More Tooing and Frowing on Engagement with Syria


David Shenker accuses Syria (copied below) of trying to divide Washington officials because, as he explains, the Syrians came to Washington during the Jewish high holidays in the hope of talking only to Gentiles. He writes:

“Mekdad landed in Washington on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, a time when most Jews — including those employed by the US government — were in synagogue.”

I guess we are to assume that the Syrians have planted an anti-Jewish agent in the State Department to help them schedule meetings on Jewish holidays? Shenker assures us, however, that the sneaky Syrian plan is not working. They cannot turn Gentile against Jew in the Obama administration because the administrators in charge of the Levant – Shapiro, Feltman, and Mitchell – Jew and Gentile alike – are on the same page. It is heartening to hear that sectarianism is a Middle Eastern disease incommunicable on these shores.

Shenker argues that no one in Washington will dismantle sanctions before Syria has relinquished some cards.  Why? Shenker assures us that: “there is more agreement than disagreement on the nature of the Assad regime” among Obama administrators. Shenker believes that the Syrian regime is just bad and does not want peace for the Golan. We are all familiar with this tune.

Unfortunately, Syrians return this skepticism in spades. Syrians want to first see a decisive move by Obama on sanctions. Syrians are in agreement about the nature of the US administration – they are doubtful that it will dismantle sanctions even if Syria delivers on issues Washington wants. Syrians reason that just as Obama backed down on his pledge to stop Israeli settlement expansion because of staunch opposition in congress, he will back down on dismantling Syria sanctions, which are supported by a broad coalition of Jews and Gentiles in congress.

For WINEP, however, the key is that “Washington is showing little interest in pursuing a mediation role in Israeli-Syrian negotiations,” which means that Obama will not push Israel to return the Golan. If Shenker is correct, Obama’s stated goal of pushing for a conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conflict is all but dead. The Palestinian track is moribund. He backed away from his initial tough stance on settlement expansion in the West Bank after 56 congressmen flew to Israel in August to show support for Netanyahu against their own president. Their montra while there was “settlers are not a problem, Iran is.” If Obama will not seek a reversal to Israel’s occupation of the Golan, there is nothing left to advance.

So can Sarkozy make a difference?

Patrick Seale

Patrick Seale

Patrick Seale explains that President Sarkozy is not on the same page as the Obama administration on the topic of sanctioning Syria. He still believes that a two state solution for Israel and Palestinians can be pushed through, which would help resolve outstanding differences between Syria and France. He is willing to go hard on Iran in order to win a better hearing for his more generous policy toward Syria. France and Europe, however, have precious little power to influence either Israel or the US on the Golan or sanctioning Syria. So what can France hope to gain by being an advocate for Syria? It will get preferential treatment for French firms in Syria; it improve the environment for French schools in Syria and for its cultural policy of spreading the French language. French is being made an obligatory secondary language in Syrian schools, Seale explains.

Francois Burgat

François Burgat

Hopefully Sarkozy’s policy will also lead to an expansion of the IFPO – France’s premier institute for graduate studies and research in Syria. The director – François Burgat  – is extremely talented and unlike many academics is a gifted administrator with ambitious plans to expand the IFPO’s Arabic training program, which is the best in Syria, and possibly the entire Middle East. The IFPO remains the Mecca of academic life in Damascus for foreigners and many Syrians. If the IFPO can get a boost from Sarkozy’s policies, France will have done well.

Sarkozy’s Love Affair with Syria and Lebanon
by Patrick Seale

France seems intent on becoming the dominant external power in Syria and Lebanon – commercially, politically and culturally, says Patrick Seale.

In a series of diplomatic moves, France has managed to establish itself as the most influential external power in Syria and Lebanon, outdistancing other European countries, as well as the United States itself.

France’s courtship of Syria began in 2008 when President Nicolas Sarkozy invited President Bashar al-Asad to the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean in Paris on 13 July, followed the next day by his attendance at the high-profile 14 July military parade.

This was a major event marking Syria’s rehabilitation as a Middle East power that could neither be ignored nor isolated, as former U.S. President George W. Bush had attempted to do. In this past year, numerous ministers from Europe and elsewhere have made their way to Damascus, signaling the end of Syria’s isolation.

The Union for the Mediterranean is one of Sarkozy’s pet projects. By means of major infrastructural projects, it aims to build bridges between the European Union and countries bordering the Mediterranean. The underlying hope is that such joint projects will serve to advance Arab-Israeli peace.

The Franco-Syrian love affair was taken a stage further this past week with a highly successful visit to Paris by Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem. It ended with what he described as a “very constructive” meeting with President Sarkozy. French sources speak not just of total confidence between the two countries, but of real “complicity.”

France describes Syria as a “key partner,” with which it enjoys “excellent bilateral relations in all fields.” France is to urge its EU partners to sign Syria’s Association Agreement with the European Union as soon as possible.

In Paris, Muallem, in turn, spoke of France’s important role in promoting Arab-Israeli peace, and in contributing to security and stability in both Iraq and Lebanon. France and Syria were agreed, he declared, that Lebanon should have a national government as soon as possible, but that the Lebanese alone should decide its composition. Syria and France wanted a government “made in Lebanon,” he said.

On the cultural front, a second French school is opening in Damascus, while the French language is to be made a compulsory subject in Syrian schools from the third grade up to university entrance.

Hardly had Muallem left the French capital than Sarkozy this weekend despatched Claude Guéant, the powerful secretary-general of the Elysée Palace, to Damascus, and Henri Guéno, his chief diplomatic adviser, to Beirut.

As well as courting Syria, Sarkozy, however, has been the sharpest European critic of Syria’s close ally, Iran — and in particular of Iran’s nuclear programme. This French position is evidently intended to reassure Israel.

What then is France’s game plan?

France seems intent on becoming the dominant external power in Syria and Lebanon — commercially, politically and culturally — a position it enjoyed between the two world wars, when it was granted a League of Nations Mandate over the two countries.

At the same time, Sarkozy is much concerned with safeguarding Israel’s security (although he has little sympathy for extreme right-wing members of Israel’s government, such as the racist and intemperate foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.) Sarkozy believes that the present situation is untenable and that strong international accompaniment, including guarantees for both sides, will be necessary if the Arab-Israeli peace process is to have a chance of success.

Sarkozy is determined to play a prominent role in crafting a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement — including the creation of a Palestinian state which, in his view, is the only guarantee of Israel’s long-term survival.

Worried that U.S. President Barack Obama may falter in his peace-making, Sarkozy believes that another summit meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean could be a fruitful way of bringing Israeli and Arab leaders together.

France lent its support to Turkey’s mediation between Syria and Israel, a mediation interrupted by Israel’s assault on Gaza last December/January. In Paris, Muallem declared that Syria was ready to resume indirect contacts with Israel, through Turkey’s good offices.

Syria’s greatly improved relations with France and other EU members have been matched by its broad reconciliation with the Arab world. Of this, the most prominent signal was President Bashar al-Asad’s recent visit to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah is expected to pay a return visit to Damascus as early as this coming week.

