News Round Up (2 Oct. 2007)

"Palestinian militant confesses to trifecta of terror: Says he is agent of al-Qaida, Syria and Fatah al-Islam," Michael Bluhm, Oct. 3, Daily Star,

BEIRUT: A Fatah al-Islam militant gave "precious" information to investigators on Tuesday regarding the assassination of former Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a judicial report said.

Ahmad Merhi, who was captured early in the fighting between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli, was interrogated for two hours on Tuesday concerning the assassination, the report added.

Gemayel was gunned down in broad daylight in Jdeideh on November 21 by unknown assailants who showered his car with bullets from assault rifles and then sped away.

Merhi confessed to being an agent for the Syrian intelligence apparatus and Al-Qaeda, in addition to his membership in Fatah al-Islam, the report said.

Gemayel's colleagues in the ruling March 14 Forces have long blamed Syria for the rash of political assassinations that have plagued the country since the massive bomb blast in February 2005 that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others on Beirut's seafront.

Damascus has denied involvement in any of the eight killings of political figures that have since taken place.

US Needs to Keep Engaging With Syria
Ted Kattouf, Arab News 

With no realistic possibility of overthrowing the Bashar regime or otherwise changing its unhelpful policies, the administration is denying itself an important diplomatic lever that could help save lives in Iraq, ameliorate Syria’s disruptive regional role, and perhaps even lead to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

Syria is hardly a great regional power or even as influential as when the late and wily Hafiz Assad ruled. But it does have allies in Lebanon, among the more radical Palestinian factions, and to a lesser extent in Iraq. Talking to Syria is not so much a reward for bad behavior as it is a realistic approach that, according to the Baker-Hamilton Commission, is in the best interest of the United States.

Ted Kattouf is a former US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Syria. He is currently the president and CEO of AMIDEAST, This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Hersh: Bush has accepted "ethnic cleansing" in Iraq

Famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who has a new piece in the New Yorker, had some very interesting things to say in an interview with Der Spiegel last week. Topics ranged from Hitler to the First Amendment in the United States, but his most interesting comments were on Iran and Iraq.

Nuclear Secrets
October 2, 2007; Page A16
Wall Street Journal Review article

Granted, diplomacy requires some confidentiality, but transparency and verification are crucial to disarmament, especially when dealing with a regime like Kim Jong Il's. The February 13 six-party accord called for Pyongyang to deliver a comprehensive accounting of its nuclear program and arsenal within 60 days. We're still waiting.

Transparency is all the more essential given recent news reports about likely North Korean nuclear proliferation in Syria. Washington says the main goal of the six-party talks is to prevent proliferation, and North Korea promised to cease and desist. Yet Pyongyang seems to have been caught in the act in Syria only months after making that promise. The Israelis were worried enough to risk a confrontation with Syria by bombing the site, not to mention flying over Turkish air space. Notably, the Turks didn't object….

President Bush dodged three questions on the issue two weeks ago, except to warn North Korea one more time not to proliferate, which sounds suspiciously like a confirmation. Meanwhile on September 21, the Washington Post quoted government sources as saying that "Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria."

Then there's the not-so-little matter of North Korea's continuing missile proliferation. Last week the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation announced new sanctions against a North Korean company for spreading missile technology. …

All of this is a far cry from the nuclear disarmament model set by Libya's Moammer Gadhafi in the wake of Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. Libya abandoned its nuclear program up front, inviting U.S. investigators to see the hardware and haul it back to Tennessee; it was rewarded only after the disarmament was verified.

For North Korea, the U.S. is winking at evidence of further proliferation, while offering more diplomatic bribes — all in the cause of getting Pyongyang to repeat promises it has already failed to honor.

Russia and China delay discussion of new sanctions on Iran until after International Atomic Energy Agency's report in Nov.

Also From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) By Michael Rubin

(Editor's Note: Mr. Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.) 

Last week, the United States turned to the United Nations in an attempt to increase pressure on Iran. The U.S. wanted to expand sanctions against the budding nuclear power. 

Neither China nor Russia would go along. And faced with the prospect of one or the other vetoing sanctions at the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice punted. She put off further action against Iran until at least November. 

It's hard to see how much will change in a month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is firm in his opposition to sanctions. "Interference by way of new sanctions would mean undermining" the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as it puts pressure on Iran, he said. 

This is a charade. …….

The defiant Mr. Ahmadinejad offers the White House a stark choice: Live with a nuclear Iran, or take action to stop it. Winning Russian approval is a chimera, delaying an inevitable decision.

Ex-diplomats Say US Faces Failure Of Peace Summit, By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Gaurdian, October 2, 2007  

The Bush administration was warned yesterday in a letter (pdf) by former senior US diplomats that it is setting itself up for the failure of its Middle East peace summit by neglecting to lay the groundwork for a successful meeting of American, Israeli and Arab leaders…..

More controversially, the former officials urge the administration to drop its insistence on isolating Syria and Hamas. "Maximising the prospects for a successful meeting entails finding a way to deal with both Hamas and Syria," the letter says. It notes that Mr Abbas, the Palestinian president, has no control over Gaza and so would be vulnerable to attempts by Hamas to undermine any future deal. "Simply saying no to Hamas without planning for the consequences is a likely ticket to new problems," the letter says.

