Leave Our Region Alone And The Winners Are......By EHSANI2 - Syria Comment

Leave Our Region Alone And The Winners Are……By EHSANI2

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush referred to the existing political order in the Middle East as “false stability”.

This writer agreed with this characterization. After all, the seeming stability was perfectly correlated with dictatorships. Unless one accepts that the region's dictators are a normal state of affairs, the calm that most Middle East countries enjoyed could not have been sustainable or "real".

Growing up in the Middle East, I know the conventional wisdom has been that the region’s dictators were more or less hand picked by the U.S. to serve the superpower’s own interests.

Surely, the Shah of Iran, the King of Saudi Arabia, Mubarak of Egypt, Saddam of Iraq as well as Assad of Syria could not have maintained their hold on power for this long had it not been for the U.S.'s implicit, if not explicit, help. Only when the U.S. yanked the rug from underneath these regimes would the region have a chance to prosper and advance, the thinking had always been.

On March 20th, 2003, the U.S. did indeed decide to pull the rug from under one of the key regimes that it had supported in the past.

The official, stated objectives of this invasion were to “disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people".

Three and a half years later, of course, things could not have turned out any differently.

Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were never found. Saddam’s support for terrorism (Al-Qaeda) was never proved. The Iraqi people were freed from Saddam but only to be thrown into the ensuing hell and mayhem that soon followed.

This writer wrote an article on this forum criticizing the U.S.’s stated reasoning behind the Iraq invasion. It was entitled "Spreading Democracy – Why the U.S. must tell the truth".

Lessons learnt:

The U.S. bet big.  They lost bigger.

Rather than being intimidated by the superpower next door, both Syria and Iran have worked tirelessly to fill the vacuum left by Saddam’s exit.

Soon following the arrival of America’s troops in the region, both Iran and Syria marshaled their resources and embarked on a well-orchestrated plan to thwart the U.S. mission. Were the U.S. to succeed in their first Middle East experiment, all signs pointed to Damascus and Tehran as being next.  As it turns out, instigating chaos and instability in a Saddamless Iraq was not difficult.  To the contrary, the ground was very fertile indeed.

The Middle East, and Iraq in particular, had its own experiment with occupying foreign forces in the past. At the height of the British Empire’s dominance, Iraq was thought to be critical in influencing the territory. As the Americans have recently discovered, traditional Arab hospitality does not extend to occupying Christian armies. Most people blame the U.S. support of Israel as one of the reasons for their failure in Iraq. The British, of course, faced a similar unwelcome before the State of Israel ever came into being.  This point is worth remembering when we hear today’s pleas for a Palestinian-Israeli peace as a prerequisite for a solution in Iraq.

One wonders what would have happened were a Moslem army to have invaded and occupied a country like Iraq. Perhaps other readers and commentators can expand on this topic.

The winners:

Regardless of how events unfold in the immediate future, the clear winners of this failed American experiment are the region’s dictators.

Given their mastery of ruling their populace by fear and intimidation, these leaders know full well that the only way they can be removed from power is through the help of implicit, if not explicit, foreign intervention. Without that, their own citizens are powerless to hold their own leaders accountable.

Had it not been for the U.S., Saddam would have stayed in power till his death. His two handsome sons would have surely been next in line. Not that Iraqis feel any better with him gone of course. 

Syria is no different. Assad senior handed the reign to his 34-old year son after a 30-minute amendment of the constitution. The odds are heavily in favor of Hafez Assad junior to be the country’s next President after the many years that the current healthy President is expected to enjoy as head of state.

Most readers of this forum seem to believe that the recent facts on the ground favor the Syria/Iran axis to win this confrontation with the U.S. It is all just a matter of time before the world’s sole superpower will decide to retreat and look for a graceful exit from the region’s treacherous waters, the majority opinion believes.

If readers of this forum represent a microcosm of Arab opinion, the people of the region are glad to see America humiliated in Iraq. Their own leaders are simply ecstatic. They have just received a new lease on life. America will never dare come to their region again. Calls for democracy have seen the Islamists fill the void in one country after another. The Palestinians chose Hamas. The Egyptian local elections brought the Moslem Brothers. Even tiny and traditionally liberal Bahrain has recently seen its own Islamists control Parliament. I think that it is now obvious to all that this pattern will be repeated over and over in every Arab country that experiments with its own style of democracy.

We, the people of this region, therefore have made our wishes clear to the international community:

“Leave us alone. We do not need your help. We are content to let our dictators rule us with an iron fist and rob us of our civil rights and dignity. We prefer the stability that comes with the use of force than the inevitable anarchy that will follow when our dictators are gone. Given the chance to vote and choose our own leaders, Islamists and Sharia rule will be the inevitable winnners . Our own dictators have long known and masterfully exploited this inherent tendency of ours. We know that we will never be able to get rid of our tyrants by ourselves. But this does not stop us from dreaming that we can do so without the help of others. The only winners of this saga have been our very own leaders. The failed American endeavour in Iraq has been a Godsend to them. Sadly, and as usual, the region's people have lost. Middle East style stability our people  may indeed keep. In return for this so-called stability however, they will have to give up their civil liberties, economic development, increased standards of living and the chance to elect their leaders and hold them accountable.

Comments (59)


Akbar Palace said:

Strangely, two important European leaders aren’t very happy with Syrian meddling with Lebanon. Looks like France and Germany may have opened themselves up to Arab terrorism. It takes a brave people to do such a thing:

The leaders of France and Germany urged Syria on Tuesday not to interfere in Lebanon but to contribute constructively to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to its neighbor.

“France and Germany call for an end to all interference in the affairs of Lebanon,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Mettlach, Germany.

“They wish that Syria will no longer support forces that want to destabilize Lebanon and the region,” the statement said.

December 5th, 2006, 1:15 pm

 

Dubai Jazz said:

Ehsani2, the apparent sarcasm in the way you have stated your conclusion shows the bitter impact the American failure in Iraq is having on you.

December 5th, 2006, 1:21 pm

 

Alex said:

“France and Germany call for an end to all interference in the affairs of Lebanon,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Mettlach, Germany.

“They wish that Syria will no longer support forces that want to destabilize Lebanon and the region,” the statement said.

Well too bad, because France took itself out of its previous position of being able to set red lines for Syria when needed … Mr. Chirac, when he made it a personal goal of his to both punish the Syrians and to take their place in Lebanon (NOT to make Lebanon free of outside intervention), he has no more role to play until he leaves.

and Ehsani! …I like how you always make sure you insert at least one controversial statement! (What would have happened if a Muslim army invaded Iraq?)

Well, I guess it will also depend if it was

1) Shia or Sunni army
2) Arab or ..Turkish/Persian army

But that is too theoretical.. at least for now. If Iraq is still chaotic few years from now, then Ehsani’s questiojn might become valid .. Turkey and Iran could possibly move in to “protect their interests”.

But another case from the past, and not from the future, is the different way Syrians feel about

1)the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights .. ALL syrians wwant it back.

2) The Liwa Eskandaroun “occupied” by Turkey. Most syrians seem to have accepted that one.

December 5th, 2006, 3:51 pm

 

Alex said:

I posed this question many times on a number of blogs the past year, Syrians’ position on Eskanadaroun vs. Golan was one of the following

1) Of course it is a Syrian land … but not for now.

2) It was not invaded by Turkey but was given to them by France, the same way (more or less) we now accept how Lebanon was cut out of Syria, we should accept the way Eskanadaroun was cutout of Syria.

3) 1939 is a long time ago … we need to forget the past.

4) We trust Turkey more than Israel. Turkey is not our enemy, Israel is.

Byt he way, This is the day France gave Iskandaroun to Turkey.

Nice gift. Very generous of France.

December 5th, 2006, 4:19 pm

 

Alex said:

And Ehsani, here is an image I added yesterday to mideastimage.com that goes nicely with your article.

A rare photo of the new King of Iraq on his first day at work

While you are there, make sure you check the Taliban-like first American diplomat to Syria … in 1859

December 5th, 2006, 4:30 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Alex,

I love both pictures. Bremmer should have replicated the look of the first American diplomat to Syria in your collection. Surely, it could not have hurt him compared to the suit, tie and silly boots that he chose instead.

December 5th, 2006, 4:42 pm

 

Atassi said:

The mess created in Iraq is mostly done by the American and it’s their responsibility to fix it, in the same time a hope was born to the civil societies, liberals, and the democratic and reform seeker around the regime. And it’s our responsible to keep this hope alive.
Dismantling and shattering the rooted fears in our people was a wonderful achievement, we can’t afford to lose, and it might be the last lost opportunity in our life time.

