News Round Up (11 March 2008) - Syria Comment

News Round Up (11 March 2008)

  Aleppo

Aleppo

Berri: Lebanon Solution Linked to Restoration of Syrian-Saudi Ties (Naharnet.com)

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that a solution to the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon "has been and will always be" linked to normalization of ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia. "Normalizing ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia will reflect positively on Lebanon," Berri said in remarks published on Tuesday.

The speaker said he does not see any prospect for a settlement to the Lebanon crisis "unless Arab reconciliation is achieved." "If Arabs shake hands, we will quickly reconcile in Lebanon," Berri added.

Saudi Arabia to attend Arab summit in Damascus, (AP)

Saudi Arabia will attend this month's Arab summit in Damascus, Saudi's crown prince said Monday, a day after Syria delivered an invitation to the oil-rich Gulf nation.

But Crown Prince Sultan did not say who will represent the kingdom at the upcoming summit, a possible sign of tension between Damascus and Riyadh.

Crown Prince Sultan put an end to rumors of a boycott on Monday in remarks carried by Al-Jazeera television, saying "it's an Arab summit that we can't give up."

"The goals of the summit would depend on who will participate in it," he added. Syria fears that a poor showing at the annual summit, the first to be held in Damascus, will further isolate President Bashar Assad's regime.

The way to exit from Lebanon’s morass
By Paul Salem in The Daily Star
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clouds of war hover over Lebanon. The country is adrift without a president and with a contested government as well as a Parliament whose doors have been closed since late 2006… Is there a safe passage through this morass? …

The government must develop a “national defense strategy” that incorporates Hizbullah’s proven force and fighting capacity into the strengthened national army. This can come in the form of a border defense force or other such arrangements that exist in other countries. Ultimate war and peace decision-making, however, must be in the hands of the state, and ultimate command over military means must be in the hands of the army. The state and reconstructed army, however, must provide very credible answers to the recurring threat of Israeli attacks against the South and must include a realistic mechanism to finally control the Lebanese-Syrian border….

the new government’s most urgent task is to adopt an electoral law. The current Parliament’s term ends in June 2009 and the way things are going today we are likely to arrive at that date without having been able to hold elections, thus entering into a period of even more complete institutional bankruptcy than today. To hold the elections we must draft an electoral law by the fall of 2008 at the latest. The government should at long last open and read the proposed draft law prepared by the government-appointed National Election Commission in June 2006, which I participated in drafting. That should be the starting point for debating electoral reform, not backroom deals by political bosses.

That law proposes lowering the voting age, creating an independent electoral management body, enabling expatriate voting, strictly controlling the abuse of money in campaigns, strictly controlling the abuse of private television stations, preventing vote-rigging, introducing measures to protect voting secrecy and to combat vote buying, and boosting women’s representation. These measures would have a revolutionary effect on politics in Lebanon – measures that most political bosses from both camps today would probably not favor.

The law also introduces proportional representation, which would allow diverse groups and parties to enter Parliament so that each community is not represented merely by its communal bosses. Elections are the basis of any republic; and a truly reformed electoral law is the most important step to help rebuild our ruined political culture….

As for the Hariri tribunal, its creation should be advanced quickly. The institution has hung over Lebanon and Syria for three years, and it is time that the truth comes out, that justice be done, and that Syria and Lebanon deal with the serious political repercussions that might follow from its conclusions. Only after facing those truths and overcoming them can the two countries look forward to a post-tribunal relationship.

Khalilzad: Hariri Tribunal Ready to Launch Trials (Naharnet.com)

Contributions to finance the tribunal have reached more than $50 million, including $21,3 in pledges.

Khalilzad said a "management committee" had been established. The committee, which will among other tasks provide advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and oversee expenditures, is composed of France, Germany, Holland, Britain, the United States and the United Nations, he added.

Analyze This: In a cold war with Iran, can Syria become Israel's 'China card'? By CALEV BEN-DAVID , J_Post

Playing the "Damascus card" against Teheran, though, would carry a heavy political price – the return of the Golan Heights, possibly even up to the shores of Kinneret – and it is difficult to imagine that any but the strongest Israeli government would be in a position to make that deal.

The Olmert-led coalition clearly isn't that government. Yet if the intelligence assessment is correct that Iran will reach a "point of no return" in its nuclear program in the latter half of 2009, and neither Israel nor the United States are successful in halting that development, then we will truly find ourselves locked into a cold war-type military stalemate with Teheran – a prospect that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic outlook makes far more frightening than the Kremlin's former belief in the historical inevitability of Marxist triumph.

In that case, even all of the Golan may come to seem a reasonable sacrifice in breaking Syria's alliance with Iran – even if it is no easy task finding an Israeli Nixon to go to that particular China.

"Obama and the Bigots," by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (March 9, 2008)

the most monstrous bigotry in this election isn’t about either race or sex. It’s about religion…. The whispering campaigns allege that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim planning to impose Islamic law on the country. Incredibly, he is even accused — in earnest! — of being the Antichrist….

A 2007 Gallup poll found that 94 percent of Americans said they would vote for a black candidate for president and 88 percent for a woman. In contrast, a Los Angeles Times poll in 2006 found that only 34 percent of respondents said they could vote for a Muslim for president.

To his credit, Mr. Obama has spoken respectfully of Islam (he told me last year, on the record, that the Muslim call to prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset”). If he were to go further — “and so what if I were Muslim?” — many Americans would see that as confirmation that he is a Sunni terrorist agent of Al Qaeda who is part of a 9/11 backup plan: If you can’t reach the White House with a hijacked plane, then storm the Oval Office through the ballot box….

When Mrs. Clinton was asked in a television interview a week ago whether Mr. Obama is a Muslim, she denied it firmly — but then added, most unfortunately, “as far as I know.” To his credit, Mr. McCain scolded a radio host who repeatedly referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” and later called him a Manchurian candidate. …

Kuwaiti firm interested in buying Syriatel in defiance of American ban on doing business with Rami Makhlouf, a majority owner.

Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) said it is interested in buying Syria's largest mobile phone provider and does not expect any significant increase in net profit this year. The company is owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Makhlouf is also the target of U.S. financial sanctions for his links to the Syrian regime. Turkey's largest mobile phone operator, Turkcell , said last month it will bid for control of Syriatel.

may Chidiac’s response to the question “How do you view Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese politics?” (Thanks to the Moor Next Door)

They pretend to speak for Lebanon’s Shiites, but in fact they are crushing them. Hezbollah calls itself “the Islamic resistance in Lebanon” — they don’t consider themselves Arabs but Iranians. Hezbollah has received an estimated $20bn (€13.6bn) from Iran in the past 20 years. With that, they are buying up land and arms. No one dares oppose them. We are too afraid of a conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. The Shiites are helped by Iran; the Sunnis are helped by Saudi Arabia; and the Christians? All they get are prayers from the Vatican and that’s not enough. I don’t want my country to become an Islamic republic.

To Embrace or Not to Embrace By: Henry A. Kissinger | International Herald Tribune

The elections in Pakistan, far from calming the political crisis, have opened a new phase of it. The world has a huge stake in the outcome.

Comments (69)


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Joshua

What would represent a successful summit, from Syria’s perspective?

Obviously, if the Saudis and Egyptians send nobody important, the summit will fail. But it seems that the Saudis at least are taking some kind of semi-conciliatory path.

