sudden you’re opening your mouth?
It’s time to bombard you a little bit more.

19. To the Syrians, don’t piss me off
Be warned…

21. They appreciate only force. We should give them a reminder…

22. Habash wake up, Israel already attacked (according to foreign reports)

26. Dimona can strike back
And then Israel’s size will be doubled.

28. During all Israel’s wars Dimona was within their missile range
What stopped them from doing it until now, other than the fear that we’ll burn Damascus to the ground as a response?

34. If Dimona will be attacked, we will hit Damascus
they threat all the time, but on the ground, since the 1st Lebanon war – they’re too scared to start a war against us.
Well, no wonder, after all their defeats.

Alex, I really don’t think that just starting a new round of negotiations will change anything significant in the Israeli public opinion arena.

However, let me say this: in case of a meaningful and significant Syrian flip, SOME Israelis will change their mind, at least to some degree.

How many of them?
Can’t tell for sure.

Will it create a majority who supports giving the Golan to Syria?
I don’t think so.

December 7th, 2007, 12:26 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


It is not Israel’s business to instill democracy in Syria. It is up to the Syrians to do it. In the meantime, Israel should not do anything to hurt the internal Syrian effort such as supporting the Asad regime or giving it legitimacy. What is circular here?

December 7th, 2007, 12:27 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It takes time and prespective to understand as Joshua did that Hizballah lost the July 2006 war. Stop flogging a dead horse.

December 7th, 2007, 12:29 am


Alex said:


I am still hopeful that enough Israelis and Arabs will listen to common sense.

As I go to my dinner, I leave you with these two Comments from the lists you translated ..

26. Dimona can strike back
And then Israel’s size will be doubled.

6. If you’ll hit Dimona
You’ll die too… idiots.

All of your nuclear weapons and our Chemical weapons are useless. It is like New York and New Jersey using WMD’s against each other.

The only power that you can use is a limited strike on a building in the desert that makes all those commentators feel good aain about the IDF … there is no easy war option anymore… that’s why we did not have a war for a long time.

December 7th, 2007, 12:31 am


Alex said:


Maybe what is circular is your switching between telling us how much you love us and how careful you are to not hurt the chances that Syria will have democracy today before tomorrow .. then to tell us how quickly you can kill us if we dare to resist your continued theft of our Golan Heights.

December 7th, 2007, 12:34 am


IsraeliGuy said:

Bon Appetite…

December 7th, 2007, 12:35 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I want democracy in Syria and I have stated many times that when that happens I am for Israel giving back the Golan. So there is no need to resist, you can have two good things for the price of one.

And if you insist on “resisting”, go ahead, it is your choice and right.

December 7th, 2007, 12:55 am


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh responds to AP (and unwittingly acknowledges his existence; gee and I thought Hamas was tough):

I said:

How was it that Sadat made peace with Israel? He didn’t “have the capability to hurt Israel militarily” either.

Professor Josh replied:

On the contrary, Egypt did hurt Israel in the 1973 War. Before 1973, Egypt was like Syria. It could not interest Israel in a deal, hence the failure of the Roger’s plan and Egyptian peace feelers.

“Hurt” is relative. Israel survived, but she retained the Sinai. Nope. I don’t buy it. But in a sense, BOTH Eygpt and Syria hurt Israel in ’73. The battle in the Golan was no “cake walk”.

But more importantly, your revisionist history is noteworthy. I distinctly remember the famous “Three Nos” after the ’67 war. Check “Palestine Facts” if you disagree. The Roger’s Plan near as I can tell, was a typical Arab “give us back our land” and then we’ll talk peace ploy. You can think of something better than that, can’t you?



After 1973 the situation changed. Not only did Israel have new respect for Egypt, but so did the US, which had been forced to send emergency supplies, suffer the oil embargo, and risk nuclear alert with the USSR. The US sweetened the pot for Israel by offering large dollar amounts and significant security and oil guarantees.

