Medvedev’s Visits to Syria and Turkey – News Round Up (14 May 2010)

Russia sells Syria warplanes, air defence systems: official

(AFP) – MOSCOW — Russia is supplying Syria with warplanes, armoured vehicles and air defence systems under existing contracts, ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the head of the country’s state military agency as saying.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Russia was selling Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air defence systems and armoured vehicles.

Turkey Installs Anti-Aircraft Batteries Near Syrian Border
Thursday May 13, 2010 by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies

Turkey has installed Anti-Aircraft Hawk Missiles at a village close to the Syrian border in an attempt to prevent Israeli war jets from violating Turkish Airspace in case of an attack against Iran or Syria.

A Turkish paper reported that Turkey will not allow Israel to use its Airspace to attack Iran, Syria or any other country, and will act against any such violations.

The Anti Aircraft batteries were installed in Kayeel village, south of Turkey and located close to the Syrian b14 Mayorder.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Turkish military official stated that the batteries are meant to protect Turkey and its Airspace against any violations, including American or Israeli war jets should Israel or the United States decide to attack Iran or Syria.

Why Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev is visiting Syria
By Claire Duffett, Christian Science Monitor

…..In a joint press conference Monday evening, Mr. Medvedev, the first Russian head of state to visit Syria, said that Russia’s commitment to Syria was consistent despite “changes in the world.” President Assad, for his part, was quoted as saying that his country would “never forget how [Russia] stood by us during the battle for the Golan [Heights]” with Israel. He also requested Moscow’s continued support in demanding that Israel return the land it seized during the 1967 Six-Day War…. In addition to lauding their unwavering bond, the two leaders have used Medvedev’s visit to discuss increased economic ties. Russian gas giant Gazprom is expanding its presence in Syria with additional oil exploration and Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko accompanied Medvedev to discuss the project. The leaders also entertained possible atomic energy development. …

“US-Syrian relations have been deteriorating for some months now, and Syria is losing hope in any peace deal, and that means that there’s gong to be conflict between Syria and Israel,” says Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma. “Syria’s strategy is going to be to try to isolate the US in the Middle East, and to hang Israel around America’s neck.”

Russia seeks to become regional player in Middle East
Phil Sands, May 12. 2010, the National

DAMASCUS // The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, yesterday criticised the United States for not doing enough to foster peace in the Middle East, warning that the regional situation was “dangerous” and could slip out of control….

Russia says may build nuclear power plant in Syria
Tue May 11, 2010
By Denis Dyomkin

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Russia may help build a nuclear power plant in Syria, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told Reuters on Tuesday as the Kremlin moved to strengthen ties with a Soviet-era ally in the Middle East.

Repairs to Syrian planes to go ahead: The US has authorized the German company Lufthansa Technik to upgrade the engines of Syria’s Airbus 320 and Boeing 747 planes which were grounded in Germany while undergoing repairs.

Drawing the Poverty Line By Dalia Haidar – Syyia Today

CBS News: Israel: Syria Replaces Iraq in “Axis of Evil”
2010-05-12 09:35:29.899 GMT

Home World TOKYO, May 12, 2010 Israel: Syria Replaces Iraq in “Axis of Evil” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Says North Korea, Syria, and Iran Forging Dangerous Coalition Font size Print E-mail Share 0 Comments Israeli Foreign Minister …

Israel and Palestine: The two sides move crabwise as indirect negotiations begin
May 13th 2010 | JERUSALEM | From The Economist print edition
I never said freeze

THE long-awaited “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians have started, but if the American State Department had not publicly announced them, few people would have noticed. …. Building would not, he insisted, be frozen anywhere in Jerusalem.

Turkey, Russia Sign Agreement on Oil Pipeline
Turkey, Russia sign deals on nuclear power plant, pipeline to carry Russian oil to Europe

The two leaders also signed an agreement to work on a pipeline project that would pump Russian oil from the Black Sea port of Samsun in northern Turkey to the Ceyhan oil terminal on the Mediterranean in southern Turkey, where an oil refinery would be set up. From there, the oil would be shipped to Europe.

The goal of the project is to bypass Turkey’s Bosporus strait to alleviate the congested oil tanker traffic through the narrow waterway that bisects Istanbul en route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Russia’s gas exports have made it the second largest trading partner of Turkey. Both sides have recently been working to improve their diplomatic relations and trade ties.

“By taking these steps, Turkey is taking its position as an energy hub to a much different level,” Erdogan said. “The solidarity with Russia on this issue is of utmost importance.”

On Wednesday, Turkey and Russia also agreed to mutually lift entry visa requirements for visits of up to 30 days in an effort to boost tourism and business. About 3 million Russian tourists visit Turkey annually.

Sex tape opens bright future for Turkey
Opposition leader Deniz Baykal’s resignation after a sex scandal removes the main impediment to democratic modernisation
Stephen Kinzer,, Tuesday 11 May 2010

Turkey is steadily strengthening its position as a regional power. Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, travelled to Turkey last week to discuss prospects for a new approach to Middle East crises. Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, also turned up in Ankara, and proclaimed that the two countries had reached the point of “strategic partnership”. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has joined with President Luis Lula da Silva of Brazil to shape a new compromise between Iran and the west on nuclear issues; Iranian officials welcomed it as “a good proposal for us” and said they were “optimistic we can reach an agreement”.

Republicans block Syria envoy confirmation motion Laura Rozen

Senate Republicans blocked a unanimous consent motion to confirm Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Syria this afternoon. Coburn has objected to 108 Obama nominations (and still counting).

Why Syria will keep saying ‘no’ to Washington
The US must get real leverage before talking to its better-prepared and a tougher-minded adversary, Syria.
By Bilal Y. Saab / May 11, 2010

Washington’s strategy of selective engagement with Syria has not produced any tangible results. The question is: Why does Damascus continue to do the opposite of what the Obama administration wants it to?

There are two reasons:

First, Washington still lacks real leverage in its talks with Damascus. To make things worse, Syria currently enjoys a relatively comfortable position in the region, partly because of Washington’s lack of a coherent Syria policy but also because of its own efforts to develop its military alliance with Iran, enhance its political relations with Turkey and Iraq, and restore its power-broker role in Lebanese politics.

The second, and perhaps more important, reason why President Obama’s strategy has failed is because Syria is not interested in what Washington is currently selling.

Israel’s fated bleak future
By John J. Mearsheimer
May 9, 2010, Chicago Tribune

President Barack Obama has finally coaxed Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He and most Americans hope that the talks will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, that is not going to happen. Instead, those territories are almost certain to be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will then be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.

….. The best Obama can hope for is to push forward the so-called peace process, but most people understand that these negotiations are a charade. The two sides will engage in endless talks while Israel continues to colonize Palestinian lands. The likely result, therefore, will be a Greater Israel between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
But who will live there and what kind of political system will it have?

Israel Accelerates planning for future settlements :

[S]ince the construction freeze was introduced, several major neighborhood plans for settlement where either approved or advanced in the relevant planning committees. Those plans include together thousands of housing units in extremely sensitive places, and some of them were pending for years while consecutive governments avoided advancing them. When negotiating the construction freeze, the U.S. administration did not listen to Israeli voices who repeatedly warned of the shortcomings in a construction freeze that did not include a planning freeze. The result, as anticipated, is severe, and its first signal arrived less than a week after the moratorium was declared: The West Bank planning committee approved a plan for a new neighborhood of 360 housing units in the Talmon settlement, deep in the West Bank. The plan retroactively Koshered 60 illegal houses already built and allowed the erection of hundreds of new ones. The plan was pending for years and the settlers have failed time and again to have it approved. In the same way other plans were advanced since the moratorium was declared, most of them far from the 1967 line and others in East Jerusalem.

The settlers are preparing for the day after the construction freeze; the day of the de-freeze. And when that day comes, they are certain a construction boom of significant scale will commence.

Hizballah Prepares for the Next War
By Nicholas Blanford / Jezzine, South Lebanon Monday, May. 10, 2010

….”The next war is coming, 100%, but we don’t know when,” says Ali, a thickly muscled university student. “We have big plans for it. God willing, you will see the end of Israel.” (See pictures of Lebanon in crisis.)Like all Hizballah fighters interviewed for this article, Ali requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to talk to the press. Although Hizballah and Israel both insist they do not want another war, neither side has disguised its preparations for that possibility. Since the end of its latest bout with the Israeli military, in July and August 2006, Hizballah has built new defensive lines and firing positions, the fighters say, in the hills flanking the Bekaa and along the rugged, mountainous spine running up the middle of southern Lebanon.

….But the resolve of the Hizballah combatants remains unshaken by Israeli threats…. Although last month’s Israeli claims that Syria transferred Scud ballistic missiles to Hizballah remain unsubstantiated — and some military analysts are skeptical, given the rocket’s size and cumbersome logistical requirements — the group is believed to have acquired Syrian-manufactured M-600 guided rockets. The M-600, a copy of an Iranian rocket, can carry a 1,100-lb. (500 kg) warhead a distance of 155 miles (250 km), and its guidance system allows Hizballah to target Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv from hidden bases in the northern Bekaa Valley. (Read “Israel Claims Iran Weapons Intercept.”)

Hizballah’s possession of the M-600 is “just the tip of the iceberg,” Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, Israel’s top military intelligence analyst, told a Knesset committee on Tuesday, May 4. “Hizballah currently has an arsenal of thousands of rockets of all kinds and ranges, including solid-fueled rockets, with a longer range and more accurate,” he said.

Besides seeking new weapons systems, the Shi’ite militia is also finding innovative ways to utilize older armaments, such as the guerrilla-standard RPG-7 grenade launcher and the recoilless rifle, a near obsolete antitank weapon. “The RPG-7 is old but still a good weapon,” says Ali. “It’s how you use them that counts. We are always studying new combat techniques.”

Israel’s heavily armored tanks are to receive a newly developed defense system that fires mini-interceptors to destroy incoming antitank missiles. Hizballah fighters, without revealing details, say they are training to overcome such sophisticated defenses by “swarming” Israeli tanks with low-tech antitank weapons.

Hizballah’s battle plans may also include having fighters infiltrate Israel to carry out raids and sabotage missions — a move that would be unprecedented in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israeli doctrine is to fight its wars in the territory of its enemies rather than on its home front. Says Ali: “God willing, we will go into Palestine next time.”

Despite the mounting tension, Israel’s pledge — and vast capability — to inflict catastrophic damage on Lebanon and the scale of Hizballah’s arms buildup functions as a kind of mutual deterrence that has brought the usually volatile frontier its longest period of calm in 40 years.

NBC/ here

“… U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources tell NBC News that Hezbollah actually obtained the UAVs from Iran and that Iranian soldiers are stationed just across the border to help operate them. At an airshow in Iran earlier this year, an aviation official showed off Iran’s UAVs to NBC News.”When you turn on the engine, it takes off and flies,” Abbas Fallah of Iran Aircraft Manufacturing told us. “It’s so easy!” We asked Fallah if the UAV was a “weapon of mass destruction.” “I don’t think so!” he laughed.

Iranian officials have both taken credit for supplying the UAVs to Hezbollah and denied it… (sort of “Drone Ambiguity”, similar to Israel’s policies…) U.S. and Israeli intelligence believes Iran gave Hezbollah a half-dozen UAVs which feed live video and have sophisticated guidance systems……. “The danger is that Hezbollah will now have the capability to inflict greater damage on Israel by more precise targeting,” says Joseph Cirincione, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Israel cannot simply take those attacks.”

Already Israel’s vastly superior military is embarrassed that a terror group’s little unmanned spy plane has been able to penetrate Israeli airspace — twice.