Is there any hope whatsoever for a positive outcome on the different fronts (Lebanon, Gaza, long dormant peace initiative, etc.) or is it all a charade?

March 11th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

Alex said:

QN

Which Arab summit in the past was “a successful summit”?

March 11th, 2008, 5:07 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ahhh, but Alex, which Arab summit in the past was a Damascus summit?

😉

March 11th, 2008, 5:15 pm

 

Observer said:

The strategic making decision process and centers have moved out of the traditional arab capitals to Teheran and Ankara and to a lesser extent Tel Aviv and Washington.
The Saudis want to have a unified Arab front on all the issues from Palestine to Lebanon to Iraq. They want to defuse the centers of crisis generation be it Gaza or Lebanon or Iraq in favor of a comprehensive ME stability that would check the rising power of Iran and the Islamist voices in the region.
The contest is now moving from one where the Iranian regime wants more than being the champion of a revived Shiism to one in which it champions all of Islam and Muslims and therefore the role of the Saudi family as the ultimate protector of the faith and the holy places is being challenged.
Sami Moubayed thinks that Iran would abandon HA in favor of a full alliance with Iraq but I doubt this analysis very much.

March 11th, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

offended said:

The Aleppo photo doesn’t show here, is it only me?

March 11th, 2008, 5:46 pm

 

Norman said:

offended,

you must be in a police state.!

March 11th, 2008, 6:06 pm

 

Alex said:

lol !!

Norman that was funny!

QN,

3amtemza7? …walla that’s it. Because this is a Damascus Summit, suddenly everyone decided to accept nothing less than “a scuccess” .. it must be attended by ALL the Arab leaders (not less) … otherwise it is “an embarrassment” to the Syrian regime.

Glad to see they have exceptionally high expectations from us Syrians … the price to pay for our exceptionally successful foreign policy 🙂

March 11th, 2008, 6:12 pm

 

Alex said:

Observer,

What is happening is a natural process … God did not create a real border between “The Arab World” and its neighbors Turkey and Iran. Obviously these two countries have interests in what is happening to the south and to the west of their borders.

Syria recognizes this reality and it seeks better cooperation and relations with both Turkey and Iran. Other Arab states have over reacted to Iran’s expanded role.

I don’t think I agree with your statement “The strategic making decision process and centers have moved out of the traditional arab capitals to Teheran and Ankara and to a lesser extent Tel Aviv and Washington.”

Egypt will be back. Mubarak is not willing to confront the Bush administration. Watch Egypt a year or two from now.

Cheney is heading to the Middle East this month. Again .. he is visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel but not Egypt.

THIS American reliance on only two nations in the Middle East is not going to last. It was a big mistake that caused tremendous damage to US interests, not to mention the bloodshed and chaos in the Middle East.

There will be a return to a recognition of the natural forces in the Middle East .. Egypt and Syria will be back on the Agenda of visiting American officials.

March 11th, 2008, 6:23 pm

 

offended said:

QN, one thing you can be rest assured about in the Damascus summit, the Biyan Khitami wouldn’t be drafted by the respective American Ambassador.

March 11th, 2008, 6:59 pm

 

Norman said:

apparently the US thinks that taking care and providing shelter for 1.5 Milion Iraqi is a human right violation.
may god open their eyes ,,

THE US has dropped China from its list of the world’s worst human rights violators, but added Syria, Uzbekistan and Sudan.

The State Department’s 2007 Human Rights Report showed China, which has raised hopes it will improve human rights by hosting the 2008 Olympics, had parted company with countries like North Korea, Burma and Iran.

No reason was given for removing China – which has been a key partner in talks with Washington to denuclearise North Korea – from the list.

The report said China’s “overall human rights record remained poor” in 2007.

The US State Department listed 10 “countries in which power was concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers remained the world’s most systematic human rights violators”.

The 2007 top 10 offenders included North Korea, burma, Iran, Syria Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.

March 11th, 2008, 7:08 pm

 

Majhool said:

Alex,

Funny? nothing funny about being a citizen of a “police state” just ask those who visited those security centers, you know torture and stuff like that ( marginal issue for you of course)

plus, I thought we agreed that Syria is a police state? should we go over this again?

Let me quote Offended

“I didn’t say Syria is not a police state”…

It was just that he wanted to squeez UAE into that catagory no?. or wait maybe he meant to follow with ” and I did not say Syria is a plice state either”???!!

Can we give credit to the regime when it’s deserved and criticize it when needs to be?

More and more this forum is becomeing “Syria comment for brainwashing foreign readers). I believe that we can maximize the value of reading this forum if we keep it real.

March 11th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Observer said:

Alex

I do not think that there is divergence on the overall jest of my comment. I do take issue with Egypt’s return: Sadat set the tone and Mubarak followed by insisting on an Egypt first and Arab world second strategy. This clearly failed and now the regime of Mubarak has reverted to Mubarak first and Egypt and the Arab world after I consolidate my hold on power. Only a couple of Pharaoh ruled longer than he did. His son is apt to follow through on this. Egypt will wait for the next administration to move and now they are sitting on the fence. The problem for the axis of moderation strategy is that they really do not have a real partner with the current Israeli and US administrations. The former is weak and the later is too rigid and dictatorial in its dealings. If anyone is to blame the torpedoing of the Saudi initiative for a Hamas Fatah entente it was the US and not Syria as they armed Dahlan and his groups. So the KSA does find itself with others filling the vacum such as Turkey and Iran. Turkey wants to have a second option once its membership in the EU is fully and finally rejected and Iran is back into exporting revolution although in a much more subtle way.

March 11th, 2008, 7:12 pm

 

Naji said:

Admiral Fallon just resigned over the Esquire article… Who is next while our Bibo holds out…!!?? Bibo and Bambi… they are going to look so good together… same build, different colors…! 😀

…and different engine 😉

March 11th, 2008, 7:35 pm

 

Shai said:

Hi Naji,

If you have a moment, please read the last comment on the previous thread (p=626), to understand my view on the whole nuclear issue we started to talk about yesterday. It is a sort of “summary” I made, which explains my angle, I hope.

March 11th, 2008, 7:41 pm

 

Norman said:

naji,
Can you explain your note to the less informed people like me,

March 11th, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

Alex said:

Majhool,

I have had enough of you. Stop distorting my views and accusing me of things I have nothing to do with. And if you are not able to understand a joke (above), then don’t interfere.

Yesterday you accused me of being driven by minority interests, adn today you accused me of not caring about torture, considering it a minor issue.

Yesterday you accused me of lying about what Ehsani told me.

Here is what he wrote you on the other post:

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Majhool,

I would like to come to the defense of my good friend Alex regarding your exchange with him earlier. It was me indeed who stated earlier that the level of corruption in Syria had gone down recently. Let me explain:

People like Mr. Dardari for example are not corrupt. Following repeated questions on my last trip to the country, I was assured that Mr. Dardari receives an above average salary that makes it possible for him to avoid having to resort to bribery. Rumors are that he gets paid close to $10,000 a month in salary paid directly from the Presidential Palace.

This is a vast improvement from the past. A person at Mr. Dardari’s position was expected to be a prime target of bribery and elicit under the table payments. It is my understanding that this type of activity has been reduced rather significantly when it comes to key ministerial positions.

