Muhammad Suleiman Murdered

'Murdered Syrian officer knew too much'

Amid increasing speculation, some Arab media and Syrian dissidents suggested Monday that the reported assassination of a senior Syrian intelligence officer over the weekend may be a case of one man knowing too much for his own good.

As of Monday, the tightly-controlled Syrian press had yet to comment on the reported death of Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Suleiman, said to be a close adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was reportedly killed by a sniper from a yacht.

"There is no doubt that General Muhammad Suleiman is the closest person to Bashar al-Assad and is his right hand in the armed forces and he knows everything," an unidentified Syrian official was quoted as saying in Monday's London-based Asharq al-Awsat, which is owned by Saudi Arabia and is critical of Assad's government. "He has all the files; security, financial and [army] reform" files.

Suleiman, 49, was responsible for "sensitive security files" in the Syrian president's office and in charge of the financing and reform of the Syrian army, the source said. But he added that it was too early to know whether the assassination had to do with particular files Suleiman handled.

"It's better to wait three or four days until the indications appear in this or that direction, particularly because the assassination took place in a very precise way," he was quoted as saying by Asharq al-Awsat.

Other Syrian sources, quoted in the Al Bawaba news site, have said he was the liaison officer to Hizbullah, in addition to other assignments.

Asharq al-Awsat also said Suleiman had been among the Syrian officials requested by the former president of the international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Dissidents were quick to point the finger at the regime.

"As [with] everybody else, it seems, I cannot help but connect [Suleiman's assassination] to an ongoing attempt at eliminating people who have sensitive information on the Lebanese file and Syria's involvement there, perhaps even the assassination of Hariri, et al," the Maryland-based Syrian dissident and novelist Ammar Abdulhamid wrote in an e-mail interview.

"It seems that the indictment issued against [President] Omar Bashir of Sudan [by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and murder] might have had a psychological impact here. After all, the Tribunal is still the main threat against the regime."

But Syrian expert Joshua Landis, the co-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said he doubts the veracity of many such claims, often circulated by the regime's opponents to show Western countries that Syria is unstable and not worth engaging.

"We don't know anything about this Muhammad Suleiman," he told The Jerusalem Post. "It's really all wild speculation. There is a big propaganda machine that would use something like this to imply that the regime is falling apart… I think there will be a lot of speculation about this, [and] all of it will be uninformed or misleading."

Landis said that Suleiman had played an important role the first two years of Bashar Assad's regime, serving "as a sort of chief of staff" but had played a less prominent role since then.

The assassination, he added, is "embarrassing to the regime," since it is doing its best to depict itself as "a sea of tranquility in the Middle East fraught with extremism, factionalism and al-Qaida type elements."

Israeli diplomatic sources said it was difficult to tell what kind of significance the killing of Suleiman would have on Syria domestically, or on the possible ramifications for Israel, since no one had any definitive idea who was responsible.

"There is a complete Syrian blackout," the sources said, adding that there were a number of theories about who might have had an interest in killing him.

The first theory is that it had to do with internal fighting inside Hizbullah, and a possible "settling of accounts." The second theory is that Assad himself may have wanted to see him killed, concerned he may have known too much about the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri three years ago. The UN-established Special Tribunal for Lebanon is expected early next year to begin trying those suspected of killing Hariri in 2005.

And the third theory is that Israel was responsible for the killing, to stop the arms smuggling from Syria to Hizbullah. Suleiman was reportedly responsible for the transfer of arms to Hizbullah.

The officials said that unlike Israel's attack in September on an alleged nuclear facility in Syria, or the killing of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Israel did not feel it had to prepare for a possible revenge attack, partly because the Syrians have not blamed Israel.

Though Syria did blame Israel for the September attack, and Hizbullah blamed Israel for the killing of Mughniyeh, Damascus has not pointed a finger at Israel for the killing of Suleiman.

Suleiman's assassination, along with that of Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh's, demonstrates that Syria's security apparatus is not fool-proof, says Moshe Maoz, a professor emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"This is a blow to the regime," he told the Post. "This is a police state and security is above everything. In this sense, it's not going good for the regime." Maoz said he "doubts very much" that Israel was involved in Suleiman's death.

Suleiman "was at the heart of the regime and Israel is in negotiations with Syria and this is not the time to do it," he said. "Normally, Israel would exhaust all possibilities to damage the regime, but not now."

He added: "But it's very, very hard to say."

Channel Two journalist Ehud Ya'ari said Monday that Syrian sources indicated the assassination had to do with Suleiman's involvement with Syrian's alleged nuclear program


[Landis Analysis] The following analysis by Oxford Analytica, which is usually very good, does not seem very sound this time. The analyst, who may be new, argues that Syria has dramatically changed its foreign policy to become cooperative on Lebanon and elsewhere because it was scared to death by Israel's 2006 bombing of Lebanon. The analysist surmises that Damascus made the calculation that it had to make serious concessions to the West or bad things would happen to it. The Analyst also takes seriously the rumours about Asef Shawkat trying to undermine the regime. This is poppycock according to my sources. Asef has not tried to carry out a coup and is still a power in Syria and on good terms with the president.

The reason for the change in Lebanon is because the March 14 coalition and Western powers — primarily France — caved in to Hizbullah's demands that the Lebanese opposition get a blocking third in the new cabinet. It was not Syria that changed behavior and altered its demands but France and March 14th. Washington also has had to bow to reality and Hizbullah's power in Lebanon. The 2006 War did not prove Israel's hegemony, but its weakness. Miltary means could not wipe out Hizbullah. The US stepped in after 2006 and tried to build up the March 14th hardliners and the Lebanese Army in the hope that they would be able to disarm Hizbullah. This proved to be in vain when the Army cooperated with Hizbullah in the Shiite militia's strike on Hariri's power base in West Beirut. France saw the writing on the wall and recognized that only diplomacy and dialogue with Syria would settle the Lebanon stand-off. So did Hariri and company, so did Israel, leading to its announcement of renewed peace negotiations with Syria.

Here is the Oxford Analytica analysis:

SYRIA: Foreign policy adjustment breaks isolation
Tuesday, July 29 2008
Oxford Analytica 2008

EVENT: The US State Department on July 24 reversed plans for a meeting with a visiting Syrian delegation.

SIGNIFICANCE: Although relations with the United States are still in deep freeze, President Bashar al-Assad's state visit to France this month marked the end of Syria's international isolation. His promise in Paris to establish diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon signalled a foreign policy shift that further confirmed the end to his pariah status over Lebanon.

ANALYSIS: President Bashar al-Assad's recent visit to France was in response to an invitation from French President Nicolas Sarkozy extended in the context of the EU's Mediterranean Union initiative (Assad's landmark visit marked the end of Syria's international isolation.

Isolation. Damascus fell out of favour with France and much of the Western world following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005. Many, including then French President Jacques Chirac, a personal friend of Hariri, have accused Syria of the killing, though Damascus denies involvement. Syria, which for almost 30 years had exercised control over Lebanon's political scene, has also faced charges of obstructing Lebanese political reconciliation through its alliance with the Hizbollah-led opposition, as well as smuggling arms into Lebanon.  

Lebanon breakthrough. With Chirac out of power, Damascus last year worked hard to convince Sarkozy's administration of the need to engage Syria in bilateral discussions over the fate of Lebanon. The French proposal to solve the impasse in Lebanon involved Lebanese MPs electing as president army chief General Michel Suleiman, the consensus candidate (one among the few that both majority and opposition accepted):

· The Hizbollah-led opposition rejected that proposal on the grounds that, in the absence of a national unity government, the election of a new president was in itself insufficient.

· Although Damascus too wanted Suleiman installed — as army commander under the former pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Suleiman and Assad had a good working relationship — Syria's terms were similar to those of the Lebanese opposition, creating renewed tensions.

Syrian role. What broke the new logjam between Paris and Damascus was the constructive role Syria played during the Qatari-mediated talks between the Lebanon's pro-Western coalition and the Iranian-backed Hizbollah-led opposition at Doha in May. The bloody clashes that erupted in early May served as the catalyst for the Doha agreement:

·  Syria feared that it would be accused of obstructing a deal and that it would be the target of further international retribution.

·  France feared that the clashes would cause the collapse of the pro-Western coalition, especially since Washington, the pro-Western coalition's lead supporter, was now on the retreat.

However, it was also out of a shared fear of yet another civil war in Lebanon that Syria and France, together with their respective local Lebanese allies, reached agreement:

·  Syria proposed that the election of the new president be part of a wider deal that included the formation of a national unity government that gave the opposition veto power and the establishment of a new electoral law.

·  When this was rejected by the ruling majority, Syria leaned on Hizbollah — with the approval of Iran — to limit its own share of the cabinet seats which would be allocated to the opposition under the agreed formula — whereby the majority would get 16 cabinet ministries, the opposition eleven, and the president three (see LEBANON: Doha truce buys time to tackle deep problems – May 23, 2008).

Conclusion of the agreement removed Sarkozy's condition for the resumption of Syrian-French relations. It was in this context that he included Assad in the list of honoured guests this month. As a reward for helping him come out from the cold, Assad awarded a 1 billion dollar contract for a cement factory to a French company. Moreover, he announced following his meeting with Suleiman in Paris that he would work towards establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria. Sarkozy asked Syria to intercede between Western countries and Iran over the Iranian nuclear issue. He also promised to push for the long-stalled Association Agreement between the EU and Syria.

Policy shift. The constructive role Syria played during this episode did not emerge in a vacuum but is part of a larger reorientation in Syrian foreign policy. That reorientation began with the 34-day Hizbollah-Israel confrontation in the south of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, a war in which Lebanon was nearly destroyed:

·  The duration of that conflict and the extent of the damage Israel's punitive air strikes inflicted on Lebanon impressed upon Syrian leaders just how far the US-led international community would go to destroy Hizbollah.

· As a result of its threat perception, Syria began sending signals to Israel via Turkish diplomats that Damascus was willing to resume peace talks, albeit indirectly.

·  To demonstrate its sincerity, Syria this year leaned on the Damascus-based political leadership of Hamas to accept a truce with Israel that Egypt was negotiating (

·  Furthermore, Syria has played the role of mediator between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian National Authority and Hamas.

·  In yet another sign that Syria was willing to change its ways, Damascus recently allowed a team of IAEA inspectors to visit, unhindered, the site of the alleged nuclear facility that Israeli air force jets bombed in early September ().

Domestic aspects. The shift in Syria's attitude coincided with the rumoured removal in April of Major General Assef Shawkat from power following the assassination of Hizbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in February in Damascus. Shawkat, a hardliner who promoted relations with Iran at the expense of Saudi Arabia and Egypt (the pillars of the Arab system) and at the expense of relations with the Western world, was head of Military Intelligence and Assad's brother-in-law. He is said to be under house arrest.

If Shawkat has indeed been removed, it means that the moderate faction in the regime now has the upper hand, at least in foreign policy matters. Indeed, Syrian foreign policy now seems to be conducted by the seasoned foreign minister, Walid Mouallem, a former ambassador to Washington and one who commands considerable respect in the West, instead of Shawkat and Vice-President Farouk al-Shara.

Key relationships. However, this shift — and the Doha agreement — have not yet translated into improvements in Syria's other key relationships:

· United States. Relations remain cool, with Washington last week apparently passing up an opportunity to meet a Syrian private delegation. With US isolation policy showing few results and Washington seemingly caught out by the indirect Syrian-Israeli talks, it had seemed that a tactical adjustment might be forthcoming, in a similar vein to the presence of Under-Secretary of State William Burns at a recent meeting with Iranian officials.

· Saudi Arabia. Relations have not yet recovered from Syrian claims several months ago that the Saudis were plotting a coup against the Assad regime, fomented through Sunni tribes loyal to Riyadh. Damascus then expelled the Saudi military attache.

CONCLUSION: The regime has recognised that a foreign policy adjustment away from Tehran and towards the West is necessary for its survival. Its success in breaking out of its isolation is due not only to its diplomatic skill: Washington's regional retreat and France's new push for a major regional role have provided Damascus with the diplomatic opportunity, which it has seized. If the Assad regime can avoid actions in Lebanon that anger Paris and strike a deal to avert the worst-case outcome in the international tribunal over the Hariri assassination, it is likely to remain in power for some time.

Ron Suskind says so in his new book "The Way of the World"… in Politico, here

Author claims White House knew Iraq had no WMD By Bob Considine, NBC, August 5, 2008 President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims. The charge is made […]

The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,” Suskind writes. “It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.”  …

Syrian Leader Gets Top Billing in Middle East by Doing Nothing
by Robert Fisk
Published on Monday, August 4, 2008 by The Independent/UK

President Bashar al-Assad is once more one of the “triple pillars” of the Middle East. We may not like that. George Bush may curse the day his invasion of Iraq helped to shore up the power of the Caliph of Damascus. But Mr Assad’s latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the King of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He’s done nothing – and he’s won.

The Europeans like to think – or, at least, M. Sarkozy likes to think – Mr Assad was in Tehran to persuade President Ahmadinejad not to go nuclear. Even Sana, the official Syrian news agency, was almost frank about it. The purpose of the Assad visit was “to consult on the nuclear issue and the right of states to peaceful enrichment” and “exchange ideas aimed at clarifying Iran’s commitment to all international agreements”. Mr Assad was M. Sarkozy’s point-man.