December 5th, 2006, 4:56 pm

 

Milli Schmidt said:

You speak the depressing (is it?) truth, Ehsani2. It is strange, how seldom the responsibility of the Iraqi people for the post-Saddam mess is mentioned. Generally, the the mess is presented as something external as in your sentence “The Iraqi people were freed from Saddam but only to be thrown into the ensuing hell and mayhem that soon followed.” “To be thrown” – the passive is chosen, as if not most of the violence is now perpetrated by Iraqis.
A good Iraqi friend is severely depressed because the Iraqis chose religious fervour and violence instead of grasping the opportunity to create something new and better for themselves. And your article makes a similar argument for other countries in the Middle East. But the reason for my question mark in the first sentence is that if Sharia and/or dictatorship plus security is the preferred way of the majority in a country, is that not a choice any believing democrat has to support?

December 5th, 2006, 4:57 pm

 

ausamaa said:

EHSANI2,

I understand your bitternes as expressed in your article. But are you not blowing things out of proportion a little? “You are sure that Hafiz Bashar Al Asad Jr will be the next President”, and “a lot of People would like to see America Humilated”?

No sir, I bet you Hafiz al Assad Jr. would not be the next president, and I bet you that not many people would like to see America Humilated.Those people want to change in Syria’s case, and those same people want and expect America to play a constructive role in the area, but not to dominate and dictate and pick and choose who is good and who is bad under the false banner of “Bringing Democracy” and the illusion of the “War on Terror”, while we all read and know about using “shock and Awe” to further someone’s plans for Creative Chaos and Clean Break to control the area and to forcefuly keep the “humanitarian and democratic” Israeli side the sole and dominant force in the area.

“Leave us alone. We do not need your help. We are content to let our dictators rule us with an iron fist and rob us of our civil rights and dignity”, you say…

No sir. What we do say is: Do not leave us alone. Engage us. But not on your own terms and for your own gains. And do not impose your will on us by fire. And before you do all that, look at what injustices you or others have caused us and try to remedy it before conming to us under the misleading and transparent banner of Bringing us Democracy. And once you do that, and once we have the peace of mind that the major threat whic we face, being Israel (and your true aim of breaking us) is resolved, then we can talk about your style of Democracy, civil liberties and oppeness ( but of course not the examples practiced by your allies in Jordan, Egypt or Saudi). THen, you will be surprised to see change evolving naturally, and you will be surprised how fast things will start to fall in correct order then.

A matter of popular and national prioreties if I may say so. That is how we see things.

And watching the news, what do you honestly prefere? The scenes of the dead in Iraq, Palestine and the tension in Lebanon now, or the pre-2003 scenes?

False Stability seems easier to stomach than a lot of what we see now…or is it not?

December 5th, 2006, 5:12 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex,

I enjoyed the pictures as well!

The only thing I didn’t understand is why a Syrian organization would have pictures from Lebanon and Israel?

And how does this “improve the communication process between Syria and the rest of the world” (according to the organization). Or, least of all, to their neighbors?

“This website is an independant effort by Syrians in Montreal that hopes to improve the communication process between Syria and the rest of the world.”

December 5th, 2006, 5:15 pm

 

Alex said:

Attasi,

I agree, but I think what is to blame here is the concept of “all or nothing … and we want it today”

What took centuries to establish (the Arab Sultan ruler) will take some time to undo if we do not want the Iraq chaos. In our lifetime, we have a good chance to see serious progress, a step at a time. I am optimistic that it is doable, and that Ehsani is wrong about the next president of Syria.

But we need to be realistic. I know both of you do not like this word.

Ehsani, the picture of the Iraqi king has a very relevant story to go with it please read the link … if you want to analyze what was wrong in that cute picture, besides the fact that this little boy inherited the leadership of Iraq, the story of his father, King Ghazi, who died in a car accident (he was hated by the Brits), and his Regent uncle who was a British favorite… then his eventual violent end, along with the rest of the Royal family, a typical story of change of guards in Iraq it seems, tell many more stories about what is not right… democracy is not the solution to all “evil” in the Arab world.

December 5th, 2006, 5:21 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar Palace,

The site’s coverage of the history of the area can not be limited to today’s “Syria”, the whole area was in a way “Syria” in the nineteenth century. You’ll see many interesting photos of Syrian and Iraqi Jews. There is even a photo of Kurdish Jews!

As for improving he communication process … the site is most popular in Turkey, the United States and Israel … I’m satisfied with that.

December 5th, 2006, 5:58 pm

 

ivanka said:

Very clear and very true article EHSANI. One of the main results of the US involvement in the middle east is that dictators have gained renewed legitimacy in the eyes of their people : “They keep us safe”. Even Kofi Annan said it.

Did the US really want democracy in Iraq? I am almost certain that no. Saddam could have been toppled with a tenth of the money and people that the war has used. However the result would not have been a pro-US country. The goal of the war on Iraq was to create a pro-US and eventually democratic state, not a democratic state. It was a war of conquest and this is why it failed.

I am not as pessimistic as you. I do not think only foreign pressure can change dictatorships. Opposition from the inside can (like with the Shah). I think a major problem is that there is often no opposition movement the people can identify with or admire.

December 5th, 2006, 6:18 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

probably the worst mistake Syria has done is to seperate from the Ottoman empire,syria alliance with Iran is O.K., but I prefer alliance with Turkey,more and more and more and more, all the way to union.

December 5th, 2006, 6:34 pm

 

SANDRO LOEWE said:

I find Ehsani analisis excellent and especially clear.

The order of officially prefered winners in world history is:

First – THE IMPERIAL POWER in the name of the imperial populations and principles and to extend the imperial civilization to other believed ignorant populations under cruel dignataries

Second – THE OFFICIAL ENEMIES OF THE EMPIRE when having forced the Empire defeat in a regional war will be allowed and accepted by the Empire to crash the population before a popular revolution brings chaos and anarchy to the region and it extends to imperial borders.

Third – PEOPLE TO THE POWER excepcionally in history wars between empires and its enemies create a vacuum of power which leads to revolution and change in power from the people to the people. It uses to happen inside the ENEMIES OF THE EMPIRE, in which case a communion of OLD SERVERS OF THE ENEMY and NEW SERVERS OF THE EMPIRE will manage to control the people as liberators and anex it to the EMPIRE again.

From one to two to three and begin again in cercles forever and ever.

HISTORY OF HUMAN CIVILIZATIONS IS HISTORY OF DOMINATION. SYRIA IS THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATIONS AND HAS GOT A MASTER IN HUMAN DOMINATION.

December 5th, 2006, 7:43 pm

 

Karim said:

Majdkhaldoun ,there is no alliance between syria and iran ,but an alliance between the mafioso mullahs of the iranian regime and the asad familly.The iranian persians are a “large” minority in Iran but it’s known that the Political modernist elite(also are in the same time iranian nationalists but anti clerical) was often of Turkish Azeri origin or even of Kurdish origin ,they represent 40% of the iranian people and may be 50% of Tehran.You will hardly find an iranian(persian or other) who support this regime which is among the most corrupt in the world.The iranian population is by far more secularist than their arab neighbors.We should not forget that Bush the father ,was at the head of the CIA mission who had launched a serial of deals with Khomaini…amongst them the Iran Contra Deal(American weapons shipped from Israel to Iran during Iraq Iran war).
The iranian regime need such machiavelic deals to remain in power because most of the iranian inhabitants of north,south,east and west borders are not persians.

December 5th, 2006, 8:09 pm

 

ivanka said:

Majedkhaldoun,

I like your idea. I think the end of the Ottoman empire was a disaster to the peoples of the middle east.

Karim,

It’s called Strategic Depth:

Syria can not stand up to Israel alone. First Syria fought Israel with Egypt. Then Sadat did his famous trick. Then Hafez el Assad tried to bring Iraq to play Egypt’s old role. However he and Saddam didn’t like each other. So Iran was the next candidate.

If Iran stops playing this role (makes a deal with the west or becomes week) Syria will have to look for another ally and for the same reason. Syria can not stand up to Israel on the regional scene alone.

December 5th, 2006, 9:41 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Milli Schmidt,

I was hoping that no one would pick up on the point you made. Indeed,I had a problem with the wording “to be thrown”. I was very close to phrasing it differently but I did not. You took me to task on it and for a very good reason

December 5th, 2006, 9:46 pm

 

ivanka said:

Chirac devient plus ridicule chaque fois qu’il parle. He is asking Syria to not interfere in Lebanon, like what jail the 1.5 million demonstrators. Does he really think Bashar can tell more than a million people to go home and they would go home and does he really think Bashar ordered 1.5 million Lebanese, many of wich Aounist, to demonstrate.

Too bad Mr Le President that you messed up your relation with Syria. Now you have nothing in the middle east except the vague dream of making Lebanon your new base. Even Morocco is closer to the US than to France thanks to your silly attitudes.

The best one was the UNIFIL. They have turned into a bargaining card for Iran. That was probably the single most stupid act of Chirac in foreign policy (and that’s saying a lot). Imagine that you send a “peace keeping” force to a country and a week later the first page of newspapers in your country start saying the UNIFIL is exposed and that is forcing France to make small concessions to Iran.