In Paris, Foreign Minister Muallem made a clear profession of faith. “Syria,” he declared, “is an Arab country, and is proud of it. This is a reality we live with every day. We have close relations with all Arab states, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.” But, he added, Syria also had good relations with Iran, a country which had given firm support to the Palestinian cause since 1979.

“When the world boycotted and isolated Syria,” Muallem said, “some Arab and European countries followed suit. But Iran chose to strengthen its relations with us.” He added, however, that the security of the Arab Gulf was a red line for Syria. Iran needed to reassure the Gulf states that its nuclear programme was peaceful.

Regarding the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear programme, Muallem said: “We want a solution through negotiations and not by means of sanctions or confrontation.” On this subject alone, France and Syria do not see eye to eye.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Who Decides on the Levant in Washington?
David Schenker
Daily Star
October 6, 2009

Last week, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal Mekdad travelled to Washington for meetings at the State Department and White House. While the Obama administration extended the invitation some time ago, the timing of Mekdad’s arrival seemed more than mere coincidence. Mekdad landed in Washington on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, a time when most Jews — including those employed by the US government — were in synagogue. For the Syrians, the fortuitous timing of the trip practically assured the absence of senior American Jewish officials from meetings at Foggy Bottom.

Whether the timing was planned or happenstance, it highlighted an ongoing theme in Washington’s diplomatic engagement with Damascus. Since the inauguration of the Obama administration, in an effort to improve its diplomatic position, the Assad regime has sought to determine its American interlocutors. Indeed, from day-one, Damascus expressed concern with the appointment of the National Security Council’s senior Middle East adviser, Daniel Shapiro, and the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, two allegedly Jewish “hardliners” on Syria. (While Shapiro is, in fact, Jewish, Feltman is a Protestant).

Later, the Syrians sought to sideline Feltman and Shapiro in hopes of conducting talks with the administration’s peace envoy George Mitchell, who Damascus presumably believed would be more sympathetic. More recently, Syria’s ambassador in Washington, Imad Mustafa, suggested during an interview with the London-based Saudi daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat that President Barak Obama himself would determine Washington’s Syria policy by “using his executive authority to freeze the implementation of the important clauses in the sanctions laws [affecting Syria].”

Despite Syrian efforts to shape the environment of the engagement, regardless of the individual interlocutor, the Obama administration has presented a unified front it its representations to Damascus. While the Syrians have succeed to some extent in blurring the three tracks of the United States’ engagement — the Iraqi border security initiative led by US Central Command, the Lebanon and Syrian-support-for-terrorism basket headed by Feltman, and Mitchell’s peace process track — Damascus has not driven a wedge in what has been, to date, a fairly coherent policy.

Today, while there appears to be some minor divergence of opinion in the Obama administration regarding Syria, there is more agreement than disagreement on the nature of the Assad regime and what is required to move ahead. The policy is based on the widespread administration consensus that despite conciliatory US gestures, until now Damascus has done precious little to reciprocate. Eight months on, the administration — which came to office on a platform of engagement — has been chastened.

Notwithstanding Syrian efforts to shuffle the deck, the key administration actors focused on Lebanon and Syria today remain Feltman, Shapiro and Mitchell. Dennis Ross, who months ago shifted from the State Department to the NSC, does not appear to be actively involved in the Lebanon-Syria portfolio. Within the military, the commander of Central Command, General David Petraeus, and, to a lesser extent, the top commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, have also emerged as key voices on Syria. Despite philosophical divergences in approach — Petraeus, for example, is said to favor senior-level talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad — the administration is under no illusions as to the chances for success.

…..Based on the lack of progress on all the key issues, however, significant US concessions to Damascus — such as the lifting of these sanctions — remain off the table. Meanwhile, at least in part due to the lack of bilateral US-Syria progress, Washington is showing little interest in pursuing a mediation role in Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

As with Iran, the Obama administration engagement initiative with Syria has yet to bear fruit. In spite of the Assad regime’s efforts to divide and conquer Washington’s Syria policymakers, for the time being at least, the administration continues to read from the same sheet of music. Stuck with Feltman, Shapiro, and Mitchell, and a coordinated US policy on Syria, Damascus, if it truly wants to improve relations with Washington, may actually have to change some of its policies.

George Ajjan writes: A great documentary for all Syrian Americans: Mustapha Akkad:  From Aleppo to Hollywood

Syria To Raise $4B On Local, Intl Mkts
By Maria Abi-Habib

ISTANBUL (Zawya Dow Jones)–Syria plans to raise $4 billion through a mixture of bonds and loans on local and international markets, the country’s central
bank governor said Tuesday. The money will be used mostly for energy projects but also for other infrastructure plans, Adib Mayaleh told Zawya Dow Jones in an interview.
“Through a partnership with the European Investment Bank, or another institution, we will (raise) $2 billion externally,” Mayaleh said. “The loans will be raised from international banks in one year.”

Mayaleh added that over the next three years, the central bank plans to issue $1 billion worth of bonds to local Syrian banks and another $1 billion will be raised on international bond markets. “Maybe in a year we’ll issue the $1 billion bond…on international markets,” he said. Syria is slowly opening up its economy to international banks. The move to
raise capital will help boost the country’s profile internationally, said Mayaleh.

Mayaleh said earlier Tuesday that the country will raise foreign ownership limits in Syrian banks to 60% from 49%. The move will help “Syria’s economy open up internationally,” he said.

Comments (56)

why-discuss said:


I think David Shenker article reflects well the worries of the jewish lobby that Obama is developing a strategy they are not used to and can’t yet deviate. Obama seems to be running several path parallelly. In some he appears to make one step ahead, one step back and to give conflicting signals. I think his apparent bowing to the jewish lobby about the settlement issue was premeditated. He surely knew that Netanyahu with his fragile right wing coalition will not survive if he accepted. By backtracking, he appears to the jewish lobby as a faithful supporter of Israel. Parallely he is flirting with Syria and Iran hiding behind the international community to justify the rapprochement. Sarkozy and Turkey (and now KSA) are his operators with Syria and the other europeans with UN his operator with Iran.
The cancellation of the anti-iranians missile in Europe was a big blow to Israel relentless strategy of depicting Iran as the anti-world devil. Obama had to band aid that wound. The guy is relentless too and it seems he would find any circonvolution to get to what he wants and that resonates in him: by hooks or crooks, the end to Israel’s apartheid behavior.
I expect more Shenker type articles on the way, trying not to attack Obama in front. When someone concentrates on some small details like the date of the visit of Mekdad, or the color of his tie, why not, I think it is a sign of deep anxiety.

October 7th, 2009, 1:03 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Sometime I wonder whether Schenker, like many of his WINEP cohorts, is really that stupid or he thinks that his readers share his stupidity.

As if Mikdad, after years of isolation and out of some sinister plot conceived in Damascus (yeah, right), can just show up at Foggy Bottom and say, hey State, I am ready to meet.

As Why-Discuss commented above, what Schenker’s article is underscoring is the ideological poverty of the far right – they just can’t find a good fight to pick.