The inevitable followed. President Ahmadinejad expressed his belief that only diplomacy could deliver us from the nuclear tangle, leaving us with Mr Assad’s statement to M. Sarkozy on 12 July. Asked if the Iranians were trying to develop a nuclear bomb, Mr Assad told the French President he had asked the Iranians this very question, they had replied in the negative and this was good enough for him.

What’s interesting about this is that Mr Assad probably believes it. Indeed, it may be true. Of all people, he knows about trust – or the lack of it – and his father’s main foreign policy achievement was probably maintaining Syria’s relations with Iran. In the face of every appeal to abandon Tehran, he refused. The younger Assad’s talks with Israel via Turkey suggested to the Washington commentariat that he may at last be abandoning Iran and the return of Golan was more powerful to Bashar al-Assad than Syria’s all-embracing role as the postman of Tehran. Not so.

For there was Mr Assad in Tehran this weekend, praising the mutual relationship between Iran and Syria and talking with Mr Ahmadinejad about the Israeli-US “conspiracy”. The Syrian-supported Hizbollah’s retrieval of living prisoners from Israel in return for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, was described by Mr Assad as “one of the achievements of the resistance”. Which, in a way, it was. For Hizbollah’s allies in the Lebanese government now have veto power over the cabinet majority, and Syria’s power has returned to Beirut without the cost of sending a single Syrian soldier.

In other words, Syria kept its cool. When the US invaded Iraq, the world wondered if its tanks would turn left to Damascus or right to Tehran. In fact, they lie still in the Iraqi desert, where US generals still variously accuse Iran and Syria of encouraging the insurgency against them. If Washington wants to leave Iraq, it can call Damascus for help.

And the real cost? The US will have to restore full relations with Syria. It will have to continue talks with Iran. It will have to thank Iran for its “help” in Iraq – most of the Iraqi government, after all, was nurtured in the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US took Saddam’s side. It will have to accept Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. And it will have to prevent Israel staging a bombing spectacular on Iran which will destroy every hope of US mediation. It will also have to produce a just Middle East peace. McCain or Obama, please note.

And the triple pillars? Well, one is Mr Assad, of course. The second is the crackpot Mr Ahmadinejad. And the third? It was once President Bush. Who will take his place? President Assad must have enjoyed his Iranian caviar.

–Robert Fisk

Comments (69)

norman said:

Middle East Diplomacy, Shrinking U.S. Involvement
by Ivan Watson

Audio for this story will be available at approx. 9:00 a.m. ET

Morning Edition, August 6, 2008 · As recently as last spring, it looked as though the Middle East was on the verge of another major conflict, Western, Israeli and Turkish diplomats agree. But they say a major crisis was averted, thanks in large part to several diplomatic initiatives that were launched by countries in the region, without American involvement.

“In April, there was high concern regarding tensions. Some were scared of clashes in the region,” says a senior Turkish diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now there is less fear due to all these efforts.”

In April, tensions were high between Israel and the Palestinian faction Hamas, with the Israeli military threatening an incursion into the Gaza Strip in response to daily Hamas rocket salvos on nearby Israeli towns.

Meanwhile, an 18-month stalemate between rival political factions in Lebanon exploded in early May, when militants of the Shiite movement Hezbollah stormed through parts of Beirut and nearby hills, attacking their rivals in a display of power that shocked many in the country.

Lack Of U.S. Involvement

The U.S. government has long refused to negotiate with either Hezbollah or Hamas, labeling both as terrorist organizations.

So the Bush administration was not involved in efforts to solve either storm, says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

“There is a set of conditions that [is] very dangerous and very troublesome that the U.S. is proving unable to manage,” Salem says. “And because the U.S. was unable or unwilling to do that, it created a space and an opportunity for other smaller players to take a crack at it. I think this is healthy, because it pushed a number of smaller states in the region to take responsibility.”

In the case of Israel and Hamas, it was the government of Egypt that stepped in as a mediator. Last month, it succeeded in hammering out a cease-fire agreement.

Meanwhile, the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Qatar invited Lebanon’s warring factions to the Qatari capital Doha to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. The stakes were high, say Lebanese politicians.

“If the Arab world had not put a strong push to stop this and to call for dialogue in Doha, we were definitely on the verge of a very violent and somewhat desperate civil war,” says Nayla Mouawad, a Lebanese parliament member.

Giving Credit To Syria

The Lebanese agreement in Doha also had benefits for neighboring Syria.

Soon after the accord was signed, French President Nicolas Sarkozy phoned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and personally thanked him for helping to broker the settlement.

Syria had been internationally isolated since 2005, after it was accused of orchestrating a series of high-profile assassinations in Lebanon, including that of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri.

These days, however, Syria is getting compliments from the most unlikely quarters.

“I must also give some credit to Syria itself and its president,” says Gabby Levy, Israel’s ambassador to Turkey. He pointed to Assad’s visit to Paris earlier this month, when he and the newly installed Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, agreed to open embassies in each other’s countries.

“For the first time in history, Syria has agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, which means giving up [its] dreams of a greater Syria, which controls both Syria and Lebanon,” Levy says. “All of this created the new atmosphere — the new attitude from the international community.”

The Israeli ambassador was speaking in an interview in the Turkish capital, just days before Israeli and Syrian envoys traveled to Istanbul to hold a fourth round of indirect talks there. This is the first attempt to reach peace between the two rivals in more then eight years.

The indirect talks have been sponsored by Turkey. Turkish diplomats are reported to shuttle between the Israeli and Syrian delegations, which operate in separate, secret Istanbul locations.

“It’s a very serious step on the part of both parties,” Levy says.

American Presence Necessary

But an adviser to Syria’s prime minister says it’s still far too early to declare peace is at hand.

“In spite of certain hopes growing up now, the situation is very, very, very risky,” says Samir al-Taki, during a recent visit to Washington. Taki argued that the process begun in Istanbul can only succeed with help from the U.S., a view shared by Israeli diplomats.

“Because of too many contradictions in ethnicities, geography, history and resources,” Taki says, this region “will need external help to establish itself a system for peace and security. It cannot do it by its own. That’s why the presence of the Americans is very necessary.”

A peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians has been the main focus of Washington’s Middle East diplomacy since the U.S. hosted a peace conference in Annapolis last November.

But political analysts and diplomats in the region argue that in its final months, the Bush administration is too preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with the Middle East’s more recent diplomatic initiatives. These will probably have to wait until the election of the next American president.

“The most important thing coming down the pike is the U.S. election,” says Salem, of the Carnegie center. “The U.S. remains the largest player in the Middle East, and the latest flurry of diplomacy and some breakthroughs have made it painfully clear that there are big opportunities here — and there’s a lot that can be done through diplomacy.”

August 6th, 2008, 3:12 am


Majhool said:

Why “murdered” and not assassinated? Are you assuming it was a homicide and hence the use of the word “murder”? Was he cheating on his wife who hired a hitman to execute the perfect murder from a fast yacht!! Because otherwise I would have used the word assassinated jut like we do with assasinated lebanese politicians.

August 6th, 2008, 4:56 am


why-discuss said:

Killing of Suleiman
Another theory: It may be the works of some Israel groups (or extremists arabs) opposed to the Israel-Syria negotiations and trying to create tensions to prevent its continuation.

August 6th, 2008, 11:05 am


ugarit said:

Page 1 of 2
Syria exploits US loopholes
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – When veteran United States diplomat Edward Djerejian received notice that he had become America’s ambassador to Syria in 1989, he happened to be in Israel. He informed prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who said, “You will be dealing with the smartest man in the Middle East [in reference to president Hafez al-Assad].” Rabin then warned against what he called a “loophole” in what the Americans were offering to Syria, because if there were any loophole, “Hafez al-Assad will drive a truck through it.”


August 6th, 2008, 11:11 am


Shai said:

The multiplicity of theories regarding the assassination is indeed impressive. But what I haven’t heard yet, is how anyone takes the yacht story seriously.

Trying to aim a gun at a target from a distance is difficult enough. But a yacht, as some may recall, as a tendency to continuously sway up and down with the motions of the sea. You’d have to have one super-shooter on a moving yacht, to hit at (presumably) a great distance. Plus, isn’t it kind of hard to shoot 30 bullets at the same head? I don’t think a solid rock, anchored in wind-tunnel conditions, could remain in place after so many hits.

Why do I suddenly feel like an Oliver Stone….?

August 6th, 2008, 11:17 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Hizbullah Deployed Advanced Anti-aircraft Rocket Systems, Israel on Alert: Report

Hizbullah has been able to establish a military presence north and south of the Litani River and is already prepared to a large extent to fire rockets and missiles on Israel, an Israeli newspaper has reported.
Yediot Ahronot daily said Tuesday that security and intelligence chiefs are expected to present a discouraging assessment of the situation during the cabinet meeting Wednesday.

The report added that Hizbullah’s new military plan can effectively hinder the Israeli ground forces who would enter Lebanon to curb the missile fire.

Hizbullah’s rockets and missiles, estimated at 40,000, are found on both sides of the Litani, Yediot Ahronot revealed.

Yet, the heavy arsenal, the newspaper added, is made up of several hundred rockets with warheads weighing hundreds of kilograms and featuring a range of up to 250 kilometers (roughly 160 miles).

The arsenal is found underground north of the Litani and is well fortified in land bought by Hizbullah, the newspaper said.

In south Lebanon, the group established a fortified underground system that would be used to fight the IDF armored corps and infantry troops that advance towards the rocket arsenal north of the Litani. Meanwhile, the logistics and training center of Hizbullah, which has been boosted with thousands of new fighters, is in the Bekaa Valley region.

However, the most worrisome development to Israelis has to do with a new component that Hizbullah is attempting to set up with Syrian assistance.

The newspaper mentioned an anti-aircraft system that is aimed at limiting Israel’s ability to gather intelligence above Lebanon, and later make it more difficult for the Israeli Air Force to strike in Lebanon and Syria.

The Israeli daily warned that if Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah were able to establish a massive anti-aircraft system in Lebanon, this will fundamentally change the strategic balance of power.

This system, the newspaper pointed out, is supposed to provide aerial defense to the entire Syrian-Iranian rocket and missile arsenal in Lebanon and western Syria.

Yediot Ahronot said the message to Syria, which is also being conveyed via Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and through other means, some of them clandestine, is as follows: Israel would not accept the establishment of an advanced anti-aircraft system in Lebanon; should it be set up, Israel will not hesitate to act against it.

Israel is also warning Lebanon against granting Hizbullah the freedom to act, in light of the latest government decision in Beirut that in fact defines Hizbullah as part of the national army.

And the third issue: A warning to Hizbullah to refrain from carrying out acts of revenge for the killing of its top commander Imad Mughniyeh in a Damascus car bombing last February; Such acts would meet a “disproportional response.”

The Israeli government is attempting to convey all these messages at this time to Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and the international community, the daily said.

Israeli officials hope that exposing the Syria-Hizbullah intentions will deter Damascus and Tehran and stop them from implementing their plans in Lebanon.

Beirut, 06 Aug 08, 09:36

August 6th, 2008, 11:48 am


alle said:

On the chances of yacht-sniping someone, at Abu Muqawama’s:

August 6th, 2008, 1:08 pm


norman said:


Syria confirms assassination of military officer

2008-08-06 14:08:01 –

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syria’s government is confirming the assassination last week of a senior military officer believed to have been a close aide to President Bashar Assad.
The confirmation by presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban is the first official comment by Syria on the assassination of Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman. The killing was widely reported in Arab media this week.
Syria restricts its media and rarely comments on security matters.
Shaaban told reporters Wednesday that investigations were under way but did not elaborate.
Arab media and a Syrian opposition Web site said on Monday that Suleiman was killed by a sniper on a yacht at a beach resort in the northern port city of Tartous Friday night.

Press release:

August 6th, 2008, 1:27 pm


norman said:

Going solo between Syria and Israel
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Turkish diplomats shuttling between Syrian and Israeli delegations are in a full mediation exercise. But how far can they go as ‘solo’?

Barçin YİNANÇTurkish officials conducting indirect talks between Israel and Syria have been busy reading the memoirs of the past mediation efforts. Apparently they even got hold of some unpublished memoirs. The reason why they invest so much time and energy for the first formal negotiations for eight years between the two mutual enemies seems to be their optimism.
When it comes to Turkish diplomatic efforts on the nuclear dialogue between Tehran and the six powers, Turkish diplomats are more cautious and prefer to use the term “facilitator” instead of “mediator.” They seem much more confident in their rhetoric at the end of the fourth round of the talks conducted in Istanbul between the Israeli and Syrian officials.

Memory refreshing:

The first round in May was dedicated to reach an agreement on the framework according to which talks will be conducted on four major headlines: security arrangements, territory/border issues, normalization and water problem. The second was about refreshing the memory on the past negotiations. Proxy talks started to hit a nerve on the third and forth rounds, according to Turkish diplomats familiar with the negotiations.

Just like everybody else in Turkey, as Turkish diplomats were keeping their breath last Wednesday to hear the Constitutional Court’s verdict on the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party, some among them were also anxiously waiting to hear from Israel, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was getting ready to announce his resignation. As he made public his decision, it became apparent that there will be a change in the Israeli delegation, as it is headed by one of Olmert’s top aides. He will participate to the fifth round of talks in August and then Israel’s new prime minister will designate the new head of delegation.