The change was Sadat getting off his ass, coming to Jerusalem, and sbeaking before the Knesset.

Now we’re back where we started from. What’s up with Syria?;)

Assad had hoped that the Summer War of 2006 would be his Suez Crossing, but it has not been. Israel continues to turn up its nose at Syria’s peace offers. So does the US.

Then please tell your friend Bashar, if he wants to emulate Eygpt’s Heroic Suez Crossing, he will have to use real live Syrians just like Nasser used real live Eygptians. It’s so hard to get things done today….you just have to do it yourself!

Either Syria has to change the military balance of power or ask for less.

We all understand Bashar’s predicament: a Jewish State still exists, the tiny Syrian countryside is still occupied and the Syrian people have run out of space, no more presence in the puppet state next door, pressure from the West, pressure from the Persians, a democracy forming next door and a destitute people with no freedom, no food, no Facebook and nothing to look forward to.

I feel your friend Bashar’s pain. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to cheer him up.

December 7th, 2007, 3:38 am


Nader said:

Sorry AnotherIsraeliGuy, I don’t know where you got the idea that Hezbollah lost the 2006 Lebanon War, but even the Pentagon views the Lebanon War as, and I quote, a “strategic defeat” for Israel.

It was an absolute debacle for the Israelis. I was there, in Lebanon during the war, and it didn’t look like the Lebanese were beating themselves up as the war waged on. On the contrary, it was like a fire of hope had been reignited in their eyes.

Landis, for all his knowledge, is wrong about this. Syria is stronger than ever and there’s no way that its gonna let go of its alliance with Iran. Why should it? It’s proven tremendously successful to them so far.

I can’t see how Syria looks weak when the United States is teaming up with them. And yes, the US is teaming up with Syria. The Iraq War is just draining the US so it’s decided to team up with Syria to aid them in Iraq, like securing the border, in exchange for what’s happening in Lebanon and many other benefits Syria is gaining. Even the rhetoric with Iran, especially after the NIE report, is starting to calm down a bit. And it’s all because of the Iraq war.

Oh, and by the way, wasn’t the Israeli cabinet getting hammered for its conduct of the war. What about the Israeli Soldiers still in Hezbollah hands? Weren’t they suppose to be freed during the war…?

I’m not beating a dead horse. It’s just that the horse never died:)

December 7th, 2007, 3:47 am


why-discuss said:

Why ignoring Israel’s fear of Iran?
If Syria is militarily weak, their alliance with Iran makes it strong.
Iran remains the major threat to Israel and Israel is seeking to weaken directly it by demonizing it and pushing the US and Europe to attack them but they have had no success yet. The pressure is building on Israel to deal with Iran before it is too late. Beside the military actions that everybody agrees to be very risky, the diplomatic option is to start a peace path with the arab world that will isolate Iran for a while. In this option Syria is key, because its participation in this peace process will draw it away from Iran and remove from Iran their major arab go between.
In view of this, Iran has already moved to secure better ties with the Gulf country. If this is successful, Syria may be left in the cold. This is why Syria has a very delicate game to play to keep Iran’s alliance solid while showing arab solidarity.

December 7th, 2007, 4:28 am


Lysander said:

I read much more than I post on this board, but all this talk in “flipping” made me feel I had something to say.

There isn’t going to be any flipping. The U.S. and Israel don’t do flips. And will not. Ever. Lets take Iran for example as I think it was mentioned in the original post as being a potential flip prospect.

Why wouldn’t the U.S. flip Iran over to its side and isolate the Russians? Wouldn’t it offer the Europeans an alternative energy source? A new gas pipeline? Wouldn’t it put China’s main energy source under U.S. influence? I’m sure the Iranians wouldn’t mind cutting a deal, but the U.S. will never offer it.

