Lebanon Remains Hostage to the Arab-Israeli Conflict with US Blessing

The big news for Syria this week come from Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt’s announcement that he would throw his support behind Hizbullah and Syria caused jubilation in Damascus and bitter remarks from Neoconservatives. Israelis pronounced it “dangerous for Israel.” Geagea declared that Lebanon would become Gaza. Saad Hariri will refuse to join any government formed by the opposition. He insists that there was no such thing as a “consensual candidate.” Qifa Nabki does the math to show that parliament will either be stalemated over the next Prime Minister, or, if most of Jumblatt’s bloc follow him, elect the pro-Syrian Billionaire Najib Mikati as Prime Minister. Hariri has 60 seats while the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah and its allies, including the Amal movement and Christian leader Michel Aoun, have 57. Jumblatt leads a bloc of 11 parliamentarians and his support could now give Hezbollah and its allies a veto over who becomes the country’s next prime minister. It is bitter blow to Saad Hariri, who will be unable to secure enough votes to form a new government.

Jumblatt the Kingmaker

The decision by Saad Hariri to stand by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and allow the opposition to withdraw from the government was a principled one, according to those close to him and US authorities. What is more, Hariri’s position is intimately connected to the US and Saudi Arabia and the US is dead set against Hizbullah and the Lebanese opposition gaining greater legitimacy in the region. The STL was America’s brainchild; Washington will stand by it.  Perhaps most important in understanding Washington’s course of action over the last few weeks, is America’s long-term effort to disarm and destroy Hizbullah. The US government calculates that STL indictments against Hizbullah will force European governments to finally move against the Shiite organization and define it legally as a terrorist organization. US efforts to isolate and dismantle Hizbullah through economic sanctions and international organizations has been undercut by the failure of European governments to join US efforts. What is more, the European refusal to proscribe Hizbullah as a terrorist organization has impeded Israeli efforts to lock in its territorial gains on the Golan.

As one SC Commentator argued:

The significance of the indictments will not be that the accused will stand trial. Rather it will be an international court making a formal allegation within the framework of a multi-national body. This is the classic precursor of sanctions. The Europeans will be hard pressed to ignore them because they are strong proponents of such multi-lateral bodies to solve international problems. Also the fact that most of the judges / staff are from the EU should not go unnoticed…. Over time they will be severely weakened. Think of it as death by a thousand small paper cuts. … Yes, a lot of innocent people will be harmed …. But in the end the Lebanese people will have to determine whether Hezbollah is worth paying such a price and what they plan to do about it.

Lebanon remains a hostage to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Being divided, the Lebanese people have little ability to “determine whether Hizbullah is worth paying such a price for.” Hizbullah and the regional powers will make that decision.

More importantly, the Arab-Israeli conflict could easily be solved, releasing Lebanon from its long list of victims. If the Wikileaked cables from Syria showed us anything, it is that Assad was and remains keen for peace with Israel if he can get back the Golan. Assad is recorded in several of the leaked cables promising US statesmen that Syria’s support for HIzbullah and Hamas would change if a real peace could be hammered out. The regional dynamic would change. Assad is not the only regional statesman to argue this, Israel’s leading military authorities are also convinced that returning the Golan would lead to an important change in Syria’s strategic calculations and posture. Israel’s chief of staff and head of military intelligence have both spoken out recently to argue that peace with Syria is the key to settling issues such as Hizbullah. They lament Netanyahu’s determination to hang onto the Golan.

Washington’s position on the Golan is so intimately tied to Israel’s that it has but one option: to stand by Israel’s refusal to give up land and to fight Israel’s enemies. The US cables leaked to al-Jazeera record how generous Palestinian offers to Israel were also refused Israeli authorities. Israel has tried to argue that it does not have interlocutors in either Syria or Palestine. Leaked cables have shown the opposite. It is the Syrians and Palestinians who have no interlocutor in Israel.  The real story is not so much that they were turned down by Israel. Anyone who has watched the process closely understands by now that Israel is no longer interested in a two-state solution.  The real story is that America is so vulnerable to Israeli dictates. US diplomats must shadow Israeli policy makers.  So long as both the Democratic and Republican Parties compete to be the most pro-Israeli party, the White House must accommodate Israeli appetites not matter how harmful they are to US interests in the region. To blunt accusations that it is supporting Israel’s illegal and bad behavior, Washington must use a high degree of subterfuge and diversion. This is why so many Arabs see the STL as a diversion. They see it as an instrument designed to hobble “resistance” to Israel and help Tel Aviv gain greater military advantage. Many do not view the investigation to be primarily designed to promote lawfulness and justice in the region. See David Pollock’s article in Foreign Policy- Case Closed – revealing how Christian Lebanese have abandoned support for the STL.

[End Landis analysis]

News Roundup

Ehsani2 writes: The Lebanese “people” will soon turn against the court. Their real estate values would have dropped. Their economy would be in tatters. Will people blame HA?

T_Desco writes:

“Regarding the rumor that Khamenei will be indicted by the STL: the original source seems to be an article by Kenneth R. Timmerman (“UN: Iran Ordered Rafik Hariri Execution”, Newsmax, 01 Dec 2010 (sic; Israeli media quoted the article but gave a more recent date)).

I always thought that Newsmax was about as credible as Debka (incidentally one of Timmerman’s trusted sources).

The article is quite funny, actually:

“Sources familiar with the investigation tell Newsmax that the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon will accuse Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei of giving the order to murder Hariri, (…)”.

“Syrian President Bashar al-Aassad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, the head of Syrian intelligence, also played key roles in the assassination plot, the sources told Newsmax.”

Case Closed
Lebanon’s Christian community has lost faith in the court established to prosecute the killers of the country’s former premier.
BY DAVID POLLOCK | JANUARY 20, 2011 Foreign Policy…

“… Behind Hezbollah’s power play against the tribunal lies something more than brute force: Lebanon’s Christians and Sunnis, once largely united in support of the tribunal, have parted ways. This split began a few years ago at the elite level with the defection of Gen. Michel Aoun, the leader of the largest Christian party …… At this point, a majority of Lebanon’s Christian community has actually turned against the tribunal. As a result, there is little prospect today of the sort of mass popular demonstrations that kicked Syrian forces out of Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of Hariri, a Sunni — or that booted president-for-life Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali out of Tunisia just a few days ago.

This is the most surprising and politically significant finding of a public opinion poll conducted in Lebanon during November and December 2010 by Pechter Middle East Polls, a firm advised by the author. ….. As of last month, 79 percent of Lebanon’s Sunnis called the tribunal “free and fair,” including a solid majority (60 percent) who felt “strongly” that way. But only about half as many (42 percent) of the Christians agreed even “somewhat” with that position. Instead, a majority (55 percent) of Christians said the tribunal was not free and fair. In this respect, Lebanon’s Christian community is closer to the country’s Shiite population, from which Hezbollah draws its support….

The tribunal is not the only issue on which Lebanese Christian and Shiite views have converged. Regarding Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, around 60 percent of Shiites and 40 percent of Christians now voice at least somewhat favorable views. Among Sunnis, by contrast, that percentage plummets to just 17 percent. By comparison, Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son, garners favorable ratings from nearly all Lebanese Sunnis (94 percent) and around two-thirds of the country’s Christians; a mere 11 percent of Lebanon’s Shiites concur with that assessment. Nevertheless, when asked in an open-ended way to name the national leader they most admire, 51 percent of Sunnis cite Hariri, but only 3 percent of Christians do….. Such intriguing nuances notwithstanding, the central finding from this survey remains: Lebanon’s Sunnis are currently the only group who continue to support the tribunal. They are more isolated than ever before, as the Shiite opposition to the court has remained strong and the Christian community has clearly moved toward an anti-tribunal and even pro-Syrian position. As a result, Hezbollah’s firm opposition to the tribunal, to the Hariri government, and to what remains of U.S. policy in Lebanon will probably carry the day — not only among the shifting Lebanese elites, but also on Lebanon’s volatile streets.”

The Mideastwire Blog
Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

TOP ISRAELI military/intel people say to trade the Golan for Peace with Syria

From FPA, here: part two of an exclusive interview with Ilan Mizrahi, the former deputy chief of the Mossad and former head of the Israeli National Security Council under former PM Ehud Olmert.

“…FPA ISRAEL BLOG: Why such urgency on the Syrian track?

MIZRAHI: [On] my first day as national security counsel to Ehud Olmert [i recommended] make a deal with Syria. It will change the security situation in the Middle East. … I think that if we would strike a deal, our key enemy always, Israel’s enemy from the first day of independence, was radicalism in the Middle East. …. most of their masses, are supporting Iran because they are against Israel and against the United states. So, what I’m saying is that if you want to diminish, to mitigate the influence of Iran, to weaken their position in the Middle East, you have to look for the weakest link in their axis. And the weakest link is Syria because Syria is an Arab country. 75 percent are Sunni Muslims. It’s a secular state. It’s a secular state — it’s not Saudi Arabia or even Egypt. And in my point of view, Bashar al-Asad, doesn’t like the idea that Hezbollah is totally an Iranian instrument. He wouldn’t like to see Lebanon ruled forever by Hezbollah backed by Iran….. I do believe that his father and he himself already decided that he would like to have agreement with Israel. Not because they want to live in peace with us, because they need the United States.

