More on the Bandar Affair

Here is Robin Wright elaborating on the Bandar-Turki fight:

Robin Wright in the Washignton Post explains some of the reasons for the tug of war between Saudi Arabia's ambassadors. Bandar's faction was able to cut off Turki's funds, forcing him to leave behind millions in un-paid emabassy debts when he departed the US. The important policy debate which under girded the factionalism was over how to deal with Iran and how much to support Washington's Middle East policy. Here are a few paragraphs from her story. 

The woes within the royal family reflect a tug of war over how to handle foreign policy. Eighteen months ago, Prince Bandar bin Sultan ended a legendary 22-year career as the face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Word at the time was that he was bored, preferring his palatial Aspen, Colo., lodge to Washington. As it turns out, however, Bandar has secretly visited Washington almost monthly over the past year — and is at least as pivotal today in influencing U.S. policy as he was in his years as ambassador.

Last week, his successor, Turki, abruptly resigned from the post — partly, sources close to the royal family said, because of Bandar's back-channel trips to meet with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Turki was kept so out of the loop that Bandar often did not inform him he was in town, much less tell him what he was doing, the sources said. Twice, the Saudi Embassy was told by an outsider that Bandar had arrived — and the embassy sent someone to the airport to look for his private plane to confirm it, according to the source who provided the tip.

The rise of Bandar, who is now Saudi national security adviser, may reflect the waning influence of the sons of the late King Faisal, who dominated the diplomatic and intelligence services for decades, say sources close to the family. Turki, who was intelligence chief before becoming ambassador to Britain and then the United States, has poor chemistry with King Abdullah, they note. His brother Prince Saud al-Faisal, who has been foreign minister since Henry A. Kissinger's era, is ill….

The cutoff of funds appears to be one manifestation of a royal rift over, among other things, the way to handle the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East.

In his secret visits, Bandar increasingly pressed the Bush administration not to deal with Iran — and, instead, to organize joint efforts to counter Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, such as in Lebanon, said sources close to the royal family. The new model would be based roughly on the kind of joint U.S.-Saudi cooperation that assisted anti-Soviet forces during Moscow's 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, the sources said.

Washington and Riyadh are already planning a major aid and military training package for the beleaguered Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose government is besieged by thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The Sunni kingdom sees Iran as a threat because of Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program. The kingdom also fears the shifting balance of power — under Iran's tutelage — between minority Shiites and majority Sunnis, who have dominated Middle East politics for almost 14 centuries. The monarchy faces its own restive Shiite minority in the main oil-producing province.

The kingdom grew particularly alarmed as the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group began to leak out last month, with recommendations that the administration talk to both Iran and Syria, say U.S. officials and sources close to the royal family. Even before the report was released, Abdullah summoned Cheney to again warn about Iran and the regional implications of its growing influence — and offer Saudi assistance and discuss joint U.S.-Saudi efforts.

The al-Faisal brothers, in contrast, have consistently urged dialogue with Tehran and are wary of joint U.S.-Saudi efforts against Iran and its surrogates. Turki often urged the United States to deal with its enemies. In one of his final public speeches, at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council last month, Turki said: "We speak directly with Iran on all issues. We find that talking with them is better than not talking with them."

Turki's frequent public events — in which he was frank about America's poor image abroad and urged progress on the deadlocked Arab-Israeli peace process as the key to defusing broader regional tensions — generated an unusual amount of attention in the Saudi media and made him a popular figure back home.

Saudi experts say differences within the royal family, like virtually everything having to do with the House of Saud, are heavily nuanced. "On Iran policy, they all make the same diagnosis but have a different prescription for what to do about it," said David E. Long, a former U.S. diplomat and the author of five books on Saudi Arabia.

After a year of internal tensions and failure to pay bills, Turki was not invited to Riyadh for Cheney's visit, Saudi sources confirmed. And Bandar returned to Washington again right after the meeting to discuss the specifics of the joint efforts. Two weeks later, Turki quit.

Report on secret Olmert-Sanyurah meeting in Egypt (

On December 21, the Ma'an News Agency reported: "A well-informed Arab source has revealed to Ma'an that following the war in Lebanon, during Id al-Fitr, a secret meeting took place in Sharm al-Shaykh between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Lebanese Prime Minister Fu'ad al-Sanyurah. The meeting was attended by Usamah al-Baz, Egyptian presidential adviser, and Prince Bandar, head of the Saudi National Security Council, who had been tasked by the Saudi Government to conduct the contacts with the Israelis and arrange the meeting. The source, who is well-versed in Israeli affairs, added: "The five-hour meeting took place in the Egyptian president's holiday resort in order to keep it a secret. They discussed issues pertaining to coordination and cooperation between Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and their allied forces in Lebanon in order to confront the danger of the Tehran-Damascus axis, and their allies Hezbollah, Hamas, and! Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"The source further noted that "Olmert told the Lebanese prime minister that the enhanced international presence in Lebanon as well as the backing provided by the United States to its friends have created an unprecedented window of opportunity to rid Lebanon of Iran's and Syria's allies." The source added that Al-Sanyurah confirmed to Olmert that his government is determined to carry out what is required of it, such as implementing Lebanon's sovereignty, eliminating anything that stands in the way of this process, disarming the Hezbollah, and eradicating pro-Damascus and pro-Tehran forces. The source said that Olmert arrived in Sharm al-Shaykh on board a commercial airliner belonging to Arkia Airlines, which has commercial flights to Taba and Sharm al-Shaykh." – Ma'an News Agency, Palestine

Syria's 'isolation is over': Syria's Deputy P.M. spins that Syria's has broken out of its isolation
23/12/2006 08:32  – (SA) 

London – The international isolation of Syria is over as Western powers have realised they need to work with Damascus, Syrian deputy prime minister Abdallah Dardari told a British newspaper published on Saturday.

Dardari told the Financial Times business daily that the international community now recognised that it ought to talk to President Bashar al-Assad's regime if it wanted progress in the Middle East, particularly on Lebanon and Iraq.

"The former political isolation of Syria has ended. It is no longer there," he told the FT.

"I don't want to say there is a sense of 'I told you so' but there is a sense that people are realising in Western capitals that if you want to be influential in the Middle East, you have to come through Damascus."

Relations between the United States and Syria are tense. But earlier this week, two US senators, including John Kerry, the former Democratic party presidential candidate, were in Damascus for talks with Assad.

Dardari said that previously, the United States had simply presented Syria with a list of demands to end various practices, instead of talking about mutual interests, and that this attitude proved ineffective.

"It didn't work in April 2003, just after (the) occupation of Baghdad. If it didn't work then, at the peak of US influence in the region, it will not work now with Syria," he said.

Dardari added that Syria's priority was to secure the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

The United States said Wednesday it supported Syrian opposition groups rivalling Assad, but said such support was overt, and not a secret bid to undermine his government.

US President George W Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy by funding and training the militant Hezbollah group.

The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra hit out on Friday at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel's recommendation to open a dialogue on calming neighbouring Iraq.

The paper was following a line already set out by Assad.

"They (the Americans) have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions," Assad said earlier this month.

Peres predicts peace with Syria Jerusalem Post – 

The Israeli public is not yet ready for a Golan-for-peace
Yossi Sarid in Haaretz

It was not Bush, but the occupation. The findings of the Peace Index survey published in Haaretz about a month ago indicated a clear trend: Most of the Jewish public is opposed to a full peace treaty with Syria in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights (67 percent are opposed and only 16 percent are in favor). Some 51 percent believe that sooner or later a war will break out between the two countries. And nevertheless, the public is firm in its opposition to a formula of total peace for all of the Golan.

There is nothing new under the local sun, which beats down and dries up people's brains. Only being beaten over the head with a club or a hammer opens people's minds here and leads to a painful sobering up.

That's what happened when public opinion refused to give up Sinai, and only after a terrible war did it accept an overall withdrawal down to the last of the settlements; and that's what happened when public opinion supported the first Lebanon War before it became complicated and contaminated and forced us to flee by the skin of our teeth; and that's what happened when our public opinion rejoiced in anticipation of America's war in Iraq, of which Israel is the main victim; and that's what happened only five months ago when public opinion goaded Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz into striking at Lebanon mercilessly, and during the first week even crowned the two military commanders with more than 80 percent support.