None of us can be naïve to think that corruption in Syria is not pervasive. It is. But, it is not as blatant as before. I bring the example of Mr. Dardari as a case in point.

My friend Alex was correct in quoting me on this topic.

Majhool,

This blog is by far the most successful of all the blogs that deal with the Middle East. We had a post with 548 comments last week.

Why don’t you go to other blogs that are perfectly to your taste … they are always criticizing everything that happens in Syria, and they always claim that they are moral people who only want democracy and human rights … there are many of those. Just go share in their state o mind. See if you can do any good there.

March 11th, 2008, 7:48 pm

 

Alex said:

Here it is Norman.

And Shai my friend, you might find it interesting too : )

http://www.esquire.com/features/fox-fallon

March 11th, 2008, 7:53 pm

 

Naji said:

Norman,
Admiral Fallon is CENTCOM commander and his resignation, over disagreement with Bush crew, is Breaking News right now… so, you will be well informed very soon… 🙂

“If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it’ll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it’ll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon, although all of his friends call him “Fox,” which was his fighter-pilot call sign decades ago. Forty years into a military career that has seen this admiral rule …”

March 11th, 2008, 7:59 pm

 

offended said:

Majhool ya meskeen,
I am not brainwashed, I am simply self-hypnotized. It’s a wonderful feeling by the way. You seem to hold a lot of anger and hate inside of you, I recommend you experience this once and you will be fine inshallah…

Allah yeshfeek…

March 11th, 2008, 8:02 pm

 

Naji said:

Shai,
I did read your last comment, and frankly it raised more questions for me than it answered… , but for some other time perhaps…!

Think peace… really… 🙂

March 11th, 2008, 8:03 pm

 

Norman said:

here it is ,
anothr hurdle against the war with Iran is out ,

Admiral Fallon Resigns as Head of Centcom
Tuesday , March 11, 2008

ADVERTISEMENT
WASHINGTON —

Admiral William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, which leads U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is stepping down, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday.

Fallon claimed ongoing misperceptions about differences between his ideas and U.S. policy are making it too difficult for him to operate, Gates said, agreeing. He added that the differences are not extreme, but the misperception had become too great.

“I don’t know whether he was misinterpreted or whether people attributed views to him that were not his views, but clearly there was a concern,” Gates said.

The misperceptions relate to an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed Fallon as opposed to President Bush’s Iran policy. It described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

“I think this is a cumulative kind of thing,” Gates countered. “It isn’t the result of any one article or any one issue.”

Fallon has had a 41-year Navy career. He took the Central Command post on March 16, 2007, succeeding Army Gen. John Abizaid, who retired. Fallon previously served as commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

It was often reported that he and Gen. David Petraeus butt heads about troop levels in Iraq, which the two denied, but was an ongoing dispute that simmered below the surface within the Pentagon. Fallon is responsible for not only Iraq and Afghanistan. The article noted that the troop numbers were so taxed in Iraq that it was hurting operations in Afghanistan.

Centcom’s second-in-command Gen. Martin Dempsey will now take over Fallon’s post.

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March 11th, 2008, 8:04 pm

 

offended said:

And btw Majhool,
I really can’t see Aleppo’s photo, can you please describe it for me?

March 11th, 2008, 8:05 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

A good article. I’m sorry to see this chief of CENTCOM go. I’m sure his neocon replacement will dare to disagree with his superiors… (sent you an email).

Naji,

Anytime… I enjoy discussing serious issues with you. 🙂

March 11th, 2008, 8:51 pm

 

Majhool said:

Alex,

“I have had enough of you. Stop distorting my views and accusing me of things I have nothing to do with”

Am I distorting your views? Last time I checked, every time someone criticizes the regime you park them next to M14, and the Saudis.

As for Ehasni’s he came and confirmed that the level of corruption had decreased in the ministerial level, something I never disputed In fact I questioned whether or not he was impressed with the state of the economy you can check my remarks.

So to say I accused you of lying is in itself a false accusation.

I said:

“Can we give credit to the regime when it’s deserved and criticize it when needs to be?”

Of course that’s not good enough.

Offended ,

“ I am not brainwashed, I am simply self-hypnotized. It’s a wonderful feeling by the way. You seem to hold a lot of anger and hate inside of you”

I never said you were brainwashed, I said you and other are giving the readers a false impression on the state of things in Syria. But since you brought it up, I suggest that you seek counsel regarding the long term impact on you for shouting your baathist slogan bel roh bel dam in your teen years.

March 11th, 2008, 9:10 pm

 

Alex said:

Majhool,

It is very simple. Stay away from me. I think this is clear enough.

March 11th, 2008, 9:41 pm

 

offended said:

Majhool,
I promise to do that, not.
In the meantime, you will have to promise me something; think about the plight of the 1.5 M Iraqi refugees who, if it was not for a decision made by the very regime that you despise, would have no place to seek safety in. And please also think about the dungeons of Prime Minister Al Maliki (qaddas allah seraho) and how it is filled to the brim with mostly innocent people, held without trial. And remember that this is the same Maliki that was brought by the Americans under the pretexts of democracy and freedom, the same kind of crap you are trying to promote here. Maybe then you will come to understand the rubbish about ‘police state’ that you keep repeating.

March 11th, 2008, 9:43 pm

 

Alex said:

Offended, I am beating you to the latest from Al-Syassa

Bashar wants compensations in return for helping Lebanon. the United states will not allow it.

And Bashar wants to make sure King Abdullah will come to damascus if he is to facilitate the election of the next Lebanese president.

بيروت – خاص:
في المعلومات الخاصة التي حصلت عليها “السياسة”, أن وزير الخارجية القطري الشيخ حمد بن جاسم بن جبر آل ثاني, نقل رسالة عاجلة الى ولي العهد السعودي الذي يقوم بزيارة الى قطر لمدة يومين, من الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد, ومفادها أن الأخير مستعد لتسهيل انتخاب رئيس جمهورية في لبنان, شرط أن يكون التمثيل السعودي في قمة دمشق أعلى من مستوى وزير الخارجية الأمير سعود الفيصل.
وكشفت مصادر مطلعة ان الرسالة تحمل تمنيات ورغبات القيادة السورية, بأن يترأس الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز أو ولي العهد الأمير سلطان بن عبد العزيز, وفد بلاده للمشاركة في هذه القمة, “لأنه يصبح بالامكان في حال نجاح هذه القمة, من ابرام صفقة مع المملكة العربية السعودية في ما خص الاستحقاق الرئاسي اللبناني”.
وتفيد المصادر بأن هذه الاتصالات, تجري في سرية تامة, وتأتي استناداً لرغبة ايرانية بعدم وصول القطيعة بين النظام الحاكم في سورية والمملكة العربية السعودية الى نقطة اللاعودة, وما قد يترتب عن ذلك من اخفاقات عربية بتأمين الحد الأدنى من التضامن العربي, في مثل هذه الظروف المصيرية والصعبة التي تمر بها منطقة الشرق الأوسط, ولم تؤكد المصادر ذاتها, طبيعة الوفد السعودي الى القمة, لأن المملكة مازالت تدرس خطواتها للمشاركة بوفد رسمي, أو أن الحضور سيقتصر على ايفاد مسؤولين في الخارجية.
وعلمت “السياسة” أن الاتصالات التي تقوم بها قطر, تأتي أيضا بناء على رغبة سورية بانهاء الأزمة السياسية مع المملكة, وأن دمشق التي قد تطلب تعويضاً جديداً من القادة العرب لمساعدة لبنان, لن تحصل على هذه الموافقة, سيما وأن الولايات المتحدة دخلت على خط الأزمة, بعد أن أبلغت حلفاءها في السعودية ومصر والأردن, بأنه من غير المسموح عودة عقارب الساعة الى الوراء, لأن مجرد البحث في هذا الموضوع, يعتبر تحدياً للارادة الدولية وتهديداً للسلام ليس فقط في لبنان, بل في منطقة الشرق الأوسط بكامل

March 11th, 2008, 10:02 pm

 

offended said:

Thanks Alex, I guess we will never run out of Jarrallah’s gems and his worthless newspaper:
– Funny thing they mentioned that the deliberations between Saudi and Syria are taking place under the utmost secrecy, and yet Al Seyassa learnt about it.
– It is Iran, as it seems, that is prodding Syria and that is more concerned about Arabic solidarity than Syria. So Iran is not bad after all heh?