This is my point of view. First Syria and then Palestinians….

FPA ISRAEL BLOG: Would giving back the Golan prove to be a strategic problem?

Our chief of staff doesn’t think so. Our head of intelligence, military intelligence doesn’t think so.

You know, in the ottoman empire, the sultan sent his Navy to take Cyprus. You know why? For its wine, because the Cyprus wine was very good. Now, we’re not going to keep the Golan because the wine there is wonderful. But, this is a territory to be negotiated, in my point of view. Now, if our military generals come and say the minute you give the Golan there is a direct threat against Israel, you should not do it. Then I’d have to think several times about it. But the best Israeli generals are saying we can negotiate it, so I believe them. Though, it’s a wonderful piece of land. Wonderful Druze restaurants. So I won’t go to Majid al-Shams. I’ll have my oriental food in Jaffa…”

The Case for Syria
Samer Araabi | Posted: January 18, 2011

In late December, with Congress away on recess, Robert Ford was appointed the new U.S. ambassador to Syria, filling a six-year vacancy. Shortly thereafter, condemnations poured in from those critical of U.S. efforts to engage Syria. President Barack Obama was criticized for “sending the wrong message” amounting to “a major concession to the Syrian regime.”[1] Pundits and commentators expressed concern that such “appeasement” would compromise the influence and authority of the United States in the Middle East.

Five days later, the unity government of Lebanon collapsed after the resignation of 11 members of the pro-Syrian opposition bloc. Though the ensuing competition for power is widely expected to further empower Hizballah and undermine the Special Tribunal for Lebanon—two serious setbacks for U.S. regional policy—Washington finds itself lacking the necessary connections to alter the situation.[2]

Lebanon’s unraveling and the undiminished influence of the Syrian state clearly demonstrate that U.S. attempts to isolate Damascus have failed. Syria continues to occupy an important strategic position in the Levant, and it sits at the crossroads of a number of U.S. interests. Direct and honest engagement, which Ambassador Ford will hopefully foster, is the only way to satisfy U.S. foreign policy goals, rein in violent extremism, and encourage political reforms in that country.

A History of Hostility

During the past decade, U.S. relations with Syria have been primarily characterized by mutual distrust and antagonism. Washington’s hostility toward Damascus has been fueled in part by concerns that the Syrian government has supported violent political factions in both Lebanon and Palestine, interfered in the democratic functions of Lebanon, and actively undermined the stability of the new Iraqi state. In response, a number of prominent analysts and regional experts have called for direct engagement as the only effective means to reform the Syrian state. However, the continued isolation of Syria plays to interests of powerful groups with significant political leverage, including neoconservative and other rightwing “pro-Israel” organizations, their allied politicians, and Saudi backers.

Wonks at institutes like the  Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs (WINEP), and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies have been amongst the most fervent hawks on Syria. Other parts of the “Israel lobby,” like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have also used their connections in Congress to prevent engagement with Damascus.

Rightist factions in the United States have been targeting Syria since well before the 9/11 attacks and the election of President George W. Bush. Back in February 2000, for example, David Wurmser published an article for the American Enterprise Institute entitled, “Let’s Defeat Syria, Not Appease It,” which called on the Israeli and U.S. governments to assist Lebanon to “take matters into their own hands, and Syria will slowly bleed to death there.”[3]

That same year, Wurmser and other likeminded ideologues assisted in the production of a strategy document co-published by Daniel PipesMiddle East Forum and Ziad Abdelnour‘s U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon that helped clarify the central role that hardline views of Israeli security have played in rightist anti-Syria advocacy. The study, entitled “Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role?” called for the United States to force Syria from Lebanon and to disarm it of its alleged weapons of mass destruction. It also argued that “Syrian rule in Lebanon stands in direct opposition to American ideals” and criticized the United States for engaging rather than confronting the regime. Among the document’s signatories were several leading neoconservative figures—many of whom would be given posts in the Bush administration—including Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Michael Rubin, and Paula Dobriansky, Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Ledeen, and Frank Gaffney.

No More Waiting

For many years, a shared conviction of the anti-Syria hawks had been that Syria would eventually recognize that to succeed and advance, it needs the blessing of the West. They in effect decided that there was no point in engaging the Assad regime. Instead, they opted for active enmity while awaiting the fall of the Baath.

However, following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in the wake of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri’s assassination in February 2005, conservatives saw a prime opportunity for “regime change” in another “rogue state,” and launched an intensive international political campaign with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the Assad regime in Syria.

Shortly thereafter, WINEP featured an article by Dennis Ross—now a Mideast adviser in the Obama administration—which was entitled “U.S. Policy toward a Weak Assad.” The article argued that Washington should “avoid engaging with the Syrian leadership” in expectation of its imminent collapse.[4] Ross lamented President Bashar Al-Assad’s failure to recognize “the immediate value of cooperating with the United States,” and recommended that the United States passively enable regional forces to take down the Syrian leadership.[5]

In line with this advice, the Bush administration recalled its ambassador to Syria. It also began using Lebanon as a staging ground to empower Bashar Al-Assad’s purported enemies, particularly the Lebanese Maronite establishment, which they hoped to leverage as a counterweight to the overwhelming Shi’a support for Syria’s Lebanese ally Hizballah.[6]

The Bush administration’s heavy-handed approach failed to take into account the complexity, nuance, and local dynamics of the region. Instead of compelling Syria to change its policies, it produced a backlash that severely undermined U.S. regional goals. As local parties realized that strong relations with the Syrian state provided far greater security and benefits than adherence to American expectations, the pro-western coalition formed during the Cedar Revolution quickly disintegrated. Within a short span, the largest Maronite party—the Free Patriotic Movement—switched sides to join the pro-Syria opposition, followed by a number of smaller groups, ultimately ending with the defection last year of Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party, the darling of Western diplomats.[7]

Meanwhile, the Syrian government entrenched itself and flourished, adapting to the sanctions imposed by the Syria Accountability Act of 2004 by developing new domestic industries (producing an annual growth rate of five percent since the implementation of sanctions), powerful support and influence in Lebanon, and key strategic capital with both Iraq and Iran.[8]


Turkey and Qatar have suspended efforts to broker a new government in Lebanon, a day after Saudi Arabia also threw in the towel,Local media reported on Tuesday that a gathering of “hundreds of unarmed men” from the two Shia parties, Amal and Hezbollah, had marched on downtown Beirut. Tension has risen in the capital since Monday, when the prosecutor in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri submitted his long-awaited results of the case.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs, said Wednesday that his country had abandoned mediation talks to resolve the crisis and situation in Lebanon as “dangerous.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah said that he would “lifted his hands and kept away from the negotiations,” al-Faisal said. The Saudi foreign minister add, that “if matters come to separation and partition of Lebanon, then Lebanon will end as a state containing this type of peaceful coexistence between religions, nationalities, and different strata and this will be a loss for the entire Arab nation.”


“… Speaking to a small group of journalists on his way to Beirut, Davutoğlu said that Hezbollah — which brought down Saad al-Hariri’s government, and Iran, which has close links to the Shiite group, had to be involved in the efforts to find a solution to the crisis. “We will definitely meet with Hezbollah representatives. As a political party and a group with very strong support within Lebanese society, Hezbollah is one of the most essential elements of this process,” Davutoğlu said earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters before departing for Beirut…..

Speaking before the talks with Davutoğlu, Salehi said a solution should come from within the region and opposed the involvement of “foreign actors.” He did not mention any non-regional country, but said actors in the region such as Syria and Saudi Arabia could also be involved in Turkish-Iranian efforts to help stability in Lebanon. “We see no benefit in foreign actors getting involved in this,” Salehi said. Speaking on Tuesday, Davutoğlu appeared to back Salehi’s call for a regional solution and said Iran would be part of efforts for a settlement. He said Salehi had told him during their talks on Monday that Iran was ready to contribute to Lebanon’s stability and support every Turkish effort to that effect. “Our consultations with Iran will continue. No actor should be left out of this process, otherwise there will be polarization both within Lebanon and on a regional and international scale,” said Davutoğlu……..

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday that he has received a written invitation from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend an international meeting on Lebanon and has instructed his staff to respond in the affirmative to the invitation. Erdoğan said seven countries have been invited and that no date has been set for the meeting yet. Iran is not among the countries invited….”

Obama thanked Mubarak for Egyptian support of the tribunal, ” and achieving justice for the Lebanese people,” the White House said…”

Elliott Abrams on Lebanon: ‘the atmosphere is rife with trouble’

Anthony Shadid in the NYTImes:

“The confrontation here is the latest sign of a shifting map of the Middle East, where longtime stalwarts like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have further receded in influence, and emerging powers like Turkey, Iran and even the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar have decisively emerged in just a matter of a few years. It is yet another episode in which the United States has watched — seemingly helplessly — as events in places like Tunisia, Lebanon and even Iraq unfold unexpectedly and beyond its ability to control. The jockeying might be a glimpse of a post-American Middle East, where the United States’ allies and foes, brought together in the interests of stability, plot foreign policies that intersect in initiatives the United States must grudgingly accept.”