Politicians tend to flatter and praise their nations: a smart and wise nation, they say; the public is not foolish, they say. But when nations are in distress, they are liable to be revealed not only as laymen but as absolute lunatics. In times of anxiety, the voice of the people is not the voice of God. Public opinion is a rooster-shaped weather vane that rotates with the direction of the winds, the winds of foolishness; public opinion is shifting sands – from the right to the left, just sand, mainly sand.

If Olmert and Peretz and Peres and Herzog and Bar-On had seen contrary surveys, indicating support for a complete withdrawal in exchange for complete peace, you can rest assured that they would be singing a different tune to Israel, and that the Bush excuse would have been erased without leaving a trace. They are yet to see other days, other surveys, immediately after the next war.

Michel Kilo, who is in jail and must watch his words, calls for Israeli engagement with Syria. He claims that the best way to promote democracy in Syria is to return the Golan and begin dialogue between East and West.

دعا الكاتب والمعارض السوري ميشال كيلو، من سجنه أمس، الرئيس الاميركي جورج بوش إلى «العمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية» وإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية الأراضي اللبنانية، وسحب القوات الاميركية من العراق. وقال مقربون من كيلو المعتقل في سجن عدرا شرقي دمشق، بعد توقيعه على «إعلان بيروت ـ دمشق»، انه بات يستطيع استخدام هاتف عمومي في باحة السجن، على غرار سجناء الحق العام.وقال كيلو، في مقابلة مع وكالة «فرانس برس» من سجنه، «كنت أتمنى لو أن بوش لم يكتف بالمطالبة بحرية المعتقلين السوريين»، في إشارة إلى بيان بوش مؤخرا، والذي دعا فيه دمشق إلى الإفراج عن جميع المعتقلين السياسيين في سوريا، وضمنهم كيلو. وأضاف كيلو «كنت أتمنى لو أعلن برنامجا زمنيا ملزما لانسحاب (القوات الاميركية) من العراق، وتعهد بالعمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية… كنت أتمنى لو التزم بإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية أراضي لبنان المحتلة». وأوضح كيلو «لو أن الرئيس الاميركي فعل ذلك … لقدم خدمة كبرى للديموقراطية وحقوق الإنسان، ولقيد بصورة جدية قدرة نظم الفساد الاستبدادية العربية على قمع شعوبها».   

Comments (70)

Mo said:

So was Hassan Nasrallah right after all?

December 24th, 2006, 4:17 pm


Alex said:

Can you imagine how tempting it is for prince Bandar to make use of the unlimited power (military, financial, political … and moral, as he surely thinks) under his disposal?

As he sits down with the US VP, after they go through all the potential tools they can use to fight evil (and Shia Iran), those two powerful men who have identical opinions will reinforce each other’s belief that they are doing the right thing … then we will have clarity. The same clarity that produced the decisive Iraq war.

But what can they do that does not require the approval of congress? .. or how can they convince congress that America needs to act decisively again?

Bashar should expect more terrorist events to take place, or terrorist plots to be discovered by western intelligence before they take place. And of course, we will find out that Syria was surely behind them.

Mehlis is ready and eager to go back to the Middle East to investigate the probable Syrian role in any future evil plot or event, properly and promptly.

The Haaretz article by Yossi Sarid explained our problem these days … just as a majority of Israelis still believe it can keep the Golan heights by force, the “powers” (American, Israeli, Saudi leaders) are still not convinced of the absolute uselessness of their great power. Losing the Iraq war, losing the Lebanon war, and soon for the Saudis losing total control of Lebanon, are all not enough … they feel there must be a better way to try again and succeed this time. Not to mention how they are on the side of good, and their enemies are evil … powerful people who are bitter and revengeful, yet they are sure they are the good guys fighting the bad guys … will they try to use their power again?

Michel Kilo got it right. If the Americans want to weaken Arab dictators, then the Americans need to show the Arab people what positive things American power can do… and protecting the Seniora “democratically elected” Saudi appointed and controlled government that represents only half of Lebanon is not a good thing. Helping Syria and Lebanon regain their occupied territories is a good thing.

December 24th, 2006, 5:05 pm


Alex said:

MSK, if the Washington Post was not acceptible source of dramatic news (mou’amara kabira), then here is also the English translation of the last two paragraphs of an article that appeared at Le Monde Diplomatique regarding the past and potential future failures of US Mideast policies that could partly be attributed to their mistaken reliance on Saudi flavored Arab news and opinions from all the Saudi controlled newspapers and satellite TV stations.


INVENTING AN IMAGINARY ARAB WORLD / Not the voice of the street

By Mohammed El Oifi, a specialist on the media of the Arab world, and a political scientist at “l’Institut d’études politiques de Paris”


The increasingly radical line adopted by pan-Arab Saudi media is particularly valuable to US policy in the Middle East now that its own communication strategy for the Arab world has failed (11). The convergence between Saudi and US media interests explains why the Middle East Media Research Institute (12), an Israeli thinktank that translates extracts from the Arab press, is so keen on journalists writing for the Saudi press. The widespread distribution of such translations is part of a sophisticated strategy to manipulate information.

The Saudi pan-Arab press, with the protection of Saudi diplomacy, financing and broadcasting resources, makes it difficult for most Arab public opinion to make itself heard. At times of crisis the rest of the world often assumes that the minority opinions of its columnists reflect the views of the majority. On the contrary, these journalists are busy
inventing an imaginary Arab world that supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Israeli attempt to eradicate Hizbullah in Lebanon. They are increasing the flow of misleading signals to US politicians and media framing US Middle East policy.

December 24th, 2006, 5:59 pm


CW said:

“…and that’s what happened when our public opinion rejoiced in anticipation of America’s war in Iraq, of which Israel is the main victim;”

Huh? I thought Israel was the main beneficiary?

December 24th, 2006, 6:19 pm


Ghassan said:

Funny that Syria meets secretly with Israeli officials and no one says anything! Asad says openly that he wants to have peace with Israel and no one says anything!

December 24th, 2006, 11:00 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Mo said:

“So was Hassan Nasrallah right after all?”

Right about what? Liberating Jerusalem?

“When Israel ended its 18-year occupation of Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah declared, “We have liberated the south. Next we’ll liberate Jerusalem.” ”

I don’t think so. But he certainly can keep trying if he wants to.

December 24th, 2006, 11:42 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, you are correct, the Western “powers” have been trying their luck with the Middle East region since 1097 begining with the First Crusaders haplessly headed towards Jerusalem. They have never rested (or succeeded!) ever since. Meanwhile, we, the indigenous people of the Middle East watch patiently with amusement – especially when some of our own join them – and just wait for them to trip again and badly hurt themselves! What a show!

December 25th, 2006, 12:28 am


Alex said:

Ghassan said: (December 24th, 2006, 11:00 pm / #)
Funny that Syria meets secretly with Israeli officials and no one says anything! Asad says openly that he wants to have peace with Israel and no one says anything!

No Ghassan … If Syrians meet with Israelis it is rarely secretly .. and it is for the purpose of liberating the Golan and not for plotting to overthrow the Saudi government.

There is nothing wrong with meeting with the Israelis to try to re-start peace negotiations, we want that, no?

You see, Qatari officials also meet with the Israelis, the Syrians know it, and they don’t mind at all … the problem is when Prince Bandar or Mr. Seniora meet with the Isralis to ask for their help to work against Syria.

Excuse us if we do not like it.

December 25th, 2006, 3:00 am


Mo said:

No Akbar, you didn’t get it right this time.
Those who closely follow ME politics know exactly what I meant, and I don’t need to explain it to you here.

December 25th, 2006, 7:02 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Mo said: (December 25th, 2006, 7:02 am / #)
No Akbar, you didn’t get it right this time.
Does he ever?

December 25th, 2006, 7:59 am


youngSyria said:

ALEX said :”and soon for the Saudis losing total control of Lebanon, are all not enough …”

omer musa left Lebanon with what it looks like a dead end… so what makes you say so? what happened in Lebanon? who is not compromising?