Alternatively, if Iran is the greatest threat mankind has ever known, why wouldn’t the U.S. flip Russia? Back off on that Polish- Check “missile shield,” slow down NATO expansion, or maybe give up on Kosovar independence and suddenly Russian interest in UNSC sanctions is reborn.

Maybe give the Chinese some concession on Taiwan?

But no. The U.S. wants everything from everyone. Total Iranian capitulation in exchange for nothing. Russian and Chinese cooperation on Iran sanctions, also for nothing. I guess they feel they are strong enough that they’ll get all they want eventually.

But in the case of Iran, I know why the U.S. will never flip it. In any deal, Iran will demand total cessation of sanctions. With sanctions gone, foreign investment would simply pour into Iran, producing tremendous wealth and giving it real economic power. U.S. businesses cannot be assured of any favoritism and would have to compete with Europeans, Russians, Indians and Chinese. Iran’s policies would not be subject to any U.S. veto. The U.S. would have to share the Persian Gulf with them.

And the U.S. will not share the Gulf with anyone. Certainly not the likes of Iran. Its way too important.

December 7th, 2007, 5:39 am


why-discuss said:


Iran’s policies would not be subject to any U.S. veto. The U.S. would have to share the Persian Gulf with them.

The US is fighting hard to avoid this to happen. Iraq’s war, internal rifts, the fall of the dollar and the partial support of Israel’s disdain for international resolutions have weaken US’s influence considerably in the region. In opposition, Iran’s influence has grown tremendously and there is nothing tp stop it. Ultimately the US will have no choice than share the Gulf with Iran and the Gulf countries in a new deal.

December 7th, 2007, 7:53 am


MSK said:

Ya Josh & Alex,

I’d like to know what you & others here at SC think about Josh’s assertion that the 2006 Summer War essentially weakened both Hizbullah and Syria, that HA is now too weak to withstand a 2nd Israeli onslaught etc.

As far as I can remember, that goes against the conventional Josh/SC wisdom for the whole past year.

Anyone care to comment?


December 7th, 2007, 12:54 pm


G said:

MSK, didn’t you see Alex excoriate Landis for saying that Syria is weak, asking him instead to toe the regime’s line and assert that it was strong? More agit prop please…

December 7th, 2007, 2:33 pm


Alex said:


I agree with Josh that one of the results of last year’s war, HA moving north few kilometers, limited their ability to say hello or Good morning to Israeli soldiers in the Shaba farms : )

How significant was that limitation this year? … not significant at all. Because after last year’s war, Hizbollah was accused with being responsible to some degree for the bloody Israeli invasion which resulted in over 1400 Lebanese casualties. As you know, Nasrallah stated long time ago that if he knew that Israel would use his kidnapping of the two Soldiers as an excuse to start the war he would not have done it. So … I don’t think that given the chance, he would have done it again … this soon.

So … even if there was no post-war UN resolution that separated HA from Israeli soldiers occupying the Lebanese Shaba farms, this year you would not have seen HA giving an excuse to the Neocons to repeat last year’s war … we do know by now that Israel was encouraged from Washington extremists to attack Lebanon (and Syria)… and that these wonderful people still want to see America or Israel destroy any member of the axis of evil.

Similarly, if you have noticed Syria’s approach this year, there was a total absence of apparent “interference” with events in Lebanon… waiting for the more motivated Neocons to get out of here by the end of 2008.

If Hizbollah was so weak .. why is everyone asking Syria to flip?

Hizbollah’s energy is still the same … it just shifted to another form … it is now mostly potential energy … it will go back to Kinetic form if needed.

