News Round Up (27 February 2007)

U.S. Agrees to Meeting with Iran and Syria writes David Ignatius – or sort of. This is how it has been explained:

The Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table with official representatives of Iran and Syria next month — as part of a planned regional conference in Baghdad to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq.

In joining the Baghdad conference, the administration is tiptoeing into what has become one of the most contentious issues in the roiling Iraq debate. Critics for months have been urging the administration to end its diplomatic isolation of Iran and Syria and begin a constructive dialogue about with them about how to stabilize Iraq. Even former secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who has generally supported administration policy on Iraq, argued in an op-ed piece last weekend that it’s time to end the diplomatic quarantine and convene an international conference on Iraq.

 The government will invite representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States — in addition to all of its Mideast neighbors.

Though it will bring together American, Syrian and Iranian representatives, the Baghdad meeting doesn’t signal a direct U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria. A senior State Department official said Monday night that it wasn’t likely there would be separate bilateral meetings with Iran or Syria. Rather, the planned Baghdad meeting is an extension of the administration’s current policy of using the Iraqi government as the channel for discussions with Iran and Syria about Iraqi security.

The initial meeting, tentatively planned for the first half of March, will be at the ambassadorial level, the State Department official said. The American representative will be Zalmay Khalilzad, the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, or his successor, Ryan Crocker. Khalilzad has long favored direct meetings with Iran. If the initial meeting goes well, a second meeting at the foreign minister level is planned for April.

 Iran and Syria haven’t formally agreed to attend the meeting, but “they haven’t said no,” said the State Department official, and the Iraqis expect they will attend.

The trick for the administration has been to gain Iranian and Syrian help in Iraq — or at least, a cessation of harmful activity — without conceding ground on the larger issues of paramount importance to those countries. The Baghdad conference appears to offer such a finesse. It begins contact, but leaves diplomatic “grand bargains — that would address the Iranian nuclear program or Syria’s role in Lebanon — for other times and venues.

Although US diplomats claim there will be no "grand bargains," such as Syria's role in Lebanon, but, of course, Syria can ask the Iraqis what they want and then explain that they will do it if the US takes Syria off the terrorist list or drops economic sanctions. At which point, the Iraqi officials will look at the American ambassador and wait for his response. It will help clarify the issues. At least this way, the American public will get a better idea of how interested its government is in stabilizing Iraq and can assess the price Syria and Iran will ask for cooperation. It is a positive turn of events which fits in well with the diplomacy that the US has farmed out to Saudi Arabia. Both Iraq and Saudi Arabia will be able to lobby Washington on Syria's behalf.

U.S. takes harder line on talks between Jerusalem, Damascus
By Ze'ev Schiff, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz, February 24, 2007

The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.

In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter.

The American argument is that even "exploratory talks" would be considered a prize in Damascus, whose policy and actions continue to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and the functioning of its government, while it also continues to stir unrest in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. presence there. [complete article]

Siniora denies arming Sunni extremist groups

Lahoud officially invited to Arab League summit

Assad accepts to go to Saudi Arabia, Arab League meeting 

“Al-Assad after receiving Abdullah’s invitation: my attendance is decided” (Translation by

Al Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, reported in its February 26 issue about the latest developments in the preparations for the Arab summit which will be held in March. The newspaper added: “The Saudi minister of state Abdullah Zeinal announced to Al Hayat yesterday that the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has confirmed that he will attend the Arab summit set for the 28th and 29th of next month. Al-Assad announced to Zeinal: “My attendance is decided. I will expend all my efforts to ensure that the summit succeeds”. Zeinal had delivered to the Syrian president yesterday a letter from the Saudi king Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz that includes an invitation to attend the 19th Arab summit which will be held in Riyadh next month.”

The newspaper added: “A Syrian presidential spokesman announced that the meeting which took place in the presence of the Saudi ambassador in Riyadh Ahmad Bin Ali Al-Qahtani discussed “the necessity of ensuring the success of the Arab summit because of its importance for the Arab people”. Zeinal clarified to Al Hayat that the meeting with Al-Assad was “very distinguished and Al-Assad gave me valuable time. As soon as I handed over the invitation, he told me that his attendance was decided and that he will do his best to ensure its success before also expressing his estimation for the Saudi king and the old relationship between them”. While diplomatic sources announced that Syrian officials told them that the Arab summit is “important and it must succeed”, Syrian sources clarified that Damascus is “anxious for the success of the summit in the current circumstances and it is paying attention to the suggested agenda”

The newspaper continued: “The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem is supposed to participate in the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting which will be held at the beginning of next week in Cairo. It was learned that Syrian Saudi arrangements prepared for Zeinal’s visit as he met the Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Al-Miqdad before he met with Al-Assad…” – Al Hayat, United Kingdom Click here for source

Several good stories on the Sunni-Shiite divide:

As U.S. Puts Pressure on Iran, Gulf's Religious Rift Spreads,
Sunni States See Rise In Anti-Shiite Actions; Scare Tactics in Bahrain, By ANDREW HIGGINS, WSJ, February 26, 2007; Page A1

MUHARRAQ, Bahrain — One night last fall, incendiary leaflets denouncing Iran suddenly appeared on the walls of houses and mosques in this tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

"Iranians are trying to occupy your homes, the homes of your fathers and grandfathers," warned the anonymous tracts. "Do you want to be ruled by these people? No, a thousand times no!"

Bahrain, a crucial American ally and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, was quickly caught up in a wave of anti-Iranian paranoia. Politicians, clerics and the media jumped on the theme, turning Iran into a big issue in bitter local elections …

The Devil We Know, by PETER BEINART follows along the lines of my post of several days ago on Saudi Arabia 
How low have America's fortune in the Middle East sunk? So low that we're staking our hopes for the region on … Saudi Arabia….


David Schenker (February 26, 2007) of WINEP writes: Saudi-Iranian Mediation on Hizballah: Will a Lebanon Deal Come at Syria's Expense?

He concludes:

For the time being, it appears that Iran and Hizballah will not sacrifice Syria for a Lebanon deal. Ultimately, however, if a deal is to be reached and Lebanon is to avoid civil war, Hizballah will have to consent—even if only temporarily—to approve the tribunal in parliament. The framework of the deal, as currently structured, essentially forces Hizballah to choose between securing its local interests (more political power in Lebanon) and protecting its Syrian ally (by opposing the tribunal). While Hizballah and Iran would like both, it seems likely that, at the end of the day, they will choose to prioritize political power. And this is what troubles Damascus.

I am not sure why Schenker thinks that Hizbullah and Iran will eventually accept the Hariri tribunal at Syria's expense. This seems like wishful thinking to me. If Hizbullah breaks with Syria, it will have no means of importing arms. Perhaps Schenker assumes that Hizb will accept to give up its role as "resistance" and accept peace with Israel without a Golan deal or Palestinian deal. Possible, but not likely. It is also unlikely that Siniora will give up his insistance that Lebanon fully support an international tribune, designed to take on Syria. Stalemate is the most likely outcome. Both sides seem adverse to compromise.

“Scholars and sheikhs: conversions to Shi’ism in Syria individual cases” (translation by

On February 25, Al, the online version of Al Jazeera TV, reported that: “Syrian religious scholars denied the news about the spread of [efforts to] convert [people] to Shi’ism in the country and considered the [news] to be “rumors” promoted by some out of ignorance and to be part of the American pressures. Other scholars talked about the fact that this was linked to the building by Iranian donors of shrines in the northeastern region of the country. The director of the Islamic Studies Center and Syrian MP Dr. Muhammad Habash, said that what was being circulated about the issue was groundless.

“He believed that “Saudi Sheikh Salman Al-Awded who said that about Syria, based his talk on doubts and illusions”. He said that the situation in Syria was different from Saudi Arabia. He added that: “Let them show us one case which proves that people were paid to convert from one sect to the other”. He continued that people converted from the Sunni sect to the Shi’i sect and vice versa everywhere, and considered these cases to be individual cases which were present in all the societies.

“Worshippers and sheikhs quoted the scholar, Wehbe Al-Zuheili, as saying after the Friday prayer in a mosque in Damascus a few weeks ago that there were cases of Shi’ization in one of the towns in the Raqqa governorate northeast of Damascus, and [he] asked the worshippers to make sure of that. We were unable to contact Al-Zuheili, but the general supervisor of the Ghuraba Al-Sham media institution…, Sheikh Mahmoud Kul Aghasi, said to Al that Al-Zuheili’s position was “investigative and was confirmed the following week”.

“Aghasi added that the story started from Al-Raqqa where an Iranian institution built two shrines for the Companion [of the Prophet] Ammar Bin Yasser and follower Awais Al-Qarni (God bless them), as well as a cultural bureau and a tapes library. He indicated that some people in that area were influenced by the building pattern and the ideology and found common grounds with those who are responsible for them. He assured however that they never changed their sect, and if they did “there are very few of them”. He believed that some exaggerated the entire issue…

“For his part, the former assistant to the Syrian minister of endowments, Dr. Abdul Razzak Al-Muanness, said he heard a lot of “talk” regarding Shi’ization in Syria in newspapers, satellite channels and websites. He checked the veracity of these claims by conducting tours and visits in many Syrian regions and didn’t find any proof for the spread of Shi’ization. The dean of the Islamic Studies College in Damascus, Abdullah Nizam, said that talks about Shi’ization in Syria were “lies” and said to Al that he called upon all those who raised this issue to provide proof for the fact that someone converted to Shi’ism or was asked to convert to Shi’ism in exchange for money…

“Aghasi believed it was the right of any group to promote what it believes in… but in correct and clear ways. He said that the Shi’is have been declaring their creed for years via books, publications, and recordings and wondered why this issue was raised in these “difficult circumstances” that the region was going through. He concluded by saying that foreign sides connected with the American administration were interested in talking about a Shi’i spread as part of an Iranian path.

“Al-Muanness believed that such allegations were not innocent and were the result of the American occupation of Iraq, and an attempt to weaken the domestic communities of its neighboring states by spreading sectarian strife, in order to undermine peacefulness and cooperation with Iran. For his part, Nizam said that this issue was raised because of the “critical circumstances that the nation is going through, following the victory achieved by the Lebanese resistance over the Israeli army”. He added that what he called “media mouthpieces” and some scholars “fell in the American-Israeli trap and launched a campaign to arouse the common people and the sectarian conflicts among the Muslims.” – Al Jazeera, QatarClick here for source

Comments (170)

Omar said:

First […edited by blog admin…]. Second, let me tell you how we see the opposition in Lebanon now. We see that they want to involve Iran in the region and I swear that NO ONE IN SYRIA ADMIRES Iran or Hasan NOW(THEY HATE HIM)( and They hate Iran) even the governement they are worried……

2007-02-25 19:23:12

مسؤولون سوريون يطالبون إيران بتحديد موقفها بشان المحور السوري الإيراني

أجرى نائب وزير الخارجية الإيراني منوشهر محمدي وباحثين ومسؤولين سوريين منذ يومين جلسات حوارية نظمها المركز العربي للدراسات الإستراتيجية تناولوا الأوضاع على الساحة السورية الإيرانية.(خليل)So stop being a traitor.Stop being a traitor .Stop being a traitor. Be a man for once. Did you see Farenjieh today on TV today ,AHHHHHH TFUHHHH ALIKOUM

February 27th, 2007, 6:27 am


Gibran said:

No one should miss the latest Tony Badran’s hilarious dissection of the pathetic Hersh’s ‘masterpiece’ reporting:

The Sylight Zone

That Seymour Hersh’s reporting is shrill, hilariously conspiratorial, thin, ideologically skewed, and based on dubious sources is hardly news. His latest doesn’t break with that shoddy tradition. It does, however, reflect a bonus trait to add to his pieces: seamless meshing with the propaganda and ideological agenda of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah — the fruit of his recent trip and dinner parties, as well as his sources.

There are several things I can rip apart in this typically ridiculous piece, but I will confine myself to Lebanon-related material.

In order to fully understand the piece, you must read it with Hersh’s comments to Wolf Blitzer earlier today, where Hersh offered the “interpretive key” so to speak, as well as an interview with the pro-Syrian as-Safir daily. It also gives you a sense of the unfiltered, wide-eyed lunacy that got edited out in the New Yorker piece, and shows just how ludicrous Hersh’s “reporting” is, amounting to little more than wholesale, verbatim regurgitation of Hezbollah and Syrian propaganda.

Hersh immediately presents the underlying, pathetically reductionist and silly premise: who is the “real” enemy and the “real” danger, Iran or the Sunnis? It was succinctly summarized in his as-Safir interview: “we are against Sunni jihadism, for it was responsible for 9/11, not the Shi’a.” This was reflected in the article in a quote by Vali Nasr (who along with other Iranian analysts — Ali Ansari, Kaveh Afrasiabi, Hossein Askari, inter al. — has been pushing this line from that particular trench): “It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals.” It was also “confirmed” by the useless Flynt Leverett in a side-splitting comment dripping with conspiracism and Flynt’s usual narrow, shallow nonsense: “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq … The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.” The latter part is really the part that concerns Hersh the most.

The next step in Hersh’s mental construct — guided by overt hatred of the Bush administration — is how this is setting the stage for war with Iran. This translates into covert (naturally!) action by the US against Iran and its allies and interests in the region. The basic idea is that the United States (namely the NSC, the OVP, and the DoD) are going after Iran and the axis it leads in cooperation with the Saudis, namely Prince Bandar. How are they going about it? By funding and arming Sunni extremist groups to counter pro-Iranian Shiites and Iran’s sidekick, Syria. And the fun begins!

Again, Nasr provides the hook: “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.” We’ve almost reached the heart of the theory. The next step: How does this relate to Lebanon and Syria?

Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Now, you are entitled to wonder here who Hersh’s source is on this. Who is the person privy to this sensitive information? Surely, an NSC or OVP official. Perhaps even a DoS official, or perhaps someone from the DoD. What about a Saudi source? No, it’s even better than that! It’s a “U.S. government consultant.” It’s air tight!

But why stop there? Hersh insists on dazzling us with his — and this “consultant’s” — superior knowledge of things relating to Lebanon. The “plan,” known in its entirety to the “consultant,” has “at least” four points. Might as well jump to the fourth!

Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)

Um, Sy, if you want people to take your theories seriously for more than five seconds, it might help to actually get some basic facts rights, like perhaps Assad’s name (Bashar), or that the international tribunal is not “another investigation,” but, er, as its name suggests, an “international tribunal” as in “trying” suspects in the murder. If you’re picky, you might want to discuss that issue a bit more, but you know, I’m sure it wasn’t the topic of choice at Imad Moustapha’s dinner table. But certainly tying Hariri to Prince Bandar (based on what information?) might be something Moustapha could pander to people. After all, his boss’s internet propaganda tool, Cham Press, has been doing just that with Hariri’s son, Saad. We’ll get to that later.

Also, perhaps you could’ve spent more time on the reason for Syrian-Saudi tension. After all, you are suggesting that Saudi Arabia is about to fund Salafis to take down Assad’s regime. I’m sure there’s more at stake there than Hariri’s murder. Details, details… Who has time for that?

But Hersh hasn’t yet provided us with the juice. It’s just a tease. The rest is coming: “The focus of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after Iran, is Lebanon, where the Saudis have been deeply involved in efforts by the Administration to support the Lebanese government.”

Now, the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Sunnis, Druze and Christians who took to the streets to support Seniora’s government might be surprised to learn that “[m]any in the Arab world” view “Siniora as a weak politician who relies on America’s support.” And perhaps, King Abdullah (of KSA and of Jordan), Hosni Mubarak, France and a host of Paris III donor countries might also take issue with Hersh’s contention that Seniora relies on “America’s support” to survive. Furthermore, one could also argue that Nasrallah is also seen by “many in the Arab world” as a Shiite tool of Iran’s Khamenei. But this (Nasrallah = supported by the Arab world vs. Seniora = propped by America) is part and parcel of what I described as pathetic reductionism and a penchant for facile dichotomies, which I will explore further below.

