"Losing Traction against Syria," by David Schenker - Syria Comment

“Losing Traction against Syria,” by David Schenker

Losing Traction against Syria
By David Schenker
September 21, 2007

The September 6 Israeli bombing of a presumed North Korean-supplied nuclear weapons facility in Syria highlights the ongoing policy challenge posed by Damascus. More than three years after President Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SAA), Syria continues to support terrorism, destabilize Iraq, meddle in Lebanon, and develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile systems. This week's headlines tell the story: on September 19, yet another anti-Syrian parliamentarian was assassinated in Lebanon; the same day, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that a July 2007 chemical weapons accident in Syria — involving mustard gas and VX and sarin nerve agents — killed fifteen Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers.

To date, Syria has proven largely impervious to U.S. sanctions, and Washington's efforts to forge international consensus on isolating Damascus have not gained traction. Although the regime seemed isolated after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the trend has recently shifted toward diplomatic and economic engagement. If such engagement continues, Syria may avoid accountability for both the Hariri assassination and Western demands to alter its behavior.

Diplomatic Engagement
Over the past year, a stream of foreign officials has flocked to Damascus for meetings with President Bashar al-Asad. The most recent — and significant — visit was by Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who spent three days in the Syrian capital in August. The trip was a stunning development: in May, al-Maliki's own national security advisor complained to ABC News that Syria continued to harbor and support insurgents responsible for killing Americans and Iraqis. And just months before that, U.S. Central Command revealed that Iraqi insurgents had established a terrorist training camp on Syrian soil.

Given Syria's demonstrated commitment to destabilizing Iraq, it is not surprising that al-Maliki's meetings were unproductive. Nevertheless, the visit held symbolic importance. The trip — the first by an Iraqi prime minister to Syria in thirty years — was the capstone in a series of recent diplomatic engagements: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip in April, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's May interlude with the Syrian foreign minister in Sharm al-Sheikh, and French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran's July talks.

Unsuccessful U.S. Financial Measures
Washington has had little success using financial sanctions to pressure Syria. This is partly due to the unsubstantial trade between the two countries. As a charter member of the State Department's terrorism sponsors list, Syria has been subject to bilateral trade constraints since 1979. In 2004, pursuant to the SAA, Washington implemented additional economic measures. These steps were largely symbolic, however, as they did not affect food and telecommunications equipment, the primary U.S. commodities purchased by Syria.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce indicate that from October 2006 through March 2007, bilateral trade between the countries actually increased threefold from the same period a year earlier ($116 million to $361 million). While total bilateral trade fell from $478 million in 2005 to $438 million in 2006 due to a decrease in Syrian oil exports to the United States, American exports to Syria actually increased by $69 million during the same period.

From the U.S. perspective, the implementation of Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act in March 2006, which imposed sanctions on the Commercial Bank of Syria, was a more effective measure. This action forced U.S. financial institutions to sever accounts with the Syrian bank. Although these sanctions were an irritant, Damascus anticipated them and cushioned the blow: one month earlier, it switched all state foreign currency transactions from dollars to euros.

Heavy Middle Eastern Investment
Efforts to change Syrian policies have been stymied by burgeoning foreign investment in Syria, a development that has been a life raft for the regime. The leading investor is Tehran, whose investment agreements are said to be worth approximately $3 billion (it remains to be seen how much of this will actually materialize).

Persian Gulf states have made large investments as well. For example, Noor Financial Investment, a Kuwaiti firm, has entered into an oil refinery deal in Syria worth $1.5 billion. Another Kuwaiti firm, the Aref Group, is funding a $2 billion project to develop a new business district in Damascus. Several companies from Dubai are also bullish on Syria, including the al-Futtaim Group, which is slated to develop a $1 billion resort complex west of the capital. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will soon open banks in Damascus. Perhaps the only U.S. Gulf ally largely absent from this investment surge is Saudi Arabia, whose relationship with Syria deteriorated following the assassination of Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi national.

Europe and China Jump In
Europe is an important part of the failed policy to financially pressure Syria. The European Union (EU) continues to deal economically with Syria despite objections from France stemming from the Hariri incident. Although these objections stalled Syrian membership in the EU Economic Association, the union nevertheless provides significant economic and development assistance to the Asad regime through fourteen separate projects. In April 2007, Germany pledged $95 million in development aid to Syria over two years. Berlin dispatched Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul to Damascus in August to disburse $46 million.

The EU traditionally has been Syria's leading trade partner and accounted for 60 percent of all Syrian exports in 2003. Recognizing the vulnerability of this relationship, Damascus has worked hard to diversify and reduce its reliance on Europe by forging economic agreements with new partners such as China. Between 2005 and 2006, Syrian bilateral trade with China increased 55 percent to $1.4 billion. And by 2006, the percentage of Syrian exports to the EU had declined to 42 percent, reducing the West's ability to use economics as a lever.

Prospects
The Syrian economy is growing — despite a 6.5 percent decline in oil production, its overall growth rate this past year was a respectable 5 percent. "Barring policy missteps or a deterioration in the regional environment," a recent International Monetary Fund report predicted, "the near-term outlook . . . looks favorable." Based on this assessment, Syria is not under economic duress. The picture is not all rosy, however: Syrian oil revenues are in serious decline, Damascus still has not attained membership in the EU Economic Association, and the $1.3 billion boon to the economy brought by the estimated one million Iraqi refugees will likely evaporate as these unemployed visitors burn through their savings.

As information begins to emerge about the extent of North Korean-Syrian ties, Washington will have another opportunity to focus the international community on the continuing dangers posed by the Asad regime. The UN's Hariri tribunal will add to the pressure on the regime, but that alone will not suffice. To stem Syria's reacceptance into the international community, Washington needs to convince its European and Arab — particularly Gulf — allies to freeze their engagement with Damascus. It should also exclude Syria from the Arab-Israeli peace conference scheduled to take place this November.

With Israeli-Syrian tensions rising and the pro-Western Lebanese government on a precipice, renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital. In the absence of effective measures, the Asad regime will continue to undermine Washington's hopes for the region.

David Schenker is a senior fellow in Arab politics at The Washington Institute. From 2002 to 2006, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as country director for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

Comments (59)


Jason said:

Joshua, It’s mentioned in the article that Syria changed its “state foreign currency transactions” from the dollar to the euro. I believe Iran did the same thing a few years ago. How big of a factor is this issue in US-Iran-Syrian relations? It seems like this would be a very important issue, but it’s rarely mentioned.

September 21st, 2007, 6:00 pm

 

Murphy said:

Good analysis, but terrible first paragraph which parrots all the recent unsubstantiated rumours as though they were established fact. “a presumed North Korean-supplied nuclear weapons facility” – oh please!

” Syria may avoid accountability for both the Hariri assassination ”

In order for Syria to be accountable for the murder, it would first have to be proved guilty. So far this has not happened, despite every effort to make it happen.

September 21st, 2007, 6:26 pm

 

bill b said:

What an extraordinary, wonderfully entertaining and revealing opening line!

Israel bombs a hush-hush target in Syria. Not the fact of the bombing, but the ”challenges” posed by Damascus are thus revealed, according to the author.

It is difficult to take this type of analysis seriously. If I were in need of insights confirming that US and Israeli interests in the region merge and coincide perfectly, I need only to look at the mainstream US press.

Having these slogans repeated here does this site no credit.

September 21st, 2007, 6:38 pm

 

Frank al Irlandi said:

I am reminded of Darwish marvellous poem Identity Card

Record!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks..
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

While the Qataris are off buying the London Stock Exchange others are investing in the last country with growth potential in the area.

If you have a great deal of money to invest would you invest it in the US (The ratings agencies might be suspect) or in Europe where the US Treasury and the French Foreign Ministry is leaning on banks and large companies to avoid dealings with a long list of countries, with the spectre of asset seizure in the background.

We see words of wisdom coming from Jerusalem

Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week warned against forsaking Israeli diplomatic principles to gain favor with the Bush administration.

In statements made to Haaretz, Barak warned against a “withdrawal from Israeli principles that have stood for 40 years, merely to gain favor in the eyes of an American president who is leaving office in a year.”

Oh I do enjoy the joke. So will you be angry?

September 21st, 2007, 6:40 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear David (and other Neocon thinktankers),

Watch what you are doing these days.

When you are calling for measures designed to reverse Syria’s economic growth then you are fighting the Syrian people, not the Syrian regime. That would be a big strategic mistake. The united states made similar mistakes in the past and today, decades later, it continues to pay the price in the middle east.

Israel is also good at engaging in short term feel-good “winnable” confrontations that lead to long term disasters.

Despite the exceptionally negative feelings toward this administration, the Syrian people still admire the United States and they love American people and culture. American tourists who visit Syria are welcomed with a genuine smile. They are invited at people’s homes for dinner … You want to destroy a good thing instead of using it as a foundation to achieve constructive goals.

I suggest you ask foreign journalists who visited Syria … David Ignatius, or Thomas Friedman, or Diane Sawyer, ask them if the Syrian people like your strategy … they don’t. You are basically acting as an enemy of the Syrian people… and they really do not want to be your enemy.

There is a much better way … but you need to have the character and wisdom to be able to reverse a wrong decision… instead of trying harder and harder to make it work. It will never work.

Lebanon will not elect a new president who is a Syria hater. A majority of Lebanese people are never going to side with you against Syria. Nasrallah and the 40% Shiites are not Syria’s only allies .. there are Aoun Christain supporters, Karami Sunni supporters, Suleiman Frangieh supporters … and many other wise people like the most respectable Salim Hoss and those who listen to his advice. There is the most respected Lebanese leader, General Michel Suleiman who heads the Lebanese army .. he is a friend of Syria. There is the speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri … another Syria friend.

It is ironic that the United States is the country which is doing the most interference in Lebanese affairs these days. The Syrian president stopped discussing Lebanon few months ago if you did not realize it. Your administration is actively trying to steer Lebanon to its liking.

So it is not a battle between right and wrong … you are not on the side of right. It is a battle of relevance. A battle you will not win. Not in Lebanon … you can certainly win it in Canada if Syria ever tried to challenge your relevance there.

Lebanon is not YOUR neighbor.