December 25th, 2006, 8:31 am


idaf said:

You can’t but respect Michel Kilo. People should know the context of his statement quoted by Josh. When Bush announced a week ago that Syria “should free opposition figures” naming Kilo. Kilo’s December 25th, 2006, 8:51 am


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

I must admit that I am less than entirely convinced by the substance of the Robin Wright
article. It seems to me, that the chief weakness of it is as follows: as per her analysis, Prince Bandar appears to be a sort of deus ex machina, operating and winning over both Prince Turki and
Prince Saud. The problem with this is that Bandars chief means of influence would be his own father, Crown Prince Sultan. However the facts argue against Sultan being a means for Bandars (alleged) ascent in Rihyad. As the BBC has noted, Sultan has notoriously bad relations with King Abdullah. Consequently, the likelihood that Bandar is winning out over his (alleged) rivals in the Kingdom appears to be questionable.
In fact, the whole storyline appears to be a sort of smear campaign against Bandar more than anything else. Especially, since Abdullah when Crown Prince in 2001, refused to allow the USA to
attack Afghanistan from American air bases in the Kingdom. The reasoning being that Saudi Arabia could not allow itself to be a base for attacking another Muslim country.

As per the article in the Middle East Wire, the whole idea of Bandar meeting Siniora in conjunction with the Israelis, seems again an exercise in discrediting him, more than anything else.

I of course, say all of the above, under correction, since I do not pretend to be an expert in the intricacies of the Saudi Royal House. If anyone else should have more knowledge about the matter, please feel free to correct me.

Nota Bene: as an academic historian, I should like to offer up my own little correction of an inaccurate assertion made in the comment section
above: to wit, that the west has been unsuccessful in intervening in the Levant since 1097. Actually, first, the Crusaders did conquer and hold on to the Palestine and much of the rest of the Levant for almost a century after
1099. Second, current mythology notwithstanding, no, repeat no, Arab speakers are indigenous to the Levant, as well as Egypt, and Iraq. Their presence in the area being by virtue of conquest (circa 640-645), and nothing more. Pur et simple.

December 27th, 2006, 6:00 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Prince Saud Al Faisal, foreign affairs minister of Saudi Arabia, in a press conference after the Saudi-Omani summit, has denied any ‘hidden agenda’ for the kingdom in Lebanon.
I am inclined to believe him…

December 27th, 2006, 6:17 am


majedkhaldoun said:

the west has fear, musslems has humiliation, asia has hope, I agree this is true.
I doubt Seniora met with Olmert in Sharam Al sheikh.

December 27th, 2006, 6:58 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Majed; Siniora might not have met Olmert, nevertheless, those interestingly non-antagonistic peers, can still co-ordinate and communicate on high level.

December 27th, 2006, 7:50 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Saddening photos of the ‘Municipal Palace’ blaze in Aleppo, thanks God it wasn’t big and nobody died.
It must be noted that our civil defense teams demonstrate heroic performance in such unfortunate incidents. But it is equally true that our emergency planning (i.g. fire escape procedures) is almost none-existent in public buildings.

December 27th, 2006, 8:35 am


MSK said:

Dear Alex,

forgive me if I’m careful with sources, particularly in the context of Middle East politics. Personally, I blame it on many years in academia – where one gets ripped apart if one’s sources are spurious (the academics in this forum, for ex. Josh, can back me up here) – and media work on & in the Middle East – incl. having to fight off allegations of all sorts of partisanship.

In a situation where all sides lie and make up “facts” I have become just a wee bit cautious when I read “Secrets Unveiled!” stories and the source is given as “a well-connected person”.

As for the Le Monde article, I agree to a certain extent. I still think that Al-Hayat is a very useful newspaper (& I don’t remember it having pushed the idea that the 2003 Iraq War would be greeted by the “Arab Street”) and there are quite a few publications, radio & tv channels that do have high professional standards.

In the end, some stories warrant better sourcing than others. If a friend of mine tells me “Last year it snowed in Aleppo in April!” I’ll believe it, for the simple reason that if it turns out to have been untrue it doesn’t really matter.

However, a story about a secret meeting between Olmert & Seniora warrants a bit more than “A well-informed Arab source has revealed to Ma’an News Agency” …

Do you disagree?


December 27th, 2006, 11:06 am


Alex said:

Dear MSK,

I do not disagree at all. Even though you are not from the Middle East, you are still allowed to be suspicious sometimes 😉

It is the necessary CCT (counter-conspiracy-theory) process.

My professor of the first year “Research methodology” course spent most of his time training us how to detect biased and unreliable published research findings. At the time I found him paranoid, but I later realized the value of evaluating what we hear based on the potential tendency of the sources to be biased or unreliable. Not to mention the assumptions on which claims are based.

So, in relation to this particular case, remember that I also mentioned earlier that I think that it is possible that all of these stories are meant to make the Syrians a bit more uncomfortable before the Americans talk to them. The Americans always mention how Syria asks for too much when it enters into any negotiations and it has become a habit to to find ways to deflate the Syrians’ confidence a little bit through different means.

And Lebanon’s case is more than negotiation tactics … Chirac has been very pessimistic for a long time now … ever since Israel could not destroy Hizballah this summer. Many plans for the area depended of the assumption that Lebanon was going to be a dependable friendly base, securely under Saudi management.

I have no doubt that the Neocon philosophy of the past few years influenced a few compatible personality types in both Israel and Saudi Arabia (separately) .. those who now believe that their powerful countries must use their power to their full potential in order to defend their interests outside their borders… and that’s why Prince Bandar’s alleged plans sounded real news to me.

December 27th, 2006, 3:26 pm


ausamaa said:

Dear Joshua,

What do YOU think….What REAL OPTIONS does President Bush have considering the facts on the ground in the area, the internal conflicts within the decision making circles in the US after the elections results, the increasing Republican worry about the Party’s standing, and the Baker-Hamilton report?

Central to all, I think, is the answer to the most crucial question: Would Iran and Syria meet the US halfway (and I seriously do not think they will)???

Could you give us your take on things???

December 27th, 2006, 5:18 pm


G said:

the problem is when Prince Bandar or Mr. Seniora meet with the Isralis to ask for their help to work against Syria.

Excuse us if we do not like it.

Right, but if Syria is leading a coup in Lebanon, assisting mayhem in Iraq and Israel, it’s ok, because Syria has the “indisputable and inalienable right” to that, right?


December 27th, 2006, 7:32 pm


Ahamad said:

What do you think about this Joshua?
Please give us your opinion.

التوقيع على إقامة أكبر مشروع سياحي في حلب الاخبار المحلية

شهد مقر مجلس مدينة حلب التوقيع على إقامة سلسلة من المشاريع السياحية الضخمة في المحافظة ، و التي تعتمد على عقد BOT لمدة ( 40 ) عاماً ، و ستقام هذه المشاريع في مركز المدينة ، و تحديداً في ( منتزه السبيل ) أما المشاريع التي ستفذ بمساحة ( 182 ) ألف و 631 م 2 .

من الملاحظ أن بشار الأسد قرر بيع سورية الى ابن خاله فيومياً تطالعنا الصحف السورية بمشروع جديد لآل مخلوف
فبعد انشاء الشركة القابضة برأسمال 350 مليون دولار منذ أسابيع قليلة وقع رامي مخلوف مع رئيس وزراء سورية مشروع التكسي الجوي الذي سيلغي رحلات السورية الى بيروت وعمان واسطنبول والقاهرة بحيث تصبح هذه الخطوط حصرية للشركة الجديدة
كما وقع سابقاً مشروع معمل الاسمنت في منطقة البو كمال حصرياً حيث توجد مناجم المواد الأولية لصناعة الاسمنت واليوم يوقع استثمار حديقة السبيل في مدينة حلب الشهباء والتفاصيل في التقرير التالي من حلب:

تتضمن فندق خمس نجوم بـ ( 270 ) مفتاحاً ، و شقق مفروشة أربع نجوم بـ ( 92 ) مفتاحاً ، و فندق ثلاث نجوم بـ ( 300 ) مفتاحاً ، كما تتضمن مركزاً للتسوق التجاري بمساحة / 40 / ألف م2 ، و سوق بمساحة ( 32 ) ألف م2 ، و مركز رياضي ( 6000 ) م2 ، و قاعات للاجتماعات و المؤتمرات بـ ( 3000 ) م2 .