The diplomats go on to sketch out the contours of a future deal between Israel and the Palestinians, including an arrangement for sharing Jerusalem as the capital of two states.

Getting Over The Fear Of Arab Elections, By Michele Dunne, In The Daily Star, October 2, 2007

Concern about chaos in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon and fear of Islamist political victories have led many American commentators to identify Middle East democracy promotion as unwise. The Bush administration should not have insisted on elections in Arab countries, according to the new conventional wisdom, but instead should have patiently promoted the growth of institutions, civil society, and the rule of law. This new canon seems utterly reasonable, and indeed has already found its way into the foreign policy pronouncements of several candidates for the presidency of the United States.

But there are three flaws in the new anti-elections thinking about democracy in Arab countries. First, it ignores what is happening in the region. Second, it is out of touch with how democracy typically emerges. And third, it leads to a harmful instrumentalist approach to democracy promotion – one that has already do… Read entire article

Comments (33)

Nour said:

LOL. So Ahmad Merhi is an agent of all three? But I thought that the anti-Syria crowd was saying that Fateh el-Islam is not al-Qaeda affiliated because it is a tool of the Syrian intelligence. I guess it just makes it easier for them if all three are included in one.

October 3rd, 2007, 3:37 am


Observer said:

This news round up once again along with the piece on the frivolity of Mr. Saad Hariri ( NYT today) who was thrust in a role he never cherished as the Sunni leader in Lebanon shows the following:
1. The aims and the plans of the Bush administration for the next phase in Iraq/Iran remain murky; whether this is deliberate as Sy Hersch thinks or another manifestation of disarray is unclear. I would favor the former as the Lieberman Kyle amendement was passed with some watering down that would essentially give the president the green light to attack the Revolutionary Guards and tout it as a defensive measure. I would guess that a spectacular attack on the Green Zone may be in the offing as a pretext to use the legislation and bait the Iranians. Today an ambassador was bombed. Maybe this is how it will happen. Crocker watch out.
2. By insisting on visas for Iraqis Syria is both protecting itself and hitting back as the refugee problem remains. Zibari asked Syria to treat Iraqis well and if he really cared about them he would offer money as the Iraqi goverment is sitting on 10 billion dollars of unspet money. They are keeping the money to finance the militias for after the surge as all factions are preparing themselves for a showdown. If Syria were to send Iraqis back, then we would really have a mess and it will undo all that the surge is aiming to do.
3. Once again the Arabs have completely abandoned the field to the US-Israeli strategy. The three stooges Mubarak Abdallah and Abdallah II are essentially acting as under secretary of the Vice President’s office. I have always thought that the leadership of the Arab states is made up of fools and traitors. This time is no exception. Please scan the Asharq Alwsat and notice the prominence of the anti Iranian news. The KSA is gambling on the US hitting Iran and restoring the balance of power. They have always acted to undermine any unity in the ME.
4. Today the NYT did not even mention the Israeli attack on Syria. We are back to square one as to what exactly happened and what the intentions were. It seems to me that the Israelis had incomplete information and the Syrians were able to hide some things. The situation has returned to the status ante.
5. The Lebanese “tafneess” is in full view with the various players today thinking that they are the center of the world. If you look at the headlines of the Daily star or L’orient le jour, you would think that Sarkozy is spending 24 hours a day on Lebanon alone and that the country is similar to any European country with mature political class and solid institutions.
6. There is no prospect for a peace conference to successed. The US and Israel are working on the conference as a bait to blame the “axis of evil” for its failure and justify an attack on Syria and Iran as well as Hamas and HA. The Arab stooges are going it along and thinking that photo ops with various emissaries and diplomats is a measure of their importance. They cannot even think beyond their noses.
To this day, the combined GNP of the 22 membres of the Arab League is less than the GNP of Spain despite the oil revenues.

October 3rd, 2007, 1:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh,

Why the continual linking to Sy Hersh? We already know how objective a reporter he is.

Here’s a story from the UK’s Prospect magazine: “Mission Accomplished”

Oh, and here’s another article I’m sure you overlooked: Silence in Syria, Panic in Iran

October 3rd, 2007, 3:33 pm


ausamaa said:

“To this day, the combined GNP of the 22 membres of the Arab League is less than the GNP of Spain despite the oil revenues”.

I am a little ignorant when we get to Economics, so I want to ask this: Does Personal Wealth (income, proceeds, share) of Arab rulers from Oman to Saudi, to Jordan to Morrocco appear in GDP or GNP figures?

And while we are at it, out of the billions spent by the Bush Admin during the Iraq “Liberation/Occupation/Democratization” how much of this was spent on US goods, US contracts, salaries of US armed personnel, US manufactured ammos and arms? A whole lot? In other words, was the war Good or Bad to US economy? And as a follow up question, was the effect of the rise in oil prices associated with the Increased Oil prices a Net gain to US Oil and Non-Oil sectors or a net loss?