A couple of months from now you will be sitting on your desk trying to think how you can escalate your anti-Syria tactics now that Lebanon failed to elect a president to your liking.

Your ego will be hurt even more… you will have no option but to start privately to lobby for economic boycott or war … against the Syrian people. The same way your initial war against Saddam Hussein (and his WMD’s!) led to hundreds of thousands of dead innocent Iraqis. Do you imagine what those numbers translate to in terms of the psychology of the children of those killed?

I assure you there will be no American companies doing business in the new Syria (post war) for decades… the Syrian people will buy Chinese and European products for the rest of their lives. And instead of having open borders with Israel, they will have the same negative feelings towards Israelis that Egyptians have today.

You know, those of us who work hard to find a way to reach a peaceful settlement in the Middle East are puzzled with people like you who work relentlessly for more conflicts … are you really evil or just limited by your foolish pride.

September 21st, 2007, 7:10 pm

 

Murphy said:

“It is a battle of relevance. A battle you will not win. Not in Lebanon … you can certainly win it in Canada if Syria ever tried to challenge your relevance there.”

A very good point. Reminds me of the moronic US complaints about Iran ‘interfering’ in Iraq. I mean, Iran couldn’t help ‘interfering’ in Iraq if it tried. Iran has hundreds of years of social, religious and cultural contact with Iraq, as neighbours do. Iran was there long before the US got it into its head to invade, and will be there long after they’re gone. The US is in a hopeless situation, trying to undo centuries of history and culture. Sure, it may win over the corrupt leaders, but it will not, and cannot, win over the people.

September 21st, 2007, 7:19 pm

 

bill b said:

In the last sentence of his offering, Mr. Schenker warns against Damascus undermining ”Washington’s hopes for the region”.

I submit he has no need to worry on that score. These ”hopes”, translated in deeds for all arabs to see, undermine themselves perfectly adequately. And they do so to such an extent, across a region where belief in the integrity of US intentions is no more than a bitter joke, that such little undermining as is forthcoming from Damascus is mere detail.

It remains mind-boggling that a person with his record continues to churn out 2003 slogans. But looking more closely at his previous employer, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me at all.

September 21st, 2007, 7:21 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, I see that you’re really upset with the Americans.
While on the human level, I totally understand your frustration and anger at the American policy, I believe Syria is wrong.

*********
“When you are calling for measures designed to reverse Syria’s economic growth then you are fighting the Syrian people, not the Syrian regime.”
*********

Well, if you want to destabilize a regime, one way of doing so is hurting the man on the street.
When daily life become hard, it make people think and channel some of their anger towards the leadership.

It can be a catalyst for either a regime change or a policy change.

“*********
“Israel is also good at engaging in short term feel-good “winnable” confrontations that lead to long term disasters.”
“*********

Thanks for the compliment.
It’s nice to know you’re appreciated in the region. 😉

“*********
“Despite the exceptionally negative feelings toward this administration, the Syrian people still admire the United States and they love American people and culture.”
“*********

Sure they do: everybody admire freedom values and everybody admire superpowers too.

I have a lot of respect towards the Chinese regime for their amazing accomplishments, although I detest their policies and the way they abuse the Chinese people.

There’s no need to ask for references on how great the Syrian people are from people who visited Syria.

I have no doubt that most Syrians are great, warm, peace loving and open minded people who just want to have good life.

Nobody ever claimed otherwise.

“*********
“There is a much better way … but you need to have the character and wisdom to be able to reverse a wrong decision… instead of trying harder and harder to make it work. It will never work.”
“*********

I could say the very same thing on Syria – word for word.
The ‘Syrian way of doing things’ didn’t bring Syria far, during the last decades.

Sometimes it can be extremely beneficial to press the ‘stop’ button and ask yourself: maybe we’re wrong?
Maybe we should consider a different strategy?
What results did our strategy provide in recent decades?
Why are we one of the most isolated countries in the world?

This is a hard and painful process.
Especially for a dictatorship that has ‘it’s way’ of doing things for decades.

Libya, after years of staying in the same mode, did this painful choices and I believe it benefited from it.

*********
“Lebanon will not elect a new president who is a Syria hater.”
*********

It’s like me saying “The Palestinians will not elect a new president who is an Israel hater.
How will the Arab world react to such a declaration?

*********
“Your ego will be hurt even more…”
*********

I could say the very same thing about you.
In fact, the Syrian ego is your biggest obstacle for decades now.

Let’s face it, the US is the #1 superpower on earth.
It’s far more beneficial to cooperate with it and be it’s ally, than being on its enemy list.

Look at what happened to Japan.
They started to bloom and to become an economic superpower after ‘losing’ to the US.
Maybe you should consider losing to the US too.

Your ‘winning formulas’ didn’t benefit the Syrian regime nor the Syrian people so far.

September 21st, 2007, 8:00 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Israeli guy, you are as smart as usual and you have a sarcastic and aggressive answer to everything. With such qualities, no wonder peace-loving and US-worshipping Israel is still surviving in the middle of underdevelopped war-mongering arabs.

September 21st, 2007, 8:57 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Well, that is Ojectivity Schenkermann style:

“Syria continues to support terrorism, destabilize Iraq, meddle in Lebanon, and develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile systems”

And Objectively enough; the solution is very straightforward:

“renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital”.

Well, one has really to admire the neo-cons singlemindedness and resolve.. Seven years of continuous blunders, and they still insist on staying the same successful course…

September 21st, 2007, 9:14 pm

 

Friend in America said:

Alex –
I agree about sanctions having a potential impact on all of society. They can be clumsy. The financial restrictions have less of a direct impact upon the people. But lifting up sanctions takes 2 hands. Are the demands of the UN Security Council that Syria turn to peaceful ways unreasonable? Which of the demands would Syria abide by in return for lifting or partial lifting of sanctions? I think the sanctions should be lifted. I think Syria can be the leader by setting the stage for lifting them.The U.N. leaders are not intractable.

I do not interpet David Schenker or his article as “working relentlessy for more conflict.” Let’s address the contents of the article. Each topic deals with a danger to peace. We may not like what he says but we all can ask ourselves is the reported action encouraging an atmosphere of peace? All who believe in peace who participate on this site can create an atmosphere here that fosters peace – peace among us. We can do our part. The first step is to stop the name calling and accusations and give everyone some respect. I just think the events in the middle east, especially in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, are too important to be bogged down by relentless name calling.These are wonderful countries populated by some wonderful people and we can honor them right here.

September 21st, 2007, 9:31 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

***********
“Israeli guy, you are as smart as usual and you have a sarcastic and aggressive answer to everything. With such qualities, no wonder peace-loving and US-worshipping Israel is still surviving in the middle of underdevelopped war-mongering arabs.”
***********

Well, thanks for the compliments, Why-Discuss.
You know me: IsraeliGuy is my name and Israeli aggression is my game.

But seriously, sometimes I can’t understand the Arabs.
I know there’s a genuine fear in the Arab world from being enslaved to the Americans.

Now look at us, the Israelis.
You could argue that we’re enslaved to the Americans for decades.

I mean let’s face it: Israel gets billions of Dollars in both monetary aid and in sophisticated weaponry.
The US supports Israel in any conceivable way for decades.

We have the US support in the int’l arena and at the UN.
We have true intimate friendship with both the American administration and with the American people since we also believe in common values.

I mean, Israel is America’s slave – isn’t it?
Well, as an official slave let me say that me and my fellow Israelis are probably the happiest slaves on this planet.

We live in a democracy, we have a great ally which is also a loving friend, we have a great economy and we do really well.

For me, it’s really odd to hear Arabs who live in dictatorships – and their #1 fear is?
To become “enslaved” to the Americans.

Yep, I’m sure it’s gonna be horrible to live in a democracy instead of in a dictatorship and have the US as your closest ally and friend.

September 21st, 2007, 9:44 pm

 

ausamaa said:

A MORE obvious Danger to Peace seems to be the political direction of the thinktank where Schenker excells in elaborating his anti-Arab and anti-Syria hallucinations. Why do they keep calling it The Washington Institute? Wouldnt the name : The Israel Institute be a more accurate description?

September 21st, 2007, 9:45 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy,

Your suggestion to try to be friends with the Americans is great!

Actually … Let me show you some nice photos! … they work better than typing pages and pages (which I already bored you with the past few days)

First, Here is a photo from my collection, of the first American diplomat to Syria … in 1859, way before Israel existed.

And while we are there, a photo of an American tourist in Syria in 1870

Now, let us move forward to 1974. Here is Syria’s strongman, Hafez Assad hosting President Nixon and Henry Kissinger in Damascus. If you read Kissinger’s books you would realize that he actually enjoyed Assad’s sense of humor and he found him to be very reasonable, even though he was a tough negotiator.

President Ford did not last long or show much interest in the Middle East. So let us look at the next one.

Here is a smiling and friendly Syrian President with President Carter. If you read Carter’s book you would realize that he really likes Syria and he liked President Assad. President Carter is a strong advocate of American cooperation with Syria.

Next, you have President Reagan … unlike Carter and Nixon, President Reagan had no clue about Syria, its capital, the mentality of its Alawite minority president … He asked his assistants: “Are the Syrians good guys or bad guys” … no one could give him a clear answer. So Reagan had nothing to do with Syria. We had eight years of total mess in the Middle east … boycotting Syria messes up the whole middle East … we learned that in 1980 to 1988 (remember them?), and we are learning it now.

Then Americans elected the very knowledgeable ex-CIA chief, President Bush Sr. He visited Assad and agreed with him on so many issues in the middle east. Syria joined the US coalition in 1991 that helped get rid of Saddam in Kuwait. It was probably Syria’s condition that President Bush Sr. promises that he will not enter Baghdad after Kuwait is liberated. Lebanon became stable and calm for over a decade … Syria was “managing it” with American blessing.

Then President Clinton continued his predecessor’s Syria policy. Late prime minister Rabin and Hafez Assad reached a Golan deal before your fanatics killed him. Again, read President Clinton’s book to see how Syria was very friendly and cooperative.

In 2000, we had a new president in the White house. His idol was not his knowledgeable father, but it was President Ronald Reagan … who defeated the evil Soviet empire by not negotiating with them! … do you get it now? .. someone convinced President Bush that the Syrians are evil, that he should not talk to them .. that if he boycotts them they will fall … because they are evil.