But there’s more than just the US supporting a democratically elected government. Here comes the heavy stuff, based on what “American, European and Arab officials” told Hersh. The basic idea was summarized in his CNN interview:

My government, which arrests al Qaida every place it can find them and sends — some of them are in Guantanamo and other places, is sitting back while the Lebanese government we support, the government of Prime Minister Siniora, is providing arms and sustenance to three jihadist groups whose sole function seems to me and to the people that talk to me in our government, to be there in case there is a real shoot-’em-up with Hezbollah and we really get into some sort of serious major conflict between the Sunni government and Hezbollah, which is largely Shia.

Yes, “largely” Shia. But where were we? Ah. The Seniora government is “providing arms and sustenance” to jihadist groups! Evidence? Oh yes, “American, European, and Arab officials.” Who exactly? Let’s start with the “European” one, Hezbollah-hugger Alastair Crooke!

“The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.” Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.

The largest of the groups, Asbat al-Ansar, is situated in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government.

Come again!? The pro-Hezbollah Crooke “was told”?! OK, how about this. “It was reported” that in fact, members from Fateh al-Islam were arrested by the government and during interrogation, two of them (one of whom was Syrian) confessed to receiving orders from Syria to assassinate Lebanese figures associated with the anti-Syrian coalition, and also to plan operations against UNIFIL, as many a Syrian official, including “Bashir” Assad himself, have threatened (specifically about unleashing such groups in Lebanon). The other members of the group, “it was reported,” were smuggled into Lebanon, via Syria, after participating in action (again, via Syria, who in Hersh’s facile scheme is on the receiving end of Salafi attacks!) in Iraq.

ّIn fact, about two weeks ago, the government forces clashed with Fateh al-Islam members who managed to capture three policemen (ISF) on patrol near the Nahr el-Bared camp and hold them for two hours. Maybe they thought they were Hezbollah! But wait, I thought the ISF was “the Sunni militia” that the US was arming, as irresponsible reporters like Megan Stack and Michael Slackman propagated in recent months.

Sultan Abul Ainein, the representative of Fateh (the original one) in Lebanon, strongly criticized this new phenomenon of Fateh al-Islam and gave support for the Lebanese Army to take the necessary measures to preserve stability. Maybe he didn’t get the memo from Alastair Crooke.

What about Asbat al-Ansar? ّIs Alastair Crooke the source for that claim as well? What is the evidence? Was he “told”!? This is flat out preposterous reporting. We have now gone from Stack’s and Slackman’s “the ISF — an official institution — is a Sunni militia” to “the ISF is arming Asbat al-Ansar and Fateh al-Islam.” Simply pathetic.

But Hersh added that not only is the ISF responsible for arming these groups, but also “militias associated with the Siniora government”! Apparently, what Hersh wanted to put here was edited out by the New Yorker. But never fear, he revealed it in all its hilarity to as-Safir. Who is this “militia associated with the Siniora government”? Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces! Why, of course! They are known to arm and support Salafist groups in Palestinian camps!

Naturally, Hersh’s evidence and sources for such a preposterous claim are typically impeccable. Here’s what he told as-Safir (emphasis mine):

Samir Geagea was strongly opposed to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and to his agreement with Michel Aoun. His Lebanese Forces were involved, I was told, in directly or indirectly helping a Sunni jihadi group that snuck in [to Lebanon.] The problem is that when my government distributes money to people in order to “take care of Hezbollah,” we don’t always know where it ends up. One of the theories of one of my sources, was that the money received by the security services and the Lebanese Forces comes from American aid unappropriated by Congress for this purpose. This is a very important point.

AS: Is this aid simply money or arms also?

SH: Money buys arms. There is a point I didn’t write about. Money always flows in Lebanon, mainly from the Gulf states.

Simply impeccable reporting. What utter garbage. “One of the theories” of one of my sources?! Unappropriated funds sent to the Lebanese Forces?! Just what the hell is this nonsense? Oh wait, Hersh has an irrefutable response to such criticism. He conveyed it to Wolf Blitzer:

And a lot of this money, and I can’t tell you with absolute assurance how, exactly when and how, but this money has gotten into the hands, among other places, in Lebanon, into the hands of three, at least three jihadist groups.

There’s three Sunni jihadist groups whose main claim to fame inside Lebanon right now is that they are very tough. These are people connected to al Qaida who want to take on Hezbollah. So this government, at the minimum, we may not directly be funneling money to them, but we certainly know that these groups exist.

As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would put it: “Oh Yes!” You gotta love Hersh. He starts with the assertion that the money “has gotten into the hands” of “at least” three jihadist groups, but he can’t tell us with absolute certainty! Then asserts the purpose of these “funds” to these jihadist groups: to take on Hezbollah. And then, the coup de grace: the government, “at the minimum,” we may not directly be funneling money to them, “but we certainly know these groups exist”! Oh Yes! That we know for sure! Such compelling Cartesian logic: I exist, therefore I am a jihadist funded by the Americans through the Seniora government! And people respect this guy?!

OK, Hersh, give us another one. Who’s the American “official” who told you these things? Oops! No one else is quoted to that effect aside from Crooke. But don’t worry, we’ll take your word on it. Or rather, we’ll take your word on one of the theories of one of your anonymous sources who is not quoted on this issue.

All joking aside, there is something incredibly disturbing about all this. For anyone familiar with the situation in Lebanon, and who follows the political discourse closely, as I do, will immediately realize that Hersh is internalizing and uncritically disseminating the propaganda of Hezbollah and its allies. There are unmistakable key words and claims used by Hersh that are a dead give away. The rest was supplied by Syria’s ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, I’m sure.

In fact, I bet you that the “Middle East ambassador” quoted in the piece is none other than Moustapha. That too might be discernible for those who follow the Syrian political discourse and official statements. For instance, the ambassador told Hersh:

Bandar’s mission—which the ambassador said was endorsed by the White House—also aimed “to create problems between the Iranians and Syria.” There had been tensions between the two countries about Syrian talks with Israel, and the Saudis’ goal was to encourage a breach. However, the ambassador said, “It did not work. Syria and Iran are not going to betray each other. Bandar’s approach is very unlikely to succeed.”

Anyone who reads the official Syrian leaks, which usually are put out by the Syrian regime through their man in al-Hayat, Ibrahim Hamidi, would suspect that the speaker is probably Syrian, as the same exact line was put out by Hamidi. Syrian functionaries, like the hapless Moustapha, are hardly the “free thinkers” who make statements on their own. They are people who follow the official line and regurgitate it. This is a perfect example. My money is on Moustpaha.

Therefore, all of Hersh’s claims come either directly from Hezbollah, or from Hezbollah sympathizers, or functionaries of Hezbollah’s regional allies.

To give you an example of the kind of “information” Hersh got from his meeting with Nasrallah. In December, Walid Jumblat revealed in a press conference that when he met with Hersh, he [Hersh] told him that Nasrallah had told him [Hersh] that when Jumbalt and Marwan Hamade went to the US in March (before the summer war, started by Hezbollah), they went there in order to plan the summer war with the Americans!

The “information” put out by Hersh in this piece and in his interviews is of the same caliber, from the same sources, and is equally unprocessed.

Take this other claim for instance, attributed to seemingly two people, who may actually be the same person:

A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Let’s start with the basics. The delegation of the NSF met with members of the NSC in 2006, not 2005 (it wasn’t yet formed in 2005). Now, again, my hunch is that this “former” CIA officer and “former” White House official is none other than the above-mentioned, Bashar cheerleader, Flynt Leverett. As for the information, Hersh needn’t have talked to Leverett (oops, I meant the “former CIA officer” and the “former White House official”) about it. He could’ve asked me, and I would’ve told him that Bashar’s internet propaganda tool had put out the same exact “information” months ago! My feeling is that once again the source of this “information” is probably the same.

As for the “travel documents,” Khaddam doesn’t need them. He holds Saudi citizenship. Did Hersh even try to confirm any of this “information,” if not with someone from the NSF (Ammar Abdulhamid lives in the DC area), at least with a “current” official or CIA officer (they could even be two different people!)? Details, details…

Speaking of Cham Press, that bit of unchecked “information” fed to Hersh by (who else) Narallah’s aides about how “they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives” was also available on Cham Press in the summer! Wouldn’t you know it, Cham Press also claimed that Jordan was training Hariri and Geagea militias and had set up offices in Lebanon for such purposes! What a surprise! Hell, I believe I could’ve written Hersh’s entire article myself — including the Leverett and Moustapha quotes — based on Cham Press and Hezbollah “reports” and official Syrian leaks!

Although, I must admit, I can never make up the kind of stuff given to Hersh by Robert Baer. I mean who else could’ve provided this gem: “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.”

Yeah, let the militant Khomeinist Islamist group — who burned tires and blocked roads and attacked Christian neighborhoods after a program on a Christian TV station satirized their leader — be the “protector” of the Christians! Why didn’t I think of that one!? Hell, let’s also make Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army the “protector” of Christians in Iraq too! Sometimes I wonder if Hersh’s articles, and this type of quotes, isn’t just dark humor, or The Onion-style writing. Yet it’s not a joke. This too is part of the Syrian and Hezbollah propaganda. That the “crazies” are the Sunnis, who are the real threat to the Christians. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is disciplined, pure, not seeking an Islamic state, etc. This is how Michel Aoun is trying to sell his unnatural alliance with Hezbollah to the Christians as well.

Moreover, this is the result of the facile dichotomies that I mentioned earlier and which underline the entire piece. The entire premise predicates that Iran and Syria are not themselves active supporters of Sunni Islamists and jihadists. That it’s the exclusive realm of Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese Sunni Hariri! This approach is dangerously silly.

For one, a recent report (and earlier ones) noted how Iran is in fact actively supporting both Shiite militias and Sunni jihadists in Iraq. As for Syria, well, its alliance with Sunni jihadists and Islamists needs no introduction. Just ask the Syrian regime’s US-based flack. I quote: “The al-Qaeda type jihadist groups are not emerging in Syria because Syria encourages them in other countries.” That they do, especially in Iraq, where Bashar actively aided jihadists, and his regime worked openly with recruiters. Also don’t forget the above-mentioned Fateh al-Islam and other Palestinian Islamists, pace Mr. Alastair Crooke. This is not to mention Hamas, because we don’t want to upset Mr. Crooke, who is also a Hamas cheerleader.

There’s also one other interesting Salafi Islamist allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon and who was received like royalty by Bashar Assad himself. He is one of the very few Sunnis in Lebanon who are openly allied with Hezbollah. He is also an open supporter of Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden. His name is Fathi Yakan. Check him out sometime, Sy.

So you see, it’s hardly the clear-cut scheme that Hersh and his one-sided sources want to make it out to be. But then again, without that neat configuration, how would we get the stellar conspiracism and all the “supportive” florilegium of priceless quotes!? I should also note though that some other quotes in there, like those by Patrick Clawson and the one by Leslie Gelb are rather interesting.

I could go on an demolish other parts of this ridiculous piece, especially the section on Nasrallah, but I don’t want to ruin the fun for you. Just make sure you can find your way back out of the Sylight Zone.

February 27th, 2007, 7:51 am


ausamaa said:

Come on guys, read,read, read and at the end of the day you will still not know half what you need to know. If you do not like an Article or an Opinion, that is it. You do not like it. It is not like you go on a Vendetta against the person. If you are not here to read and discuss different opinions why are you here? You do not like authoritarin regimes you claim, but each reply you post reeks with hidden authoritarian sentiments and attitudes. You use improper langauage to do what? Prove your linguistic abilities, Score points, demonise others, make a point, vent a anger, win someone over? It aint working and it is not the way to go about things.

There are a lot of people we do not agree with, do we Kill them or Force them to accept our opinion? Do we kill all the women (or men) who do not think we are cute? Come on for God’s sake. Do we stop talking to our children who do not agree with a single word we say and who think they know it all and take us for total idiots?

If we do not like something, tough luck, but shoot at the Subject not at the person.

Can we do that?

February 27th, 2007, 10:34 am


Hootsbuddy said:

…shoot at the Subject not at the person.

Very good point, but first one has to see the subject clearly. I’m not a hunter, but I understand how easily a hunter can mistake another hunter for a deer and shoot that fellow-hunter by mistake. (Ask the Vice-President.)

In this case the Subject is one of breathtaking complexity and every player has an agenda. The challenge for those seeking conflict resolution is credibility, not authoritarian attitudes. Suggesting that “each reply you post reeks with hidden authoritarian sentiments and attitudes” is not a constructive response.

I am as ignorant as anyone, but I know the difference between yelling and negotiation. The place to begin is not with points of disagreement but overlapping areas of agreement.

February 27th, 2007, 11:16 am


ugarit said:

Sy Hersch touched a very sensitive nerve.

February 27th, 2007, 12:07 pm


t_desco said:

Again some quick comments, first on the previous post by Anonymous:

Very good analysis, but I see some problems:

The analyst says that Hersh “may be very good at researching the US side of a story”, (but his) “research and analysis on foreign countries is less impressive”.

This may or may not be true, but, more importantly, it completely misses the point Hersh is trying to make: he is not talking about Siniora, but about US government policy, Iran-Contra all over again, using the Saudis as proxy to avoid congressional oversight, etc.

– Saudi and Jordanian intelligence are conspicuously absent from the analysis, though they are explicitly mentioned in Hersh’s article and precisely in this context (particularly Saudi intelligence).

– I don’t think Hersh wanted to suggest that “the Lebanese government” in its entirety is involved in arming the extremists (or that Siniora personally handed over those weapons to Asbat al-Ansar… :D); this looks like a “straw man” argument, particularly in light of my previous point.

– Hersh’s articles are more carefully vetted and, thus, more reliable than the information you can normally find in media reports about the region but, admittedly, the standards of the press and the news media are pretty low in this regard.

Which leads to my next point: the international tribunal…

The press likes to frame it more or less like this: Siniora in favor, opposition completely opposed to the tribunal. Unfortunately, the following paragraph could be interpreted in very much the same way:

“It is also unlikely that Siniora will give up his insistance that Lebanon fully support an international tribune, designed to take on Syria. Stalemate is the most likely outcome. Both sides seem adverse to compromise.”

The reality seems to be more a little bit more complex, e.g.:

Berri to Expose Those Hampering Hariri Tribunal
Naharnet, 20 Feb 07

I don’t think he will, btw, but these questions are still worth asking: what is the international tribunal debate really about? Is the opposition simply doing Syria’s bidding or is there more to it? What is the opposition objecting to, what are the obstacles and who is obstructing the process?

February 27th, 2007, 12:33 pm


Mo said:

Guys, any info on the meeting of 7 Islamic FA Ministers in Pakistan? Was Cheney’s concurrent visit a coincidence?

February 27th, 2007, 2:09 pm


ausamaa said:


you are right. I slipped on the same ice spot…thanks

February 27th, 2007, 4:15 pm


Alex said:


“but these questions are still worth asking: what is the international tribunal debate really about? Is the opposition simply doing Syria’s bidding or is there more to it? What is the opposition objecting to, what are the obstacles and who is obstructing the process?”

In case you did not read Jihad elkhazen’s article yesterday (I linked it in the last post) it does answer your question ..

The Tribunal and the Government
Jihad el-Khazen Al-Hayat-27/02/07/

I stopped over for 48 hours in Beirut to visit my mother, who was ill. I was heading back from Dubai, and I found myself in a position between the opposition and the loyalist camps. After all, one leaves the homeland behind, but the homeland never leaves you. Beirut, after becoming beautiful again, has now become shabby, ‘messed up’, like an old lady that has lost the taste for good living or any desire to live at all.

I met with the leaders of Hezbollah on the day I arrived. In the evening of the following day, I met with Saad Al-Hariri and Saudi Ambassador Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Khojah. I left the next morning, having obtained information from primary sources (as they used to tell us in the university), or from the ‘fountain spring’, as we say in Lebanon.

The issue here is the tribunal and the government, the rest are but details.

My sources in Hezbollah, and they’re part of the leadership, told me that the Saudi-Iranian mediation took up 40 hours of negotiations. The Iranian delegate, Ali Larijani, presented an agreement consisting of five points. First, the formation of a national unity government; second, postponing the formation of the tribunal that will look into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri until the investigation is completed and a preliminary report is issued; third, passing a new electoral law; fourth, early parliamentary elections; and, fifth, presidential elections – and all of this before September, when the presidential elections are scheduled.