WSJ(5/12) Russia, In Internal Report, Signals Shift
2010-05-11 23: WALL STREET JOURNAL
By Gregory L. White

MOSCOW — Russia outlined, in a confidential report, a shift toward a more pragmatic foreign policy aimed at building closer ties with the U.S. and Europe to help modernize its outdated industries. The program detailed a shift away from the more confrontational line the Kremlin had taken in past years. It singled out the Obama administration for praise for its more cooperative approach to Moscow.

A Russian official confirmed the authenticity of the document, which was addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It was earlier reported by Russian Newsweek, which ran the document’s full text on its website. A Kremlin spokesman said the program, dated February, hasn’t been officially approved. But some elements, such as a deal with the U.S. to reduce nuclear weapons, have already been implemented. Its spirit was reflected Sunday, when U.S. and European troops for the first time marched alongside Russian forces during Moscow’s annual military parade marking the end of World War II.

“It’s a document that reflects the mainstream in today’s Russian political leadership,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. The report also includes insights into Moscow’s relationships with former Soviet republics. It calls for taking advantage of the global financial crisis to acquire industrial and energy assets in the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine and Central Asia — all areas where Russian influence is a sensitive political issue.

On many issues, the Kremlin hasn’t lined up completely with the West. On a visit to Syria on Tuesday, Mr. Medvedev suggested Moscow might be interested in nuclear-energy deals there. The U.S. has opposed any nuclear cooperation with Syria until Damascus allays international concerns a suspected nuclear-weapons program destroyed by an Israeli strike in 2007. On the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials say Russia has largely come around to supporting Washington’s efforts to tighten sanctions on Tehran. But the report leaked Monday names Iran as a potential flash point for renewed conflict with the West in the event of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, which Moscow staunchly opposes.

DJ Israel’s Lieberman: North Korea Shipping WMDs To Syria
2010-05-11 12:11:11.687 GMT

JERUSALEM (AFP)–Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday accused nuclear power North Korea of supplying Syria with weapons of mass destruction. Lieberman’s office quoted him as telling Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a meeting in Tokyo that such activity threatened to destabilize east Asia as well as the Middle East. “The cooperation between Syria and North Korea is not focused on economic development and growth but rather on weapons of mass destruction” Lieberman said.

In evidence he cited the December 2009 seizure at Bangkok airport of an illicit North Korean arms shipment which U.S. intelligence said was bound for an unnamed Middle East country. Lieberman said Syria intended to pass the weapons on to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and to the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza and has its political headquarters in Damascus……

Missed Engagement: BY GARY ACKERMAN | MAY 10, 2010, Foreign Policy

In Congress, vitriol and partisan attacks are dominating the debate over the next U.S. ambassador to Syria.

Nuclear agency set to focus on Israel

The latest pressure is putting the Jewish state in an uncomfortable position. It wants the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from getting atomic weapons but at the same time brushes off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities. Additionally, Amano, in a letter obtained Wednesday by the AP, has asked foreign ministers of the agency’s 151 member states for proposals on how to persuade Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…..

Turkish Fm on Tripartite Summit of Turkey, Syria and Qatar
Monday, 10 May 2010

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday that Turkey, Syria and Qatar condemned the statements aiming to escalate tension in the region. … “The participants exchanged views on some very fundamental regional matters. The three countries primarily reaffirmed their support to both restoration of a fair and permanent peace between Palestine and Israel based on related UN resolutions and establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” he said…..

Saudi Arabia reiterates stand on nuke-free Mideast: The Kingdom has reiterated the importance of keeping the Mideast region free of nuclear weapons and has said stability and security never come through the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction….

WSJ(5/11) Column: What Is Happening To Turkey?
By Bret Stephens

Istanbul — Last week I asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. The dean of Middle East historians speculated that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran — even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic. …..

Reading the news about Turkey from afar, it’s easy to see what Prof. Lewis means. Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dramatically recast the traditional contours of Turkish foreign policy. Gone are the days when the country had a strategic partnership with Israel, involving close military ties and shared enemies in Syria and Iran and the sundry terrorist groups they sponsored. Gone are the days, too, when the U.S. could rely on Turkey as a bulwark against common enemies, be they the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Today, Mr. Erdogan has excellent relations with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, whom the prime minister affectionately calls his “brother.” He has accused Israel of “savagery” in Gaza and opened a diplomatic line to Hamas…

So why do so many Turks, including more than a few secularists and classical liberals, seem mostly at ease with the changes Mr. Erdogan has wrought? A possible answer may be self-delusion: Liberals were also at the forefront of the Iranian revolution before being brutally swept aside by the Ayatollah Khomeini. But that isn’t
quite convincing in Turkey’s case.

More plausible is Turkey’s economic transformation under the AKP’s pro-free market stewardship. Inflation, which ran to 99% in 1997, is down to single digits. Goldman Sachs anticipates 7% growth this year, which would make the country Europe’s strongest performer — if only Europe would have it as a member. Turks now look on the EU with diminished envy and growing contempt. One time arch-rival Greece mostly earns their pity.

Chief among the beneficiaries of this transformation has been the AKP’s political base: an Islamic bourgeoisie that was long shut out of the old statist arrangements between the country’s secular political and business elites. Members of this new class want to send their daughters to universities — and insist they be allowed to do so wearing headscarves. They also insist that they be ruled by the government they elected, not by the “deep state” of unelected and often self-dealing officers, judges and bureaucrats who defended the country’s secularism at the expense of its democracy and prosperity.

The paradoxical result is that, as the country has become wealthier and (in some respects) more democratic, it has also shed some of its Western trappings. Mr. Erdogan’s infatuations with his unsavory neighbors undoubtedly stems form his own instincts, ideology and ego. But it also reflects a public sentiment that no longer wants Turkey to be a stranger in its own region, particularly when it so easily can be its leader. Some Turks call this “neo-Ottomanism,” others “Turkish-Gaullism.” Whichever way, it is bound to discomfit the West.

The more serious question is how far it all will go. Some of Mr. Erdogan’s domestic power plays smack of incipient Putinism. The estrangement from Israel is far from complete, but an Israeli attack on Iran might just do the trick. And it’s hard to see why Mr. Erdogan should buck public opinion when it comes to Turkey’s alliance with the U.S. when he’s prepared to follow public opinion in so many other matters.

Most importantly, will the Erdogan brand of Islamism remain relatively modest in its social and political ambitions, or will it become aggressive and radical? It would be wrong to pretend to know the answer. It would be insane not to worry about the possibility.

Israel ready for peace with Syria
11.05.2010, 13:21

Israelis ready to sign a peace agreement with Syria but will not give up the Golan Heights, Israeli President Shimon Peres said addressing students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Mr. Peres said that if Israeli troops leave the Heights, Hezbollah militants will immediately deploy its weapons there with thousands of missiles targeted against Israel. Commenting on the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Peres said he approved a peaceful solution to it but added that Tel Aviv wants solid security guarantees.

BBC MidEast: Asif Shawkat identified as deputy chief of staff on Syrian TV

Syrian Satellite Television leads its main evening newscast at 1730 gmt on 6 May with reports on the marking of Martyrs’ Day in Syria.

The channel reports that on this occasion President Bashar al- Asad visited the Martyrs Monument, where he placed a wreath after a 21-gun salute and the playing of the national anthem.

The channel reports that President Al-Asad shook hands with the high- ranking officials greeting him. Among those greeting him was Lt- Gen Asif Shawkat, who was identified as deputy chief of staff. This is the first official Syrian mention of the title and comes after Shawkat’s absence from the media scene for the past few months.

Shawkat had served as the head of the military intelligence until July 2009, when he was appointed as deputy chief of staff.

The channel adds that President Al-Asad held a lunch banquet in honour of the children of the martyrs on this occasion, which Shawkat attended as well.

Originally published by Syrian TV satellite service, Damascus, in Arabic  6 May 10.

Peace Now: Construction for largest East Jerusalem settlement has begun
Anti-settlement group says renovations within former police station did not require municipal building permits – official approval that could torpedo the new peace negotiations.
By Haaretz Service

The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said Sunday that renovation work has recently begun for the construction of 14 housing units in an old Israel Police station in East Jerusalem, where plans are in the works for the largest Jewish neighborhood in that part of the city.

Some 50 Jewish families currently live in six buildings in Ras al-Amud, where an American Jewish millionaire has purchased land for Jewish settlement.

The plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on the land where the former headquarters of the Judea and Samaria police was housed before it was moved to a new building in Area E-1.

The plan involves high-end housing and the complex will include a swimming pool, mini “country club,” community library and parking spaces. A synagogue, kindergartens and a mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath) are also planned for construction there.

A foot bridge will connect the new settlement with existing ones on the other side of the road. The settlement of Ma’aleh Zeitim across the street currently houses 51 families and in its second phase of development, which is currently being completed, another 66 housing units are being built.

When the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, a Jewish settlement of more than 1,000 people will be situated in the heart of Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood comprising 14,000 Palestinians

Fatah: Israel planning mall in East Jerusalem

Published yesterday (updated) 11/05/2010 20:03

Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israel is planning to build a shopping mall in East Jerusalem on three dunums of land owned by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowments, behind the US Consulate, Fatah Jerusalem Affairs official Hatem Abdul Qader said Tuesday.

The land’s trustee was handed down administrative orders, including eviction notices, from the director of the Israel Lands Administration, claiming the land as government owned rather than residential, Abdul Qader said.

The new building plan, filled as 4832 A in Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, was ratified by all the necessary Israeli municipal departments and is prepared for implementation, he said.

The land tipped for evacuation and confiscation belongs to Ash-Sheikh Shams Ad-Din Al-Yamalli, and the land has been owned by the Islamic Waqf for over 400 years, the Fatah official added, and is being rented by three Palestinians.

Turkish ambassador to Syria: Relations developing tremendously…” (Thanks to

On May 7, the Saudi-owned London-based Al-Hayat daily carried in its paper edition the following article by its correspondent in Damascus Ibrahim Hamidi: “Turkish Ambassador to Damascus Omar Onhon told Al-Hayat that Syria and Turkey have succeeded in building a strong partnership and that their bilateral relations should be taken as an example for good neighbor and regional cooperation. The ambassador was quoted by Al-Hayat as saying: “The relations we have with Syria are to be an example for the Middle East states…… This relationship is very important for the stability of the region and I can tell you that we are in agreement over most issues and share the same views over most developments. But this does not mean that we have formed an axis against any third party. Quite the contrary. Nonetheless, this region has always faced many problems and it is very healthy that the two nations get closer and resolve their problems peacefully….”” – Al-Hayat, United Kingdom

Human Rights Award Goes to Imprisoned Syrian Lawyer
2010-05-07 14:16:17.480 GMT

Geneva (dpa) — Muhannad Al-Hassani, a Syrian lawyer currently in prison, was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the committee announced Friday. Al-Hassani, president of the Syrian Organization for Human
Rights, “has bravely defended human rights and challenged the oppressive legal framework imposed by the Syrian government,” the prize’s jury said in its statement.

Syrian-Qatari Holding Signs Definitive Agreement to Develop Syria’s First World-Class Medical Center in Damascus
Mon, May 10, 2010,

The project is the first of its kind in Syria and based on international standards Under the supervision of some of the best Syrian doctors practicing in the USA.  A significant rallying point for Syrian doctors living abroad. …The Medical City will be located in Damascus, in the West Mazzeh area……

…”The Heart Center, for instance, will provide the highest level of skills and expertise to treat a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases, utilizing the most advanced technologies available” says Dr. Kholoki, interventional cardiologist…..

The economic occupation of the Syrian Golan Al-Marsad – The Arab Centre for Human Rights in the Golan, December 2009.

Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………7
Section 1 : Annexation and Settlements – Paving the Way for Economic Exploitation .. 9
1.1 The occupied Golan – A Brief Geographical Overview …………………….10
1.2 The 1967 War and its Outcomes – The Road to Annexation ……………..17
1.3 Annexation – The Undermining of the Legal Status of the occupied Golan.. 21
1.4 The Settlements …………………………………………………………….33
Section 2 : The Business of Colonisation – The Untold Cost of the Settlement Industry.. 54
2.1 Economic Motivations Behind the Settlements …………………………..55
2.2 Economic Sanction and Restrictions Imposed on the Local Population…58
2.3 The Right of Sovereignty over Natural Resources ………………………..85
2.4 The Illegality of Settlement Products ………………………………………….87
Section 3 : Active Acquiescence – Settlement Products and the Failings of Europe.. 90
3.1 EU-Israel Trade Relations – A Brief Overview ……………………………91
3.2 Human Rights and EU-Israel Relations …………………………………..105
3.3 An Overview of Corporate Complicity …………………………………….114
3.4 Companies Linked to Settlement Production in the Golan ……………..117

Comments (64)


This arms deal between Russia and Syria is the final nail in the coffin of Obama’s initiative to improve US-Syrian relations. Bashar has flipped the US off. The regime has given priority to its acquisition of weapons over lifting the sanctions. Unfortunately, the Syrian people will pay.

May 14th, 2010, 10:01 pm


jad said:

Jewish settlers shoot dead Palestinian youth: police

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The body of a Palestinian teenager was found in the occupied West Bank on Friday, and Palestinian police and witnesses said he had been shot dead by Jewish settlers after he threw rocks at their car.
The body of 16-year-old Aysar Zaben was not found until after midnight, although the incident happened on Thursday on a road near the city of Ramallah, they said.
An Israeli police spokesman said the incident was being investigated but it was not clear exactly what took place or who was responsible.
Witnesses said a group of Palestinian teenagers threw rocks at a car carrying Jewish settlers as they drove past. The armed settlers then fired at the stone throwers.
The death was the first on either side since Israel and the Palestinians began indirect peace talks on Saturday.
An Israeli army spokesman said that later on Friday, Palestinians had shot at a car belonging to Israelis traveling in the West Bank and that two people were slightly hurt when bullets shattered the car windows. He said troops were searching the area for suspects.
A Palestinian security source told Reuters the shooting may have been prompted by the killing of the teenager, as it happened in the same area.
“It appears as if this was a retaliation shooting,” said the Palestinian source, who declined to be named.
Some 500,000 Jewish settlers and about 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and areas near Jerusalem annexed by Israel after its victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

May 15th, 2010, 5:18 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Syria is getting MIG 29 fighters,but lets not forget that Iraq had 13 of them ,in 1991,five of them were shut down by F 15 and eight were flawn to Iran,and still there,Israel is getting F 35 stealth fighters,much more advanced than F 15,or F 16

May 15th, 2010, 11:12 am


why-discuss said:

The response of Bashar al Assad to Obama’s hesitations in confronting Israel and its allies in the Congress is very rewarding. While Israel is getting US anti missile, Syria will get Russian anti-missile. While the US congress is renewing sanctions, the Russian president makes a spectacular visit to Syria. While Israel is pushing to punish Iran for its nuclear development, Russia will build a nuclear reactor in Syria.
Gradually more friends of Israel are defecting or getting less enthusiastic in supporting its rogue regime. This is probably Obama’s strategy: Officially reassuring Israel(and its congress allies) of the US support by providing it with sophisticated defense system but in the same time discreetly undermining Israel’s position in the international community. As Obama cannot openly pressure the congress and Israel, he seems to be using the international community and in particular Turkey, Russia and the UN to do that. I guess he has no choices, but the consequence is a ever more decreasing economical role and prestige of the US in the Aab world.

May 15th, 2010, 1:27 pm


Ghat Albird said:


Interesting synopsis. Your comment about Israel getting a missile system was put into the following headline on the internet.

“Obama wants US taxpayers to pay for an Israeli defense ’scam’”.

The Israeli/zionist jewish impact in the US is best understood in the readings and expositions of Rabbi Dov Fischer who is an attorney and national vice president of the Zionist Organnization of America.

In an essay titled, “We’re Right, the Whole World is Wrong”, Rabbi Fischer tells readers: “If we Jews are anything, we are a people of history … Our history provides the strength to know that we can be right and the whole world wrong.” He goes on:

“We were right, and the whole world was wrong. The Crusades. The blood libels and the Talmud burnings in England and France, leading those nations to expel Jews for centuries. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. The ghettos the Mortara case in Italy. Dreyfus in France. Beilis in Russia and a century’s persecution of Soviet Jewry. The Holocaust. Each time, Europe stood by silently — or actively participated in murdering us — and we alone were right, and the whole world was wrong.

“Today, once again, we alone are right and the whole world is wrong. The Arabs, the Russians, the Africans, the Vatican…. No mention of America period.

Its no surprise then that as you suggest,

“As Obama cannot openly pressure the congress and Israel, he
seems to be using the international community and in particular
Turkey, Russia and the UN to do that. I guess he has no choices,
but the consequence is a ever more decreasing economical role
and prestige of the US in the Aab world.”

As the saying goes in Monte Carlo’s casinos, “Les jeux sont faits” or in Las Vegas talk “foregt it”.

May 15th, 2010, 3:12 pm


scott sulllivan said:

Germany intends to build a strategic corridor to the Middle East via the Balkans from Croatia, Albania, and Turkey to the Iran-Pakistan Axis, which will outfit Germany’s nuclear program so that Gemany can recoup its WW II losses.

Meanwhile, the Arab States, backstopped by Russia and France, are focused on a strategic alignment of Russia, Greece, Serbia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Hezbollah, the PA, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

China’s role in this strategic realignment has yet to be determined. On the positive side, China has just signed an agreement with Karzai that will authorize China to take over peacekeeping in Afghanistan as US forces are withdawn. With this agreement, signed just a few days before Karzai met with Obama, China dealt a significant blow to Pakistan/ISI-CIA intervention in Afghanistan. On the negative, pro-Iran/Germany side, China has just agreed to supply nuclear materials to Pakistan. My view is that at the end of the day, China will align with Afghanistan, not Pakistan, Iran. and Germany.

Finally, Iraq’s role in this strategic realignment — for or against Syria, France and Russia — has yet to be determined.

See below for an excellent Syrian analysis of the ongoing power realignment in the Middle East.

Syria asks Russia to lean on Israel
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been in the headlines, first for describing his predecessor Joseph Stalin as a “totalitarian dictator” and then for making the first state visit to Syria by a Kremlin chief since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Medvedev met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during his Syria visit and in an unprecedented move wrote a front-page editorial for Syria’s daily al-Watan on how important bilateral relations are between Damascus and Moscow.

During the two-day visit, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian counterpart agreed a 14-point declaration which included periodic presidential visits as well as cooperation on

tourism, education, military affairs, investment and trade and prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

A strongly worded statement was also issued calling for peace in the Middle East based on United Nations resolutions and the restoration of the June 4, 1967 borders of Israel, which would return all occupied land to the Arabs. It also called for a solution to the Palestinian refugee question and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

At the summit there were calls for Russia to use its influence to convince the Israelis – who the Syrians insist are not interested in peace – back to the negotiating table. This has long been an objective of the Kremlin.

Damascus also called on Medvedev to get the US, “which is not doing enough”, to jump-start serious peace talks on restoring the Golan Heights to Syria. Assad called on Medvedev to use Russia’s influence – given that it was one of the co-chairs of the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 – to “convince Israel of the necessity of peace”.

For his part, although promising to do his best, Medvedev did not sound optimistic that any breakthroughs were on the horizon. He mention an “increase in tension” that might, he prophesized, “lead to a catastrophe”. If that happens, he said, “Moscow will not stand with arms folded”.

Russian pressure on Israel – depending on who one talks to in the Middle East – might or might not lead to any breakthrough. The Israelis have never trusted the Russians – not during the Cold War nor since – claiming the Russians always take the side of the Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Since his landmark visit to Paris in the summer of 2008 the Syrian president has been urging world capitals to play a serious role in bolstering regional peace talks. The US administration of George W Bush was not interested and today the Barack Obama administration is seemingly unable to apply any real pressure on the Israelis, thanks to a troublesome congress at home and a hardline government in Israel.

The Israelis apparently never forgave Obama for his speech in Cairo in June 2009, in which he promised to bring the Palestinians justice and end Israeli settlements in their lands. Earlier this year, they threw dust in the eyes of Vice President Joseph Biden by announcing that they were about to construct 1,600 new settlements in Jerusalem during his high-profile visit to Israel to begin “proximity talks”.

United States Middle East envoy George Mitchell has met with both nation’s leaders in an attempt to rekindle peace talks but few are optimistic they will lead anywhere. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at best only represents 50% of the Palestinian street in the West Bank as the other half, controlled by Hamas in Gaza, is categorically opposed to any talks as long as the Israeli siege of the strip continues.

The fact that Abbas cannot abandon certain rights related to Jerusalem and refugees – and the likelihood of new war erupting between Israel and Hezbollah this summer – makes it highly doubtful that any breakthrough can be made in the Middle East, no matter how hard the Russians try.

Real progress, however, can be made in economic matters between Syria and Russia. The Syrians are focused on becoming a regional hub in terms of gas, oil and transportation, building on their excellent relations with countries like Russia and Turkey.

When addressing one of the numerous Syrian-Turkish business forums, Assad once spoke of an “economic space” that “one day will be complete, [where] we will then be linking the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Arab Gulf”. He added, “When we link these four seas, we will become the obligatory connector for this entire world, in terms of investment and transport.”

Syria could serve as a hub for joint investments in energy, industry, agriculture, telecommunications, banking and technology as well as a route for Arab and Asian oil and gas to European markets via the Mediterranean. Turkey could then become a connecting point for electricity networks between Europe and the Arab and Asian regions.

Transportation of goods by rail is already underway from the Iraqi port city of Um Qasr in the Arabian Gulf to the Syrian port city of Latakia, which lies on the Mediterranean. There is also a project to bring the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline into operation with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd). Another pipeline is in the works, with a capacity of 1.4 million bpd that will link the Iraqi gas plant in Akkas to a Syrian plant linked to the Jordanian and Egyptian plants which would branching out to Lebanon and Europe.

During a 2009 visit by Greek President Karolos Papoulias to Damascus, he raised the same topic with Syrian officials. His country, he said, could serve as a connecting point between the Black Sea, the Adriatic Ocean and the Balkan Peninsula, where 4,000 Greek and Russian companies are already in operation. A Russian company is currently working on two gas factories in the Syrian midland, with a production capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per day, while a Russian oil company is undergoing excavation works in the Abu Kamal region, near the Syrian border with Iraq.

The Syrians believe they are capable of becoming the arrival and distribution point for goods coming from the Mediterranean, the Gulf and neighboring countries, something raised before the Turks at a summit in Istanbul on May 8, and with Medvedev during his recent visit to Damascus on May 11. To do that, the Syrians need peace in the Middle East, something that is becoming increasingly far-fetched given the inability of the Obama administration to apply any pressure on Israel. This is where Russian diplomacy can come into play.

The two sides have a long history of sound relations dating to the 1940s. Veteran Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov famously visited Damascus in the summer of 1944, refusing to recognize the French Mandate over Syria or meet any French official during his stay, insisting that his only interlocutors were elected Syrian officials.

Two years later, the Soviets used their veto power at the UN Security Council to drown a European initiative to extend the French Mandate over Syria and in 1956, during the height of the Suez Crisis, then-Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli landed in Moscow to start a formal relationship that has been uninterrupted for the past 54 years, followed by his defense minister Khaled al-Azm in the summer of 1957, where he signed economic and military treaties with the Soviets.