I am just trying to figure out if Promoting Democracy is good or bad for the “Promotor” in pure business and commercial terms.


October 3rd, 2007, 3:34 pm


ausamaa said:

An after though, is this – captured now!- Al Mehri a member of Hamas and Al Jihad And Hizbullah as well?

And Akbar Palace,

You are the last one to voice out a complaint regarding Sy Hersh or anyonelses objectivity. I mean considering how objective Israel’s claim that Palestine was a Land without people “awarded” by whoever to a people without a Land.

October 3rd, 2007, 3:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I mean considering how objective Israel’s claim that Palestine was a Land without people “awarded” by whoever to a people without a Land.


Israel’s claim was self-defense, the right of statehood and self-determination.

But that was year’s ago. Now the claim is just self-defense.

What’s your excuse?

October 3rd, 2007, 3:51 pm


Observer said:

I do not hold the present US administration in any respect with regard to corruption or good management. By pointing out the truth of the situation in the Arab countries one should not conclude that I am defending any other system or promoting any political agenda. The people of the ME each time I visit are listening to the radio or watching TV all in expectation of events that are totally out of their control. Each is trying to fix his/her situation whether by obtaining a Canadian passport or wheeling and dealing with monstruous bureaucracy. No one is promoting: free trade, free travel of people and ideas, unified education curricula, unified economic union, similar tariffs, independent judiciary.Not a single individual has been able to conclude that only through unification and dismantling of the current system of families and clans can their lot be improved. Lately, I learned how the super rich Kuwaity goverment deals with their citizens when it comes to basic benefits and it is truly a medieval system dependent on total patronage. It is a system that corrupts the very soul of the citizen and deepens the tribalism of all those artificial entities. Where it not so would we have Kuwait as a depot of the Pentagon, Qatar as the base of the 5th fleet, Oman as the British rear guard base of the Empire, and KSA as the Banu Qynuqaa of the Arab world.
“He who has a shard under his skin cannot get a good night sleep”.

October 3rd, 2007, 3:57 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Israel, Syria: Upgrades and an Unchanged Air Defense Dynamic

October 3rd, 2007, 4:46 pm


Nour said:

اعترافات أبو سليم طه
براميــرتس أبلـغ الجميّـــل أنّ تحقيقـــاته حـــول اغتيـال نجله لا تطابق تحقيقات فرع المعلومات
03 تشرين الأول 2007
كشفت التحقيقات الجارية مع عناصر تنظيم فتح ــــ الإسلام الذين أوقفتهم مديرية المخابرات في الجيش اللبناني، أنّ هذه المجموعة هي جزء حقيقيّ من تنظيم القاعدة الدولي، وليست مجموعة هواة أصرّ الفريق الأمني الرسميّ على القول إنها تابعة للمخابرات السورية.

وحسب مصادر مطلعة، فإنّ الموقوف أبو سليم طه، وهو القيادي الأبرز في التنظيم والمعتقل الآن لدى الجيش، أدلى بمجموعة من الاعترافات والمعلومات التي كشفت الآتي:
أوّلاً: إنّ المجموعات التي تشكّل التنظيم هي بمعظمها من العناصر الإسلامية التي سبق أن كانت على صلة قوية بتنظيم القاعدة، وإن قادة فيها سبق أن تواصلوا خلال الفترة المنصرمة مع قيادة التنظيم في العراق. وثمّة رسائل مبايعة موجهة الى أمير القاعدة في العراق أبو أيوب المصري، وهو الذي خلف أبو مصعب الزرقاوي في قيادة هذه المجموعات التي كان شقيق الزرقاوي أحد البارزين فيها.
ثانياً: إنّ المدعوّ أبو يوسف الجزراوي، وهو سعودي، يعدّ العمود الفقري الذي استند إليه التنظيم في الحصول على تمويل وتجهيز لوجستي متنوّع، وهو الذي يرتبط مباشرة بتنظيم القاعدة في الخارج. وقد سبق له أن فرّ من مخيم نهر البارد برفقة شهاب القدور «أبو هريرة»، وهو من الذين كانوا يوفّرون الصلة القوية بالمقاتلين الذين يتنقّلون بين لبنان وسوريا والأردن والعراق. ولم يجرِ التأكّد مما إذا كان أحد العناصر البارزة في هذا التنظيم هو من عائلة أسامة بن لادن.
ثالثاً: إنّ صهر شاكر العبسي الذي قتله رجال حرس الحدود السوريّون على الحدود مع العراق، كان يحمل معه رسالة المبايعة للمصري، إضافة الى وثائق أخرى تثبت علاقة التنظيم بالقاعدة.
رابعاً: جرى التأكيد على تواصل كان قائماً مع ضباط سوريين من الذين كانوا يسهّلون عمليات الانتقال بين سوريا ولبنان والعراق، بالإضافة الى صلات لبنانية في المدن والمخيمات. وأشار طه إلى أنّه، بعد بدء قوى المعارضة اعتصامها وسط بيروت، جاء أبو هريرة طارحاً مبدأ «الدفاع عن أهل السنّة»، وجرى ترتيب لقاءات بينه وبين رجال دين وناشطين محليّين، بينهم كوادر في تيّار «المستقبل».
أمّا بشأن الأعمال الإرهابية، فقد احتوت الاعترافات على الآتي:
أوّلاً: المسؤولية عن جريمة عين علق الإرهابية في 13/2/2007 حيث استشهد ثلاثة مواطنين وجرح عشرون. وقُدِّم التبرير على أنّه حادث في سياق خطّة لخربطة الأوضاع في لبنان كلّه، وإنّ اختيار المناطق المسيحية يهدف الى إثارة البلبلة فيها، وخلق فتنة، مع الإشارة إلى أنّه ليس مصادفة أن يُتهم عناصر من الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي بتنفيذ الهجوم.
ثانياً: المسؤوليّة عن وضع المتفجّرات في كلّ من الأشرفية في 20/5/2007 وفردان في اليوم التالي، وعاليه في 23/5/2007. وان من نفذ هذه الهجمات مجموعات لا تزال مجهولة الإقامة، وهي في مجملها ردّ على المعارك في نهر البارد.
ثالثاً: لم تتوصّل التحقيقات بعد إلى تحديد علاقة هذه المجموعات بعملية التفجير التي استهدفت القوات الدولية في الجنوب. وتبيّن أن الذين اعتقلوا في الجنوب واتّهموا بتفجير القاسمية في 14 حزيران الماضي ليسوا من أفراد التنظيم مباشرة، بل أعضاء في خلايا كانت على صلة به، وهي التي أوقفها فرع المعلومات في إقليم الخروب في 16 أيلول الماضي. وهي المجموعات نفسها التي تقف خلف إطلاق صواريخ كاتيوشا على فلسطين المحتلة في وقت سابق.
كذلك فإنّ التحقيقات التي تلت انفجاراً في عين الحلوة أظهرت من خلال فحص الدولاب الذي أُخذ من محل القيادي في تنظيم جند الشام شحادة جوهر في الأوّل من تشرين الأوّل 2006، أنّه يحتوي على مواد متفجّرة مطابقة للمواد التي استُخدمت في الهجوم على الوحدة الإسبانية في سهل الخيام، وهي مواد منزوعة من ألغام أرضية مضادة للدروع.