Right.

History repeats itself but no one is paying attention.

Syria has been trying really hard to be America’s friend … whenever there was a reasonable administration in Washington.

But what do you suggest we do when we have an administration that does not understand the middle east and does not understand the exeptionally complicated Syrian politics?

At what price should Syria work towards gaining approval from Washington?

One last thing, did you know that Colin Powell admitted in an interview this year that Bashar actually did offer to help the United States in many ways but it there was a decision taken in Washington to not cooperate with the Syrians? … This administration offered Syria nothing … surrender or else.

No thank you. We will simply wait for the next administration … after 8 years of Reagan we had 12 years of Clinton and Bush Sr.

Wait and see.

September 22nd, 2007, 12:06 am

 

why-discuss said:

Israeli guy

You don’t have oil or ressources that the US would want to exploit on the cheap, you have an educated majority and you have a powerful lobby in the US who manages to have all your bad deeds forgiven. Israel has also for her the strong guilt feeling of the europan countries because of the Holocaust they have perpetrated on the jews and centuries of discrimination.
You are a strong, and faithful client to the US and they respect you and pamper you. You use them more than they use you.

In Israel, you have a “special” democracy because you simply dominate all other ethnic groups by not allowing them enough power to destabilize the jewish base of your society and this recipe seems to work, at least for the time.
None of this is in arab countries. Instead of guilt feelings for the colonization and the shameful exploitation ( see Algeria, Libya etc..) most Europeans countries have only comtempt for these under- developped countries ( Libyans were not allowed to go to school during the Italian colonization)
Please remember what the US did in south america, how they supported dictatorships in countries where they could plunder the ressources by corrupting the leaders.. Remember the CIA coup against Mossadegh in Iran when there was an emerging democracy.
The middle east does not have as good experiences with the US as you do!
Please also note that the two arab countries that sign a peace treaty with the US ( Egypt and Jordan) have no resources interesting to the US, except that Egypt has a population that can become consumers of US goods. This is what is happenning there, poverty has reached incredible level and a few millionaires and corrupted governement officials are making use of the billions that the US is sending and pushing the man in the street into islamic extremism: Not a particularly good example of being friend with the US..
It is well known that US priority now is OIL so they will do all they can to be able to get that on the cheap and they are finding it more and more difficult. Oil is not in Israel, it is in the arab countries and Iran. This area is strategic to the US economy, they never liked democracy there, it could turn against them… it is too complicated and dangerous to deal with (see Irak), dictatorship is so much easier to corrupt…
I wonder how happenned they have not been able to corrupt Syria that is considered by the US as a “corrupted dictatorship”

September 22nd, 2007, 12:53 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Yuk…I can’t even finish that Shanker article.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:00 am

 

Alex said:

Friend in America,

“Are the demands of the UN Security Council that Syria turn to peaceful ways unreasonable?”

What do you call Syria’s hosting of 1.5 million Iraqi refugees compared to the 7000 that America is taking? … hostile?

Politics will not turn clean overnight, not in the Middle East. Everyone is doing bad things sometimes. Even if we believe the claims (and I do not believe them) … Syria killed a dozen Lebanese politicians? … Israel killed 1400 Lebanese civilians and there was no UNSC demands. Someone started a very optional war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and there were no UNSC demands.

So, if “they” are using their power to make the UNSC act against Syria … then the question is not about good and bad. It is about power. Which brings me to the second question that Israeliguy asked: Can Syria oppose the United States and get away with it?

I agree it would be stupid to oppose the United States. But with all due respect, we know the Middle East and we know Syria better than anyone else few thousand miles away. They are about to destroy the rest of the Middle East. Opposing them is less painful than living with their mistakes.

Syria was the only Arab country to oppose the Iraq war and to warn against its disastrous outcome… when President Bush was declaring “mission accomplished” and when his strategists were busy designing the new Iraqi flag, Syria was warning you that it is far from over… everyone laughed at Damascus.

Syria was the only Arab country to always oppose Saddam Hussein and to warn everyone that he is a threat to the area. America and its moderate Arab allies were giving Saddam weapons and money.

Syria was the only Arab country to predict that the Oslo agreement, the road map,and other useless US initiatives are all going to fail if they do not go for a comprehensive solution.

Then today, Syria is asked to abide by the strategies of those who made all the mistakes and caused most of the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Why?

September 22nd, 2007, 1:28 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Strange – I tried to post a comment and it didn’t work.
Trying again.

Why-Discuss, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say, I find your comments interesting – so thanks!

Alex, thank you for the visual walk through history lane.
It’s unbelievable that you have such antique photos, so thank you for sharing them with me.

I read your reply with great interest.
The bottom line which screams out of your text is: “Why The Hell Don’t They Understand Us??????!!!”

Alex, although Israel and Syria are enemies, I understand your frustration very much.
There were times where Israel was pretty isolated too, so I know what you’re talking about.

Let me tell you what I think is one of your biggest problems.
Naturally, it’s your full right to accept or reject anything I’ll say.

I believe that during the last decades, Syria had the following way of thinking:

“We are Syria and we do things the Syrian way.
We will never do anything in a non Syrian way and if anybody wants anything from us – it’s either gonna be Syria’s way or no way.

The entire world will have to adapt to Syria’s complexities and we will never adapt to anybody else.”

You have every right to choose ‘your way’, but as you can guess, it has consequences.
Often, when you choose the “My Way or No Way” approach, you’re being left with ‘no way’.

One of Israel’s recipes for success was it’s flexibility with foreign countries.
We knew how to let go on certain issues to gain the things that really mattered to us.

We were not afraid to take risks from time to time, even if the prospects didn’t look great and even if nothing could be guaranteed ahead.

Naturally, as Syrians, you have pride and (god forbid) ego, but so does George W. Bush.

I believe that Syria has unrealistic expectations.
It wants to have a dialogue with the US from an equal stand, but the sooner you’ll accept the fact that the US is a superpower and you’re not – the better (for you).

You’re not the only one who wants respect and when you undermine the US wherever you can, you just antagonize them further.

You can’t win in this arm twisting.
Sure, you can generate some sympathy for Bashar in the Middle East for standing up to Bush, but it will hurt you in the long run.

I think you lack the ability to stand up and look in the mirror and say ‘I was wrong’.

I’m truly sorry for you, because it’s pretty obvious that sooner or later there will be a huge regional war (probably the biggest ever) and you may find yourself in a very difficult spot.

But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:49 am

 

Bashmann said:

Alex, get off your high horse and admit you are defending a dictator. I’m Syrian born and bred but I would not for a minute overshadow my moral clarity with such non-sense writing about past American Presidents who liked the benevolent dictator Hafez Assad.

Stalin sat at the same table with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Yalta Conference. In admiration, Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary noted:

“Marshal Stalin as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all. Indeed, after something like thirty years’ experience of international conferences of one kind and another, if I had to pick a team for going into a conference room, Stalin would be my first choice. Of course the man was ruthless and of course he knew his purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed, he was seldom even irritated.”

Many despots make great companions yet that do not change the fact of what they REALLY are.

I’m a bit disappointed with Professor Joshua limited coverage of the latest NSF conference for the Syrian Opposition in Berlin on this blog. I attended the conference and I can sincerely say that the opposition is strong and growing by the day and will continue its struggle to bring peaceful change into Syria.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:53 am

 

Alex said:

Bashman,
I’m sorry to tell you that Bashar is not Stalin.

I know he inherited the job from his father… but … so did this darling of America who is leading Lebanon, and who said: “I warn those who criticize Seniora, you are criticizing me personally” … indicating he is superior to the prime minister of Lebanon.

And while we are here, look at the rest of the Lebanese leaders and their predecessors .. they look similar, no?

OF course Syria is not a democracy, and of course Bashar is not perfect … but I’ll take Bashar anytime over the clowns.

Israeliguy,

You are partially right … I agree that Syria is too stubborn sometimes … like when Farouk Sharaa refused to shake the hands of Prime minister Barak when they negotiated (Clinton’s time). And I also wish Bashar would accept to be interviewed by Israeli journalists (the moderate ones) .. but the Syrians are not that flexible.

However, I don’t see where “the Syrian way” was wrong at the strategic level. I can debate you on this until tomorrow if you like : )

Actually I will go to a late dinner now. Will be back in few hours.

Cheers.

One other thing, we got used to being boycotted, just like you in Israel got used to it. I am arguing here against war .. not against Syria’s isolation. Let them isolate us as much as they want.

September 22nd, 2007, 2:43 am

 

Enlightened said:

Israeli Guy:

Alex is extremely patriotic he will defend Syria until the angels take away his final breath, he is extremely patriotic, and loves his country, much the same way that any Jew or Zionist has that unswerving love that knows no bounds for Israel.

There is nothing wrong with this, nothing at all, the danger however for all of us, and I include you in this is that we need to draw a moral line in the sand and call a spade a spade when we see it. Your pragmatic answer to Alex about the reality on the ground in Syrias position is pragmatic enough, however I think you fail to understand the Nationalist Psyche of a person like Alex. The realities are realities regarding the USA, but the track record of the US’s policy since the last World war does not wash well with any arab, whether living in the mid East or those among us living in exile.

The only bit in your argument I agree with is that Syria has unrealistic expectations, and its leadership are not reading the winds of change, since the death of its last dictator.

In regards to your regional war on the last posted thread I posted some ideas on how it might be fought, you didnt respond!

September 22nd, 2007, 2:58 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, I can sense that you’re a good person with a good cause, but either way I look at it, a war is on the way.

It’s going to happen regardless of the latest IDF attack in Syria.

During the next 2 years (probably much sooner), either the US or Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear facilities.

I have 0 doubts about it.

When it will happen, Iran will respond as hard as it can against Israel, the US or both (against Israel for sure).

When this will happen, Syria and Lebanon (by Hizbollah) will join the fight and they’ll try keep Israel busy on as many fronts as possible.

Ahmadinejad didn’t invest so much money in Syria so Assad will watch the war on Al Jazeera.
Same thing applies to Nassrallah.

It looks like it’s gonna be the mother of all wars and I believe Bush will not stop until he’ll make Assad pay for everything he put him through.