Back then, Quwatli pleaded for support of the “great Russian army that defeated Hitler” in saving Egypt from a British-French-Israeli war over the Suez Canal. The relationship was further cemented with strong Russian backing for Syria during the war of 1967, taking a new turn when president Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970.

Although Assad refused to sign a friendship agreement with the Soviet Union throughout the first 10 years of his presidency, he nevertheless relied on Soviet experts to train and arm the Syrian army, build roads, bridges and the famous Euphrates Dam. Since he came to power in 2000, Bashar al-Assad visited Russia in 2005, 2006 and in 2008, less than two weeks after the US-backed Georgian army rumbled into South Ossetia, which infuriated the Kremlin.

Sending a strong message to the Russians ahead of his 2008 trip, Assad spoke to the Russian Kommerstant newspaper: “The Caucasus and Europe are impossible without Russia … I think that after the crisis with Georgia, Russia has become only stronger … It is important that Russia takes the position of a superpower, and then all the attempts to isolate it will fail.”

His words were music to the ears of officials at the Kremlin, who saw a good ally in Assad, a man who realizes that the Russians are back and intends on using this strong reality to advance his own country’s interests, vis-a-vis stability of the Middle East and restoration of the occupied Golan Heights to its rightful owners.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria. 14 may, 2010

May 15th, 2010, 5:53 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Interesting AlJazeera program: ‘The Rageh Omaar Report – Turkey’s new visionary’.
I’m absolutely pro-AKP. They are surly better than the bigoted Turkish nationalists / aging elites.

And a question to NOUR: is Kurdish a nation ?

May 15th, 2010, 8:12 pm


Shami said:

Thank you Amir ,Turkey is ruled by effective people,regardless their social conservatism.The important is that they are sophisticated people with good education.
The Asads and corrupt cronies humiliated Syria by destroying the positive values of our people,Syria would have been probably like Turkey today ,we were ahead of Turkey in many fields few decades ago.
Anyway ,nothing is lost ,the regimes die and the people are eternal.
I believe that after the end of the Asad era ,Syria will not need more than a decade to reach the level of Turkey and even economically ahead of South Korea till 1980.
I also believe in the union of the muslim countries ,but this union must be based on liberal values and not theocracy.
As for the kurds ,they belong to one of the indo european iranian nations.Modern Kurdish nationalism is based on lies as is the case of the Turkish and modern Arab nationalisms.That doesnt mean that kurdish people dont deserve their home country between Arabs,Turks and Persians.

May 16th, 2010, 12:27 am


jad said:

Turkey’s success today couldn’t be achieved without Ataturk’s work and his strict secular rules. Turkey wasn’t built on making religion stronger as you want Shami.
Nations get advanced when they adopt science and hard work to govern their people instead of using religion rules and supernatural myths.
Religion pulls nations back and separate citizens, its only place is Mosques, Churches, Synagogues and Temples not the Parliament nor a Ministry office, besides, religion doesn’t teach us how to advance, it just teach us how to look differently at each others and go backward.
Go ahead build your Islamic Nation and let’s see how far you can go, I bet that you will be the same level as Afghanistan in less than 10 years, Enjoy your own creation 🙂

May 16th, 2010, 1:01 am


why-discuss said:

Shami say “That doesnt mean that kurdish people dont deserve their home country between Arabs,Turks and Persians.”

What about the Azeris in Iran, don’t they deserve a country? the Afghan Hazaras too? The Chechens too? The Quebecois in Canada? Why are the armenians in Lebanon and the US not going back to armenia? or the american russian in the US to Russia?
History and colonialism has split the Kurds in different countries. They have developed differently, they have now a different culture. Iranian Kurds have very little in common with Iraqi kurds, even the dialect is different. Now it is too late and useless to reunite them at the expenses of the countries they were assigned to.
In the 21th century I don’t believe same ethnicity is a justification for creating new nations. Jews used that to justify the creation of Israel, that was in 1948. Today it would not have happen so easily! Integration and peacefil coexistence of various ethnicities is the key to growth, and the US and Canada are good example of that.

May 16th, 2010, 1:11 am


jad said:

I repeat what I wrote before, Outri’s government and his ignorant ministers deserve to have their own place in the (Environmental Hall of Shame), what a bunch of environment’s criminals:

تسرب نفطي ومعادن ثقيلة تصل نبع وتمتد لبحيرة الباسل بالحسكة ومخاوف من كارثة بيئية

وثيقة رسمية عمرها اربع سنوات حذرت من وصول التلوث الى البحيرة واقترحت الحلول
مدير الموارد المائية: السبب هو عدم دراسة المنطقة دراسة علمية من قبل شركات متخصصة
عندما أرسل الأهالي المجاورين لبحيرة الباسل في محافظة الحسكة شكوى يتحدثون فيها عن “كارثة بيئية لا تحتمل”، بسبب تسرب النفط من حقل نفط تشرين إلى نبع(عين طابان) ومن النبع إلى بحرية الباسل،
اعتقدنا أنهم يبالغون، لكن حين قصدنا المنطقة وشاهدنا نفوق الاسماك وعدد من طيور الإوز التي عادةً ما تربي على السدود، حتى أن العشب المجاور للمنطقة تخلى عن لونه الأخضر واكتسى اللون الأسود، أدركنا أننا أمام كارثة بيئية تتجاوز أخطارها تلوث مياه البحيرة التي لا زالت تستخدم لري الآلاف الدونمات المزروعة.
وفي وثيقة حصلت عليها سيريانيوز تبين بان المشكلة عمرها أربع سنوات وان هناك اجتماعات عقدت وتمّ خلالها تشخيص المشكلة ووضع الحلول، إلا أن الوقائع على الأرض وبحسب ما أكد مدير الموارد المائية بالمحافظة، تشير الى تفاقم التسرب دون ان تعرف تلك الحلول طريقها للتنفيذ على الأرض.

May 16th, 2010, 1:19 am


majedkhaldoun said:

The kurds mixed with the rest of syrian people and we are stronger if we avoid ethnic fighting,as desired by the zionist entity.
I do not think Shami belives in seperation of Kurds into a seperate is not good for the Kurds,it is not good for the arab,it is good only for our common enemy,the evil murderous zionist entity.

May 16th, 2010, 2:24 am


Shami said:

Jad,i agree with you,the Islamic civilization went down since the rulers encouraged spiritualism through popular Sufism against rationality and intellectual Sufism.But ask yourself who stopped Al Nahda movement which was alive in the Kingdom of Egypt and Syria of the 50’s?
Why Discuss ,you are right ,but Kurdish people are even not allowed to speak their mother tongue in the schools of Kurdish villages ?Kurdish nationalism is not very old and it was in fact encouraged by France with the help of Syrian kurds,(the Kurdish institute in Paris) but it’s also a reaction following political and cultural restrictions.

May 16th, 2010, 2:52 am


Shami said:

Jad,i agree with you,the Islamic civilization went down since the rulers encouraged spiritualism and supra natural beliefs through popular Sufism against rationality and intellectual Sufism,unfortunately it was one of the biggest mistakes of the Ottoman rulers ,specially those after the 16th century .But ask yourself who stopped Al Nahda movement which was alive in the Kingdom of Egypt and Syria till the 50’s?
Why Discuss ,you are right ,but Kurdish people are even not allowed to speak their mother tongue in the schools of Kurdish villages ?Kurdish nationalism is not very old and it was in fact encouraged by France with the help of Syrian kurds,(the Kurdish institute in Paris) but it’s also a defensive reaction following political and cultural restrictions.

May 16th, 2010, 2:54 am


Shami said:

Majedkhaldun ,of course ,even if i believe that the kurds as people deserve their state ,but not under chauvinistic and corrupt leaders like Talebani and Barazani ,who are not better than our dictators.

May 16th, 2010, 3:01 am


why-discuss said:


Countries like Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq have always been suspicious of the Kurds. They believe and history proves it that there are groups who insist on a Kurdish nation and have used military operations to try to force it through. These countries (except Iran) have been amputated from territories by colonialist powers and they all had to build a strong new nationalism after the collapse of the ottoman empire in order to maintain the unity of the territories and resources they were allowed to keep. Such nationalism was incompatible with particular ethnic aspirations. For exemple, interference from neighboring countries such as Russia were one of the causes of the armenian ethnic cleansing in Post Ottoman Turkey. Therefore any manifestation of too close sympathy with neighboring foreign powers and any attempt to call for a separate state has been answered by violence ( prevention of using the languages, military operations etc,). This dynamic has created a vicious circle where Kurds felt they were oppressed and discriminated and this encouraged them even more in calling for an independant state.

We see now a relaxation of these ‘oppressive’ rules and this may create a better atmosphere for a better integration.

May 16th, 2010, 3:10 pm


trustquest said:

Thank you Amir for the video, it is wonderful sum of Turkey standing and vision. Turkey new policy is a dismantling of isolation and the birth of a new industrial tiger in the region. Right leadership will create the right path. I wonder if there are smart leaders in the Arab world to take advantage of this change and rise to the same level.

May 16th, 2010, 4:46 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Speaking of videos this one warrants seeing twice.

May 16th, 2010, 5:02 pm


offended said:

Bret Stephens is an idiot.

May 16th, 2010, 6:00 pm


almasri said:

There are reports that a deal on Uranium exchange is approved. Brazil president arrived in Tehran today and later on was joined by Uglo of Turkey. Eventually, Erdogan flew to Tehran when news of the deal became known. Turkey may be the venue for such exchange.
So another success for Turkey while Europe and the US go down the tube of their economic greed. With the current state of European (and soon American) economic stagnation and a possible relapse into a new era of dark middle ages, Europe may find itself obliged to wait in line for its application for membership into a new Ottoman order to get approved. No doubt all the tragedies committed by the colonialist west during the last century will get erased by the new rising power. That includes of course the puppet crusader enclave of so-called israel. Hopefully, Syriacomment will also benefit when we see all the so-called peace-lovers of the Mossad and AIPAC funded mouthpiece disappear, relieving hapless Arabs, presumably fools, from listening to their pontification about how to get the crumbs left over from Palestine.
Now will the Jews think of going back to being Donmahs again? They can try. But, can they pull the same trick twice?

May 16th, 2010, 9:09 pm


trustquest said:

Does Syria has more urgent needs to spend its money on Meg 29 while the people in the North Eastern are suffering and need solution as we all know that this deal will not change the power balance.
Syria’s arms deal a tragic waste

May 17th, 2010, 12:04 am


Ghat Albird said:

Doesn’t Israel have more urgent needs.. Like building more settlements, roads and walls with US yaxpayers monies?

Obama though wants US taxpayers to pay for an Israeli defense ’scam’.

Israel’s newly developed “Iron Dome” missile defense shield will supposedly provide vital protection from rocket attacks from Gaza or Lebanon.

The system’s manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, says:

The Iron dome is a cost effective system that can handle multiple threats simultaneously and efficiently [and] has been selected by the Israeli Defense Ministry as the best system offering the most comprehensive defense solution against a wide range of threats in a relatively short development cycle and at low cost.

Israel receives $3 billion annually in military aid from US taxpayers, so you’d imagine that the Israeli government would allocate some of that generous aid to pay for Iron Dome. No, instead President Obama just agreed that we should chip in an extra $205 million because Iron Dome “addresses an immediately existing threat to each Israeli citizen,” a senior administration official said.

But while Israel isn’t willing to cover the cost of deploying this system, it is already looking at opportunities to sell it to NATO.

As for the “low cost” the manufacturers tout, perhaps what they mean is that it will be a low cost for Israelis so long as its paid for by Americans. Whether the system would have any real value — that’s a completely different question.