Whoever succeeds Olmert, Turkish officials are confident that the talks will continue with the same enthusiasm. Despite Olmert’s critics, who argue that he was trying to divert attention from the corruption investigation by giving his green light to talks with Syria, which he ruled out in the past, Turkish side is convinced that there is a general consensus, including the defense establishment in Israel for conducting peace talks with Syrians.

The replacement of Olmert, by Kadima’s new leader will however be a temporary political arrangement since the country is likely to hold early elections by 2009. Conducting peace negotiations during an electoral year can have two consequences. There could either be a setback, due to lack of political courage to commit to a peace deal based on compromises, which might cost one’s political career, bringing the negotiations to a stand still. Or to the contrary, talks might get intensified, ending with a peace deal seen as an electoral victory ticket.

There is no doubt that the Turkish government is aiming high for a mediation role on most of the regional issues. Turkish diplomats shuttling between Syrian and Israeli delegations are not playing the post officers; they are in a full mediation exercise.

Is trust enough?:

Both sides trusts Turkey, says a diplomat. But I wonder whether trust is enough to be an efficient mediator, which also needs the weight to exert pressure when required. As far as the Syrians are concerned I am sure that Turkish government under any administration is in the position to exert pressure on Damascus. I have my doubts however whether the same is valid for Israel. Just recall how desperately Turkey seeks the support of the Jewish lobby when the likelihood of the recognition of Armenians’ claim of genocide by U.S. Congress is increasing.

Having said that, by no means am I trying to underestimate Turkish mediation efforts between Israel and Syria. Initiating formal talks after a break of eight years, with a joint statement is an important achievement. My expectation is that at one stage it will become highly difficult to go on “solo” and that it might prove wiser to get the assistance of an another actor or actors.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.

August 6th, 2008, 1:56 pm


norman said:


I had to put the whole article, I could not resist.

Middle East
Aug 7, 2008

Page 1 of 2
Syria exploits US loopholes
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – When veteran United States diplomat Edward Djerejian received notice that he had become America’s ambassador to Syria in 1989, he happened to be in Israel. He informed prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who said, “You will be dealing with the smartest man in the Middle East [in reference to president Hafez al-Assad].” Rabin then warned against what he called a “loophole” in what the Americans were offering to Syria, because if there were any loophole, “Hafez al-Assad will drive a truck through it.”

Those were smart words from the Israeli premier and they still apply to the Middle East of 2008. The American loopholes still

stand, and President Bashar al-Assad has driven a truck through them.

Loophole 1: Iraq
In 2003, the Americans believed they could bring stability to Iraq with the help of their Shi’ite allies within Iraq and the support of Saudi Arabia. They thought this could be done while ignoring both Iran and Syria.

That was a fatal mistake, as bluntly spelled out in the Baker-Hamilton report in 2006. James Baker, a former secretary of state and Lee Hamilton, a former US Representative headed the Iraq Study Group, a 10-person bipartisan panel appointed by the US Congress to assess the situation in Iraq.

While Iran controls Iraqi Shi’ites, Syria is very well connected to the Sunni community, including tribal leaders and Ba’athists. Although it cannot order either of them to lay down their arms, it can moderate their behavior peacefully, through dialogue, or aggressively, by threatening, for example, to return many busloads of Iraqis to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Iraq.

Most of the 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria are Sunnis. Maliki doesn’t want them back, and the Americans fear if they return they will contribute, as members or bankrollers, to the Sunni insurgency.

Some would be arrested for their positions in the former Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein. Others would go back to a life of unemployment. Many would be killed by nature or in the sectarian violence that still simmers.

The Americans thought it was wise to have these 1.5 million refugees in Syria, to let the Syrians deal with them. This massive refugee problem had an opposite effect; it gave the Syrians a bargaining card – at a heavy price nevertheless – that the George W Bush administration feared.

Currently, the US still refuses to provide anything but lip service gratitude to the Syrians for housing these Iraqis, withholding any kind of financial assistance to help Damascus.

Five years down the road, America’s stance towards Syria has backfired on Iraq, where Syria is far from being sidelined. In addition to the Ba’athists, it is close to several heavyweights, including Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, President Jalal Talabani and Abdul-Aziz Hakim, the head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.

America realized – too late – that Syria’s agenda was not too different from that of Washington when it came to post-Saddam Iraq. Syria wanted a strong, secular central government in Baghdad. It did not want religiously driven politicians running the government, nor did it want militias – neither Sunnis nor Shi’ites – roaming the streets of Baghdad.

After all, civil war in Iraq, just as in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, could spill over into Syria. After having tried to sideline them for five years, the Americans are now trying to find a way to ask the Syrians for help in Iraq with as much face-saving as possible. The Syrians will do it – for a price – realizing just how desperate the US is for a success story in Iraq.

Loophole 2: Iran
Nations often act like human beings. When one has many friends, he dines each night with a different friend. When one has one friend, he spends all his nights with this one ally.

For a critical period during 2005-2006, Syria had only one friend to dine with; Iran. This wasn’t Syria’s choice; it was imposed on Damascus by the US after the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, blaming the Syrians for the killing of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, and forcing them out of Lebanon.

The world nodded to American dictates not to talk to the Syrians, and the only country that refused to obey was Iran. That has now changed, as channels have opened and flourished with France, Germany, Spain, Qatar, India and Turkey. By spearheading a campaign to isolate Syria, the Americans unintentionally led Tehran and Damascus to cuddle up. When they realized the folly of their actions, the Americans cried foul play, claiming that an alliance was being formed against them, and called on Syria to distance itself from Iran.

The US realized that to continue not speaking to both Syria and Iran was ludicrous, if they wanted to get results on Iraq. Speaking to both was close to impossible. Therefore, America had to chose: either Syria or Iran. Syria is easier to talk to; it takes less pride swallowing to engage with the Syrians. Syria is a reasonable country that doesn’t have a history of anti-Americanism. Syria played a important role in securing the release of 15 British sailors abducted by Iran in 2007. It also helped release a BBC reporter taken hostage in Palestine, through its connections with the military group Hamas.

By doing so, Syria was challenging the long-held view that it was a troublemaker in the Middle East. Nations that can destabilize can also – logically – stabilize. The world is still demanding that Syria does more to get its Persian ally to halt uranium-enrichment activities. A recent meeting in Geneva between Nicolas Burns, the US under secretary of state, and an Iranian diplomat gave the world more conviction that the only party that has credibility to talk to the Iranians into halting their nuclear ambitions, is Syria.

Iran will not listen to the Europeans. It certainly will listen neither to the Arab world nor to the US or the United Nations. That is why Assad went to Tehran last week, to talk to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into finding a solution.

Rather than isolate and weaken Syria, the Americans actually made it a problem-solver in a variety of regional issues – thereby making the Syrians indispensable to the Arab and Muslim world – the most important of which is Iran.

Veteran British journalist Robert Fisk explained, “Mr Assad’s latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the king of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy [at the July 14 celebrations in Paris] – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He’s done nothing – and he’s won.”

Loophole 3: Israel
In 2003, Bush raised eyebrows in Syria when he said that Syria was a “very weak country” that “just has to wait” until all regional issues are solved before embarking on peace talks with Israel. He thought he was punishing the Syrians by preventing them from ending conflict with Israel, forgetting that it was in everybody’s interests – especially Israel – to close its conflict with Damascus.

This wasn’t an Anwar al-Sadat, the former Egyptian president, being punished by being pushed out of the peace process; this was Syria, a country that has worked relentlessly against Israel since its inception in 1948. The Syrians did not mind and this led them to cultivate their relationship with radical groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

A peace deal with Syria would not be just a real-estate deal; an exchange of land between an Arab state and Israel, as was the case of the Camp David accords that led to peace between Egypt and Israel. It would be a complete strategic package that would redefine the balance of power throughout the entire Middle East.

It would mean a new kind of relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. That does not mean, however, that Syria will abandon these groups once peace is signed, since it is in the international community’s best interests to always have a back-channel to people like Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Meshaal and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

These leaders listen to Syria and trust the Syrians. Syria has credibility in the Arab street and remains committed to Arab nationalism. It is one thing when a pro-Western country like Jordan, which has been at peace with Israel since 1994, tries to talk Hamas into changing behavior. It is something completely different when this mediation effort is done by the Syrians.

By refusing to support Syrian-Israeli peace since 2003, the US was actually doing Israel a great disservice. As a result, violence soured in the Palestinian territories. War broke out in Lebanon in 2006. And more recently, Israel had to abide by the rules of Nasrallah and get the bodies of two of its missing soldiers returned by dialogue and prisoner exchange – for the hefty price of releasing prisoner Samir Qantar to Lebanon. Israel faced a military defeat in 2006 and a psychological one in 2008, with the prisoner exchange. It had to recognize Syria’s role in Lebanon and start pushing Bush to refrain from opposing Syrian-Israeli peace.

What is even worse for the Americans is that for the first time since 1990, peace is now being discussed, far from the corridors of Washington. The Syrians and the Israelis entered into indirect talks in May, through the mediation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Americans at first refused to endorse this initiative, but under the urging of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, more recently, did not veto the process. Both parties are saying that for full peace to

Continued 1 2
Syria exploits US loopholes
By Sami Moubayed

materialize they need the guarantees and sponsorship of the US. That is not going to happen while Bush is in the White House.

What both parties fear is that the talks in Ankara are going well; too well, in fact, so that a treaty is possible before the end of 2008. With no American support, it would become a shelf agreement, set aside until after Bush leaves at the beginning of next year.

Between now and then, anything can happen in the Middle East as non-state players may work hard at changing the mood in either Israel or Syria to drown the peace treaty. The process

might take a little longer even than January since any new president needs up to 10 months to get his administration in order and fill all posts in the executive branch. The Syrians aren’t suffering if peace is not signed; it is Israel that suffers.

The Israelis are eager to end the conflict, since they believe peace with the Syrians also means peace with Lebanon, and a curbing of the power of Hamas. Alon Ben Meir, a professor of international relations at New York University, wrote, “Israel will have to return the Golan Heights [to Syria] whether it is now or in five, 10 or even 100 years. The Golan will have to be returned if Israel wants to live in peace. Why not negotiate now and appreciably reduce Israel’s security concerns with its two northern neighbors and free itself to focus on the threat of Iran?”

Even if Olmert leaves office in September as he has promised, under charges of corruption, his successors are hurrying to uphold the Syrian track, showing just how strongly the mood has changed in Israel. Prime minister-hopeful Shaul Mofaz (current deputy premier), said, “My opinion and my goal will be to continue to speak to the Syrians without preconditions. The way is, peace for peace.”

The decision would need approval from the Knesset (parliament), however, and a referendum. Mofaz, who while serving as head of the armed forces during the Palestinian uprising of 2000, ruthlessly crushed the Palestinians, seemed to soften last week, saying, “As a father who has three children in the military, I want peace for them.”

Loophole 4: Lebanon
At first glance, Syria’s exodus from Lebanon in 2005 was a humiliation for Damascus. A better look shows that it was a blessing in disguise for the Syrians. Although corruption still exists, it helped end major corruption, carried out for years by Syrians and Lebanese, thanks to Syria’s position in Beirut.

That is, the exodus helped accelerate Syrian reforms; if the Syrians no longer had Lebanon, then the government had to provide domestic alternatives to pleasure, business, banking, education, commerce and medication. Banks have mushroomed all over Syria. So have private universities. Syrians fearing to send their children to the US after September 11, 2001, and who saw Lebanon as increasingly unstable and dangerous because of the anti-Syrian rhetoric of the ruling March 14 coalition, sent their children to Syrian schools (a total of eight have opened since 2005).

Nightclubs, insurance companies, shopping malls and hotels have all made Syria an increasingly attractive market for investment and tourism, at the expense of none other than Lebanon. These reforms created jobs, and circulated more money in the Syrian market, thereby endearing Assad to a larger percentage of the population, which is young and still searching for jobs and various ways to improve professionally.

Harsh critics of Syria have just recently began to change course in their rhetoric. They realize that nothing can be done in Lebanon without the help of Syria. This was especially true when Syria’s proxies in Lebanon scored a thundering victory in May over the Saudi-backed pro-US March 14 coalition.

Although the price was 82 dead on the streets of Beirut – a high price indeed for the Lebanese – it nevertheless produced the Doha agreement, which has restored a certain degree of normalcy to Lebanon. But that agreement seemed to be tailor-made for the Syrians. They got all that they had been asking for. Hezbollah’s arms were not discussed and the Hezbollah-led opposition got a greater amount of seats – and veto power – in the new Lebanese cabinet.

Pro-Syrian figures were brought back to government and Michel Suleiman, a pro-Syrian general, was made president, rather than the formerly anti-Syrian Michel Aoun, or candidates from March 14. One of the Lebanese leaders who realized that Syria was getting the upper hand after May was Walid Jumblatt.

In late July, he gave a interview to Lebanese TV, admitting, “We forgot Hariri and focused on taking revenge under the slogan of justice, and this sequestered the March 14 group into an isolationist position. That was a fatal mistake.” He added, “We fiercely attacked the Syrian regime and forgot our Arab discourse,” claiming, “A divorce is impossible, and we met in Doha.”