And, it is clear that war-hungry right wingers are just afraid of their guns turning up somewhere on their colonoscopy results.

October 7th, 2009, 3:24 pm


Mick said:

My favorite line in the Schenker article is that America has a ‘fairly coherent strategy’ regarding Syria.

I about split my gut.

October 7th, 2009, 5:56 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I think David Shenker article reflects well the worries of the jewish lobby that Obama is developing a strategy they are not used to and can’t yet deviate.

WD –

Is there an Arab Lobby?


Here’s another response to your earlier question about the “hypothetical” Israeli-Arab “5th column”…

Like I said before, Israel has done a pretty good job intergrating Arabs into Israeli society despite the on-going war.

From the last thread:

I’m sorry, do you have some information about Arab-Israelis “arming resistance groups”? Sounds to me like a neocon faux-pas, slipping out the 5th-column beliefs with just some tiny bit of fiction… Oh well, again, so easy to type on a blog…


There have been MANY examples of Arab-Israelis harming/killing Jewish Israelis, as well as aiding and abetting Palestinian terrorists living outside of Israel. Where have you been?

The “faux-pas”, IMHO, is accepting the myth that the imaginary “Green-Line” will solve all of Israel’s problems. It never did in the past and never will in the future.,7340,L-3378086,00.html

October 7th, 2009, 8:10 pm


jad said:

“From Aleppo to Hollywood”
A very good documentary about Akkad and it has a great message.
I really like it.

October 7th, 2009, 11:43 pm


Shai said:


“There have been MANY examples of Arab-Israelis harming/killing Jewish Israelis…”

Yapping doesn’t constitute serious argument. Give us a few of those MANY examples. Show us how often Arab-Israelis “arm resistance groups” that fire rockets into Israel… What kind of arms do they provide Hamas? Qassams? Mortar shells? Guns? If you mean to suggest that Arab-Israelis are “arming” resistance groups by driving their suicide bombers to Israeli restaurants a decade ago, then please say so. And try to quantify how many Arab-Israelis have done so (5, 500, or 5,000).

By the way, I’m actually happy we got you to say something about Arab-Israelis (the ones with “the same equal rights” as in Finland), because you’re making it abundantly clear that your innate distrust of Arabs covers not only Israel’s enemies, but also Israelis themselves. You didn’t choose the phrase “hypothetical 5th column” by mistake – you truly believe it exists. I wonder, Akbar, if to you all Arabs are the same. Are they?

How many of the Arab-Israelis belong to this “hypothetical” 5th column? A tiny few, a large number, most?

You know, there’s a saying in Hebrew that goes “Haniyar sovel hakol”, which means “The paper withstands everything”. That means on paper, we can write anything we want. But writing it doesn’t make it true. Indeed you are a propagandist, Akbar, because your generalizations don’t originate from ignorance, they originate from an agenda.

October 8th, 2009, 2:02 am


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

“And, it is clear that war-hungry right wingers are just afraid of their guns turning up somewhere on their colonoscopy results.”

Ach, that made me smile! 🙂

If I was advising FOX right now, I’d tell them to start a daily show called “THE FEAR FACTOR!” We can’t have Americans lulled to sleep by daisy-loving dialogue-seeking half-Muslim Presidents. “We scare you – You decide!”

October 8th, 2009, 2:08 am


norman said:

This is for all of you optimists

Israeli official: No peace deal for many years
Foreign minister’s comments cast a pall over the U.S. envoy’s latest efforts

Dan Balilty / AP File
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is due to meet with U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Thursday.
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JERUSALEM – Israel’s powerful foreign minister Thursday said he would tell a visiting U.S. Middle East envoy that there was no chance of reaching a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians for many years.

Peacemaking policy in Israel is decided by the prime minister’s office, and not the foreign ministry. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman carries significant weight in Israeli decision-making, and his is a sentiment common among confidants of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lieberman is due to meet President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in Jerusalem on Thursday to discuss, among other issues, the stalled peace process.

Story continues below ↓
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“I will tell him clearly, there are many conflicts in the world that haven’t reached a comprehensive solution and people learned to live with it,” Lieberman told Israel Radio.

‘Spreading delusions’
Lieberman said that anyone who thinks the two sides can soon reach a deal ending their decades-old conflict “doesn’t understand the situation and is spreading delusions.”

What the two sides should do, he said, was to come up with a long-term interim arrangement that would ensure prosperity, security and stability, and leave the tough issues “to a much later stage.”

This approach runs counter to U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal quickly. Obama has declared that establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel is a vital U.S. interest. Also, Israel would not find a Palestinian partner for putting off a resolution to the conflict indefinitely.

Obama brought Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas together in New York last month in an effort to jumpstart talks that broke down months ago. So far, no breakthroughs have been announced.

Since the New York summit, Mitchell met with representatives of Netanyahu and Abbas in the United States, and returned to the region this week. He was to meet with Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday and has sitdowns planned with Netanyahu and Abbas for Friday.

Israeli media reported that a Mitchell aide told local journalists Wednesday that the envoy’s visit was not likely to conclude with an announcement on talks resuming.

“We’re going to continue with our efforts to achieve an early relaunch of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, because we believe that’s an essential step toward achieving the comprehensive (Mideast) peace to which I earlier referred,” Mitchell told reporters as he entered a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday.

Settlement construction
Lieberman’s view does not bode well for U.S. attempts to restart negotiations.

Mitchell has been laboring for months to pressure Israel to curb settlement construction. Israel has agreed to limited and temporary restrictions on building in the West Bank, but has resisted a total freeze. It has rejected any limitations on construction in east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want the West Bank and east Jerusalem for part of their future state, along with the Gaza Strip, now ruled by Islamic Hamas militants.

Abbas has said repeatedly that he wouldn’t go back to the negotiating table without a freeze. He also demands that talks begin where they broke off, with a promise from Israel that all issues will be on the table. Netanyahu has said he wouldn’t be bound by the previous Israeli government’s actions.

Abbas could be hard-pressed to back down now that he’s dropped efforts to bring Israel before a war crimes tribunal in connection with its winter war in the Gaza Strip.

Nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the war, including hundreds of civilians. Israel, which lost 13 civilians and soldiers in the war, launched the campaign to end years of Hamas rocket fire on Israeli border towns.

More on: Israel | Avigdor Lieberman

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Iran accuses U.S. after nuke scientist vanishes
Israeli official: No peace deal for many yearsIran accuses U.S. after nuke

October 8th, 2009, 8:21 am


Off the Wall said:

Fox news has a program called the fear factor, it runs 24/7 but it is split into segments of one hour sub-shows with jazzy names.

October 8th, 2009, 10:12 am


why-discuss said:

“Anti-semite” Ahmadijad meeting “Semites”… A video Fox news or CNN will not show.

October 8th, 2009, 12:22 pm


Akbar Palace said:

WD –

You don’t think Ahmadinejad is an “Anti-semite” (quotation marks left in)?