Again, I’d like to say that the real issue is the tribunal and the government, and my Hezbollah sources explained to me that the reason for this postponement was that Walid Jumblatt explicitly accused the party of being involved in all the assassinations. He was overconfident in his accusation as well, because he repeated it. The question is, is he aware of the progress of the investigation from its well-known sources, or is he trying to influence the direction of the investigation to strike at the opposition, instead of trying to track down the murders of the martyr?

Hezbollah informed Larijani that it will not agree to the tribunal if it becomes a suspect, and the real issue is allowed to be lost sight of. The Saudi mediator pledged a guarantee from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to say that Hezbollah will not stand accused.

The most important point I heard from these Hezbollah leaders (and I wrote down what I heard in front of them) was that the Saudi side told them that they were not accused, and that they were offered to join a cabinet with 19 seats for the government loyalists and 11 for the opposition. They were also told to drop the request for early elections and for the tribunal to be postponed. After that, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berry suggested a press conference. In this conference, he did not speak about a Saudi initiative or any proposal, but instead said: “The loyalists informed me that they are ready to discuss a national unity government on the basis of 11-19 seats, and that the opposition informed me that it is ready to seriously discuss amendments to the clauses of the international tribunal to find a solution.”

Our brethren in Hezbollah told me that the agreement must be over both the government and the tribunal, and that no agreement is possible on one issue without the other. They added that in their meetings with Hajj Ali Hassan Khalil, Amal’s representative, and Ghattas Khoury and Mohammad al-Samak, representatives of the majority; the second team retracted, and there is now talk of a 1+10-19-seat-government, and the need to agree on starting discussions on the tribunal’s clauses.

Hezbollah wanted to form two committees, the first to discuss the formation of the government and the second to look into the issue of the tribunal, with agreements on both issues being reached – either that or no agreement. But it turned out that the two representatives of the government adopted a position different from what Larijani had informed the party concerning the joint mediation with Saudi Arabia. Is this true? Saad Hariri says that the majority never agreed to sharing authority in the government on an 11-19 basis. He presented me with comments that refute what I had heard from our Hezbollah brethrens. I decided to go to Dr. Khoujah to help me judge the situation, since he was at the centre of the mediation, while also listening to explanations from other officials, some actually involved in the negotiations. I hope to clearly convey, from all these parties, the opinion of the majority:

▪ We reject the postponement of the tribunal, and refuse the division of the government on the basis of 11-19 seats.

▪ It is expected that an agreement will be reached over laws for the formation of the government and the tribunal, for choosing the president of the republic, and elections to parliament. This agreement will be forwarded to the Security Council to agree on the judges, procedures and laws that will be used, among other things. However, if the opposition has the redundant third (or the ‘guarantee’, as it says), then it may reject any agreement; and if the Shiite ministers and their allies resign, then the government will lose its legitimacy and the country will enter a constitutional crisis that will no doubt reflect on the street.

▪ Moreover, requesting a postponement of the tribunal until after the results of the inquest or the preliminary report is released is not feasible because the prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, needs to send his report to the authorities. In other words, the tribunal must be formed before the report comes out, not after.

▪ Bearing this unequivocal legal factor in mind, under no condition will the majority accept a 11-19 government, nor will it postpone looking into the formation of a new government, either.

This is the position of the loyalists, and I went over the position of both sides with Dr. Khojah, and he is an old friend in whom I have complete trust. I also talked with other officials, who added points and corrected others. They told me that both the Saudi and Iranian mediators are afraid that the tribunal will slip out of the hands of the concerned regional parties. President Jacques Chirac in particular – whose presidency is coming to the end of its term – hopes that the issue of the tribunal will go back to the Security Council, so that its formation will come under Article 7. This would allow him to settle well-known accounts with American help.

I would like to pause here to say that everything mentioned above were facts, whereas my opinion is:

I am the father of the land. My concerns go beyond my mother’s home; my personal interests lead me to Beirut and my homeland.

I found Beirut, which I have known as the bride of the Mediterranean, but which has been destroyed. We have lived to see Beirut as a beautiful bride once again – beautiful, but sad, morbid and tarnished for months, and on the verge of bankruptcy. Its people are the ones who ruined it. The expression is so true and still valid, no matter how many times it is recurring.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is a Lebanese leader and a patriot, and I’m proud of him, even though I object to the outcome of the sit-in in Beirut. But I’m on his side. As for our brethren Saad Hariri, he is a dear, personal friend whom I’m also proud of, and I’ll never let him down (the same goes for Fouad Siniora). I’m not as arrogant as to offer a solution that the minds of the negotiators themselves failed to deliver. However, I’d like to say to everyone: Fear God for what you do in Lebanon.

February 27th, 2007, 4:29 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Gibran –

Sy Hersh has never met a terror organization that he hasn’t fallen in love with.

He despises any government attempt to confront these terrorists without his expressed permission.

Nutcases like Sy Hersh are a dime-a-dozen and are found at every major newspaper and TV network.

February 27th, 2007, 5:03 pm


norman said:

King Abdalla seems to Gaurantee that Hizballa will not be implicated ,I thought nobody knows who killed Harreri ,he can gaurantee that only if he did it or knows who did it or he has sombody Like Suria he is intended to implicate.

February 27th, 2007, 5:11 pm


Ammad said:

No one can deny that Iraq is the heart of the middle east, the country which has influence on iraq, will simply have influence in the entire middle east. Dr. Hersh is a great thinker, in case the americans withdraw their forces in Iraq, world war three will begin, most important Iran and Syria will play the role of gangsters in middle east. Predicting Future is difficult.

February 27th, 2007, 6:50 pm


ausamaa said:

WOW, THAT is something. Actually a lot of things. I mean Jihad Al Khazen’s article…if it is correct. It is “something” in the sence that it “defines” and “highlits” the suspected “purpose” of the intended Tribunal in a way that can not be missed.

Well, let us keep saying that we are still searching for the TRUTH! That TRUTH seems to be the price of something… A price that will be unpayable by anyone.

February 27th, 2007, 7:28 pm


Alex said:

Norman, good point.

Ausamaa … Jihad is a close friend to everyone .. all the presidents and kings and prime ministers … his information is as reliable as it gets… although he never criticizes the Saudi owners of AlHayat, he tries very hard to be fair and balanced.

This article has in it all we need to know so far.

The question which Jihad wants to ask but can not:

If Hariri’s tribunal is one of the two main reasons we might end up with some version of a civil war or armed conflict in Lebanon, is it really that necessary?

February 27th, 2007, 8:05 pm


Gibran said:

Tony Badran again cathes Dr. Landis with his hands in the cookie jar:

Mobsters n’ Pals

Not satisfied with his statements to al-Siyassah — openly laying out that the US “abandon” Lebanon to Syria’s tender mercies — the Oklahoma-based academic, Joshua Landis, clarifies his views further, commenting on a post by David Ignatius:

Although US diplomats claim there will be no “grand bargains,” such as Syria’s role in Lebanon, but, of course, Syria can ask the Iraqis what they want and then explain that they will do it if the US takes Syria off the terrorist list or drops economic sanctions. At which point, the Iraqi officials will look at the American ambassador and wait for his response. It will help clarify the issues. At least this way, the American public will get a better idea of how interested its government is in stabilizing Iraq and can assess the price Syria and Iran will ask for cooperation. It is a positive turn of events which fits in well with the diplomacy that the US has farmed out to Saudi Arabia. Both Iraq and Saudi Arabia will be able to lobby Washington on Syria’s behalf.

Did you get the message, through the typical twists? In essence it’s this: the US should give Lebanon to Syria so that it could get out of Iraq, or else Syria will continue killing Iraqis (oh and Lebanese too). Or as he had put it before, “if the US refuses to bend, we will see more violence.”

Here’s the cynical offer Landis is presenting: Syria will continue to bargain with Iraqis’ lives until it can control those of the Lebanese, and you will give it exactly what it wants.

Naturally, there’s always humor involved, like Saudi Arabia lobbying Washington on Syria’s behalf! Makes you wonder which world these people live in. It also makes you wonder why an American academic is so bluntly internalizing and rooting for a murderous regime with so much Lebanese and Iraqi blood on its hands.

Addendum: A friend and a sharp Syria analyst wrote the following in response to the quote from Landis, echoing a point I’ve been making for a while: “it is funny that he cannot say what Syria will do for Iraq. And the answer is this: All Syria can do for Iraq is to stop sponsoring a massive terrorist insurgency against it. But of course Landis cannot admit that this is the sole issue at stake between the two countries!”

Also, I should add — since Ignatius quoted his recent piece — what Kissinger actually said about Syria, which is of direct relevance to what my friend said. It would help if people quoting Kissinger for authoritative support of their arguments actually read what Kissinger is saying: “The contemporary debate over ending the Iraq war has ascribed an almost mythic quality to the desirability of bilateral negotiations with Syria and Iran as the key to an Iraqi settlement. … But only a few of the objectives of the United States, Syria and Iran can be fulfilled via bilateral negotiations. Syria’s role in Iraq, for better or worse, is limited.”

Mythic as in Bashar’s “we’re the main player in Iraq” or “we have credibility with all the parties in Iraq” and other such fun tales.

The only thing the Assad regime has is terrorism. Period.
Full article with some relevant links at:

February 27th, 2007, 8:26 pm


ausamaa said:


I do not think the Lebanese will get into another Civil War. Junblat and Ja’ja may try to frieghten some of this possibility but it is something that is very difficult to happen. At the very least -and forgive the pluntness- because there is no viable Lebanese power that can stand up to the Hizbullah-Amal-Aoun-Frenghia-Karami alliance. Armed Militias with fighting capabilities do not grow on the trees overnight, niether can money create them, nor would anyone Really intend to re-arm them again. Even if they are ready and willing.

For sure, speeches get hot, tempers flare, the mucho talk blossems, but again, the powers that be will think :enough two worm cans open in Iraq and Afghanistan, do we really want another one?

Actually, the white smoke continues to pour out from Riyadh, and if we think that this done without the US approval, or quasi-approval then one will be very naieve. So, everyone is cooling it off for the time being, from Gaza to Lebanon.

February 27th, 2007, 8:26 pm


Friend in America said:

Gibran’s somewhat too lengthy disection of the Hersh article made for humorous reading. Nice job. I have never been a fan of Hersh but have been impresssed with how many sources he claims to have who supply “enough consistent information” to put a story together. I doubt that. I wonder if soem of his sources are fictional.
One consistent theme in Hersh’s articles is “how coherent” are the positions of politicians he likes and how nefarious and conspiratorial are the machiniations of governments and politicians he doesn’t like.
The real lesson for those of us not in the middle east (that includes Hersh) is to understand how important it is to know all the players, to recognize international politics in the middle east is contantaly shifting and it is easier for us to misunderstand than to understand. We need to keep on talking and better, keep on listening. This is a great blog.

February 27th, 2007, 8:26 pm


Alex said:


Again I see the same white smoke that you can see… but there is more happening in parallel.

1) They are all not discounting any possibility. The Arab summit might be “successful”, but it’s success might not last too long. We have seen it before. Remember when Bashar visited King Abdullah last year and got him to stop Khaddam from appearing on all Saudi owned media? … then few months later Khaddam appeared again (symbolizing the end of the Syrian Saudi agreement).

2) Within the US administration and in Saudi Arabia there are conflicting directions … both countries panicked this summer when HA won the war and Bashar appeared victorious when he called them half-men … some want to talk to him, others want to stab him in the back.

You will still see both white smoke and knives. I believe it will only get better if Saudi Arabia makes a final decision to accept Syria as the same regional power it was under Hafez. Otherwise, tactics designed to calm conflict A,B, and C will not mean much on the long run.

AS for Lebanon’s civil war chances … logically speaking you are right. But wars start by mistake sometimes, and they start when some evil small players succeed in making them start. Can you think of some who can do that?

Same with America attacking Iran .. logically it is absolutely crazy to do so. but somehow when you put all those ships close to Iran, something might happen … congress won’t be able to say no.

Gibran .. I’m so happy you discovered Tony. Tony will be your hero from now on.

Tell him he is welcome to visit us here and test his incredible talents in analyzing and criticizing and in make fun of everything not blindly anti-Syria and pro Lebanese war criminals … maybe we will be convinced that Joshua is an idiot like Tony keeps trying to demonstrate … a hundred times during the past year.

February 27th, 2007, 8:54 pm


ausamaa said:


Yes sir, Knives and White Smoke! We got used to KNIVES ONLY for sometime, but now at least there is SOME White Smoke.

Again someone, or ones, maybe lurcking in some dark corner wanting to ignite things, but at least Israel is not one of them this time, so they maybe inconsequential. I think, I hope. It is now sort of If-you-have-the-enemy-in-sight-so-does-he situation. All are in sight of each other right now, and all are blinking at the same time.Hell, War is Frightening, especially if you may loose it. But again, I may be counting on the learning curve too much..

February 27th, 2007, 9:18 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I do not recall any arabic summit that was successful, I call summet(Qummeh),Trash(Qumameh)meetings, the arab league is long due for considerable changes,their budget is way under funded, there are too many heads of states, it is social meeting,never responded to true arab demands.
since lebanese fight on foreign orders,civil war is possible, Samir Ja’ja’,is training militia,why?is his militia ever will fight against Isreal aggresion,like the patriotic HA did?, the answer is clear no,he should be disarmed,and put back where he belong.
I can not change people mind,they have their reasons and motives, but they will never change my mind,either, I want to make it clear I believe Seniora is good,honest patriotic person,and so is Nasrallah,but the rest like JaJa,Jumayel,Junblat(the three Js)I do not trust them.

February 27th, 2007, 9:24 pm


ausamaa said:

This is from the Israeli site, no friend of anyone but the Haeadline is very indicative..

In a sharp policy reversal, the US joins Iraq in a new initiative to invite Iran and Syria to a “neighbors meeting” in Baghdad next month

February 27, 2007, 10:30 PM (GMT+02:00)

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday, Feb. 27: “We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region.”

Until now, the Bush administration had resisted calls to include Iran and Syria in diplomatic efforts to stabilize Iraq.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi government announced the meeting would take place in mid-March with the participation of members of the Arab League and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Rice said it would be held at sub-ministerial level, to be followed perhaps in April by a full ministerial-level meeting of the same countries, plus G-8 Group members.

February 27th, 2007, 9:29 pm


ausamaa said:

Lo and Behold..

“We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region.”

That is the Carrot now; as best as Condi can bring herself to put it out.

And for God’s sake Alex, do not shoot it down at sight.

February 27th, 2007, 9:35 pm


Alex said:


ok, I won’t. And to apologize for my excessive negativity. Here are few potentially positive developments and signals:

KSA might invite all the Lebanese for Taef II


Mubarak called ASsad


much more good news here

February 27th, 2007, 10:21 pm


Alex said:

حذر الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى في تصريحات له بالسعودية من تجدد الحرب الأهلية في لبنان إذا تغلب طرف على آخر.

وقال موسى على هامش منتدى اقتصادي في مدينة جدة إن لبنان سيحترق إذا ظهر فائز، مشيرا إلى أنه يجب ألا يكون هناك غالب وأن اللبنانيين عاشوا بهذه الصيغة زمنا طويلا.

وأكد موسى أن العنف الطائفي يشكل أكبر تهديد يواجه المنطقة التي لا تحتمل الانزلاق إلى “مستنقع من العنف الطائفي”.

ومعلوم أن موسى سعى للتوسط بين أنصار المعارضة وتحالف 14 آذار الحاكم لإنهاء الأزمة السياسية المتواصلة في لبنان منذ اغتيال رئيس الوزراء الأسبق رفيق الحريري قبل عامين.

وأثار الخلاف اللبناني الذي اكتسى طابعا مذهبيا من تفاقم الخلافات الطافية في المنطقة بعد استفحال العنف بين السنة والشيعة في العراق.

جنبلاط يستنجد
في هذه الأثناء واصل الزعيم الدرزي وليد جنبلاط هجومه الكلامي على سوريا وقال إنه أتى إلى واشنطن لطلب المساعدة في مواجهة نفوذ دمشق في بلاده.