هذا و قد وقع على بنود المشروع الذي يعتبر من أكبر المشاريع السياحية عن مجلس مدينة حلب الدكتور المهندس معن الشبلي رئيس المجلس ، و عن الشركة المنفذة للمشروع ( أملاك ) وقعها السيدان رياض كحالة و نادر قلعي ، بحضور السيدان المهندس مدير السياحة ، و رئيس غرفة السياحة في المحافظة .

الجدير ذكره أن تكلفة المشروع ( 130 ) مليون دولار أميركي و مدة التنفيذ ( 6 ) سنوات ، كما أرسلت بنود الاتفاقية الموقعة بين الطرفين للتصديق من قبل وزير السياحة للمباشرة بالعمل بعد التصديق

December 27th, 2006, 8:00 pm


Rancher said:

What do we have to offer Iran? Negotiation requires compromise, but what compromises can we give? We want them to leave Iraq alone. They want us to leave Iraq period. What can we offer them to stop, especially since we seem intent on leaving anyway? Can we offer them Afghanistan? They must figure that once we are out of Iraq it can safely be left to Sadr to finish the job of gaining control for the greater Shia Caliphate. The Jihadist can then go to Afghanistan to destroy that annoying democracy. They don’t need us to abandon Afghanistan, make it tough on the Americans and they will cut and run from Afghanistan as well. Iran will most assuredly ask us to abandon Israel although the left is not quite willing to do that yet. They only need to kill one or two more ministers to take back Lebanon so we can’t even offer them Lebanon. The only other carrot we can offer Tehran is to go ahead and let them get their nukes. Is that even an option? Based on the situation so far Tehran should have every reason to believe we will do nothing to prevent them from reaching that goal. On top of that, what incentive does Iran have to actually abide by whatever agreements they agree to? None.

December 27th, 2006, 10:50 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Mr. Makhlouf is like a kid in a candy store. He simply cannot resist himself from putting his hands in the cookie jar.

For the “Sabeel” to be given to him is nothing short of stealing public property.

What is next? Is Aleppo’s citadel next on his list?

In spite of all the pressures on the family, Rami seem like an unstoppable Octopus. One can only imagine what he will do when things settle down and the leadership gets out of its current predicament.

Then again, the growth in Rami’s business empire seems to know no bounds.

It is in our face. No one can do a thing about it.

December 27th, 2006, 11:02 pm


Dubai Jazz said:

Ehsani2 said : “” For the “Sabeel” to be given to him is nothing short of stealing public property.””
I do respect your opinion Ehsani2. BUT! when was the last time you been to 7adia’at Al Sabeel?
From what I saw it was rather dull, deserted, and out of time. It is a place for nothing more than cracking sunflower seeds and buying bad popcorn from the only vendor nearby the main gate. The people of Al Mu7afazah and Al Sabeel district themselves have boycotted this place long time back. So many country side people sleeping on either the lawn or if they are lucky on a chapped wooden bench. The kids play area is more like an aliens space base…..etc
Therefore, I see nothing wrong with reviving and developing this patch of forgotten land, and mind you (و انت سيد العارفين) this is on a BOT basis right? in other word it is going to be given back, so where is the ‘stealing public property’ thing in the matter?

December 28th, 2006, 5:27 am


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

The American blogger and New American Foundation, Vice-President Steve Clemons, has an interesting article on the new Saudi Ambassador to the USA: Adel Al-Jubeir, who is perhaps very familiar to many people from his frequent appearences on American TV. As per Clemons, the new Ambassador is the personal choice of King Abdullah. Previously, Al-Jubeir, had served as Abdullah’s own personal foreign policy advisor. Which it would appear to mean, that those who were writing up the Prince Turki resignation as a definitive victory for Prince Bandar, are perhaps being a bit
premature. The article from the Washington Note
( follows:

December 20, 2006

SCOOP: Pragmatic Non-Royal to be Next Saudi Ambassador to the United States

For Saudi watchers, some fascinating news has just made its way to The Washington Note.

A former staffer at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, ADEL AL-JUBEIR, who comes from a distinguished, yet non-royal family, has risen to such levels of esteem in the estimation of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah that he has been appointed the next Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

This is quite remarkable news. One of the rumored successors to Prince Turki al-Faisal, who recently resigned as Ambassador in Washington with plans to depart at the end of January 2007, was Prince Turki’s cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, who is currently Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Prince Mohammed succeeded Prince Turki in London after having served as Ambassador to Italy after Turki was assigned to Washington. Many expected Prince Mohammed to move to Washington, but family concerns kept the Ambassador in the United Kingdom.

Wanting someone trusted and close — closer than family to some degree — King Abdullah has now appointed his personal foreign policy advisor to serve as his Ambassador in Washington. Abdullah met the relatively young Adel al-Jubeir in Washington some years ago — when he was Director of Communications at the Embassy. Adel’s brother, Nail Al-Jubeir, now holds the very same position that Adel once heldo in Saudi Arabia’s Washington Embassy.

When King Abudullah was Crown Prince he briefly met al-Jubeir on a trip to the United States and subsequently requested that he become the Crown Prince’s foreign policy advisor.

Adel al-Jubeir’s appointment will be formally announced after the U.S. Department of State notifies the Saudi government that al-Jubeir’s credentials will be accepted. “No problems are anticipated,” according to an insider source.

More later — but this is fairly big news.

— Steve Clemons

December 28th, 2006, 6:42 am


ausamaa said:

Maybe this is good news, but little odd. If the reasoning goes that Turki left because he and Saud al Faisal are becoming weak while the Bandar group are becoming stronger, then can King Abdullah push his non-royal own candidate against ,and at the expense of, both Bandar, and Al Faisal sides. Is that a signal that King Abdullah is firming his grip on things, or is al-Jubair the temporary compromise solution in an internal struggle? If al Jubair thing is true.

Why the sudden King Abdullah unscheduled trip to Oman in the middle of all this and only days after the last GCC summit? Asking the Omanies to check things out with the Iranian side? Or soliciting Qabous’s advice/support in other areas?

Is something “big” happening at the top in Saudi?

Also what is it with Mubarak wanting to change seventy articles in the constitution, and with King Abdullah in Jordan distancing himself from Abbas and inviting Hanniya for the joint meeting to try to reach a compromise between both? Looking for a role to claim/play? or being asked to “do this” by the US or Israel? Of course, notwithstanding the “usual historical mission” of Jordan which is to play the leading roll in “Arab Affairs” for the benifit of the “Whole Arab Nation”!!!

Wow, that is your New Middle-East with changes threatning the “friendly” associates not the other side!!!! Murphy’s Law at work??

December 28th, 2006, 1:17 pm


Ehsani2 said:

For those who are unfamiliar with Aleppo, Al-Sabeel constitutes this city’s second public park. The rumors are that Mr. Makhlouf has won the contract to develop the property into a hotel, apartment complex and a mall.

Dubai Jazz is absolutely right about the current state of this public park. If anything, he may have been too kind in his description of the place.

But, do we address the issue of our deteriorating public city parks by building hotels and apartment complexes in their space?

One would think that the real problem lies in the performance of our municipal governments and their shameful mismanagement of such important assets. The already limited parks are crumbling under the nose of city and government officials. What is their response? Instead of fixing the problem, they simply opt to lease the space to business ventures like the one described above. The main public park of Aleppo has also suffered from years of neglect. What has the government done about it? Leased part of it to a well-connected business tycoon who decided to open his own coffee shop and children playing area depriving citizens from much needed space in the ever expanding cement structures around.