He also said he had gone to Washington and asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help topple the Syrian regime. When she said it was behavior change, rather than regime change, that was on America’s mind, he backed out, claiming it became clear that a stand-off with Syria was not in Lebanon’s best interests, since the Assad administration in Damascus was not – as he had wished for in 2005 – beginning its long march into history.

Jumblatt also reportedly met the recently liberated from Israel Druze leader Samir Qantar and said, “There is no protection for us [the Druze], and neither honor nor future, away from Damascus. Here you are and here is [my son] Taymour. You both represent the future of the [Druze] mountain and that of the Druze in the region. You both can mend what happened. All men make mistakes.”

One of the finest comments about the new mood in Damascus – thanks to the American loopholes – was made on Syriacomment, a website run by Syrian specialist Joshua Landis of Oklahoma University. A Syrian reader who lived abroad and had just returned for the summer holidays in Syria, wrote:
I found people going about their daily lives as they did before, but this time with a strong sense of Syrian pride of standing together and surviving the storm that was hatched in the dark alleys of the White House. The feeling was that the whole world conspired against them and the Syrians finally won; and the lines at the foreign embassies for Syrian visa seekers have, all of the sudden, disappeared. Syrians are now very happy to have their country still in one piece, prosperous (in relative terms) dignified, and the envy of their neighbors.
He then reported that his Syrian driver, a devote Muslim, was naming his twin boys Ishak and Elias, a Jewish and a Christian name, “I want to make sure that my children grow up in Syria with names that keep reminding them of our diverse nation; this is Syria not Saudi Arabia.” That, he added, was how enthusiastic the Syrians were for peace and change.

So the US loopholes created many peace seekers among Syria’s 18 million, led Israeli radicals like Mofaz to insist on peace with Damascus, and positioned Syria as a problem-solver in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq.

Yitzhak Rabin was right after all.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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August 6th, 2008, 2:24 pm


sam said:

One has to ask, who benefits from the assassination? The answer will 99.9% come back Isreal. I don’t believe for a second, that Isreal would rather try to make peace a priority than it’s own protection. They truly feel they are better than any gentile, moslem, buddist you name it. They only know to save their own ass, they can give a ratsass about humanity. Turn on your arab dish satelite providers, and see the humilty they cause on a daily basis, to our arab brethren. Stopping arms to Hiz is far more important than any peace deal in their mind. Is it a coinsedence that when they complain about something, someone dies. Just last week, their making attempts to stop border smuggling, by complaints to UNIFIL to do something. They do what ever they want, because they know the US will veto anything that comes up in the SC. Which by the way the worst world police system. If vetos are giving, just because the non complying countrie are allies, is bullshit. They took our Slueiman, and anybody they feel is a threat to “Isreal”

August 6th, 2008, 4:16 pm


Jad said:

Thank you Norman for posting this excellent article of Mr. Moubayed, it’s an overview clear analyse of the whole situation with a good optimistic projection.
Pity that our Syrian newspaper doesn’t get such good articles in them.
Read this pointless article published at Alhayat news paper today (it supposed to be one of the best newspaper in the Arab media) yesterday they had another article much worse than this one. It makes you think, who decide what should be published and what is trash……

أضعف الإيمان – الاغتيال الجديد
داود الشريان الحياة – 06/08/08//

اغتيال المستشار العسكري للرئيس السوري بشار الاسد، العميد محمد سليمان، ذكرنا بمقاطع العودة إلى الماضي في الأفلام السينمائية. فالاغتيال يشبه في طريقة تنفيذه «انتحار» محمود الزعبي رئيس وزراء سورية السابق، وغازي كنعان وزير الداخلية السابق. كان الاغتيال مشهدا قديماً قياساً بالتطورات الجارية. فمنذ فترة ليست قصيرة كانت مشاهد الحياة السياسية في سورية تروي أحداثا جديدة ومستقبلية، بدأت بمفاوضات غير مباشرة مع إسرائيل، بعد سنوات من «الممانعة»، ومرونة في التعامل مع الملف اللبناني، وصولاً إلى المشهد الأهم وهو المشاركة في الاجتماع التأسيسي لـ «الاتحاد من أجل المتوسط» في باريس، ومحاولات كسر العزلة الدولية والعربية التي تعيشها سورية، والتطلع إلى القيام بدور الوساطة بين فرنسا وإيران.
العميد سليمان شخصية مركزية في النظام السوري. وتردّد أن اسمه ورد ضمن الأسماء التي طلب رئيس لجنة التحقيق الدولية السابق ديتلف ميليس التحقيق مع أصحابها في إطار قضية اغتيال رفيق الحريري. وثمة معلومات أنه يتولى الترتيبات مع قائد الجناح العسكري في «حزب الله» عماد مغنية الذي اغتيل في دمشق، وله صلة وثيقة بالاتصالات مع كوريا الشمالية لبناء مفاعل دير الزور، وقام بدور المنسق بين المخابرات السورية والجيش الإيراني. ونُشر أيضاً انه مسؤول عن تمويل وتسليح الجيش السوري، ومستودع للأسرار العسكرية والأمنية بحكم موقعه وقربه الى الرئيس. ولهذا من الصعب فهم دوافع اغتياله، رغم أن ارتباطه بكل هذه الملفات قد يشير إلى العكس في نظر بعضهم.
الاحتمال الأول أن دافع القتل حماية أسرار حقبة ماضية، كما تقول المعارضة السورية. وهذا يعني أننا أمام جولة جديدة من الاغتيالات في سورية، ويعني أيضا أن النظام غير واثق بالتطمينات الدولية عبر الأتراك والفرنسيين، وان كل ما قامت به دمشق حتى الآن مناورات لكسب الوقت. والاحتمال الآخر أن الاغتيال جاء لضرب التوجهات الجديدة، وان صراع الأجنحة داخل النظام ليس مجرد تركيبة بلا سند، خصوصا ان تشييع الرجل جاء مختلفاً عن تشييع غازي كنعان ومحمود الزعبي. لكن بصرف النظر عن الدوافع، اثار استهداف العميد سليمان مخاوف السوريين على مستقبل البلد واستقراره، وشوّه صورة التوجهات الجديدة للسياسة السورية. ومن دون كشف ما جرى فإن استقرار سورية بات نوعا من التفكير بالتمني.

August 6th, 2008, 5:04 pm


Shai said:


“They took our Slueiman, and anybody they feel is a threat to “Isreal””

Well, I don’t know who killed Suleiman, but claiming that Israel did it, before anyone has produced any evidence even hinting in that direction, is just a tiny bit presumptuous of you, isn’t it?

August 6th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Alex said:


It is your turn to be automatically accused habibi … Syria got that exclusivity for the past few years, and it is time we pass that prestigious title to one of our (evil) neighbors.


I replied to your email, please check it.

August 6th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

In my humble opinion, Sami Moubayed’s article is uncharacteristically disappointing.

It is so triumphalistic that one wonders if he believes that Syria snubbed Bush’s invitation to participate in the Iraq War and then got itself kicked out of Lebanon, JUST SO THAT it could end up where it is today.

August 6th, 2008, 7:19 pm


Shai said:


Yes, I suppose you’re right. Ok, it’s our turn… 🙂

August 6th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

Admit it … Sami is starting to sound like that idiot Alex.

But i have to tell you that if Syria and Israel do manage to reach a final settlement, you will need to prepare yourself for a massive number of opinion pieces just like Sami’s.

I was there when Sadat decided to go to Jerusalem …. when I went with my father to buy Time Magazine, I took a look at the covers of many other magazines and newspapers at he stand and realized that Anwar Sadat, who was on ALL those covers … became Saint Anwar Sadat.

August 6th, 2008, 7:33 pm


Shai said:


Even the greatest of them all, the British Empire, eventually withdrew from India and from Palestine (and a few other places), without actually being defeated. I hope the local “evil empire” (Israel) will be able to do the same. We mustn’t forget, even Sharon talked about withdrawing from the West Bank. There’s no reason to think any other courageous leader wouldn’t do the same, under the right circumstances.

August 6th, 2008, 7:49 pm


Alex said:


I was about to use the India example, but in the other post where my friend Sami-D sounded too pessimistic that Israel’s strength will prevent its people from thinking straight.

Although I have to say that I was always disappointed in the Palestinians for moving to more violence during hte second intifada .. if they believed in Gandhi’s non-violent protests, they would have been much more successful.

Qifa Nabki … this is my answer to your challenge question to Sami …. there is indeed a strategy to deal with “the conquerer”, and it does not cost many lives.

August 6th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I like your answer to the challenge. I share your feelings about the second intifada.

And if Bashar signs the deal and helps peace to take hold in the region, I won’t mind the magazine covers one bit. I will buy them all, frame them, and put them in my great-grandfather’s house near Baalbek, which will hopefully be cleared of cluster bombs by then.


August 6th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Ain’t the majority of Israelis interested in keeping a large chunk of the West Bank under their control?

August 6th, 2008, 8:44 pm


Shai said:


Not according to the overwhelming majority of Israelis that voted Kadima, Labor, and other parties to the left. You may recall that in those elections, Sharon very clearly spoke about withdrawing from Gaza and the West Bank. Had he not fallen ill, I have little doubt the situation in the W. Bank would be the same as it is today. He was a strong and courageous leader, that proved his ability to force settlers out, as he did in Gaza. The West Bank was to be the next stage. Olmert, aside from being (apparently) a very corrupt politician, also lacked the strength and perhaps resolve with regards to the Palestinians. Of course, the huge rift between Hamas and Fatah didn’t exactly “help” either…

Having said the above regarding the West Bank, this feeling is NOT the case with regards to the Golan. Most Israelis, approx. 70% at the moment, believe we should not give back the Golan, even in return for peace with Syria.

I just re-read your question, and I may wish to correct the point, that indeed most Israelis do hope that not all settlements will be dismantled, especially the large pockets (towns) in the Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim regions. However, I believe that if some future formula will enable these to remain, equivalent size territory will be given in return. I’m not sure it is feasible to keep these pockets, but that’s for the professionals from both sides to discuss and decide on, not for me. But if it WAS up to me, I’d get every last Jewish settler out of there.

August 6th, 2008, 8:51 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ain’t the majority of Israelis interested in keeping a large chunk of the West Bank under their control?

Yes and that is the No. 1 plank of the Kadima Party.

BTW, there was no such yacht. Suleiman was killed at close range in the neck; the gun (not rifle) had a silencer. Le Monde suggests some sort of power struggle, which has already resulted in house arrest for General Asef Shawkat.

August 6th, 2008, 10:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Le Monde suggests some sort of power struggle, which has already resulted in house arrest for General Asef Shawkat.

Man, to believe the rumors, Asef Shawkat has gotta be the most arrested man in Syria.

Every time someone gets knocked off, they throw Asef in the slammer.

Syria comes home from the Olympics with no medals? Put Asef under house arrest.

Bashar gets a sunburn while on vacation? Sorry, Asef, you’ll have to come with us.

August 6th, 2008, 10:47 pm


Karim said:

Syrie – L’écrivain Habib Saleh accusé d'”affaiblissement du sentiment national” : Reporters sans frontières demande sa libération

MONTREAL, le 6 août /CNW Telbec/ – Reporters sans frontières demande la
libération de l’écrivain Habib Saleh, arrêté sans explication dans un souk à
Tartous (nord-ouest du pays), le 6 mai 2008. Le 4 août, il a été entendu par
un juge d’instruction à Damas. Accusé d'”affaiblissement du sentiment
national” et d'”incitation à la la guerre civile et confessionnelle” en vertu
des articles 285 et 289 du code pénal, il a confirmé être l’auteur des
articles incriminés.
“Depuis son arrestation, Habib Saleh demeurait introuvable. Nous sommes
soulagés d’apprendre qu’il est en vie mais condamnons fermement son
arrestation et demandons sa libération. Cet écrivain n’a fait qu’user de son
droit à la liberté d’expression. Malheureusement en Syrie, il est devenu
fréquent d’être enfermé en raison de ses activités sur Internet”, a déclaré
Lors de l’audience, Habib Saleh, a rejeté toutes les charges émises à son
encontre. Outre les articles 285 et 289, il est accusé d'”appartenance à une
organisation” secrète et de “diffamation à l’encontre du président de la
Agé de 61 ans, il est un collaborateur régulier du site Internet (, censuré en Syrie en raison de son traitement
de l’information. Il s’agit de la troisième interpellation de Habib Saleh en
sept ans. En 2002, il avait été condamné à trois ans de prison lors du
“Printemps de Damas”. Il avait été libéré le 9 septembre 2004. Le 15 août
2006, il avait à nouveau été condamné à trois ans de prison en vertu de
l’article 286 du code pénal pour “publication de fausses informations”, suite
à la mise en ligne d’articles sur Internet. Il avait été libéré le
12 septembre 2007.
La Syrie est le pays du monde arabe le plus répressif envers les
individus qui publient des informations sur Internet. Reporters sans
frontières rappelle que la Constitution syrienne garantit pourtant “le droit
d’exprimer librement ses opinions par la parole, l’écriture ou quelque autre
moyen que ce soit” et appelle à la libération de Habib Saleh ainsi que des
quatre autres cyberdissidents détenus : Firas Saad, Tariq Biassi, Kareem
Arabji et Hammam Haddad.