February 27th, 2007, 10:52 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

It seems that the Bush White House will end up embracing the key recommendations of the Baker report after all.

As many of us recall, the ISG report was published immediately after the midterm elections and the “thumping” that the Administration suffered at the polls.

At the time, the White House was simply too crippled to sit down at the negotiating table. What seems to have been decided instead was to demonstrate strength and resolve before such negotiations commence. The aircraft carriers were sent and the willingness to fight a new war was on full display.

Mr. Baker is not a man who loses face too easily. Rice’s confirmation of a meeting with both Iran and Syria is the fist significant breakthrough thus far.

Though with a time lag, Baker’s recommendations will not be discarded we seem to be learning today.

As for Saudi Arabia’s role in the region, my view is that the Kingdom has much to lose from a further escalation. Rich monarchs who sit on Billions of Dollars are usually more interested in maintaining the status quo than risking an all out breakdown in order.

This is not to say that the Kingdom is not worried about Iran’s abilities to influence the region in the future. Saudi will try to come to an understanding with Iran. I think that Prince Bandar made it clear to the Iranian that his country will be proactive in protecting its own national security.

In the end, practical opportunists dominate Iran at the core. The current President may be an exception but he is not the sole power broker. Indeed, I think that the country’s main decision makers will see that their interests will be best served if they take this issue to the brink but then make sure that they stop just before they go over the edge.

Two aircraft carriers constitute a bluff. A third would appreciably raise the chances of war. Let us hope that number two will prove the magic number in this chess game.

February 28th, 2007, 12:12 am


Gibran said:

UN Investigation into crimes of political assassination in Lebanon continues with emphasis on Syrian role:

وكانت مصادر لبنانية مواكبة للجنة التحقيق الدولية في جريمة اغتيال الحريري أكدت ان فريقاً من اللجنة زار دمشق 5 مرات خلال 10 أيام، ولم تدخل المصادر في تفاصيل اللقاءات التي عقدها الفريق وما اذا كان التقى شهوداً أو لا، أم اياً من المسؤولين السوريين.

وأوضحت المصادر ان فريق التحقيق زار دمشق 3 مرات الأسبوع الماضي وعاد وتوجه إليها أول من امس الاثنين وأمس الثلثاء، عبر نقطة الحدود في منطقة المصنع، وسط إجراءات أمنية مشددة. ولفتت الى ان اللجنة تركز حالياً على الشق السوري في تحقيقاتها في الجريمة وسط تقديرات المصادر المواكبة للتحقيق نفسها بأنها أوشكت على الانتهاء من الشق اللبناني في عملها.

February 28th, 2007, 2:02 am


norman said:

We should remember in Syria that talking to the US is not a goal by itself and for Syria to help the US in Iraq the US should help Syria on the Golan , Lebanon Iraqi refugees and the Palestinian problem, Lift the economic sanction and abandon considering Syria astate supporter of terror , These goals might be too big and many for the US to axcept but it could start by grtting rid of Jumblat , Actualy congress can start by lifting the economic sanction against Syria which would be a big step to show Syria that good deeds will result in freindship with the US.

February 28th, 2007, 2:03 am


Gibran said:

We sincerely hope Mr. Jumblat succeeds in his efforts to finally rid Lebanon of the Syrian and Iranian intransigence and terrorism once and for all. All Free Lebanese support Mr. Jumblat in seeking the help of the Free World in a straightforward and an open manner against the evil forces of totalitarianism and despotism.

اعلن الزعيم الدرزي اللبناني وليد جنبلاط الاثنين في واشنطن انه يزور العاصمة الاميركية للحصول على مساعدة الولايات المتحدة السياسية والعسكرية ضد ما وصفه “بالاحتلال السوري غير المباشر” للبنان.
وقال جنبلاط في محاضرة القاها في معهد “اميريكان انتربرايز انستيتيوت” في واشنطن “هذا ليس سرا. نعم ابحث عن المساعدة”.

واضاف “احتاج الى مزيد من المساعدة السياسية والعسكرية ضد الاحتلال السوري غير المباشر لان الاحتلال السوري المباشر لم يعد قائما”.

واوضح جنبلاط الذي سيلتقي اليوم وزيرة الخارجية الاميركية كوندوليزا رايس ان سوريا ما زال لديها تأثير في لبنان “باحتلال غير مباشر” وتعمل عن طريق (حزب الله) وحلفاء آخرين.

واكد النائب اللبناني زعيم الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي “سافعل ما بوسعي لتحرير بلدي من الاحتلال السوري غير المباشر”.

February 28th, 2007, 2:14 am


Gibran said:

Syria continues to play its usual subversive game in Lebanon in a hopeless attempt to avoid the International Tribunal:

وبحسب ما ابلغ المعلم الى وزير الخارجية الاسباني، وعلى ذمة مصادر ديبلوماسية عربية تحدثت عن هذه المعلومات ل”الرياض”، فان بلاده لا تعارض ادخال بعض التعديلات على النظام الاساسي للمحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي على ان يترك الامر للافرقاء اللبنانيين المتخوفين من هذه المحكمة ادخال التعديلات التي يرونها مناسبة وان سوريا تقف وتؤيد ما يتفق عليه اللبنانيون في هذا المجال. وعلى رغم الايجابية التي رآها موراتينوس في هذه الخطوة، فان المصادر الديبلوماسية العربية لم تر جديدا فعليا يمكن ترجمته في حلحلة الازمة السياسية الراهنة في لبنان باعتبار ان سوريا سبق ان ابلغت الامين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى بانها تدعم كل ما يجمع عليه اللبنانيون. وهي صيغة او تعبير سياسي ملطف يعني، وفق تجربة التعاطي العربي،واكثر التعاطي اللبناني مع سوريا ان الافرقاء الحلفاء لسوريا في لبنان هم من يتولى تمثيل موقفها حتى اذا ما تم العودة الى مواقفهم الخاصة تذرعوا بان الامر ليس في ايديهم فعلا وان ثمة تحفظات في مكان اخر لا يمكن تجاوزها، في اشارة الى الموقف السوري، على ما كان ابلغ رئيس مجلس النواب نبيه بري النائب وليد جنبلاط. اذ كشف هذا الاخير ان بري اسر له قبل احالة النظام الاساسي للمحكمة على مجلس الوزراء في 11- 11- 2005على مجلس الوزراء من اجل درسه واقراره قبل احالته الى مجلس النواب للتصديق عليه،ان سوريا لا تقبل ان يؤتى على ذكر موضوع المحكمة ابدا لا من قريب ولا من بعيد في اشارة الى المأزق الذي كانت ستواجهه الحكومة اللبنانية في هذا الاطار.

February 28th, 2007, 2:23 am


why-discuss said:

Jumblatt hopes: Bye the Syrians and the Iranians, welcome the Sionist neocons, at least they are not moslems…

February 28th, 2007, 11:45 am


ugarit said:

Let’s be careful. This so called meeting with the US, Syria and Iran may be a cover by the US to start a war.

February 28th, 2007, 12:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“Let’s be careful. This so called meeting with the US, Syria and Iran may be a cover by the US to start a war.”


Yes, be very, very careful. As if a war could hurt the Arab world more than it is suffering already. The only losers, of course, would be the despots who have “led” these countries for decades. I guess what I’m saying is it MIGHT not be a bad thing.

Now Ugarit, just a simple question:

Were you telling us to be “careful” when Iran and Iraq were fightning for 8 years in the 70s and 80’s? Did you warn us before Lebanon was about to enter their 10 year civil war? Did you warn us before Sadam starting killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Kurds? When? Do you have a copy of that post?

Did you warn us before Sadam entered Kuwait? Did you warn the Saudis before Sadam’s scuds fell on Saudi Arabia (OK, I know you wouldn’t want to warn the Zionists). Are you going to warn us the next time Assad finds another Lebanese cabinet minister to murder? Did you warn the Moselm Brotherhood before Assad took care of that small problem in Hama?

As you can see, we need more people like you to sound the alarms.

February 28th, 2007, 12:38 pm


Gibran said:

Hezbollah threatens turning Lebanon again into a launchpad to serve its Iranian masters. Of course Landis chorus on this blog view the hezb as the most patritic group in Lebanon:

The deputy chief of Hezbollah warned Tuesday that any “military adventure” by the United States and Israel against Iran would have dangerous consequences across the Mideast.

Sheik Naim Kassem suggested his pro-Iranian group would not get involved if the U.S. attacks Iran, but he raised the possibility that Israel might attack Lebanon as part of such an assault — in which case, he said, Hezbollah would “definitely” respond.

He said Hezbollah guerrillas were making plans in case Israel, like last summer, attacks Lebanon again.

“The resistance is taking all the necessary measures to be ready and prepared,” Kassem said in an interview with the Associated Press. He would not elaborate but said Hezbollah is constantly changing its fighting tactics so the Israelis would not know its capabilities

February 28th, 2007, 12:46 pm


EHSANI2 said:

“If only Syria would stop screwing around in Lebanon”

As I mentioned in my posting from last night, Baker’s recommendations are back on the table after the White House attempts to regain some of its lost fighting credibility. Two aircraft carriers later, sitting with Iran and Syria is very much on the table now.

WASHINGTON (AP)–Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Tuesday
the United States should be prepared to change course in its foreign policy,
and said “We are doing just that in Iraq.”
A consistent foreign policy promotes stability, he said. “But when events
change, we must be prepared to change with them,” he said.
Baker spoke in a lecture series at the Library of Congress just a few hours
after the Bush administration, in a reversal, said it would join an
Iraq-sponsored “neighbors meeting” with Iran and Syria.
Baker went further in his speech and at a news conference and urged the Bush
administration to expand Mideast peacemaking efforts beyond Israel and the
Palestinians to include Syria.
Israel needs peace on both fronts, he said, while Syria may be able to
influence the Hamas militia to recognize Israel’s right to exist, thereby
removing a roadblock to peace talks.
At the same time, Baker said Syria must “stop screwing around” in Lebanon and
stop transporting weapons to the Hezbollah militants there.
Baker was co-chair of the Iraq Study Group which recommended U.S. dialogue
with Iran and Syria, a course the administration at first resisted.
“We need to recognize and accept that the United States will sometimes have
to deal with authoritarian states,” he said.
In his speech, Baker outlined a policy he called “pragmatic idealism.”
He said the U.S. “must be comfortable using our power” but also recognize
that it has its limits.
“We have no alternative,” Baker said in a speech. “If the United States does
not exercise power, others will.”
In a lecture dedicated to former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who
sat in the front row, Baker said other countries depend on U.S. leadership,
particularly allies in Europe and east Asia.
But, Baker said, “we need to recognize that even U.S. power is limited” and
“We cannot be, even if we wanted to be, the policeman for the world.’
He cited Iraq as an example of the maxim that there are limits to U.S.
military strength.
Baker, as secretary of state, organized the military coalition of European
and Arab states that joined U.S. forces in the Gulf War of 1990-91 that
liberated Kuwait from Iraqi annexation.

February 28th, 2007, 1:20 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I had no idea that a person like you had such caring about the Moslem Brothers and the way they were treated by the late Hafez. Would you prefer them to Bashar?

February 28th, 2007, 2:28 pm


Gibran said:

Why are you beating around the bush? The real question Akbar is asking : Do you condone Hafez acts in Hama? Regardless of their affiliations, the Hama inhabitants are first and foremost Syrians. Do you condone razing the city to the ground? What would be your reaction to the similar recurrent random bombings of Zahle and Achrafiyah conducted by Hafez rag tags in the 80s? It was obviously a practise copied from the Hama model!

February 28th, 2007, 2:44 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Grow up. This is the Middle East. It is not Norway.

Every leader has and will do everything he can to stay in power. This is not about condoning what Hafez did or did not do. This is about understanding the facts on the ground. Even my 3-year old knows that Hafez or Bashar are not up to Scandinavian standards of governance. But this is not Scandinavia. The monarchs and leaders of this region are not elected. They are well aware that once their internal security apparatus is compromised, their days in office will be numbered. Moreover, this ending is unlikely to result in a comfortable and nice retirement. Being democratic or nice and fuzzy is not therefore a prerequisite on their resumes. It is time for you to understand this simple dynamic and stop lecturing us on how brutal or ruthless these leaders are. Even my 3-year old knows that.

I have one other comment on Lebanon for you:

The Syrian actions in Lebanon over the past 30 years took place under the noses of the international community. The U.S., France and the rest of the world were well aware of everything that was committed in that country. Not a single person bothered to say a word. When no one seemed to care, the same Lebanese politicians that are acting like freedom fighters today were making their trips to the very same ruthless leaders in Damascus as they attempted to position themselves in Syria’s good graces. Throughout that period, Damascus acted the way it did because IT COULD.

Clearly, the geopolitical environment has now changed. The international community does no longer seem to want to tolerate the past Syrian policy in the country.

This will inevitably mean a new and different phase in this relationship going forward.

I think that you ought to take a deep breath and relax.

February 28th, 2007, 3:43 pm


norman said:

Well said Ehsani.

February 28th, 2007, 5:30 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I think Junblat is going too far

February 28th, 2007, 5:38 pm


Gibran said:

It seems you have a short memory EHSANI. The international community did not condone Hafez acts in Lebanon when it came to the random bombardment incidents of Zahle and Achrafiye and other places. I also recall there was tremendous international outrage on his Hama incident. In fact, Hafez used the international outrage resulting from such bombings to do what he is best at doing, namely blackmail. The scenario is simple. Randomly bomb Achrafiye, Zahle or other areas in Mount Lebanon for week or two. International pressure will then build up. SA and other Gulf States will then step in to diffuse the situation. And voila: few billion dollars get transferred to personal accounts of regime thugs. You say the International community is not as blind today as it was 20-25 years ago. But it was not completely blind. Besides at no time did any international power indicate to Hafez that he has a carte blanch in Lebanon. Syrian presence was always considered as an intrusion that could be ended anytime the government of Lebanon asks Syrians to depart. Remember Syria came to Lebanon by invitation of the Lebanese government.
Akbar’s question is still the issue: Do you condone the razing of the city of Hama or for that matter the random bombardment of any other civilian center? May I remind you that Zahle and Achrafiye were never a threat to the integrity of Syrian security? But I guess few billion dollars in the bank every few months is a good enough reason to fudge the answer! We may after all have arrived at the ‘answer’ to the economic woes of present day Syria – Economics is your specialty, isn’t it?! Well, may be not. The blackmail money was never intended for the Syrian economy in the first place!

February 28th, 2007, 5:39 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“This is the Middle East. It is not Norway.”


If Israel uses that excuse (and they have), would that make you feel better?

I didn’t think so.

February 28th, 2007, 5:53 pm


EHSANI2 said:

At no time did any international power indicate to Hafez that he has a carte blanch in Lebanon?

He sure did not have it from them in writing, you are right.

Your Zahle and Achrafiye comments are if anything a compliment to the genius of Hafez and the stupidity of the others.

You keep asking the sub 3-year old question of whether I do condone or not the razing of Hama?


Israel precisely uses the same “this is the Middle East and not Norway” metaphor certainly implicitly if not explicitly, no?

As to whether it makes me feel better or not is irrelevant. It is a fact on the ground. Israel has and will do everything it can to protect its citizens. It will obtain nuclear weapons, as it has. It will hit back as ruthlessly and brutally as those that attack it.

February 28th, 2007, 5:53 pm


Gibran said:

EHSANI said “Your Zahle and Achrafiye comments are if anything a compliment to the genius of Hafez and the stupidity of the others.”
Thanks for answering my “sub 3-year old question”. You obviously condone bombing of civilian centers especially if it means enriching few thugs. Congratulation you got an A in economics!

February 28th, 2007, 6:07 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I passed it with “distinction” and not just “A” incidentally.

Let me put you out of your misery:

I do not condone the killing or bombing of any civilians. I cannot stand thugs. I love democracy and the rule of law. I wish my country was a beacon for democracy and civil rights. I also wish for my country and the entire region to be prosperous and advanced.

Are you happy now?