Once he saw the deteriorating conditions of Al-Sabeel, Mr. Makhoulf and company should have derided city officials for their neglect and mismanaging of such critical resources in our cities. Instead of turning them into hotels and apartment complexes, would it not have been better to punish and force municipal officials to address the real problems first? The castle is also in terrible shape. So, instead of fixing it and maintaining it, Mr. Makhlouf ought to simply build a 5-star hotel on this deteriorating historical structure. After all, it is in such a bad shape that a new four seasons complex must surely look better than what we have now.

People must be saying what is wrong with this EHSANI2 guy? Is this the time to worry about our parks and castles? Sadly, they are right. The country I know and love is in a state of slow death and torturous collapse. The Al-Sabeel story is a footnote and a microcosm of our current ugly predicament.

December 28th, 2006, 2:13 pm


Ahmad said:
Keep it Joshua
كشفت اللجنة السورية لحقوق الإنسان (لندن) أن شاباً سورياً اعتقل قبل نحو عام ونصف لا يزال مصيره مجهولاً، مثلما مكان اعتقاله. وبدلاً من الكشف عن مصيره قامت السلطات باعتقال والده.

وأوضحت الجنة أن الشاب صهيب عمر العلبي (19 عاماً) وهو من بلدة حرستا في ريف دمشق؛ اعتقل عند الحدود السورية اللبنانية قبل حوالي عام ونصف “حيث كان بحوزته بعض الكتب وأشرطة الكاسيت الدينية المتوفرة في الأسواق. ولم يتمكن أحد من معرفة شيء عنه أو عن مكان اعتقاله منذ ذلك التاريخ”. وقبل ستة شهور قامت السلطات باعتقال والده عمر العلبي (45 عاماً) من مقر عمله في حرستا.

ويشار إلى أن المواطن عمر العلبي أب لأربعة أولاد أكبرهم صهيب وأصغرهم طفلة لا تتجاوز الرابعة. “ولا يعلم أحد عن سبب اعتقال المواطن عمر أو مكان اعتقاله أو الجهة المعتقلة” .

December 28th, 2006, 2:24 pm


Joshua said:

Although I disagree with Michel Kilo on many issues, you can’t but respect him. People should know the context of his statement quoted by Josh. When Bush announced a week ago that Syria “should free opposition figures” naming Kilo. Kilo’s response from his prison was: Mr. Bush you should stop supporting Israel’s imprisoning of thousands of Palestinians, stop supplying Israel with political cover to occupy the Golan, Lebanon and Palestine and stop the bloody occupation in Iraq, then you would have the moral high ground of asking for my release! Kilo proves again that he’s working for his country and his region and that he is not a political opportunist such as the NSF people.
Also related to Syrian opposition, The Washington Quarterly has just published an article on the Syrian Opposition by Professor Landis and Joe Pace. One important conclusion in their article was: “The war in Lebanon during the summer of 2006 also strengthened the regime and weakened the opposition. Hizballah’s ability to withstand Israel’s invasion made it extremely popular in Syria and reflected well on Asad, who has been a major Hizballah backer. The Syrian opposition by contrast, by allying itself with Hizballah’s opponents in Lebanon, came out of the struggle weakened. Not only was the pro-U.S. opposition severely undermined by the war, but Asad also accused it of tacitly supporting Israel and opposing the “Arab position.” Because of Hizballah’s popularity in Syria following the war, the Syrian public was sympathetic to the president’s argument”. The damage done to the Syrian opposition by allying itself to the likes of Jumblat and little Hariri and their Syrian ally Khaddam is really understated. The Syrian opposition seems to be so detached from the Syrians wider aspiration that it keeps shooting itself in the foot time and time again. The article is a must read in my opinion for people interested in the Syrian opposition.
MO, regarding Nassrallah, yes it appears that he was right after all. There’s “converging evidence” (if I may borrow this term from Mr. Mehlis) indicating that Siniora, Junblat and several other “February  14th” politicians have conspired with Israelis, neo-cons and Saudi royals to politically and militarily work against fellow Lebanese, let aside destabilizing Syria.
I have one thing to say on Bandar.. all the Saudis I know despise him. This a little known fact about his very bad image inside Saudi is another example of the “imaginary Arab world” portrayed in the Saudi media. Thanks Alex for noting the timely article. Google has a cached copy of the article if you don’t have access to Le Monde’s website. I think the article is very important in understanding Saudi “control” on the Arab media and its influence on western decision making. The author’s insight on Arab columnists is also amazing!

December 28th, 2006, 2:49 pm


Joshua said:

I [joshua] just received this note from a friend,


Thanks for the post on possible covert action. I found the piece thought-provoking and, of course, troubling. It cuts across research/speculation I’ve been pursuing here.

This rings half-true to me. There is something brewing between the US and Saudi, although it’s still unclear who is taking the lead (did the Saudis threaten unilateral incursion into Iraq, prompting the recent Cheney trip?) but 1) I think Washington is very split over this one, and I’m not sure Cheney and any NSC allies can push a scheme through beyond upping the force level in Iraq (and even that is shaky, given military’s skepticism) and 2) my read of US strategy beyond Cheney is that they’re looking for a bit of “balance” in a coalition to bump off the bad allies. So in Iraq, Bush welcomes Hakim at same time that talks go on with Saudis. Re Palestine, the hope still seems to be backing of Abbas as well as Israeli government.

Lebanon? US certainly wants to clip Hezbollah and backing of Sunnis makes sense. But who is the “local” Lebanese arm of a US-Saudi operation? Would Hariri support? Perhaps more importantly, who in the Shi’a community/network can US find as a “local” prop for ~American action?

Best wishes to you and yours. Hope we can stay in touch,


December 28th, 2006, 2:50 pm


MSK said:

Dear blog administrators,

would one of you be so kind and clarify who this “Joshua” is who seems to not be Josh Landis, yet links to SyriaComment. Is he the same person as the one who signed the last comment as “Scott”? Why is he posting under the name of “Joshua” then?

In order to avoid misunderstandings, if his name is, indeed, Joshua, would it be possible for him to post in such a way that it is clear that he is not Josh Landis?

I’m sorry if this comment sounds like nitpicking, but it took me (& others) a moment to realize that it wasn’t Josh Landis.

And posting under a false identity is a big NoNo in the blogosphere.

On that note – did anyone check if those “Person X is the best commenter here” posts originated from the same source as the comments by the commenter they were praising?



December 28th, 2006, 2:58 pm


John Kilian said:

ausamaa said:
Is something “big” happening at the top in Saudi?

Does anything “small” happen at the top in Saudi? I have heard that the Hajj, which is coming to a close on 1/7/07, has brought with it to Saudi Arabia a great many Iranian operatives to Medina and Mecca. Just a pure rumor, but I do not see any motive for a fabrication of this sort.

It may be that the Saudis are feeling threatened to the point that they are changing course and pushing back. With The Hajj ending, Saddam up for execution, Bush set to announce a new tact, and Lebanon’s government under seige, Iran pursuing nukes, not to mention all the movements in Iraq, it is clear that the whole region is realigning for a new course of events. The stage seems set, but for what I can not tell. Certainly the guardians of the status quo have much to be concerned about.

December 28th, 2006, 3:54 pm


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

so … that was, then, indeed you. Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

I’m having a bit troublew with this statement of yours:

MO, regarding Nassrallah, yes it appears that he was right after all. There’s “converging evidence” (if I may borrow this term from Mr. Mehlis) indicating that Siniora, Junblat and several other “February 14th” politicians have conspired with Israelis, neo-cons and Saudi royals to politically and militarily work against fellow Lebanese, let aside destabilizing Syria.

What ‘converging evidence’ of the Leb gov’t’s “consipiration” do you have? Are you referring to that “Saniora met Olmert” claim? Or is there anything else (i.e. substantiated)?

I know that you realize how massive of an assertion you are making re: the March 14 group, and thus have to assume that you have positive proof and reliable sources.


December 28th, 2006, 4:08 pm


t_desco said:

Hamadeh to Sue Hizbullah on Charges of ‘Inciting’ his Assassination

Communications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, a key figure in the anti-Syrian majority coalition, has vowed to sue Hizbullah and its television mouthpiece, Al-Manar, on charges of “inciting” his assassination. …

He also said Hizbullah had “covered up those who tried to assassinate me in October 2004. The car which targeted me was booby trapped in an area controlled by Hizbullah and its license plate was forged at a workshop in the same area.”