August 6th, 2008, 11:08 pm


norman said:

Back to Story – Help
Israel mulls military option for Iran nukes By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer
12 minutes ago

Israel is building up its strike capabilities amid growing anxiety over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and appears confident that a military attack would cripple Tehran’s atomic program, even if it can’t destroy it.

Such talk could be more threat than reality. However, Iran’s refusal to accept Western conditions is worrying Israel as is the perception that Washington now prefers diplomacy over confrontation with Tehran.

The Jewish state has purchased 90 F-16I fighter planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran, and will receive 11 more by the end of next year. It has bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany reportedly capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads — in addition to the three it already has.

And this summer it carried out air maneuvers in the Mediterranean that touched off an international debate over whether they were a “dress rehearsal” for an imminent attack, a stern warning to Iran or a just a way to get allies to step up the pressure on Tehran to stop building nukes.

According to foreign media reports, Israeli intelligence is active inside Iranian territory. Israel’s military censor, who can impose a range of legal sanctions against journalists operating in the country, does not permit publication of details of such information in news reports written from Israel.

The issue of Iran’s nuclear program took on new urgency this week after U.S. officials rejected Tehran’s response to an incentives package aimed at getting it to stop sensitive nuclear activity — setting the stage for a fourth round of international sanctions against the country.

Israel, itself an undeclared nuclear power, sees an atomic bomb in Iranian hands as a direct threat to its existence.

Israel believes Tehran will have enriched enough uranium for a nuclear bomb by next year or 2010 at the latest. The United States has trimmed its estimate that Iran is several years or as much as a decade away from being able to field a bomb, but has not been precise about a timetable. In general U.S. officials think Iran isn’t as close to a bomb as Israel claims, but are concerned that Iran is working faster than anticipated to add centrifuges, the workhorses of uranium enrichment.

“If Israeli, U.S., or European intelligence gets proof that Iran has succeeded in developing nuclear weapons technology, then Israel will respond in a manner reflecting the existential threat posed by such a weapon,” said Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking at a policy forum in Washington last week.

“Israel takes (Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding its destruction seriously. Israel cannot risk another Holocaust,” Mofaz said.

The Iranian leader has in the past called for Israel’s elimination, though his exact remarks have been disputed. Some translators say he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” while others say a better translation would be “vanish from the pages of time” — implying Israel would disappear on its own rather than be destroyed.

Iran insists its uranium enrichment is meant only for electricity generation, not a bomb — an assertion that most Western nations see as disingenuous.

Israeli policymakers and experts have been debating for quite some time whether it would even be possible for Israel to take out Iran’s nuclear program. The mission would be far more complicated than a 1981 Israeli raid that destroyed Iraq’s partially built Osirak nuclear reactor, or an Israeli raid last year on what U.S. intelligence officials said was another unfinished nuclear facility in Syria.

In Iran, multiple atomic installations are scattered throughout the country, some underground or bored into mountains — unlike the Iraqi and Syrian installations, which were single aboveground complexes.

Still, the Syria action seemed to indicate that Israel would also be willing to use force preemptively against Iran.

“For Israel this is not a target that cannot be achieved,” said Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, former head of Israel’s army intelligence.

However, it’s unlikely Israel would carry out an attack without approval from the United States.

Recent signs that Washington may be moving away from a military option — including a proposal to open a low-level U.S. diplomatic office in Tehran and a recent decision to allow a senior U.S. diplomat to participate alongside Iran in international talks in Geneva — are not sitting very well with Israel.

That may help explain recent visits to Jerusalem by Mike McConnell, the U.S. director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, each of whom delivered a message to Israel that it does not have a green light to attack Iran at this time.

Senior Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they do not wish to appear at odds with their most important ally, said they were concerned about a possible softening of the U.S. stance toward Iran.

Apparently to allay Israeli concerns, Bush administration officials last week assured visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the U.S. has not ruled out the possibility of a military strike on Iran. And the U.S., aware of Israel’s high anxiety over Iran’s nukes, is also hooking Israel up to an advanced missile detection system known as X-Band to guard against any future attack by Iran, said a senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions over the issue have not been made public.

With sanctions and diplomacy still the international community’s preferred method to get Iran to stop building the bomb, an Israeli strike does not appear imminent.

If it did attack, however, Israel would have to contend with upgraded Iranian defense capabilities, including 29 new Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile systems Iran purchased from Russia last year in a $700 million deal.

Russia has so far not gone through with a proposed sale to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missiles, an even more powerful air defense system than the Tor-M1. An Israeli defense official said the deal is still on the table, however. This is a big source of consternation for Israel because the system could significantly complicate a pre-emptive Israeli assault on Iran.

Military experts say an Israeli strike would require manned aircraft to bombard multiple targets and heavy precision bombs that can blast through underground bunkers — something Israel failed to do in its 2006 war against Hezbollah. It’s widely assumed that Israel is seeking to obtain bunker buster bombs, if it hasn’t already done so.

Elite ground troops could also be necessary to penetrate the most difficult sites, though Israeli military planners say they see that option as perhaps too risky.

America’s ability to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities is far superior to Israel’s.

Unlike Israel, the United States has cruise missiles that can deliver high-explosive bombs to precise locations and B-2 bombers capable of dropping 85 500-pound bombs in a single run.

Yet the cost of an attack — by the U.S., Israel or both — is likely to be enormous.

Iran could halt oil production and shut down tanker traffic in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which could send the price of crude skyrocketing and wreck Western economies.

It could stir up trouble for the U.S. in Iraq by revving up Shiite militias there just as Washington is showing some important gains in reining in Iraqi chaos.

It could activate its militant proxies in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, from where Israel could come under heavy rocket attack. And it could strike Israel with its arsenal of Shahab-3 long-range missiles — something Israel is hoping to guard against through its Arrow missile defense system.

Perhaps most importantly, any strike on Iran — especially if it’s done without having exhausted all diplomatic channels — could have the opposite of the desired effect, “actually increasing the nationalist fervor to build a nuclear weapon,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli and expert on Iranian affairs.

Whether an attack on Iran would be worth its cost would depend on how long the nuclear program could be delayed, said Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser and now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“A two, three-year delay is not worth it. For a five to 10-year delay I would say yes,” he said.


Associated Press Writers Anne Gearan and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.

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August 6th, 2008, 11:28 pm


norman said:

Now Lebanon is secured and stable,Syria is moving east wood to stabilize Iraq and expand economical there .

Syria, Iraq keen to develop economic co-op

DAMASCUS, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) — Syria and Iraq signed on Wednesday minutes to develop bilateral economic cooperation, the official SANA news agency reported.

The two sides inked the documents at the end of their meetings of the joint Ministerial Economic Committee.

The minutes include a number of mechanisms on boosting bilateral relations in economic, commercial and investment fields and increasing trade exchange.

The documents also include articles on maintaining some oil and gas transport lines between the two countries, exchange of petroleum products and electricity, and using Syrian harbors to import goods into Iraq, in addition to methods on Syria’s participation in rebuilding Iraq.

The burdens caused by the presence of numerous Iraqi refugees in Syria were also mentioned in the minutes.

At the signing ceremony, Syrian Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Lutfi called for increasing trade exchange between the two countries and holding joint investment projects, expecting bilateral trade exchange in 2008 to reach around 1 billion U.S. dollars.

For his part, Iraqi Minister of Trade Abul-Falah al-Sudani affirmed his country’s desire to develop relations with Syria in various fields, saying cooperation between the two countries is a vital, necessary and strategic issue.

He also express Iraq’s gratitude of Syria for hosting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees to help reduce their sufferings.

August 6th, 2008, 11:38 pm


Sami D said:

Alex wrote:

Although I have to say that I was always disappointed in the Palestinians for moving to more violence during hte second intifada .. if they believed in Gandhi’s non-violent protests, they would have been much more successful. Qifa Nabki … this is my answer to your challenge question to Sami …. there is indeed a strategy to deal with “the conquerer”, and it does not cost many lives.

Qifa wrote:

Alex, I like your answer to the challenge. I share your feelings about the second intifada.

Dear Alex and Qifa,

A solution of non-violence sounds nice and appealing. But how do you envision that will work exactly? Imagine yourselves Palestinians, how will you do it step by step? Do you see white-robed Palestinians heading in droves to Israeli check points with bodies ready to take bullets? Or do you see them just sitting at home quietly and slowly suffocating as their land and resources shrink around them? And then when they engage in non-violence, how will that MAKE Israel stop taking their land? Will Israel just become humane and see the ills of their ways, or the world start caring about the Palestinians to pressure Israel and the US? And if not, what else do you see happen toward Palestinian liberation? I am not sure; please explain.

Also, how will Asad convince Olmert or Netanyahu to withdraw to the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Jerusalem? “Dear Bibi: Will you please consider removing your half million settlers, leave the WB and East Jerusalem, and stop taking Palestinian water, or I regret we can’t sign peace with you.” How do you think Bibi will respond? Will he say, “ok” or will he fall on the floor laughing? So, since resistance is out of the question, spell out for me how Israel will see the light through negotiations and persuasion, or through non-violence.

Note also that aside from the few hundred suicide bombers or Hamas rocket launchers, the vast majority (99.99%) of Palestinians have effectively adopted non-violence. Palestinians have demonstrated peacefully, and have, on the whole, meekly accepted Israeli dominance and humiliation. Fact are that Palestinian non-violence has gone unnoticed. Suicide bombings didn’t start until the early 90s, and the first intifada was largely non-violent. How did that non-violence fare? While I agree that killing civilians is immoral, (but not the attack on soldiers, which is acceptable violence) the other side of the coin is an imprisoned people slowly dying and suffocating en mass. Is our call to non-violence essentially telling the victims that they should be quiet during their slaughter? To just turn the other cheek and all will be well? (Not that their use of violence has worked, I agree). Again, exactly how do you see non-violence or persuasion/negotiations in the face of Israeli hunger for land and resources working, especially when the most non-violence of slowly dying as a people especially in Gaza, has not produced much?

August 7th, 2008, 2:48 am


Off the Wall said:

I join my voice to that of Alex, and QN. There are many creative ways of civil disobedience that lend themselves much more appropriately to the struggle of the Palestinians. They have allies in Israel, not a fifth column, but Israeli citizens like Shai. Some of their allies are outspoken members of the Israeli press.When Rachel Corrie died, her death created an embarrassment to Israel as a nation and to the Israeli army. Two years after her death, a campaign was launched here in the US to on behalf of her parents to sue Caterpillar as the supplier of home destruction machinery to the Israeli army. The outstanding lawyer, who is now the incoming dean of a newly found college of law in one of the University of California campuses, is, I believe, Jewish. His hiring was controversial, and one reason for the controversy is this case. Every attempt made to silence Rachel’s story has backfired.

A more recent embarrassment was the story of the young outstanding students from Gaza, who received scholarships to study in the US but were not allowed to leave. Have you heared the NPR interview with one of these outstanding young men. I was with a group, and no Eye was left dry as this young man described his ordeal on the border. The interviewer was asking him about shade and water, vending machines, and he was saying none of that, none of that, no. This young man with his calm, non-emotional words and fantastic English has gained the Palestinians narrative more understanding than any violent action would have. The conqueror image had another chip in it. Not because of the passionate speech this young man gave, but because of the factual, and in fact depressing description he gave of the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. How much of that goodwill is now left after the recent fighting in Gaza, I dare not say.

The people in Gaza are not slowly dying. They know that living is the most important part of their non-violent struggle. Their existence is a reminder to the world and to Israel of past and current injustice in need of redress. And I do not believe that their non-violent struggle is being un-noticed. But for non-violence to be effective, it has to be en-mass. It has to be the strategy of the national struggle, not a choice of activists.

August 7th, 2008, 4:59 am


Off the Wall said:

Sorry again, I could not find your reply, could you please send it again.

Or perhaps you were the son of the former African official who had 35 million locked in a bank account, and you needed my help, I already sent you my account number and my social security # . 🙂

August 7th, 2008, 5:47 am


Shai said:

Sami, Alex, QN, OTW,

While I was in the army, almost twenty years ago and while the first Intifada was at its height, I happened to attend an interesting lecture by a high-ranking officer, that related specifically to non-violent resistance. The topic was the consideration of new methods that may be adopted by Arafat. The following scenario was depicted as a very real possibility:

1. Arafat orders a few thousand women, children, and elderly, to gather in Gaza early one morning.

2. They are told to march slowly and peacefully towards Kfar Darom, a Jewish settlement in the Gaza strip.

3. No firearms are carried by any of the marchers. No militia-type escort. No war cries. No stone throwing. Just marching. The whole world would see a peaceful demonstration taking place.

4. The few soldiers that are guarding the settlement become aware of the situation, fire a few warning shots in the air, but quickly recognize that this mass of people cannot be stopped without a horrific catastrophe, for which even they are not ready.

5. As a result, thousands of Palestinians simply walk right into the Jewish settlement. The few armed settlers, who may expect the army to protect them, quickly realize that they too (with their few guns) cannot stop the arriving masses. Reluctantly, and mostly out of fear for their lives, they run away.

6. For all practical purposes, Kfar Darom is “conquered” peacefully by thousands of Palestinians, who bear not even a single stone.