Some of the harshest criticism of the system comes from inside Israel where Tel Aviv University professor and noted military analyst Reuven Pedatzur charged that despite the well-known ineffectiveness of Iron Dome and other missile defense systems, “for the aeronautics and defense industries, it’s a matter of money; and for politicians, supporting such projects allows them to tell the public that they’re doing something, they’re trying to find answers to the threats we face.”

“The Iron Dome is all a scam,” he said. “The flight-time of a Kassam rocket to Sderot is 14 seconds, while the time the Iron Dome needs to identify a target and fire is something like 15 seconds. This means it can’t defend against anything fired from fewer than five kilometers; but it probably couldn’t defend against anything fired from 15 km., either.”

Added Pedatzur: “Considering the fact that each Iron Dome missile costs about $100,000 and each Kassam $5, all the Palestinians would need to do is build and launch a ton of rockets and hit our pocketbook.

The David’s Sling is even worse, he said. “Each one of its missiles costs $1 million, and Hizbullah has well over 40,000 rockets. This issue has no logic to it whatsoever.”

May 17th, 2010, 1:23 am


Akbar Palace said:

Hapless Arabs/AIPAC funded Mouthpiece NewZ

…Syriacomment will also benefit when we see all the so-called peace-lovers of the Mossad and AIPAC funded mouthpiece disappear, relieving hapless Arabs, presumably fools, from listening to their pontification about how to get the crumbs left over from Palestine.
Now will the Jews think of going back to being Donmahs again? They can try. But, can they pull the same trick twice?

Al Masri,

Are you one of the “hapless Arabs” or “fools” “listening to their pontification about how to get the crumbs left over from Palestine”? What makes you different?

Also, please let us know what you are doing to help free Palestine from the Jews and the Israeli-Arabs who don’t want to be incorporated into the Palestinian government.

May 17th, 2010, 11:32 am


why-discuss said:

Iran signs a deal onthe the nuclear swap.
Hilary must bite her tongue to have predicted that Brazil and Turkey’s intervention on Iran’s nuclear issue was doomed. It makes the US foreign diplomacy look even weaker. She should have shut her mouth, like the Europeans did.

The NYT is rushing to say that Iran has a reputation of coming back on its deals ( I wonder where he got that from) and that this deal is making the applications of sanctions ‘complicated’.
He is ‘predicting’ internal economical problems in Iran, I guess he meant the US and Europe..The writer obviously has a problem digesting this breakthrough that makes Israel’s vociferous assaults on Iran much less credible.
Anyway this is victory for Brazil and Turkey and Iran . A victory for Obama too but a slap on the face of Hilary. She deserves it!

May 17th, 2010, 11:53 am


Ghat Albird said:


A victory for Obama too but a slap on the face of Hilary. She deserves it!

How can the fact that the emerging triangle of Syria, Iran and Turkey with Russian and Chinese support and assistance be considered a victory for Obama?

Reading the tea leaves it seems Saudi Arabia is distancing itself from Obama due to the on-goings in Yemen and Turkey and Iraq are annoyed at the Israeli/US machinations with the Kurds. The Brazil connection is also becoming manifest.

It must be evident by now that most if not all the foreign ministers of every state in the world do not want to meet and/or have discussions with the FM of Israel.

The one reality for the US is that its foreign policies have to be changed dramatically from being analyzed and acted upon based almost entirely on domestic policies as well as especially lobbies such as AIPAC.

If Israel as much as fa**ts from now on the consequences it would face could be quite fatal. It seems like after all is said and done that the whole thing was preplanned and gives the lie to whatever Golda Meir said about time being on Israel’s side.

May 17th, 2010, 3:33 pm


jad said:

Dear WD,
I agree with you that this is a good news for the region and I think that the deal is a ‘deserved’ slap in the face for Europe and the US.
But why do you think that this deal is a victory to Obama? the American as well as the Europeans have one dimensional view, full of hypocrisy, when it comes to our region, what differentiate Obama from the rest of the colonialist gangs?
Could you please explain, I’m interested to understand your point.
Thank you 🙂

May 17th, 2010, 4:01 pm


almasri said:

I agree with Ghat that nothing in recent developments can be considered as a victory to Obama. In fact, there are no contradictions on policy within the administration.

I disagree with Ghat about his optimism regarding US’s ability to change its foreign policies with regards to Israel or Middle East as a whole. The US is doomed as much as its puppet enclave is doomed. You can trace US support for zionism all the way back to at least President John Quincy Adams in the 1820s. He said almost 100 years before Balfour that he would really like the Jews to go back and establish an independent state in what he called israel. Ever since, every US president has done his utmost to show allegiance to Zionism. This is not going to change until the US faces its doom along with the eventual doom of its puppet.

Your observations about Saudi Arabia and others are correct. These puppet regimes (Egypt included) are not blind to the historic shifts taking place around them. They too will have to run for cover or face doom as well.

The moral of all of this when all is said and done is as I have been saying all along. There is no room for this zionist enclave in the region because it is a misfit and represents the last fortress of outdated colonialism. America and to a certain extent Europe are now marching on the wrong side of history and they will pay a huge price.

May 17th, 2010, 4:17 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Zionist Enclave & Misfit NewZ

There is no room for this zionist enclave in the region because it is a misfit and represents the last fortress of outdated colonialism.

Al Masri,

Apparently there is LOTS of room on Syria Comment for the “Zionist Enclave”. It provides for the majority of the posts here.

Also, is the Zionist Enclave a “misfit”, because the leadership gets voted in by the people, or is it a misfit, because Israeli arabs have more rights in Israel than anywhere else in the Middle East?

May 17th, 2010, 5:56 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

the deal is a ‘deserved’ slap in the face for Europe and the US.
I think it is a slap in the face of the zionist entity who wants the US to attack Iran,now there is no justification for that.
.Saudia Arabia now, should feels better,since they do not like to see another conflict in the middle East , The good president Obama,should have no pressure from the neocons to attack Iran,and pay attention to the middle east peace dialogue

May 17th, 2010, 6:37 pm


jad said:

“because Israeli arabs have more rights in Israel than anywhere else in the Middle East?”
You’ve been saying the same crap for a very long time and it’s getting too annoying to let it go:
What are the rights of Syrians that you are aware of? What are the rights and duties of being Syrian in the Syrian constitution? Do you know?
How many Syrian’s being kicked out of their land out of ethnic issue, or being threatened to be thrown out of Syria at the border of some neighbouring country? Even some of the Syrian Kurds who doesn’t have the Syrian citizenship and live miserable life in the north, those who our government is not treating them good on many levels they can renovate their houses, their villages and they never ever threaten to be thrown outside Syria, though it will be so easy to tell them to go to Kurdistan Iraq and solve the problem in the most dictatorial way you can imagine, YET nothing of that did happen and we are not even EUROPEAN/DEMOCRATIC/SUPPORTED BY THE WHOLE WORLD like your ‘Heaven’!!!!

What rights are you talking about?
The right to criticise the government? Even in the local/National newspaper everyday you read many article mocking the government and showing how bad it is, you can call the National radio station every morning and tell them about a problem and they will call the minister/manager/director responsible of the problem you are talking about ON THE AIR.
What right?
Full freedom of speech? We don’t have that much of it but you have the internet and these days you can read and write anything you want without any I care about this right, ofcourse I do, but is it more important for me than living in sovereign country, ABSOLUTELY NOT!
To go demonstrate in the street against the government? We don’t have that, BIG DEAL!
To criticise the president? We don’t have that either WOHOO!! I can’t sleep or live because of this important right!!
To attack each and every sect and religion group in Syria? We don’t have that either what a big lost!! So we can’t have a lovely Civil War!!
To have a free elections? It’s 50/50 we go crazy electing our parliament’s members, we go crazy electing the local municipality councils, we go crazy electing in our professional bodies.
We don’t elect new president every 4 years; we don’t elect the mayors, so what? It’s not the end of the world for us, we don’t have the urge to do that and I don’t see it as the biggest problem that I’ll support an occupation and call the Palestinians Arab they have more rights than me, what the heck, they live under an occupation, while still a Syrian man/women is the one I’m dealing with everyday wherever I go, even if some of them sucks, bad, corrupted, ignorant, stupid and even evil, they are still SYRIANS.
For me, I’d rather live free without few rights than having all and every right in the world under an ugly occupation.
What other freaking rights you are talking about!

What are the rights of the Palestinians under the Israeli’s occupation in and out of the internationally recognized ‘Israel’ under the Israeli’s constitution? Do you have any clue?
If the Arab Palestinians under the Israeli occupation, who didn’t flee their lands and homes in 1948, were feeling so good in their conditions today why do they always ask for their “RIGHTS’ and why they keep getting attacked in your so called Heaven’s Parliament every couple days?
If they are so happy about the occupation and the way the Israelis treating them why they’ve been killed, attacked, not having the permit to build, renovate and enlarge their villages? Not having the rights to live in Jerusalem/Qouds or any place they like? What rights do they have more than a free Syrian man and woman?

Those are almost all the stupid things you know and I know about Syria and Syrian’s right, so what? Do I or anybody on this forum think for a second that the Arab-Palestinians in Israel have more rights than the Syrians in Syria? I bet that none of the Syrian on here will agree with you for a very simple reason;
“FREEDOM” doesn’t count by only the rights you gave me as an occupier to just say or write what I want, it counts when you have the right to MOVE, WORK, LIVE, DIE and BURRIED anywhere you want in your country without the need to stamp your passport or to get permission from your occupier to do that. We have this ultimate right, The Arab-Palestinians DO NOT!

P.S. I’m not interested to read your reply because I’m sure that it will be another one of your endless tries. As an advice to save your time don’t bother to reply, your comments and views means nothing to me and I always put them in the garbage bin I’m writing just for those who want to know the truth and not to read a repeated boring propaganda.

May 17th, 2010, 7:12 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Daniel Pipes a secret admirer of Arab/Muslim women who won beauty pageants.

May 17th, 2010, 8:16 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

AP the deceiver said
because Israeli arabs have more rights in Israel than anywhere else in the Middle East?
Are the Arab there elected to the Kenesset,with the same proportion as jews?,they represent half the population,do they have the same rights as the jews?Israel is racist country,you are not telling the truth,you continue to be a deceiver,we do not want your lies,your deceiving is disgusting.

May 17th, 2010, 9:06 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

you’re acting childish here… Please don’t answer to this comment.

May 18th, 2010, 2:48 am


why-discuss said:

I believe that Obama like Lulla and Erdogan and most arab leaders and non aligned countries do not seriously believe that Iran will develop and use a nuclear bomb. Whether it has a bomb or not, Iran is a power that disturbs Israel and any pretext should be used to crush it. Now that the Iraq domino military strategy has failed miserably, the only way to weaken Iran is to harass it, using an orchestrated confusion and media manipulation to demonize it and weaken it economically.
The elections, the nuclear programs, human rights abuses …etc. Everything has been used for that purpose.
I think Obama is aware of all that but cannot confront the congress infiltrated by the powerful jewish lobby. Therefore his strategy may be to weaken the nuclear argument against Iran by using third parties, discreetly encouraged, while appearing to act tough for the internal consumption.
This seems to work well until now. Yet, even if the nuclear issue is solved, Israel will soon invoke other dangers to the world coming fron Iran. It will never stop because now that all arab countries are weak militarily ( Iraq has been crushed and the others neutralized), Iran is the only military power that frightens Israel and the only one that can make pressure on Israel.
In addition Iran’s influence may make Iraq take an aggressive position towards Israel and that would be a disaster for the US and Israel. So we will soon see other media announcements on biological weapons that Iran is secretly developing etc..

I am sure Obama is acting in a background diplomacy, using external operators to inflict indirectly more and more headaches and dilemmas to the Israel and the pro-Israelis congressmen.