Yallah it is time to go to bed, it is past 2 Am here, I will start talking nonsense very soon ; )

March 11th, 2008, 10:11 pm

 

Majhool said:

Alex,

That should be easy to do. as long as it’s mutual.

Offended,

“ think about the plight of the 1.5 M Iraqi refugees who, if it was not for a decision made by the very regime that you despise, would have no place to seek safety in. And please also think about the dungeons of Prime Minister Al Maliki (qaddas allah seraho) and how it is filled to the brim with mostly innocent people, held without trial. And remember that this is the same Maliki that was brought by the Americans under the pretexts of democracy and freedom, the same kind of crap you are trying to promote here. Maybe then you will come to understand the rubbish about ‘police state’ that you keep repeating. “

I suggest you broaden your thought process a bit (although I doubt that you are capable) and try to imagine how Saddam’s “police state” contributed to this plight you are referring to.

March 11th, 2008, 10:24 pm

 

norman said:

Shai ,
You asked to be invited to the summet in Syria ,
This was my respose

norman said:

Shai, I hope you are still awake,
I would invite you the moment you make a deal with Syria, the Palestinians and the Lebanese , as i am unlike others think that the Hebrews are Semitic as all the people of the Mideast and as the Ara means , Assyrians and the all the other semitic civilizations they have the right to return and live in their ancestor land as long as they do not push anybody away and out of their own land , It would be fascinating to have one Arab nation of Jews Christians and Muslims where there are many states like Israel with majority Jews Lebanon with good number of Christians and where every citizen is equal and have the right to live in any part of the Arab nation , where he will register any where he lives and vote where he lives for anybody he wants.

March 10th, 2008, 2:41 am

March 11th, 2008, 10:58 pm

 

zenobia said:

Norman,
nice idea. but we probably have to stop calling it the “Arab Nation” then…. if you hope to reach this dream…

March 12th, 2008, 1:19 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

To his credit, Mr. McCain scolded a radio host who repeatedly referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” and later called him a Manchurian candidate. …

What a shame to call a good man like Obama,a manchurian candidate, (an assassin,and pro communist)

March 12th, 2008, 2:03 am

 

norman said:

Hi Zenobia,
It is nice to see here again, let me explain,
I consider the Arab nation is the land between the mountains between Iraq and Iran to the Atlantic ocean and between the mountains between Syria and Turkey and the mediterranean and the Arabic sea and the african Sahara ,with all people who live in that land no matter what their ethnic backgroud or religion , Christians , Jews , Muslims , Kurds Shark-as, Armenians Assyrians Shia , Sunnis and all the others i did not mention .
I believe that all these people make up the Arab nation ,
I look the same way at the American nation it is a nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific and fro Canada to Mexico , with many people from different ethnic backgroud and religions , and many languages , they still call themselves Americans and are part of the American Nation .
And as in the US we adopt decentralization where people could rule themselves through city councils and small towns while leaving states as they are with ability of people to move and live wherever they in the Arab land and take residency in any area they want to participate in local government ,

The Arab Nation could become a reality and my dream could be achieved if we have the will and the vision to see beyond or local community for the good of all.

March 12th, 2008, 2:11 am

 

Habib said:

New Sratfor Article:

Syria:Trouble in Damascus (lots of rumors by the way)

Syria’s ruling al Assad family is experiencing an internal struggle, as the Feb. 12 assassination of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus revealed. Syrian allies Iran and Hezbollah seem to have growing suspicions that certain elements of the Syrian regime might have been involved in Mughniyah’s death, and Syrian President Bashar al Assad appears to be building a case against his brother-in-law, the director-general of Syrian intelligence.
Analysis

The Feb. 12 assassination of Hezbollah top commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus has exposed what appears to be a massive power struggle afflicting Syria’s ruling al Assad family. Since the assassination, Stratfor has received reports from a variety of sources that indicate the death of Hezbollah’s most seasoned operative might not have been a surprise to certain elements of the Syrian regime. These suspicions appear to be shared by Syria’s allies Hezbollah and Iran.

As Stratfor has discussed previously, even if the Israeli Mossad orchestrated the operation to take out Mughniyah, it likely had an inside source — perhaps in Syria’s security apparatus — that facilitated the operation.

And Hezbollah does not appear to be taking any chances. A reliable source revealed to Stratfor that, in the past week, Hezbollah forces apprehended a group of Syrian concierges working in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The concierges were blindfolded, interrogated and released the following morning after they and their families were threatened and told to keep quiet about the incident. Hezbollah was supposedly seeking to find out if the concierges knew any details about Mughniyah’s travel to Damascus the night of Feb. 10 — two days before his assassination. According to the source, Hezbollah is highly suspicious that elements of Syrian intelligence either assisted in or acquiesced to Mughniyah’s liquidation.

The extent of Syrian intelligence’s involvement in the Mughniyah assassination could even reach up to the highest echelons of the al Assad family, with Syrian Director-General of Intelligence Asef Shawkat at the center of the conspiracy. The stability of the Syrian regime rests upon a delicate balance of close-knit clan relations within the al Assad family, the Alawite religious minority and the underlying rule of the Baath party. Any blows to this power structure could spell doom for the government, making it all the more critical for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to adroitly navigate the Byzantine maze of Syrian family politics.

Shawkat became a part of the al Assad clan through a marriage to Bashar’s sister, Bushra al Assad. Though Bushra and Shawkat faced heavy resistance from the al Assad family when the two eloped, they have since amassed a great deal of power and influence in the al Assad regime, making them a force to be reckoned with in any major family dispute. In addition to being a prime suspect in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Shawkat could have had something to do with the Mughniyah assassination, several signs indicate. Shawkat apparently felt threatened by Mughniyah’s influence within the Syrian security apparatus and came to blows with his long-time foe Maher al Assad, the president’s brother and head of the Republican Guard, over the issue.

There is an unverified rumor circulating that, prior to his assassination, Mughniyah had informed the Syrian president of meetings held between Shawkat and a CIA officer in a European city, where the two supposedly discussed a strategy for Shawkat to seize control of the regime. Al Assad then apparently confronted Bushra about Mughniyah’s allegations, which then prompted Shawkat to organize an operation to take out the Hezbollah commander. Another source claims that Bushra has now moved with her children to Paris and is seeking to relocate to the United Arab Emirates for a long sojourn — a possible indication that the major female power broker of the al Assad clan has lost her bid to spare her husband’s political and intelligence career within the ranks of the Syrian ruling elite.