December 7th, 2007, 4:23 pm


Alex said:

Next Landis/Tony Badran radio debate:

Joshua: ” .. so we can not ignore Hizbollah”

Tony Badran: “This is farcical … as a matter of fact, on the 5th of December 2007 Joshua himself admitted that Hizbollah is weak! … typically disingenuous”

Be ready Joshua : )

December 7th, 2007, 4:57 pm


kingcrane jr said:

Josh effendi:

1-The summer of 2006 war goes this way: the Zionist entity and its neo-con proxies wanted to attack the Hezb, with the connivence of Arab regimes (the KSA, the HKJ, and Mubarak). They needed an alibi to attack. I would remind you that the Israeli Occupation Army was illegaly going into Lebanese territory whenever it was felt necessary (to steal ingredients for kneffeh, to take a leak, to find a sheep to sodomize, etc…). The Hezb had to eventually fight back on behalf of the patriotic Lebanese (the majority of Lebanese, Sunna, Shia, and Christians alike, by the way) and this was unavoidable. If it was not the 3 Zionist soldiers, the alibi could have been the weather, a fashion dispute, or some football result: Olmert and his acolytes were going to strike, no matter what. Today, and I beg to disagree with you, the Hezb is stronger than last year, and they have learned from the 2006 war.

2-The alliance between Syria, the Hezb, Iran, and to some extent Hamas, is based on the fact that they are the last quatuor that is officially asking for a negociated settlement in the Middle East, while others (Fatah, most Arab rulers, but not THE PEOPLE) have capitulated to an outcome where the will of THE PEOPLE is negated (and when this happens, wait for further trouble, as THE PEOPLE’s will in the Middle East will be coming back to haunt all traitors; this is in contrast to the media-produced will of the anesthesized western peoples, a bunch of consumers funtionning a-la-moutons-de-Panurge).

3-Syria is not a prisonner of the said alliance with Iran and the Hezb, as it thrives to reach ITS OWN version (and it has to be an acceptable one to the pro-Palestinian polity of Syria) of a permanent and just peace in the Middle East. Occasionally, Syria may ally with most members of the Arab League when they periodically endorse the usual common language of support to the Palestinians. It is difficult to say that Syria is strong or weak. But Syria is very secure and any attempts to attack Syria or to foment trouble in Syria will be detrimental to the whole area. I jokingly say about Armaggedon (see the recent Scott Ritter interview that is accessible on truthout) that the way to “bring it on” is to attack Syria or make trouble within Syria through proxies or mercenaries.

4-Syria is safe, but the Zionist entity is in deep existential trouble. Uri Avnery was joking when he said that a one-state solution to the Middle East will satisfy both the Zionist extreme-right and the Palestinians around Hamas: the former will interpret it as a hidden item in an agenda to expell all non-Jews from the whole territory including Gaza and the West Bank, while the latter will interpret that as a first step in a demographic road map to Palestinian majority in all of the land delineated by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The point is that a two-state solution is great for those seeking to sell weapons in a heavily militarized Middle East while a one-state solution will start a nativitist conflict where the weapons will be… Palestinian penises versus Zionist penises.

5-The presence of Syria at the recent conference is an acknowlegment of what the French have called “l’incontournabilite de la Syrie” au Moyen Orient. The Michel Sleimane episode is a victory for the Franco-Egyptian axis that is seeking to appease things in Lebanon (could it be seen as a gain for the anti-Iranian neocons who are seeking to “pacify” (sic) Iraq, Turkey-Kurdish North Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan so to provide an opportunity to attack Iran in April of 2008? I doubt it, as Iran holds more surprises than the Hezb for would-be attackers, even if such attackers strike by air only). The Sleimane choice is accepted by the Hezb because he is deemed trustworthy in the eventuality the Resistance is in trouble, and I have no doubt that both Syria and Iran have accepted the choice because the Hezb has endorsed the compromize candidate with a detailed knowlege of the said compromize candidate.

In summary, Syria has reaped the benefits of waiting patiently, as Azmi Beshara had exorted them to do in his “the art of waiting” article. In contrast, those with shifting agendas, those who do politics like a child with Hyper-Activity Disorder, have lost, and are forced into a compromize they would have not accepted prior to the Zionist debacle in Lebanon.