By the way have you heard Noam Chomsky saying that Israel is becoming a pariah state, like apartheid South Africa. A very tough statement. Obama is probably satisfied behind close door that an external operator is saying what he probably thinks in private.

May 18th, 2010, 4:39 am


Majhool said:

One got to despise Mr. Pipes

Daniel Pipes, an outspoken neoconservative author and former adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, wondered about “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants” — he listed five examples in three countries since 2005 — and suggested that the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant had bowed to affirmative action.

Read more:

May 18th, 2010, 4:45 am


almasri said:

“Saudia Arabia now, should feels better,since they do not like to see another conflict in the middle East , The good president Obama,should have no pressure from the neocons to attack Iran,and pay attention to the middle east peace dialogue”

majedkhaldoun @29,

The Israelis seem to have a different view to what you said above. Today, they conducted what they called Day After maneuvers – i.e. what will happen the day after Iran detonates a nuclear device which they forecast to happen in 2011. According to these maneuvers, the Europeans will not come to help Israel unless Iran becomes capable of threatening Europe. They think that ‘moderate Arabs’ (which we all know means Saudi Arabia among others) will actually come to their help. The maneuvers foresee an immediate attack ordered against Iran and Hezbollah (because Iran would have supplied Hezbollah with nuclear bombs) even without consulting USA. Somehow the USA gets wind of the attack and Obama who would still be President puts pressure on Israel to stop its attack, which it will do after Obama creates a coalition to threaten Iran and Hezbollah. This coalition is made up of so-called moderate Arabs. It seems also that the Israelis foresee some involvement by Syria. For, how else can this coalition
threaten Hezbollah except through Syria?

So, what do you make out of this? Are the Israelis becoming delusional? Do you think Saudi Arabia will join such coalition?

May 18th, 2010, 5:00 am


Off The Wall said:

So Daniel Pipes does not like muslim women, whether covered in Burka or in Bikini. The little twit is a hate machine.

I am waiting to see what will happen to him and his gang when a muslim runs for the senate. It will be very interesting.

I am watching another development in KSA, seems like voices against the religious police are becoming increasingly vocal. There is a transformation going on, and KSA will have much to work internally in the next few years.

May 18th, 2010, 5:21 am


Off the Wall said:

Many on the left-center of US politics would be happy with external actors doing the job they themselves do not have the spine for. Obama is a political animal, and politics is the art of the possible. So, I would not expect a drastic shift in his politics.

That said, one of his mistakes has been offering the state department to Hillary. He should have appointed a realist not a hard core politician. So far, I believe that she has been less than effective Sec of State. Obama had to personally interfere in the current euro crisis, without even any preparation from his state department. There were fabulous opportunities for the US to avoid some of the diplomatic disasters the US is facing now including the impending face-off with Karzai and Allawi, which were state department jobs not military commanders’, or at least to get in on some developing regional coalitions as a friendly supporter instead of staying on the sidelines and watching the US power base withering by the day. But her Israeli influenced prism blinds her as it did many others before. And this prism is likely to continue to erode american credibility not only in the Arab world, but also elsewhere including Europe, especially as Israel slides into morally indefensible apartheid regime by the day.

Every day Arab Israelis watch their stolen heritage, their shattered nation, much of it is now in diaspora, with no hope of re-unification. They suffer the suppression of their history, they live excluded from developments built on land that used to belong to their mothers and fathers, individually or collectively, and see in most settlements and fancy resorts, villages and towns that were destroyed to create such an exclusive state that only tolerate them because ethnic cleansing is not that fashionable and may be politically inconvenient. Their national trauma can never be compensated for by a few seats in the parliament, and their trauma is incomparable, qualitatively and quantitative , to that of the Kurds or any other minority, who still get to buy land and build houses and live in them, unmolested, not only in the area they are concentrated at, but anywhere in any country they live in. Your attempts to reduce and ignore their national trauma by the fact they are allowed some limited political rights and to make the comparison is not only disingenuous, but it is part and parcel of the continuing denial of their national heritage, identity, and will, and a mere attempt to convince your self that Israel is not built on the ruins of their national identity and dreams.

Arab Israeli trauma can only be resolved when Israel accepts its bi-national reality. And Israel is built on denying that reality.

May 18th, 2010, 6:06 am


Akbar Palace said:

AP the Deceiver

Are the Arab there elected to the Kenesset,with the same proportion as jews?

Yes. Israeli Jews and Arabs are represented by the proportion of those who vote. BTW, some Arabs vote Likud.

they represent half the population

Now who is “deceiving” who? Please show where Israeli Arabs “represent half the population”.

do they have the same rights as the jews?

Yes, in the “Apartheid” State (using Professor Josh’s term), Arabs have the same rights as Jews, except they don’t have to serve in the Army.

Israel is racist country,you are not telling the truth,you continue to be a deceiver,we do not want your lies,your deceiving is disgusting.

It is easy repeating the same phrases over and over. It is more difficult actually proving what you say is true. Arabs in Israel have more rights than in any other Middle East country including Syria. That’s a fact.

OTW states:

Every day Arab Israelis watch their stolen heritage, their shattered nation, much of it is now in diaspora, with no hope of re-unification.

Pass the Kleenex. No one “stole” anything. If an “Arab Israeli” wants to leave Israel to live in an Arab majority country like Syria, they’re welcome to do so. Most residents living in Umm el-Fahem PREFER to live in Israel…

And Israel is built on denying that reality.

Only in your mind Off the Wall. Israel doesn’t deny anything, including Freedom of Speech. You’ve been brainwashed HaBB.

On the issue with Daniel Pipes and the beauty contest winner, I disagree with him. I wish this winner all the best. Also, I didn’t realize how much the participants read articles from his website. His other observations and conclusions are pretty insightful.

May 18th, 2010, 11:39 am


majedkhaldoun said:

would you be honest please,would you tell us what is the percentage of Arabs who lives in Israel and how many arab are elected to the Kenesset, and what percentage.can they voice their minds look what happen to Azmi Bshara.
You said they have no right to join the military, this is a major deprivation of their rights, but also many other problems they face, such as confiscating their land and , are they allowed to build mosques? how many mosque was build for them last year?would Israel allow the refugee to come back to their homes and lands?

Al Masri
I do not think that Israel dare attacking Iran without US consent and approval,also KSA will not bow to Europe military is USA what counts.

May 18th, 2010, 12:47 pm


Ghat Albird said:

WHY DISCUSS in #34 makes several observations that suggest that Mr. Obama is influencing the the politics of Brazil, Turkey, etc in orchestrating presumably some policy objective they all have in common.

If this presumption is correct the question becomes what do those [external foreign powers] that Mr. Obama is using as a “political animal” expect in return? What benefits will they get? Hard to accept that the Lulas and others are dedicated to seeing Mr. Obama succeed.

The present reality is that the USA invaded and killed and is killing Arabs and Muslims on a daily basis. A state of belligerency between the US and Iran which began when the Shah was kicked out of Iran is still in effect.

With its control over Iraq the US has allowed Isarelis into the country to foment incidents with the Kurds. The once announced of renewing diplomatic relations with Syria no linger is talked about. In fact several European websites suggest that several CIA financed attempts by corrupt Syrian generals to overthrow Bashar al-Assad were foiled even before they could act early this year.

As a once in while interested observer sitting in an air conditioned office I can only conclude that the above in addition to the US non-reactions to what Israel has been and doing to the Palestenians is that the Arab/muslims are still treated and considered differently than the Israelis. And since that is the reality its quite unprincipled to consider them as the guilty party in all that transpires.

May 18th, 2010, 1:31 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Screaming for Arab Rights is Misdirected

would you be honest please,would you tell us what is the percentage of Arabs who lives in Israel


This information is readily available to the public. Israel isn’t Syria.

According to the CIA World Fact website, there are 7,233,701 Israelis of which, 23.6% are non-Jewish.

and how many arab are elected to the Kenesset, and what percentage.can they voice their minds look what happen to Azmi Bshara.

Currently, there are 14 Israeli-Arabs who are currently serving in the Knesset. Apparently, you didn’t bother to click on the link I posted above.

Azmi Bashar has been accused of treason for aiding Hezbollah. He fled the country and does not desire to face these charges.

MK Hanin Zoabi has welcomed Iranian nuclear weapons even though Iran has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”. So free speech is not a problem in Israel. I know this is difficult for some Arabs to comprehend.

You said they have no right to join the military, this is a major deprivation of their rights

Again, you’re not reading what I wrote. I said they “don’t have to serve” in the IDF. If they want to, they can, and many do.

but also many other problems they face, such as confiscating their land and , are they allowed to build mosques?

Arab lands aren’t “confiscated”, the Palestinian-Israeli border dispute notwithstanding. Arab villages are growing and thriving nicely. I think it is a safe assumption that every Arab town has a mosque. When you drive by an Arab village, they’re fairly easy to spot;)

how many mosque was build for them last year?would Israel allow the refugee to come back to their homes and lands?

I don’t know how many mosques were built last year. Israel and the PA have yet to agree on this. Most agree that refugees will settle in Palestine.

I hope that answers most of your questions. You should visit one day and see for yourself Majedkhaldoun.

May 18th, 2010, 2:24 pm


why-discuss said:

Ghat albird, OFF THE WALL

I don’t think Obama is manipulating Brazil and Turkey but he is using a conjunction of interests to influence Iran’s politics as Hilary, tainted with jewish voters, and the Congress , tainted with the jewish lobby can have only provocative influences.
Brazil is becoming a power to deal with and Turkey’s recent attempts to unite a middle eastern economical front to Europe is gaining ground. Obama must be well aware that only such ‘reasonable and trustworthy’ countries can have any effect on Iran’s total distrust of western countries and for very good reasons, going from the eviction of Mossadegh to the present economical sanctions that they perceive as pernicious and aimed at crushing the basis of their governement to protect their ‘western’ ally: Israel.
Now we see that France is gradually becomimg more nuanced and have made several signs of appeasement. I believe that beyond the nuclear deal, the intervention of Brazil and Turkey is creating a momentum, taking Iran out of its isolation and changing the game.
I am also sure that Israel will want to change the game in its favor by military actions, as it always does when it is cornered. Yet, with Obama in power and the current alliances of Iran, I doubt they can do something else that an increased spread of rumours, carried by their sympathizers.


Hilary known sympathy to her jewish voters is a very convenient ‘jewish’ face that Israel and its allies can trust. Yet, while she voices what her constituents wants to hear, she is practically powerless and Obama is using Mitchel, Petraeus and third parties countries to do the job. This is smart realpolitik and I think he is doing well until now.

May 18th, 2010, 2:29 pm


why-discuss said:


Freedom of speech ?? wake up..
The following extracts were conveniently ignored in the NYT version..

Noah Chomsky

“I really don’t know of any other examples outside of totalitarian states where people are denied entry because they are going to talk at a university. It may in part be just a reflection of the change in climate in Israel; the country has visibly got much more paranoid, circling the wagons and so on,” he said. “In fact, it is rather reminiscent of South Africa in the early 1960s, when it began to be recognised that they were becoming a pariah state and reacted pretty much in the way that Israel is reacting now.”

May 18th, 2010, 2:41 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

according to you the Arab are 23% of the population,but there is only 14 are members of the Knesset which is 120 members this represent 11% this is definitely not fair

You said: ” Most agree that refugees will settle in Palestine”
Israel refused for the refugee to come back to their homes in Palastine this is violation of human rights
You said you do not know the number of Mosque built last year,the number is zero.

May 18th, 2010, 3:18 pm


Ghat Albird said:


Just for you and all the Zionists in the world.

Djerba is an island off thee cost of Tunisi and a noted center of the Islamic sect Al-Ibadhiyah. It is also home to the El Ghriba synagogue which is over 2500 years old and which served the Jewish population on the island.