Though the details of these rumors cannot be verified, there appears to be a case building against Shawkat behind the palace walls in Damascus. Stratfor has already learned of rumors of an impending military reshuffle that could very well remove Shawkat and wash the regime’s hands of the al-Hariri assassination. But Shawkat is unlikely to go quietly into the night, and any attempt to remove him from the Syrian political scene could further complicate the regime’s already intensely bitter power struggle. Similar rifts emerged in the wake of the al-Hariri assassination when former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and former Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan schemed to topple the regime. The Syrian president managed to wade his way through that crisis rather adeptly, but this current power struggle reaches deep into the al Assad clan. And with Israel signaling that it is readying itself for another showdown with Hezbollah, the clock is ticking for al Assad to get his house in order.

March 12th, 2008, 2:13 am

 

Zenobia said:

Aye Norman, i get what you are saying and appreciate what YOU mean by it. However, we do not call the Americas… the “American Nation”…i have never heard this term ever. and Latin America refers to the southern hemisphere which shares and ethnic heritage of Spanish and Native American blood.
Although your definition sounds very nice and respectful….it already contains deep meaning and historical reference in it that privileges Arabness within the entire area that you are referring to. However, all the people who don’t consider themselves arabs would probably object to being within an area called the ‘Arab Nation’. This is a problem. Another problem is that the term Arab nation was suffused with Islam to the point where non-muslims feel hesitant to align themselves with a great Arab nation…
it is all ridiculous to my mind. We should just have the mind to be inclusive, as you are attempting to be. But language is significant. Can you imagine the Israelis saying… we are part of the ‘Arab nation’ !.. and those persians? Armenians? what about them?
No, i think there should be a better term. How about the Union of Middle Eastern States. That’s good. States. The middle east is not really one nation. they fight fight fight….

March 12th, 2008, 3:23 am

 

Enlightened said:

Habib:

Lots of rumours and inuendo, i read that article this morning, along with Syria’s plan to assassinate General Rifi of the ISI.

I want to start another rumour “The Orcs are on the March” and Middle Earth is threatened. Unless the rumour appears on Debkafile, I will not believe it! (please note sarcasm)

March 12th, 2008, 3:43 am

 

Alex said:

Zenobia, “the Union of Middle Eastern States” sounds too generic.

Let’s call the whole thing “Greater Syria”.

March 12th, 2008, 3:46 am

 

zenobia said:

LOL.
fine. i am sure nobody would object to that… lol…..

March 12th, 2008, 3:49 am

 

Alex said:

Don’t worry. MSK is sleeping in Beirut now, and Qifa Nabki is studying for his high school exams.

March 12th, 2008, 3:55 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex check your email, a skit went your way!

March 12th, 2008, 4:01 am

 

offended said:

Majhool,
I see…. very nice equation:

Saddam = police state.

Maliki & Bush = terror + police state.

I am glad your neocons friends have preserved the Saddamis legacy, not only that, they’ve added few more effective elements…

March 12th, 2008, 5:05 am

 

offended said:

Enlightened,
I like your skits, do you care to share them? : )

March 12th, 2008, 5:06 am

 

offended said:

“The US warned Turkish PM not to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Syria and Israel”
“The State Department told Rajab Tayyeb “we are certain that any peace deal that would solve the complicated issues between Syria and Israel will not be struck with the Assad regime of today, as any other regime that will replace it will be much more sane and reasonable.””

Aha! So the Bush administration wants a regime that will sell the Syrian people cheap on the peace treaty? Very nice….

This story was reported on Al Seyassa of course.

http://www.alseyassah.com/news_details.asp?snapt=الدولية&nid=7835

March 12th, 2008, 5:15 am

 
 

MSK said:

(Re-posted from the last thread, where Alex had missed it.)

Ya Alex,

Do you think that the corruption is systemic or do you think that the regime (i.e. Bashar & his close co-rulers) has a real chance to combat it?

Personally, from my experiences with similar regimes I am very skeptical. I just can’t see how the Syrian regime, which includes at its highest levels people like Rami Makhlouf, can successfully push through an anti-corruption scheme, even if it wanted to. What could it offer all those corrupt officials (in ministries, administrations, courts, police, etc.) as a substitute for the current bribes?

-–MSK*

PS: I don’t care about names or borders. If the inhabitants of Cilicia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria freely choose to all live together in one country or a federation called “Greater Syria” … that’s fine. And the same goes for a situation where the Bekaa wants to split from Lebanon & join Syria, or Aleppo wants to get its independence from “Damascene oppression” 😉 … It’s not the label that matters, it’s the content.

March 12th, 2008, 10:05 am

 

Mr President said:

corruption in syria is not related to government. it is cultural and a way of life for all people. corruption is also nothing new in the middle east. it has to do with limited opportunrities in that part of the world. when I last visited my dad in Damascus he said to me: Even Abu Laffeh harami ( even the clergy man steals money ). if you dig deep you would realize that even within families you can find corruption and scams (between brothers, brother in laws, sisters, cousins,…).

March 12th, 2008, 12:44 pm

 

Norman said:

Zenobia,
I will respond to you later tonight after office hours , US eastern time.

March 12th, 2008, 2:33 pm

 

Alex said:

MSK,

Me too, “Greater Lebanon” is fine with me : )

Remember Syria always volunteered relinquishing the capital and presidency when it went for a Union with Egypt in 1958, and with Iraq in 1978, which did not go through when Saddam suddenly took over the presidency (he was VP) … imagine Saddam president of Iraq AND Syria .. 2 years before he got into a war with Iran.

But of course Egypt and Iraq were larger states (population and size).

As for fighting corruption,

Yes I think they can do much better .. they can fight it. But it does not mean they will “win”… not in the near future.

I can tell you that from all I am hearing, they want to fight it. You can say that they succeeded at the ministerial level. It is much better now than it has ever been. There was one case of corruption, and the minister involved was fired, even though he was a friend of Bashar.

But … the corrupt parts of the rest of the 18 million people need another approach, more patience, and much lower expectations.

In many cases it is about willingness to take risks. The regime these days is not willing to take too many new risks. They have enough already.

I am optimistic there can be a considerable improvement in fighting corruption within the few years that follow the settlement of the conflict with Israel.

I know, … I can hear already “why do we need to wait for that?” … it is a long story.

March 12th, 2008, 2:56 pm

 

Alex said:

And, thanks to Atassi, here is a better answer to MSK than the stupid one I gave above.

MIDDLE EAST:Anti-corruption efforts face major hurdles

Tuesday, March 11 2008

An Oxford Analytica In-depth Analysis
SUBJECT: The rising salience of corruption in the Middle East.
SIGNIFICANCE: Attacks on corruption have become an increasingly important part of Arab Middle Eastern political vocabulary in the last decade. However, regimes have sought to manage the threat they pose by largely cosmetic reforms, while problems of definition have blunted international efforts to tackle it.
ANALYSIS: The increased salience of corruption issues in the Middle East in the last few years is the result of two powerful inter-related developments:

Key insights

Corruption is becoming an increasingly important political issue in the Middle East.
Regimes have tried to deflect criticism by taking the management and punishment of corruption into their own hands.
The issue of corruption remains clouded in competing definitions of its character but, under international pressure, the main issue is becoming one of the misuse of public office for private gain.
While most Middle Eastern regimes have remained sheltered from full-scale exposure of the role corruption plays in their systems of economic management, those with more open economic policies have taken the most serious steps to improve governance and transparency in this area.