His public statements and his government-controlled press show that he’s a big (and dangerous) anti-semite:

October 8th, 2009, 12:40 pm


Observer said:

It has been awhile since I wrote on the website.

I would like to point out several interesting readings that the audience might want to consider.
The first is After the Empire by Emmanuel Todd
The second is After America and I am sorry I do not remember the author
The third is Gusher of Lies about the myth of energy independence
The fourth is Crumbling Walls Rising Regions by Paupp

Today’s editorial in the NYT by Frank Rich is exactly what I have been saying for some time that the major task of the current president of the US is to prepare the US public for a soft landing from the days of Empire and Hegemony to one of multilateral give and take.

The most dangerous thing is that an empire that is fading is often tempted to strike out to try to stem the decline and this is indeed a possibility. This is particularly so if the position of the dollar as the reserve currency of the world is questioned as Robert Fist intimated in his Independent article of two days ago.

It may the reason why the price of gold is climbing and the denials of the oil producing countries is only partial.

If this were to happen the ability of the US to print its way out of the current predicament will be reduced.

After the decimation of the manufacturing sector and the implosion of the financial sector we are left with a service economy and a military budget to drive the economy.

Both do not produce acutal wealth and the service sector will swell with what I call the Clipboard Brigade with people meeting back and fort day in and day out and producing meaningless regulations that may very well hinder the actual work being done.

The take over of corporations is near complete now with Congress caving in fully.

I expect that there is going to be increased reduction of US power at the expense of regions and the recent rebuff of Obama for the Olympic bid of Chicaog is but a start.

Any thoughts or comments about how Jordan, Egypt and KSA the three stooges and their pygmy Abbas are going to fare now?

October 8th, 2009, 1:53 pm


Shai said:


Shows you how much I watch FOX… 🙂 God, that’s scary. No shame to even call it that.

I became really impressed with FOX reporting as soon as I heard the same format repeated at the end of each field-report, where the reporter would say “Back to you guys…” (usually followed by someone in the studio saying “Wow, she’s just so brave for being there dodging those bullets…”)

I’m not saying all reports have to sound like NOVA (remember that science show?), but Jesus, have these guys graduated from a top-100 university somewhere? Anywhere? 🙂

October 8th, 2009, 3:35 pm


Shai said:


““I will tell him clearly, there are many conflicts in the world that haven’t reached a comprehensive solution and people learned to live with it,” Lieberman told Israel Radio.”

Dear Norman, you’re wrong… Hearing such a thing come out of Lieberman makes me far MORE OPTIMISTIC than ever before. Because now, it will become ever clearer that Israel’s government (represented here by her “top diplomat”) is not in the least interested in Peace in the region. There will be no Neocon, no Congressman/woman, no AIPAC’ist, no one, who’ll be able to claim otherwise. Lieberman is spelling it out unambiguously, and making it finally so much easier for an American administration to change its tactics vis-a-vis Israel.

Lieberman is not only the BEST foreign minister Israel could have (in that sense), but he is also the Palestinians’ best foreign minister. Believe me, Norman, he is serving my interest, your interest, and that of the rest of the peace-seeking Middle Easterners, better than anyone else could.

Would you prefer a Tzipi Livni FM, who’d lull Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin to sleep, with a “Of course we want to see a Palestinian State… and we’re ready to do our shrae…”? And then, Kadima does everything possible to make sure it never happens? Clarity of intent – that’s the key here.

October 8th, 2009, 3:44 pm


why-discuss said:


I don’t think Ahamadinejad is antisemite, otherwise he would not tolerate Jews in the iranian government and will close and forbid synagogues in Teheran the same way Saudi Arabia forbids churches or synagogues on their land. He would not meet with jewish rabbis in the US either.
Like most iranians, he has a profound rejection for the State of Israel build by stealing lands with the complicity of the holocaust-guilt-striken colonialists powers in 1948. He is against the injustice done to the expelled Palestinians dumped in refugee camps in neighboring countries with no land or even compensation. He is against the blind support of the Western countries to the ‘security’ of a state that was built on theft and violence, a entity that has no defined borders and that finds any opportunity to expand illegally. I don’t think he is the only one who feels this way, but he is the only one that has the guts to express it publicly.

October 8th, 2009, 3:54 pm


why-discuss said:


I agree. With Lieberman, the masks are finally falling. He is obviously a passionate zionist but a very bad politician. I guess Natanyahu will have to do a damage control after every of his declaration.
You are also right about Tzipi Livni who would have continued the ambiguous ballet of “we want, they don’t want”
Let’s see how the Obama administration will deal with the clearly antagonistic attitude of this right-wing governement.

October 8th, 2009, 4:03 pm


Shai said:


There are also other reasons Lieberman is so “patriotic” (funny how some people would actually call him that). These reasons have to do with some very personal issues going on – namely, his up-and-coming court battle against heavy charges of corruption. It seems he will not escape this, and I’m sure like Olmert, he too wants to “go out with a bang…”

Lieberman’s is a one-man party. Many are predicting it will evaporate by next elections, as soon as he is put behind bars. Actually, he’ll have to resign as soon as a court case begins. So unfortunately, we probably won’t be seeing him for long…

October 8th, 2009, 4:38 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I don’t think Ahamadinejad is antisemite…

WD –

I’m not surprised. Despite all the denials of the holocaust and the threats against Israel, I suppose your thinking is on par with many of the participants here on Syria Comment. You should be proud.

..the would not tolerate Jews in the iranian government and will close and forbid synagogues in Teheran the same way Saudi Arabia forbids churches or synagogues on their land.

Just because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow other religions to practice within their country/territory (which, of course, isn’t very tolerant) doesn’t mean Saudi Arabia is dangerous. It is the home to the most holy islamic cities. Moreover, the Saudis (at least de facto) recongize the State of Israel as they have proposed their own peace plan that includes the State of Israel. Lastly, the Saudi press, like Iran is government-controlled, but they rarely call for the destruction of Israel.

I think most observers understand that Iranian Jews don’t have the ability to say anything against the Iranian government. For all intents and purposes, they are hostages. There is no freedom of speech in Iran (unlike Israel).

He would not meet with jewish rabbis in the US either.

Meeting with Jewish rabbis doesn’t make Ahmadinejad any less dangerous or any less anti-semitic. That he can find a handful of self-hating Jews to show off is merely a cynical ploy. Ask the rabbis he spoke to how they feel about Ahmadinejad’s holocaust denial.

Thank you for allowing me to research just how extreme and dangerous the Iranian government really is. I’m confident the world will band together at least isolate this intolerant regime for the foreseeable future. Looks like the Syrians have once again chosen another losing bet.

October 8th, 2009, 5:00 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Said on the same day (Thursday)
Lieberman: No peace deal for many years
Barak: Time to move peace process forward
Peres (to Mitchell): Time for progress

I must say I believe that Lieberman said his and Israel’s real intentions honestly, Barak and Peres not.

Lieberman’s is a one-man party.