Desperately Seeking Syria at Lebanon’s Expense
Richard Grenell – Huffington

It has been almost six years since a brutal bombing in Beirut killed Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others on Valentine’s Day 2005. This week, the UN prosecutor overseeing the investigation finally submitted sealed indictments to the criminal court’s pre-trial judge as to who was responsible for the bombing. UN investigators and foreign intelligence over the last several years, however, have consistently pointed to senior Syrian and Iranian officials’ involvement. While the names of the indicted individuals are not expected to be known for eight weeks, the Obama administration has known for quite some time that senior Syrian and Iranian officials are to blame for the brutal killings.

That is why it is puzzling that while the long-awaited indictments were being prepared last month, President Barack Obama naively ordered the return of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria after a six-year hiatus. Obama’s premature move gave Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran the instant credibility they had been looking for to characterize the coming indictments as political rather than criminal.

Administration officials have ignored Lebanon’s developing crisis from the moment they took office by consistently siding with Syria. Last week, administration officials leaked that President Obama has now given French President Nicholas Sarkozy the lead in dealing with Lebanon and the indictments for the international community. The move washes Obama’s hands of Lebanon’s problems and gives France control.

January 20, 2011 Edition 2
Breaking, not engaging, the region

It is said that repeating an action and still expecting a different result every time, despite proof of the contrary, is a sure sign of insanity. With its strange attitude towards Cuba’s regime, the US has for decades demonstrated that adage while seemingly making Cuba the exception to the rules of diplomatic engagement. In particular, in the Middle East, American influence was for long directly proportional to its direct involvement, be it positive or negative.

Since the Bush administration, however, the Castro approach–or lack thereof–has been applied to what should be one of the most crucial centers of open communication for Washington. After over 12 years of serious and consistent US engagement with the Middle East peace process, with full recognition of Syrian territorial rights on the Golan, George W. Bush decided to alienate Syria even while banging on the drums of war for Iraq. Instead of cajoling the neighbors when invading and occupying Iraq turned nasty, Bush and his neocons directed every possible accusation at Damascus and piled on the demands.

The big freeze came on Lebanese turf: following the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Bush promptly withdrew his ambassador from Damascus, pushed for Syrian troops’ exit from Lebanon, and actively sought to isolate Syria.

Six years later, a new US ambassador, Robert Ford, has landed in Syria a year after his nomination. There is no cause for celebration, however, because US-Syrian relations are neither being upgraded nor being restored to the point they were at six years ago. Instead of getting back to square one, things are now much worse, elegant letters of accreditation notwithstanding. The more the US has connived to redraw the political map of the region, looking to sideline its opponents and to punish them for insubordination, the more it has created imbroglios from which it can’t extract itself.

Instead of seeking stability at all costs, the US has steadily lessened the potential of compromise between all parties and increased the likelihood of a major clash, all under the guise of protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty from Syria.

The premise that Lebanon could function, politically, without the benign acquiescence of the major powers in the region was always false. The premise that the Lebanese would unite under one “majority” in cultural or political terms was always false as well, and all efforts aimed at coaxing one half of Lebanon to abide by the terms of the other half were never going to bear fruit. Yet, the US has had a burning obsession: the eradication of Hizballah, which would end all resistance to Israel, remove Syria’s proverbial cards from Lebanon, and weaken Iran in the region. To that end, with other tricks having failed, the US needed the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; one could argue, in fact, that it needed the assassination of Hariri.

But while motives abound whenever Syria is blamed, speculation with regards to Israel shines in its absence, as if nobody but Hizballah could think of a single reason why Israel would want to wreak havoc in Lebanon. Indeed, the investigation into Hariri’s murder has not even bothered to pretend to explore all options–including the one country with a steadfast history of assassinations in the Arab world……

Lebanon Must Find Its Own Way Out Of Crisis -Clinton
2011-01-20 19:27:48.693 GMT

WASHINGTON (AFP)–The U.S. stands ready to help Lebanon out of its ongoing political impasse, but it is ultimately up to Beirut to resolve the crisis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Thursday.

Asked at a press conference about international mediation efforts following the collapse this week of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, Clinton said: “We stand ready, as do many others in the region and beyond, to be of assistance,” Clinton said. But she said, “any decision will have to be made by the Lebanese people.”

The top U.S. diplomat added: “Any mediation effort engaged in by anyone outside of Lebanon itself should be aimed at supporting the people of Lebanon and making decisions that lead to stability and security, justice and a commitment to bringing those who committed the murders of prime minister Hariri and 22 others to account.”

Lebanon crisis a test for the US
by Antoun Issa

Comments (51)

Roland said:

Well, it looks like the meme of “low-hanging fruit” is still alive and well in Washington. This time it’s Obama, hoping to overcome his weakling image, heading into 2012.

And if a Lebanon crisis provides a pretext for war with Syria and Iran, then Obama can guarantee his re-election.

January 24th, 2011, 3:13 pm


Alex said:

Also back, the classic 2005/2006 Asharq Al-awsat editor threatening/advising Syria

The Syrian Position

It is generally assumed that states, like individuals, benefit from their mistakes, and evaluate their experiences, especially when dealing with particular issues. However, this is not the case with the Syrian position, in terms of dealing with Lebanon, specifically the International Tribunal, and nominations for the next Prime Minister.

Regarding the parliamentary ruling [in 2004] to extend former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s term in office, Damascus insisted on him staying in power at any price, knowing that it would then be easier to bring in another pro-Syrian President afterwards. At the time, Damascus seemed as if it was playing in accordance with the rules of the game in Lebanon. Syria ignored all warnings and extended Lahoud’s term in office, in what was considered to be a landslide Syrian victory. However, what actually happened was to the contrary. The move was costly for Damascus and brought serious consequences, consequences which ultimately came to a head when the Syrian President announced, in front of his parliament, that his country had made mistakes in Lebanon. On that same day, he even announced his intention to withdraw the Syrian army from there!

Today, Lebanese affairs are following the same pattern, whereby Damascus is repeating its mistakes. In the event that Hezbollah’s project is victorious, in its attempt to seize the whole of Lebanon, Syria will be the loser. If the situation erupted – and this is both likely and expected – then the Syrians will pay the price and take the blame. If Hezbollah’s project is victorious, Tehran will be in control, and Iran will reap the fruits of this success, not Damascus. In such a case no one would go to Syria to negotiate, but instead everyone – yes everyone – would negotiate with Iran, instead of Syria. Why would there be a mediator so long as Iran is the dominant force? This is what Iran is explicitly seeking, and has told the West very clearly, amidst the backdrop of negotiations surrounding its nuclear program. Tehran’s search for a regional role must be recognized by the West, because it holds the keys to the troubled areas of the region, and this is no secret!

If the Iranian project was to fail in Lebanon, the situation may still erupt, and this [eruption] is expected as I said previously. Damascus would bear the consequences of this, faced by the Lebanese first and foremost. This would deepen the gap between the two neighbors, and it would subsequently be difficult to build any wall of confidence between the Syrians and the Arabs, and matters would worsen. Arabs will deal with Damascus in accordance with past experiences, rather than listening to its promises and the same can be said of the West. Furthermore, such a scenario would also create tensions within Syria itself, and this is an obvious matter which does not require further analysis.

Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon would inevitably fuel sectarian sentiments, and awaken the Sunni fundamentalist giant, which is currently stirring and has a genuine presence. Then it would not matter whether Hezbollah had light or heavy arms with which to intimidate its opponents, for it only takes one extremist to have the same impact as an artillery assault. This is something we have seen in sectarian conflicts throughout the Arab and Islamic world, and we have witnessed the extent of its damage.

Syria’s interpretation of the current situation is a dangerous one, because it is an old interpretation of a new case; or rather it has not developed over time. The current situation comes in light of changing global conditions, and dramatic changes in the rules of the game, while following up on the daily occurrences will stop many from asking the question; when will they learn?

January 24th, 2011, 4:05 pm


Syrian Nationalist Party said:

Landis reiterates U.S. Middle East lingo in his analysis. Nowhere will he blame the U.S. and Europeans for Lebanon problems. It is always Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. In fact these are not the aggressors but the defenders and the winners. They are smart and calculating, while the West, especially U.S. and France made a huge strategic mistake rejecting Aoun, who begged for their support for years. They are making the same fatal mistakes in other places as well, which in the future they will be faced with similar theater, one that they are underhanded because of own shortsightedness and miscalculation.

Hariri and his masters need to get a grip and accept the loss in Lebanon. This will helps the West to prepare psychologically to withstand the suffering of a bigger loss coming soon in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. Prepare for bigger strategic loss over there. Hezbollah is not afraid of conflict, not even with Israel, they kicked America, France and Israel out of Lebanon when they where in their teens, kids. If Hariri tries again silly dog tricks with Moslem terrorists and Currency manipulation he will finds out when the heat is up, the unreliable backers ships out and he ends up living all his life in Arabia.