Al-Manar’s report claimed Hamadeh had “revealed” to U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman the hideout of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during the 34-day war between the Shiite group and Israel last summer.
Naharnet; Al-Manar Arabic and English

December 28th, 2006, 5:09 pm


Ehsani2 said:

According to multiple unofficial and anecdotel sources, the economic situation in Syria has deteriorated markedly recently. But for a handful of large businesses, most citizens continue to suffer from rampant price inflation and stagnating incomes.

In effect, real wages (nominal wages adjusted for inflation) are falling. Making basic ends meet continues to be a struggle for the majority of people.

As we theorize about geopolitics and regional power struggle from the comforts of our desks, it is important to remember that a substantial majority of our people is falling into poverty at an ever-accelerating pace.

If you think that I am over-dramatizing the situation, I am afraid that I may not be depicting the severity of the macro economic challenges ahead.

Bandar/Turki/Jubair may well be the topic of interest here. I am afraid that meeting the basic needs of every day life is what is the concern of over 99.9% of our people back home. As for the remaining 20,000 people (0.001 of the population), things could not be any better of course

December 28th, 2006, 5:31 pm


Gibran said:

EHSANI2 proves my point: Syrians can only be ruled by a thick stick or by starvation as it turns out – same end result.

Ahamad stop wasting your time. You’re posting on pages dedicated to Alawi thugs.

December 28th, 2006, 6:01 pm


ausamaa said:


It just came on the AP, Rueter and the AFP tickers: “The FAO and the WHO and the UNICIF have announced Syria as a Disater Area on account of a Major Famine that claimed 5 million people so far. However, the Syrian Lira vs.the US$ exchange rate remains at more or less the same level since 15 years”.

I hope the above news flash makes you hapyyyyyyy..

Turn on your TV, tune into CNN and wait for it…your wish may come true and then it will be further proof of your point whatever the heck it was.

December 28th, 2006, 7:13 pm


youngSyria said:

with all respect .If you don’t like this blog and its “thugs” , please don’t waste your time posting here and save your sectarian comments to some other sectarian blog (you know there are lots of them ). thanks.

* btw.. whether Syrians are ruled by thick stick or thick “me7shee” is none of your business.

December 28th, 2006, 7:19 pm


Gibran said:

Yes Aussama I’m very very very happy.

YoungSyria very ridiculous.

December 28th, 2006, 7:44 pm


youngSyria said:

whatever 🙂

December 28th, 2006, 7:57 pm


simohurtta said:

Syrians can only be ruled by a thick stick or by starvation as it turns out – same end result.

Gibran Israel and USA like to rule with a big stick and use starvation even presently in their “political games”. Their common dominator is also an Übermensch attitude. If Syrians and others have to choose between a local “stick” and “democratic stick” which we see now in use in Iraq I suppose they like more the home made alternative. Which is Gibran worse, to be ruled with a big stick or to rule with a big stick?

Gibran the people in Latin America, Greece, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea (to mention a few) did not like the “big sticks” donated by USA.

December 28th, 2006, 8:12 pm


Atassi said:

What the ‘poor sots’ of the world know about globalization
Mark Perry
29 December 2006
In 1919, the world humbly bore the loss of one of its most imaginative diplomats, when 39-year-old Mark Sykes succumbed to the Spanish flu in his well-appointed Paris hotel room. Sykes died a happy man, having created (with his boon buddy Francois Georges-Picot), a “New Middle East,” complete with Octavian-era place names: Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Iraq. Sykes had spent his off-hours over the previous years bent over a map, diligently erasing old boundaries and replacing them with British and French “zones.” His vision was now a matter of international law, having recently been agreed to at Versailles, just down the road from the hotel where he breathed his last. His intentions were to do good – so it is, always, with imperialists – to bring the Arabs (“those poor sots” as he once so indelicately phrased it) into the modern world.
The great tragedy of Sykes is not that he died at such a young age, or that his great hope (to serve as foreign minister) remained unfulfilled, or even that he died bereft, childless, unmarried, alone. Sykes’ great tragedy was that he created a map of the Middle East that had absolutely no connection to reality. His “red” British and “blue” French zones (as well as his pink “spheres of influence” and purple “condominiums”) were a mix of borderless intentions that took a score of decades and dozens of conflicts to sort through – and have not been sorted through yet.
Still, Sykes’ true legacy was not his vision of the Middle East, but the trail of neo-imperialists he left behind who search for a unified theory of diplomacy that makes the Muslim world explicable, that will explain it all.
In the summer of 2004, Washington’s policymaking elites were a-twitter about a new book that continued this tradition. “The Pentagon’s New Map” was passed hand-to-hand among policymakers, appeared on Pentagon reading lists, and was the subject of endless discussion at Washington think tanks. The book’s author, Thomas Barnett, divided the world into two spheres: the “functioning core” of integrated, democratic and modern states and the “disconnected gap” of poor and poorly run states that are the breeding grounds of terrorism. That is to say, them and us. “The Pentagon’s New Map” seemed a natural follow-on to Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat,” which posited an ever-expanding global economy that would, eventually and inevitably, expand our horizons.
There was, in both of these books, a small footnote of warning. Barnett said that a robust US military was essential to providing the means necessary to bring an end to the lawlessness common among the “disconnected gap” – the US needed to create a “Leviathan” that could ensure world peace.
“Any time American troops show up – be it in combat, a battle group pulling up the coast as a reminder, or a peacekeeping mission – it tends to be in a place that is relatively disconnected from the world, where globalization hasn’t taken root because of a repressive regime, abject poverty, or the lack of a robust legal system. It’s these places that incubate global terrorism,” Barnett writes.
Thomas Friedman must have been miffed. Barnett’s prescription for spreading “core” values sounded a lot like his medicine for ending the strife between those who were all for globalization and those who thought it was threatening their way of life. Or, as Friedman would have it: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
Washington wonks are not the only ones who slather over this kind of thing. Arabs and Muslims do too. Barnett and Friedman will be pleased to learn that the newest recruits to the set of “flat-worlders” are Arab Salafists, who pay no attention to maps at all. Indeed, in 2003 Sunni opponents of America’s invasion of Iraq went out to do battle with the defenders of Silicon Valley in Anbar and Baghdad.
What happens in Baghdad today is the talk of Cairo tonight, and the same “gappers” we deride for believing their olive groves are worth defending have learned the lessons of resistance from others in the world. We might deny that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will help America in Iraq, just as we would deny that “the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad,” but we should not assume that interconnectedness is the sole province of the “functioning core” or that we can divide or sketch new boundaries that will federate peace. Then too, our vaunted support for globalization has denied access to the global economy (the one tool we believe is the most moderating of influences) to those deemed enemies.
The unbelievable condescension of the mapmakers has blinded them to the truth of the current conflict – that the growing resistance to American hegemony represents the first truly global and connected political movement in human history. It plays to a global audience, it accesses the global media, it subverts the strategy of “flat worlders” who would use the world economy to exact political punishment.
“The ultimate benign hegemon and reluctant enforcer,” in Thomas Friedman’s phrase, is rejecting the new flat world of global markets. The US is the “turtle” of the modern era, which would rather pull in its head than admit that its maps bear no relation to reality. Mark Sykes would recoil in horror – but he would also be proud of those who he once dismissed as mere pawns in a game of influence and spheres. The “poor sots” have entered the modern world – we are the ones stuck in the past.
Mark Perry is co-director of Conflicts Forum and is based in Washington DC. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter.

December 28th, 2006, 8:54 pm


Gibran said:

No Mr. SIMOHURTA you got that wrong my friend. No one likes your local big stick. You want a frank answer? Since you asked here it is. If it is a choice between local and American big stick, the choice is obvious: Bring in the American stick.