I doubt that Shai, the party is already to big and influential to be a one man’s party. Even it would be such party the votes of those who gave their vote to Yisrael Beiteinu surely will not channel their votes to a peace seeking alternative. And Israel has a plenty of alternatives which will make even Lieberman look like a moderate (in Israeli standards).

October 8th, 2009, 6:16 pm


Shai said:


There have been other “to big” parties in Israel’s recent history that were wiped out overnight. Look at Shinui from 2003, with 15 seats (3rd largest party then). In the 2006 elections, it didn’t run at all. It evaporated.

Those who voted for Israel Beitenu will one day split between Likud and other parties. There’s no guarantee some won’t vote Kadima or even Labor. Many are Russians, many are and will be suffering from the bad welfare system. And whatever party will seem “less incapable” of helping them out, might get their votes. Don’t assume that what interests most who vote for the Right is the Occupation, expansion of Israeli settlements, or ensuring there will never be a Palestinian state. The poor in Israel care more about their pockets than about politics.

There are rumors, by the way, that Lieberman is a completely different creature behind closed doors, than he is openly. That he is far more pragmatic than he ever lets out. But in his personal case, it doesn’t really matter. I imagine he’ll be out of office within the next 6-12 months. And within 1-2 years, he’ll be in jail, like a few other ex-Ministers.

October 8th, 2009, 6:34 pm


norman said:

Shai, WD ,

Apparently you both think that the belligerence of MR Lieberman and his clear hate for a settlement , will make easier for the US to pressure Israel into a settlement ,
I disagree , as the US never was able to force Israel into doing anything , only the 1973 war did when Israel was losing and was saved by the US , then and only then Israel made concessions ,

If there is no fear in Israel , Israel will continue to thinks that it is invincible and can not be forced into anything ,

Recently many members in congress went to Israel to their support ,

So read my lips ,

The Us can not force Israel into doing anything ,
So please stop dreaming , only a fearful Israel will seek a just peace .

October 8th, 2009, 10:27 pm


why-discuss said:


I totally agree with Bashar al Assad: a peace on paper maybe, but no comprehensive peace without the solution of the palestinian refugees problem.
Syria’s choice of Iran as a friend? Time will tell. My belief is that a friend that Israel fears can only be a good choice.
Your government recently declared that Iran is not a real threat to Israel. Do you agree?

October 8th, 2009, 10:31 pm


Montagnard said:


You are right in the fact that the 1973 war was a major factor in Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt and signing a peace agreement. But also the US at the time, played a forcefull role with Nixon and Kissinger first and later with the Carter administration resulting in the Camp David Accord.
Unfortunately Israel does not feel threatened by Syria’s military capability today, and the US does not consider a peace between Syria and Israel as a vital US national security interest. Thus Assad is left with no alternative but to get closer to Iran and build up Syria’s military capability, in addition to support every Palestinian and Arab resistance movement or faction, in the hope to get the US and Israel to negotiate a fair peace agreement, one similar to Egypt’s Camp David Accord.
Does Assad or any other Syrian president have an alternative? Ironic indeed that to persue a just peace with Israel, Syria has but one alternative, to do what Egypt did in 1973, convince Israel that Syria has the possibility to liberate the Golan by force.

October 8th, 2009, 11:15 pm


norman said:


I agree and that is why i always call for Syria to show some backbone when Israel violate Syrian airspace and sovereignty,

October 8th, 2009, 11:37 pm


norman said:


The cooperation agreement between the EU and Syria will be signed by the end of October , according to Syria news ,

October 8th, 2009, 11:41 pm


Montagnard said:


I am afraid it is going to take quiet a bit more than a reaction to a violation of air space. If you remember, Sadat sent the soviet advisers home and acted like if Egypt did not have a prayer if a confrontation were it to insue with Israel. Syria was subjected to an air raid only weeks prior to the 1973 war, but did not respond with the air defenses it possessed at the time, giving the illusion that the Israeli air force humiliated Syria once again. The result was that the Israeli boys were caught sleeping in their bunkers in the Barlev Line or suntanning by the Suez canal, and Syrian tanks and special forces rolled into the Golan.

October 9th, 2009, 12:02 am


Akbar Palace said:

Syria’s choice of Iran as a friend? Time will tell. My belief is that a friend that Israel fears can only be a good choice.

WD –

Good idea. Like the Saddam Hussein, who promised us he’d “burn half of Israel”. The Arabs back the worst despots and anti-semites and wonder why they’re still stuck in the Middle Ages and not integrated with the rest of the world. All because they can’t bring themselves to tolerate a jewish state (although Egypt and Jordan have).

Good luck with that approach.

Your government recently declared that Iran is not a real threat to Israel. Do you agree?

Please show me the quotation/article, then I’ll be happy to read it and comment on it.


Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran’s involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy.

October 9th, 2009, 7:03 am


Shai said:

Norman, Montagnard,

If Syria is ready for all-out war, it may indeed reach a situation where the International Community forces both sides to a cease-fire, and within a few years the return of the Golan. Maybe more Israelis, after paying a very heavy price, will finally be ready to give up the Syrian territory it captured in war.

But for Syria, that’s a very big maybe. And what is almost clear, is that the price will be a very heavy one regardless of the outcome. On the one hand, time has enabled Syria to develop strategic-defensive capabilities (including, I believe, various WMD programs, like Israel). On the other hand, her strategic-offensive capabilities have shrunk dramatically, and it is doubtful it can carry on a conventional war like it could in the 1970’s. So Syria is stronger and weaker at the same time. Unfortunately, Israel knows that, and hawkish politicians take advantage of that.

Sadat knew that while Egypt cannot defeat Israel, it can give her a good match. It can inflict heavy enough wounds, but not “too heavy”. Syria’s problem, is that maybe she can only inflict “too heavy” wounds, or at least what will be defined by Israel to be as such. Targeting major Israeli cities and towns will seem, to most Israelis, as an attempt to “destroy Israel”. The military and political leadership will have a green-light to respond accordingly. And they might.

But there is one battle against Israel that I still insist Syria hasn’t tried. It is the battle of public opinion. It is no coincidence that before the Egyptian leader came to Jerusalem, 30% of Israelis were for returning the Sinai, and 70% were against it (almost identical to today’s figures, with regards to the Golan). And after his visit, and Begin’s presentation of the Peace initiative to Knesset, the numbers were reversed. 70% were for it.

I know and I understand why Bashar won’t come to Jerusalem. But there are infinitely more ways to still address the Israeli people. We mentioned in the past letting journalists come in and interview the Syrian people and their leadership in Syria. We talked about more media campaigns, that address not Americans, or the Europeans, but Israelis. This is a battle field, it is not some cakewalk. And it requires thought, and tactics, and strategy. And it may require a number of mini-battles. But in the end, I think it can work better and faster than the sword.

We sometimes forget that in so-called Democracies, the people can also play a role. In Israel in particular, all too often the people are leading the government, not the other way around. And while the people generally act more out of emotion than rationale, that can also be an advantage. A Syrian President, addressing Israelis on Israeli TV, can have a far stronger effect than he can speaking to Olmert on the phone in Turkey, or to Netanyahu via Ron Lauder.