While to many here this scenario may seem hallucinatory, with the assumption that the Israeli army would immediately mobilize enough to shoot every single demonstrator if need be, I can tell you that the army was very much concerned with the potential of such a development, knowing it had no real way of stopping it. Thankfully (for the army), it never had to encounter such a scenario. The most that occurred ever were a few hundred civilians, usually quite disorganized, coming close to heavily guarded checkpoints, where soldiers quickly dispersed the crowd using speakers, smoke bombs, and even live ammunition. It was more like trying to take over a well-fortified army base, than a small civilian settlement.

But I clearly remember thinking how ingenious it would be, of Arafat, to order such a demonstration. Even the most trigger-happy soldier, could not face thousands of peaceful marchers (and especially women, children, and elderly), and would stand there helpless, until ordered to retreat. If only the demonstrators would stick together, not run away, and stay their course, it would indeed work. Obviously, next time the army would place hundreds of soldiers around many settlements, but for how long? Weeks? Months? The army can’t sustain such an operation for long. And such “spontaneous” marches could occur everywhere, in Gaza and the West Bank. Of course there would be cases with casualties. But most would have worked, and the army would have found itself incapable of protecting the settlers, who would have had no choice but to abandon their homes.

But Arafat, and hence the Palestinians, lacked the vision, determination, and discipline, to carry out this form of (very effective) civil disobedience, and non-violent resistance. If they had these, today the West Bank may have looked completely different, and perhaps no Israeli citizen would have remained. The armed conflict, unfortunately, gave the Arab-haters all the “ammunition” they needed, to continue the Occupation, and to instill further distrust and fear within ordinary Israelis. Today, we are more than 20 years into this resistance, rather than just a few. People on both sides are still dreaming of “crushing” the other…

August 7th, 2008, 6:13 am


Zenobia said:

Actually, I think one could argue that the first Intifada ‘fared’ very well, given its objective. It is essentially like a giant strike. A massive refusal to cooperate.
It revealed a potential capacity to organize and coordinate efforts to disrupt business as usual for the Israelis.

I think one could argue that the First Intifada was part of what drove the Israelis to the table of Madrid and Oslo.
However, the participants of Oslo failed in many many ways, particularly to lay down guarantees and to deal with final status issues that cannot be delayed or put aside. Therefore, frustration built to an unmanageable level. The Israelis learned that they can stall and make agreements without following through. And they provided the time that it took for Hamas to grow and for another more violent strategy to take hold.
The fact that the peace process failed does not actually invalidate the methods of the first intifada for driving the process towards progress. And this could be repeated if the atmosphere has not become so poisoned with violent strategies of resistance.

August 7th, 2008, 6:17 am


Shai said:


You hit it on the nail. The violent resistance, though also successful in certain ways, also meant a hardening of views inside Israel, and created far greater opposition to the Palestinians, than support (worldwide, by the way). Things happened in parallel, not in line. And very quickly the chicken-or-the-egg argument became useless. No side could claim the other started, and an entire period of low intensity warfare began, which continues to this very day. Of course it is easy for me to say I would have preferred a “Gandhi” Palestinian leader, but I think it would have also been more effective, for them. The army trains its soldiers to deal with armed or perceived enemies, not with peaceful ones in their masses.

August 7th, 2008, 6:27 am


Zenobia said:

I completely agree. I wrote my comment before refreshing the page and seeing yours first, so it was and interesting surprise to see it. I think it was a very useful account and illustration.

Just as conventional armies are not very prepared to deal with unconventional fighting and insurgencies, they are even less prepared to to deal with non-violent actions and demonstrations. The Israelis have tried I believe to get better at things like crowd control and ‘policing’, if one can even call it that, so as to assert control and prevent an expanding crowd coming at them, but they haven’t really succeeded. What they have succeeded at – is provoking the crowd into violence such that they have a relative excuse to open fire and use lethal force. If a group, in sufficient numbers, had the discipline to refuse to fight, but simply to resist control of movement, I think that would be very powerful and unstoppable.

August 7th, 2008, 6:52 am


Off the Wall said:


Thank you for the story. You can not imagine how many times many of us were baffled by the fact that neither Arafat, Abbas, or any one within the Palestinian leadership has organized anything remotely like that. I and some of my friends who loosely share our conviction of the efficacy of non-violent resistance, sat and imagined scenarios like that, we waited, waited, but nothing like this came. With the exception of the recent push across the border with Egypt.

What I wanted to tell Sami-D is that the days of Hagana are gone. Bully settlers are no more that what they are, bullies, and they are probably financed more by monies from the US than by any internal Israeli group. And I believe your comment that the the state would not be able to sustain them in the face of well organized non-violent resistance.

Just imagine the case where settlers looking for trouble venturing fully armed in search of a poor Palestinian farmer to haras or beat, imagine them being met by an entire village with nothing but humming voice, no shouts, no rocks, just a wall of people standing in heir way humming and doing nothing else. There may be cases when one may fire a shot, others may follow, there may be a massacre, but It would be the last one. It would then be in Israel’s own interest to remove the settlers from the west bank exactly as it did in Gaza.

Notwithstanding their struggle, i happen to believe that the PLO, especially its leadership have been corrupted by its relationship with Arab regimes during 40 years of diaspora. Abbas, should declare that as long as the state he is being offered is being punctured by settlements, roads, walls, and check points, he should declare it ungovernable, and should stop governing should stop playing the game anymore. He could send all civil servants and police officers home and invite the UN to administer the ungovernable non-contiguous territories if it can. An action like this also sound “off the wall”, it requires courage, national determination, and solidarity. You said it right and I would emphasize it again,the Palestinians need to find their salt, same as the Mahatma did. And they need to do that fast.

August 7th, 2008, 7:05 am


Zenobia said:

This comment about Abbas is also completely right. Can we imagine this! I mean the one thing the Israelis really don’t want to do is to be forced to have full responsibility for running the territories, to provide a real government or all the services and resources and be accountable for it.
What they have maintained is that the Palestinians have to run it but with no ultimate power and with occupation conditions all around. the dirty work remains in the hands of the Pals. This is why the idea of getting Jordan to rule over the territories (the parts of it not being settled of course) was the popular “solution” for many Israelis.

this is why I like the idea of resistance as a giant strike. No cheap labor, no taxes, no cooperation, no government at all would be quite a surprise.

August 7th, 2008, 7:31 am


Shai said:


The Pals could certainly use an adviser like you (if you refuse the rhetoric position with HA…) 😉

August 7th, 2008, 8:20 am


SimoHurtta said:

this is why I like the idea of resistance as a giant strike. No cheap labor, no taxes, no cooperation, no government at all would be quite a surprise.

Well it would work if Israel would be dependent of Palestinian labour, taxes etc. But it is not any more. If people in the isolated bantustans make a “peaceful strike” it has no effect to Israel. Maybe a little to international opinion, but as we have seen in the past decades Israel doesn’t care much what the outside world thinks about it.

Referring to India in Gandhi’s time is somewhat absurd. Britain left India because it had not any more the military and financial resources to keep India/Pakistan as a colony. How ever Britain kept still many of its colonies after India got it’s independence. For example Malaysia got it’s independence from Britain after armed resistance. So got Kenya.

99.9 percent of the occupations in history have ended through violent resistance and when the occupier has became military and politically weaker.

The reality is that Israel will leave West Bank only if keeping it becomes in military, political and PR aspects to “expensive”. As it did leave South Lebanon and Gaza.

August 7th, 2008, 10:13 am


Shai said:

I agree with what Simo wrote. But to raise and extract that price, non-violent resistance such as described in the above comments could, in my mind, help a lot. It would certainly contribute to destroying the “Arab=Terrorist” stigma still prevalent in many a people of this world, including Israelis.

August 7th, 2008, 10:47 am


Off the Wall said:

With the exception of the 2nd world war. Most occupations ended because the occuopeir lost the battle of will not necessarily militarily. And here lies the non-violent resistance. It is based not on making your enemy afraid, but on making your enemy ashamed. You force your enemy to accept your humanity.

August 7th, 2008, 3:48 pm


SimoHurtta said:

With the exception of the 2nd world war. Most occupations ended because the occuopeir lost the battle of will not necessarily militarily. And here lies the non-violent resistance. It is based not on making your enemy afraid, but on making your enemy ashamed. You force your enemy to accept your humanity.

Well loosing the will is equal to loosing militarily. USA lost in Vietnam because it had no means of winning militarily. Winning the occupier is a combination of many kinds of resistance. But sadly guerilla war is proven to be the most effective way in convincing the occupier to leave. The truth is that no occupying force has ever left the territory they exploit because they are ashamed. They leave only when the pressure becomes to big.

It is easy to speak in general how successful the Gandhi style resistance would be in West Bank. It is much harder to invent such “Gandhi” actions which would change Israeli public opinion or have any effect to Israeli economy. I am afraid that this conflict is solved only through more violence and eventually when the Arab / Muslim block becomes more powerful and Israel becomes more extreme and religious.

August 7th, 2008, 4:47 pm


Alex said:

Yoav Stern from Haaretz is almost convinced Israel killed Mohammad Sleiman.

He thinks today’s cabinet statement goes with the warning delivered through the Sleiman assassination few days ago

Israel warns Hezbollah: We won’t tolerate arms smuggling
By Barak Ravid
Tags: weapons, iran, hezbollah

Israel warned Hezbollah Wednesday it intended to put an end to the arms smuggling into Lebanon. Israel said the Shi’ite group is using the arms to bolster its position domestically and as a strategic threat on behalf of Iran.

During a meeting Wednesday of the political-security cabinet on Hezbollah, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said “Israel will not acquiesce to the continued smuggling of arms.”

During the meeting, the ministers were updated on continued Syrian transfers of advanced military hardware to Hezbollah, including air defense systems, in an effort to limit the freedom of operations of the Israeli air force in Lebanon, particularly in reconnaissance and surveillance operations.
The ministers were briefed on intelligence assessments, which hold that Hezbollah is interested in a confrontation with Israel over the air force overflights, which will allow the organization to carry on with claims it serves as a “shield” against Israeli “aggression.”

The ministers were also alerted to the possibility Syria may transfer Hezbollah more sophisticated weaponry than is currently in the Shi’ite group’s arsenal.

The cabinet agreed that Israel could not reconcile with the transfer of advanced systems and said the entry of such weapons into Lebanon must be stopped.

Intelligence officials stressed Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Hezbollah and Syria was very high, and noted there was serious concern in Syria and Hezbollah that any provocation would result in a severe Israeli response.

In recent weeks, Israel has applied heavy pressure on a number of world leaders, foreign ministers and UN Secretary General Ban, asking they intervene to prevent the arms smuggling into Lebanon through Syria.

Intensive diplomatic efforts were made to prevent the transfer of the arms from Syria to Hezbollah, including “quiet” messages to a number of governments and to the UN, where Israel made it clear it would not accept the transfer of anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah.

Israel has warned that any such transfers would be perceived in Jerusalem as “a violation of the strategic balance” in the region.

In response to the Israeli signals, a number of international diplomats conveyed to Syria warnings against the transfers to Hezbollah.

Israeli sources said that even though the transfers have been blocked at this stage, this is a temporary gain and in the coming months there is likely to be another attempt to transfer the weapons to Hezbollah and to deploy them in Lebanon.

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah was found to have advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles that Syria had transferred to the Shi’ite group.

Israel protested to Moscow and delivered physical evidence of the missiles, and Russia promised to investigate the matter but to date has not admitted that weapons of its manufacture were transferred to Hezbollah from stocks sold to Syria.

August 7th, 2008, 5:02 pm


Shai said:


Between wanting to get rid of someone, and actually doing it, is quite often a very big distance. If we follow that rationale, then every assassination in the Middle East can be attributed to just about every party to every conflict. I can rationalize, for instance, why Mubarak would want Suleiman dead… 🙂

August 7th, 2008, 5:19 pm


Alex said:


Although it is possible, I really don’t think Israel assassinated him.

Yoav has a feeling Israel did it though … he emailed me today this piece of news above to support his hypothesis.

We’ll never know who killed him … so we can all continue to believe that we got it right.

August 7th, 2008, 5:39 pm


Shai said:


The day all the governments and regimes in the region start treating everyone lawfully, I’ll start getting “excited” or upset when assassinations of high level officials take place. In the meantime, I don’t think anyone should be surprised. If Yoav wants to attribute this “success” to Israel, tfadal. Personally, I’d rather have Yoav focus closer to home… like the Livni-Mofaz upcoming battle…

August 7th, 2008, 5:47 pm


Sami D said:

Dear OTW, Shai, Zenobia,

I very much appreciate your comments. I think, though, the issue of non-violence needs further clarification. Non-violence as a principal is different from non-violence as a tactic. Furthermore, clarification of non-violence against civilians, from non-violence against occupation soldiers is also necessary.

While I am in agreement with you that violence against civilians is fundamentally wrong; violence against soldiers is legitimate. People have the right to defend themselves, period! Asking the victim not to try to defend him/herself during slaughter, thus instructing them to be pacifist across the board as a principal, is wrong. On the other hand, calling for pacifism as a tactic is acceptable. This is where Gandhi stands I think. I am curious to hear more of your opinions on this. (Shai?)