December 5th, 2006, 9:48 pm

 

Karim said:

Ivanka,why should be Israel against the syrian regime?As said an old baathi ,Israel’s eternal hope for Syria is a weak regime in front of them and strong and criminal regime against the syrian people.
The logic say ,Israel need people like Asad and Asad need the pretext given by the Israelian policy as the perpetual zionist danger.There is mutual interests ,the winner are the extremist israelis and asad family and the losers are the syrian people.This is clear for all.

December 5th, 2006, 9:52 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Alex and Ausamma,

You seem to dissagree with my forecast on who will be Syria’s next President. I am personally a fan of trend following. 1970-2006 makes a pretty good trend. It would appear that betting on this trend to continue is a rational and logical call to make. You seem to be confident that an Assad Presidency will not continue forever and that Bashar will prove to be the last family member to rule this country. Time (long) will tell I guess as Bashar has presumably many healthy years ahead of him. If we are alive till then and assuming that Josh keeps Syriacomment alive, we can find out who was right. I am prepared to change my mind though if you could share with us the way you see the Assad family rule come to an end with Bashar. Surely, you don’t expect him to lose his election bid next year. May be the one in the in 2014? Hafez senior lived till he was 70. If my math serves me right, Bashar will equal his record if he can win that 2014, then 2021, 2028 and finally 2035. He will still be one year shy of 70. Sadly, I may not be around till then to settle our bet

December 5th, 2006, 10:38 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Karim said:

“We should not forget that Bush the father ,was at the head of the CIA mission who had launched a serial of deals with Khomaini…amongst them the Iran Contra Deal(American weapons shipped from Israel to Iran during Iraq Iran war).”

I think Ronald Reagen was president during the Iran Contra Affair. Which only proves my point: Dealing with nations that support terrorism is a LOSE-LOSE situation.

In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States. McFarlane sought Reagan’s approval, in spite of the embargo against selling arms to Iran. McFarlane explained that the sale of arms would not only improve U.S. relations with Iran, but might in turn lead to improved relations with Lebanon, increasing U.S. influence in the troubled Middle East. Reagan was driven by a different obsession. He had become frustrated at his inability to secure the release of the seven American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Lebanon. As president, Reagan felt that “he had the duty to bring those Americans home,” and he convinced himself that he was not negotiating with terrorists. While shipping arms to Iran violated the embargo, dealing with terrorists violated Reagan’s campaign promise never to do so. Reagan had always been admired for his honesty.

The arms-for-hostages proposal divided the administration. Longtime policy adversaries Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz opposed the deal, but Reagan, McFarlane and CIA director William Casey supported it. With the backing of the president, the plan progressed. By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called “a hostage bazaar.”

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/reagan/peopleevents/pande08.html

December 6th, 2006, 12:46 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

oil revenue in syria will decrease,2)more isolation,and sanction,with Hariri investigation and the court,3)increase population,it will be a miracle if he lasts two years,actualy Bashar is good in making enemy,his father was able to make friends.

December 6th, 2006, 12:47 am

 
 

Alex said:

Ehsani, so you are among the 2% who own 50% of the world’s wealth!

🙂

As for your bet/forecast … if it is a bet then fine, but I would suggest staying away from scientific forecasting on this variable’s expected outcome 30 years from now, even if you are a fan of trend following in general.

Let the noise level go down first, then maybe we can forecast. Here is my modest forecast: sometime between 2007.5 to 2009 We’ll have a much better idea if 15 years from now an Assad will rule Syria.

December 6th, 2006, 3:45 am

 

Alex said:

Akbar Palace,

You reminded me of all those names from the 80’s! … you forgot Dire Straits and Tears for Fears!

But I have to say that I am not for learning lessons from the faiures of the Reagan administration’s attempts to make deals with Iran … dealing with enemies (or what they call today “evil” regimes) is a must. But you have to start by knowing your enemy. President Reagan, like President Bush Jr., did not understand Iran or Syria .. they both hated the fact they needed to make frequent decisions that involved these two foreign countries. Presidents Nixon, Clinton, and Bush Sr., did much better. The ceasefire agreement in 1974 between Syria and Israel in still in effect today (respected by the two countries). The international coalition that Jim Baker built in 1991 to get Saddam out of Kuwait with the instrumental approval of Syria was another huge success. And if prime minister Rabin was not assassinated, Clinton was on his way to score a lasting peace between Syrai and Israel.

So I’ll agree with you that if you want to talk to your enemy, you have to do it whole heartedly, not the Reagan and current administration’s ways, which typically looks like this: endless arguments of “should we talk, should we continue to boycott”, followed by “a compromise” which is simply the stupidest, non-starter .. like today’s compromise offer that Chirac came up with … “Syria must stop interfering in Lebanon, in exchange we’ll let Syria join the rest of the international community” … seriously bizarre!

Syria should not have interests in the affairs of its neighbor which was part of Syria until 60 years ago, yet we the French and Americans and the Saudis can have our active ambassadors to Beirut trying to shape the day to day political life of that far country… and if Syria agrees, then … we’ll talk to them. Otherwise, we’ll continue to shake our heads in disappointment at the Syrians.

Some one needs to remind Mr. Chirac that Syria did not lose any wars lately… this language and this logic (or lack of logic) is better kept for talking to defeated nations.

And he should remember all those lessons in wisdom (ego=bad) he learned when he was younger at his local lodge… he needs to say it out loud: “Bashar … I made a mistake, it was I did not get it”

December 6th, 2006, 3:59 am

 

why-discuss said:

France who has shamelessly continued to do business and made millions with Saddam Hussein wants now to have their cupidity forgotten by giving lessons to Syria! The only alliance left in the middle east countries for France is some french speaking Lebanese and Hariris’s sunnis!! France is now discreetly sneaking in Iran with factories of Peugeot and Renault, trying their luck with another so called ‘dictatorship’ with no competition fron the US. They are hanging on Lebanese sunnis because Chirac thinks Hariri is the door to Saudi businesses, while Syria is poor and out of reach. Cheap calculations, Mr Chirac that will haunt you like your business deals with the murderer Saddam Hussein.

December 6th, 2006, 4:04 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

to retreat and withdraw from Iraq is going to be called,the way forward.

the Dollar is down, the market is going up.

Nasrallah realized going to the streets is going to fail ,he complained the streets signs are destroyed by the people,so he is loosing his way, Seniora figure out how to help him to get out ,he put new streets signs,they all converge toward Damascus.

December 6th, 2006, 4:50 am

 

simohurtta said:

I think Ronald Reagen was president during the Iran Contra Affair. Which only proves my point: Dealing with nations that support terrorism is a LOSE-LOSE situation.

In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States.

Akbar Palace you obviously as an Israeli forget willingly Israel’s role in the arms sales to Iran. Not to the Shah, who was Israel’s biggest customer of weapons , but to Khomeneini. Khomeneini was also a big customer for Israeli companies and Israel made much money with that war. Even with the Iran Contra deals Israelis made a good cut in those deals. History is strange isn’t it Akbar Palace.

I suppose that Israel is the last country in the world to complain about arms sales (legal or illegal). Everything seems to be on sale for anybody with cash. The latest study of Amnesty, Oxfam and Iansa Arms without borders mentions Israel and Israeli based companies far more often than Syria and Iran. Actually Syria is not mentioned at all and Iran only in a couple of points. Astonishing many of the worlds illegal arms traffickers in the history have Jewish origins.

The large report Dead on Time – arms transportation, brokering and the threat to human rights also mentions Israel often, but not Syria at all. Hmmmm…

December 6th, 2006, 7:24 am

 

Pierre said:

Dera Ehasani2,
I agree with you : the dictators have won. But your argument is flawed on a crucial point : you know very well that it is the dictators of today (with the possible exception of syria) that have put the sharia on top of their constitutions, and have abandonned the rule on society matters such as censorship of books (see Egypt) to the islamic etablishment. This in order to avoid sharing power with those movements that demand to share political power in the name of islam, which is a totally different matter. And it is inside these movements that a debate is going on about the place of religion in society (seet the muslim brothers in Egypt or in Syria), not inside the offical religious circles. Even Syria is trying to co-opt an islamic fringe does not contend the right of the Assads to rule.

December 6th, 2006, 9:06 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex states:

“So I’ll agree with you that if you want to talk to your enemy, you have to do it whole heartedly, not the Reagan and current administration’s ways, which typically looks like this: endless arguments of “should we talk, should we continue to boycott”, followed by “a compromise” which is simply the stupidest, non-starter ..”

Sorry Alex we do NOT agree. If there is anything the Americans learned (I take that back), if there is anything a LOT of Americans learned is that negotiating with countries that support terror does not buy you a damn thing, that negotiating with state sponsors of terror only begets more terror, and the best way to deal with state sponsors of terror is to isolate, corner, and/or remove the regime.

simohurtta –

I am not Israeli. I’m an American (maybe that;s the same thing;). I’m fully aware of Israel’s role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Israel did the US a small favor (underscore “small”). And I’m also fully aware that Israel sell’s arms to almost anyone including the PA (go figure).