Globalisation. The global economic and financial reform movements associated with Washington Consensus emphasise openness, pluralism and good governance. This has proved such powerful rhetoric that it has affected even countries not actively attempting to implement these policies such as Syria:
Further pressure comes from the fact that global markets are increasingly subject to intense scrutiny of anything that limits competition or increases the cost of doing business.
This has been exemplified by passage of the UN Convention Against Corruption (2003), the creation of powerful global non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Transparency International, and various influential attempts to rank countries in terms of good governance, such as the Global Integrity Index and World Bank Aggregate Governance Indicators.
Islamist critique. A second driver is the persuasive message coming from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and other Islamic opposition organisations critical of cronyism and associated forms of malpractice It has usually taken the form of a highly moral argument couched in terms of bad behaviour and injustice. However, in the case of many mainstream Islamic movements, most of which now place great emphasis on economic and technological development, it also includes stress on curtailing practices, which stand in the way of the promotion of individual merit based on efficiency and hard work. Hence they criticise unequal access to education and employment, and the award of public contracts on the basis of favouritism and personal contact.
Other critics have followed in their wake. These include numerous local NGOs devoted to promoting transparency, as well as, in the last few years, a host of oppositional bloggers and websites.

Regime response. Middle Eastern regimes have taken such criticism very seriously, seeing it as a potentially dangerous threat to their system of political and economic management. Their response has been to set the terms of debate and draft their own anti-corruption legislation rather than leaving it to others, while also taking great care to associate themselves rhetorically with international good governance initiatives:

This has led to high-profile, state-sponsored anti-corruption efforts including the prosecution of a certain number of targeted individuals in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Sudan.
It has also involved controlling critical NGOs while cracking down on religious groups, such as the MB, in ways that limit their ability to criticise those close to the regime itself.
The result has been to over-politicise the notion of corruption itself, encouraging a debate marked by the exchange of sweeping, and usually unsubstantiated, charges between regime supporters and their critics. Characteristic of this over-heated atmosphere is the way in which, whenever contested elections are now permitted, it has become standard for candidates to accuse each other of financial malpractice, only for such accusations to be instantly forgotten once the campaign is over.

For these and other reasons, reforms so far have been largely cosmetic, and most of major Arab Middle Eastern regimes are still classified by the Global Integrity Index as having ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ systems for dealing with institutionalised corruption. Such findings are further supported by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, according to which every Arab state scores higher than the world average. The states which are judged to have done the most to discourage corruption are the family-ruled oil states of the Gulf, while the country that ranks lowest in this respect is Iraq.

What is corruption? Nevertheless, all such attempts at measurement leave open a large number of questions as to the exact definition of corruption itself, its measurement, and thus its centrality to the system of economic management practised by most Arab regimes:

General definition. As far as the international community is concerned, there would appear to be an almost universal understanding that corruption is most usefully defined as the ‘abuse of public office for private gain’. This involves such practices as the bribery of public officials, the embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, trading in influence and the abuse of official functions for the purpose of illicit private enrichment:

However, there is still considerable academic dispute about whether such a simple definition will suffice when it comes to the non-European world. Some critics argue, for instance, that corruption is best viewed not so much as a matter of illicit gains but as a central characteristic of certain systems of government, which could not work without it.
There is also a large literature, based mainly on the examples of countries such as Japan and South Korea, which argues that, historically, nominally corrupt practices actually encouraged growth. They are said to have done so by reducing economic delays, creating informal market processes, and, in general, oiling the wheels of their early modern economies.
The same arguments can also be applied to the notion of government-created economic rents, which, though usually considered harmful, can also be defended as a necessary part of the first stages of industrialisation. For example, they facilitate the acquisition of new technologies, reward innovation and encourage the development of new opportunities for profitable international trade. In such cases, the major question becomes how long such forms of encouragement should be allowed to last.

Regional application. The problems increase immeasurably when transferred to a proper understanding of the Middle East. For one thing, there has been very little real research in the subject, no doubt because of the obstacles placed in its way by the regimes themselves. For another, there remain huge, and inter-connected problems involving definition, measurement and explanation.
Problems of definition include:

the ill-defined distinction between the public and private sphere;
the fact that certain types of abuse of public office are either not formally illegal or are only so as a result of laws that are regarded as unenforceable or even illegitimate; and
the existence of practices, which relegate large areas of economic activity to the informal, and thus unregulated and undocumented sector.
Almost all attempts to measure Middle Eastern corruption have been based not on a study of improper practices themselves but perceptions of corruption, whether by foreign businessmen and officials or selected members of the local population. While useful up to a point, such surveys also help to confuse the situation still further by introducing culturally-specific notions of corruption that some remove from international norms. One good example is the Palestinian Survey by the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (December, 2004). It found that what were regarded as the most blatant forms of corruption were what the participants referred to as the ‘favouritism’ and ‘nepotism’ of Palestinian officials.

Corruption and economic management. It is probably more useful to view what in the West would usually be identified as corruption as part of systems of economic management with their own histories, logics and dynamics. This has the advantage of identifying the structures that promote and encourage it, their possible future trajectories, and thus the ways in which internationally-unacceptable practices can most efficiently be brought under control.

At the risk of oversimplification it is possible to divide Middle Eastern systems into two:

Non-oil states. The first consists of those to be found in the larger non-oil or limited oil states such as Egypt. These passed from a system of liberal capitalism through one of statist ownership and control to the present one of limited competition dominated by regime cronies who, as in the former Soviet Union, were able to benefit from the vast sell-off of state assets in the 1990s:

At each stage what was at stake was the ability to monopolise major sectors of the local market.
This required businessmen and managers to establish close relations with top members of the regime including the military and ruling party able to provide them with the protection they needed to do so.
In some cases, most notably Egypt, the process involved the successful incorporation of members of the president’s family into the top echelon of the business community. In others, as in Syria, the particular nature of the regime encouraged the development of a small number of key partnerships between favoured businessmen (generally Sunnis) and regime members of the military and the security elite (usually Alawis) Oil states. The second system is that of the oil states where pre-oil methods of government and personal patronage were simply enlarged and expanded with oil money in such a way that privileged access to state revenues and state patronage became the principal source of personal enrichment. To this should be added the presence of large communities of non-nationals whose ability to criticise local systems of management was limited by their expatriate status. In much the same way, regimes with access to large oil revenues, such as those in Iraq and Iran, were also able to buy off critics by offering them jobs and welfare benefits, as well as, for some, access to huge contracts.

In spite of many differences, both systems have certain features in common, which have a great effect on how their regimes do business with their own people and with the outside world:

Political motives continue to be more important than economic ones, particularly when it comes to the primary imperative of regime survival.
There are huge incentives for senior members of each regime to use their political power for personal profit, which they then use to purchase support from groups of clients to whom they provide money, access and opportunities for advancement and private gain.
The award of public contracts, whether to local firms or foreign ones, is governed by the same logic of distribution, so that the larger the contract, the more it will include secret provisions diverting part of the moneys involved to persons close to the regime
There is clearly a powerful incentive to maintain such a complex and lucrative system by ensuring that presidents are succeeded by members of their own family.
Lessons. The confrontation between Western and Middle Eastern notions of corruption and good practice is only a decade or so old. Not surprisingly, it proved threatening to most, if not all, Middle East regimes, since it seemed to require possibly dangerous changes in economic and political behaviour. This was true, not only in terms of legislation and monitoring but also in terms of greater transparency, parliamentary oversight and public participation. Moreover, the fact that this appeared to give greater legitimacy to the accusations of corruption levied by the Islamic opposition created more concern. Hence the desire to manage the debate and to confine actual measures to a few show trials and other gestures.