SimoHurtta, thanks for your input on the pre-Oslo non-violence; exactly what I wanted to get at. In the first intifada, Israelis and Palestinians intermingled and worked in the same space, although as lord and servants. Indeed, Zenobia, that unplanned, spontaneous eruption of stone-throwers facing bone-breaking Israeli soldiers did produce some results (which Arafat squandered). But after Oslo, the closures, the wall, Israel’s substitution of Palestinian labor, and installation of a Palestinian client (Abu Mazen) to police the occupied on behalf of Israel, Israel’s policies seem aimed, among other things, at nipping any non-violence acts as those scenarios provided by our friend Shai, in the bud, making it useless and moot.

Now the Palestinians are living in a great prison, almost totally separated from Israelis. Yes, the people of Gaza continue to exist, but are they really living? Unemployment around 70+%, barely any drinkable water, suffocating sanctions, power cuts, food/medicine barely available/allowed by Israel, people living alongside their sewers, shot at and bombed, choked from all side in one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Surely, a great number have been, and are greatly suffering and dying uncounted because of this. What’s our advice of non-violence to them? “Please continue ‘living’”?

And is the goal of non-violence to basically shame others with the power to change things, to act, who wouldn’t act otherwise (presumably awaiting the victims to stop react violently to their slow death)? Over a million Iraqis, mostly children, died quietly for over a decade due to some of the most brutal –Dennis Halliday would say genocidal– sanctions in recent history, sponsored by the beacon of freedom and democracy, and the current honest broker between the Arabs and Israel. No one could stop those sanctions as they decimated the most vulnerable Iraqis. Remember also that 99.99% of Palestinians didn’t react with violence to Israel, but Israelis still –60 years on– don’t notice or recognize their humanity. My point here is not that violence would’ve worked better for either Iraqis or Palestinians; just that waiting for others to be shamed into helping, let alone noticing the dying in the first place, or for the occupier’s citizenry to awaken to the humanity of the occupied, rarely yields fruit, or might do so too late.

Again, how do we deal with the fact that, as SimoHurtta wrote above and I repeatedly demonstrated in the previous thread, (cases of Egypt 1973 & Hezbolla) the majority of struggles in history end in liberation only through violent struggle? WTO, the “occupier lost the battle of will” throughout history because the occupied raised the price of occupation usually through resistance & attack on the occupiers making the occupation expensive to maintain. Rarely has the price of occupation been raised high due to non-violence, that’s why the Gandhi example seems the only one people cite over and over, the exception rather than the rule, (assuming that non-violence was the only or main reason the British left India.)

I reiterate, lest there be further misunderstanding: I share the support of Alex, QN and y’all, for non-violence against civilians, but I don’t share it against soldiers. I am open to ideas for non-violence vis-a-vis soldiers as a tactic, but still unclear how it will yield fruit, especially in the Palestinians’ newly designed prison. Just interested to see more opinions of people on this forum of how they envision this working, against the odds.

Also, I am still looking to hear thoughts on how readers think Asad will convince Bibi to dismantle the wall, the colonies on the West Bank, and withdraw to the 1967 line. “Mr Netanyahu, tear down that wall” will likely not work. Syria is having enough trouble getting back the Golan, let alone the WB/Jerusalem.

August 7th, 2008, 8:34 pm


ayman said:

Dear Shai.

To understand the dymanics of Syria and Israel’s Brand conflict it is important to look back, because any system of thought that is not self-referential is not intelligent (if we are to believe Douglas R. Hofstadter). Using Alex’s complex systems and Majhool’s regression theory won’t do unless we use the golden braid analogy in GEB. Also useless is both optimism (yours) and pessimism (mine) regarding what is going on now. So, and at the risk of making you (and everyone else) bored I’ll present to you my take on this conflict. It is emotion based…but may be helpful to you since you seem to want to understand us, and our understanding of you.

The first chronicle of this seemingly eternal Israeli Syrian conflict was in 175 BC in the story of Hanukkah. It as you know (but as my fellow Syrians may not) is the story of the struggles of the Maccabees, led by Judas Maccabeus, against Antiochus IV of Syria, a struggle Judea won. Their latest Israeli Syrian (I’ll explain why it was Syrian not Lebanese in a second) conflict was in 2006 in southern Lebanon, and it resulted in a tie at best.

Just as the Holocaust provided the moral justification for Judea’s reemergence as “Israel”, the 1948 “Nakba” caused the re-packaging of Syria’s southern branch as “Palestine”. Prior to 1948, and the creation of the modern state of Israel in Palestine, Jews identified more with Judaism than Israel, and Syrians identified with Syrian nationalism and not the Palestinian cause per se. Palestine was then considered by all Syrians as Syria’s southern province, this pan-Syrian élan was especially prevalent in the Orthodox Christian community in every Middle East city.

European pogroms were the immediate cause of the birth of Israel and a new “Brand” re-alignment in both the Jewish and Syrian communities of the world. Jews had been praying “next year in Jerusalem” for centuries and they had read their Old Testament which seemingly gave them an exclusive title to all the Promised Land, especially-though not exclusively-Palestine. And with the fulfillment of their prayers came a new brand; brand Israel. Its brand logo was a Star of David; its credo was why, not? (A can-do attitude similar to the attitude of American culture). It is now a ubiquitous brand that is often confused with Brand America. One may even argue that the celluloid America of Hollywood fame was created by them, and not vice versa. Brand Israel was born of scattered, well-heeled, intelligent, yet marginalized parents. In just sixty years it has taken a stunning proportion of them from the ghetto into the gazebo. Its reluctant low profile representatives were innately prudent, but recently they have gotten cocky. This change in attitude may have been earned, but it may not be wise. Imagine going from Freud and Einstein, to Perle and Wolfowitz! The last ten decades have been a virtual pantheon of Judean men and women of guile and substance, while today the Jews are hitching their wagon to a bunch of intellectual lightweights and Bush administration cronies. These impractical and soon to be forgotten theorists have set their sights on Syria and its brand.

The saying: our enemy defines us, was never truer than it is today. Brand Syria is (and has always been) more about “reaction” than it is about action. So today it defines itself as the brand of rejection to Israeli inspired U.S. world hegemony. Even before the Iraq war and the birth of Israel in 1948 Brand Syria had rejected Ottoman, Crusader, Fatimid etc., world hegemony. Presently it’s reacting to spreading Israeli-inspired U.S. foreign policy. Its credo is a soft “yes,” or more precisely; “no, but”! The ‘but’ cancels the no or yes by it’s qualifying the answer. Our most common Syrian phrase is this “ay, bas” (yes, but.) Look carefully at it…it’s an equivocation of an affirmation. It’s so bad, that we can’t say a single yes or a simple no without a caveat. Brand Syria’s logo would be-if it had one-a Kufi LA (a big no in calligraphy) inside a crescent. A fertile crescent, not an Islamic crescent one…mind you. Yes, but…that subtle no, is the only thing that binds Syrians. If you ask Syrians; do you want to fight Israel? They’d say; yes, but! It’s a nuanced no. Ask them do you want Peace with Israel? No, but. Are you anti American? No, but. Pro American? No, but. For Iraqi freedom? Yes, but. Saddam? No, but. Pro Lebanon’s freedom? Yes, but. etc. An example of this odd mindset, so prevalent in Syrians of all types, is the Syrian Jews in Brooklyn N.Y… Ask them; are you more Syrian than Jews or vice versa? I challenge you to get a straight answer from any member of that community, they-more than anyone-on earth exemplify Brand Syria at it’s nuanced best.

Brand Syria has no brand (tenets) or brand explaining rules because there’s nothing they wouldn’t say no, or yes but, to. Still by surviving 10,000 years Syria has done well with this mind-set. So, Brand Syria (or its non-brand) allows for everything except extinction. Brand Judea is again in conflict with Brand Syria, but today they aren’t the Maccabees and Syria’s on its way to its own Hanukkah victory and rebirth. The recent war in Southern Lebanon may be the first of many skirmishes that Brand Judean can only lose. Syria is good at survival, but if it is to prevail it can do so only by its adversaries’ tendency to self-destruct.

Shai, Brand Syria is brand Judea’s Semitic cousin, and not its natural enemy. Brand Judea’s only natural enemies are the anti-Semites of the world, the abhorrent neo-Nazis who may still be around but are now (in turn) very marginalized. If the two Semitic sister-brands merged they’d make good global partners. These two Semitic brands are in conflict in Israel proper, and nowhere else. Brand Syria should learn from its sister brand, and emulate its ways, and brand Judea should in return ease up on Brand Syria while it’s still ahead. Syrians know that under similar circumstances of world wide general indifference and occasional attack, their Judeans cousins who were like they are today ( a scattered bright and talented minority in Diaspora) reconciled, and by adopting a “why not” attitude now rules. Brand Syrians can do it, and by globalization what was once achieved by Brand Judeans in sixty years can be achieved in twenty, but only after real Semitic brand reconciliation begins.


* Shem came before Abraham, he was the son of Noah, and settled bilad el-Shem after the Flood. He (not Abraham) fathered all of us Semites or Shemites, because from Shem comes the word Semite, and Sham is still the most commonly used name for Syria’s capital; which is “Sham”. Or more exactly (Dimashq-E-Shem, ergo Damascus) I am a Shami. I’m not (as some would gather) a Syrian Nationalist because I believe Sham is bigger than Syria, it includes you all.

August 14th, 2008, 3:54 am


Shai said:

Dearest Ayman,

Thank you so much for the amazing comment. I want to read it more carefully, and respond accordingly. I will do so in just a few hours.


August 14th, 2008, 4:10 am


Zenobia said:

Sami D.

to clarify, I was advocating non-violence as a tactic in this case and not as a matter of principle.

but to the larger point, my knowledge of how things have changed on the ground between the First Intifada and the Second, and to what degree things are quite different now, is insufficient. But I believe what you are saying.

And yes, resistance, when it has ‘worked’ in some sense has brought Israel to the table in the past because the cost became too high. However, the balance of power has grown and grown in Israel’s favor militarily and economically speaking. People like to cite Hezbollah’s success at repelling Israeli take over of Lebanon again as some sign of Israel’s weakness. This is nonsense. This hardly demonstrates some equality of military might. It means that she cannot occupy Lebanon, that’s it. It is very hard , very very hard to occupy another state. However, it is near impossible for the Palestinians to amass that kind of power to resist. They have only been moving in the opposite direction as Israel has put the stranglehold on tighter and tighter, and the society breaks down.

Hamas is not Hezbollah. Sorry for them, but it is true. And I am sure Arafat was filled with envy and had some aspiration that they could do what HA could do. And now Hamas believes it can do it. But this has proved foolhardy.

so, principle may be on the side of continued fighting , but strategically and tactically, it is a disaster.

August 14th, 2008, 4:27 am


jad said:

Dear Ayaman
Thank you for this fun yet true analyse, I enjoyed reading your comment, it’s very interesting and it does make sense, BUT (I’m pulling the Syrian brand in me now), you are making the conflict a little bit more simple than it is.
I honestly wish that we could look at it in the same way you analyse it historically.
Thank you again for this excellent explanation.

August 14th, 2008, 4:45 am


Shai said:


I want to make a point here, which I think is not sufficiently recognized (or believed) by Arabs, about Israel. True, there is little doubt Israel is by far the strongest military power in the Middle East. Also true, that power has not been capable of destroying or even containing either HA or Hamas (in that sense, Hamas is very successful). Both militia groups have caused Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. Again, very successful resistance, because it caused Israel to leave.

But (and this is a BIG “but”), the problem is not the factual truth on the ground. It is the perception that matters. And in most Israeli minds, the Arabs are still united in a single goal – the destruction of Israel. And in that stems their power. The Arabs don’t need nuclear weapons to pose an existential threat to Israel (as Israelis see it). Enough that every Arab on the streets of the Middle East still dreams of our destruction, and there’s the real power of the Arabs. The logical reaction to this would be to seek an end to this innate “dream of destruction” by, amongst others, making peace. But again, Israelis do not trust Arabs, and therefore cannot conceive of the idea of true peace. When I speak to a friend who happens to be on the Right about peace with Arabs, he looks at me like I’ve just described humans landing on Mars – as something very unlikely in our lifetime, and not because humans aren’t interested in it, but because Mars happens to be 50 million miles away.

Now, while resistance has indeed caused Israel to withdraw, in both cases (Lebanon and Gaza), it did so unilaterally which, in retrospect, was disastrous to all sides. What we want is withdrawal by agreement, where both sides shake hands, and neither side is deemed “the loser”. It needs to be perceived by both sides as a win-win situation, that brings us closer to peace, not farther away. And so if resistance succeeded, it was only a temporary, tactical success, not a long-term strategic one. Hamas and HA engaged IDF troops for years, almost decades. But their struggle wasn’t really about this territory, or that. It was about Israel as a regional power acting like an colonialist state, practicing Apartheid, and punishing an entire people for over 60 years. By getting Gaza back, or even S. Lebanon, Israel did not cease to be seen as such by even a single Arab in the region.