The STL is corrupt and a fraud. They spent years fabricating evidences with one intention, arm twisting President Assad to hands over the Golan to Israeli and pressuring Lebanese to domicile Palestinian in Lebanon. That was all it is for to the last breath. Just last week, when they leaked Assad and Khemenei names as suspects ( supposedly) accompanied by U.S. secret push for a quick deal on the Golan. It was a tool set up to help Israel. Otherwise, they would not have ignored the screaming of SAEED when he discovered the phone records right at the start, he got assassinated, still did not bother to look into his findings, because the interest was not the finding of truth, but the Golan and Palestinians settlement .

January 24th, 2011, 6:35 pm


Lilolandiae said:

The article doesn’t explain the Lebanese parliamentary system, like that of Iran also, represents different blocks of the population, so therefore ‘Hizbollah’ should be understood as representing a section of Lebanese society, and that Hizbollah are part of the National framework of Security for the Nation-State of Lebanon, that work within the Lebanese military – which was set up on behalf of the Lebanese people. Lebanon has a right to defend itself like any other nation-state, from aggressive neighbours – therefore I would say personally that any commentary about the region, that is to be fair to the people who live there needs to explain this. Otherwise it’s comparable to some people in Afghanistan declaring the British 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery as terrorists in Afghanistan. At the same time, Hizbullah are not operating in the USA, or even in Israel, so therefore I would state, that it would be incorrect for any person from the USA to state that Hizbullah are a terrorist organisation since that would require Hizbullah to operate within US territory which from what I understand, is not correct. They are operating in defence of their own territories, and have a right to do so in international law. This is quite different. In relation to the Sea of Galilee which is a major water aquifer of the region, the Golan Heights is the main Syrian access point to this water source. It is also not mentioned that in the original Sykes-Picot agreement, When Syria was partitioned, by the French, British and Russians, the Golan was all that was left to Syria, as access to this important source of water for the whole of the Syrian territories via the Golan Heights.

It is also not mentioned that before the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan were one country, so therefore the entire Sea of Galilee, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan and all other territories would have belonged to Syria originally in the first place, long before the partition under the Balfour Declaration by the British to create a ‘Jewish Zionist State’ on the back of coastal settlements that were orginally in fact founded by Germans.

January 25th, 2011, 7:14 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

from paragraph below jumblatt pic, “The STL was America’s brainchild”.


what a diseased mind amer is.

a diseased idea from a diseased mind controlled by a diseased collective.

January 25th, 2011, 11:52 am


Ghat Albird said:

Commendations to Mr. Jumblatt for confirming his commitment Lebanon first and foremost. Best wishes are also extended to both Lebanon and Syria’s interests.

January 25th, 2011, 12:33 pm


WHY said:

4 Syrian activists were sentenced to Prison by the Higher Security Court. One of them, Abbas Abbas, sentenced to 15 years! Abbas Abbas already served 17 years in prison during Hafez Al Assad’s regime for belonging to the outlawed Worker’s Party.

“What happened to the dialogue and the citizen’s rights and when will you loosen your grip?” Abbas asked the Judge. “You are not helping Syria by throwing me in prison.” he added.

Legitimate questions that maybe our Syrian foreign affairs Mujahideen in this forum can help us and tell us when will this come to an end?


January 25th, 2011, 11:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Shimon’s Letter to Vladimir, A Parody
by Steve Plaut

To: Mr. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation

From: Shimon Peres, hero of peace

Re: Those protests this week at the Moscow Airport by Activists and Militants

My heartfelt sympathies to you and the Russia people for the recent
Moscow airport unrest and protests against occupation that were held
this week. However, we must really speak about how to deal with these
forms of activism in Russia, perpetrated by these misunderstood
Chechen activists.
Mister Prime Minister, I have a great deal of experience in dealing
successfully with terrorism and violence, and this is why I wish to
come to your rescue. The first thing you must realize is that one can
only make peace with one’s enemies. With one’s friends, there is no
need to make peace. There is no military solution to the problems of
terrorism, and this is why you must seek a diplomatic solution. “No
Justice, No Peace?” as they say.
You must invite the leaders of this Chechen organization
responsible for the bloodshed in Moscow to meet with you in the
Kremlin and perhaps tour Petrograd palaces together. You must learn to
feel their pain and understand their needs. The solution is to create
two states for two peoples, one Slavic and one Islamic, inside Russia
itself with Moscow as the joint capital. You must bear in mind that
Russia was once conquered by the Tatars and that makes all of Russia
the homeland of Moslems.
You must meet all the demands of the militants who held the
airport protest in Moscow in full. You must offer them Internet web
services and five-star tourist hotels in exchange for their promising
to pursue peace. After all, that is how we turned Yasser Arafat into
a peace partner. You see, military force serves no role any more in
the post-modern universe. It is passe. It is archaic. Today,
consumer interests dominate the world, and the Islamist activists of
the earth will surely make peace in exchange for some profits from
participating in global trade.
The attacks on Moscow came because you have been insufficiently
sensitive to the needs of the Moslem Other. You took their rhetoric at
face value, whereas we in Israel know that all this rhetoric is empty
and in fact, these people truly want peace. Sure, they praise Hitler
and celebrate genocidal atrocities, but what is it that they REALLY
want? You must negotiate with them even while under attack.
Conditioning negotiations on an end to violence is a no-win situation.
It will simply extend the bloodshed! You must put your own house in
order, and eliminate inequality and injustice inside Russia, and then
the terrorists will no longer target you.
The key is to build a New Middle Eurasia, one in which everyone is
so busy with the important matters of developing tourism,
infrastructure investments and high-technology that they will have no
time to pursue violence. Moreover, if you strike at the perpetrators
of the Moscow airport protests and their supporters, you will simply
expand and enlarge the cycle of violence. Your retaliation bombs will
no doubt injure some innocent children and civilians alongside any
terrorist activists you strike. That will enrage the rest of the world
and make the victims seek revenge. Your violence against these
militants and activists will cause them to hate all Slavs and it will
drive the separatists to embrace terrorism. Moreover, if you refuse
to negotiate with the Moslem separatists, then their leaders will be
toppled and a violent extremist group will take charge. In that case,
you will have lost the window of opportunity to make peace.
Begin by declaring a unilateral ceasefire! Mister Prime Minister,
blessed is the peacemaker. Remember Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. The
entire world will support you and congratulate you if you respond to
these horrific attacks by disarming and opening serious dialogue with
the terror activists. All we are saying is give peace a chance.
Yitzhak Rabin would have approved. Yes, chaver, what you need is
shalom, salaam, peace. You will be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in
recognition. Do not allow yourself to be drawn down into the gutter
of retaliation. Violence never achieves anything. History has no
lessons. History is the dead past.
Follow my example! Provide the Chechen activists and militants
with anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles so that they can battle
against the true radicals and extremists. Moreover, they will do so
with no ACLU or Supreme Court to restrain them! Demonstrate your
humanity by paying pensions to any widows and orphans of the
terrorists who blew up the airport. Mister Prime Minister, my own
peace policies have eliminated war, bloodshed and terror from the
Middle East. We now have only peace partners. If you follow in my
footsteps, you can achieve the same lofty goals.

Peacefully yours,
Shimon Peres, Peacemaker-at-Large

Putin won’t take Shimon’s advice?:


January 26th, 2011, 7:36 am


AIG said:

Whatever happens in Egypt, the chances of Israel giving the Golan to Asad for peace have gone from almost zero to zero. People are beginning to realize that what I have said for years is true, that the Arab dictators are not to be trusted because they do not represent the Arab people. Giving the Golan to Asad would be a stupid move. It may take 5, 10 or 15 years, but he will be removed from power. The Syrian people, just like the Egyptian people, will not agree forever to have their future hijacked by Asad and his regime.

January 30th, 2011, 9:18 pm


Yossi said:

AIG, I was thinking about your admonitions and about how you’d feel vindicated now. However, we still have to see whether the new regime in Egypt will indeed ignore the accords signed by the previous one, or respect them, even if grudgingly. My Egyptian friends tell me that the latter is more plausible, and that would then prove that you have been wrong all along.

The new regime in high likelihood would want to prove investment-worthy as the old regime, and that implies respecting prior agreements with the West (including Israel).

On the other hand, had Israel still held-on to occupied Egyptian land, the Egyptians would have had all the excuse they need for belligerency against Israel.

So this argument can be played to the other direction as well, as you can see. Let’s wait and see what happens before jumping to premature conclusions.

January 30th, 2011, 10:47 pm


AIG said:


Even if the Egyptians do respect the peace treaty the very fact that the change in regime puts the treaty in doubt proves my point. Are you really going to give up the Golan and then just hope that a new Syrian regime respects the peace treaty? That would be taking irresponsible risks with Israel’s security.

And you are wrong about your second point also. Let’s say Israel still holds Sinai and a true democracy emerges in Egypt, what stops Israel from negotiating peace with it and giving it back the Sinai? Wouldn’t the Egyptians like us more for giving the Sinai to them and not to a dictator? Wouldn’t it be a great way to start a relationship with a new regime? And wouldn’t doing this show the West what a great investment the new regime is?