Nevertheless, this is not the end of the story:

Region. Growing competition for investments allied to the increasing importance of a private sector looking outwards for opportunities to increase trade and investment has led to a significant increase in the numbers of influential persons aware of the importance of meeting global standards of openness, transparency and level playing-fields. Hence the fact that the states seemed to have done most to improve local practices are the smaller Gulf states, which are most concerned to attract foreign capital and partnerships with foreign firms.
International institutions and businesses. Institutions such as the World Bank have made useful progress in adapting their pursuit of better governance to meet non-European realities. Hence the growing consensus that the best way to fight official corruption is not via the establishment of anti-corruption commissions, the drafting of new laws and the scape-goating of a few named individuals, but by finding ways to change the institutional ethos in such a way as to provide incentives for greater integrity and discourage state officials from pursuing personal gain. These include general efforts to increase transparency and good government as well as more specific reforms targeted on such key institutions as the judiciary, the customs and tax administrations and the offices responsible for government procurement contracts.
Can anti-corruption efforts succeed? There are serious obstacles in the way of limiting corrupt practices in the Middle East however they may be defined. These include:

the present high price of oil, which both increases the size of each government’s financial transactions while, to some extent, allowing local regimes to avoid the various types of conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions;
the ‘war on terror’ which has blunted Western, and particularly US, efforts to promote efforts aimed at increasing more open, pluralistic systems of government; and
the fact that some of the strongest criticism of official corruption comes from Islamic movements who are regarded as dangerous, and so subject to harassment and control.
Nevertheless, there are forces at work in the global economic system which may, in the end, prove stronger. The most important of these are:

the drive for international competitiveness as a requisite of further development;
reforms of the banking system which make the former state banks much better at risk assessment, much loss tolerant of non-performing loans and so less ready to provide loans mainly to borrowers associated with the regime;
the increasing importance of those sections of the local business community who export as opposed to those who simply seek to monopolise the domestic market; and
the opportunities provided to countries willing to abide by international standards of good business practice to gain access to US and EU markets.

CONCLUSION: Anti-corruption efforts in the Middle East face serious obstacles. Nevertheless, these obstacles to reform will probably be outweighed over time by powerful factors at work in the global economic system.

March 12th, 2008, 4:04 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Good morning… 🙂 What do you think of the current “ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas? Will it last? Is Hezbollah cooking something up? Will Saudi and Egypt send top-level delegates/leaders? What’s your two-week prognosis (asking for more than that is ludicrous, in this part of the world…)?

March 12th, 2008, 4:07 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

Pre Arab summit two weeks is also asking two much : )

just like Pre Arab summit in the KSA last year

and Pre Asnnapolis earlier this year …

Too much needs to go in hte last few weeks to make these summits “a success” …

and they are never a success.

March 12th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

I failed my exams. Thanks for jinxing me.

😉

By the way, is anybody going to comment on the Statfor piece? This is not as-Siyaasa, you know.

And here are two news items, off the wires:

Ahmadinejad: No President, No Government in Lebanon before End of Bush’s Term
Diplomatic sources close to Tehran on Wednesday quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as telling a high-ranking Arab official that Lebanon will not have a new President or a new government before the end of U.S. President George Bush’s term Jan. 20, 2009.
Meanwhile, a French diplomatic source familiar with Iran’s policy, said Tehran was “waiting for a change in the U.S. administration before it decides whether it wants negotiations on the nuclear issue.”

The source said Iran’s priority “is to negotiate with Washington, not with Europeans.”

“If Tehran decides to negotiate with a new U.S. Administration, then it would want comprehensive talks including its role in Iraq in return for the nuclear issue, just as Syria wants to negotiate its role in Iraq in exchange for Lebanon,” the French source said.

Murr: Aoun’s Bloc Blocks Presidential Elections
MP Michel Murr on Wednesday accused Gen. Michel Aoun’s Change and reform Bloc of blocking presidential elections, targeting specifically Maronite MPs of the group.
“Our bloc includes politicians who have become disgusting to the people. It is blocking the presidency. I say the block is blocking, not Gen. Aoun. Certain MPs within the bloc are more responsible than Gen. Aoun for blocking the presidency,” Murr told reporters.

“Gen. Aoun heads the bloc, and I’m not saying he is to be held responsible, but the bloc is. Where are the Maronite MPs? Why do they accept to keep the presidency vacant?” he asked.

Murr made the remarks after receiving Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Sergei Pukin.

Murr said an agreement on a general election law could be “reached in 15 minutes if we approached the issue with a spirit of national responsibility.”

“If we proceed with conditions and counter-conditions there would be no elections, neither today nor in 2009.”

Murr said any pan-Arab rapprochement “would help in overcoming the crisis, but domestic consensus is the base to any settlement.”

Pukin, in answering a question as to whether Russia would play a role to narrow the gap separating the feuding factions, said: “I have no information on this issue.”

However, he explained that “The foreign minister of Russia could visit the region. If he does, it would be in line with Russian efforts to settle the conflict in the region, be it at the Lebanese level or at the level of the security deterioration in Palestine.”

March 12th, 2008, 5:08 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa, ask your dad to speak to the teacher. He might be able to convince him to count your school project instead of the final. You did well on the science project, you told me.

You posted two news items that cancel each other… one seems to say that Ahmadinejad does not want to see a Lebanese president before next year, the other one says that it is rather a few from Aoun’ block who are to blame, and not Ahmadinejad.

March 12th, 2008, 5:43 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Annapolis? What’s that?…

March 12th, 2008, 5:52 pm

 

Alex said:

It’s “a photo opportunity” Shai.

March 12th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

Shai said:

Ah… funny, though, I can’t even remember the photos, can you? What a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money. And an insult to our intelligence. Thinking they can actually convince us that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is going to happen during 2008. Yeah, the year 2008 in the Muslim calendar, maybe… (if Dubya was still in power).

March 12th, 2008, 6:28 pm

 

Alex said:

Oh, I can explain that part.

It was supposed to be a photo opportunity. But at the last minute they realized that they they HAD TO invite the Syrians to the show. Syrians are not very photogenic as you know, and they do not blend very harmoniously with the other “Arab Moderates” … so, the photos were spoiled.

Besides being a photo opportunity, Annapolis was GWB’s way of not rejecting the Baker report and its recommendations. There were easy recommendations (solve the Palestinian problem) and there were impossible recommendations (talk to Syria and Iran).

So, president Bush went for the easy Palestinian part.

And I am not joking … that was the main reason for Annapolis, having to acknowledge at least any part of the Baker report.