October 9th, 2009, 7:54 am


why-discuss said:


Barak: Iran not existential threat to Israel

Iran’s missiles not an existential threat, study says

October 9th, 2009, 8:19 am


why-discuss said:

Shai, Montagnard, Norman

It is impossible that Syria goes into war to liberate the Golan. It clearly does not have the means. Bashar seems to have opted for a “petits-pas” strategy:

– Getting closer to Israel’s established friends and get them to quietly show Israel that it may looses its few friends in the region if it refuses to return to serious negociations: Turkey is one of them. Erdogan, while keeping his relationship with Israel, is now openly supporting the Goldstone report and has publicly shown his anger to Peres about Gaza.
– Getting military powerful friends that Israel fears: Iran.
– Getting back its rich arab friends who are close to the US : KSA
– Quietly returning to the international community after 3 years of ostracism orchestrated by the friends of Israel in Lebanon and in the UN ( Mehlis’s politically motivated Agatha Christie reports on Hariri’s murder): UE trade agreement

Will these petits-pas approach have chances to succeed?
I think Bashar is not pressed by time. Israel is, as its reputation and credibility is gradually eroding in the international community and the new US administration, hopefully here for the next 7 years, does not seem to buy blindly what Israel is claiming. The International community is slowly following the US in this respect.
Israel needs to counter attack this tendency. Would they choose violent actions to show the world that they are the strongest, would they reuse the Holocaust mantra to get the guilt back into the Western consciences, or would they make serious concessions. Maybe all al the above?

October 9th, 2009, 8:49 am


Akbar Palace said:

WD –

Thank you for linking the articles. I’ve read/skimmed them and here is my opinion.

It seems to me both Ehud Barak and the Israeli study claim that Israel would survive an Iranian attack.

I’m relieved!


As I understand these two articles, currently, Iran possesses many long range missiles, and therefore cannot destroy the state.

However, the study concludes:

According to Inbar, “Iran takes advantage of its missile arsenal in order to leverage an image of power in the Middle East that is beyond its real ability to participate in dictating the regional agenda.” Inbar believes that “Israel must provide a credible response to the threat of Iran’s missiles.”

In the absence of such a response, Inbar says, Israel’s civilians are threatened, and the country’s ability to act, militarily and politically, might suffer as a consequence.

All these articles and comments assume Iran has no nuclear weapon. IMO, judging from Iran’s arming of terrorist organizations and their non-compliance with the UN/IAEA, the world and Israel are far from being out of the woods. As I read these articles, Iran is still a serious threat to world peace.

Barak said “Israel is strong, I don’t see anyone who could pose an existential threat,” although he did add that he viewed Iran as a challenge to the whole world.

IMO, heavy sanctions should continue at a minimum. As GWB articulated after 9-11, “you’re either with us, or against us”. Moderate arab countries certainly have a large role to play, however, the intolerant/fanatic regimes are endangering themselves and others.

October 9th, 2009, 8:55 am


SimoHurtta said:

Syria going to war against Israel is an equally absurd “idea” as Mexico would attack USA. Much more likely is that Israel will attack Syria during an attack against Iran.

Syria’s best options are with Turkey, not so much with Iran. When Turkey’s economical and political power grows and its interest to invest in Syria and the Arab region will limit considerably Israel’s options. The train link between Ankara and Baghdad is only the beginning. Eventually it will be followed with more oil and gas lines through Syria. Surely Turkey and EU will consider any attacks against those vital energy lines as an hostile act. Which means that Syria will eventually be under Turkish and EU protection.

Now when USA’s influence in the region is shrinking day by day because of economical realities and inability to bring solutions it will mean that the regional powers and EU will take more responsibility. Look at the constant stream of world’s leaders nowadays travelling to Turkey and empty quest books in Tel Aviv.

Turkey cancels air drills over Israel presence

The funniest news of today
Israel considers recalling its ambassador to Sweden
Sweden takes the threat so seriously that it is not even mentioned on Swedish newspapers’ pages. 🙂

October 9th, 2009, 10:06 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shenker believes that the Syrian regime is just bad and does not want peace for the Golan. We are all familiar with this tune.

Professor Josh,

Where does Mr. Shenker state that the Syrian regime is “bad”? Also, I’m glad you are “familiar” with the peace Syria has proposed for the return of the Golan. I’m not familiar with it, therefore, can you give us the details?



October 9th, 2009, 11:45 am




The analogy of Mexico vs. USA with Syria vs. Israel does not fit.
The USA is a superpower with superpower capabilities (force, welth, diplomatic means, etc.). Israel, although it is powerful to a degree, it is nowhere near a superpower, and does have its limitations in that sense.
Syria can play the Turkey card, can play the Iran card and all other strong cards it might have in its possession, but one card it must acquire and hold, and that is military detterence and parity.

October 9th, 2009, 12:07 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Syria does not have the power,nor have the will to attack alone,the enemy .
For Syria to have a friend like Turkey, and Iran,and KSA there is no conflict, Syria can have close and strong relations with all of them and at the same time.
With US is withrawing from Iraq. Syria must have good relations with Iraqee people.
Egypt will join later.
Hopefully this is the future of the middle east.

October 9th, 2009, 5:06 pm


Yossi said:


Good anlysis @32, and I agree: “all of the above”, but none of them too convincingly.


Why do you think it is likely that Israel would attack Syria on the same occasion it attacks Iran—I mean, if Syria doesn’t attack first? I fail to see how this would be in Israel’s interest—what would be the objective?

October 9th, 2009, 9:38 pm


why-discuss said:


Syria has to overcome its memory of what it suffered under the ottoman empire and more recently in the state of tension between the two countries about the kurds. Armenians in the middle east are still very resentful on Turkey about the ‘genocide’. (see how badly the armenian president was received in Lebanon). Yet Turkey is sunni with a governemnt sympathetic to islam, therefore it may be better accepted as a friend by the sunnis, making the majority in the arab world.
Iran does not have any dark history with Syria or the arabs, in the contrary, but it carries the burden of the strong anti-iran media, demonizing it and the fact it is Shia, a religious branch that is suspicious in the eyes of the sunnis. King Abdullah and Egypt expressed several times their worries about the ‘Shia crescent’.
Bashar al Assad is Alawite, therefore making friends with sunni, shia or christian countries makes no difference. Contrary to other arab countries deeply entrenched in their suspicions of other religious groups, he has the freedom to decide about his allies purely on the political and economical interest of his country.
That positive aspect is often overlooked when Alawites are criticized for holding the power in Syria.
I believe Shia Iran and Sunni Turkey as allies to Syria is the best and most powerful combination it could hope for and it may lead to a radical change in the area.

October 9th, 2009, 10:26 pm


Shami said:

WHY Discuss ,Asad did destroy in few years what the Ottomans and other than the Ottomans have built in Hama and other than Hama during centuries,add to this crime against our cultural heritage , more than 50 000 syrians killed or missing ,Syria suffered the most under the Asads.
We should wait the conclusions of the international team of scholars and historians that will have access to the ottoman archives to know what happened in reality in 1916 if it was a civil war or planified massacre of armenians.
As for the iranian regime ,it’s the friend of some in the regime not Syria as people and country and such friendship ,will not last.Turkey is a natural friend of Syria as is Egypt,Iraq,Jordan,Lebanon and the Arab countries of the persian gulf.
The iranian regime and Israel are both our enemies,as arabs but also as muslims.