It’s a pity, because I believe Syria could find ways to work things out with Bush.

September 22nd, 2007, 3:07 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Enlightened, I know Alex is very patriotic and I can certainly respect that.
It’s totally natural for a person to love his country and wish for its success.

Regarding your post, would you mind referring me to it?

Thanks!

September 22nd, 2007, 3:22 am

 

norman said:

Search: Salon The Web Site Presented By
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Glenn Greenwald
Friday September 21, 2007 05:14 EST
Giuliani’s proposal for endless Middle East wars on behalf of Israel
In London this week, Rudy Giuliani proposed what is probably the single most extremist policy of any major presidential candidate, certainly this year and perhaps in many years:

Rudy Giuliani talked tough on Iran yesterday, proposing to expand NATO to include Israel and warning that if Iran’s leaders go ahead with their goal to be a nuclear power “we will prevent it, or we will set them back five or 10 years.” . . . .

While Giuliani did not explicitly address the implications for Iran of adding Israel to NATO in his speech, his aides later highlighted a 2006 Heritage Foundation paper by Nile Gardiner, a former Thatcher aide who was announced as a new Giuliani adviser yesterday.

That step would “leave the mullahs with no illusions about the West’s determination to respond to Iran’s strategic threat to the region,” Gardiner wrote. “Any nuclear or conventional attack on Israel, be it direct or through proxies such as Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, would be met by a cataclysmic response from the West.”

Adding Israel to NATO has been opposed by France and some other European nations in the past, largely because it would entangle the alliance in the Middle East.

Like most countries, Israel deems all of its wars to be defensive wars in response to threats. So Rudy Giuliani, as President, would in essence deem any war in which Israel is involved to be, by definition, a war on the U.S., and would use American resources and lives to become involved in any such war and fight on behalf of Israel. Shouldn’t the fact that the leading GOP candidate for President believes such a thing be the source of a bit more discussion? Other than John Edwards’ views regarding haircuts, is there any major presidential candidate who has espoused a view anywhere near this radical or controversial?

Israel has been involved, and will continue to be involved, in an endless series of wars with its neighbors over matters having nothing to do with U.S. interests. As Matt Yglesias noted, Guiliani’s policy would, among many other things, “commit[] the United States to the armed defense of the borders of a country that lacks internationally recognized borders.” A Giuliani presidency would mean that we would be almost immediately deemed to be at war with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. It is hard to imagine a more certain and rapid guarantee of endless American wars in the Middle East than this.

In a rational world, Giuliani’s proposal would be a major controversy, and the other presidential candidates — Republican and Democrat alike — would be loudly pointing to this extremist view to harm the Giuliani campaign. After all, if Americans are asked: “Do you think the U.S. should fight in any wars that Israel fights?” or “do you believe the U.S. should consider any attack on Israel to be an attack on the U.S.?”, is there really any doubt what the views of most Americans would be? Giuliani’s desire to commit the U.S. military to fighting in any Israeli wars is obviously a fringe position — the type that normally harms presidential candidates greatly.

During the Israel-Hezbollah war last summer — even with virtually no significant political figures criticizing the Bush administration for involving itself so blatantly in supporting Israel’s war effort — the vast majority of Americans wanted the U.S. to stay out of that war. A Washington Post poll found that a plurality (46%) blamed “both sides equally” (Israel and Hezbollah) for the war; a plurality (48%) believed that Israel’s claimed “bombing [of] rocket launchers and other Hezbollah targets located in civilian areas” was “not justified”; and a solid majority (54-38%) said Israel “should do more to try to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon.”

More importantly, while large majorities favored the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces to Lebanon, a large majority (59-38%) opposed having U.S. troops involved in that force. More significantly still was this finding from an August, 2006 CBS News/New York Times poll:

“Do you think the U.S. has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, or is that not the U.S.’ business?”

Has responsibility – 39%

Not the U.S.’ business – 56%

Not sure – 5%

That large majority is opposed merely to America’s efforts to broker a resolution, let alone to an American commitment, as Giuliani proposes, to fight in every war that Israel fights with its neighbors. A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken at the same time found:
In the current conflict, do you think the United States should take Israel’s side, take the side of Hezbollah, or not take either side?

Israel’s – 31%

Hezbollah’s – 0%

Neither – 65%

As always, it is worth underscoring how lopsided American public opinion is on these questions even though there is virtually no significant American politician who was or is willing to criticize Israel’s actions in Lebanon, and equally few who were willing to argue that U.S. support for Israel is excessive. With Americans now even more overwhelmingly against ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq than they were back then, these numbers are almost certainly even more imbalanced against increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

Plainly, the last thing most Americans want is for the U.S. to expand its involvement in Middle East wars, particularly when doing so is on behalf of the interests not of the U.S., but of another country. Yet here is Giuliani advocating that we do exactly that — embrace an obviously radical strategy opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, likely vehemently opposed — and the silence is deafening.

Of course, none of Giuliani’s extremism on this issue should be surprising, given that his senior foreign policy advisor is Norman Podhoretz, whose life has been devoted to trying to induce the U.S. to wage war against any country hostile to Israel. Podhoretz was one of the signatories on the 2002 PNAC letter to President Bush which declared that “No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy” and — listing Iraq, Iran and Syria, among others — argued that “Israel is fighting the same war.” Podhoretz currently “prays” that the U.S. bomb Iran.

This idea of Israel joining NATO is even a fringe idea in Israel, where it has been pushed primarily by Israeli super-hawk, Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, consistent with his own self-described mission: “Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem.” And by “tough approach,” he does not mean diplomacy: “The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea.”

In some sense, one can welcome Giuliani’s explicit advocacy that we view all of Israel’s enemies as, by definition, enemies of the U.S. Virtually all of the swirling war dances towards Iran are rooted in this belief, but advocates of war with Iran are too dishonest to acknowledge it openly. In his Washington Post column this morning, for instance, Charles Krauthammer — long an advocate of war with Iran — listed the four specific crimes that allegedly demonstrate that Iran is our Enemy (“our” meaning the United States):

(1) Hamas launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages across the border from the Gaza Strip. Its intention is to invite an Israeli reaction, preferably a bloody and telegenic ground assault.

(2) Hezbollah heavily rearmed with Iranian rockets transshipped through Syria and preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The third Lebanon war, now inevitable, awaits only Tehran’s order.

(3) Syria, Iran’s only Arab client state, building up forces across the Golan Heights frontier with Israel. And on Wednesday, yet another anti-Syrian member of Lebanon’s parliament was killed in a massive car bombing.

(4) The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Of the four crimes in the Bill of Particulars against Iran, only one has anything even ostensibly to do with the U.S., and that is composed of highly dubious claims (arming the Taliban) and ones which hardly demonstrate its Evil (they are interfering in a neighboring country of theirs which we invaded and are occupying with 160,000 soldiers). As Krauthammer’s column illuminates, for those salivating for an American war with Iran, the case is grounded overwhelmingly in the Giuliani View — that the U.S. should use its resources and lives to wage war against any country hostile to Israel.

Why do Giuliani and Krauthammer and friends feel so free to advocate a plainly fringe position of Endless War on behalf of Israel? Usually, political advocates, and particularly presidential candidates, avoid such positions like the plague. Here, it is because no political figure can possibly oppose this view, at least not explicitly. Is it even possible to imagine a presidential candidate objecting to the view that the U.S. should consider Israel’s enemies to be enemies of the U.S., even though vast majorities of Americans share that objection?

As is true for Iraq, it is so striking how little public opinion matters when it comes to formulating American policy. What accounts for the complete unwillingess of any presidential candidate to seize on Giuliani’s extremist and fringe position? The neoconservative New York Sun — not Mearsheimer and Walt in their important, richly documented and now NYT-Best-Selling new book, but The New York Sun — provided an answer recently:

It [an AIPAC dinner] is also an important illustration of just how much stock all of the presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, will put in the pro-Israel community, particularly for campaign dollars. . . . .

A Democratic political consultant who worked on President Clinton’s re-election campaign, Hank Sheinkopf, noted that the Aipac dinner always draws a parade of politicians.

“New York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community,” he said. “If you’re running for president and you want dollars from that group, you need to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most to them.”

And, of course, mentioning any of this subjects one to a cascade of predictable and transparently exploitive though still nasty accusations of anti-semitism, and what presidential candidate would possibly want that? And thus Rudy Giuliani can propose a policy that is incomparably dangerous and intensely unpopular, yet know that his doing so will result in no political price being paid.

Now that we are occupying two Middle Eastern countries, with a broken military, and are threatening imminent war with at least another one, isn’t it long past time to have the discussion about the extent to which the U.S. is willing to wage war on behalf of Israel’s interests? Do Americans really think that Iranian hostility towards Israel or its support for “terrorists groups” that are hostile to Israel are grounds for declaring Iran to be our Enemy or waging war against them? If so, then let proponents of war with Iran make that case expressly. And for the rest of the presidential campaign, shouldn’t Giuliani’s desire to involve the U.S. military in every war Israel fights be a rather central feature in discussions of his potential presidency?

— Glenn Greenwald

September 22nd, 2007, 3:57 am

 

Enlightened said:

Josh’s post: Lebanese elections going up in Smoke, comments

September 22nd, 2007, 3:59 am

 

norman said:

Now we know who killed Ghanem

جنبلاط: إذا كان هناك من مبادرة فقد تم نسفها باغتيال غانم

September 22nd, 2007, 4:07 am

 

Enlightened said:

Norman Translate it for those who don’t read arabic!

September 22nd, 2007, 4:27 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one ,
Jumblat : If there were a move to reach an agreement , Killing Ghanem blew it away .

I think Jumblat who did not want an agreement to be reached is behind this killing. At least that is what i understand.

September 22nd, 2007, 4:39 am

 

Enlightened said:

LOL Norman;

Its like Saying Syria did it! Theres no proof, and there has been no serious attempt to find the Killers, hence we can all speculate!

September 22nd, 2007, 5:16 am

 

ausamaa said:

Ahhhhh…, since they got tired of accusing Syria of each and every assasination in Lebanon, it is now time to immediately and lightly dismiss ANY Other suspect or obvious benificiary like Jumblat by saying :

Come on, There is No Proof

Not complaining; merely remarking!!!!!