History is so strange as it is a tool for learning how to deal with the future. That is why I wouldn’t deal with any state sponor of terror, including Josh’s favorite regime of Bashar Assad.

BTW – I’m quite familiar with Amnesia International. Like the UN, they’re totally “in the tank” reagrding Arab terrorism and the states that sponsor it. Instead of spending all their time trying to figure out why Israel retaliates against Arab terror, they should spend more of their time isolating countries (like Syria and Iran) that sponsor terror.

Oh well, we can only hope and pray.

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

December 6th, 2006, 12:27 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex states:

“So I’ll agree with you that if you want to talk to your enemy, you have to do it whole heartedly, not the Reagan and current administration’s ways…”

No we do NOT agree on this point. Talking with state sponsors of terror begets more terror and emboldens the regime. Since 9-11, the lesson has been “regime change”.

Saddam will not bother the US or the region again.

simohurtta –

I am not Israeli. I’m an american (same thing?).

I am fully aware of Israel’s role in the Iran-Contra Affair. A very small favor the Israelis did for the US to win back their hostages from the terror supporting state, the “Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Amnesia International and the UN should spend a “little” more time investigating state sponsors of terror instead of questioning why Israel is retaliating against Arab terrorism that is funded by petro dollars, Islamic fundamentalism, etc.

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

December 6th, 2006, 12:32 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta –

I am not Israeli. I’m an american (same thing?).

I am fully aware of Israel’s role in the Iran-Contra Affair. A very small favor the Israelis did for the US to win back their hostages from the terror supporting state, the “Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Amnesia International and the UN should spend a “little” more time investigating state sponsors of terror instead of questioning why Israel is retaliating against Arab terrorism that is funded by petro dollars, Islamic fundamentalism, etc.

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

December 6th, 2006, 12:38 pm

 

simohurtta said:

Akbar Palace do you as an American you know what Contras were? They were also terrorists much more than Hizbollah and Hamas, which are fighting for their own territory and for their peoples human rights. Contras was a bloodthirsty mercenary army financed and trained by USA (and its Latin American dictators)in order to change a regime which had its peoples support. The Sandinistas ended the Somoza family’s 43 year old dictatorship. A dictatorship that USA fully supported by training, money and weapons. Even today if you Akbar go to Nicaragua (or to most of Latin America) it is better to say that you are from Canada.

A very small favor the Israelis did for the US to win back their hostages from the terror supporting state, the “Islamic Republic of Iran”.

How did Israel help in freeing the hostages? And if it did it, does USA really reward its friends by giving them an opportunity to make money by selling arms to USA’s enemies. A good business indeed, USA sold arms to Iraqis and Israel to Iranians. Well no wonder that these both nations are not very fond of Americans and Israelis.

Amnesia International and the UN should spend a “little” more time investigating state sponsors of terror ..

Indeed they should. Most likely both Israel and USA would not like the results. From where did the 911, Madrid etc. terrorists came? From Saudi Arabia and other US supporting states. Only an idiot believes that Al Qaida is run by Iranians (or Syrians). Israelis have supported Kurds with weapons and training, who then use those “assets” against Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Not to mention other past and present guerilla, child soldier and terrorist armies around the world USA and Israel have financed and armed. Remember Akbar how and for what Al Qaida was created? If a naive child plays with matches one day his “skyscrapers” will fall.

December 6th, 2006, 2:43 pm

 

t_desco said:

Ehsani,

your attitude reminds me of a Brecht poem (“The Solution”) recently quoted by Joshua Marshall:

… the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

It is very convenient for you to lay the blame on the Iraqi people. Thus you can avoid questioning your beloved neoliberal ideology and the devastating role it played in creating the current disaster in Iraq.

Nobody said it better than Paul Krugman (and Joseph Stiglitz, of course):

“Less has been said about how dreams of making Iraq a showpiece for free trade, supply-side tax policy and privatization — dreams that were equally oblivious to the country’s realities — undermined the chances for a successful transition to democracy.”
NYT, 5.4.04

”The insurgency took root during the occupation’s first few months, when the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed oddly disengaged from the problems of postwar anarchy. But what was Paul Bremer III, the head of the C.P.A., focused on? According to a Washington Post reporter who shared a flight with him last June, “Bremer discussed the need to privatize government-run factories with such fervor that his voice cut through the din of the cargo hold.””
NYT, 6.29.04

(my emphasis)

More voices from the “pro-Syrian” crowd in this interesting article by Sophie McNeill:

“We are all Christians and we are against the Government,’ 45-year-old Joseph from East Beirut tells me as he walks past with his son, ‘We want our own Lebanese Government with no Syrian influence, no American influence and not any influence from other Arab countries.’

Twenty-eight-year-old Sharden believes the media have been ignoring them on purpose. ‘We know all the media in the world, especially the Americans, are trying to make the picture that it is just the Shi’ites [protesting here]. They don’t want it to look like the Lebanese are united against the Government,’ he tells me.

As I push my way out of the packed church, I pass a funny looking kid on the steps. He has an orange T-shirt and wristband in the colour of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, but a yellow Hezbollah cap and a picture of Hassan Nasrallah hanging around his neck.

‘Oh yes, I’m a Christian, I went to mass,’ explains 19-year-old Josef. So, why do you have a picture of the man the West sees as a terrorist leader hanging off you? ‘Because I love him,’ says Josef simply, ‘He’s a good man, and he’s not bad like all the others.’”

December 6th, 2006, 2:58 pm

 

t_desco said:

Ehsani,

your attitude reminds me of a Brecht poem (“The Solution”) recently quoted by Joshua Marshall:

… the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

It is very convenient for you to lay the blame on the Iraqi people. Thus you can avoid questioning your beloved neoliberal ideology and the devastating role it played in creating the current disaster in Iraq.

Nobody said it better than Paul Krugman (and Joseph Stiglitz, of course):

“Less has been said about how dreams of making Iraq a showpiece for free trade, supply-side tax policy and privatization — dreams that were equally oblivious to the country’s realities — undermined the chances for a successful transition to democracy.”
NYT, 5.4.04


”The insurgency took root during the occupation’s first few months, when the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed oddly disengaged from the problems of postwar anarchy. But what was Paul Bremer III, the head of the C.P.A., focused on? According to a Washington Post reporter who shared a flight with him last June, “Bremer discussed the need to privatize government-run factories with such fervor that his voice cut through the din of the cargo hold.””

NYT, 6.29.04

(my emphasis)

More voices from the “pro-Syrian” crowd in this interesting article by Sophie McNeill:

“We are all Christians and we are against the Government,’ 45-year-old Joseph from East Beirut tells me as he walks past with his son, ‘We want our own Lebanese Government with no Syrian influence, no American influence and not any influence from other Arab countries.’

Twenty-eight-year-old Sharden believes the media have been ignoring them on purpose. ‘We know all the media in the world, especially the Americans, are trying to make the picture that it is just the Shi’ites [protesting here]. They don’t want it to look like the Lebanese are united against the Government,’ he tells me.

As I push my way out of the packed church, I pass a funny looking kid on the steps. He has an orange T-shirt and wristband in the colour of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, but a yellow Hezbollah cap and a picture of Hassan Nasrallah hanging around his neck.

‘Oh yes, I’m a Christian, I went to mass,’ explains 19-year-old Josef. So, why do you have a picture of the man the West sees as a terrorist leader hanging off you? ‘Because I love him,’ says Josef simply, ‘He’s a good man, and he’s not bad like all the others.’”

December 6th, 2006, 3:37 pm

 

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

As per Ehsani’s commentary: I have only one serious caveat to make: in his reference to Britain’s Iraq venture in the early to mid-twentieth century, I would query his comment that the British experienced a similar type of uprising to the current one. I have seen this comment made, on a good number of occasions over the last couple of years. I should add (putting on my diplomatic historians hat), that it is mistaken. What occurred in 1920 was an uprising, primarily by the Shiites against British rule. The uprising lasted about six to seven months, cost the lives of 500 British troops (not necessarily people from the UK…probably mostly
from the Indian sub-continent), and, then was
suppressed militarily. Especially with the extensive use of air power, to bomb villages into
submission.

The importance of the uprising, from a historical perspective, is that in order to cobbled together a plausible and light policed, pro-British regime London (or Mlle. Gertrude Bell if you like), decided to rely upon the old, mostly Sunni, ex-Ottoman elites to govern the country. Id est:
Nuri Said Pasha, et al. And, in some sense, it ‘worked’. At least until 1958. I am sure, that official Washington would love to be able to replicate such a scenario again. The real question is whether this is possible. It does not appear to be so, for a variety of reasons.