اغتيال الجميّل

من جهة ثانية، نفى طه أيّ علاقة للتنظيم بجريمة اغتيال النائب بيار الجميّل، علماً بأنّ التحقيقات التي تجريها أكثر من جهة رسميّة لم تتوصّل بعد إلى نتائج حاسمة. وعلمت «الأخبار» أنّ رئيس لجنة التحقيق الدولية القاضي البلجيكي سيرج براميرتس استقبل الرئيس أمين الجميّل وأبلغه أنّ التحقيقات التي أجرتها اللجنة في جريمة اغتيال النائب بيار الجميل لم تظهر بعد حتى الآن ما يعتبر «فتحاً مبيناً» في أي من الجرائم المرتكبة.
كذلك أنجز قسم الأدلّة الجنائية التابع للجنة التحقيق الدولية الفحوص الخاصة بسيارة الهوندا CRV التي استُقدمت من سوريا، وسبق أن استخدمت في جريمة اغتيال الوزير بيار الجميل. وتبيّن أنه لا علاقة لبعض قتلى قادة فتح ـــــ الإسلام بالجريمة، وهو ما رفع من نسبة الشكوك في صدقية بعض المعلومات التي وفّرها أحد الأجهزة الأمنية اللبنانية عن موقوفي فتح ـــــ الإسلام، والتي أشارت إلى مقتل مخطّطي ومرتكبي إحدى الجرائم الكبرى خلال المعارك مع الجيش اللبناني في نهر البارد.

October 3rd, 2007, 5:00 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Personal wealth does NOT appear in GDP. This is what goes into GDP:

Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE)
Investment (Residential + business spending on structures and equipment + Inventories)
Exports minus Imports
Government expenditure

GDP measures the total production or income that an economy earns from all final goods and services produced in a given year.

What individuals are worth has no bearing on GDP. It is what they produce/earn in a year that effectively goes into GDP.

Nominal GDP in the U.S. is $13.769 trillion (real and adjusted for prices it is $11.598 trillion). U.S. households sit on $44.284 trillion in financial assets. Their tangible assets like real estate are $27.387 trillion. Total assets of U.S. households are, therefore, $71.671 trillion. In the case of the U.S. the ratio of household assets to total nominal GDP, therefore is 5.2 times. Were one to assume the same ratio in Syria, for example, assets of Syrian households could be in excess of $100 billion.

As for the U.S. defense spending, please note that out the $13.769 trillion total GDP, the U.S. government spends and invests $2.67 trillion a year (19.3%). If one assumes a yearly spending of $500 billion in Iraq, this amounts to an incremental 3% to GDP (assuming of course that all the income from that spending goes to American businesses/households)

October 3rd, 2007, 5:33 pm


SimoHurtta said:

One thing is certain Akbar that Seymour Hersh is a much more reliable source than your beloved ideological father Dr. Jack (Wheeler).