September 22nd, 2007, 6:39 am

 

Lysander said:

@ IsraeliGuy;
“I believe that Syria has unrealistic expectations.
It wants to have a dialogue with the US from an equal stand, but the sooner you’ll accept the fact that the US is a superpower and you’re not – the better (for you).”

Greeting, I’m new to the board. Just felt like making a few comments on that last statement.

1) The statement that its better for Syria to ‘cooperate’ or else, just sounds like something a mafia enforcer would say. It certainly isn’t the words of a reasonable man seeking good faith diplomacy.

2) Appeals to realpolitik could have been…and were…easily made in 1940-41. Germany is the dominant power, its in your own interest to cooperate.

3) I really can’t imagine a stronger example of cooperation than that of Saddam Husein in 2002-3. He was ordered to provide a list of his former WMD and he did, to allow inspectors back in and he did, to allow interviews with his scientists and he did. To allow his scientists with their families to emigrate so as to be interrogated free of fear and he did (though no country would accept so many immigrants) In the last few days, he was even destroying his short range missiles. All his cooperation left him dead and his country destroyed. Syria needs to keep that in mind when others advise it to “cooperate” which I’ve taken to mean “stand still so we can more easily kill you”

4) I don’t think the strategic situation is as favorable to the U.S./Israel as you think it is; This is not the first time the “who will control Lebanon” game has been played. In 1982, Syria suffered a terrible military defeat, Israel installed its Phalangist allies in power and…within a few years, it was all up in smoke. Syria was back, Israel was out. Why do you think it will be different this time? Interestingly, The U.S. and Iran are playing the Israel vs Syria game over the Iraqi Lebanon. Iran won in April of 2003. Its only a matter of time before that reality sinks in in Washington.

5) Don’t be so sure about a U.S. attack on Iran. Nobody in the U.S. military wants it. For all the analogies between 2002 and today, you simply don’t see any of Bush’s old dash and swagger. You haven’t heard him say “stop those centrifuges, or we will stop them for you.” Truthfully, if the U.S. was going to attack Iran, it would have done so by now, like in 2004 before the Army was exhausted, when oil was ‘only’ $50 instead of 80, and before Russia and China had the self-confidence to challenge the U.S.

But, as you say, we can all be wrong.

Best wishes on your holiday season.

September 22nd, 2007, 7:09 am

 

Frank al Irlandi said:

I suspect Israeli Guy may have done a disservice to his cause.

The Arab world suspects that Israel is an American colony in the Middle East with a foot in the door role. Nizzar Qabbani captures this sentiment in his poem Posters “You will not do to us what you did to the Native Americans”

By pointing out the amount of support that results in Israeli citizens having twice the per capita income than a Saudi citizen, Israeli guy only increases the suspicion. There is a Faustian pact associated with accepting a comfortable lifesyle in exchange for your identity.

One of the consequences is the invasion of the Global Brands. The abiding image that remains with me of University of Joran is the despoiling of the local character of the place by the existence of Macdonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King right opposite the main gate.

It offends me just as much as Disneyland Paris does, as it must be the only place in France that doesn’t show a tricolour. It symbolises a lot for me by feeling the need to build a plastic castle in a land full of real ones.

My first insight into Damascus was “No Macdonalds, no KFC”

Simon Peres says on his blog

While lacking in natural resources, such as oil, Israel is the epitome of wealth in terms of human resources. The income, per capita, of an Israeli, is double that of a Saudi citizen. That is, mostly, owing to our advancement in civil and security-oriented, first-rate technologies.

However this wealth does not apply to the unfortunate Palestinians particularly those trapped in Gaza, or these days to the unfortunate Iraqi refugees.

I think it is down to us Europeans to help lift the GDP levels in Syria and other countries of the Middle East to Israeli levels, which is why I disagree quite strongly with Mr Schenker and support the EU efforts particularly of Germany to normalise relations between EU and Syria, and keep the air routes to Damascus International open.

September 22nd, 2007, 9:13 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Lysander, first – welcome to this blog.
I’m pretty new myself.

I didn’t say that Syrian officials should wait to the American envoy in the airport with their hands up in the air, waving a white flag.

But I also think that constantly resisting and undermining the US is something that they will not benefit from.

It’s far more beneficial to be America’s partner than America’s foe – even if it involves some deep compromises.
We can learn from a country which is far more religious than Syria: Pakistan.

Pervez Musharraf made his choice.
I’m not saying it was easy nor fun, but I think he made the right one and I believe that today, he feels so too.

Regarding Iraq, it’s pretty obvious that it was mismanaged.
It’s not that I’m sorry for the fall of Saddam, but I’m sure sorry for the fall of so many US soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

I couldn’t understand your ‘I don’t think the strategic situation is as favorable to the U.S./Israel’ – please elaborate.

I didn’t say I was sure about a U.S. attack on Iran.
I said either the US or Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear facilities.

The part I’m sure of is of an Israeli attack (in case the Americans won’t do it).

Thanks for your greetings 🙂

Enlightened, feel free to check my reply.

September 22nd, 2007, 11:29 am

 

why-discuss said:

Israeli guy

I am not sure your example of Pakistan is good. It looks that Parvez Musharaf’s control of the situation is very shaky and the help of the US may not be beneficial as it is mostly limited to military support. I worry he may get the same destiny Iran’s Shah and Pakistan becoming an islamic state like Saudi Arabia.
Contrary to you, I am sure Israel will not dare to attack Iran, even if the US doesnt do it, unless the IAEA declares that Iran is going nuclear for weapons purpose. They have not said that yet.
The consequences of Israel attack on Iran will be devastating for Israel and after the failure of the 2006 war in Lebanon, I am not sure they want another catastrophy falling on Israelis’ head.
In addition, they will be blamed by the UN, but this , I know, have no dissuasive effect on Israel as usual.. in the contrary

September 22nd, 2007, 12:47 pm

 

Observer said:

The article by Mr. Schenker speaks volumes about the US as much as it does about Syria. After Vietnam, the US restored its world dominance by confronting the Soviet “threat” and bleeding it in Afghanistan. It engages in micro militarism such as Granada and Panama to “shock and awe” both friend and foe alike. It plays on the fear that the Europeans have of the Muslim immigrants coming to their shores and gives the spoils of its military adventures to its submissive partners ( Total in Darfur and in South Iraq ). It desperately wants to remain the “indispensable” power when whole regions in the world are moving into the post cold war era full steam ahead. The psychological impact of 9/11 coincided with the presence in this administration of the authors of the “project for the new American century” and I would argue that this resulted in increasing the entrenchment of the imperialist tendency of the US in this world. The US is now faced with the prosespect of failure in the ME, as the “shock and awe” has been replaced by “Haditha, Falluja, Abu Ghraid, and Blackwater”. The world sees that the US is engaged in a fundamental debate with one faction arguing for ever more Empire building and the other essentially arguing for preserving the Republic while managing the decline of the Empire. The US if it choses the former will decline even further and more rapidly as it finds itself mired in Iraq, stretched to the limit all over the globe, unable to control allies and foes alike. Take the resignation of Abe in Japan: this leaves the US for the first since 1945 with a new situation where the opposition will have a say in foreign policy such as stopping refueling US ships of the 5th fleet for free as Abe has been doing so far. Or take the formation of the Asian Cooperation Council that includes Russia and China and the countries of SE Asia while excluding Australia, Japan, and the US. All the members of the club are oil and gas producers and are cooperating to create a land based distribution system that is not amenable to interference from the US navy. I have never seen the US house more divided for a very long time. I did not experience the divisions that happened in Vietnam, but this country is divided, unsure of its role in the world, afraid of the eclipse of its relevance, anxious about the effect of globalization, aware deep down inside that the free market economy “a l’Americaine” is incompatible with life on earth as we know it, and paralyzed on how to mobilize the oblivious population at large to face the tough challenges ahead. For the US to be worried on how to subdue Syria after the collapse of the Soviet Union is truly telling.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:15 pm

 

ausamaa said:

The US real problem this time is that it is facing something its white house occupants today are not accustomed to or familiar to dealing with in this area: It is Called: Syria, regime, people and a defiance by both to its stupid policies which it is ( the White House) unable to understand or digest. But it will, in its own good time. It happened before in other areas.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:27 pm

 

t_desco said:

La scène du crime a été laissée à la curiosité des badauds, déplorent les experts de l’ONU

Trois jours après l’assassinat du député Antoine Ghanem, l’enquête se poursuit sur la scène du crime.
Une équipe d’experts hollandais affiliée à la commission d’enquête internationale a visité le lieu de l’attentat, à la demande du gouvernement. Les enquêteurs ont prélevé plusieurs échantillons afin de déterminer le type et la quantité des matières explosives utilisées dans l’attentat, ainsi que leur pays de fabrication.

Les enquêteurs se sont étonnés du fait que la scène du crime n’ait pas été préservée de la curiosité de la population civile, des militaires et des journalistes, d’autant que des débris humains sont encore visibles à l’œil nu sur le lieu de l’attentat. Un expert international a déploré l’attitude des forces de l’ordre qui n’auraient pas respecté les normes minimales de l’enquête pénale.
Par ailleurs, une source a indiqué à l’agence al-Markaziya que les forces de l’ordre continuent à visionner plus de trente enregistrements vidéo, filmés aux alentours du lieu de l’explosion, et le long de la trajectoire suivie par Antoine Ghanem avant son assassinat, depuis sa résidence à Koleyate et jusqu’au bureau de l’avocat Samir Chebli, en passant par la localité de Raouda.
Cette source a également affirmé que les enquêteurs libanais ont reconnu plusieurs personnes qui étaient présentes sur le lieu de l’attentat, et tentent de procéder à un montage de plusieurs enregistrements pour établir une image complète de leurs visages.

L’Orient-Le Jour

September 22nd, 2007, 1:44 pm

 

Murphy said:

“But I also think that constantly resisting and undermining the US is something that they will not benefit from.”

I hardly think it’s true that Syria has been “constantly resisting and undermining the US”. After all, they voted for the Iraq weapons inspections Resolution back in 2002, alienating many around the Arab world by so doing. They also took in 1.5 million refugees from America’s failed war, and offered security co-operation with the US post 9-11. Hey, they even offered torture services for the Americans!