December 7th, 2007, 4:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Hizballah’s power is in its guerilla ability and its ability to be a deterence to Israel. Though Israel fought the 2006 July war very badly from a strategic point of view (due to not committing to a groung strategy up front) some things that were not clear before have emerged:
1) The fact the Hizballah is a guerilla group cannot shield the Shia and the Lebanese from the grim consequences of a war with Israel. Hizballah did not expect that the world will accept a 30 day bombardment of Lebanon. Boy were they mistaken. Post 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, the west understands the complexities of fighting terrorist organizations and is much more accepting.
2) Hizballah believed that their rockets were a deterence. To everybody’s surprise, even though the rocket attacks displaced Israelis living in the north, they did not stop the Israeli economy for one second. It proved to be super resilient even throughout the war. The war did not affect the Israeli economy at all but was almost a coup de grace for the Lebanese economy.
3) The Israeli army learned its lessons from the 2006 war and it is clear to Hizballah that in the next war it will be much more efficient.

Given the above, Hizballah has no potential anything. They do not dare to start a war because
1) Their supporters have not even finished rebuilding from the last war.
2) The Lebanese would not support such a war
3) The Israeli repsonse will be even worse than last time and it would be the economic end of Lebanon
4) Israel has made it clear that the next Hizballah attack it will hold Syria accountable also

And the proof of all the above is the fact that Hizballah did nothing when Syria was attacked in September. Hizballah is weak because the two premises of its strength were shattered: guerilla warfare limiting Israel’s response and deterrence.

Alex may believe that with a change of administration in the US something will be different. He is of course mistaken. Nothing is going to change. Why would it? The front runners in the US are just as friendly to Israel as Bush and are committed to fighting the war against terror.

December 7th, 2007, 4:58 pm


Alex said:

And what do you think of Obadiah Shoher’s arguments against the peace process ( samsonblinded.org/blog/we-need-a-respite-from-peace.htm )?

December 7th, 2007, 5:15 pm


Alex said:


America will always be Israel’s best friend. Alex is not delusional.

But this particular administration made some devastating mistakes … starting from the president being convinced that God spoke to him and asked him to go on an extravagant crusade …

This administration is not able to say “oops … sorry, we made a mistake” … it will take a new group to replace them to correct some of the obvious mistakes.

December 7th, 2007, 5:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


AIG is right about one thing, and that is that the next administration is unlikely to initiate any kind of significant difference in pursuing a comprehensive peace formula.

If anything, the Bush debacles reminded AIPAC that there exists, even in the muttony heartland of America’s anaesthetized masses (pace Kingcrane) a serious ambivalence about Israel. America’s colleges have been growing increasingly vocal about the “Zionist occupation”, and AIPAC has made it no secret that it plans to fight back.

Every major Democratic candidate, from Obama to Hillary to Edwards has been ‘vetted’ by AIPAC; they wouldn’t have gotten this far without its imprimatur.

What matters isn’t whether Syria is strong or weak, flippable or unflippable. What matters is what kind of constructive steps the regime takes. Too often, political capital has been squandered, especially at ‘watershed’ moments in recent history.

December 7th, 2007, 5:36 pm


Alex said:

I agree Qifa Nabki .. nothing is going to automatically change… there are no guarantees, but there will be a much better chance of seeing a vigorous peace process.

Ask our friend Ford Prefect. He met with the Clintons last month. Bill will probably be President Hillary’s Middle East envoy .. and he said he thinks a Syrian Israeli agreement will take 30 minutes to conclude!

If you want to see how the different candidates differ on Israel … check (as I do every week) Rosner’s chart… see why Israeli panelists who voted to make Guiliani their favorite candidate … are against an active American involvement in the peace process.

December 7th, 2007, 6:01 pm


Joshua said:

I am surprised that readers found my comments that
1. Syria is weak vis a vis Israel
2. Hizbullah was weakened by the 2006 Summer War, diminishing Syria’s leverage with Israel for a favorable Golan deal.