In January 2005, Wheeler advocated that President Bush use nuclear weapons to destroy Mecca if America is hit by another terrorist attack. Wheeler bragged on his website “To The Point” that Osama Bin Laden is “playing poker with a Texas cowboy holding all the nuclear aces.”

Quotes from Dr Jacks web pages.

He’s Dr. Jack Wheeler, and for only about 29 cents a day, he’ll give you mind-stretching pro-America insights on our lives, our politics, and our world that you just aren’t going to get anywhere else.

In To The Point™, he’ll tell you about the plans the Chinese Underground Church Movement has to send 100,000 Chinese Christian missionaries to the Middle East to convert Moslem Arabs to Christianity.

All forms of leftism and liberalism are based on an atavistic belief in Black Magic. All are based on the primitive fear of the envious Evil Eye.

The only Americans who owe reparations to the descendants of slaves are the descendants of slave owners. These people are one and the same, i.e., American blacks are a racial mix of white slave owner and black slave. Blacks owe reparations to themselves.

Now I begin to understand from where Akbar you are sucking your humanistic views and wast knowledge of international affairs. With 29 cents a day Dr. Jack teaches you really much.

October 3rd, 2007, 6:29 pm


t_desco said:

Or listen to Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now!.

“SEYMOUR HERSH: … And my understanding is when the Israelis hit Syria the other week — remember, I think September the 6th, the raid in Syria — the Israelis actually told some of their allies, the Jordanians and the Egyptians, just an hour before the raid, and us, too. Of course, we were deeply involved, as we always are.”

October 3rd, 2007, 7:00 pm


Joshua said:

Observer, thanks for the interesting analysis.
Nour, Interesting story about Lebanese connections.

If people can add the link to their copied stories in the future, it is a great help. To add links: copy the story, then click on the edit button for the comment and a new window opens that has all the buttons to add links, photos, etc.

These discussions have been great.
Best, Joshua

October 3rd, 2007, 7:08 pm


idaf said:

Here’s some insights on the interview with Assad written by Lyse Doucet, the BBC journalist that made the interview:
Analysis: Syria-Israel tensions
By Lyse Doucet
BBC News, Damascus

“From our experience of 16 years of a peace process, the main factor is the US administration”
Bashar al-Assad

The secret is out. But the speculation has not ended. And the tension lingers dangerously.

Israel has suddenly broken its exceptional news blackout on a covert air raid against Syria, admitting officially its warplanes hit a “military installation” on 6 September.

This unexpected disclosure, after weeks of mysterious silence, came hours after the first public comments from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

He ended his silence in a BBC interview, saying Israeli jets hit “a building under construction related to the military but it’s not used, it’s under construction so there’s no people in it, there’s no army, there’s nothing in it”.

So now it is official, on both sides. But speculation over exactly what was hit continues to create ripples in capitals around the world.

Was it a suspected nuclear site established with North Korean help? Had Pyongang tried to dispose of some nuclear material to evade the inspectors? Maybe it was a Hezbollah arms cache? Or perhaps a test of Syria’s new air defences?

“The propaganda reminds us of what happened before the war in Iraq”
Bashar al-Assad

Why, I asked the president, would Israel carry out such a high-risk raid if it was not such a high-value target?

President Assad just batted the incongruity away. And, as always in the Middle East, history provided the answers.

“The propaganda reminds us,” he said, “of what happened before the war in Iraq when they showed all the concrete evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction which turned out not to have existed at all.”

But Israel clearly sent a message to Damascus. Did Damascus get it?

The fact President Assad decided to give a rare interview suggested he had a message or two he also wanted to pass on.

What did Israel’s raid tell him? That Israel had “a fundamental, visceral antipathy towards peace”.

But Israel has also been sending messages to try to bring down the temperature.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert even went so far recently as to offer a rare compliment to Mr Assad, saying “we have respect for the Syrian leader and the Syrian conduct”.

President Assad seemed embarrassed by the personal praise.

Neither peace nor war

In his interview, he spoke of a time of “non-peace and non-war” in a region where it had to be “either peace or war… there is no third option”.

And yet, despite his firm assertion that Syria reserved the right to retaliate, Mr Assad’s responses underlined a recognition of the dangers of military escalation.

“Retaliate doesn’t mean missile for missile and bomb for bomb… this is the last option,” he said.

One source in Damascus said Israel had made it absolutely clear its riposte to any Syrian strike would be “devastating”.

But that has not stopped intense debate, in coffee shops and the corridors of power on both sides, about a possible strike by Syria or Israel – or an accidental war, a miscalculation when mistrust and misunderstanding run so deep.

Continuing strains

Ever since last year’s punishing war in Lebanon both sides have spoken of their readiness for peace but they’ve also reinforced their defences along the occupied Golan Heights. Damascus wants this territory back as part of any peace deal.
Syria is known to have acquired better long-range missiles and upgraded its air defences with Russian and Iranian help.

So that leaves them in that sensitive “non-war, non-peace” situation.

Months ago, all talk was of a summer war or a return to the peace talks broken off in 2000.

But in June, US President George W Bush made it clear to Ehud Olmert that Israel did not need Washington’s approval to talk to Damascus.