October 10th, 2009, 6:36 am




If you are talking about the Hama muslim brotherhood uprising, it took only days and not years for the army and saraya addifaa and amn to subdue the uprising in Hama, and yes some quarters were destroyed, but Hama was rebuilt and good thing it was decisive and swift, otherwise Syria would have been mired in a bloody civil war with a lot more suffering by the whole population like what happened in Iraq after the US invasion.
I agree with you that Turkey is a natural friend to Syria, but I fail to see why would you not feel the same about Iran?

October 10th, 2009, 9:56 am


Shami said:

Your justification of Hama massacre very typical of our coast “montagnards” is a very bad excuse and if you keep repeating this disk it will likely have bad repercussions in post asad syria .as for iran,,i said the theocratic rafidi regime and not Iran,tell me what are the common things between the syrian people ,proud of their umayyad heritage and a rafidi theocracy ?

October 10th, 2009, 11:36 am




I don’t know much about the rafidi theocracy, but over the years I have had my share of meeting Turkish people and Iranian people, and I have felt that both were close to our mentality and share common values regardless of their sects, and felt like they both could be friends with Syrians.

As for Hama, I would certainly never justify a massacre. I stated the facts. For me all Syrian lives are dear, them being from the coastal mointains, Hama, other mointains, plains or any place in Syria.

October 10th, 2009, 1:52 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Your justification of Hama massacre very typical…


Of course if it was the Israeli government instead, we wouldn’t hear the end of it. Yes, I wonder how many rockets the MB in Hama fired into neighboring villages. And never mind that the Syrian government killed an order of magnitude more people than the Israelis did in Gaza.

Anyway, this is the very definition of the term “double-standard”.

October 10th, 2009, 1:57 pm


why-discuss said:


Turkey has a dark history with Syria. The ottoman empire was not paradise and it was abusive. Turks massacred millions of armenians who were opposed to the new Turkey. They flew to Syria and Lebanon and do not sympathize modern Turkey. Ottomans have destroyed or transformed most of the centuries old syrian historical churches into mosques. In modern time Turkey has threatened several times Syria over the kurds and the water. It has kept a strong association with Israel and until recently have only show despise for arabs. They never hide that they are europeans and what to join Europe.
Natural friends to arabs, because they are sunnis??

Iran does not have any remarkable ancient history with Syria, but its culture has influenced the whole area for centuries. In modern times, Syria has sided with Iran during the 8 years war when the arabs were helping their ‘arab brother’ Saddam butcher the Kurds and using mortal gaz on iranians. I believe this is stronger link than history or a common religion. Iranians pilgrims are visiting sacred shia places that are situated in Damascus and supporting the tourism industry deserted by the ‘arab brothers’.
Not natural friends, because they are Shia??

Like many arabs , you are obviously stuck in your identification to a religious sect and suspicion of the others. Religion has become only one element of the identity. Open your eyes, the world has changed, friendship is not because of a common religion.

October 10th, 2009, 3:24 pm


jad said:

What you wrote in #12 is an excellent observation on many fronts,
the books you referred to are great, After America is written by Paul Starobin.

I liked this part of your comment which I find it to be very true not only in politics but also in many other fields.

‘….Both do not produce actual wealth and the service sector will swell with what I call the Clipboard Brigade with people meeting back and fort day in and day out and producing meaningless regulations that may very well hinder the actual work being done.’

Regarding your question about HKJ, E, KSA and the puppet Abbas (how low can this man go?):
I think they are not going to change a thing of their strategies if they don’t get the green light from the states, they are already buried with debt, we will only read some silly comments from them like what King Adbullah of Jordan said couple days ago that his relations with Israel is cold and he is affraid that this will effect the future. whatever that means!.

October 10th, 2009, 5:32 pm


jad said:

Syrian women in sport are doing much better job for Syria than our men:
منيرة الصالح تخطف الأضواء في اليوم الختامي للبطولة العربية الـ16
اخبار الرياضة

October 10th, 2009, 5:45 pm


Observer said:

I believe Syria has re established its influence in Lebanon. It is doing it better now as the absence of the troops is not clouding the influence with corruption. They are actually constructive and KSA has finally acquiesced to that role.

It is interesting that Obama has capitulated to Israel. Steny Hoyer made 12 trips to Israel this year and the Democrats are quite worried about losing a few seats in the House in 2010 and they may lose some governors as well. There is no pressure on the settlements and capitulation on the nuclear arsenal. This is in return for the upcoming elections and the threat of hitting Iran. I am surprised at the speed with which Obama retreated. He has a full plate however and he may have decided that he cannot afford more trouble now

My analysis of the ruling stooges of the ME is that they are usually like monkeys that go looking for salt in the crevice of a tree and they put their hand in the crevice and they hold on to the salt until they starve for they cannot remove it once it is clenched on the salt. The biggest surprise to me is the the Israeli monkey for they are holding on to eternal enmity and war by rebuffing the Saudi peace plan. This is the best that the Arabs can offer and they are hoping to pick one stooge at a time. In the long run however they are going to have to live with radicalized populations that will not be kept in check by police states. Perhaps it is one of those moments of “historical follies” that people commit such as Vietnam or the English taxation of the American colonies.

October 10th, 2009, 8:12 pm


Shami said:

Yes Montagnard ,the iranian people it’s an other thing ,but here we have an ideological rafidi theocracy ,by definition it’s an enemy ,i agree that we share similiraties with the iranian people ,i also love the iranian culture,their music and their food.
WD,before these sad events ,the young turks and the armenian nationalists of the tashnak conspired together against constantinople,we should not reduce the ottoman empire history to these sad events .
I invite you to read the opinion of Georges Corm on the Ottoman era, it will soften your hostile views.

October 11th, 2009, 1:49 am


Shami said:

WD,listen to Georges Corm :

Les chrétiens encore fort nombreux au début du XXème siècle en
Turquie et dans les provinces arabes de l’empire Ottoman acquièrent de ce fait une avance
culturelle sur leurs concitoyens musulmans, ainsi qu’une position économique prépondérante
que leur permet cette avance dans les réseaux commerciaux de l’Europe en Orient. Dans le
cadre de l’avancée de l’hégémonie européenne en Orient musulman tout au long du XIX siècle, une image est construite des chrétiens d’Orient, en tant que communautés minorisées,
appauvries, voir persécutées par un Islam toujours dépeint comme intolérant qui attendent leur
salut de l’Europe.
La réalité est évidemment différente, car Grecs, Arméniens et Arabes chrétiens, occupent dans
l’empire ottoman des positions économiques importantes que facilitent la multiplication des
contacts avec les puissances de l’Europe chrétienne qui s’intéressent à eux. De plus, tout au
long du XIX ème siècle, de nombreux chrétiens de Syrie, de Palestine et du Liban émigrent en
Egypte où ils occupent des fonctions importantes dans l’administration, l’éducation, la presse
et l’édition. Les Coptes ont aussi la faveur des autorités anglaises à partir de la fin du siècle,
lorsque la Grande Bretagne occupe l’Egypte. Les communautés juives vivent, elles aussi,
confortablement, qu’il s’agisse de communautés de souche locale ou de communautés de juifs
sépharades d’Espagne ayant émigré suite à la Reconquista.