There is only one way to play this argument, because it is right whatever happens.

January 30th, 2011, 11:35 pm


Alex said:

AIG is here!!!!?!

Ahlain : )

Yossi, although it is too early to conclude anything at this point, I can’t see the next President of Egypt daring to terminate the Camp David accord even if he wanted to.

But it is more likely to expect a considerable setback for the close cooperation that existed frequently between Mubarak and the Israelis… Not only because this is one of the (so far unspoken) demands of the demonstrators, but also because after the endless Wikileaks embarrassments Arab leaders will think twice before plotting anything nasty with their Israeli or even American neocon friends.


Welcome back. I still disagree with you … I am confident the Golan is coming back to Syria in less than five years. You know why? because this is the right thing to do and Israel will learn, just like Mubarak learned, that the world has changed.

January 30th, 2011, 11:46 pm


AIG said:


If Syria becomes a democracy in less than 5 years, you are right, otherwise, no Israeli government is going to take such a huge gamble on an Arab dictator that is here today and gone tomorrow.

When will Asad learn that the world has changed? The Syrians want to teach everyone lessons, but they do not seem to learn anything themselves. Just look at how little democratic reforms Asad has made and now Landis is even predicting more oppression following what happened in Egypt.

January 30th, 2011, 11:53 pm


Shai said:

Israel will give back the Golan either peacefully, or through pressure as a result of war. I agree with Alex, it probably won’t take more than 5 years from now (to see which it’ll do, not necessarily to see a final and complete withdrawal).

Israel has never, and will never, condition peace on Democracy. This is purely AIG’s “condition”, not Israel’s, nor the majority of Israelis’. Israel cannot afford to have only “democratic friends”. Ben Gurion realized this, Begin realized this, as did Rabin, Sharon, Olmert, and even Netanyahu.

Here’s a shocker for AIG: Most World nations, including all the Western nations he knows, have non-democratic allies! Some, are very prominent non-democratic allies, such as China. It is a fantasy to think of having only democratic friends. No nation can afford it, certainly not Israel.

January 31st, 2011, 12:06 am


AIG said:


What will happen in the next five years that will change things?
If Israel has not given the Golan to Syria’s Asad till now, it never will, especially since what happened in Egypt has proven how fragile Arab dictatorships really are and how much Asad is not worth the risk.

Furthermore, the moment Asad’s Syria made it its official policy to attract foreign investments it lost the Golan forever. You cannot induce foreigners to invest without assuring them there will be peace and quiet. So clearly Syria is not a threat to Israel in any way shape or form and will not initiate any attack on Israel. And now that Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, the whole country is a fair target if Hezbollah attacks Israel. Therefore the Syrians have checkmated themselves in regard to the Golan.

January 31st, 2011, 12:43 am


Yossi said:

Aig, your point is taken that signing deals with illegitimate regimes is a gamble. But it doesn’t mean that it should be categorically ruled out. Nor does it mean that signing agreements with democracies is risk-free.

Even though it’s preferable to cut deals with a democracy, or any regime that is considered legitimate by the majority of the public, it isn’t always a bad idea to cut deals with non-democracies. The peace deal with Egypt was such a case. Do you think that Israel would have been better off over the last 35 years without peace with Egypt? The benefits of that peace are obvious to you, I assume. There are many examples where it made sense for democracies to cut deals with non-democracies, simply because the down-side risks associated with not doing so being too high.

In addition to having eliminated three decades of possible dangerous situations for Israel, having an existing agreement is also beneficial in the case that the resulting regime will be inclined to respect existing agreements, but not negotiate new ones, or that Israel will be wary of negotiating with the new regime. In those cases the existing peace agreement provides an existing status-quo that would not be otherwise reachable from an initial position of enmity.

Now with respect to Syria, it’s also a gamble, and maybe you’re right that no Israeli leader will take that gamble. We’ll see.

January 31st, 2011, 1:20 am


Shai said:


What we do know about peace with Egypt over the past 32 years is that not a single Israeli life was lost during that period, which is very very different from the period prior to 1979, where thousands of Israeli lives were lost at Egyptian hands, and many more injured. You cannot predict the future, not with regards to Egypt, nor with regards to Syria. There is no reason to think peace with Syria will not provide us with the same security Egypt provided.

If you had applied your logic back in 1979, you wouldn’t have signed a peace agreement with Egypt, and you might have been responsible for the deaths of many Israelis since. Syria and Israel, as you know, are fighting one another, through Hezbollah, through Hamas, through Iran, and recently through Turkey. In some of those “battles”, we lose lives. In others, we lose diplomatically, we lose economically, we lose strategically. You cannot claim Israel is paying no price in NOT having peace with Syria.

I’ve never been too fond of soothsayers, and especially of naysayers. If you have examples of dictatorships with whom Israel made peace, only to be “sorry for it” later on, please provide them. As far as I know, Israel has only gained from peace with the dictatorship in Egypt and the one in Jordan.

As for the likelihood of war with Syria, I believe there quite a few “wise and experienced” men just prior to October 1973 who, like you, were sure Egypt “will not initiate any attack” (probably verbatim). That’s the neat thing about strategic surprises – they happen when you think they won’t! I’d rather not continue to gamble on when they will or when they won’t. I’d rather have peace, even with a dictatorship.

Btw, as far as I know, no Israeli PM past or present agrees with your idea of making peace only with democracies.

January 31st, 2011, 4:18 am


AIG said:

Yossi and Shai,

You are right that if we know or should assume that Asad will be in power in the next 30 years, then my point is moot. But I don’t think you believe so especially after what happened in Egypt.

Yes, the peace deal with Egypt with retrospect has been great for Israel. But, in the same token, if after Sadat was murdered it would have been cancelled, then the verdict would have been different.

As for a strategic surprise from Syria. One should not rule that out and in fact Israeli vigilance proved itself in finding the Syrian nuclear reactor. But clearly, Syrian actions are economic growth oriented and not towards confrontation. The risks of confrontation are very very low.

January 31st, 2011, 9:26 am


Alex said:


Using (lack of) democracy as an excuse to not give back occupied Arab lands is just too simplistic … another “moral clarity” product/excuse. You guys are all about shielding Israel from its obligations to respect international law (such as UNSC resolution 497) through keywords that sound good in America.

You don’t want to give the Golan back to Syria because it is not a democracy … and they don’t want to allow Obama to visit Syria because it supports terror …

Keep sticking to this old strategy .. it is not working anymore, and you are not capable of learning lessons and not capable of changing and dropping this old strategy that has net been working too well recently.

You believe in Democracy? … well then stop being so comfortable that your smart friends of Likud can still ensure that American Senators and Think Tankers are in their pocket … pay attention to the people world wide that are increasingly HATING Israel. Do you need a reminder with the many worldwide polls done each year showing how a manjority of people see Israel the same way they see North Korea and Iran?

Are you on Facebook? … it is a good place for early warning for what is coming your way if you are a Netanyahu or Mubarak who think that they got their illegitimate interests (personal or ideological) covered through their handling of Washington politicians or other power centers.

Let me tell you something about Democracy and peace with with Syria and Egypt and Jordan and about ensuring that peace treaties will last.

When you signed that Camp David treaty with Egypt in 1978 here is what Egyptians looked like (get someone to translate for you)… quite liberal and easy going.

Assuming you signed with a democratically elected President and not with Anwar Sadat, do you think that would have ensured that today you would not have the very different and very much more conservative population? would that have ensured that today’s Egyptian population would not absolutely hate Israel after what Israel did in Gaza in 2009?

Democracy will not ensure that those peace treaties last … Israel’s behavior can be a much better insurance… as long as you are so comfortable with your settlers building and stealing lands and as long as you are too busy planning your Washington politics strategies and ignoring the pressure and anger building within the Arab masses, your neighbors … you will wake up one day to see that you are at war.

Israelis like Zvi Bar’el, Gideon Levy, Shai and Yossi are Israel’s best insurance that peace treaties will last … you and Lieberman are among the good reasons Israel can not yet be at peace with the Arab world.

You want real peace with the Arabs? .. talk to the leaders who are most trusted … Read the polls published the past few years .. Mubarak was never among the popular leaders, Erdogan and Assad and Nasrallah are.

January 31st, 2011, 9:29 am


AIG said:


Don’t you see that your arguments apply 10,000 fold to Asad’s regime? If he is so loved, let him allow freedom of speech, even a little. Let him not block facebook and force people to use proxies. Let him allow CNN to report from Syria like they report from Egypt.

Is it Israel’s fault that both the Egyptian and Syrian people have become more conservative and religious over the last 30 years? Of course not. It is the fault of the leaders of these countries that have left the mosque as the only political outlet and option for some hope. By killing the future of the their young generations, they have pushed them to religion.

Yes, there is anger in the Arab masses. I have been saying that all along. But it is an anger at not being able to get a good job. It is an anger at lack of freedom. And yes, there is anger at Israel. But Israel is not really the issue and you know it. Tunisia proved that beyond all doubt. The Israeli issue was not even raised there. And in Egypt, the opposition is not making anti-Israel statements either. It is all about the economy and freedom.