December 28th, 2006, 9:35 pm


Alex said:

MSK, good point but I want to take it to a more general direction:

Although each one of us has his own factors that make his personal opinions biased to some extent, some people are “outsiders” who are detached enough from the issue they are discussing that I don’t mind hearing their personal opinion, even if it is not backed by hard evidence. Of course I would always keep in mind that this is a personal opinion.

More specifically, I think Joshua, the historian in Oklahoma, is sufficiently detached from the passionate side of Mideast conflicts, and that make him more capable of concluding the right thing more often than not.

And in general, I found the least neutral “analysts” or commentators to be from these groups:

1) Those who believe (rightly or wrongly) they are “Fighters for Democracy”. To them, everything is the fault of the evil Arab dictators. To them, removing a dictator should take care of any problem one can imagine.

Mr. Khaddam, Mr. Jumblat, and Saudi commentators in Asharq al-Awsat are examples of this group. Jumblat who called the Syrian regime “savage” last week promised Assad that he will be killed if not today then one day. The Saudi journalists who criticize Syria for not being a Democracy and blame every problem in the Middle East on the Syrian regime is another case of “democracy fighters” who still manage to write frequently about all the good things they love about the wise Saudi king of the day.

2) My Tribe is good, your tribe is bad:

This includes:

– Lebanese who believe they are vastly superior to Syrians
– Overly proud Syrians – me included sometimes 😉
– Saudi Journalists
– Egyptian Journalists
– Israelis (government, journalists, and the more backward half of their population)

3) Those with accounts to settle with someone:

– Lebanese who still did not get over their hate of Syria.
– Israelis who hate Arabs
– Arabs who hate Israelis
– Syrians who hate the Syrian regime.

4) Western Journalists and politicians who do not understand the Middle East:

They get overly impressed after a visit to Saudi Arabia’s fancy malls and palaces, or after a nice dinner with a very westernized Lebanese warlord .. they get fooled into thinking that these are the ones who are doing the right thing and they side with them automatically against … “Syrian dictators”

5) Those who are insecure:

Seeing conspiracy theory in everything. I often get someone at dinners or receptions asking me “what is REALLY going on? what is the inside story?” … If I reply “what you have been hearing is more or less how it is”, it is the wrong answer. In their opinion, Hamas leaders are paid by the Americans (deposited in Swiss accounts) to create chaos between Palestinians. And of course, the Syrian regime is secretly working for the CIA since 1963…

So again, the above is a group that needs to be questioned about their sources when they state anything related to events in the Middle East.

In my personal opinion of course.. I can’t prove it 😉

December 28th, 2006, 11:01 pm


G said:

More specifically, I think Joshua, the historian in Oklahoma, is sufficiently detached from the passionate side of Mideast conflicts, and that make him more capable of concluding the right thing more often than not.

Um yeah, he’s only married to a Syrian Alawite (? based on what he’s said on his blog, unless I have it wrong that she’s Alawite) and lived in the country for a long time. Yeah, no personal side there! Please!

December 28th, 2006, 11:30 pm


Ehsani2 said:


What about adding another group to your list?

-Those who genuinely believe that the country’s economy is grossly mismanaged and who are against the widespread corruption that has spread like cancer in every facet of society.

December 29th, 2006, 12:36 am


Gibran said:

G, I agree with what you said in your last comment, and I’m glad you made this remark.
I want to refer you to previous posts where I presented a very accurate analysis of the person in question. Please keep in mind that you can only deal with such people by completely ignoring them. They suffer from an acute case of halucination and delusion which they perceive as reality.

December 29th, 2006, 12:39 am


Ahmad said:

Gibran, You’re right…but the thugs are just in the Governement

Alex, I feel the different since you start your blog…
did your opinion change after reading the Ambassadors’ nice message to you?

December 29th, 2006, 2:47 am


Alex said:

Dear G and Gibran

You fall under groups: 1,2,3,5 .. you’re lucky you are not a western journalist (#4) otherwise you would have had a perfect score in natural propensity for biased analysis.

I fall under group #2, as I admitted earlier. But at least I know it and I try my best to moderate its effect.

Read this if you can … it is not long. It might explain to you how everyone reads news in a biased way. Maybe you won’t feel defensive about your own bias.


Ambassador Moustapha is a very intelligent, capable, and dedicated diplomat. During and after the Lebanon war he appeared I think 73 times on American television in one month. I don’t think any other Arab diplomat worked as hard as he did. And if you actually watched him, most of what he was pushing for was an immediate stop to the war.

As for your conclusion about how the Ambassador’ kind comments about me might have affected me. Please remember that I have also had kind comments from moderate Israeli Journalsits and historians, from Turks, from American journalists, from Syrian opposition journalists … if each one was to change my position then I will be a zionist, Communist, Islamic fundamentalist, Imperialist, in addition to being a Baathist.

December 29th, 2006, 4:51 am


Alex said:


You are in a group by yourself:

Those who are wasting their energy analyzing the Micro level at the expense of the much more relevant Macro level … You are frustrated because Syria has a Billionaire relative of the president plus a lot of other corruption. The macro view will show you a similar, often much worse, pattern of behavior… look at the rest of the region … look at the commisions paid when the rich Arabs buy anything from the west and pay double the regular price … look at how much the Hariris made in Lebanon (mostly by acquiring some prime real estate properties)

The Middle East (including Syria) is swimming in corruption. Let’s see what we can do to move the Middle East in the right direction, and then we’ll see how that can craete better environmental conditions for reducing the culture of corruption.

December 29th, 2006, 5:23 am


simohurtta said:

No Mr. SIMOHURTA you got that wrong my friend. No one likes your local big stick. You want a frank answer? Since you asked here it is. If it is a choice between local and American big stick, the choice is obvious: Bring in the American stick.

What good has Gibran the big stick of USA and Israel brought to Iraqis and Palestinians? Are those nations really free and democratic?

I personally can’t see any difference between the local big stick in Saudi Arabia and Egypt or the big stick in Iran and Syria. Not even the Gibrans can say that Saudi Arabia is less religiously ruled as Iran or Eqypt is more democratic than Syria. The only difference is in their relations to the holder of the really big stick.

What good would your American stick bring to Syria and Syrians? After we have seen how skilled USA has been hitting with the big stick in Iraq, only an “Israeli neoconservative” wants more of that medicine to the region. Most of the worlds nations have been able to develop their societies towards democracy without no US help (actually many have developed only after they managed to kick out the US installed dictator). Eventually the Middle Eastern countries can do the same. It is up to them, not up to us Europeans and Americans.

December 29th, 2006, 5:41 am


Gibran said:

You can lock yourself in Europe if you like and forget about the rest of the world. My reply was an answer to a hypothetical question to a choice between two possible alternatives. What part of Europe do you come from, by the way? Don’t forget the great service the US rendered to post war Germany. Japan is yet another case. The US now has a status quo presence in the region. Rest assured it will remain in the region for the next 50 years at least; and you should know why. It is not just the plain old idealism of democracy. There are some real economic interests at stake. The Middle East benefits from American partnership as much as the US. Radicals like Bashar and Nejad are impediment to economic progress and their removal will be the greatest benefit to the region. Saudis and Egyptians have made sound choices regardless of their political system. Bashar and Nejad would rather squander their resources on petty troublemaking in neighboring states instead of bettering the lots of their people. Do you know who are the poorest per capita people in the ME? EHSANI pointed out the case of the Syrians. I can tell you the Iranians are in the same category despite their oil wealth.

Alex your classifications are not worth considering (as usual). Neither is your link to that garbage about news bias.

December 29th, 2006, 6:36 am


Ahmad said:

I just want to make one point,

The 73 times Ambassador Moustafa appeared on TV he stated the same sentence(over and over and over) He was begging the American to love Bashar. So please, if you like his appearence and his achivement that’s your opinion.
I am not a Syrian-American or Syrian-Canadian … I am a Syrian and I want back my Syrian Arab Republic.

December 29th, 2006, 7:13 am


Gibran said:

I have a feeling that we may have met. Do you live in west end Vancouver?

December 29th, 2006, 7:24 am


Ahmad said:

He let you change your mind about (carpet).