Sure, there have been other instances when Syrian behaviour has not been to the liking of the US, but the fact is that in 2002-3, the Syrians were quite ready to extend the olive branch to the US. The Americans, full of the imperial hubris which led to the Iraq fiasco
snubbed them. Right now the US is in a quagmire in Iraq and has actually got very little leverage with Syria, as the neo-con in the OP is grudgingly forced to admit.

The reality is, the US will accept nothing but abject surrender from any Arab country, or from Iran. A relationship based on mutual respect is out of the question. Unfortunately for the US, however, Syria right now is nowhere near the point of surrender.

September 22nd, 2007, 1:53 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Would someone please remind me of what Bashar’s re-election platform was this summer?

In other words, what is our objective as a nation? What is the metric by which we are going to measure our success and failure as a nation over say the next seven years? What is it exactly that our leadership is trying to achieve on behalf of 20 million people?

September 22nd, 2007, 3:16 pm

 

Rev. Mike Nahas said:

Alex, I loved your arguments and photo album. really! Israel Guy, I’m quite short of time today. Good Yom Kippur. But my beef with Israel is that occupation of Syria. Come on, what did you expect Syria to do or act? You guys have unqualified support from the US, as you said, in all areas. Syrian people are very friendly to the west, but they were thrown on the hands of the Soviets, for absolute lack of alternatives. You know, that according to M. Dayan’s confession, Syria was brought into the war with Israel due to land grabing aspirations of the Kibutzim in 67.
What would you have done? I can tell you what Israel did, Hagannah, Irgum, Stern, bombing of King David hotel. Does this ring a bell?

I personally think Syria is the only almost on equal foot, at least potential partner to Israel in the whole region, with some economical and cultural potential. I also think that Alawites in power are God sent to Syria. Can you imagine Muslim Brotherhood in power?

Again, Syria is being thrown in the hands of Persians (Check your Ketubhim, in your Tannak) The fall of the Northern kingom. As Kohelet says, “Nothing is new under the sun”.

And all that, why? Because there is a simbiosis between America Jews, Evangelical nut cases, US weaponry industry, and those in your country who want to continue to have money flowing to Eretz for free. But you’re paying with your soul, your integrity, you possible Shalom!

I find it plain stupid, Barak is right! The way it is been done even the Hassidic rationale for anti-zionism ends up being right too.

What if we all atone in this Yom Kippur indeed?

Just some food for thought, from a Christian Brazilian Protestant minister, grand son of Syrian Christian exilees.

rev. Mike Nahas
Bedford, QC

September 22nd, 2007, 3:24 pm

 

Lysander said:

Israeli Guy; “I couldn’t understand your ‘I don’t think the strategic situation is as favorable to the U.S./Israel’ – please elaborate.”

Well, though I’m not Lebanese, it seems to me that the opposition has managed to shut down the government through mass protests and the government has not generated much counter protest. I take that to mean the Hizbullah-Michel Aoun opposition has much more public support than Seniora-Hariri. The oppo can keep things shut down until the next parliamentary elections which they would likely win. If you have any doubts, just recall that Amin Gemayel lost the election for the seat of his assassinated son. (in a pro government district IIRC)

Indeed, without U.S. pressure on him, Seniora would have cut a deal with the opposition long ago, because he understands the situation above.

I referenced the last time Israel tried to wrest control of Lebanon from Syria because its instructive. Last time Israel and the U.S. had all the advantages. Israel was flush from a military victory against Syria, enjoying the full backing of the U.S., even with American troops and the expulsion of the PLO. In addition, it had a civil war in which to play divide and conquer and no indigenous Lebanese resistance. Despite all this, Lebanon slipped through Israel’s fingers and fell back into Syria’s hands in just a few years.

By comparison, your advantages today consist of Seniora and Hariri. There is no civil war (knock on wood) and any repeat invasion or occupation of Lebanon will be too costly. So all you can do is watch the oppo run out the clock until the next election. If you have another plan, I’d like to hear it.

Israel might indeed attack Iran but that wont lead to the catastrophe for Syria you alluded to in your previous post. I have no doubt Israeli planes can fly to Iran, drop some bombs and fly home. Then what? Assuming Iran mounts no military response or only a symbolic one (most likely in my view) they will just rally the public, seize the opportunity to withdraw from NPT and restart their program without the nuisance of inspectors. I don’t think Iran is frightened by an Israeli attack at all. In fact, the holocaust conference last year was almost certainly meant to provoke one. Iran will certainly survive and if Syria didn’t retaliate against a strike on its own soil, why would they worry so much about an Attack on Iran?

Thanx for your reply. I’m always happy to be informed.

September 22nd, 2007, 4:36 pm

 

Observer said:

Ehsani 2: I love your comments. I like you live in the West and I presume you live in the US. It is interesting to see how the mind set is different when you are in a society driven by perførmance metrics. Myself I have to meet with my subørdinates to discuss their yearly objectives and I meet with the chair of the department to discuss the plans of the division for the next one three and five years. This system in my opinion measures the person for what the person is and not whø he/she is. In Syria, the society in general and the regime being part of it has one objective: discuss what is being cooked for dinner and how to survive another day while counting how much money we have in the mattress and whether it is time tø switch to gøld or euros. The only regime that has a short and a long term plan is the Iranian one. In the 1980 era realizing how an arms embargo could let a third rate army such that of Saddam inflict losses on the country they decided to becøme self sufficient and they did. Syria is simply following their model and advise. In that the regime has shown a remarkable ability to adapt and to adopt whatever is needed to secure its future. For all that Syria is døing look at how Iran is teaching it. There is no need to have plan as such. The regime has one and only one objective to which the majority of Syrians adhere to: stability in the face of the turmoil in the region. It has the full support of the majority of the people despite all of its shortcomings.

September 22nd, 2007, 5:30 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

************
“I am not sure your example of Pakistan is good. It looks that Parvez Musharaf’s control of the situation is very shaky and the help of the US may not be beneficial as it is mostly limited to military support. I worry he may get the same destiny Iran’s Shah and Pakistan becoming an islamic state like Saudi Arabia.”
************

Why-Discuss, people who become country leaders by military coups will always be sitting on a rocky chair.

Musharaf decided to cooperate with the US after 9/11.
So far, he’s still in power, although under such conditions, who knows what tomorrow brings.

Dictators never have any insurance policy that they’ll rule forever.
They overthrow other leaders and other leaders can overthrow them.

No doubt it’s one of the riskiest jobs out there 😉

************
“Contrary to you, I am sure Israel will not dare to attack Iran, even if the US doesnt do it, unless the IAEA declares that Iran is going nuclear for weapons purpose. They have not said that yet.”
************

IAEA has no meaning to Israel.
Israel will not base it decision on IAEA ‘findings’ .

It has zero trust in Dr. El-Baradei and nobody in Jerusalem will base any decision on IAEA information, declaration, ‘findings’ , etc.

Israel counts only on its own intelligence and it’s not going to take risks, in case the IAEA is dead wrong.

I’m pretty sure it’s a done deal and it’s just a matter of timing.

************
“The consequences of Israel attack on Iran will be devastating for Israel and after the failure of the 2006 war in Lebanon, I am not sure they want another catastrophy falling on Israelis’ head.”
************

I have no doubt that, as you say, such an attack will have severe consequences and we’ll face the biggest Middle Eastern war ever.

The 2006 war in Lebanon is not a factor in Israeli decision making.

They see Iran as existential threat and they prefer to confront them now, while he doesn’t have nuclear capability, with all the horrible consequences – over confronting a nuclear Iran.

************
“In addition, they will be blamed by the UN, but this , I know, have no dissuasive effect on Israel as usual.. in the contrary”
************

Not necessarily – only if Israel will take responsibility for the attack as it stupidly did in 1981 when it destroyed Osiraq.

When it doesn’t, the Iranians will have to prove their claim and if Israel will keep its mouth shut (as in the latest mission in Syria), it will be hard to condemn her.

Did you hear any condemnations regarding the ‘Syria flyover’, other than from Iran and NK?

Also, the situation today is not similar to the situation in 1981 and then’s Iraq shouldn’t be compared to today’s Iran.

There’s an almost world consensus, within governments, that Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

September 22nd, 2007, 7:17 pm

 

Alex said:

Poor Israeliguy, having to answer long comments from 5 different people simultaneously. You should take that as a compliment… it means you are not boring!

I’ve been there before (with some of my controversial statements) and I know how it feels!

Having said that, I will have to answer many of the points that I missed from your previous comments regarding the difference possibilities of wars/attacks:

1) Which part of your air force will Israel use to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities? how long will the round trip be? … if you add the extra fuel tanks then you can’t carry enough bombs or missiles. If you refuel along the way, you will have to fly at a very low speed and risk being discoverable. If you are intercepted along the way and have to fight, then your range shortens dramatically.

If Iran is to be attacked, I suspect it will be done more effectively by American cruise missiles. The other option has many associated risks. Israel will not risk failing in such a critical mission.

2) Guerrilla war vs. regular army war: Syria adjusted its Command structure. Parts of its army can function just like the guerrillas you faced in Lebanon and the US is facing in Iraq. Israel can not stay in Syria for long. It can deliver a painful and very effective punishment by air, but that’s it as far as obvious Israeli superiority. You have better trained soldiers, but Syria is not too bad there.

3) In case Syria is attacked by Israel, Hizbollah and Hamas will open two guerrilla fronts for Israel. The Mahdi army in Iraq has tens of thousands of suicidal members and Iran might try to send a couple of divisions through “British controlled” southern Iraq.

4) You said that you are expecting Syria will be able to launch 30 or 40 missiles only?!! … with only 4 or 5 hitting their target?!

You know that there are many differences between Saddam’s 1991 case and Syria’s case: Syria is much closer to Israeli targets … Haifa is not far. Many of Syria’s missiles are more accurate than Saddam’s 1991 missiles. Syria has one missile launching base for every two long-range missiles in inventory (so you won’t have time to destroy the thousands of stations) and most importantly … Syria will not go for the conditional and flexible response strategy that Saddam opted to go for. Saddam in 1991 knew he is going to be allowed to govern in Iraq as long as he did not mess up too much. Syria will launch everything immediately … first week following the start of an Israeli invasion.