Look, I understand that you worry about the minorities in Syria, and you should be worried. But you are standing in front of a freight train that cannot be stopped. Better get out of the way.

January 31st, 2011, 10:11 am


Alex said:


I will be happy to discuss anger at authoritarian Arab regimes that is due to their own domestic policies. Syria and Egypt are probably just as bad in that sense. I hope President Assad accelerates his reforms. He is personally very popular. The rest of “the regime” is not hated by many, but is not popular at all.

Syrians are not scared to be on Facebook supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. I have tens of friends who are active on Facebook … if they feared that there is any problem with not abiding by the official ban on facebook, they would not be so casual about using it each day with their original names and pictures. I know many who totally dislike “the regime”, but they “like” President Assad’s many unofficial facebook pages.

But the point I am discussing with you and Yossi and Shai related to the second MAIN reason there is anger in the “Arab street” … Israel is directly, or indirectly behind that anger.

Tunisia is far … let’s look at Syria and Lebanon … the two countries that are still at war with Israel. Regardless of what people think of the regime … everyone is angry at Israel. We want to settle the bloody conflict and concentrate on reforms and not give any corrupt official any excuse to say that the reason we can not reform is that we are in a conflict with Israel.

It is a real excuse and I am among those who understand how Israel and its friends can make life difficult for Syria … Syria spend the reagan administration years and the GWB/Cheney administration years … 16 years in total, defending against their active isolation strategies. Those sanctions that killed Syrian airlines and many other Syrian business activities…

Israel’s friends in Washington and in the Arab world did a lot of damage.

But we want the Golan back and we will tolerate all of that AIG.

Sadly, until you are ready to return to Golan Heights, you are my enemy and you are doing your best to weaken my country… you and your many friends.

I just hope for now to remind you that democracy or not, people can change and you can never guarantee they will still support a peace treaty with Israel … regrdless if that treaty was signed by a Sadat, or by some Egyptian democratically elected President in 1978.

Wait until that Egyptian government is formed and those members of parliament are democratically elected … you will see how much they hate Israel.

Israel lost Turkey (a democracy) … the Turkish people are 65% STRONGLY anti Israel. and it lost Iran before, and it lost Egypt … and it lost Lebanon (a majority of the Lebanese people) …

Israel chose the territories over peace …

But I am confident this will change … in less than 5 years. And I am confident that political reforms will also take place within the same period.

I just hope all of that will take place with minimal violence.

January 31st, 2011, 10:58 am


AIG said:

Just on time Roger Cohen writes:”Exit the Israel Alibi”

January 31st, 2011, 11:03 am


AIG said:


You can keep saying Asad or the regime or parts of it are not hated or even loved but you know that all the regime’s actions point the other way. The regime is very paranoid. Only free elections will prove what you say about the regime, but that is not in the cards. (As a side note, if the Syrian government really approves of facebook, why is it forcing people to use it through proxies? Seriously, what is the logic behind this?)

The Golan, the “Zionist Entity” etc. etc. are all excuses that the Arab people are not buying anymore. Ignore this at your own risk.
Of course most Arabs hate Israel, but they know that it is not Israel that is the cause of their troubles. It is their regimes. Syria’s economy is where it is because of Hafez and Bashar’s policies. Not because of Israel’s policies.

I commend you for wanting the Golan back.
That is only natural. But you must see that the dichotomy “either the Golan or the economy” or “either the Golan or democracy” is not convincing anyone. So far the Syrian people have gotten neither the Golan nor economic prosperity nor democracy. They are not stupid. A democratic Syria with a strong economy would be much better placed to get the Golan back than Asad’s Syria.

January 31st, 2011, 11:20 am


Alex said:


As I said, you are an enemy and you can continue to see things from your perspective. I agreed with some of your opinions, but the rest is standard Likudnik wishful thinking.

Banning Facebook is bizarre … because it is only banned by name. No one was able to give me a good answer as to why they are doing that.

By the way, your ever expanding right wing part of Israel is moving towards less tolerance. Here is a Facebook example from today.


I’ll give you an example why some reforms are easier to do after we get Israel off our back:

You sign peace with Israel and Israel calls for calm in your country:

You don’t sign peace, and Israel tries to cause trouble in your country:

Syria WILL implement some initial basic political reforms … and when that happens, Israel WILL encourage some of the new Kurds in Syria (long-time Syrian Kurds are not Israeli friends) to take advantage of the opening to demonstrate and create some chaos in Syria.

Similarly, the Saudis WILL pump money into any elections to push their own semi-wahabi candidates or their secular Saudis puppets.

Except .. if Syria is at peace with Israel, Israel and the United States and its Saudis puppets will be nice enough to not interfere and take advantage of the opening to disrupt things for their Syrian friends.

January 31st, 2011, 12:12 pm


AIG said:


Both pro-regime and pro-democracy people in Syria view Israel as an enemy and I perfectly understand that. What I don’t understand is why you think you can convince most Syrians, most of them that view Israel as an enemy, that only a totalitarian regime like Asad’s is the way to fight Israel? Asad makes a lot of declarations about Israel, so does Nasrallah. You think we will take this as an excuse to let go of our freedoms?

As Cohen writes, this excuse of yours is no more. Syria is weak because of its policies, not because of Israel. Syria’s economy does not generate jobs because Syrian economic policy was bad and is still bad. The longer you make excuses for the Syrian regime and the longer it stays in power. The bigger the backlash is going to be. And it is not going to be against Israel.

January 31st, 2011, 12:44 pm


Alex said:


Cohen is one of my favorite opinion writers. I like him because he is always spotting the right lessons.

I love what happened in Egypt nad in Tunisia … because everyone got a very easy to learn lesson.

Fighting Israel alone without economic and political reforms will not do. But reforms alone will not do either for the set of American/Israeli puppets like Mubarak… An arab leader will need to do well enough on both fronts … This is their lesson.

You know well what is your lesson in Israel … but if you prefer to learn the wrong lesson from what is happening or if you just want to sit back and enjoy the lessons that Arab leaders learned … enjoy.

January 31st, 2011, 1:34 pm


AIG said:


I will believe the Asad regime “learned” anything when I see credible reforms in Syria. Even in the last two years, with Obama at the helm in the US, I have not seen any significant democratic reforms.

As long as we agree that economic and political reforms are essential and cannot be masked with slogans about fighting Israel, that is fine. I also agree with you that it is very likely that a democratic Egypt will have a different attitude towards the Palestinian issue. They may even open the border with Gaza (which I think is very good long term for Israel).

As for Israel, our lesson is clear. Beware of agreements signed with dictators.

January 31st, 2011, 2:00 pm


Shai said:

No one is talking about HOW one brings Democracy and Freedom to the Middle East, to nations, peoples and cultures that have never experienced such things. It is easy to demand or to pretend to encourage democracy, without truly understanding how it should come about. And, even worse, when there finally is a glimpse of hope, when a people shows readiness and willingness to partake in one of the practices of democracy – free elections – most in the West refuse to recognize the results!

How can the U.S. and Israel pretend to want Democracy in the Middle East, when they completely rejected the free and democratic results of the 2006 Palestinian Elections (the first truly-free elections in the Arab World)?

Here in Israel, and in the U.S., let’s not pretend we like what we’re seeing. We don’t. We liked the dictator that welcomed us in his palace, while his people were starving in the streets. We liked him, and still do, as long as he keeps the “bad guys” (MB) away from us. We’re willing to accept the price the Egyptian people have to pay – it’s their’s to pay anyway, not ours, so it’s not so bad.

And the same goes for the Palestinian people. Let Abbas become a ruthless ruler, let Fatah execute and imprison and torture their people if necessary, just so long as they don’t lose out to Hamas. THAT kind of Democracy, we won’t accept. That’s the kind of democracy we’ll go to war against.

If we’re already in the business of democracy-consultancy, let’s at least be honest about our own preferences for the region.

January 31st, 2011, 3:01 pm


AIG said:


I cannot agree more. We have to change our attitude and embrace, no demand, democratic reforms in Arab countries even if it costs us short term. Otherwise, we will pay the price long term. Slowly but surely, people will understand this in Israel.

That doesn’t mean that if an Arab country elects a government hostile to Israel we should embrace that government or country. On the contrary, we should work hard to convince the people that elected this government to change their minds next elections.

I think that the attitude that prevails in Lebanon will prevail in all Arab countries that become democratic. They will hate Israel and be against a peace treaty, but they will also be against war. And that is good enough for me.

January 31st, 2011, 3:24 pm


Shai said:


One needn’t “embrace” his enemy. One need make peace with him.

Encouraging the Palestinian people to have free and democratic elections was a good thing. But rejecting the results of those elections was stupid, and showed the Palestinian people our “true face” (Israel and America’s). That what we cared about wasn’t really their freedom, but our freedom – freedom to do as we wish in the region. To continue to Occupy, to fight their resistance, and to exist not as equals within the region, but as rulers.

If the MB take over Egypt, we’re bound to make the same mistake. We’ll announce that “we” don’t recognize them as the legitimate representatives of the Egyptian people. As if “we” have any say whatsoever in it. And why shouldn’t we do so also in Egypt? We did it with the Palestinians, we can do it with others. Unless the dictators we like are in power.