December 6th, 2006, 3:57 pm

 

Munif said:

The discussants and commentators above starting with Ihsani2 believe in the notion of a nation state. This idea has never taken root and the countries of the region have no such tradtion to start with. The only real nation states are Iran and Egypt and perhaps to a lesser extent Turkey. The others are hodge podge of collections of clans families and ethnic groups. The ethno religious groups at present want the majority Sunnis in Syria to relinquish their attachement to their religious affiliation in favor of a national syrian one while they maintain their allegiance to their “ethno religion” be it Christian Druze or Alawite.
As for the mess in Iraq, the deliberate factionalization of the country was accomplished with the dissolution of the Baath party and the Armed forces. Regardless of its inherent faults the Baath party ideology by force had kept Iraq glued together. It was and is artificial just as Lebanon and Syria are. What is happening in IRaq is a prelude of what will happen in other areas in the ME. Perhaps not as violently but certainly with major redrawing of the map. If the Sunnis see that the Shia have representation they would want the same for themselves as well.
Let us face it, politically speaking the region is still in the dark ages and the future is bleak. The losers are truly the dictators of the region for the writing is on the wall: America is not going to be a source of stability and Iran will replace the US as the source of stability, with the nuclear program being one card to insure that the departure of the US from the region is final. France and Germany are positioning for the scraps that Iran may give them, but fat chance at that. Once the US is on its knees Iran will make its demands for a full replacment as the sole regional power. Watch when the kinglets and boy presidents start trekking to Tehran the same way they used to Washington.

December 6th, 2006, 4:59 pm

 

annie said:

I can’t wait to read your comments about the Baker report.

December 6th, 2006, 5:09 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

the report indicates that Bush must change strategy,forget about democracy,forget about military victory,build Iraqee army,prepare for future withdrawal.
this will put severe pressure on President Bush.

December 6th, 2006, 5:09 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

During the ISG’s press conference, Jim Baker was asked about talking to Iran and Syria. He clearly believes that the U.S. should do so.

On Syria, he said we must talk to them but to somehow think that this will be at the expense of the Gemayel or Hariri assassination investigations is “just ridiculous”.

Charles Coutinho,

Your point is well taken. I have just finished reading a book entitled “Desert Queen” which is a biography of Gertrude Bell, which you cited in your comment. The events that you alluded to are chronicled very well in the book, which I highly recommend to Arabists like yourself.

My good friend T-Desco,

You and I have different views when it comes to politics. There is no denying that my “beloved neoliberal ideology” does not sit well with you or many other readers. I have no problems with that. But to suggest that neoliberalism played a devastating role in creating the current disaster in Iraq is a rather strange comment. Indeed to suggest that a positive correlation exists between supply side tax policy and the problems in Iraq is close to the absurd. Paul Bremmer may well have been the most incompetent man for the job. So were Rumsfeld, Cheney and the President. There is no disputing this fact. The way you phrased your remarks gives people the impression that had Bremmer not wasted his time discussing the privatization of government-run factories, Iraq would have looked like Norway today.

While on topic, I wish that the Washington post reporter that you alluded to in your comment would hand over Bremmer’s economic reports to our friends in Syria. We sure could do with an urgent dose of privatization and “neoliberal” economics ourselves.

Munif,

There is no doubt that Iran is a major regional power player that others will have to deal with. If your conclusions are correct then Syria’s bet on this winning horse will prove to be an excellent wager for years to come.

President Bush must view the ISG report as a slap in the face. Practically everything in it contradicts his team’s current policies.

December 6th, 2006, 5:13 pm

 

Alex said:

The report’s section on Syria

syria. Although the U.S.-Syrian relationship is at a low point,

both countries have important interests in the region that could

be enhanced if they were able to establish some common

ground on how to move forward. This approach worked effectively

in the early 1990s. In this context, Syria’s national interests

in the Arab-Israeli dispute are important and can be brought

into play.

Syria can make a major contribution to Iraq’s stability in

several ways. Accordingly, the Study Group recommends the

following:

53

The Way Forward—A New Approach

RECOMMENDATION 12: The United States and the Support

Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the

merit of such contributions as the following:

• Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extent

possible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrols

on the border. Doing so will help stem the flow of

funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.

• Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with

the Iraqis.

• Syria can increase its political and economic cooperation

with Iraq.

4. The Wider Regional Context

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the

Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the

Arab-Israeli conflict.

There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by

the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all

fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment

to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This

commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between

Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to

exist), and particularly Syria—which is the principal transit

point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports

radical Palestinian groups.

The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding

direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For several

reasons, we should act boldly:

54

t h e i r aq study group report

• There is no military solution to this conflict.

• The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a

nation perpetually at war.

• No American administration—Democratic or Republican—

will ever abandon Israel.

• Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-

Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political

process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.

• The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set

forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and

in the principle of “land for peace.”

• The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace

such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.

This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governments

in the region, especially the democratically elected

government of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority under

President Mahmoud Abbas.

RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed and

sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive

Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and

President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution

for Israel and Palestine.

RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include—as

soon as possible—the unconditional calling and holding of

55

The Way Forward—A New Approach

meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the

Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and

the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria

on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge

Israel’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these

meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the

Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks—

one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.

RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements

of that negotiated peace should be:

• Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution

1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for

Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.

• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political

assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik

Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use

of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons

and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s

problem with Hezbollah.)

• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah

for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force

soldiers.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the

democratically elected government of Lebanon.

56

t h e i r aq study group report

• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting

through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian

groups.

• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment

of Israel’s right to exist.

• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and

in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis

should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee

for Israel that could include an international force on the

border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.

RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue,

elements of that negotiated peace should include:

• Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and

338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the

only bases for achieving peace.

• Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing

the way for negotiations with Israel.

• A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating

the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians

and the Israelis in November 2006.

• Support for a Palestinian national unity government.

57

The Way Forward—A New Approach

• Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement

along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which

would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements,

Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

December 6th, 2006, 5:15 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Alex,

If I were Bashar, I would not be exactly ecstatic with this report.

Syria is asked to do:

………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………….

In return, they will get the Golan back, and
“for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.”

In the meantime, they ask for:

• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)

How is all this any different than what had been asked of Syria all along?

December 6th, 2006, 5:30 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta said –

“They were also terrorists much more than Hizbollah and Hamas, which are fighting for their own territory and for their peoples human rights.”

Perhaps. Lebanon’s civil war killed a lot of people, and I’m not sure how many Lebanese were killed by acts of “terror”.

In terms of terrorism now occurring in Iraq, I think Iraqi terrorism exceeds that of what the Contras were responsible for.

“Contras was a bloodthirsty mercenary army financed and trained by USA (and its Latin American dictators)in order to change a regime which had its peoples support.”

You’re right about that, and an ugly spot on the US.

“The Sandinistas ended the Somoza family’s 43 year old dictatorship. A dictatorship that USA fully supported by training, money and weapons.”

And the people voted out the Sandinistas because they were able to create a democracy. Good for them.

However, this in no way changes my position that terrorism must be defeated by marginalizing those countries that give aid and support to it.

December 6th, 2006, 5:32 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

What you are seeing as not-so-good for Syria is what is needed to sell the “talk to Syria” idea in both Washington and Tel Aviv (Jerusalem). You can see them as “look what Syria can do for us in return if we talk to them and if we offer the Golan back”

You will later today or tomorrow hear from Syria that they are pleased with the report (indirectly saying it perhaps)

December 6th, 2006, 6:21 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

they diagnosed a patient with terminal cancer,his situation is grave and deteriorating,they came close to admit defeat,and ask American to unite in surrender,the treatment is some pain medicine,call the priest,they gave a prescription which has 79 medicine(recomendations),which means the chance for success is zero,it is a matter of time the patient will die.

December 6th, 2006, 7:42 pm

 

Atassi said:

Munif,
Iran being a major regional power player, with a hidden agendas to influence or lead the Moslem world, has been creating unwarranted conflicts between some Moslem states in the region in one hand, and Iran and it’s satellite states ” Syria, Iraq, Lebanon” in the other hand. I would not bet any real money on Iran being able to achieve this dream, this kind of schema\dream only present in FULL man leaders minds :-)” if you know what I mean”.

December 6th, 2006, 7:51 pm

 

Atassi said:

Syria, Iran Willing to Aid U.S.
By JIM KRANE
Associated Press Writer
1043 words
6 December 2006
15:12
Associated Press Newswires
English
(c) 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Syria and Iran are willing to help stabilize Iraq, as the Iraq Study Group recommended Wednesday, but both countries will want something in return and neither has a magic solution to the chaos, Mideast officials and analysts said.

Arabs paid close attention to the group’s long-awaited report — recognizing that Washington’s next moves in Iraq could have a major impact across the Mideast.

The region’s most popular satellite news networks, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, both devoted live coverage — with Arabic voice-over translation — of the release of the report at a Washington press conference.

The networks also repeatedly showed congressional testimony Tuesday by Robert Gates, President Bush’s nominee for defense secretary, who acknowledged the U.S. was not winning the war in Iraq and told lawmakers “all options are on the table.”