You think that only you has figured out that these are the noble values that we all ought to dream of or aspire to?

Wake up man

February 28th, 2007, 6:19 pm


Alex said:

Gibran said:

“The scenario is simple. Randomly bomb Achrafiye, Zahle or other areas in Mount Lebanon for week or two. International pressure will then build up. SA and other Gulf States will then step in to diffuse the situation. And voila: few billion dollars get transferred to personal accounts of regime thugs.”

Gibran, You ARE good!

Excellent analysis of Hafez Assad. I used to rely on the way Kissinger and others who knew Assad well, reported their impressions of Hafez Assad, but now I will listen to Gibran’s more informed analysis instead.

And yeah, sure … those Gulf States were sending billions after billions … I heard the regime was getting about 5 billions per week… No, wait. It was per day!

AND … I heard that Bashar told king Abdullah that in order to stop calling him and the others “half-men” they will also have to send him billions and billions!.. to his personal account of course.

Again, thanks for the entertainment Gibran.

February 28th, 2007, 6:26 pm


Gibran said:

Are you here as a chorus to EHSANI?
I thought Kissinger was out of office long time before the 80s. And he could not have met Hafez after 1976 (start of Hafez intrusion into Lebanon).
I think EHSANI handled his part quite adequately and he wouldn’t have needed your ridiculous nonsense (as usual). The only thing left for EHSANI is to reaffirm or deny his opinion about Hafez blackmail ‘genius’ Only then he would prove his ‘distinctive’ economic expertise. And one more thing, it is no use to know the noble values and either ignore them or not act upon them.

February 28th, 2007, 7:11 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I am not sure what you want me to reaffirm or deny.

I was not Hafez’s private banker (regrettably I might add) to know whether he did blackmail those poor Gulf Monarchs or not.

My devotion to free-market economics, however, certainly sees nothing wrong with such action were it indeed to have taken place. So long as the party handing out the cash was a willing participant in this scheme, laissez-faire economics must have been doing its magic work rather efficiently.

It is rather clever, no?

February 28th, 2007, 7:42 pm


Gibran said:

So you’re back to square one. You condone shelling civilian centers for the purpose of making profit. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as your intimate knowledge of those noble values that you seem to know very well allow you to do that. I think we’ve had enough. You made your point clear and so did I.
Thanks Akbar for starting all this.

February 28th, 2007, 8:15 pm


Atassi said:

Iraqis are finally taking charge of their own destiny
Daily Star Staff
1 March 2007
Daily Star

Beirut — Editorial

In the past, US President George W. Bush has frequently tried to convince the world of his baseless idea that things are getting better in Iraq. But rarely has the news from the war-torn country ever substantiated his claims. On the contrary, the daily reports of bombings, sectarian killings and seemingly endless bloodshed have painted a bleak picture of a country that has no hope of ever becoming a stable and prosperous democracy. However, one recent development gives cause for optimism: The Iraqis are taking more initiative to secure their own country.

Iraqi leaders have taken a first step toward stabilization by inviting their neighbors, along with the permanent members of the Security Council and others, to attend a conference in Baghdad. They say that they will use the meeting to ask all of their neighbors – not just Iran and Syria, but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Kuwait – to make contributions toward improving Iraq’s security. The meeting could also go a long way toward defusing regional tensions, since it will provide a forum for the United States to meet face-to-face with its arch-foes, Iran and Syria, with whom the Bush administration has refused to communicate, despite the recommendations of a key bipartisan panel on Iraq.

The most significant thing about the conference, however, is not who will or will not attend; rather, it is the fact that it has been organized by the Iraqis themselves and marks the first time that they are taking the lead in securing Iraq. This development bodes well because the Americans, who have been in the driver’s seat until now, have been steering the Iraqis off a cliff. US officials with little or no knowledge about the country they are trying to shape have been running Iraq with all the detached arrogance of a colonial power. They created a coalition around themselves instead of the Iraqis. They tried to impose their view of a democratic Iraq, but this was little more than a fantasy conceived in the corridors of power in Washington. They craft security plans from the comfort and isolation of their cocoon-like fortress in the Green Zone, but these strategies have little impact in terms of quelling violence in the war-ravaged country.

Virtually every policy blunder in Iraq can be traced to US engineering. For example, the Bush administration vetoed attempts by two consecutive Iraqi governments to implement a viable reconciliation plan – a strategy that could have prevented the outbreak of sectarian war in the country.

What is worse is that the Americans have refused to accept responsibility for their own failed policies. Instead, they have blamed Iran and Syria for the escalating violence in Iraq, even though a significant number of insurgents and militants have poured into the country from across the borders of other states that are allied with the US.

The Iraqi-led conference may be the first sign that the Iraqis are rising up from under the mountain of American mistakes and setting their own security agenda. Because the conference is being organized by the Iraqis, and not the Americans, it would be inappropriate for Bush to claim it on his (highly questionable) scorecard of benchmarks achieved. But it could prove to be more of a real turning point than any of the occasions on which he has declared “mission accomplished.”

February 28th, 2007, 8:36 pm


annie said:

Please ! This has nothing of a comment section; is there any way the length can be regulated ?
Copying and pasting is not commenting; if there is a moderator, can’t he cut into that logorhea ?

February 28th, 2007, 9:16 pm


Atassi said:

These regional discussions on the future of Iraq may open the door for Syria to engage in other dialogues with other regional and international parties or broadening discussions to encompass sensitive issues such as Syria’s involvement in Lebanon and the Hariri affairs. The bipartisan US Iraq Study Group report will be used extensively by the Syrian to lure
The American form their intention of NO engaging in bilateral dialogues on the sidelines other then the Iraq security future…If the Syrian are not successful in their efforts, The Syrian can possibly be trapped in the outcome of conference commitment to the Iraq’s security issues..

February 28th, 2007, 9:52 pm


Ford Prefect said:

For those who are history buffs: Kissinger met with Hafez Assad 14 times between 15 December 1973 and 3 Sept 1975. Again, that was 14 times. The undisputed fact is that Kissinger knew Assad very well and continued to be the source of reference on the person for many future Administrations, including this miserable one.

Also, while we are condemning the horrific events of razing of Hama and the indiscriminate bombing of areas in Mount Lebanon (2 events that counted mentioned above), let’s consider these two other sample facts as well so we can have a balanced debate:

– 16 September 1982: The Phalangists enter Sabra and Shatila Camp in Beirut under Elie Houbeika. For the next 48 hours, they embark on a killing spree while the Israeli army guarded the outskirt and provided night flares. Victims? Take a pick between 700 and 3,500. The UN General Assembly called it an act of genocide.

– 18 April 1996: Qana, Lebanon. A UNIFIL compound housing many scared civilians was shelled by Israeli artillery. 106 innocent civilians were immediately killed while close to 200 were severely injured. The UN commander, General Stanislaw Wozniak said, “Simply, you do not attack civilians. You do not attack UN positions.”

If anyone wants to build a case study regarding the killing of civilians, ruthlessly and intentionally, Israel should be studied first.

March 1st, 2007, 12:53 am


EHSANI2 said:


You had forgotten to mention the accompanying “cluster bombs”, no?

March 1st, 2007, 1:00 am


ugarit said:

Akbar Palace said:

“Yes, be very, very careful. As if a war could hurt the Arab world more than it is suffering already. …”

Ah, so you do agree then that this meeting is really just for show and that the real motive is war.

BTW, to the best of my knowledge you never answered my question. I’ll paraphrase myself. Do you think Jewish life is more important than non-Jewish life?

Did you do your homework and find the more accurate estimate of Iraqi deaths due to the USA’s war of aggression against Iraq? To make it simpler for you, you can exclude the 500,000+ civilian deaths under Mr. Clinton. Ms. Albright said it was worth it so it’s ok. Hint, you can’t find the answers on Fox News or on most of the USA’ “liberal” or “conservative” MSM.

Oh the white man really cares.

March 1st, 2007, 1:27 am


ugarit said:


Those facts wont matter to Gibran or AP. See those acts were done by the USA’s clients so it’s ok.

Didn’t Israel kill 20,000+ civilians in Lebanon?

Oh let’s add the 400+ Palestinian villages ethnically cleansed by European Jewish colonists.

March 1st, 2007, 1:37 am


ugarit said:

AP said:

“Israel has and will do everything it can to protect its citizens. It will obtain nuclear weapons, as it has. It will hit back as ruthlessly and brutally as those that attack it.”

Iran has and will do everything it can to protect its citizens. It will obtain nuclear weapons, as it has [may be]. It will hit back as ruthlessly and brutally as those that attack it.

Syria has and will do everything it can to protect its citizens. It will hit back as ruthlessly and brutally as those that attack it.

March 1st, 2007, 1:42 am


norman said:

I know that i will be getting many objections , but i am going to say few words , we lost our house in Hama yes that was sad but what happened in Hama saved Syria from a civil war the MB wanted to bring to the country , I look at it like a doctor cutting the leg with gangrene to save the patient , yes the patient is with trauma that will last forever but is alive ,saving Syria is more important thn our house or parts of Hama , i hope people will understand that.

March 1st, 2007, 2:59 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Norman ,are you sure you are not from Homs

March 1st, 2007, 3:12 am


DJ said:

Gibran, to help you get rid of your trauma about Hama, let me add couple of more things to what Ehsani, Alex, and Norman have already said:
1- The Hama incursion was meant to be a special paratroopers’ deployment, with minimal ‘surgical’ intervention with the civilians if needed (rules of engagements).
2- In most of the cases, the army was firing back in self-defense, remember Hama was an old city, with narrow allies, a typical nightmare scenario for any military commander. (and that was told to me by my uncle – a Sunni, who was serving in this paratroopers’ battalion).
3- Sure there were lots of innocent civilian casualties, and sure it was a grave period in the modern Syrian history, however, we Syrians have developed a immunity toward sectarian clefts, and are mindful of the fact that our future lies in our hands and our standing together, and not in the gullies of unfortunate historical events….

Knock it off and go get a life….

March 1st, 2007, 7:31 am


MSK said:

Dear FP,

just a little comment:

Why can’t we study all cases simultaneously? Why should one country come first?

Little story: I once was in a lecture by a prominent historian. He talked about Latin America and said, “I don’t know why people always point at Pinochet having killed thousands of Chileans. The military dictatorship in neighboring Argentine has killed many more people.” Needless to say, the whole audience erupted in uproar.

Comparing absolute numbers of victims doesn’t get us anywhere. And as long as people aim to establish who the worst criminal/state/regime/group is … well, you’ll never reach any kind of reconciliation.

Not internal. Not with “the other side”.

Even if Israel would’ve slaughtered 20 million Arabs, it wouldn’t make the Hama massacre any less bad, or the Syrian killings in Lebanon and its occupation. And even if Syria had’ve razed every single village in Lebanon to the ground, that wouldn’t absolve the Israeli’s of any criminal responsibility for the Palestinian refugees and its invasions of Lebanon.

The same goes for Saddam vs. the US forces in Iraq. And so on & so forth.

It’s always easy to find someone who’s been even worse than yourself. But that’s cheap and ultimately doesn’t lead anywhere.


March 1st, 2007, 11:54 am


MSK said:


would you repeat that face-to-face to the relatives of those 20,000 people who got bombed, machine-gunned, gassed, bulldozed over?

Are you willing to give your life “to save Syria from civil war”? Are you willing to give that of your family?

You seem to be a perfect example for why technicians shouldn’t run countries.


March 1st, 2007, 11:59 am


Akbar Palace said:

Ugarit says:

“BTW, to the best of my knowledge you never answered my question. I’ll paraphrase myself. Do you think Jewish life is more important than non-Jewish life?”

Is this “Silly Question of the Day” time? No, I think non-Jewish lives are more important than Jewish lives. At least that’s what it seemed like prior to Israel forming a state in 1948.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves, including Jews defending their right to a state when 5 Arab armies invaded to “wipe Israel off the map”. Palestinians, Syrians, Iranians, Lebanese, Saudi Arabians, everyone has the right to defend themselves.

“If anyone wants to build a case study regarding the killing of civilians, ruthlessly and intentionally, Israel should be studied first.”


Of course, “Israel should be studied first”! And believe me, every Arab and Muslim organization has studied this in great detail. But because ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE of Arab and muslim civilians have died at the hands of other muslims fanatics and Arab governments, I’m just thinking your “studies” should be broadened.

Or is “fact finding” not exactly your purpose?

Ugarit attributed this quote to me:

“Israel has and will do everything it can to protect its citizens. It will obtain nuclear weapons, as it has. It will hit back as ruthlessly and brutally as those that attack it.”

Actually this is what EHSANI2 said. Please do not quote things I did not say.

I agree with MSK’s assessment above. (yeah!)

MSK said:

“Are you willing to give your life “to save Syria from civil war”? Are you willing to give that of your family?”

Unfortunately, from my vantage point, I get the impression from many participants on this forum that only what Israel does is important. What other Arab and Muslim governments and organizations do is NOT important.

March 1st, 2007, 12:28 pm


Gibran said:

MSK has spoken my mind and I’d say very eloquently.
I’d like to add a little remark.
Let’s agree on few things when it comes to the infamous scale of ranking evil. The evil committed by a country against its own citizens ranks higher than an evil committed by another country; especially if those countries are in a state of war. A person who condones the evil of his government against its own citizens while claiming to be opposed to the government ranks even higher on the same infamous scale. In this case, the higher ranking results from the added hypocrisy of that person.
Majed, I too am beginning to think Norman is from Homs!

March 1st, 2007, 1:40 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear MSK,
Your point is well taken and I stand corrected. I should have said that Israeli crimes against humanity should be studied “along” or “in conjunction with” other similar ones and Israel should not be “first”. Nonetheless, that efficient, blood-thirsty, and war-hungry killing machine known as Israel sure makes a formidable and full lifecycle example of perpetrator of such horrible crimes. The “coalition of the willing”, however, do not see that all crimes against humanity are equal.

March 1st, 2007, 1:45 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I find myself in agreement with Gibran, ironically. The crimes of the Lebanese warlords who are now ministers, members of parliament, and just-turned democracy and freedom lovers (at the door steps of the American Enterprise Institute and Daniel Pipes) should be added to that list as well. These criminals should be in the high-ranking category of “internal” thugs who perpetrated crimes against citizens of their own country.

March 1st, 2007, 2:10 pm


Atassi said:

Ford Prefect;
Good one !! you got Gibbbb and ran with this one..

March 1st, 2007, 2:45 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

the market is tumbling,it is scary,it is usually a good indicator of the economy,Iraq is not getting better,more american generals are admiting,that plan B is needed, plan B means withdrawal,I think President Bush ,today, is trembling, how much he can stand,his father may be crying loud now,his arrogance proved to be very stupid,more republicans will abandon him.

March 1st, 2007, 2:56 pm


norman said:

Majed , my father was born and raised in Hama then moved to work in Homs were i was born ,he kept us regesterd in Hama were we get our civil papers, our house is the family house ,it is in Sook Alshajra ,next to Ahorani’s house , my father , my grand mother and my grand father are burried in Hama.although many of us left to the US , Canada ,Damascus and Latakia and Homs ,we still consider ourselves as Hamyiee.

March 1st, 2007, 3:29 pm


Gibran said:

I don’t see the relevance of the silliness of Atassi and perhaps FP. Assuming that these so-called warlords, now ministers and warlords (that means they were not government in the past), have committed crimes as claimed by FP, then their presence “at the door steps of the American Enterprise Institute” should be viewed as a compliment to these past warlords (meaning Mr. Jumblat, the great great great Lebanese national as well as the equally great Geageag, Jemayel and Hariri – we may exclude Hariri from the warlords list but he is equally great). At least they are showing some signs to reform. We do not see such signs emanating from the thugs ruling Damascus.

And just a reminder some self-proclaimed experts (FP among them) recently dismissed North Korean nuclear deal as a no-deal. Here is what the North Koreans themselves are pledging (just read and read and read again FP):

“SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s No. 2 leader pledged his country’s commitment Thursday to giving up its nuclear program in talks with a visiting high-level South Korean delegation, amid intensifying diplomacy aimed at implementing Pyongyang’s pledge to disarm.