December 29th, 2006, 7:37 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Alex whatis your blog address?

hanging Saddam will have a baleful effect on George Bush,just like Holegu after he destroyed Baghdad,within two years,his troops were defeated by relatively small army(al Zaher bibers),and later by his cousin Barake,and his troops drowned, later he died within five years of destroying Baghdad ,at a young age.
Bush will see nightmares,that will wake him up,will see Saddam in his dreams.
Saddam is a bad man,deserve to die, but not at the hands of traitors,and under american occupation.

December 29th, 2006, 8:00 am


Alex said:


ok … you’re right about the carpets part 🙂

But again, we both picked the parts of Dr. Moustapha’s words in a way that fits our arguments … the fact is he did the Syria PR part as you suggested, but he also did mention at every interview “we need to stop this war today”

Majed, I do not have a blog! .. that’s why I’m here enjoying intellectual discussions with my friend Gibran.

Gibran, not that it will go anywhere, but I’ll tell you what Desmond Tutu’s father used to tell him: “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”

And if you can’t improve it … just don’t argue. follow your own suggestion … ignore me.

December 29th, 2006, 8:20 am


simohurtta said:

Gibran Iraq is the best example that exporting “democracy” (or hunting for WMD’s as the original excuse was) is to complicated for the simple Yanks. Since George Marshall, William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan there has been a serious degeneration in US skills in ruling occupied areas. After that episode (to which USA joined reluctantly as you remember) USA has not “created” a single democracy. Actually it distinguished for example in turning the cradle of democracy (Greece) to a dictatorship. “Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution” as the Texas’ other great gift for worlds “democracy” (L.B. Johnson) said.

Gibran “locking out” is a better strategy than starting wars on very suspicious reasons. Gibran you clame that on the other hand that USA operates for humanitarian reasons (“democracy” to a nation like Iraq which had nothing to do with 911) on the other hand you admit the economic realities (= some economic reasons as you describe it).

In what way are secure and cheap access to oil and raw materials and democracy linked? Actually the history shows us much evidence that the greatest fear of US foreign policy are nationalistic, democratically elected leaders who want the best price for for their natural resources and labour. What USA likes most are authoritarian leaders who allow US companies to drill oil and mine minerals with the minimum compensation. Then the whining of “human rights” is minimal. The past decades history is full of such examples.

Syrians and others are responsible for their own nations democratic development. As Americans, Canadians and Europeans are for their own. If you Gibbon still support spreading “democracy” with US Army why not start from North Korea, then continue to Burma and finalize the excursion in Palestine. After such a successful tour US would have some moral authority to tame milder human rights abusers.

December 29th, 2006, 1:31 pm


ausamaa said:

Nice, Ahmad and Gebran have found each other!!! please break the news to Junblat, Saad and Jaja’a and to their Godfather Abu Jamal, they will be very happy:The “Freeddom” pack is getting larger by the day….!! You guys, and AkbarPalace of course, always remind me of Mohammed Darwish poem:
عابرون في زمان عابر

I also wish you a happy new year and I would like to dedicate an everlasting Fairuz song to you in 2007. The one that goes:

يوم عيناها بساط السمـــا
و الرماح السود في الهـــدب

If you know the one I mean….. Happy New Year to Syria and All Arab Syrians and Arabs.

December 29th, 2006, 1:44 pm


John Kilian said:

simohurtta said:
“… Since George Marshall, William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan there has been a serious degeneration in US skills in ruling occupied areas.”

I think you are right, and the role of economic development, such as the Marshall Plan, is essential to reaching all of our strategic goals. There is so much unemployment in Iraq and the region as a whole, how can democracy expect to flourish? That is putting the cart before the horse.

December 29th, 2006, 2:21 pm



Aussama ; I wonder what kind of a sense-lacking person this Griban is.
I made it clear to him a while ago that given his attitude toward Syrians he shouldn’t be posting in this forum. But what to do? It seems that those glitzy, schmaltzy Lebanese who pretend to be classy and superior, are nothing but bunch of idiots……
“جلده متنحس”

December 29th, 2006, 3:59 pm


ausamaa said:

Dubai Jazz,
It can get on your nerves some times, such hate I mean, but considering that there are many, many and many true Lebanese who have a different orientation, then just put him in the File & Forget folder and skip his comment to the next if you are really busy.

As to Al Sabeeil park, last time I saw it was in 1975 when I was at Aleppo University, and it was rather dull even then. But that is Ehsanni2 God bless him. Angry with the Syrian economy as many of us are, but trying to change it how? He does not tell, but keeps trying to crtisiz the situation despite the changes that are taking place there. I really do not care who and how people win a contract to develop anything in Syria as long as someone does. And I don not see many takers. We just wait till Makhloof or Nahas, or this or that does something and then we jump on their tail and shout foul. Hell, are they going to make money out of it? Yes. So?

To be frank with you, and while this may be below the belt, did any Syrian critic invest in any Syrian stock or buy shares in the public companies which have been operating and distributing dividends in Syria for years and years, and hence lend support to those enterprises? No. I do not think so. We rather invest in blue chips outside Syria, marvel at how smart our investment decisions are, but we are always ready to hand out advice to the government at every turn. Well, not to say that the miracles are being achieved, but they are not just sitting there skimming profits and pocketing it. That is how we are.

Imagin what the reaction will be if the Syrian Prime Minister wanted to personally develope parts of downtown Damascus ala Solideir style?

No offense anybody!!!

December 29th, 2006, 4:13 pm


Gibran said:

Points well taken. Actually the US never ruled any other nation even though it may have had military presence here and there for various reasons. So it is a given, the US cannot rule other countries and it also lacks the experience. You’re also right. US incursions are always tied to some economic reasons.
But, let us look at it from a different angle. The countries of the Middle East do not qualify as nation states in the proper sense of the word; i.e. in comparison with European, American and Asian States. In fact, Syria in particular has never evolved into something more than a Province since history began. I’m sure the Syrians would now want to jump on my neck out of rage. But before they do that let’s remember that they are being fed nationalist nonsense for over a century. So they would be at a great loss to grasp the truth about the inherent deficiencies of their homeland. Province is some political entity attached to a central authority located somewhere else on the planet. Syria was a province in Roman times. It was a province during Arab rule. It was a province during Ottoman rule. It was a province during French rule. It was a province of USSR during the cold war. And guess what? It is now a province of so-called Islamic Republic of Iran. Syria’s fall into province hood of none other than Iran (because of the sudden disappearance of the bi-polar world) is a striking example of the inability of this country to evolve. The conclusion is clear: Syria has to invent a patron if there is none available!
So we go back to the original hypothetical question. Given a choice between local and American sticks: Bring in the American stick.

DJ,AUS Buzz off.

December 29th, 2006, 4:21 pm


ausamaa said:


By the look of things, I am afraid you are going to be stuck with the Local Stick for a long while. Live with it and try to get the best out of the situation. As usual,.. you know..

December 29th, 2006, 4:54 pm


Atassi said:


كل عامٍ وأنتم بخير
Ausamaa, Gibran and the Stick ” discussion Group”
We Syrians ARE NOT going to tolerate the Local nor the external Sticks in 2007 🙂
ندعو الله أن يعيده بتبدل الأحوال

December 29th, 2006, 6:17 pm


Gibran said:

Thanks Atassi
same to you in all what you said.
Guess what? I’m happy some one can bring sanity of the issue as you did. I hope more Syrians will reach your convictions even if they had to be enraged into it!!

December 29th, 2006, 6:29 pm


simohurtta said:

Gebran what kind of nation states are USA, Canada or Australia?

USA is collection of people who still after living for generation on land liberated from “pagan savages” and Mexicans have a strong identity to their ancestors countries. Chicago’s firemen “pretend” to be Irish, Mafia men Sicilian etc. Come-on Gibbon the national identity of Americans is hardly any stronger than that of Syrians, Lebanese etc. Many Americans living in Europe, Asia, Latin America nowadays say that they come from Canada to avoid unnecessary political “discussions”. 🙂

By the way what has the national state identity to do with democracy and US stick? Belgium has a rather rather “weak” national identity. Do they need the famous American stick to hold the country in “order”?

December 29th, 2006, 10:48 pm


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