The bipartisan Iraq report warned that the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating” and called for the Bush administration to try to engage Syria and Iran in diplomatic effort to bring stability.

At the same time, the report called for increased U.S. military support of Iraqi Army units with an eye toward pulling out most U.S. troops by 2008.

Bush has said he will take the commission’s recommendations “seriously” — though he has previously said he would not negotiate with Iran or Syria.

Syria’s vice president said Wednesday that both his country and its ally Iran are prepared to help.

“The two countries are Iraq’s neighbors, and without getting them involved it will not be easy to find a solution to the predicament in Iraq,” Farouq al-Sharaa told a political conference in Damascus.

“We are not so arrogant to say that Syria and Iran can solve Iraq’s problem,” he said. “The entire international community may not be able to solve it. But let them (the Americans) be a little bit modest and accept whoever has the capability to help.”

Iran and Syria have influence with both of the major groups involved in Iraq’s sectarian violence. Tehran is close to Shiite parties that dominate the government, while Damascus has ties to Sunni Arabs, their main rivals for power.

Iran is also believed to sponsor Shiite militias blamed for widespread killings of Sunnis. The U.S., meanwhile, accuses Syria of providing refuge for Sunni Arab fighters, including former Iraqi Baath Party leaders thought to have a role in directing the insurgency.

Bush says the countries encourage the violence in Iraq, though each denies backing extremists.

Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, said his country is willing to encourage Iraq’s Sunni Arabs to support the political process. But Damascus wants assurances that the United States will prevent Iraq from breaking apart.

“No party has a magic wand,” Moustapha said on the sidelines of an Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai. “Our paramount national interest is preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity.”

He called for a conference of all parties in Iraq — including Sunnis who support the insurgency, though not al-Qaida-linked terrorists — along with the nations of the region.

Syria and Iran are likely to want something for themselves as well. Damascus may ask the United States to accept Syria’s influence in Lebanon, where Washington supports the anti-Syrian government.

Syria also hopes to regain the Golan Heights, lost to Israel in 1967, through renewed peace talks.

Iran, meanwhile, has demanded that American forces leave Iraq, a step that could push the Shiite-led government even closer to Tehran.

At the Dubai conference on Tuesday, Iran’s top national security official, Ali Larijani, called for the U.S. to set a timetable for “an exit or evacuation of American forces from the region.”

Iran also hopes for U.S. recognition of its civilian nuclear program, which Washington claims is part of a clandestine effort to develop nuclear weapons, said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

Washington is not likely to yield on this point, Fitzpatrick said, but it could offer incentives — such a promise not to attack Iran, the lifting of sanctions and an end to restrictions on investment in Iran’s oil and natural gas industries.

No matter what the terms, if the U.S. turns to Iran, that will consecrate its status as a Middle East power broker.

“People say talk to Iran and Syria and the problem will be solved. It’s not that easy,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, a former U.N. envoy to Iraq. “If you talk to Iran you may solve one part of the problem, but you will create many others.”

The Sunni Arab states of the Mideast, including some of the U.S.’s staunchest allies, may not accept increased influence for Iran, which is non-Arab and Shiite.

The Arab states already are deeply concerned over Tehran’s influence in Iraq and Lebanon.

“Talks with Iran and Syria will upset U.S. major allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who don’t want talks, especially with Iran, in order not to give it more influence,” Jordanian analyst Salameh Nematt, Washington bureau chief of the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, told AP.

Still, Arabs also want their voices heard after three years of feeling that the U.S. was ignoring them on Iraq policies. The Arabs blame those policies for the current crisis, which they fear could throw the entire region into turmoil and threaten Arab governments.

Jordan has urged Washington to pay more attention to the Arab-Israeli peace process, in order to undercut popular support for Islamic militants.

“The U.S. is in a weaker position than in the past, and it is in need to satisfy its friends in the Arab world,” Fahmi Howeidy, a prominent Egyptian Islamic writer, said in a column in the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

He said Arab leaders should insist the U.S. listen to their opinions. “The age of U.S. monopoly of the tools of the game in the region is over,” he said.

December 6th, 2006, 8:35 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex,
I found another “a more realistic picture” of King Faisal II of Iraq, I think, Syria may had a better future, if Syria and Iraq would be united. More of a balanced Sunni Shiite and Kurdish population. Deep strategic land, exquisite human and natural resources.. I think this picture speak fully of what Iraq and Syria could have accomplished together.
http://www.alatassi.net/photoView.php?id=223

December 6th, 2006, 9:25 pm

 

ivanka said:

EHSANI,

I think you are partially right but you shouldn’t expect Baker to say we surrender to Syria or something like that. Of couse he is going to say we are staying tough. That’s how you negotiate. The main thing is realism is back and Arab regimes are no longer in danger. Eventually, this entails stable relations with them, wether good or bad. In Syria’s case it will be more good than bad.

I think in particular it is very encouraging that the recommendations clearly mention Israel SHOULD return the Golan hights.

Atassi,

The picture shows a king who looks rather childish and some Syrian politicians. How does this rperesent a bright future?

An uncle of mine was a minister in the government of Nathem el Qudsi. He told me that the situation of that government and of Syria was begging the militaries to take over. Here is what he said: “The Baath coup d’etat was the easiest coup d’etat in the world. They only had to walk into empty buildings and declare that they control them”.

December 6th, 2006, 10:16 pm

 

ivanka said:

Karim,

You are right that Israel wants the Syrian regime to be week. In the sense that the Syrian regime would never think of military confrontation with Israel. (Even when they Buzz the presidential palace)

However the Syrian regime made the choice and built part of it’s legitimacy on the idea that it competes with Israel in the region (Right now : arming and supporting Hezbolla and Hamas and helping Iran become more influential, tolerating and helping some insurgent activity in Iraq, etc..).

You are right to ask the question “why”. Indeed they could have made another choice. But that choice was ma de a long time ago.

I agree with you that if 30 years ago Hafez Assad would have flown to occupied Jerusalem, we would not need to ally ourselves with a “particular” country like Iran. But he didn’t and right now his son can’t make that initiative (flying to occupied Jerusalem) so he has to have someone who watches his back.

December 6th, 2006, 10:23 pm

 

ivanka said:

I wrote in an earlier comment “The Iraq war was a war of conquest and this is why it failed”. Here is an article I read this morning and that goes int he same direction. It is by David Suter, entitled “When Iraq Went Wrong”, and was in the Washington Post. The most important part is this:

*********************************
This showed another truth, obscured during the march to Baghdad, but that has become strikingly apparent since: there is a limit to what armor and technology can do against a people with faith and who fight because they feel their country has been violated.
**********************************

Here are some excerpts:

When Iraq Went Wrong
David Suter

……………

How did scenes of joyful Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue so quickly turn into images of car bombings, grieving mothers and burning helicopters?

…………..

The problem with such analyses is their tendency to treat the invasion and the post-invasion period as separate entities.

That is, the invasion is generally portrayed as well planned and executed, while the post-invasion strategy is characterized as poorly thought out and undermanned.

………………….

Those lessons were best synthesized in a little-known but bloody battle, fought in an obscure part of Iraq on Day 4 of the war. It was a battle that America nearly lost.

…………………..

Of course, there were fanatical Sunni Saddam Fedayeen troops, as well as some desperate foreign jihadis, who fought that day. But untold hundreds of those who picked up weapons were simply civilians intent on defending homes against foreign invaders.

………………………

This showed another truth, obscured during the march to Baghdad, but that has become strikingly apparent since: there is a limit to what armor and technology can do against a people with faith and who fight because they feel their country has been violated.

……………………..

BUT what was most striking at Nasiriya in those very early days of the war was the refusal of freedom-deprived Iraqis to come forward and support coalition forces. At best, the civilians stood by and watched the American war machine thunder into town.

At worst, they ran to arms stashes, grabbed AK-47s and took to the streets. Four days into the invasion, and already, instead of coming together, Iraqis were falling back into their faiths and tribes and killing coalition forces and each other.

……………………..

President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and made his hubristic speech announcing the end of combat operations under a banner announcing “Mission Accomplished.”
The battle of Nasiriya taught that there was, contrary to first appearances, no simple route to Baghdad. It should also serve to remind those in Washington that there will be no simple route out of it.

December 6th, 2006, 10:43 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Baker’s report is out.

As with the Oslo agreement and a few hundred other documents and resolutions, this one can fit nicely in the same place: “the circular file”.

What a waste of trees and cyber-space.

“it is a matter of time the patient will die.”

majedkhaldoun,

The patient is Iraq, and Iraq will not die.

OTOH, Iraqis have been dying for years, all at the hands of Islamic and Arab terrorism. So what else is new?

“Israel SHOULD return the Golan hights.”

Invanka –

Read the full text. Tell us what Israel gets in return for returning the Golan. It’s not pretty;)

“But he didn’t and right now his son can’t make that initiative (flying to occupied Jerusalem) so he has to have someone who watches his back.”

Tell us why our beloved Bashar can’t fly to “occupied Jerusalem”?