“The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the dying wish” of the country’s late founding president Kim Il Sung, Kim Yong Nam said in Pyongyang. The North “will make efforts to realize it,” he said.

At the meeting, South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung pressed the North to implement a February 13 pledge made with the U.S. and four other countries to take initial steps to disarm.

“It is important to make efforts to ensure that South and North Korea cooperate and six countries each assume their responsibilities,” Lee said.”

Well, is it time now for the despots of Iran and Syria to blink and bow down?

March 1st, 2007, 3:30 pm


ugarit said:

AP implies that I, Ugarit, said this: “If anyone wants to build a case study regarding the killing of civilians, ruthlessly and intentionally, Israel should be studied first.”

Which I did not. I don’t agree with that statement. All of the abusers, including Israel, should be studied.

I did make a mistake in attributing EHSANI’s quote to you.

March 1st, 2007, 3:45 pm


Alex said:

“FP, I too am beginning to think Gibran is from Lebanon!”

March 1st, 2007, 4:01 pm


Atassi said:

I would have to say that the sectarian and ethnic diversity of the warlords in Lebanon helped in prolonging the civil war the past. But the good news this uniquely balanced mix, will help in keeping Lebanon united despite the interference of outside powers.
Jumblatt wanted to keep the statuesque unchanged since it’s working for his sect. The same applies for the other Warlords, But since Syria lost the physical control over the Lebanese affair. The unique power balance is no longer balanced. I am absolutely sure that rebalancing it will require more then just then the presence “at the door steps of the AEI” and the white house. A good and recent example: the mighty Israeli army machine was not able “at least until now” to do the job by eliminating the fifth column!!
Again, a reform means new leaders, new bloods, new idea’s. This apply to Lebanon and Syrians leaders.

March 1st, 2007, 4:19 pm


Ford Prefect said:

The hilarious part was that John Bolton is the one who dismissed the NK deal – among many others. I advised Gibran to read carefully with glasses on – he just forgot the glasses part and thought I was the only one in the world who dismissed it. Every conservative pundit dismissed the deal as giving in to the North Koreans. Even the White House channel, Fox News, blasted the deal on Fox Sunday Morning Show. How funny things turn.
“Jumblatt showing some signs of reform?” Is this the Comedy Channel or Gibran doing a stand-up solo skit again? True Lebanese should demand nothing short of the trials and justice for these thugs.

March 1st, 2007, 4:19 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

how could anyone call Ja’Ja’ a great man,he is proven murderer,he killed Rashid Karamie,and others, I do not think that you are patriotic lebanese, Hariri is not a thug, he is asking for justice,for the murder of his father,the good man Rafiq Hariri, he never killed anyone, do not put him at the same level with murderer like Ja’Ja’ .
I tell you something, there is no place for pro-zionist in lebanon , not now not in the future, never come back to Lebanon,and do not ever speak for lebanese,lebanon, will deny you, for ever.

March 1st, 2007, 4:33 pm


Alex said:

Dear MSK,

Can you explain to me if you are implying there is anything both fair and practical that can come out of the objections you raised to FP’s original comparison of the numbers killed by the different parties in the past?

Is it to lead to simultaneous international tribunals for Olmert & Sharon + Rifaat Assad + Walid Junblatt + President Bush?

The reason I am asking is because of the ongoing attempts by many respectable people to find excuses for the fact that the extent of international criticism, boycott or punishment for crimes (or “terrorism”) is very much a function of few very obvious predictors which I will list here:

1) If you are not one of the United States’ and Israel’s good and useful friends.

2) If you are weak, or on your way out.

3) If you are a smaller, non-democratic country.

4) if the people you killed are worth more than those killed by others.

So when CNN started their news during Israel’s summer invasion of Lebanon: “3 Injured in Haifa and 16 killed in Lebanon” … I hope that says it all.

I am not putting all the blame on one side, we are all hypocrites … I did not pay much attention to those killed in Sudan for example. Also, while we are at it, those Killed in Lebanon are worth more (in news worthiness) than those killed in Iraq… again, demonstrated by the way CNN covered both last July.

But we all know that the reasons why the killing of one Lebanese politician (the Late Hariri) is given more attention than Israel’s unnecessary killing of over 1000 civilians in Lebanon and America’s unnecessary war that led to hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis … both crimes are apparently not worthy of international tribunals.

I’m sorry … numbers DO count. Consistency and fairness do count if you are trying to convince us of the wonderful benefits of your incredibly fair system “democracy” … America can not pick and choose when and where to be fair.

Since it is impossible to be fair and consistent in the way you punish killers, then let us leave morality out of it … more often than not, the weak anti-American will be punished and criticized more intensely.

Did any on you hear about a minister from Djibouti who was mysteriously killed after he refused to give a large contract to a French company like he was supposed to? … is he worth less than Hariri? his murder was not even covered by anyone.

Why don’t we all discuss it and come up with the “It is obvious who the killers are…”?

By the way, last year I was discussing the issue with a friend (a journalist) and I decided to come up with a model that tries to estimate a criminality factor for political leaders… a way to standardize the process of deciding “who should we start punishing”

March 1st, 2007, 4:47 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“The hilarious part was that John Bolton is the one who dismissed the NK deal – among many others.”

FP –

Also, most democrats are negative about it the agreement (for different reasons).

Also, keep in mind, even the Bush Adm. is downplaying the agrreement. The bottom line is, that the Bush Adm. admits that it all depends on NK compliance, and we already know their past history in this regard.

I think it is too early to tell if it is a “good agreement”. I think it will be a good agreement if NK abides by it. The big “If”.

Gibran said:

“Well, is it time now for the despots of Iran and Syria to blink and bow down?”


I don’t want to seem overly optimistic, but I am. Bush has another 1.5 years left in office and, so, this isn’t a lot of time. But if what you say comes to fruition, I believe the Middle East has the potential to become another economic powerhouse like China or India.

I really hope so. I dream of a region where everyone can live in peace, cross borders, visit, work, spend money, and live free.

Those that depend on demonization either to stay in power, to foment violence, and to forward their selfish ambitions will not give up that easily. My hope is that the new US administration to take office will not retreat from their responsibilities, but will continue to put pressure on the “despots” you are referring to.

March 1st, 2007, 5:01 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Speaking about the Lebanese thugs and murderers – those who litter the landscape and who run and beg whoever has a big stick at the time, does not include the late Hariri. Hariri was a strong ally of Syria for 20 years. Syrian politicians and officers have the receipts and the money to show for it. Heck, one of them is already enjoying Paris like never before.

March 1st, 2007, 5:03 pm


Ford Prefect said:

AP, well said and I agree. By despots I am hoping that you mean all despots – every single one of them – including friends, allies, moderates, leftists, rightist, half-men, half-naked, etc. Correct?

March 1st, 2007, 5:12 pm


MSK said:

Dear Alex,

I’m not sure if I understand your comment, but I will try to answer it to the best of my comprehension.

What I am saying is that crimes are crimes. Killing 2,000 people in country A isn’t validated by the fact that 10,000 people were killed in country B.

As for legal prosecution, everyone is equal before the law. International issues (like war crimes) should be dealt with by international courts of law. National issues (like massacres or torture) should be dealt with by national courts.

HOWEVER, some countries haven’t signed on to international courts. Some countries do not have the internal legal situation where abuses of the law can be prosecuted. Some countries have legalized torture.

We live in reality, not fantasyworld, maaheek?

My PRACTICAL aim is that in such fora as this one the participants ought to aim for self-reflection and reconciliation. Unless Syrians investigate and admit to the Syrian crimes (against Syrians and non-Syrians), Israelis investigate and admit to the Israeli crimes (against Israelis and non-Israelis), Lebanese investigate and admit to the Lebanese crimes (against Lebanese and non-Lebanese), Palestinians investigate and admit to Palestinian crimes (against Palestinians and non-Palestinians) … until then there won’t be a true solution of the various conflicts.

(I could expand this to Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, KSA, etc.pp.)

As long as any argument “country A has done such-and-such” is automatically answered with “yes, but country B has done twice as much” … you’re going to move in circles.

Owning up to one’s own side’s crimes doesn’t mean that one was totally wrong or will be in future. Those who committed crimes may also be ones who had crimes committed against them. But having been a victim (and/or continuing to be one) doesn’t justify having been (and/or continuing to be) a perpetrator.

That was my argument.

And only because you cannot launch a lawsuit against Bush or Olmert, doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t launch one against Assad (IF, indeed, there is any evidence). Life isn’t fair. That’s what Judgement Day is for, no?


March 1st, 2007, 6:24 pm


MSK said:


I’m still waiting for an answer.


March 1st, 2007, 6:25 pm


Gibran said:

When I go to Lebanon, and believe me I go a lot and will continue to do so, I never found it necessary to ask for your permission or any one else’s.
FP haluciantes:
“True Lebanese should demand nothing short of the trials and justice for these thugs.”
And again:
“Hariri was a strong ally of Syria for 20 years. Syrian politicians and officers have the receipts and the money to show for it. Heck, one of them is already enjoying Paris like never before.”

True Lebanese (among them Jumblat, Jemayel and others) actually met in Taef 15 years ago and decided to put the civil war behind them. As a reminder, they all agreed that Syria should get the hell out of Lebanon. Mr. Harriri as you may well know was the Engineer of Taef. So he too must have agreed that Syria should get out.
The same true Lebanese are also demanding justice for all the crimes of political assassination committed by Syrian thug rulers during the last 30 years in Lebanon. In particular they are demanding justice for the recent crime of assassinating Mr. Harriri by the Syrian thugs (Bashar and Co.) who cannot live with the idea of a stable and Democratic Lebanon.

March 1st, 2007, 6:39 pm


Alex said:


What was not clear? basically:

I am very much against

1) mass punishment and
2) selective punishment

As you already mentioned … they all committed crimes. The Middle East is … the Middle East. Even those who did not commit direct crimes, committed them indirectly .. leading to the same thing.

Punishment could be useful in individual cases. But when the problem is widespread, as it surely is, then punishment is not what we need… we need to work on the reason why King Hussein tried to assassinate Hafez Assad, why Saddam and Rifaat killed thousands of their own people, why Junblatt and Jeajea killed thousands of their own people, why Israel kills Arabs all the time, why Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Syria and Jordan still torture political prisoners…

Otherwise, most of us would be very negative about the process when it somehow ALWAYS gets down to “why don’t we punish the ones who stand up to America for now… we don’t have to wait for any others to be punished” … I have been seeing it since the 70’s when Hafez opposed Camp David … you can say I am sick of this hypocrisy. No, I will not support this politically inspired selective process…

You probably noticed from Saddam’s hanging, punishment that these can, and will, be counter productive. Iraq’a Shia rulers had to hang Saddam on the Sunni Muslim Eid! .. since then the sunni/Shia confrontation got more heated.

Can you imagine how it will be like if we start punishing the Druze leader (junblatt) before the Maronite leader jeajea?

Can you imagine the process of punishing Alawites for Hama? then when they also want to punish Sunni Syrians who killed Alawite and Christian University professors and hundreds (or thousands?) of other civilians?

My friend, this is scary.

No thank you.

March 1st, 2007, 7:06 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Actually, Alex, you, and I are saying the same thing. While parading the list of crimes that country A has committed, I argued that we must also not overlook country B who has committed similar and more horrific crimes. My original answers related balanced-based view rather than vendetta-based views. I believe none of us intended to justify the action of one country based on the behavior of another. Crimes come in one flavor only: ugly. We are arguing the practice of blame and not the crime itself. This point is worth highlighting.

Alex argued that the focus on Syria today is imbalanced when compared with practices that are often overlooked or not scrutinized in the same way. Alex further commented that these crimes are often brought into the spotlight irrespective to the plight of the actual victims, as they are often politically motivated.

Ehsani had the case in point. The international community (i.e., the West) was indeed complicit during the times when these crimes were perpetrated. Again, there was total ambivalence towards the victims.

Gibran further indicated that the international community did in fact condemn acts of crimes against humanities. But providing lip service and sound bites is hardly equivalent to the vigor we see today against Syria.

I am arguing that if the West has finally a come-to-Jesus resurrection whereby it is helping the Arab masses convert to democracy and get rid of tyranny, then great, God bless. We need all the help we can get. But the evidence on the ground tells a completely different story. That this “born-again” charity is fair is far from believable. In fact, Arabs see it as biased as the original sins were. Arabs cannot understand the sudden focus on Syria and Iran solely while undertaking a reckless and disastrous adventures as invading and occupying neighboring Iraq. I, for one, cannot see a discernable difference between country A’s human rights record that happened to be on the wrong side; and country B’s record that happened to be on the right side of a certain line of thinking. They are both miserable and they are both to be condemned.

Finally, it is clear that Syrians cannot accept help from someone who is perceived as either impartial or an enemy – no matter how much help is needed. Blame it on human ethos.

March 1st, 2007, 7:07 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Aiding, abetting or being an accessory to a crime is a criminal offense. A person who has knowledge of the Syrian crimes before or after the fact, for one year or twenty, and who assists in the commission through advice, actions, or financial support can also face criminal charges. Furhter, a person’s participation in a crime may rise to the level of conspiracy.

Syrians will never forgive their criminals and their accomplices and financiers inside and outside of Syria.

March 1st, 2007, 7:26 pm


EHSANI2 said:


With all due respect, you call for self-reflection and reconciliation as well as your call for people to own up to their crimes is rather simplistic.

No sane person disputes the fact that crime of any kind is not to be condoned.

I will say it again:

This is not Scandinavia. Scores in this region do not get settled in courts of law. It would be great if they followed Norway’s system of governance but we don’t.

What drives the Middle East is a ruthless hold to power once it is grabbed. Monarchs, Presidents, Tribal Chiefs, Sectarian warlords and others will do whatever it takes to avoid losing power.

The word “Whatever” involves killing, bombing, razing, torturing and all other similar acts that you find deplorable for a good reason.

I feel for Gibran’s anger about the plight of Lebanon and what Syria has been up to in that country. Having said this, I also pity him for not realizing the simple fact that a weak country with weak central authority will inevitably suffer from its more powerful neighbors who will spare nothing to use it to serve their own interests.

Syria’s leadership will do everything it can to use Lebanon as its ace card to help it further its national interests. It has done the same in Iraq recently. Why are people so shocked to see it happen?

This is not a beauty or civility context. This is the high stakes game of power grabbing in the most critical region on this planet.

I am still waiting for Akbar to answer my question whether he prefers the Moslem Brothers taking over in Syria in place of Bashar.

Incidentally, I think that it is worthwhile to read Kissinger’s comments in the Washington Post today where he said that a period of extreme turbulence would follow if the Iraq war ends in victory for Islamic fundamentalism that can claim to have ejected Russia from Afghanistan and the U.S. from Iraq. Here is another quote:

“If America fails to achieve its immediate objectives – if terrorist camps or terrorist regimes emerge on Iraqi oil, backed by its huge oil resources – no country with a significant Muslim population will be able to escape the consequences”.

In an ideal world, the U.S. would love to see all Arab leaders become a model of civility where democracy rules supreme. The fact of the matter is that the more practical solution is to make sure that the worst outcome is avoided even it means that the Bashars of this world do not behave too Scandinavian for most people’s tastes.

March 1st, 2007, 7:48 pm


MSK said:

Dear Alex,

I do find it cute how you put the responsibility for Hama on the shoulders of Rifa’at, as if Hafez had no idea what was going on & would’ve never condoned such an act.

Dear FP,

I think that, parallel to blaming everyone else, people should not forget to check out if – MAYBE – some of blame is with themselves.

Yes, of course “the West” was/is complicit. Everyone knows about that. Few dispute it. But it takes two to tango – a supportive “West” AND a willing “East”.

It’s not like anyone put a gun to Saddam’s head and said “if you don’t take our weapons we’ll shoot you”. Ditto for all the other local politicians.

Hafez’ politics were HAFEZ’ politics, not Breshnev’s or anyone else’s.


March 1st, 2007, 7:51 pm


MSK said:

Dear Ehsani2,

I don’t share your belief in the inevitability of the current situation continuing indefinitely.