If we really cared about the people in our region, we should first and foremost prove to them that we are here to exist as equals. Not equal only-if we like them, like their rulers, like their political leaders, but equals regardless of the system they choose or have to live to under.

They don’t choose our leaders, and we mustn’t try to choose theirs. They entire Arab World is ready to recognize us tomorrow morning, despite the Liebermans, the Eldads, the Ayalons, and the Left that has built more settlements and started more wars and operations than any other political party in Israel. Despite the 43.5 year Occupation of the Palestinian people, which today seems farther from an end than it has ever been. The Arab World, all 26 of its nations, have unanimously voted, on 4 separate occasions since 2002, to recognize us and make peace with us, if we’re ready to withdraw to the 1967 borders.

They never stipulated what type of government or people will exist in Israel at the time. And we must also not stipulate what has to exist in theirs.

January 31st, 2011, 3:48 pm


AIG said:


If the MB take over Egypt then we will deal with them depending on their attitude to us. Again, it could very well be that a fair election in Egypt will bring to power a government hostile to Israel. Do we then have to applaud the Egyptian people’s choice? We can say that we are happy that there was a democratic process but we are disappointed from the result and that both countries will suffer from it.

As for the Arab plan, Zoabi makes clear today in the Guardian that it includes the Right of Return. Is that something any Jew in Israel can support?

I am not stipulating which government the Arabs should have. I am merely stating that signing a peace agreement with a non-democratic one is stupid. Why do you keep interpreting this as if I am demanding a certain form of government in Arab countries?

January 31st, 2011, 4:14 pm


Shai said:

No person in his right mind believes Israel will ever accept millions of Palestinians back into Israel. Even Khaled Mashaal has stated, at least twice in the past year that I can recall, that Hamas would be willing to accept the 1967 borders. From Wikileaks we also read about the offers Israel has made to the PA over the years, always discussing some symbolic number of a few thousand refugees. The Right of Return will be to the State of Palestine, not to Israel, and I doubt there’s anyone in the Arab World who thinks otherwise.

If I understand you correctly, you refuse to make peace with a non-democracy, meaning with anyone in the Middle East. If we’re to apply that to Egypt and Jordan, 1979 and 1994 should not have produced peace agreements with these two nations. And, more specifically, we shouldn’t have given back the Sinai to a non-democratic Egypt.

I think the assumption that Israel can exist in the region without peace is wrong. Was the Sinai worth another couple wars with Egypt, with more thousands dying and tens of thousands injured? Is the Golan, with its 16,000 Jewish residents, worth another war with Syria? All our top Intelligence people are saying the next war will be a horrific one. They’re not suggesting Israel will cease to exist. But they are saying many will die, probably many more than in previous wars. Is the Golan worth it?

January 31st, 2011, 4:27 pm


AIG said:


Please, in the case of Egypt at least 32 years of peace ensued and I admit that was very beneficial for Israel. I am saying that expecting Asad to stay as long in power is unrealistic and that taking a chance with him is much riskier. In addition I am saying that Israel’s long term interest is to be surrounded by democracies and that we should accept short term setbacks to support such a goal.

The next war will be horrific for all sides and that is why the Syrians won’t start one. Why do you think they might do so? I believe that as long as we hold the Golan, the risk of war is actually smaller.

January 31st, 2011, 5:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Hanging Chads in Palestine NewZ

How can the U.S. and Israel pretend to want Democracy in the Middle East, when they completely rejected the free and democratic results of the 2006 Palestinian Elections (the first truly-free elections in the Arab World)?


So the Palestinians hold an election and suddenly you think this is democracy?


When is the next election? What are the term limits? What are the powers of the Palestinian President? Can the president fire the legislative councils like our friends Hosni and HRH Abdullah? Can Obama fire the Senate and the House of Representatives? I think not.

An election where the winning thug gets to rule for life is no election and is not remotely democratic. Democracy is more than a vote, it includes well defined term limits, rule-of-law and an unfettered judiciary to make sure everything works like clockwork.

Every person and every leader must follow the law including Olmert, Sharon, Clinton and Katsav. Arab leaders too, that is, if they really want democracy.

January 31st, 2011, 7:03 pm


why-discuss said:

Maybe Israelis are now feeling their growing alienation and geographical isolation after Iran, Turkey, Egypt and other neighbours are becoming less sympathetic to a state that still uses european guilt and irrational fears to justify grabbing more lands and depriving people from their rights.
Maybe then they will accept the fact they Israel is just a small island in a sea of antagonistic forces and that the only friends are thousands of mile away.
They may loose their arrogance and that may be a new beginning.

February 1st, 2011, 4:45 am


Shai said:


You said: “Israel’s long term interest is to be surrounded by democracies and that we should accept short term setbacks to support such a goal.”

I certainly agree with that. But the question is what does “accept short term setbacks” mean. Does it mean holding on to territory, just to sign a peace treaty with a democratically-elected leader? Why must that be a prerequisite? The record shows us that “even dictators” uphold peace agreements.

In fact, why hold on to the Golan (not talking about the West Bank now), if we know that by doing so we’re continuing a war with Syria, via Hezbollah, via Hamas, via Iran, and recently via Turkey? We can’t claim this war is costing us nothing. And what is the price for ending this war with Syria? The Golan, with its 16,000 Jewish residents? There were more Israelis in a local basketball game I went to last week than on the entire Golan.

Don’t get me wrong – I will have tears in my eyes the day we give back the Golan. I love to visit the Golan, it’s beautiful, still virgin, great air, unbelievable place. A part of me would hate to lose it. But part of those tears will be tears of optimism and hope. They’ll be a rejoicing that we have finally ended our conflict with an important neighbor, Syria. That now, I will get to enjoy the Golan not by myself, but also with a Syrian friend. It will be the right way to move forward. To secure a better future for my children, and the children of the region.

Even in the West Bank I’m realistic enough to know that we can’t give back 100% of the territory, and move 500,000 Jewish people back into Israel. Just as we can’t take 500,000 Palestinian refugees back in. And I also know that we will not withdraw from even 10% of the West Bank until we feel there’s someone on the other side that can guarantee the safety of Central Israel. It is not like the withdrawal from Gaza or Lebanon. I don’t feel Abu Mazen can, under the current reality, guarantee this. But the Golan is different, and Syria is different. Bashar Assad can, in my opinion, and in the opinion of all Intelligence Heads I’ve heard (from as far back as Uri Saguy to Amos Yadlin and recently Meir Dagan), guarantee Syria’s side of the bargain. They all say Syria is serious.

Why wait?

Btw, no one expected Sadat, with a weak and very limited Egyptian Army, to attack Israel in 1973. All the experts, including the Head of Aman, the Army COGS, and the Defense Minister, all said it wouldn’t happen. Sadat simply couldn’t win. And they were right – he couldn’t. But they were also wrong – he never intended to win. He had very limited goals, and they were sufficient to go to war. Egyptian tanks never reached even halfway into the Sinai. They stopped shortly after crossing the Suez, and “shocked” even (and especially) the Syrians. Sadat deceived Syria. He had limited goals, and went for a very limited war. But even in that limited war, we lost over 2,000 soldiers, and thousands more were injured.

Again all the Heads of Intelligence are warning that a future war will be far more costly than previous ones. It won’t be fought with tanks in a desert 200 kms away. It’ll be fought in our cities and our towns and our villages. Many many thousands could die. Sure, we’ll inflict far worse damage upon our enemies. But even if we kill 100,000, to every 10,000 on our side, is it worth it? Is it worth risking this war, for the Golan?

I don’t think so. I know it’s not.

(Apologies to everyone for the long response… as always…)

February 1st, 2011, 4:48 am


Akbar Palace said:

They may loose their arrogance and that may be a new beginning.


Withdrawing from the Sinai, the West Bank, and Lebanon and trying to negotiate a final peace treaty with the Palestinians and the Syrians doesn’t seem arrogant to me. Maybe to you. Perhaps because Israel has successfully survived in a sea of opposition you feel Israel is arrogant.

Actually, Professor Josh’s latest thread…

Syrian Authorities Jubilant about Prospect of Mubarak’s Fall and Shifting Balance of Power in the Region

seems fairly arrogant to me. Just MHO.

February 1st, 2011, 6:41 am


yossi said:

Well said Shai, I completely agree with you w.r.t Syria and the Golan.

February 1st, 2011, 2:47 pm


AIG said:


The risk of war is very small as the Syrian regime is rational and understands the cost of starting a war. What exactly can the Syrians gain from starting such a war? They are obsessed with raising foreign capital which means that going to war will be against all their plans.
And if the Syrians are not rational, why sign a peace treaty with them?

We lost 2000 soldiers in the Yom Kipur war because we had no good answer to the SAMs. This is not the case today as the attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor proves. Furthermore, our air force strength relative to the Syrian one has improved orders of magnitude since 1973.

February 1st, 2011, 4:05 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you – Bashar Assad is very rational. That’s why we should make peace with him. Sadat was also rational, but we chose to reject him in the two years prior to 1973, and paid heavily for it.