That, said Mr Assad, confirmed there was no point in talking.

“From our experience of 16 years of a peace process, the main factor is the US administration,” he said.

Continuing strains between the US and Syria mean the Bush team has no interest in going down this track.

Incomplete picture

On an earlier trip to Damascus, as the blistering seasonal heat began to ease, I commented to a Syrian friend that the “summer war” had also not materialised.

“Oh,” she answered, “but there could be an autumn war.”

And then came the Israeli air strike.

So Mr Assad, like his father Hafez al-Assad, seems resigned to the “long game” because of what he calls “the realities”.

He clearly feels he has his own cards to play, not least Syria’s relationship with a range of militant Palestinian and other Arab groups including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There are some signs Damascus has been trying to use its influence more positively to reduce tensions but not enough to please most of its critics.

“They can’t isolate Syria,” he insisted.

So this week, a few more pieces of this latest Middle East puzzle were put in place.

But as long as there are big black holes in this jigsaw, people will continue to fill them with their own pieces, whether or not they really fit. This means everyone will continue to see a different picture – and that is dangerous.

Also don’t miss:
Officials in Damascus say that another strike would be met with a Hizbullah-style counterattack. by the Christian Science Monitor

October 3rd, 2007, 7:48 pm


SimoHurtta said:

International Herald Tribune

U.S. sanctions drive Iranian businesses and exports to Syria

By Hugh Naylor
Published: October 3, 2007

October 3rd, 2007, 8:00 pm


EHSANI2 said:

“Syria is a very unattractive place to do business,” said Jihad Yazigi, editor of The Syria Report, an online economic journal. “In general, it’s much easier and more profitable to invest in places like Egypt and Jordan.”

This says it all.

Regardless of American sanctions, were the red tape and corruption to be cut, investments will quickly follow.

October 3rd, 2007, 8:17 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

I see that the direct link that I posted doesn’t work and brings only the brief.
When you enter the story from Google News – you get the full story.

Click on the link below and then click on the link there to the story from Stratfor.

October 3rd, 2007, 8:48 pm


Atassi said:

Syria is a very attractive place to do business for The well connected and well financed business and ruling elite. I am guessing Jihad Yazigi analyses meant for the outsider looking to invest in Syria. The high risk / return on investment ratio form them would be very unattractive !!

October 3rd, 2007, 9:37 pm


ausamaa said:

Ehsani 2,

If so, then the remark posted above by OBSERVER : “To this day, the combined GNP of the 22 membres of the Arab League is less than the GNP of Spain despite the oil revenues” is somewhat of an undersetimation of the true worth of espicially Moderate Arab states.

Because if we add in the personal wealth of our RICH Arab Moderate and Unmoderate leaders, then WE the ARABS (Rich and Poor, Rulers and Ruled) must surely have an accumulated wealth larger than the GNP of the Whole EU. So we can say we are rich, are we not?

October 3rd, 2007, 9:41 pm


ausamaa said:

Akbar Palace,

You are reeeeeally very cute and objective.

“But that was year’s ago.” That is what you say to the fact of Israel occuping the fisrt Part in 1948, and the rest in 1967.

You only miss the fact that the whole justification used by the Zionists to steal Palestine is the promise that was made to them by God 2000 years ago, and the evidence of such a promiss is not that conclusive yet!

That was 2000 years ago, not sixty years ago or fourty ears ago.

Cant you Israelies even do your sums objectively?

October 3rd, 2007, 9:50 pm


UJ said:

My theory is the airstrike was more about Russian military cooperation with Syria, NATO expansion, disputed radar deployments, all of that. I think the use of Israeli jets and Turkish airspace was a demonstration of the American clients’ capabilities to strike anywhere, anytime, no matter if they’re protected by Iranian or Russian radar.

Turkey proved its loyalty to the EU under a controversial new prime minister. Israel restored the mystery and prestige to its military after the loss of face against Hizbollah. And the US proved that even in a quagmire we are still a superpower.

Follow Mr. Putin’s play-by-play response to the US ever since we started pressing the new radars, and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

October 3rd, 2007, 9:53 pm


ausamaa said:

UJ says:

I hate to admit it but I agree with part of your analysis. The Raid was a Show, carried in the hope of “regaining” on TV screens what was lost on the battle ground.

But I loved it when you got to: “And the US proved that even in a quagmire we are still a superpower”.

Did you really desperatly need to reassure yourself of such a “fact”? Did anything make you, or others, suspect that things were otherwise? It is not like an old man suddenly ringing up young escort service girls and take them out to dinner to prove to himself and others that he can still get things done. Is it?

Marhaba Superpower!!!!!

October 3rd, 2007, 10:27 pm


UJ said:


I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying that’s how it appears. As for others suspecting otherwise, the way the world is discussing openly whether the US is “strong” enough to strike Iran, or the withdrawal and “power vacuum” in Iraq, has the effect of making the US appear weak, at least as far as concerned spectators like Russia and China are concerned. Again, I’m not justifying it, simply parsing their actions as I see them.