Can you tell me why those thousands of bases will not be able to launch their missiles at Israel? Arrows will shoot down a fraction of those missiles. I know your military would like everyone to believe the arrows are 100% effective, but we heard that before and nothing is anywhere close to being that effective. For example, in 2006 Hizbollah demonstrated that your tanks are not as well protected as they were marketed.

On the other hand, your army has recently increased its readiness and fine tuned its anti-guerrilla tactics… and of course now you have the most capable defense minister and army chief of staff.

Outcome of war between the two states? … no winners. Major destruction… war between Syria and Israel will either not happen or it will be stopped within days if it starts by mistake.

Except if we are to believe the conspiracy theories … that some want to burn the Middle East and rebuild it. I heard that one from many people who expressed their frustration with the impossibility of understanding the endless complexities of every conflict in the area.

Syrian American relations:

I don’t have to add more than the other comments above explained. Syria is not always offered reasonable options. The United States often has to please its other Arab allies at the expense of its relations with Syria, and it will automatically be (look at 1977 to 2007 history) the expense of stability in the Middle East.

The Reagan administration and this Bush administration both had (have) very close relations with Al-Saud family … Syria can not match Saudi Arabia’s Trillion dollar investment in America’s economy. Saudi Arabia can always try to negatively shape Syrian American relations if they want to. But it takes an ignorant or a corrupt American administration to play along. Nixon, Carter, Bush the father, and Clinton balanced America’s friendships in the Arab world in a very constructive way … Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria had constructive rles to play and everything was under control.

That is all Syria hopes for. And it will probably get it with the next administration. The current exceptionally close cooperation between this administration and Prince Bandar is not healthy. Saudi Arabia can not handle the Palestinian factions, can not control Lebanon, can not come close to controlling Iraq… not enough experience, proximity to the conflicts, and no unified strategic vision … The Saudis are split … some believe in Arab brotherhood, some want Islam to go back to the perfection of UBL, some want a modern democratic society … the leadership (Al-Saud family) is severely split and the Saudi people are split. An example of how this translates to failed interventions:

1) In Lebanon, some Saudis want to genuinely help Lebanon become democratic and secular …etc. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon falls in this group. Other Saudis are mostly motivated by empowering Lebanese Sunnis to control the country, and by weakening the Lebanese Shiites who they hate.

In Palestine, Saudi Arabia supports president Abbas, yet Hamas gets a lot of its funding from Saudi fundamentalists. THe AL-Sauds can not appear overtly to be anti-Hamas because they will anger many of their people.

In Syria or Egypt you have “a dictator”, right?

In 2009 Egypt and Syria will be back to fix (with Saudi cooperation of course) what this administration and its exclusive reliance on Saudis destroyed.

And if a peace agreement is reached, Turkey will be more involved in post-peace cooperation between Israel and its neighbors.

That is what I expect and hope for. All threats of war are pre-peace negotiations bluffing from all sides … I hope 🙂

gmar hatima tova
(may God accept your pleas for forgiveness and wipe your slate clean)

September 22nd, 2007, 7:18 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy, to answer you question:

“Did you hear any condemnations regarding the ‘Syria flyover’, other than from Iran and NK?”

Yes of course!… look.

What are you going to do now??

September 22nd, 2007, 7:22 pm

 

Alex said:

“They see Iran as existential threat and they prefer to confront them now, while he doesn’t have nuclear capability, with all the horrible consequences – over confronting a nuclear Iran.”

Or you can turn Iran into a Pakistan and live with it … just be their friend by being reasonable on the Arab Israeli conflict … you will see a very different Iran.

How many here believe that Iran will be much more moderate if Israel showed considerable flexibility in settling its conflicts with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians? … even if only part of eastern Jerusalem is returned to the Arabs and the question of right of return was delayed for 10 years (as agreed with Syria and the Palestinians).

September 22nd, 2007, 7:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Washington plans to invite Syria to the Middle East conference.

Syrian newspaper accused the United states of being behind the assassinations in Lebanon.

a big stick and an olive branch from Ahmadinejad today

وقبل ذلك ألقى الرئيس الإيراني محمود أحمدي نجاد خطابا أثناء عرض عسكري ضخم خارج العاصمة طهران أكد فيه أن التهديدات والعقوبات الاقتصادية لن توقف التقدم التكنولوجي الإيراني، مشيرا إلى أن الدول الغربية مخطئة عندما تعتقد أن ما سماها الوسائل البالية مثل الحرب النفسية والعقوبات ستنجح وتعرقل هذا التقدم.

وشدد أحمدي نجاد على “أن إيران قوة مؤثرة وعلى العالم أن يدرك أن هذه القوة كانت دائما في خدمة السلام والاستقرار والصداقة والعدل”، وطالب برحيل ما وصفها بكل القوات غير الشرعية في المنطقة، واتهمها بالوقوف وراء كل الخلافات والتهديدات.

September 22nd, 2007, 7:35 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

************
“Poor Israeliguy, having to answer long comments from 5 different people simultaneously. You should take that as a compliment… it means you are not boring!”
************

Yeah, poor me 😉
More people responding = a more interesting debate.
Some very interesting comments by many people here.

************
“Which part of your air force will Israel use to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities? how long will the round trip be? … if you add the extra fuel tanks then you can’t carry enough bombs or missiles. If you refuel along the way, you will have to fly at a very low speed and risk being discoverable. If you are intercepted along the way and have to fight, then your range shortens dramatically.”
************

I’m not a military expert and I dare to say (in a friendly manner) that neither are you.
I know for sure that Israel has the capability and the means and it’s only a matter of a decision.

It took out Osiraq when Israel had a far inferior capability than today’s.

Are there risks? sure! But ‘don’t worry’.
Israel started to prepare for this mission more than a decade ago, so I’m sure that it has answers to the good points that you presented.

************
“If Iran is to be attacked, I suspect it will be done more effectively by American cruise missiles. The other option has many associated risks. Israel will not risk failing in such a critical mission.”
************

As I said, a US attack is a valid option.
In fact I believe that there are very good chance that the Americans will attack.

You say that “Israel will not risk failing in such a critical mission”, while I’m saying that Israel will not risk a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons.

You may find it irrational, unjustified or plain stupid – but that’s the Israeli mindset and there’s no right or left here, in the political landscape.

It’s a common consensus within public opinion, the army and the government.

************
“Guerrilla war vs. regular army war: Syria adjusted its Command structure. Parts of its army can function just like the guerrillas you faced in Lebanon and the US is facing in Iraq. Israel can not stay in Syria for long. It can deliver a painful and very effective punishment by air, but that’s it as far as obvious Israeli superiority. You have better trained soldiers, but Syria is not too bad there.”
************

The Syrian army is more than capable of hurting Israel – no doubt about that.
It’s not a bunch of frustated farmers with Swiss army knives.
No doubt it can work in guerrilla mode, as you say (and I’m sure they will).

However, here’s the major difference between Lebanon 2006 and the next Israeli-Syrian war.

During the last war, the IDF was fighting with his hands tied behind his back.
The US demanded that Israel will differentiate between Hizbollah (“the enemy”) and Lebanon (“the innocent country”).

During the Lebanon war, you could see that other than the Dahia (the Hizbollah qurter in Beirut) which was indeed reduced to rubble, the rest of the city remained almost untouched, because it wasn’t “the enemy” – they were “innocent”.

Same goes to elctricity, water, communication and lots of other infrastracture facilities.
Most Lebanese enjoyed them even during the war because it didn’t want to harm… “the innocent”.

Naturally, in a war against Syria, especially after a Syrian missile will land among civilians here – and it will) – there will be no ‘innocent people’ in Syria (like in Haifa, as you mentioned) and the silk gloves will go off the IDF hands.

So, sure, Syria can work in guerrilla mode, so?
Does it matter if Syrian guerrilla fighters will kill 5 Israeli soldiers, a Syrian tank or a Syrian plane? Not really.

The main issue is that Syria will pay the price whether its actions come from guerrilla or regular forces.
No more hiding behind “crazy guerrilla groups”.

************
“In case Syria is attacked by Israel, Hizbollah and Hamas will open two guerrilla fronts for Israel. The Mahdi army in Iraq has tens of thousands of suicidal members and Iran might try to send a couple of divisions through “British controlled” southern Iraq.”
************

I’m sure Hizbollah and Hamas will indeed open two guerrilla fronts for Israel and we’ll have to adapt and cope.

Regarding your 2nd part: I seriously doubt your scenario.

************
“Syria is much closer to Israeli targets … Haifa is not far.
************

That’s true.

************
“Many of Syria’s missiles are more accurate than Saddam’s 1991 missiles.”
************

Probably.

************
“Syria has one missile launching base for every two long-range missiles in inventory (so you won’t have time to destroy the thousands of stations)”
************

Are you saying that Syria has a launcher for every 2 long-range missiles it has?

I seriously doubt that.
I’m sure it’s not even close to what you wrote.
It doesn’t make sesne.

************
“and most importantly … Syria will not go for the conditional and flexible response strategy that Saddam opted to go for. Saddam in 1991 knew he is going to be allowed to govern in Iraq as long as he did not mess up too much. Syria will launch everything immediately … first week following the start of an Israeli invasion.”
************

Wow, you seem to know a lot about the strategy that will be used in the next war by the Syrian army.
I wish I had the same connections to the Israeli decision makers and strategists.

I believe the picture you’re drawing is not true and it doesn’t make sense to me.
But who knows? I might be wrong and you may be right.

************
“Can you tell me why those thousands of bases will not be able to launch their missiles at Israel?”
************

Thousands of bases? are you sure it’s not tens of thousands of bases? Maybe hundreds of thousands of missile bases?

Sounds to me like you present unrealistic numbers.

************
“Arrows will shoot down a fraction of those missiles. I know your military would like everyone to believe the arrows are 100% effective, but we heard that before and nothing is anywhere close to being that effective.”
************

Well, I see that you’re well informed not only about the number of Syrian missile bases, but on the Israeli Arrow performance too.

I certainly don’t believe that it can stop 100% of the missiles, but your counter prediction seems to me a little bit like wishful thinking.