In the Yom Kipur War we lost soldiers on the ground because our air force couldn’t protect them sufficiently. But in the next war, it won’t be soldiers that will die, it will be civilians. No air force can protect against thousands of missiles fired from four different directions, at every major city and town in Israel.

February 1st, 2011, 4:48 pm


AIG said:


So let me understand, Asad will start a war by shooting missiles at Israel? Why would he do that? How will that help him get the Golan?

February 1st, 2011, 4:59 pm


Shai said:


My last comment for the day… 🙂

I certainly don’t think it’s my place here to advise my enemy how to fight me. I think looking at Sadat’s limited goals, which eventually gained him the Sinai, is sufficient to understand that Syria has options, as well as limited ones.

I don’t doubt for a minute that it’ll suffer more than Israel in such a scenario, just as Egypt did. I do fear that, like Egypt, it’ll be ready to suffer now, to receive the Golan soon afterwards. Sadat spelled it out for reporters immediately after the 1973 war.

Don’t forget – not a single nation on the face of this planet recognizes the Golan as Israeli territory. After such a war, besides paying a huge toll in lives, pressure from all our allies will be such that Israel will have to give up the Golan. So will it be worth it? Will thousands of families of the dead and injured think it was worth it?

We’ve been to this “movie” before. We don’t have to go through it again.

February 1st, 2011, 5:12 pm


AIG said:


We will have to disagree. Syria has very limited options. In addition to what I said before, there is no Cold War and no Soviet Union to stop the war if things go bad for Syria.

February 1st, 2011, 5:55 pm


Badr said:

In case one needs a reminder:

WSJ: Where do you see the peace process? Does it seem to you dead?

President al-Asad: No, it is not dead because you do not have any other option. If you want to talk about a ‘dead peace process,’ this means everybody should prepare for the next war, and this is something that is not in our interest or in the interest of the region.

February 2nd, 2011, 3:14 am


Shai said:

Thank you Badr.

AIG, we cannot miss out on Bashar Assad. Dictator, Benevolent Leader, or democratically-elected Austrian premier, if your enemy stretches his hand out in peace, we must grab it. We know the price, they know the price, now let’s close the deal and end 62.5 years of war and bloodshed between us.

February 2nd, 2011, 4:53 am


Akbar Palace said:

Hand Stretched out in Peace NewZ

your enemy stretches his hand out in peace, we must grab it


Before you give the Golan to Assad, just remember, for some strange reason, Assad refuses to isolate his good friend Ahmadinejad. So apparently, Assad’s relationship with this terror-supporting anti-semite is more important than the Golan.

February 2nd, 2011, 7:13 am


Shai said:


In the 1990’s, there was no talk of “Assad’s good friend in Iran”. The topic didn’t exist, and you didn’t see Israel running to give back the Golan.

If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting the minute Syria dropped the anti-semite, Israel would be ready to give up the Golan, right? 🙂

As they say in Hebrew, “between us”, you know as well as I do that the Golan and Iran have nothing to do with one another. It’s a nice excuse that sell well, that’s all.

If I recall correctly, Menachem Begin never required Sadat to sever his ties with any of the other Arab States that hated Israel no less than Iran.

February 2nd, 2011, 9:29 am


Ghat Albird said:

Quasi intelligence sources are reporting that the nominated Vice President by Mubarak is not only a CIA agent but also a socalled friend of Israel. The reports suggest that he is allowing Israeli sharpshooters into Cairo for the sole purpose of killing the leaders of the protest movement as well as both the Coptic and Islamic spekespersons.

The outlook if such reports are factual is for radicalizing the protests and increased violence and bloodshed. In effect its either US/Israel/Mubarak or the Egyptian people.

February 2nd, 2011, 10:17 am


norman said:

Things are getting ugly in Egypt, The Army probably has to take over to avoid blood , then consult with trusted Turkey on how to move to Democratic rule,
The treaty with Egypt should stay but Israel should learn that only peace will secure it’s border with all it’s neighbours .

February 2nd, 2011, 11:28 am


Akbar Palace said:

Beace of the Brave NewZ

In the 1990’s, there was no talk of “Assad’s good friend in Iran”.


“In the 1990’s” is gone. Last I checked, Iran is, NOW, a very dangerous theocracy hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons, arming terrorists with ever more sophisticated weapons, as well as erradicating Israel.

“The Times They Are A Changin'”

If the Golan Heights are so important to Syria, I’m sure they can work something out;)

February 2nd, 2011, 11:31 am


Angelis Dania said:

Call me naive, but if Israel returned to the 1967 borders, gave back the Golan Heights, and thereby made peace with her neighbours, who would want to go to war? Who would then listen to Ahmadinajads’ call for the destruction of Israel? In all likelihood, he would retract from that position himself, as it would not be popular among his people, or with anyone else for that matter.

The way I see it, there would no longer be any support for any military action, not by governments or even resistance groups (there’d be nothing to resist). More importantly, the people would not then get behind such empty causes.

What then would be gained by a war with Israel? You’d get international condemnation, major loss of support from the people, and suffer heavy losses of life and infrastructure due to Israels’ superior weapons and allies. I mean, Israel gets huge support even when it’s in the wrong. Imagine if it was attacked when there was no longer a legitimate cause!

What would be more likely then would be prosperous trade between Israel and Arab countries. As long as there is a comprehensive peace in the region, where the rights of others are being respected and protected, tight-gripped governments would no longer be needed.

In other words, President Bashar Al-Assad could finally retire and get some rest, provided measures can be put in place to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from oppressing non-sunni citizens. I really don’t envy him his job. The reward does not even come close to justifiying the workload + pressure + risk. Last I checked, his Net Worth does not enter him into any rich lists.

It’s probably just a pipe-dream, but this is the kind of peace I wish to be alive to see.

I think that Israel needs to re-realize that this war and hatred initiated from the occupying of the lands of a country, against the will of the government and/or people of that country. For some reason, this seemed acceptable by the moral compass of the first settlers. The resulting consequences cannot be reversed (i.e. you cannot evict all the Israelis from the country), but two important measures can be taken. Firstly, return to a reasonable set of borders (e.g. 1967), and secondly stop repeating the cause of the problem in making new settlements.

It’s no wonder that anti-semitism has spread so rampantly. It’s not because of a few KKK type hate-filled racists, as that type of hater doesn’t really have a lot of influence these days. What it really stems from is people looking at the actions of the Israeli government and not differentiating between ‘Jewish’ and ‘Israeli’. Meaning, these types of atrocities are NOT intrinsic to Jewish nature. Sad really that some people are blind to this, but not surprising given the climate this past half-century.

What it typically means by extension, is that people like Netenyahu and Lieberman are the most influential anti-semites in the world, by virtue of their willful actions that, especially to the uninformed, give strong false impressions that to be Jewish is to be evil. The fact that these kinds of people are consistently elected does not help matters.

And that brings me to an important point regarding so-called democracies and dictatorships. When a dictator is bad (i.e. Mubarak), it’s hard to blame the people, as they are not the ones who put him there, and not the ones who necessarily wanted to keep him. But when a bad government is democratically elected by the people, you have to question whether that is the kind of government these people are aiming for. If it tends to happen very often, that suspicion is strengthened. Mostly though, it tends to be a choice between the lesser of two evils. That is what I don’t like about most democracies.

George Carlin (R.I.P), said at least two things that I think are profound.

1. In America, anyone can become President. That’s the problem.

2. [Summarised] Everybody says politicians suck. I don’t. Because politicians come from families, homes, schools, churches, businesses and universities. In other words, they come from the public, and the public elects them. So, the public sucks.

Neither do I believe that a democracy is the best form of government for all countries and all circumstances. It works well sometimes, and other times it’s a terrible hindrance to progress. Take for example the situation recently discussed between Syria and the U.S. If President Bashar says he is ready for peace, and ready to make and stand by an agreement, then that’s that. If President Obama says the same thing, there still remains a jungle of mountains in terms of obstacles, before any agreement can be made, and the whole process could fall apart at any moment.

If somehow the U.S senate/congress came to an agreement, but Syria had become a democracy, imagine the opposition, or at least the varying conditions that could be placed on a peace agreement. That’s another thing wrong with todays democracies. There seems always to be a party called “The Opposition”, as though they must disagree with everything the other side says and does, and make them to appear foolish just to further their own political agenda. Sometimes they do agree, but even that reminds me of another George Carlin saying: “Bi-partisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

The real fundamental problem with democracy these days, is that popularity almost always overrides merit and fitness.

So, a country being run democratically will not necessarily be more open or accomodating to peace, whether by principle or difficulty of due process. Though none of that matters if you choose to hold on to what is not rightfully yours, as you will always be opposed. And if you want the real truth, the plethora of agendas in this world will never allow for an honest comprehensive peace, regardless of government type, conditions and circumstances, concessions, religion, race, international laws, human rights, etc. There always stands to be too much gain in war for some party.

In closing though, if I had to choose between a well-intentioned dictator and a farse or corrupt democracy, I would say dictate away.

(Sorry for the long post)

February 7th, 2011, 7:54 pm


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