Most of the Djerba Jews belong to Cohanim, a tribe in Judaism, and have remained loyal Conahim for centuries. The El Ghriba synagogue on Djerba is such the oldest one in all of Africa and one of the most famous in the world.

Thats over 2500 years ago. Which makes your b*ll about how democratic and kind and considerate the Jews in Israel are all the more ridiculous.

May 18th, 2010, 3:20 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Majed, WD, and Ghat,

Do you all nitpick about rights in Arab countries?

Why not?

Door #1: Golan

Door #2: Iran

And the answer is…,7340,L-3891241,00.html

May 18th, 2010, 3:46 pm


why-discuss said:


Golan for Iran? The senility of Peres is becoming more and more apparent. I think he is seriously starting an Alzeimer. He sees Scud missiles under his window, and Bashar crawling to beg the Golan. Time to move him to a specialized place.

May 18th, 2010, 3:59 pm


almasri said:

This is a worth reading realistic article for those commenters who are debating the so-called achievements or strategies of Obama and Hillary. I had to copy and paste it instead of linking it in order to save you the effort of logging in to access it. The writer seems to agree with the spirit of my comments in 20 and 27. I do not know if he is a SC reader and committed plagiarism or just got the ideas telepathetically. He is lamenting America’s decline and has a special warning for Israel. Since the Turks seem to have shed their century-old attachment to the European hat, it is time for the Arabs to reciprocate and put the Fez back on. It seems ottoman’s attraction is currently unmatched by any existing order.

A superpower — and a president — with declining clout
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Early this month Barack Obama went down to Louisiana to eyeball the possible damage from BP’s exploded oil rig, keep the cleanup crews on their toes — no version of “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” from him — and show the Gulf Coast states and the rest of the nation his concern. On May 3 , The Post’s Web site played the story precisely where it belonged — entombed in the middle of the page. In its placement, it said the president of the United States did not, in this case, matter all that much.
Everyone knew that Obama was merely showing that he was not George W. Bush. He was not going to ignore a calamity, especially one affecting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On the other hand, we all knew that he could not reverse the winds or cork the spill. In fact, he could do precious little except show that he cared.
This was a symbolic moment — the tide, menacing the coast with oil, moving its own way, just as events across the globe seem to be. We are accustomed to American presidents being supremely important if for no other reason than that they command the world’s mightiest military. But we ought to appreciate also that presidential importance, in terms of being able to influence events, is slipping.
In the Middle East, nothing Obama has done has made much of a difference. In Europe, the euro teeters. As critical as this currency is, it is far less important than the concept of European integration upon which it is based. We tend to forget that Europe is the home office of awful wars — twice in the last century we got involved — and if you include Russia as part of Europe, as some Russians insist, then we have to count the Cold War, too. As for Russia, it shrugs off American complaints and moves progressively backward — not a European democracy, just something else.
On the periphery of Europe is Turkey, seeking to reestablish some of the influence the Ottoman Empire once had in the region. It may also be reverting to a more Islamic state, possibly concluding that nearly a century of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secularism is enough. Whatever the case, there isn’t much we can do about Turkey, either. It no longer needs the United States as a Cold War ally, and it even blocked military access to Iraq at the start of the war. The waning pull of the American present can no longer match the pull of the Ottoman past. Israel, beware.
China, too, is beyond our reach. In some ways, we need it more than it needs us. We owe Beijing money. We buy China’s goods. We respect its growing might. We rue our diminishing power. We muffle our concern over human rights. We are a superpower. But against what?
American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well. As a superpower, America invaded Iraq. Saddam is dust. But that brief war is now in its eighth year.
In 1987, Paul Kennedy published “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” It created great buzz because, among other things, it predicted the relative and absolute decline of the United States. Kennedy attributed this to military “overstretch” and deficit spending — problems that have since gone from the theoretical to the acute. In a sense, we have more wars than we have cash.
The need to mention Kennedy rankles. It suggests inevitability, as if America was the empire of Rome or Britain and also that the past is fated to be the future. That, though, does not have to be the case. We can spend less, tax more, abjure wars of choice, reform Congress and stop confusing the celebrity of the presidency with actual power.
Obama presiding over the unpresidable, the president overseeing the incomprehensible, the full panoply of meaningless power — Air Force One, Marine One, the limo, the motorcade, the briefcase with the nuclear launch codes — all amounting in this case to man railing against the sea, a somber lesson for us all. The spill goes on. The war goes on. The debt grows — and so, for too many of us, does denial.

May 18th, 2010, 4:06 pm


Ghat Albird said:

The most and least that can be said about Zionists and their supporters especially in the US is that, “As long as they believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.”

Again like the man said, nothing lasts for ever and one eventually gets what one deserves from his actions.

May 18th, 2010, 4:32 pm


almasri said:

Hillary is setting herself up for a new and bigger embarrassment than her famous recent spat with Bashar. While she testifies in front of the foreign relations committee about a deal the US made with the five plus one on a draft resolution for sanctions to be approved by the UN, China and Russia voiced their welcome of the nuclear deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

May 18th, 2010, 5:09 pm


why-discuss said:


Now that the new US administration under Obama is not in love anymore with Israel and it is pressuring it, the US is declining!

The US has been deeply wounded by the adventurism in Iraq (Heavily encouraged by Israel and the neo-cons), its economy is suffering from abuses and neglect by Wall Street, but it is still a power,
and still paying 3 billions yearly to Israel!
It is part of the Israel strategy to ridicule Obama
to prevent him from squeezing it even more. Therefore it is not surprising to read its supporters disparaging Obama’s efforts and implying that, since the US is becoming irrelevant, Israel should just ignore him.

About Richard Cohen, the author:
Richard Cohen is a real smart guy. I think he’s an Israel lobbyist in the sense that W&M defined the job, he is using his position to try and preserve the Jewish state against all critics (including Walt and Mearsheimer, who got him to sing the Hatikvah), but he is a smart guy. A few years ago he gave me one of my inner koans: Israel was a mistake. To hear an Israel lobbyist say this, with intellectual clarity, which Cohen promptly disavowed with a lot of emotional attachment– well, it helped me to think about Partition, and the fact that no Arab was for Partition, and it was their part of the world (though later Arabs were for Partition; and Israel rejected the UN division). Shlomo Sand says that Israel was created by a “rape,” but that the child of a rape deserves to live. Another mantra I go to.

May 18th, 2010, 9:22 pm


almasri said:


I also realized from the article I quoted exactly the same thing you mention in your comment, i.e. Richard Cohen is pro-israel. But thanks for the additional information.

He is of course ridiculing Obama, but he is also pointing out the waning power of the US in the same sense as Rome and Britain went down. Yes, the US is still a power that can pay out 3+ billion dollars a year to israel. But, there is no denying its power is ebbing and the emergence of a new order replacing it is a historical certainty.

Is Obama really squeezing Israel? The Arabs would like to believe it. But in reality he is no different than any other US President since Adams as I pointed out in a previous comment. You could say that Cohen’s (and others) ridiculing Obama is a consistent blackmail strategy by Israel supporters to squeeze him instead of the other way around – and they used similar strategies with all other Presidents. The truth of the matter is zionism is deeply ingrained in the American culture, and unlike Europe which may have looked at zionism as a means to get rid of the Jews from its midst, the Americans associate with zionism very deeply, and that translates into popular commitment to israel. This commitment forces every US President to behave accordingly. I want to emphasize again that with NO EXCEPTION, since Adams, every US President made a point in showing unwavering allegiance to zionism in words as well as in deeds. You may want to review what Nixon, who was fatally wounded politically in 1973, did in order to save israel from total defeat and perhaps extinction

So it is time for the Arabs to look somewhere else and forget about America as their false mecca.

May 18th, 2010, 10:29 pm


Hassan said:

Website run by academics and activists aims to improve communication and negotiation between warring lands

Syrian and Israeli bloggers try to resolve their differences online
from World news : Middle East roundup | by Ian Black
Syrians and Israelis are crossing one of the Middle East’s great divides to co-operate – in cyberspace – to explore ways to advance peace between their countries.

The groundbreaking website aims to bring together prominent Israelis and Syrian bloggers, academics and experts seeking ways to break the stubborn impasse in negotiations.

It will host the first Syrian-Israeli public online dialogue of its kind – a remarkable step for two countries which have been in a state of war for more than 60 years. The border between them – a UN-monitored ceasefire line on the heavily fortified Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967 – is closed. Nationals from each country are banned from visiting the other; there are no direct communications. But the authorities in Damascus have tolerated previous ad hoc internet exchanges and are thought to be happy with the launch of this permanent platform.

“It is the first time there’s been an organised effort on a specific issue between two enemies, and not only between Syria and Israel,” said Camille Otrankji, a Canadian-Syrian who is helping run the website. “This is an experiment. We hope it will take things a step further.”

Yoav Stern, an Israeli organiser of the site, sparked intense interest in both Syria and Israel when he reported on Syrian blogging in Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading liberal Hebrew-language daily. “We are used to looking at each other in demonic terms,” he said. “This is different.”

For the last year, academics, political analysts, journalists, businesspeople and consultants from both sides have been debating the issues in a private online forum. They produced a list of all possible objections to peace from both sides and voted for the 20 most commonly encountered in Syrian and Israeli societies. The group then produced effective counter-arguments to each of them.

Despite the emnity between the neighbours, negotiations between them have come tantalisingly close to a deal three times during the last 20 years before obstacles emerged to scuttle the process. Syrian officials say that 85% of the problems, including crucial security arrangements, were solved in negotiations with four Israeli leaders from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak. Turkey mediated four more rounds of inconclusive talks in 2008.

Still, many analysts believe Syria would never sign a peace agreement with Israel even if it secured the total return of the Golan Heights — unless it was part of a comprehensive peace settlement that included the Palestinian issue.

Syria is nervous about unofficial peace initiatives, such as one involving a retired Israeli diplomat and an American-Syrian businessman who proposed turning the Golan into a nature reserve. “We are making sure that these are not negotiations,” insisted Otranjki. “This is a communications exercise.” The organisers want to avoid the experience of Syria Comment,

a respected US-based specialist website that has been targeted by pro-Israeli bloggers seeking to pressure the Obama administration not to continue its cautious dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad.

The next step is for to invite experts and opinion formers from both countries to discuss the peace process and to submit constructive feedback for publication on the site.Israeli media reported yesterday that Assad had turned down an offer from the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, under which Israel would return the Golan if Syria severed its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

an Black © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 18th, 2010, 11:23 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Looks like, the one who got slapped on the face is Ahmedi, and not Hillary.

What did surprise me, is the joining of Russia and China to Amrica.
The trigger to this was, may be, Iran’s “surrendering” to Brazil and Turkey. As a Turk or as a Brazilian, I would see this as a warning from China and Russia.

This is not about 3% or 20% enriched Uranium. This is about the political order of this world. China and Russia, as well as most of the UN members, have no desire to touch the world order (so far).
This is the Chinese and the Russian message to Ahmedi and khamenei.

May 18th, 2010, 11:35 pm


Jad said:

I’m confused is it Otrankji or Otranjki?

“The organisers want to avoid the experience of Syria Comment, a respected US-based specialist website that has been targeted by pro-Israeli bloggers seeking to pressure the Obama administration not to continue its cautious dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad.”
I didn’t know that President Obama read SC! And that we all suck on 😉
I kind of knew that we suck but now it’s official BBC documented it.

May 19th, 2010, 12:42 am


Ghat Albird said:

The pro zionists that comment on SC manifeest the characteristics of what
Rabbi Kook the Elder, another influential and much revered Jewish leader,
expressed a similar view: “The difference between a Jewish soul and
the souls of non-Jews — all of them in all different levels — is greater and
deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.”