En réalité, et comme nous l’avons précédemment indiqué, l’attention donnée par les médias
occidentaux aux communautés chrétiennes, est restée même à cette époque un moyen de
susciter des appuis à la politique occidentale au Moyen-Orient dans les opinions publiques
occidentales. C’est une veille tradition européenne remontant au 19
siècle et aux violents
conflits avec l’Empire ottoman caractérisé par le pluralisme ethnique et religieux, lequel a
servi de prétexte pour les interventions des puissances européennes au nom de la protection
des minorités ethniques ou des communautés religieuses.
■ La mémoire des massacres du Mont-Liban et de Damas, ainsi que celle des massacres des
Arméniens et des Grecs
Si on observe d’une manière objective la façon dont l’Empire ottoman a assuré la gestion de
cette diversité ethnique et communautaire, on ne peut passer sous silence la situation stable et
confortable pour leurs élites des nombreuses et importantes minorités (Grecs, Arméniens,
Chrétiens arabes d’églises orientales différentes), grâce aux réseaux d’intérêts économiques
qu’ils géraient dans le commerce ottoman avec l’Europe, l’artisanat, les services, ce qui leur
assurait richesse et respect. Quant à la dégradation de ces situations, elle a largement été le
résultat des politiques des Etats européens à l’égard de l’Empire ottoman, des conflits
d’intérêt entre ces Etats et de la concurrence acharnée à laquelle ils se livraient entre eux en
Méditerranée, concurrence ayant souvent recours au prétexte de la protection des minorités de
l’Empire, dans le but d’accroître leur influence et leurs domination sur cet Empire en
attendant son dépècement final.
Il s’agit évidemment d’une question délicate à évoquer et rares sont les écrits historiques
objectifs qui évoquent les responsabilités des puissances européennes dans la relation faite du
lot de souffrances, massacres et déplacement forcés de population subis par les Grecs et les
Arméniens dans la partie anatolienne de l’Empire ottoman, ce qui a provoqué en fin de
compte leur anéantissement. C’est pourquoi, il n’est pas étonnant que ces massacres, même
s’ils n’ont pas atteint les Arabes chrétiens, aient profondément impressionné les communautés
chrétiennes du monde arabe, en particulier les élites très ouverte sur la culture européenne et
très sensibles aux écrits occidentaux. Ils ont semé une peur qui reste toujours enfouie au fonds
de l’inconscient collectif maintenu actif par des traditions d’écriture pas toujours soucieuses
d’objectivité ou de nuance

fin de citation.

October 11th, 2009, 3:30 am


Shami said:

And btw, WD ,most of the old churches that you see in Syria are from the Ottoman era.
You should visit what was once the christian districts of Istanbul,Aleppo ,Smyrna ,Mardin,Damascus,Hama,Homs,Jerusalem,Nazareth,Acre in order to get an idea of the power of the Ottoman christians.Until the end of the Empire ,50% of Istanbul inhabitants the capitale of the empire remained christians ,they lived in the most beautiful palaces on the bosphorus as neighbors of the ottoman sultans,these palaces(and their surrounding mosques,the one you can see in Alex’s site , istanbul page ) have been built by armenian architects ,the Balyan brothers among others.
One of the most importan composer in the classical syrian music is the Stambulian Armenian Tatyos Efendi :

October 11th, 2009, 3:48 am


Shami said:

they lived in the most beautiful palaces ….i meant the rich among them , a minority of privileged christians for sure but in general as Corm noticed ,the christians were richer than the muslims in the ottoman cities.

October 11th, 2009, 7:08 am


Shami said:

JERUSALEM, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — Turkish military decided to cancel a joint air force drill with Israel scheduled to begin on Monday, due to opposing Israel’s military operation against the Palestinian Gaza Strip last winter, Israeli newspapers reported Sunday.

“The exercise was postponed due to a Turkish decision to change the composition of the participants and not allow the Israel Air Force to participate,” local daily The Jerusalem Post quoted a statement from the spokesman office of Israeli army as saying.

The international air force exercise, dubbed Anatolian Eagle, had been scheduled for this week with Turkey, the United States, Israel, Italy and NATO forces as participants, said the report.

In recent years, Israel and Turkey have carried out several military exercises alongside the United States in the Mediterranean Sea.

But Turkey informed Israel last week that Israel was banned from the drill because Ankara was afraid that the Israeli planes that took part in the Israeli Operation Cast Lead in Gaza may join the drill, Israeli defense sources told the daily.

Instead of an international exercise, Ankara decided to carry out the drill alone. “Anatolian Eagle Exercise will be executed as planned between Oct. 12 and 23, (but) multinational participation is postponed,” a statement of the Turkish military said.

The cancellation of the joint drill is seen by Israeli media as another sign of the “continued tensions” between the two countries.

Analysts said that the deterioration in bilateral relations in part because of a perceived Israeli failure to address the peace process more seriously, and a new direction of Turkish foreign policy with Israeli-Palestinian conflict topping the agenda in the Middle East.

Comments since earlier this year from Turkish leaders are far more critical of Israel, particularly in the wake of Israel’s major operation in Gaza last winter.

October 11th, 2009, 8:54 am


why-discuss said:


I never denied that they were positive aspects to the ottoman empire, especially toward minorities. Nevertheless post war Turkey was not particulary sympathetic to christians and arabs and it was often confrontational. It is only recently, under a turkish government more inclined religiously that there is change. For the good of everybody, I am sure.
As for Iran, I just don’t understand why a “ideological rafidi theocracy, by definition it’s an enemy” and an ideological wahhabi theocracy is not? please enlighten me. On what basis do you make such assertion? is it based on your perception that a certain sect in Islam detain the truth and the others are heretics? I consider this attitude as wrong, arrogant and damaging.
In the 21 th century political affiliation are based more on economical and national interest not on love or hate based on religion: this concept must be eradicated for countries in the region to grow. We have seen the result of such primitive perceptions in the destructive civil war in Lebanon.

October 11th, 2009, 8:58 am




You got my curiosity going with your comment in 51 above:
“You should visit what was once the christian districts of
Istanbul, Aleppo, Smyrna, Mardin, Damascus, Hama, Homs, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Acre” (Acca).

Have you visited Alquds, Alnasrah, Acca? and when?

October 11th, 2009, 2:22 pm


Shami said:

Montagnard,i didnt visit occupied Palestine yet ,but i can and i will visit it inshallah ,even under occupation.

October 12th, 2009, 12:55 am


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