The Middle East isn’t Norway today. But why not try to make it a little more Norway-ish?

Your essentialism brings you dangerously close to the Bernard Lewis people. I’m not sure if you’re aiming for that.

I am not shocked by Syria’s policies, nor by anyone else’s. But “understanding why someone does something” doesn’t mean “accepting that it’ll always be that way”.


March 1st, 2007, 7:55 pm


Gibran said:

FP’s definition of supreme justice:
“Crimes come in one flavor only: ugly. We are arguing the practice of blame and not the crime itself. This point is worth highlighting.”

Hence, Justice is being served by punishing the victim (he has to keep his mouth shut in accordance with the supreme guiding principles of justice of criminal despots) and covering up for the criminal! So let’s not argue the crime.

O’ I have to be just to FP. Sorry I didn’t see your next post:
“Aiding, abetting or being an accessory to a crime is a criminal offense. A person who has knowledge of the Syrian crimes before or after the fact, for one year or twenty, and who assists in the commission through advice, actions, or financial support can also face criminal charges. Furhter, a person’s participation in a crime may rise to the level of conspiracy.

Syrians will never forgive their criminals and their accomplices and financiers inside and outside of Syria.”

I raise my hat to this. But please FP, accompany your words with some deeds. Can you help us prosecute the criminals behind the crimes of political assassinations in Lebanon? Your Syrian rulers are hampering the formation of the international tribunal as you may well know. Could you please say a word or two that may convince them (as you convinced me of your good sense of justice) that the tribunal should be formed without further delays on their part.

March 1st, 2007, 8:11 pm


EHSANI2 said:

My friend MSK,

It will stop being this way when these leaders know that the rest of the world will not deal with them so long as they do not behave very Norway-like.

But, when the international community deals so nice and fuzzy with the Mubaraks, Hafezes and Gulf Monarchs of this region, what do you expect to change?

Why would the leaders take a single risk so long as the EU and the U.S. treat them like they are so great?

Why would the region’s citizens go in the street when they know that the international community does not seem too bothered by the action of their leaders?

No, I don’t think that the region’s DNA is not compatible with democracy. But so long as the international community is better served by so-called stable and friendly regime that can tame the people of the region and ensure that its energy resources do not fall in the wrong hand, Norwegian style governance may have to wait a while.

March 1st, 2007, 8:14 pm


Atassi said:

I am puzzled why the Syrian and the Iranian agreed on attending this conference in Bagdad, They must know that any resolution with regards to the security of the Iraq borders can be a binding as a rock since this conference being held under such big international umbrella and supports. Do I think that the Syrians and Iranian were lead to believe that the rhetoric from the Bush’s administration in the past about the axis of evil and tyranny has been thrown out of the window? A new breakthrough chapter can be opened with the US. Yes
Can Syria send indications to the attendees that its friendly relations with Iran, its support of Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerillas can be compromised at the right prices?
The meetings next week are going to be very interesting indeed. I am sure Mr Bush will be sending his negotiators to Bagdad with tough messages and hidden agendas and less tricks

March 1st, 2007, 9:33 pm


Gibran said:

I think Atassi is catching on to some of Bashar’s worries of some Iranian ‘treason’ as he (Bashar) has been sensing after his last trip to Tehran. OK what is the ‘price of a loser’ and who will pay?
Come on guys you do not realize yet that game is over?
There are no bargains to be had.
Who told you I’m angry? Don’t be so presumptuous. I’m getting disappointed. You don’t want to lose your ‘distinctive credentials. Do you?
You will also witness, and very soon, the defeat of the ‘all powerful’ centralized Syrian government at the hands of ‘all weak’ decentralized government of Lebanon. Can we call it a classic case of David vs. Goliath? Again watch out for your ‘distinctive’ academic achievements. They may easily go down the drain! So keep your pity. You may badly need it.

March 1st, 2007, 9:38 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Bashar killed Hariri,Hafez killed several lebanese and syrian,Ja’Ja’ killed Rashid Karami, they are all murderers,they are not great men,repeat they ar NOT great men.

March 1st, 2007, 9:45 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Ehsani is correctly arguing that, while it takes two to tango (MSK), one cannot ignore that both the criminal and the accomplice must be prosecuted. With all things being equal, a fair-minded judge would have imposed a heavier sentence on the rational and intellectual accomplice than the criminal. It is the head of the snake that matters the most, not its body.

But I am still perplexed by Gibran’s arguments. Most, if not all, contributors to this blog actually agree on one premise: Thugs, despots, and tyrants must be put to justice. I am yet to find someone who does not agree with the above premise. What is not clear from Gibran, however, is who falls in that category. It seems that Gibran is relegating some names and not others to the list – whereas I collectively put them all in it – Israel and Iran included.

Furthermore, a vendetta-driven argument is a powerful one, full of passion and conviction. But that argument has its pitfalls as well. Mark Foreman, the famous detective in the OJ Simpson case, allowed his rage and irrational behavior to compromise the entire prosecution case. We will never find out who truly killed Nicole. But deep inside, we all presume that we know who did it.

Gibran, I am trying to convey to avoid allowing your obvious personal hatred towards one group (thugs or otherwise) to compromise the case of bringing stability to Lebanon and Syria. Do not assume guilt unless guilt has been proven. Practicing crocked justice to achieve political objectives is very dangerous in our volatile Middle East. We all know how friends became enemies and how enemies became friends. Syria will not allow the Hariri case to be used to destabilize it, plain and simple. What is further evidenced, Gibran, is that such a politicization of the Hariri case is having the wrong effect in Syria. It is unfortunately silencing voices of change that you and I are fighting to broadcast and publicize.

I would like now to turn the table around to Gibran. Please help us to help you. We are a band of Syrians, fun seekers, dabkekh dancers, justice lovers, rational thinkers, non-ba’athists, secular, believers in free market and free economy, non participant in any function of the Syrian government, Syria lovers, Lebanon lovers, and highly patriotic. We just cannot separate the one-sided, vicious attacks on the Syrian government from attacks on the Syrian people. Your words often turn me into a government sympathizer – something that I have renounced thirty years ago. I hate you for that, man. Stop the rhetoric and join us for a constructive change.

March 1st, 2007, 9:50 pm


Gibran said:

OK Majed I have no problem with that. i.e. who killed who and the part about great and not great. That was just a tease to some commentators. But I like Jumblat.

March 1st, 2007, 9:50 pm


Atassi said:

“”Do I think that the Syrians and Iranian were lead to believe that the rhetoric from the Bush’s administration in the past about the axis of evil and tyranny has been thrown out of the window? A new breakthrough chapter can be opened with the US”” I said Yes
Is this going to be another trap ! Sure it’s possible. Please keep in mind at this late stage, charting the uncharted territory is the new rule.

March 1st, 2007, 9:51 pm


Gibran said:

OK, I read you Mr. Atassi.

March 1st, 2007, 10:12 pm


Gibran said:

FP said: “Gibran, I am trying to convey to avoid allowing your obvious personal hatred towards one group (thugs or otherwise) to compromise the case of bringing stability to Lebanon and Syria.”

I say: “The International Tribunal is of great importance to Lebanon’s stability because it will bring the sense of security that no citizen in any country in the world can live without. Whenever, a crime goes unresolved by the responsible authorities, the sense of insecurity it engenders among the citizens will threaten the basic existence of the State. Lebanon has suffered from lawlessness for over 17 years. High profile crimes of major political leaders were designed to deprive the country of its political elite in an effort to make it an easy prey for foreigners. Therefore, supporting the creation of the tribunal is in the best interests of Lebanon and by extension Syria. Uncovering and prosecuting the criminals will put an end to the abnormal state of belligerence between the two neighbors. Therefore, Syrians have as much at stake in the speedy resolution of this issue as much as the people of Lebanon.”

There is no presumption of guilt in this statement of mine. Continued hampering of the creation of the tribunal by the Syrian government will only serve to undermine its credibility when it comes to asserting its declared innocence, and will further politicize the case and undermine Syria’s and Lebanon’s stabilities. The presumed analogy between OJ Simpson and Syria’s government is not valid. At no point in time did Simpson have the power to hamper the convening of a tribunal to prosecute him.

FP Said: “I would like now to turn the table around to Gibran. Please help us to help you. We are a band of Syrians, fun seekers, dabkekh dancers, justice lovers, rational thinkers, non-ba’athists, secular, believers in free market and free economy, non participant in any function of the Syrian government, Syria lovers, Lebanon lovers, and highly patriotic. We just cannot separate the one-sided, vicious attacks on the Syrian government from attacks on the Syrian people. Your words often turn me into a government sympathizer – something that I have renounced thirty years ago. I hate you for that, man. Stop the rhetoric and join us for a constructive change.”
I say: “While reading this paragraph, I couldn’t help shaking my head. After all the sweet talk about fun seekers rational thinkers and so on, FP can only see rhetoric in what I say. Well FP, I was the first to credit you with a sense of justice and now you reciprocate me with rhetoric. Shame on you. I’ll show where the rhetoric is. Wasn’t this what you said: “Practicing crocked justice to achieve political objectives is very dangerous in our volatile Middle East.”? Guess what; this is the same rhetoric we’ve been hearing from your Syrian government mouthpiece for the last two years since the crime was committed. And wasn’t this what you said: “We are a band of Syrians….. non participant in any function of the Syrian government.”? Well at least practice what you say and avoid your own government rhetoric. And why would I make you a government sympathizer? And why such an intelligent rational free thinker as you would be incapable of separating an attack on a corrupt despotic government of Syria from attacks on the Syrian people. I must end it now by saying I am really, honestly and deeply perplexed as well!

March 2nd, 2007, 1:50 am


norman said:

Msk, when i look at what happened in Lebanon and after more than ten years of civil war and more than 100000 death we see Lebanon closer to a civil war more than ever , then i see what happened in Iraq over the last ten yaers and all the people who died for no good reason , now we see that Iraq is diving into a civil war , then i look at what happened in Syria , i know what happened in Syria in the late seventy and early eighties , I was there , I saw university teachers dead because if their religion or ethnic backgroud , I saw how kids in the Militery academy were killed in Allepo just because they were Shia and i saw how the MB tried to creat a divide by asking the Sunni to leave the hall were they killed the militery students , they were patrietic and refused to leave which was well thought of ,The MB did not try to change the goverment in peacefull means they seeked violent change of the Goverment and institution of Sharia laws and people who use force and death to impose their veiws can not be faced except with force , and yes i will be able to tell their families that violence produces violence and at least your loveones did not die in vein, Syria hhas had peace and security for the last 25 years , I do not see any diffrent between peaple dieing to liberate their countries like they are doing in Iraq , Palestine or dieing to save country from a civil war .Syria was more succesfull .about dieing for Syria , if i have to to save that country death is coming to all of us sooner or later and dieing for others is the ultimate gift , Do not be worry i am not suisidal ,there more things i can do for that country while i am alive than if i am dead. about leading or ruling the country , I do not have any intetion to be in politics as i can do alot more as a private citizen.By the way, in the Midleast we need more people with less emmotion and more calculating plans.I hope i answered your question.

March 2nd, 2007, 2:40 am


majedkhaldoun said:

the meeting next week in Iraq,that will include Iran and Syria,is a meeting to make deals,US is also sending envoy to Damascus,most likely the deal with Iran is not going to succeed, because it will include demand that Iran stop enriching Uranuim,however the deal with Syria,may succeed,it includes that syria abandon Iran,control HA,so it will not be a threat to Isreal,and weaken Hamas,and finally do what it can to help in Iraq, in return Syria will get part of the Golan Height back,probably 50%,and Hariri investigations will be frozen,this is not a peace plan,but it will delay further negotiation about the rest of the Golan for another 20 years, this means that Bashar will stay in power for at least 20 years,the USA will guarantee that, and that he regain part of the Golan height ,without signing peace treaty with Isreal.

March 2nd, 2007, 2:51 am


Samir said:

Norman ,those killed in the artillery school were alawis and not shias and the general who killed them was a baathi who was looking to avenge the killing of a relative by the moukhabarat,but here too hafez asad is guilty ,his sectarian policy provoked this sectarian division.Syrian people before asad were in general not sectarian.
Norman ,do u know a people in the world who would like to see them ruled by a small minority of less than 10% of the total population ?

March 2nd, 2007, 3:17 am


norman said:

Samir , It is so amazing to me how imprtant to you and others that people who are leaders have the same religion as you are I do not know how moslem are living in the US happily even though ther is no chance in earth a moslem will be a leader any time soon so please grow up ,what is important is not what religons the leaders have or what kind of hair or eyes or noses ,people only want leaders who care about them and provide safe streets good schools, good healthcare ,jobs and an opportionety to generate wealth and provide for their families ,leaders who can do that get my vote and my support no mater what religon they have ,Sunni , Shia, Alawat Christians Jews kurds sharkas , Armenian syrians Assyrians and all the other 49 ethnic groups who make the Syrian people , and untill you and others think of all Syrians as equal in obligation and prevleges civil war and devide will continue to be a risk and Syria will be losing talent it has .I hope you can see the light .

March 2nd, 2007, 4:07 am


Alex said:


Norman is a Christian. 25%-30% of Syria is made from minorities (Christians, Alawites, Druze, Armenians Ismaelis…Yazidis).

Let’s discuss this taboo issue… calmly I hope.

First, allow me to summarize some of the basics:

1) A majority of the 70-75% Sunnis (especially those from the big cities) would like to see Syria led by a Sunni (A Damascene probably)

2) Most of the other 25-30% (minorities) are somewhat comforted by the fact that many Syrian Sunnis are moderates, secular, reasonable, open minded. But they are also scared from the many others who are … not really open minded.

3) The Syrian regime (Bashar) is relatively popular or at least tolerated by a majority of Syrians today… Because it has succeeded in keeping Syria isolated from the madness in the neighboring countries, and because of the stupidity, hypocrisy, and selfishness of the Americans and their allies, and because the Syrian regime today is allied with popular Islamic movements like Hamas and Hizbollah, and it is defending the rights of Iraq’s Sunnis against the wishes of Iran and the Iraqi Shia in power. ANd finally because Bashar seems to be a pleasant modest man who, along with his wife, is active in charities… etc.

4) Hafez Assad remains a symbol of division among Syrians. Many only remember him as the ruthless man who sent his brother to kill thousands of Muslim Syrians in Hama. Others look at him as the smarter version of Gamal Abdel Nasser… one of the Arab world’s most exceptional leaders.

The following are serious challenges for moving towards some sort of “democracy in Syria”

1) The minorities are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the current regime while reforming it economically and politically to some degree.

They do not trust the Muslim Brotherhood and many will probably be leaving Syria if the brotherhood, or a similar organization or party take over.

2) Alawites still remember the three years of assassinations and general violence by the Muslim brotherhood and the way many Syrian Sunnis at the time supported them (the Moukhabarat were always listening of course)

3) Many Sunnis are still very angry at Hama and they can’t wait to take revenge. Others are angry at the billions “stolen” by corrupt regime officials or Army generals…again revenge (or punishment) is the promised reward to the regime as if to make them try harder to never give up any political control.

So any one here has a proposal to satisfy the understandable concerns and expectations of both Syria’s majority Sunnis and its significant minorities?

Norman? Samir? Majed? Atassi?

March 2nd, 2007, 4:27 am


Enlightened said:

Alex said:

“So any one here has a proposal to satisfy the understandable concerns and expectations of both Syria’s majority Sunnis and its significant minorities?”

Norman? Samir? Majed? Atassi?

Alex that is a very unfair question!

Where inn the world apart from the west do you see any minorities living in harmony and not persuceted apart from the west?

The minority question in Syria (primarily minority rule ) is not a very easily solved question, this is why Hafez kept the genie in the bottle for so long under his rule!

Every Syrian I have met when I asked him/her their origin would proudly say Syrian before telling me their religious affiliation ( quite impressed ) while my fellow Lebanese would tell me their religious affiliation before they would comment oon their national identity (sad but true).

Lets hope that the secular nature of Syrians does not deteriorate, I have always felt that the Iraqis, Saudis and Gulf states populations are far more sectarian than the people of the Levant!