(I did not say that “HA is now too weak to withstand a 2nd Israeli onslaught etc,” as KSA would have had me say. I do not believe this. I was not talking about HA’s defensive capabilities, only about its offensive capabilities.)

The Summer War demonstrated that Hizb has a very capable defensive machine and did indeed give Israel a black eye. It will be some time before Israel tries to invade or occupy part of Lebanon again with ground troops.

In the same vain, Hizb also got a bad black eye. It has been pushed back from the border with Israel. A beefier UNIFIL force impedes its freedom of action, and more UN Security Council resolutions weigh on it. The Lebanese army is also stronger than it was.

The most telling measure of its diminished value as a proxie for Syria is its dead body count. How many Israelis has it killed or wounded since 2006? Not one.

In the year and a half before June 2006, Hizb killed or wounded quite a few.

Both Israelis and Lebanese have been deterred from killing each other.

What effect does that have on Israel’s Golan calculations?

The only pressing reason for Israel to return the Golan is to stop Hizbullah killings of Israelis. We cannot be sure that Hizbullah has been deterred by the 2006, but it does seem that way.

We could also talk about the change in Hamas’ strength and status since 2006, but I will spare my readers.

Syria has a few diplomatic cards to play. It has a very strategic position in the region. The US needs Syria more than ever as it moves away from a policy of confrontation. Perhaps increased US pressure on Israel will counter-balance the diminished military posture of Hizbullah? I am not sure it will.

December 7th, 2007, 8:02 pm


Lysander said:

From the outside, we can only speculate on what Hizbollah’s military position is. However, I would deduce the following points;

1) If it were seriously weakened, that was not evident from its performance during the war. It launched the largest number of missiles and inflicted the largest number of IDF casualties on the last 2 days of the war. Israel makes grandiose claims about the casualties it inflicted on Hizb. Whatever the truth of that, Hizb was capable of fighting to the last moment despite them.

2) Clearly, Hizbullah did not expect a 34 day war and have said so themselves. But they were prepared for one. The same can be said about Israel. I don’t think Olmert, Peretz or Halutz expected the war to last that long either.

3) To what degree Hizb’s rocket are a deterent aren’t clear. Throughout the war, Israel talked about bombing Beirut’s electrical and water facilities, while warning Hizbullah not to attack Tel Aviv. Neither happened.

4) Clearly, Israel accepted a ceasefire giving them far less than they initially demanded. The disarmament of Hizb, though demanded in the UNSC, will not happen anytime soon. Also, one should note that the ceasefire largely held. Typically, if it sees some advantage, Israel would accuse the other side of violating the ceasefire and grab more territory, as in, for example, the 1973 war with Egypt, or the battle in Beirut in 1982. This time Israel was quite content to maintain the ceasefire. ( a botched commando raid notwithstanding)

5) Clearly, a guerrilla force of 2-3000 men cannot be compared to the 2nd or 3rd strongest army in the world. The fact that people make the comparison, even if its in Israel’s favor, is itself a testament to Hizbullah’s skill in combat.

6) I disagree with AIG’s assesment that Hizb has “no potential anything.” Clearly the U.S. and Israel are exerting substantial energy to the disarmament of Hizbullah, which by its own admission and according to Israel’s accusations, continues to arm itself more and more. Also, it is not Israel’s attitude that so long as Hizb does not attack them, they do not care how they are armed.

7) Anyone wondering about Hizb’s effect on Israeli behavior need only ask themselves how the 1982 war would have been different if Hizbullah had been there back then.

8) It is correct that Hizbullah is not so strong that Israel would trade the Golan for them. But, while that may be Syria’s purpose, Iran and Hizbullah have other objectives besides the Golan.