************
“For example, in 2006 Hizbollah demonstrated that your tanks are not as well protected as they were marketed.”
************

You’re right. during the last year we learned the lesson and we started installing a new system which protects our tanks from anti tank rockets.

In fact let me add this: the Lebanon war exposed many failures of the IDF that it couldn’t find, unless there was this war.

It used this last year to fix those failures and vulnerabilities.

The Syrian army, on the other hand, will learn about its own failures and vulnerabilities only during the actual war.

************
“Outcome of war between the two states? … no winners. Major destruction…”
************

The aim of the war is not to show that the Israelis are ‘winners’ or for fun.
It’s going to horrible, I’m sure.

The purpose is to stop the Iranian nuclear program from materializing.

************
“Syria is not always offered reasonable options.”
************

And when was the last time that syria offered something? Why not taking the initiative? Why always being passive – sitting and waiting for offers to be made to you?

Why not picking up the phone, calling Condy, saying you want a fresh start…

You’ll be amazed what a simple phone call can do.

************
“The United States often has to please its other Arab allies at the expense of its relations with Syria, and it will automatically be (look at 1977 to 2007 history) the expense of stability in the Middle East.”
************

The ‘hidden’ threat in your remark is the reason why the US administration hates you.

You’re practically saying to America: listen idiots, do things our way or we’ll destabelize the entire region.

Nobody likes to be extorted, especially superpowers and the US in particular.

Unfortunately, I also believe it turned in to a personal fight.

************
“gmar hatima tova”
************

I’m impressed – Shukran.

************
““Did you hear any condemnations regarding the ‘Syria flyover’, other than from Iran and NK?”

Yes of course!… look.”
************

Cool picture – thanks 🙂

************
“Or you can turn Iran into a Pakistan and live with it … just be their friend by being reasonable on the Arab Israeli conflict … you will see a very different Iran.”
************

I believe Ahmadinejad when he says he wants to wype us off the map.
This train can never go back into the station again, I’m afraid…

September 22nd, 2007, 9:20 pm

 

offended said:

Josh, Alez:
The new amnesty decree issued by president Bashar today deserves a new fresh post..

September 22nd, 2007, 9:32 pm

 

idaf said:

Israeliguy said:
“And when was the last time that Syria offered something? Why not taking the initiative? Why always being passive – sitting and waiting for offers to be made to you?
Why not picking up the phone, calling Condy, saying you want a fresh start…
You’ll be amazed what a simple phone call can do.”

Israeliguy,
You made sense until this remark above!

Syria offered a lot (full peace, security cooperation, help in Iraq.. etc.). Alex listed them in more detail above.

Personally I think that you do lack some basic knowledge on US/Saudi relationship and its impact on Syria/US relation (no offense). However, let me put it this way, at this moment in time the US will not accept any offers from Syria.. including if Bashar offered to go ala Iraq (destroy his own military) or ala Qadaffi! Simply put, the US administration (or the oil lobby) will not risk any part of its petrodollar relation with Saudi or risk being attacked by the Israel Lobby in the states before the elections for any “Syrian offer”.

After all, what’s this worthless thing called middle east peace anyway!?

September 22nd, 2007, 10:16 pm

 

Georges said:

There will certainly be a civil war in Lebanon. This will repeat itself as long as the country is left to these immature Lebanese brats. If there was ever a case for a country NOT to be fit to rule itself, it is Lebanon. We know the cycle pretty well now. Every couple of decades, the various Lebanese factions throw a violent tantrum against each other, costing a few hundred thousand lives. As they jockey for political and military power, each faction allies itself with a chosen external regional power, raising the stakes for everyone. Then, when the human and political costs of the war become too high, the world steps in to end it. Then, the irresponsible Lebanese rack up billions of debt to rebuild their country and turn it into a brothel for the Gulf Arabs (their single major industry). Just when it’s time to pay up, it’s time for another war. http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid-569

September 22nd, 2007, 11:02 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy,

You are right, I am far from being a military expert. I only read publicly available reports and studies.

For example

Jane’s reports that, “It was reported in early 1998 that Israeli intelligence experts had estimated that there were between
24 and 36 ‘Scud’ launchers at most Syrian missile sites – far more launchers than previously estimated.” Traditionally,
armies deploying Scuds stock about 10 missiles per launcher. The higher number of Syrian launchers suggests a ratio
closer to 2 missiles per launcher – this would enable Syria to launch a large first-wave strike before launchers were
destroyed.

As for the “thousands” well … it is known that Syria has at least hundreds of the modified SCUDs, but Jane’s report does not have any info past year 1999.

And according to this week’s info, Syria is still actively cooperating with the Koreans and Iranians to expand its SSM stock. While the nuclear part is a joke, the missiles cooperation is not a secret … with all the satellite pictures Israel has.

But what I know, is that most Syrians and Israelis do not expect to go to war… it is all pre-peace talks maneuvering.

And as IDAF explained … this US administration does not take YES for an answer form Syria. That I can tell you with more certainty than my figure of millions of Syrian missiles : )

finally, you noticed a threat in what I said?! .. it was not a threat at all. Take for example Oslo … at the time, Clinton and Assad were friends. Assad assured Clinton that he will not fight Oslo … but it will fail by itself because it is not good enough.

It failed because it was not good enough.

Assad did not vote on behalf of the Palestinians who elected Hamas

Assad is not telling Michel Aoun what to do …

Assad is not producing more Lebanese Shiite babies … they are now the largest group in Lebanon.

Assad is not leading and directing all the armed Iraqis who are killing US troops and killing each other …

A failed policy will automatically lead to failure.

Remember President Bush Sr.’s famous reply to questions about why he did not do this or that? …”wouldn’t be prudent”

Syria is criticized for being too prudent … but, slow progress is better than war.

September 22nd, 2007, 11:21 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

IDAF, you’re right.
I do lack some basic knowledge on US/Saudi relationship and its impact on Syria/US relation.

I probably offered this opinion based on what I know (for years) from the Israeli/Syrian track, where they always sit, wait, threaten and complain in an endless cycle.

I accept this remark.

Still, I believe there are ways to adapt.
How come Egypt and Jordan managed to build good relationships with the US?

Alex, please don’t quote from Jane’s.
They’re the liars who broke out the story about the Iranian/Syrian chemical plant explosion.

Please don’t tell me that you actually believe that…. 😉

********
“But what I know, is that most Syrians and Israelis do not expect to go to war… it is all pre-peace talks maneuvering.”
********

Most Israelis don’t expect to go to war over the latest incident in Syria – that’s true, but as I said, once Iran will be attacked, Assad will not be allowed to sit in the living room and watch the war on TV, while eating popcorn.

He’s Iran’s ally and he and Nassrallah will have to deliver the goods.
Iran didn’t invest all the money in Syria for the goodness of their heart.

Last thing: Check out your ‘SYRIA’S OCCUPIED GOLAN HEIGHTS’ blog post – I posted a long comment there 🙂
http://creativesyria.com/syrianbloggers/?p=11#comments

September 22nd, 2007, 11:40 pm

 

Joshua said:

Refresh your Syria Comment and go to the top for an interesting story!!
Joshua

September 22nd, 2007, 11:47 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy

Are you adapting my tactics?

Even I do not have the energy to post comments as long as your last comment! 🙂

Thanks. I really appreciate the time you took to read everythig and to write. I will read it tomorrow morning and answer you.

In the mean time, try reading the article by Rime Allaf. It is very powerful … not very accomodating though 🙂

September 23rd, 2007, 1:25 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Thanks Alex.
I will read Rime Allaf’s article.

September 23rd, 2007, 2:42 am

 

Lysander said:

Israeli Guy, You place too much emphasis on intel and an airstrike against Iran. I don’t doubt you can bomb some important sites, but you can’t stop a nuclear Iran, if Iran truly wishes to nuke up. Osirak didn’t stop Iraq’s program, it only drove it underground and turned it into an obsession for Saddam. If he didn’t invade Kuwait, he’d have nukes by now.

I can’t find the link now but a former Mossad chief was asked how to stop Iran from going nuclear. “how do we stop the tides” was his answer.

A massive U.S. U.S. attack going far beyond Iran’s nuclear program might do it, but I really don’t think it will happen; the military’s heart just isn’t in it.

The reason Israel didn’t strike at Lebanon’s power and water facilities is that it wouldn’t have helped you any. Hizbullah wasn’t hiding in the Beirut power plant. Certainly the U.S. didn’t want Seniora’s government to fall (and neither does Israel, knowing who will take his place) but they can’t be said to be tying your hands when they were urging you to attack Syria.

Regarding war with Syria, I doubt Israel will strike civilian targets as it did in Lebanon. You are too vulnerable to retaliation. Same is true for Syria, of course. Beyond that, I have no idea how a war would turn out. Hope I never find out.

September 23rd, 2007, 6:52 am

 

ausamaa said:

Why would Israel want to open the “Nukes” issue door? To encourage the neo-cons to do something before they depart fropm the scene? Not a very sound reason to redirect attention on Syria after thinking that they have an open and shut case with Iran on that front. The US or Israel could not manage to push each other to do something about Iran, so what is this now?

The whole thing stincks royaly.

My guess, it is all a diversion for the benifit of Moderate Arabs and the the Israeli internal front. Israel needs “proof” that it can still make things happen around here. And it needs it badly. Moderate Arabs need a “new” cause to rally around (Iran is too close and dangerous perhaps), and throwing mud and impiguity at Syria’s posdition seems appropriate now more than ever with the way things are developing on the ground in Palestine, newly-revived-Baathi-Iraq, and Lebanon.

Psyops (if not a cover up for a grand Israeli fuck up) I would say again..

September 23rd, 2007, 10:54 pm

 

gaetane said:

hey guys,
I need to work on the Syrian embargo and as you seemto know many things about il you may could help me!
I need to know wht are exactly the restrictions: it is for planes: if 10% of the aircraft is US made, it can not be sold, is hat true? But is it in term of high value, of part number, or of the sell value?
Where can I find exacty the list of what is allowed or not?What can we do interm of license to make some products be accepted?
wht is the general feeling bout the embargo? Is it gonna leave soon or not?
What has changed since the early 90s?
I would be very gratefu if you could help me
( I am french, that is why my english is quite bad and I am sorry about that!)

October 4th, 2007, 7:46 am

 

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