BTW – Tell us what part of Jerusalem is “occupied”?

December 6th, 2006, 10:59 pm

 

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

For Syriacomment.com readers: as per my own thinking and that of Professor Landis (in a private e-mail), there appears to have been less substance and more smoke to the recent article by Nawaf Obaid in last week’s Washington Post. To wit, according to Reuters, he has been dismissed. Or as the Saudi Ambassador put it: “we felt that we could add more credibility to his claims as an independent contractor by terminating our consultancy agreement with him”. It would appear that the threat of overt Saudi intervention in the Iraq conflict, if the USA were to withdraw, was one that Riyahd, did not want to make at all, or make so overt. Which of course is what the article did in fact do. In either case, it would appear that we should all tone down the likelihood of a regional war, if the USA does decide to withdraw from Iraq. Attached is the article from Reuters:

Wed Dec 6, 2006 3:09pm ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it had fired a security adviser who wrote in The Washington Post that the world’s top oil exporter would intervene in Iraq once the United States withdraws troops.

Saudi Arabia’s government said last weekend there was no truth in Nawaf Obaid’s November 29 article, which suggested the kingdom would back Iraq’s Muslim Sunnis in the event of a wider sectarian conflict.

Obaid stressed in the article that the views were his own and not those of the Saudi government.

“We felt that we could add more credibility to his claims as an independent contractor by terminating our consultancy agreement with him,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, told the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

The article said the kingdom would intervene with funding and weaponry to prevent Shi’ite militias from attacking Iraq’s Sunnis and suggested Saudi Arabia could bring down world oil prices to squeeze Shi’ite power Iran.

“There is no basis in truth to the article by the writer Nawaf Obaid in the Washington Post of November 29, 2006,” the state Saudi Press Agency last week quoted an “official source” as saying.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq.

On Wednesday the high-level U.S. bipartisan Iraq Study Group urged the United States to begin to withdraw forces from combat and launch a diplomatic push, including Iran and Syria, to prevent “a slide toward chaos” in Iraq.

Diplomats have said Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is worried that Washington has lost control of Iraq and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Arab governments say is driving Islamic extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

December 7th, 2006, 12:07 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

“Diplomats have said Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is worried that Washington has lost control of Iraq and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Arab governments say is driving Islamic extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.”

Sounds like the Saudis are worried.

I would be too.

Of course the Saudis have to blame Iraq on the Jewish State (I suppose this is a given, the Arabs are never at fault for anything), but I sense Iraq may turn into another Iran-Iraq War.

You remember the Iran-Iraq war don’t you? The most peaceful (terrorist-free) 8 years in the US, Israel, and Western Europe.

Go figure.

December 7th, 2006, 2:07 am

 

Atassi said:

Ivanka,
I meant Syria should have looked east toward Iraq as a prospective union partner.. South did not qualify as an equal partner… Nasser was a young and inexperienced stat man then
Dr Bashar looked young childish too

December 7th, 2006, 2:46 am

 

Alex said:

Atassi .. my picture is better than your picture!

Nice family site by the way. I visited it already few months ago. You must be proud with this family name. Do you tell your American friends how many presidents and ministers in Syria were Atassis?

December 7th, 2006, 5:35 am

 

Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

For the Syriacomment.com readership, the following is a subscription only analysis of the Gemayel murder by the American, online journal, Stratfor (www.stratfor.com). I attach it for your
collective perusal. The most interesting aspects of the article are that it shows by virtue of a extensive examination of the evidence, that the Gemayel murder was quite different in scope and scale to prior assassinations of Lebanese political figures. And, that in particular the murder bore all the hallmarks of a Persian intelligence operation. However, please read it and make up your own minds:

The Death of Gemayel: A Tactical Analysis
By Fred Burton

The recent murder of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel — who was shot to death while driving through Beirut’s Jdeideh neighborhood Nov. 21 — has sparked a political crisis in Lebanon. Gemayel, a staunch opponent of Hezbollah, was a leader of the March 14 alliance, the anti-Syrian coalition that holds a majority in the Lebanese parliament. The alliance has been outspoken about alleged Syrian involvement in the high-profile murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

Gemayel is the latest in a string of high-profile Lebanese figures — most of them anti-Syrian — who have been targeted for assassination since October 2004. However, the methods used in his murder differ markedly from any others used in the recent past. First, assassins rammed his car and pinned it down; then gunmen stepped forward, firing multiple well-aimed shots from close range through the driver’s side window. Gemayel was driving, with his two bodyguards, in an unarmored and unescorted vehicle. In most other cases, the assassins used bombs, often targeting the motorcades of political officials as they passed by and, at times, inflicting collateral damage.

Thus, the tactics used in the Gemayel killing represent an anomaly, which also happens to come at a key time for the region as a whole. That said, there is a signature to the attack that points toward specific suspects and, quite possibly, their strategic and geopolitical motives.

The Targets

Though the assassination of al-Hariri garnered international headlines and was a catalyst for the “Cedar Revolution” that drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon, the recent campaign of violence against anti-Syrian officials actually began in October 2004, when Druze parliament member Marwan Hamadeh narrowly escaped a car bomb attack on his motorcade.

This failed attack likely was something the actors in the al-Hariri murder bore in mind: They used a massive vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) — estimated by U.N. investigators to have contained at least 1,000 kilograms of military explosives — in the Feb. 14, 2005, killing. The assassins apparently wanted to make sure al-Hariri did not escape as Hamadeh had. But in killing him, they also took the lives of 22 others and damaged hotels and businesses in a fashionable district of downtown Beirut — carnage and destruction that caused a massive uproar within Lebanon (and far beyond) and led to a U.N. investigation, which eventually concluded that Syria was responsible for the hit.

Five more anti-Syrian figures were targeted for assassination in 2005; all of the incidents involved explosives. The last of those killed, a year before the Gemayel murder, was Gebran Tueni (who, interestingly enough, was murdered only a day after returning to Lebanon from Paris, where he had fled for safety). However, the international pressure following the release of German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis’ October 2005 report for the United Nations on the al-Hariri killing (and a second report issued Dec. 10, 2005) apparently led to a temporary halt in the violence.

Clearly, assassination by explosives is a common and recurring theme in Lebanon. In fact, Pierre Gemayel’s uncle, Bashir Gemayel (then the president-elect of Lebanon) was killed in 1982 by a large bomb, placed in the Kataeb (or Phalangist) political party’s headquarters.

The Gemayel Operation

The death of the nephew was very different — and between the lines of the news reports, there is quite a story.

Gemayel was driving a late-model Kia sedan with tinted windows. He reportedly owned an armored BMW but was not using it the day he was killed. He was not, however, moving about as a private citizen might; there were two bodyguards in tow. All of this leads us to believe Gemayel was aware of some threat to his life, and that he was taking measures to obscure his movements. As the al-Hariri killing showed, even a first-rate armored vehicle and a full motorcade with a well-armed security team is not sufficient to protect a target from a 1,000-kilogram VBIED. So it appears Gemayel either was driving a nondescript car by itself in an attempt to mask his movements, or he had sent the BMW as part of a dummy motorcade elsewhere to draw any would-be assassins to the decoy.

It also is significant that Gemayel was driving the car himself, with a Lebanese state security officer in the right rear seat — where a VIP normally would be sitting in a chauffeured car. This would seem a further attempt to deceive potential assassins, and one that would be aided by the fact that the Kia had heavily tinted windows. Gemayel’s personal bodyguard was sitting in the right front seat of the car.

There is every indication that the attack itself was well-planned and purposely timed.

First, the strike came near an intersection on a busy East Beirut street, lined on both sides with parked cars — something that limited the target’s mobility. Stratfor sources have said traffic normally is heavy along this street at the time of day the attack occurred, but some eyewitnesses have said it became unusually sparse just beforehand. Rumors are circulating in Beirut that supporters of Gen. Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian in the pro-Syrian camp, might have lent a hand. Aoun’s supporters are numerous in this neighborhood, and there is speculation by sources in Lebanon that one of them dressed in a police uniform and held back traffic to enable the assassins to flee the scene.

When the Kia reached the attack site, it reportedly was rammed in the front by a Honda CRV. The impact crumpled the hood and sent the Kia backward. It was then struck in the right rear quarter panel by a blue Fiat hatchback and in the rear by a van. The now-inoperable vehicle was pinned in. At that point, three gunmen reportedly jumped out of the CRV and opened fire on the driver’s side window of the Kia. Gemayel and his bodyguard were killed; the Lebanese security officer in the backseat ran away from the vehicle and survived. The gunmen returned to the Honda and fled.

Within seconds of the shooting, a BMW arrived on the scene. This appears to have been a security team whose job was to ensure Gemayel was dead and to cover the escape of the shooters — or, alternatively, to provide them a means of escape had the Honda been disabled in the attack. The team members in this vehicle also might have been functioning as spotters, whose job was to alert the assassins that Gemayel was approaching the attack site.