March 12th, 2008, 6:53 pm

 

Shai said:

I can see Dubya on his Daddy’s farm, saying: “Uncle Baker, I ‘preciate your cuncern ‘n all, but it’s ma prezi-dency, and I wanna run it ma way, k? No hard feelins though, right?” And Uncle Baker just holds his head with both hands (while little George runs to get him some Aspirin)… Oh well, if the Reps win again, let’s hope McCain will be smarter, though I’m hearing that all the Bush neocons are rushing to get under his wing…

March 12th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

No, I failed my science project too.

Who said that Ahmadinejad is blocking the election? He is merely expressing his opinion. Don’t jump to conclusions!

😉

But I noticed you didn’t answer my question about Assef Shawkat.

March 12th, 2008, 8:24 pm

 

Alex said:

You failed the science project too?! … Tayeb dabber rasak.

What question about Asef did I miss?

March 12th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Offended: ( I didnt think I was that funny)

Email Alex to send it to you if he hasn’t deleted it, if he has get my email adress off him and send me a message, il send it on to you!

March 12th, 2008, 9:16 pm

 

Alex said:

I did not delete it : )

Offended, please send me an email to creativesyria and I will forward.

March 12th, 2008, 10:11 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

The question was about the Stratfor article that Habib posted.

Any comment?

By the way, if you recall, immediately after Mughniyyeh was assassinated, somebody (I believe it was Ford Prefect) had some inside information about a lot of hostility between Hizbullah and Damascus…

March 13th, 2008, 2:07 am

 

Enlightened said:

QN:

My take on the whole Stratfor article, trawl the internet and you will find a lot of these stories, the most famous one about a rebellion in Damascus a few years ago. Its very hard to comment on speculation when hard facts are missing or not present.

Logically however:

1. If true then Assef is in big trouble (Bashar might let loose Maher on him)

2. The investigation preliminary report was due weeks ago? Why the delay, I think that the Syrian services have been penetrated, and they are busy finding the leaks and the perpetrators

3. The report will be made public during or after the Damascus summit for impact.

The only way to verify the Stratfor report, find out if Bushra is still in Syria with the children (although I dont know how you will be able to do this).

However my gut feeling tells me this is another attempt at putting pressure on the regime, I cannot see it any other way.

March 13th, 2008, 3:18 am

 

norman said:

Hi Zenobia ,
I hope you read this,

I hear a lot about the American nation , but that might be because i watch Fox News ,

( Although your definition sounds very nice and respectful….it already contains deep meaning and historical reference in it that privileges Arabness within the entire area that you are referring to. However, all the people who don’t consider themselves arabs would probably object to being within an area called the ‘Arab Nation’. This is a problem )
I agree with you that many in the Arab nation might object but for God sake many in the US like the Mexican and other Hispanics and others object to be called American ,but they are still American because they live in the United states of America,

. ( Another problem is that the term Arab nation was suffused with Islam to the point where non-muslims feel hesitant to align themselves with a great Arab nation…
it is all ridiculous to my mind. We should just have the mind to be inclusive, as you are attempting to be. But language is significant. Can you imagine the Israelis saying… we are part of the ‘Arab nation’ !.. and those persians? Armenians? what about them?)

I disagree with you ,
Being an Arab does not mean being a muslim as not all Arabs are Muslims , I am one of these , and not all Muslims are Arabs like the Persians and Turks and the Pakistanis and all the others ,

I consider the ares that i mentioned previously as the Arab nation because It was inhabited by the semitic people that left Arabia during episodes of drought , They left Arabia and inhabited Syria , Iraq and north Africa , and yes I consider the Hebrews as Arabs as Abraham led them from Arabia through Orr to northern Syria then to Palestine , actually the only reason that they do not speak Arabic and are not a normal part of that of the world is because the Roman evicted them from Palestine into the Diaspora , otherwise they would have been the Same as the Ara-means who were the residents of Syria ,
I just want to remind you that Islam came to Syria in the Seventh century not the Arabs , The Arabs were there long time before.
I look at Syria and Lebanon as i look at Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Just look at the US and try to have the same in the Arab Nation,

My preferred name for the new country is

( THE UNITED STATES OF ARBIA)
Syria would be New England , Iraq ( Wadi al Rafedane ) is the Delaware valley , KSA is the Bible belt , Al Magreb al Arabi is California and the western cost , and Egypt is the Heartland .

( No, i think there should be a better term. How about the Union of Middle Eastern States. That’s good. States. The middle east is not really one nation. they fight fight fight….)

YES they fight but nobody killed more American than the American themselves during the civil war .

One more thing , Being an Arab is not a genetic association , It is a land association in my humble opinion.

Any comments , Aussamaa, What do you think,

March 13th, 2008, 3:45 am

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

Everything is possible …except … Stratfor’s ability to acquire all those sizzling rumors from Damascus.

No.

It sounds too familiar.

Do you know how many journalists told me the past couple of years that they heard some amazing rumors about Bashar and Asef and Bushra going after each other?

Do you know how it works? … some “reliable” source form Syrian Opposition or M14, or American administration … or Al-Syassa talks to some European journalist visiting Beirut or Riyadh … he tells him about all these rumors …

Do you know how tempting it is to exclusively publish these stories? … do you know hoe reliable these journalists think that M14’s freedom fighters are? … or even Farid Ghadry! …. do you remember your super expert (Bernard Lewis) who claimed in Israel that Farid Ghadri is the leader of the largest Syrian opposition party! … and he quoted him as if he is some authority.

if Bernard thinks Farido is reliable, then … what do you expect of lesser journalists trying to rate the reliability of rumors on the inner secrets of the relations between Bashar and his brother in law?

But again .. I am not saying that there is no small chance that some of what was in that article was true … but it would be by pure chance if it was true.

March 13th, 2008, 4:58 am

 

Alex said:

Also,

I would like to tell you about a new blog by Tamara Al-Om, a smart Syrian who is doing her Ph.D. in England

Here is a sample post:

http://tamaraalom.wordpress.com/self-in-sufism-advaita-vedanta-and-psychology/

March 13th, 2008, 5:39 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said:

Do you know how it works? … some “reliable” source form Syrian Opposition or M14, or American administration … or Al-Syassa talks to some European journalist visiting Beirut or Riyadh … he tells him about all these rumors …

Hmmm, sounds quite a bit like Seymour Hersh’s “scoop”.

😉

March 13th, 2008, 12:58 pm

 

thayer said:

this article appeared on http://tailoredsyria.blogspot.com/
Tailored Syria military sources report that the status of the Cyprus-based Intacom Telecom in Syria is being investigated. Our sources indicate that the GPS service provider company had already finished working on a project near the suspected site of a secret Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzour before it was targeted by an Israeli air raid last year. The sources also cited the finding of a high-tech vehicle in the Aleppo Icarda farms. The unmanned vehicle, which could repair itself if need be, was found near Almsalamiyah military base which suffered a huge explosion last year. On both occasions, GPS technologies which could be controlled by sattelites , are seen as linked to a security breach in Syria.
Our sources report that Intacom Telecom could be working in collaboration with Mossad. Relationship between Syria and Cyprus has deteriorated over the past few years due to a number of reasons and climaxed to a crisis last year when Syria decided to operate a ferry service between the ports of Lattakia and Farmagusta. It is worth mentioning that the attempt to implicate the Turkish army in the Israeli raid which occurred last year could have been intended to serve the interests of both Israelis and Cypriots.
A main figure in Intracom Telecom is said to be an Israeli with a Cypriot passport

April 1st, 2008, 10:55 pm

 

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