December 7th, 2007, 10:26 pm


G said:

It’s curious to note that Landis has consciously twice avoided the second part of Honest Patriot’s question:

2- Granting all the brainy analysis and agreeing with every point you make, please add now your value judgment on the use of political assassinations by Syria to subdue Lebanon. Do you professionally and ethically accept this as just standard politics ? Where else is this occuring ? Where has it occurred in history ? And what do you make of it ? Please share with us how you look at it ? Are you equating it with Israel’s targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders ?

December 7th, 2007, 10:46 pm


Joshua said:

Dear G.

I think killing people is bad.

I do not approve of governments, non-governments, militias or non-militias killing people in order to achieve objectives or just because they can.

I have never compared the assassinations in Lebanon with those in Israel and its occupied territories.

I wish all mankind would live in peace and harmony.

December 8th, 2007, 12:13 am


G said:

What a wonderfully, yet typically, evasive answer that never once attributes agency to Syria, and instead implicitly points in a completely other direction away from Syria.

Exactly what we expected someone like you to say.

December 8th, 2007, 1:52 am


MNA said:

Dear Joshua,

It seems that what is restraining Hezbollah vis-à-vis Israel is the Lebanese internal politics more than anything else. Hezbollah does not want to jeopardize gains it achieved domestically with another confrontation with Israel, which could only benefit its rivals of the March 14th group.

December 8th, 2007, 4:12 am


Joshua said:

Perhaps you are right about Hizbullah and the internal game. It still means that Hizb is not punishing Israel, which means Israel can relax.

The Palestinians have also switched tactics, relieving pressure on Israel.


December 8th, 2007, 4:16 am


MNA said:


I don’t think that we can contribute Hezbollah’s restrain vis-à-vis Israel solely to the war of 2006. If anything, the Iranian nuclear file, the Iraqi debacle, and the international investigation into the Hariri assassination all have more to do with it than the War of 2006. Some people on this blog cites Hezbollah inaction when Syria was bombed in Sept as a sign of weakness, but who said that Syria wanted Hezbollah to retaliate, at the first place, and risk all the gains that Syria achieved diplomatically in the last few months. I think any judgment at this time is premature; we should wait and see until the dust settles a little bit in the area.
By the way, thank you for the chart, it is interesting.

December 8th, 2007, 4:50 am


Roland said:

AIG reminds one of the Germans of a hundred years ago. AIG shares Wilhelm’s mistaking of mere machtpolitik for realpolitik. For example:

A. If the Syrians retaliate against Israel after the raid, AIG would think there must be no negotiations until they stop fighting.

B. But if they don’t retaliate, they’re weak–therefore no negotiations are necessary!

Using such logic, it is impossible for AIG to ever negotiate in good faith with anyone else.

December 8th, 2007, 5:24 am


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

Here the quote from your interview:

“it’s not clear that Hezbollah would want to or can carry out another confrontation with Israel.”

“Israel frightened Hezbollah and set them back”

“The problem is that Syria is weaker than it was then. [2000]”

“The trouble is that Syria is too weak.”


December 8th, 2007, 2:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course not. I have a clear and simple requirement for negotiation: Syria becomes a democracy.

The Syrian reaction either way to the raid would have had zero influence on my decision to negotiate with them or not. I am against negotiating with dictators. I am light years away from macht or realpolitik. I am willing to forgoe short term benefits of talking to dictators in order to achieve real long term peace.

December 8th, 2007, 6:54 pm


kingcrane jr said:

What about if the Zionist entity became a democracy:
-No more extremists (Avigdor Lieberman and others are itching to expand the Palestinian genocide).
-Enough with the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel (and enough with religion altogether); let it be a one state with Arabs and Jews and others if appropriate, and let us void the “Palestinian Authority” from its current definition: a corrupt bunch that will rule a mini-Gaza ghetto and a mini-West Bank ghetto.
-Syria could then become a “democracy” and all those asking for that should poll the people about:
a-Which model they want (proporational, single district, etc)
b-Who the people are likely to vote for (secular parties, MB, left, right, etc).

December 10th, 2007, 2:18 pm


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