And as for it being a show for TV screens, that’s where you’re wrong. Media coverage of the strike has been sparse, and mostly focuses on the nuclear lie. It’s precisely the lack of continuous, thorough coverage that leads me to suspect that it was about a larger, more ambiguous issue, and not about something as simple as Hizbollah rockets or North Korean missiles.

October 3rd, 2007, 10:39 pm


ausamaa said:

From Haaretz,

The consistency of error

By Amir Oren

The Haaretz request yesterday morning to the military censor for permission – which it could no longer justifiably ban – to report about the IDF operation in Syria on September 6 without referring to foreign sources was finally approved. Any conspiracy theories behind the motive for this newfound openness are ridiculous. After Benjamin Netanyahu and the BBC, a negative answer would have been more stupid than what the Israeli press had become accustomed to hearing over the past month.

Following many weeks of feverish work the censors decided to take a break.

Since the operation the censors have fought on two fronts. One, external, against the Israeli media, which hoped to fulfill its duty and publish as many details as possible on the operation.

The second, internal, had to do with the raison d’etre of the censor – which under government pressure, and particularly from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, sought to seal the mouths of Israeli journalists. Were they to fail in their stringent guarding of secrecy, the matter may have been brought to the courts, which would have made the censorship redundant and put an end to the dispute over how necessary it is.

Consequently, while plenty of light was shone on the incident in the world press, the Israeli press had to feel its way in the dark.

The farce came to a partial end yesterday, and even though there is still a gag order on most of the juicy details, we can safely say that behind the successful blackout campaign lies an enormous failure. The silence of official Israel was not meant to protect military secrets. The victim of the operation knows full well what he had and what happened to him.

Policy was shaped on the basis of a certain assumption about Bashar Assad’s behavior in response to the operation. Since one option was chosen – silence – and not others, it is impossible to say with certainty what would have happened had Israel talked and thus added insult to the blow. Still, it seems that once again Assad surprised Israel; whoever expected him to respond to the operation in a military operation was wrong.

If there is one quality characterizing Israel’s efforts to decipher the actions of the Assad dynasty in the past four decades, it is the consistency of error. Collecting information about Syrian capabilities has normally been very good. Forecasting the intentions of the Syrian leader has been very bad. Nearly everything Israeli experts expected Hafez Assad to do – up to his death in 2000 – and subsequently Bashar, were either not done, or the opposite was done.

The intelligence assessment for 1973 was finalized in late 1972: No Syrian – or Egyptian – decision was expected on going to war. In September 1973 the signs on the ground were interpreted as Syrian concerns that Israel would attack. In the Yom Kippur War, even though Military Intelligence kept a plan on Syria’s expected war plan, both the General Staff and Northern Command were wrong about the Syrian forces’ moves on the Golan.

In early 1981, the IDF shot down Syrian helicopters that supported fighting against the Phalange militia in Lebanon. In a surprise response, Syria slipped anti-aircraft missiles into the Bekaa Valley. In the end, Menachem Begin carried out the official annexation of the Golan. One of his aims was to lead to war with Syria and push the new Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to freeze relations with Israel and offer him an excuse not to evacuate Yamit in the Sinai.

Assad was expected to respond to the annexation with force. In the war maps of the divisions in the North, the lines on which the IDF would counter the Syrian forces – all the way to Beirut – had already been marked. Much to the Israelis’ chagrin, Assad frustrated their planning and did not move. In June 1982 the IDF planned to outflank the Syrian army in the Bekaa, “which would have forced them to withdraw without battle,” according to the military journal Maarachot. Once more, the Syrians refused to play the roles we had assigned them.

Throughout the 1980s, and especially after Assad surprised by deploying SAM-5 antiaircraft missile batteries around Damascus, Israeli experts warned that the Syrians would attack any minute. Israel prepared for another Yom Kippur onslaught, which never came.

Israel was surprised when Assad joined the alliance against Iraq in 1991, which included the deployment of a division to assist Syria in the American war effort. And after the war was over Israel was surprised by Assad’s willingness to send a delegation to the Madrid peace conference.

In 1996, after the failure of the Rabin-Peres government’s negotiations with Assad, Israel scared itself into expecting another Syrian attack. This was in part because of Syrian military movements on the ground and a great deal because of the false information their Mossad spy handler, Yehuda Gil, brought them.

We can go on listing the failures, all the way to the present, which begins with last year’s assumption that there would be war in the North in the summer of 2007. The failures end (for now) with assessments by experts that Assad will not refrain from responding to the September operation – the only question remaining was the degree of his response.

If the Syrians are mistaken in their assessments of Israel’s intentions as often as Israel is about Syria, the mutual mistakes will lead to disaster in the end. To prevent this there is no need for censorship, just greater openness.