Reading the Clues

All in all, there are abundant signs that Gemayel was killed by a highly trained, disciplined attack team.

The conditions of the attack site and the sophisticated way in which the Kia was disabled and hemmed in are the first clues, but even beyond that, it is clear the assassination was swiftly and precisely executed. Gemayel’s bodyguard never had time to pull his weapon: Either he panicked and froze or, perhaps between the collisions and the airbag deploying in his face, he never realized an attack was being executed.

Media reports stated that Gemayel’s vehicle was “sprayed” with gunfire, but photos from the scene clearly show that all of the rounds fired into the vehicle entered through the driver’s side window, in a tight grouping. There was no “spray and pray” or “Beirut offhand” shooting here. The assassins were obviously trained shooters who were able to control their fire — even under the extremely stressful conditions of conducting an assassination in broad daylight. Even when shooting from close range, keeping one’s cool and hitting a target rapidly and accurately under such pressure is not as easy as it looks on TV. It requires extensive training.

Perhaps the most significant clue stems from the fact that the assassins clearly were operating with intelligence support. They were able to determine in advance when Gemayel was going to be at the attack site, and that he would be in the driver’s seat of a Kia rather than the rear seat of an armored BMW. The use of small arms fire is an indication in itself: This would not have been effective against the armored vehicle in which Gemayel normally traveled. Furthermore, the gunmen did not direct any of their fire into the backseat, where a political official normally would be sitting. They clearly knew their primary target would be driving. Therefore, they had advance intelligence of the route, time, vehicle and location in the vehicle where they would find their target.

Such detailed intelligence could have come in two ways. One possibility is that the assassins launched their operation on short notice after having learned from an exceptionally skilled surveillance team that Gemayel was driving a “soft” vehicle. However, for this theory to carry any water, one must assume Gemayel’s routes and times of movement were predictably ordered — which, given the deception he clearly was trying to employ by driving the Kia, would seem not only stupid but out-of-character. That means the second possibility is more logically tenable: An inside source gave the killers the details they required.

The fact that the Lebanese state security officer in the backseat of the Kia was the only person to survive the attack has raised suspicions that he was somehow involved in the plot. These suspicions are strengthened by the fact that the officer did not return fire — even though he reportedly had two shoulder weapons with him at the time of the attack — and by the fact that he personally did not come under fire. Knowing that trained shooters are taught to first take out the target who poses the greatest threat (aka has the biggest weapon), the fact that no shots were fired at the officer with two shoulder weapons is indeed interesting. If the assassins could obtain the precise intelligence that Gemayel was driving the Kia, they surely could have determined that the officer in the backseat was the one with the long guns.

The size and structure of the assassination team is also noteworthy. Stratfor sources have said there were three elements involved: the attack team, the security team and a separate surveillance team. This level of specialization and coordination does not come easily — it requires practice. Therefore, we can conclude that the Gemayel strike was not the team’s “first chili cookoff.” The leader who planned the operation was also very good: The strike was logical, well-planned and well-executed.

Furthermore, there was excellent operational security. Even in settings of extreme sectarian strife and violence, it is difficult to orchestrate a plot to kill a government minister — especially a plot involving such a large team of operatives — without any leaks. Though Gemayel was employing extraordinary security measures, this does not necessarily indicate that he knew an attack was imminent. It is routine for political figures in Beirut, especially anti-Syrian ones, to take such measures.

The Lineup

The fact that the tactics used in the Gemayel assassination departed so drastically from those used in other assassinations in Lebanon would seem to indicate that it was not carried out by the “usual suspects” — in this case, Syrian intelligence and its Lebanese assets. However, it also was far too sophisticated to have been the act of random criminals or even the average Lebanese militia member or terrorist. The complexity of the plot and the high degrees of discipline and training exhibited by the attack team point toward state sponsorship — which, again, implies Syria. However, this operation does not have the ham-fisted feel of the al-Hariri hit. There is a level of sophistication and brutal elegance that seems almost — dare we say Persian?

This is not an unfounded suspicion. Apart from the geopolitical alliance and shared interests of Syria and Iran, there is a tactical precedent to be considered. The Gemayel attack brings to mind the March 8, 1995, strike against a U.S. Consulate shuttle van in Karachi, Pakistan, in which two American diplomats were killed. In that attack, which U.S. authorities determined was carried out by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, a taxi cab was used in a ramming/blocking operation, and two gunmen fired methodically into the van, using small arms. A command/control vehicle was reported on the scene as well.

Though it is clear the Syrians had a motive for killing Gemayel, they obviously would not want to attract the kind of international attention and pressure that ensued from the al-Hariri assassination, or to be the subject of another “Mehlis report.” Therefore, assuming for the moment that the Syrians were responsible, they might have used different tactics to mask their involvement — and to provide themselves with plausible deniability.

But there is also is the matter of collateral damage, which was massive in the al-Hariri strike and nonexistent in the Gemayel operation. All in all, this assassination simply seems too sophisticated for the Syrians to have carried it out alone. It was too professional and surgical. Therefore, it is plausible that the Syrians might have contracted the operation out to another party. The tactics used would indicate the Iranians, or perhaps a Syrian or Lebanese operational planner who has spent significant time training in Iran.

There is another state actor in the region capable of such a sophisticated operation: Israel, which is famed for assassinations involving small commando units and surgical small arms fire. However, the murder of an anti-Syrian, anti-Hezbollah politician would not seem to be in Israel’s national interest, unless it was carried out as a frame-up operation against Syria. This is certainly something Damascus has alleged, but such a move for Israel would be most useful only as a means of bringing more U.S. and U.N. pressure to bear against Syria. And, in the wake of the Mehlis report, the United Nations and Washington have ample means of doing this without a political assassination.

By the same token, however, Syria has been known in the past to blame Israel for political killings in order to sow confusion and distract from signs that point to Syria as the culprit. The coordination and professionalism displayed in the Gemayel operation could have been intended to cast suspicion on Israel.

Intelligence being gathered from sources in the Lebanese government also points (though not definitively) toward Syria. The preliminary investigation has found that a former Syrian state security officer, who goes by the pseudonym “Abu Michel,” toured Antelias (a neighborhood close to Jdeideh, the assassination site) several days before Gemayel was killed.

Thus, while it is not known definitively who pulled the trigger on Gemayel, there can be little doubt at the strategic level that Syria was the author of the plot. And given the Iranian signature on the strike, it appears that the actors — plausible deniability notwithstanding — are using the assassination to send a clear geopolitical signal to the West and, most important, to the United States. Washington is now facing pressure to engage both Damascus and Tehran in efforts to resolve the crisis in Iraq — a symbolic victory for states Washington long has deemed “rogue” actors. Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians are keeping a particularly low profile at the moment, and Tehran at least has seemed quite eager to turn the knife, judging from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public statements. The Gemayel assassination — coming at such a sensitive time for developments in the region — could be a similar show of bravado by Syria, intended in part to humble the United States.
© Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

December 7th, 2006, 6:39 am

 

qunfuz said:

Ehsani’s article articulates a despair at the current Arab situation which I share to a large extent. Spreading Wahhabi influence (previously US-supported as a counterweight first to the Soviet union and then to revolutionary Iran) and its attendant salafi nihilism has sparked a savage sectarianism throughout the region. And it seems unlikely that Middle Eastern states will be able to develop democratic systems on a Western model any time soon given that most people in the region think in terms of sectarian or ethnic collectivities. The Israelis are at least as guilty of this as the Arabs. (there is another issue too, which is that the West, especially the US, is not particularly democratic. There is a demotic populism which pretends to be democracy, and there is corporate control.) I think that ‘rights’ should be the focus of freedom-loving people’s work in this region and elsewhere. Rights of collectivities and rights of individuals. Anyway.

The weakness in Ehsani’s piece is his assumption that the US really wants more popular participation in governance in the Middle East. Democracy would not have been attempted in Iraq if Sistani hadn’t flexed his muscles. Democracy in palestine has been crushed by a US-led campaign.

Also, Ehsani blames Syria and Iran only for ‘instigating chaos’ in Iraq. The US occupation must bear the lion’s share of the blame. The very presence of the occupation exacerbated political differences between the communities. Allowing (and perhaps actively participating in) the looting of the ministries in the first days of the occupation, and dissolving the army and other security agencies rather than purging them of criminals, setting up the economy for hyper-capitalist shock treatment, all contributed to the breakdown. Then the Negroponte-sponsored death squads staffed by Shia and Kurdish militiamen being turned loose on Sunni areas to ‘quell the insurgency’ (these tactics had been tried in Central America) was the final straw. This is without going further back in history to examine the stresses put on Iraqi society by the US-backed Saddam dictatorship, war against Iran, and the destruction of the middle class in the sanctions years.

None of this detracts from the failures of Iraqi, Arab and Muslim society. But the US invasion and occupation has been criminal and wrongheaded from the beginning.

December 7th, 2006, 7:35 am

 

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