They cannot accept the fact that In recent months the equilibrium of the Middle East has undergone a complete shift.

– The Israeli armed forces, that had gone from one victory to another for decades, are no longer able to control the ground. During their offensive against Lebanon (2006) and against Gaza (2008), they displayed an increase of destructive power, but showed they are not longer capable of achieving their goals, in this case the destruction of Hezbollah and Hamas. In addition, their arsenal, equipped as required by the United States, no longer guarantees their domination.

Their tanks have become vulnerable to Russian RPG, when they used to constitute the major component of their blitzkrieg. Their navy is threatened by the land-sea missiles supplied to Hezbollah by China, which are now equipped with an anti-jamming system that they lacked in 2006. Finally, their air dominance will not resist for long to the proliferation of Russian S-300, currently being shipped to the region.

Golda was definitely dreaming when she said ,”time is on the side of the israelis”.

May 19th, 2010, 1:06 am


Henry said:

It is Camille Alexandre Otrakji .

Check it out Imad Moustapha’s, the ambassador of Syria, blog.

“Furthermore, I received another email from one of my cyber friends, Camille Alexandre Otrakji, who apparently did not like the photo I had put of Ambassador Omar Abu Risheh, so he sent me what I admit to be a finer one. The photo he sent aroused my curiosity, having in mind that he is the creator and co-designer of the splendid website), so I sent him further questions to which he kindly responded. I printed the photo Camille has sent me, and took it as a present to Omar Abu Risheh’s son, my friend Shafe’ Abu Risheh who was pleasantly surprised and told me that he has not seen this photo before, so he gladly added it to his family photo collection.

Here is what Camille has written me:
Actually, the “experts” in Creativesyria refers to my uncle, Dr. Jean-Alexandre Otrakji, in NJ. For 30 years he has been collecting anythinghe could get his hands on about Syria, the Middle East and its religions and ethnic types. What goes on the site is the part I (who knew nothing initially) could understand, and in that way it was a good way to filter his knowledge into stories that most readers can understand (if I can understand them). Part of the reason I wanted to do this project was to share my uncle’s knowledge with anyone who cares to know. My uncle has purchased things like the private diary and photos of Col. Derouin, the first American military attaché to Syria, as well as the original collection of the wife of Richard Burton British council to Damascus around 1870, and many other travelers and diplomats who lived in the area. In that sense, complements Sami Moubayed’s excellent which presented Syria’s history from internal point of view. And the last part: the India photo (1966) included the Ambassador, an Indian government official (right), Mr Nahed Khani (Director of Syrian civil aviation, later director of Arab Civil Aviation organization in cairo), his wife Souha, and my Father George (glasses). My father traveled to 105 countries (some of them over 50 times, like Kenya) He was first in Syrian civil Aviation, now he is a semi-retired Diplomat at ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). He is my other Syria expert, in addition to his brother Jean-Alexandre.”

May 19th, 2010, 1:06 am


norman said:

Avatar-like Syrians and Israelis Set Groundbreaking Rules for Web Diplomacy

Share Comments Computer-generated actors, Syrians and Israelis, are coming together in unlikely times of warmongering. They are reopening a dim flashlight of discussions, yet this time on the virtual world of endless possibilities where the invisible hand of censorship cannot reach. They do not need a passport to move around in disguise for secret talks and they believe their story is worth telling.

On the front page of the website,, you find the Grand Mosque of Damascus, the Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, the Aleppo Synagogue, and the Minaret in the Old City of Jaffa in a choreography of religious and touristic photos reflecting an ideal yet sober initiative launched by ten Syrian expats unrestricted by the official tone in Damascus along with ten Israelis who feels at exile in their own country.

The bipartisan group defines itself as an “online discussion arena intended for raising and debating ideas central to the Arab Israeli peace process” and affirms in a press release that the initiative is “seeking to propose solutions to break the impasse of the stalled peace process” and its role is “facilitating dialogue that would otherwise be impossible through traditional means of communication”.

The website unfolds in two parts, Israeli objections to peace with Syria and Syrian objections to peace with Israel, reflecting the popular mood on both sides in a communication exercise that offers a new approach to this conflict instead of the mundane common ground setting at traditional peace conferences. The group has a separate undisclosed online forum for simulation of tactics and ideas to come up with counterarguments that are more complex and touch the core of the conflict.

The demography of the group on the Syrian side are expats from the United States and Canada, who left Syrian at an early age or not even born there, believe in secularism and pluralism, have their own approach to the conflict with Israel and does not bear the ideological burden of the last century. This group’s political and social thinking evolved in the West where they interacted with Jewish friends, and they ultimately see peace an avenue to consolidate the idea of the Syrian home and unleash its potentials.

On the Israeli side, there are names like the director of business and economics department at the Peres Center for Peace Yoav Stern along with a group of academics, journalists and former diplomats who have been lobbying Syrians for online peace talks since years.

This online interaction started in June 2007 when Syrian Canadian blogger Camille Otrakji launched an initiative to keep the memory of the Golan Heights in the 40th anniversary of its occupation by Israeli troops, which was covered by Haaretz and prompted a traffic of over 5,000 Israelis on “Creative Syria”. Since then, Israeli intellectuals and figures have been attempting to approach Otrakji by email but he replied back by referring them to another site, Syria Comment, run by Joshua Landis. This ended up having a space for Syrians and Israelis to comment, resulting in what could be an indirect public dialogue.

Otraki admits that Syrians expats activity on Syria Comment “pushed the envelope a little” by allowing Israelis to participate on a website widely read by the Syrian government. “I do not know, but I imagine some people in Syria might have been initially uncomfortable with the daily discussions on Syria Comment, but I assume that with time it became clear that there is nothing to worry about”.

Otrakji mentions how he was approached over seven times to meet with Israeli figures saying that “I always avoided being is a situation where I would meet Israelis face to face because, although I am a Canadian citizen, it is still considered a controversial thing for a Syrian expat to meet with Israelis”. “On the other hand, I never heard anywhere that communicating online was frowned upon… it seemed to be the right communication channel for regular people from two enemy states like Syria and Israel”, he added. Otrakji notes that Syria Comment was never banned in Syria despite “all the daring discussions going on for years. There was no special value in meeting face to face with Israelis that justified risking our blog’s acceptance in Syria”.

The idea for started in September 2009 with suggesting name of experts on both sides of the aisle to structure the debate on Syria Comment. This ongoing dialogue is run by a group email sent regularly to individual members and all decisions are taken in consultation and roll voting. Later in the project, the door will be open for researchers and journalists to pitch their suggestions and comments to be reviewed and probably posted if it adds value to the debate.

Otrakji talks about attempts to disturb President Barack Obama’s decision to engage with Syria and that many sides are invested in throwing accusations on Damascus saying “Syrian officials and diplomats try to respond to the endless accusations but their effectiveness is sometimes limited merely because they represent the official position and not their own, independent, opinions”. “I personally hope to be able to convince a number of American Representatives, Think tankers, and journalists covering the Middle East to read our arguments. We also hope a similar acceptance by regular Israelis although the situation these days is not very conducive to constructive communication”, he added.

If the Syrian expats’ intention is to change Washington views of Damascus, the Israeli group seeks to focus on Israeli public opinion to reinvigorate the peace camp, and the irony here is that the Israeli side of the project could undergo more pressure than the Syrian side, now the story is out, because of the changing dynamic in Israeli politics.

Otrakji says that the experience of the Syrian American businessman Ibrahim Sleiman, who once held secret talks with the former senior diplomat at the Israeli foreign ministry Alon Liel, was on his mind when he embarked on this project adding that the Syrian American businessman “made a mistake. No one, but Syrian officials, should negotiate border or water issues on behalf of Syria”. “Some of our team members also were asked in the past if we would be interested in type of peace conferences, but we simply could not see why would we, regular Syrian expats, add any value to diplomatic efforts taking place through the many intermediaries from the United States, Turkey, Europe and elsewhere”, he added.

On how the Syrian government would react to this project, Otrakji replied that “we hope that the reaction to this project in Damascus will vary between the neutral and the positive. This project is nothing more than a structured communication exercise that has a limited term. We are not going to negotiate, we are not going to lobby”. He affirmed that there is “no serious step” after releasing this website but a more academic one where those arguments and counterarguments will be later tested in university settings in Montreal to see how effective they are.

Joshua Landis, who participates in the project on the Israeli side, argued that Creative Syria and Syria Comment are trying “to express the Syrian reality and the Syrian point of view which are never freely expressed outside Syrian official newspapers”. He affirms that “this project has nothing to do with the Syrian government and therefore no one has take responsibility of it”. While the Lebanese American blogger Elias Mhanna, who runs Qifa Nabki website, represents his own Lebanese point of view in this complex online discussion. Mhanna talks about a personal rapport that was established over the years between members of the group “even if we never met, there are good intentions between us, we all want a reasonable peace deal”.

The main two key points in this groundbreaking project is that those Syrian expats enjoy somehow the trust of the Syrian leadership and this dialogue is not anymore about comments and indirect exchange of ideas, there have been direct communications by email for over a year at least. Both Syrian and Israeli governments could benefit from this project in this ambiguous and tensed period in the Middle East, but the horizon for this initiative is limited before it is even unveiled, its potential to forge a breakthrough is linked to objective factors beyond this communication exercise.

Follow Joe Macaron on Twitter:

May 19th, 2010, 3:35 am


why-discuss said:

New (old) sanctions on Iran

If Iran is not building nuclear weapons, as it claims, then these sanctions have no impact whatsoever. China and Russia have opposed full embargo of weapons and refused boycott of the Iran Central bank. Only aggressive weapons that may carry nuclear heads are forbidden, but there is no embargo on defensive weapons or other weapons, so Russia and China can continue to sell defensive weapons to Iran.

I guess that after months of negotiations, the US has no choice than to get a resolution at any cost, even if it is a weak one and just repeat the previous one.
This face-saving resolution would only have a psychological effect. ie to show the world that the big powers can agree on something, even it is watered down to become almost symbolic.
Another victory of Obama, where he gives the impression that he is serious about Iran but when you read the resolution, he is only targeting the elusive nuclear weapons and nothing else.

The media will play their usual role in describing these sanctions as ‘tough’ etc…. Only Israel will not be satisfied as Iran can continue to arm itself with missiles non nuclear that may be a worse threat.

May 19th, 2010, 3:49 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

GHAT, you’re something special. Really. I mean it.
Your multidisciplinary base of knowledge is shockingly impressive.

From theology (Rabbi Kook) to farming agriculture (souls of cattle), and ends with a first class analytical skills in military issues (blitzkrieg; S-300; anti-jamming system).

I’m sure that are extremely jealous, that SC have you,
and not they.
SC would be boring just like, without you.!!

May 19th, 2010, 4:07 am


almasri said:

Ghat, why all of a sudden are you showing bias?

Why didn’t you mention in your previous comment that the israelis, after 2006, added armour to their tanks and are now building an Iron Dome?

You just mentioned acquisitions made by one party. That’s biased reporting, and zionists wouldn’t like that.

May 19th, 2010, 4:36 am


Ghat Albird said:


You have a right to you opinion.

Obama’s exclusive meeting with Israel’s lobby.

May 19th, 2010, 12:57 pm


why-discuss said:

I hope they will be more like him.

Elvis Costello cancels Israel gigs

(UKPA) – 1 hour ago

Elvis Costello has cancelled two summer concerts in Israel because of the treatment of Palestinians.

In an announcement on his website explaining his decision, the singer-songwriter spoke of “intimidation, humiliation or much worse” inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians and said sometimes “merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act”.

Costello told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month he was against boycotts, saying it would be like avoiding the US or England because he disagreed with the policies of their governments.

May 20th, 2010, 4:15 pm


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