So does resistance work? Well, obviously in some ways it does. But I believe it cannot be the only form, or even the main one. Civil disobedience, and non-violent resistance like described in previous comments, in my mind, could have far better, and long-lasting, influence and success. This is the only way that will cause Israelis to really think about what it is that we’re doing to others. When a Qassam rocket is lobbed on my town (assuming I lived in Sderot), I don’t find the way within myself to think about what it is I’m doing wrong (or my nation), but rather, I get a gun, and I seek the first opportunity to go fight. I want payback, and I want to prove my superiority. Violence begets violence. Few are the cases in history when one side truly capitulated, both physically and emotionally, especially when that side was clearly better armed and more capable. After all, you must understand that it is Israeli society that is holding back the IDF in some unspoken way. Imagine our society was like that of Russia’s, or even Turkey’s. Can you imagine what would happen to Gaza if a single Qassam would be lobbed our way? Tanks would roll in, and run every last civilian down, until 1.5 million Gaza citizens would be dead, and the resistance would be no more. In many ways, Israeli society is duplicitous in its way of handling conflicts. It pretends to care enough to be “humane” (ya’ani, we could wipe you off the map, yet we don’t), and at the same time, it does far worse – it kills slowly! And we don’t realize this. Not enough.

As I’ve said in the past, of course it is easy for me as an Israeli to hope for a Palestinian “Gandhi”. But I’m trying to be objective (though clearly I cannot be), and I do know how our own strategic thinkers think, and what they are truly worried about. I can tell you, that it’s not the armed resistance. For that, they are always ready to fight. It is precisely the kind of fighting they are “interested” in. It gets to fight, it gets to train, it gets to prove its own raison d’etre, it gets it infinite funding, and the price is almost negligible (tens of soldiers, maybe a bit more). I think this cynical and painful description is not that far from the truth, even though most of us would reject it firsthand. But the IDF does not know how to fight non-violence. No one does. And on that battlefield, I believe, we can all come out winners. And I’m not talking about tiny demonstrations of a few hundred here and there. I’m talking about huge organized demonstrations, throughout the territories, by tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly, in villages and towns simultaneously. And not ending after a day or two. To conduct these week after week, month after month, if need be, for years.

No Israeli, from dove to hawk, can fight this type of resistance. In the end, it will win, to the benefit of all.

August 14th, 2008, 7:24 am


Alex said:


This is probably the third time I read your Syria brand piece.

It is getting better and better! … this one above was about perfect.

The ambiguity in brand Syria is a blessing to the Middle East … a region that suffers from excessive clarity in the Jewish state (Israel) … the Shia state (Iran) and the Sunni state (Saudi Arabia).

Syria has been acting like a surge protector for the Middle East… it allows current to flow, but it blocks harmful spikes.

August 14th, 2008, 7:30 am


Shai said:


What a wonderful and enlightening commentary!

It is so interesting that you describe the Syrians as the yes-but, or no-but, people. I’ve always thought of Jews as the same. There’s an old saying that it is a very Jewish thing to answer a question with a question. Never a straight answer. Always complex, multi-faceted, and could be interpreted in many ways, often philosophical ones. Yes, we ARE so similar. In Israel, we sometimes talk about Arabs as our cousins. I always correct, and say we’re brothers (or sisters). It takes knowing Arabs and Israelis very well, to realize just how similar we are to one another.

Ayman, I couldn’t agree with you more. Our two “brands” must unite, come together, and recognize that in this case, the sum IS definitely greater than its parts. In this day and age, where globalization, high-speed internet, and open borders, dictate where a nation and her people will stand in the immediate and near future, joining forces, forming strategic alliances, and traversing the path together, is far smarter than alone. I long to see the day my so-called UME (United Middle East) is formed. With people like yourself around, and voicing their thoughts and dreams, this may prove more than just a fantasy…

Thank you once more ya habibi!

August 14th, 2008, 7:48 am


Shai said:

Alex, always the engineer… 🙂

Hey, glad to see SC is alive once more. Was considering doing mouth-to-mouth for a second there… (not sure all would have approved).

August 14th, 2008, 7:50 am


ugarit said:

Useful stats on searches for syria on google
Google Insight

August 14th, 2008, 1:38 pm


Alex said:


That Engineering type analogy is all I can come up with, compared to Ayman’s mesmerizing words it sounds pathetic, I know.


Here (in Canada) if you search for “Syria” CreativeSyria now shows up on page one … out of 88 million results. Can you tell me if you get the same (where you are)?

August 14th, 2008, 2:32 pm


Shai said:


Engineering or not, judging by your first-page results in Canada, you’re obviously doing something right, and all of us have a lot to learn from it (and from you)… Have the link issues been resolved? I.e. to

August 14th, 2008, 2:36 pm


Alex said:

ok Shai thanks : )

What is the mood in Israel today regarding the chances of war and peace with Syria or Hizbollah?

– A poll shows that a majority of Israelis do not think Olmert has a mandate to negotiate peace.

– Another major Israeli military exercise story …

Report: Fearing Israeli strike, Syria taking preventative steps
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Tags: Israel, Golan Heights, Syria

Syria’s leadership fears that a drill conducted Tuesday by the Israel Defense Forces in the Golan Heights may develop into a military offensive against Damascus, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Watan reported Wednesday.

Syrian sources told the daily that Damascus has taken several preventive measures against a possible Israeli strike. The sources added that the IDF drill in the north is increasing tensions in the region and is not in line with recent peace initiatives.

“The danger of these exercises is greater because they are being carried out near the cease-fire line bordering Syria,” the sources were quoted as saying, “and because Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi supervised.”

Barak told IDF soldiers stationed in the Golan Heights on Tuesday that Israel is closely monitoring the strengthening of Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah.

“We’re following the violations of the [regional] equilibrium by Hezbollah and Syria, and the strengthening beyond the fence,” Barak said while observing the IDF drill.

“It’s not for nothing that we’re training here,” he added.

August 14th, 2008, 2:48 pm


ugarit said:


A traceroute to Temporary failure in name resolution
Cannot handle “host” cmdline arg `’ on position 1 (argc 1)

while traceroute to
traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets
1 ( 0.367 ms 0.407 ms 0.482 ms
2 ( 0.270 ms 0.296 ms 0.333 ms
3 ( 1.256 ms 1.331 ms 1.362 ms
4 ( 1.639 ms 1.836 ms 1.850 ms
5 ( 1.682 ms 1.772 ms 1.753 ms
6 ( 15.859 ms 6.202 ms 6.211 ms
7 ( 33.124 ms 33.111 ms 33.098 ms
8 ( 32.725 ms 32.712 ms 32.780 ms
9 ( 33.108 ms 33.192 ms 33.272 ms
10 ( 43.696 ms 43.764 ms 43.805 ms
11 ( 43.829 ms 43.910 ms 43.629 ms

August 14th, 2008, 2:58 pm


Shai said:


Unfortunately, there is no “mood” in Israel, only apathy. It seems people are as occupied with the chances of war with Hezbollah as they are with peace with Syria. The French word best describing the people on the street is “blase”. Which means that once again, it is up to the generals (this time Barak) to determine our fate. Since he is aware of his single-digit opinion poll support, there is some likelihood that he’ll convince Olmert to go out with a “bang” (under pretense of HA dangerously arming itself, of course), and we’ll find ourselves in another adventure soon. Hopefully, he’s only trying to influence public opinion, and nothing more. Still, his days are numbered, by the anti-Barak mood developing recently. His recent anti-Livni comments infuriated many, and probably led to increased chances for her to win next month.

There are rumors, however, that should Livni win, she will immediately opt for elections (rather than forming a coalition government and becoming PM). Rationale being that she may believe that in such elections, Kadima will win many of Labor’s seats, and become far stronger. While Bibi may indeed win and become PM, she might find herself heading a far stronger Kadima party, and having much more influence in the next government, under Bibi. I certainly hope this will not happen, as it will almost surely kill the current peace talks, for at least 6-12 months.

August 14th, 2008, 3:00 pm


norman said:

Alex, Shai,

The plan for Israel is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities ,
In retaliation Israel is expecting :

Iran will retaliate with missiles without WMD warheads for fear of Israeli counter nuclear strike , Israel will be able to minimise the damage from Iran because of the distance which will give Israel’s anti missile system to function better .so the risk on Israel from short and intermediate range missiles from Syria and Hezbollah ,

Israel is courting Syria with a Carrot ( Golan ) and a stick with preparation on the Golan for massive retaliation ,

The negotiation on the Golan might be just an exercise in futility.

Hezbollah is another story and for Hezbollah Israel is preparing for a massive air and land offensive , They just need to keep Syria out of the war for it to succeed ,

The next 6 months might be very revealing , Peace for all or war for the next 50 to 100 years,

Shai ,

So , What will it be.

August 14th, 2008, 3:08 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Ugarit… waiting for Joshua to go back to Oklahoma to contact his hosting company.

In the mean time, most of those trying unsuccessfully to access Syria Comment the past few days probably came up with own conspiracy theory to explain what happened.


Thanks. I wonder if Livni will be able to resist being Israel’s prime minister at least for a couple of months.

Would Netanyahu join her if she asks him to be part of a national unity government? … as foreign minister perhaps?

August 14th, 2008, 3:16 pm


Shai said:


Ephraim Halevy (ex-head of Mossad) recently made a similar statement, suggesting that an Israeli attack on Iran may bring about suffering for 100 years.

I don’t know, but it just doesn’t sound reasonable. If Israel was The Netherlands, a relatively peaceful nation, that hasn’t exactly started any wars in recent history, nor subjugated any people under its control, and suddenly attacks Iran’s nuclear program, then maybe. But everyone’s expecting Israel to do so. It may shock us to hear of how successful, or miserable, such an operation was. But it certainly won’t surprise us. So Iran and the Iranian people (and their supporters in the region) will seek revenge, and in effect we will have war between Israel and Iran, even if no common borders are shared, and even if fought all over the world (Jewish and Israeli targets, etc.) But for 50 or 100 years? I doubt it. But it will set us back quite a few years, unless the international community puts its fist down (which it rarely ever does).

Would Syria give up on getting the Golan (peacefully perhaps) for 50 or 100 years, because some Russian-made reactors were destroyed in Iran by Israel? I doubt it. Cynically, I claim that Russia herself is VERY interested in such an attack, not only because her own reactors would have to be rebuilt, but more importantly, because if the Straits of Hormuz are closed off to billions of barrels of oil, guess what oil-producing giant is going to gain tremendously from this? Yep, Russia… Remember, Assad himself said in the UAE that Syria would NOT join in, should Iran be attacked (by the US, or Israel). That wasn’t a slip of the tongue, he meant it, and he was sending very clear signals to the Israeli leadership when saying this.

What about Hezbollah? As I wrote above (or in the other thread), I seriously hope Barak isn’t going to push for another military adventure in S. Lebanon, just to get a few more supporters in Israel for the next election. My guess is, he won’t. But he’ll play the game as far as he can. Unfortunately, if I had to guess what “adventure” Israel might be planning to go on next, it would probably be Iran. Some articles came out recently suggesting Washington will not provide Israel the support it hoped for, in such an attack. But Israel has always counted on itself first and foremost, when it came to conducting such operations. Few are the cases, where international or American support was given. Normally, Israel does it by surprise, and finished.

August 14th, 2008, 3:26 pm


Shai said:


Opinions on this question differ. Most say Netanyahu will refuse to join any coalition government right now (and Likud has made a formal declaration as such), because he knows he can become PM immediately with the next elections. Others think he’ll consider it, if offered a significant enough position. I tend to agree with the first, not the latter.

By the way, while I’m not qualified to really comment about Lebanon, I do think Peretz in the article you posted is underestimating the determination and resolve of Lebanon’s Chrisitian and Sunni populations. Lebanon is very much a nation. It is in a mess right now, as it has been in the past, but the recent agreement in Qatar is not a farce, and Hezbollah is not opting to take over the entire nation, I believe, but rather to reach a respectable balance, in which it has influence over the present and future of Lebanon. QN, what do you think about the Peretz article?

As for Livni, I don’t think it’s a question of her resisting becoming PM, as it is whether she can even put together a coalition. If Netanyahu refuses, and if Barak does as well, Livni will not be able to form a government, and hence will not become PM. There is another possibility, which I’m not sure can be completely discounted, which is that Livni prefers NOT to be PM right now (believing, like I do, that she still lacks the experience required), and instead to either remain FM under Bibi, or possibly even Minister of Treasury (very powerful position). Some her are beginning to question her ability to lead the nation, at such crucial times. She will need good answers to these questions.

August 14th, 2008, 3:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree. Peretz is overdoing it.

August 14th, 2008, 4:07 pm


norman said:


I agree with you that Syria will probably not join in a war against Israel , the question i have for you is , Do you think that Israel will appreciate that and reward Syria with giving the Golan Heights back and a peace treaty , I strongly doubt that as Israel never gave land without the pressure of war they did not do that with Lebanon , they did not do that with Gaza , Israel so far proved that it will only respond to war and with the lack of cost to Israel for staying in the Golan i doubt that the Israeli public will allow the return of the Golan .

I am afraid we are moving toward another war or two ,

I hope that i am wrong.

August 15th, 2008, 1:32 am


Shai said:


Unfortunately, I tend to agree with you that most Israelis (70%) do not seem to think rationally about peace, and do tend to consider it only when they’re forced to. I don’t know if we’ll need another regional war for Israelis to “see the light” again, but perhaps another bloody operation in Gaza or Lebanon… I find it morbid talking about what “we need”… and to suggest it is more death! If only 20% of Israelis visited SC for just one week, we’d have peace already by now.

August 15th, 2008, 7:06 am


norman said:


You can put an add in the paper and advance peace. It should not be very expensive.

August 15th, 2008, 4:08 pm


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