October 3rd, 2007, 10:39 pm


why-discuss said:

It does not seem that the Mr Bluhm article in the Daily Star
has convinced Amine Gemayel, the father of the murdered young deputy, Pierre Gemayel.
L’Orient le Jour:

“Gemayel déçu par l’évolution de l’enquête sur l’assassinat de son fils

Les résultats de l’enquête sur l’assassinat du ministre de l’Industrie, Pierre Gemayel, ont été hier au centre d’une réunion que le chef supérieur des Kataëb, Amine Gemayel, a tenue à Bickfaya, avec le ministre de la Justice, Charles Rizk, le procureur général près la Cour de cassation, Saïd Mirza, et le juge d’instruction militaire, Adnane Belbol. Mais si le ministre de la Justice a fait état de « certains indices » que les enquêteurs examinent, sans vouloir donner davantage de précisions, pour préserver le secret de l’enquête, M. Gemayel n’a pas caché sa déception face à l’évolution des investigations.
Dans une déclaration à la presse au terme de la rencontre, M. Rizk a indiqué que des juges qui participent à l’enquête ont pris part aussi à la réunion parce qu’ils ont voulu demander des informations au président Gemayel. Le ministre, qui a insisté sur le secret de l’enquête, a fait état d’« indices et non pas de pistes que les enquêteurs examinent et qui pourraient déboucher sur des résultats ». Il a souligné la détermination des enquêteurs à poursuivre leurs investigations avant d’inviter les personnes qui pourraient détenir une information susceptible de faire avancer l’enquête, à la communiquer aux autorités judiciaires.
Prenant à son tour la parole, M. Gemayel n’a pas caché sa déception quant à l’évolution de l’enquête. Il a affirmé que « jusqu’à présent il ne se sent pas rassuré », tout en se disant satisfait de l’intérêt que les autorités judiciaires portent à cette affaire et de la technicité dont ils font preuve pour faire la lumière sur l’assassinat de Pierre Gemayel.
Il a indiqué, en réponse à une question, qu’il avait rencontré, la veille, le chef de la commission internationale d’enquête, Serge Brammertz. « Après mon entretien avec M. Rizk et les enquêteurs, je suis arrivé à la conclusion que nous sommes encore au début du chemin », a déclaré M. Gemayel avant de s’arrêter sur le dossier de la présidentielle.”

October 4th, 2007, 1:24 am


Akbar Palace said:

Osama said:

You only miss the fact that the whole justification used by the Zionists to steal Palestine is the promise that was made to them by God 2000 years ago, and the evidence of such a promiss is not that conclusive yet!

That was 2000 years ago, not sixty years ago or fourty ears ago.

All “Zionists” (aka “Jews”) living in “Israel” (aka “The Zionist Project”) either came to Israel on their own free will or were born there. That was the only “justification” they needed to “steal Palestine”. And under the British Mandate, it was legal to do so.

Why Jews chose to live in Israel is a personal decision.

And if God told Ahmadinejad that a “12th Imam” will save the world:

What is so strange if Jews believe God made a covenant with them 2000 years ago?

I think all religions deserve equal respect and equal scrutiny.

October 4th, 2007, 2:15 am


why-discuss said:

Yes Akbar, as long as religion is not used as a pretext to oppress the others, the same way as christianity oppressed and discriminated the jews for century. It is so sad that the israelis, for survival of a jewish state that reassures them of the horrors the europeans did to them, are now oppressing the arabs who never harmed them or discriminated them.
The europeans are unforgivable for the harm they did to the jews and indirectly to the arabs by creating a “safe haven” for the people they exterminated while ignoring the rights of the innocent arab people who were in this land. We are, arabs and jews, paying a heavy price now for this irresponsible historical mistake.

October 4th, 2007, 4:10 am


ausamaa said:


OMG, and I thought that the only Claim on Palestine by the Zionists was that promis by God 2000 years ago. If not, why should a Jew from Russia or Romania, or Morrocco or Iraq leave his thousands-year-old place of residence and “move” into the newly developed (and being actively evacuated from its own origional population) homeland called Israel?

Come on man, is the first time you hear of this “Promise”?

October 4th, 2007, 4:47 am


Friend in America said:

AUSAMAA – Amir Oren’s piece on the consistency of error is a very astute summary of Israeli-Syrian military strategy iover the past 30 years. I am not prepared – yet – to agree IDF’s assumed anticipation of Syrian action were errors consistently made. There are other explanations. But that is for another discussion.

What is interesting is identifying consistencies in Syria’s reponses and from that drawing conclusions about the strategic thinking of the leadership in Damascus. There seems to be 3 themes here:
1. do not undertake any military action without a good probability of success,
2. do not disclose your intentions in advance,
3. opportunism.
Another theme apparent in the 1970’s was Baaathist concepts of pan Arabism. It seems in the 15 years that had given way to survivalism. Is the aliance with Iran a reincarnation of this policy (if we cann’t do it alone, we’ll get a stronger country to partner with us) or is it just opportunism?

October 4th, 2007, 2:40 pm


Majhool said:

Yet again the wealth (let’s say in the Gulf states) pocketed by the ruling elites there was at some point of time a result of an export that counted in a GNP at some point in time.

Syria’s case maybe different. Syria has not yet reached it’s business and investment potential. a lot of syrian money is not in the economic loop. Plus a lot of the moeny is expat money that does not get invested in the syrian market.

I say GNP is a true indicator of the wealth of a country unless the country is anti business- anti investment. like Syria for example.

October 4th, 2007, 4:00 pm


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