March 2nd, 2007, 4:54 am


Gibran said:

Alex said:”3) The Syrian regime (Bashar) is relatively popular or at least tolerated by a majority of Syrians today.”
I’m trying hard (and calmly) to buy this statement of yours, but honestly I find it does not hold much water. How do you support such assertion? Was there some recent Zogby poll proving it? Please show if available.

March 2nd, 2007, 5:02 am


Gibran said:

One more card may soon be taken out of Bashar’s hands and perhaps before convening upcoming Arab summit. This time I’ll be curious to see what schemes will the Syrian apparatchiks employ in order to portray the outcome to have been achieved through 90% Syrian cooperation – remember the Mecca deal and the 90% Syrian ‘blessings’:

“European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana warned on Wednesday that the UN could resort to Chapter 7 if the Lebanese Parliament failed to approve the draft.

“All members of the Security Council are ready to exert efforts to establish the international tribunal by any means,” Solana said during a joint news conference with parliamentary majority leader and MP Saad Hariri in Brussels.

The EU official added that as long as the formation of the tribunal was faced with “obstacles” in Lebanon it would be necessary to utilize Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

The Lebanese Cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has given its approval to the draft of the tribunal to the UN and to Parliament, but must await a vote in the House.

The Security Council’s use of Chapter 7 would mean that the Lebanese government would not need to wait for parliamentary approval of the draft.

As Arab leaders prepare to meet for an Arab summit in Riyadh at the end of the month, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud praised efforts being made by Saudi Arabia to end the Lebanese crisis.

Lahoud expressed hope that the deadlock would be resolved before the summit began on March 28. “The different sides should embrace the efforts and head to the summit with a united Arab strategy that would help put an end to the various divisions in the Arab world,” he said in a statement Thursday.” – with Naharnet

March 2nd, 2007, 5:26 am


Alex said:

Gibran, please continue to try harder to tolerate that assumption. Consider me as much of an idiot as the following western senior journalists who interviewed Bashar lately.. they all share the same opinion that Bashar “is genuinely very popular”:

1) BBC senior reporter John Simpson
Italian Newspaper editor Alix Van Buren
3) And … ask ABC’s Diane Sawyer if you want.

My Enlightened friend from Australia:

The situation in Syria is that one of the minorities is in power .. the impression I am getting after talking to many smart Alawites is: We simply do not trust the Sunnis to rule us again… we know how they think and we know they hate us.

And while a majority of Syrians are relatively secular (compared to Lebanese, Saudis ..etc)… there is still more than enough disappointing people from all sides… I have had my share of serious discussions with representatives of all sides … conversations always start politically correct, but often end up not very secular.

March 2nd, 2007, 5:33 am


Gibran said:

I’ll be more convinced, Alex, when I see some hard data of Syrians opinions rather than some foreign news reporters. You know after the prize embroidered Hersh and his fiasco, I lost faith. I’d be satisfied with some Zogby poll. And it will be nice if those questions that we talked about sometime ago can be added to the questionaire. Just so we save time and money. We may as well do it all at the same time. Right?

March 2nd, 2007, 6:00 am


Alex said:

Gibran you know there is no Zogby poll available today. So if you can agree to disagree with me and those foreign reporters, it would be more useful to see what you or the others can suggest as a solution that can be acceptable to all parties… I assume we do not want a forced solution and we do not want only promises of “trust me, you will be safe under my leadership”

March 2nd, 2007, 6:06 am


Syrian said:


I wonder what a Zogby poll on Syrians attitude towards the Syrian president will reveal. hmmmm…

93.7% Love the president
6% The president is a great man
0.3% We can live with Dr. Bashar as our president.

then again, we all know how meaningless the Zogby polls are especially after you yourself debunked them here

March 2nd, 2007, 6:39 am


Syrian said:


Under the status quo, “Trust me, you will be safe under my leadership” is how the minorities are being protected from the majority.

You would argue that this is due to the fact that the regime has an interest in protecting minorities, since it is dominated by a minority group; however, plenty of people expressed on this and other blogs that the interest of the regime lies more in the personal interest of a few people at the top of the ruling chain than in the whole minority group. Here I would counter that the promise will be much more credible when it comes from the majority. Consider that if a peaceful but immediate power transfer was to take place now, it can happen without any support from the minorities. What would guarantee protection then.

Granted that under truly free elections, a Sunni Syrian will probably win the presidency; however, if you have truly free elections then (hopefully) you would have also developed a credible legal system that will protect the minorities.

Regarding the “no forced solution”, I assume you mean no solution which requires the use of force. Again, this would be difficult given the consensus (at least among some opposition figures) that the regime is beyond reform and is only interested in its own suvival first and formost. The implication of a regime so desparate to hang on to power is that they would use force to prevent its demise and that would necessitate the use of force by those trying to replace the regime.

If you assume that the regime is reformable, then the solution is easy. The current regiome surrenders powers over time to other groups (an inevitable characteristic of true reform); the existance of multiple groups in the government gives the minority leverage in that they can be the swing vote on important issues and can lead to legal and constitutional framework that will protect the rights of all Syrians.

It is my personal belief, based on personal observation made from my contacts with very few syrians around here, that minorities will be protected simply because Syrians are not sectarian enough to harrass minorities (religious is one thing and sectarian is another.)

March 2nd, 2007, 7:10 am


Alex said:


I have comments on:

Granted that under truly free elections, a Sunni Syrian will probably win the presidency; however, if you have truly free elections then (hopefully) you would have also developed a credible legal system that will protect the minorities.

I beg to differ. Why?

1) I looked at Iraq … elections > majority took over > … Credible legal system?? .. no.

2) I spoke with many “opposition leaders” … they want elections first (so that they will get to power, they are sure) .. the “credible legal system” is an afterthought.. some pretend they really care about that, some would include it as an item in their official agenda, but the motivation to make it happen is not comparable to the motivation to take power .. through fair elections.


the existance of multiple groups in the government gives the minority leverage in that they can be the swing vote on important issues and can lead to legal and constitutional framework that will protect the rights of all Syrians.

Not even close to being reassuring to the minority in power now. You need to START by proposing that solid new constitutional framework… you need to convince them that there is NO WAY some party from the majority which might potentially reach power can change the country’s direction dramatically on religious rights or women’s rights ..etc.

And finally:

If you assume that the regime is reformable, then the solution is easy. The current regiome surrenders powers over time to other groups

Very unlikely.

For those of you who studied behavior (in management or psychology?), in the case of the current regime, there is a combination of positive and negative reinforcement

Positive reinforcement (If I stay in power, I expect rewards), and Negative reinforcement (If I don’t stay in power, I and my minority will not only lose the potential rewards, but we can expect punishment.. so we better stay in control.

So with this double motivation to stay (enjoying rewards, and avoiding punishment) The regime will not be convinced easily to leave.

Therefore my question is: can you propose a process that makes it easier on both the regime, and the minorities to accept a peaceful transition to some degree of change over a number of years?

so you can suggest:

1) type of guarantees you would propose to minorities (long term), and the regime? (short term)

2) length of transition period necessary for your proposed reforms

3) The extent of your proposed reforms (how far?)

March 2nd, 2007, 7:47 am


turstquest said:

Dear Alex,
What type of guarantees you are talking about. They are in power, what hold them from changing Constitution and place this protection?! You thing they need suggestion, this is absurd!
I noticed you are tying hard to convince the audience that this regime can be reformed, however all the indication points to the contrary. I think history might not need anyone analysis since the history is moving on it own and the failing state of the Syria will not wait for ideas that does not get sharing and caring people as the regime has a deaf ears and does not open any dialog or allow for it and their is no tools for it like free press in the first place. The new open economy direction which the Syrian government is planning will take a rout of its own not exactly the one they are planning to how much they will try to. The Syrian government is not China nor Russia, it is a third world country with a government’s made backward society need new leaders and new dynamic to create the minds (not the Baath party system one sided system) to run the new open economy. The Syrian government has failed along the past 50 years in all fields of running the country except in the field of control and corruption and this is their only certificate they have which is a proof of their incapability of any political changes and in the end in protecting anybody except their own. What we see in Iraq now, I think, sadly is a scenario which going to be repeated unless government instead of being stiff start to make way for reform and power sharing taking in consideration the rule of civil society to replace of the failed leader party.

March 2nd, 2007, 11:05 am


Samir said:

Norman ,before the asads came to the power Syria was more pluralistic,more tolerant,more civilized ,less corrupt,most of the christians were living between their muslim neighbors and they were the most active in the cultural, business and educational sectors …i dont think that there was a lot of christians in qardaha.
Remember ,that a christian was democraticaly elected prime minister of Syria in the 50’s.
I looked at Iraq … elections > majority took over > … Credible legal system?? .. no.
Alex,the problem in Iraq ,are the shia leaders of iranian origin who are related to the iranian regime.Do we have in Syria ,such leaders ?
And btw the shias of iraq are only a majority in a small region south of iraq,even in the most important southern iraqi city basra ,the sunnis are an important minority there.
Iraq can be compared to Lebanon but not to Syria.
As for the syrian minorities ,they are like any other part of the syrian people,they hate the regime.Under the regime of the asads,a high percentage of syrian christians have left syria for ever.Villages who were in the near past 80 % christians are now less than 20 %,other christian villages are empty .
Even inside the community,a lot in the alawite intellegencia are not happy with the asad regime and many of them are in jail as the prominent professor Aref Dalila or Dr Mahmoud Sarem…or Dr Abdulaziz al Khayer ,jailed several years and who is from qardaha,those are among the most brave people in Syria.

March 2nd, 2007, 11:31 am


ausamaa said:

The true question would be:

Given the current political scene in Syria and its surrounding environment, WHO would the ABSOLUTE MAGORITY of Syrians Choose for President in a Free, Democratic and Transparent elections?

If we think any Candidate other than the Ba’ath and Bashar Al Assad can get 51% of the SYRIANS VOTE we will be fooling ourselves.

Whomever wants to creticize the Syian People for this, should roll up their sleevs and start working on providing a viable and acceptable alternative. Else, accept the results of the Democracy you breach.

Even if the majority of Syrians do not approve 100% of their current Leadership, yet, they would not hand over their Country to someone they do not know, they may suspect, or that still does not politically exist.

March 2nd, 2007, 1:44 pm


Gibran said:

Alex, your talk about so-called guaranties for minorities is really disappointing. You are not proposing anything different than basically some sugar coated system of the abolished ‘dhimi’ system if you’re familiar with the term. After all if you go back to history you’ll find such guaranties were included for Christains among Muslims under such system.
The point that you should be aware of is minorities always lived among Muslims and were rarely persecuted. For a country such as Syria, the question of guaranties should not become such an issue. It could be easily dealt with through some legal or constitutional frameworks spelling such things as freedom of worship, equal rights for men and women, rights to vote, obligations under the law, and other matters of concern. As Syrian said no one will go through witch hunt of every Alawi in Syria. It is the small clan among these Alawis which is perhaps concerned about the issue of guaranties. This is just another ploy to hang on to power by the corrupt and very minor clan.

March 2nd, 2007, 1:47 pm


Samir said:

Aussama,Even those who are registred in baath party
despise this regime,because of the state terror,hypocrisy has become a national duty under the asad regime and you are certainly aware of this fact.

March 2nd, 2007, 2:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You claim that “if we think any Candidate other than the Ba’ath and Bashar Al Assad can get 51% of the SYRIANS VOTE we will be fooling ourselves.”

First, candidates outside the Baath cannot even be considered. You can also exclude the entire Christian population of the country because they too cannot be candidates (would someone explain to me why this minority is treated as second class citizens?)

The true challenge to your question would be to have Bashar set a 2-year time frame during which ANY candidate can decide to run for office. He/She can have open access to advertising and the media as the Baath candidate does.

I would be willing to wager with you that after the two year period expires, Bashar WILL NOT get the 51% of the Syrian vote.

My point is that your above claim cannot be made in the current abnormal political environment of the country.

March 2nd, 2007, 2:11 pm


syrian said:


If the regime is not willing to surrender any powers then it is not reformable, in this case there can only be a solution which required the use of force (a la Iraq). Luckily, I don’t believe that to be true. I think the system is reformable and a transfer of power in a slow, methodical process is likely. A reform process, as you know, affects the interest of a not too negligible fraction of the elites and will thus be opposed at every step. This forces the process to be slow and incremental. It requires getting enough people behind eliminating the interests of one group. You can only accomplish that by granting one group more power than the others that the target has no hope of fighting you to retain their own interest (Khaddam??) The trick is then of course to use time to reduce the total amount of special interest that is built into the system to manageable level. Only then can you truely reform. The problem I have with the external opposition is precisely the demand that they have for an immediate 180 turn in the government.

The opening up of the economy, if successful, will lead to higher standard of living and with that comes the demand by the street for political participation. An inevitable byproduct of economic liberalization is political liberalization. The Syrian planners appear to know that and attempting to somehow cicumvent it which would explain the extremely slow pace of economic reform. (see here not about syria but equally relevant).

1) I looked at Iraq … elections > majority took over > … Credible legal system?? .. no

I’m not sure I would use Iraq as a relevant example for two reasons:
1. At best, the verdict is still out about Iraqi democracy.
2. The abrupt transfer of power that happened in Iraq is not conducive to the development of a credible legal system. A credible system can only be developed by continuous revisions that address inequities which some group may suffer. The iraqi split along sectarian lines will prevent that from happening for a long time to come. Whether or not Syria is different is, to me, an unknown. Having said that, I can offer an unsubstantiated belief that Syria will not follow in the path of sectarian politics. Syrians maybe religious people, but Syria does not have access to an immense wealth based on natural resources. Syrian wealth, if it exists, has to come from the entrepreneurial of the merchant class. A conservatively religious government structure (Saudi Style) is not compatible with enterpreneurship and will be opposed by an even bigger class of people who oppose the current structure.

To answer your questions,
1. the type of guarantees I would propose are guarantees that are developed over many years of building trust through a credible constitutional system where everyone is equal under the law.
2. I would not be able to give you a timeframe. They key is to evaluate how any set of reforms have affected the welfare of the population from one year to the next. We can never reach the Utopian level of reform (The U.S. has been reforming this political system since its inception.) So for how long I would answer “as long as it takes” time is not relevant only the forward motion is.
3. How far should the reforms go? As far as we can take them. The goal is always the Utopian society where all is free to do whatever the want comforted by the knowledge that there is a legal structure to protect them from the tyranny of others.

I think the sectarian problems are easy compared to problems of individuals and their freedom. How many people in Syria would support a constitution that protects homosexuals, that promotes and enforces equality between men and women, that would allow a budhist temple to be built in damascus, or that would…


You know that an election process is about interest. Your claim that Bashar will not get the 51% assumes that someone else can convince the power centers (because these are the primary determinant of a winner in election) that he/she can protect and promote their interest better than Bashar can. A person who is motivated by self interest (all of us) will vote in accordance with that interest. For example, if anyone was to run for office in Syria on a platform of economic reform they will certainly lose because they will be threatening the state guaranteed job (as shitty as it maybe) that they have.

March 2nd, 2007, 3:13 pm


MSK said:


I undestand your answer to say that you are willing to sacrifice your life, that of your family, and that of thousands of innocent citizens for what you call “stability”, without asking whether they consent to that or having any meaningful and legitimizing public discussion and decision-making on that issue.

Maybe you should join Hizballah …

In order to suppress the 1982 MB uprising in Hama it was NOT necessary to bomb the city. It was NOT necessary to bulldoze houses with their inhabitants inside. It was NOT necessary to stream gas into the cavities under the rubble.

I am not saying “turn the other cheek” (although you, as a Christian, should actually be familiar with that concept, no?). But I am saying that one wrong doesn’t justify another. The only way out of the current situation is if the people in the region break the cycle of revenge. “An eye for an eye” won’t yield a lasting peace.

Dear FP,

I would say that the head of the snake in Syria is “The Gang of Four”, not the U.S. administration. Continuing to depict MidEast politics as if the indigenous actors are some sorts of puppets on strings is only good for cheap newspaper cartoons, but not our conversations.


March 2nd, 2007, 3:22 pm


EHSANI2 said:


If Bashar does end up getting the 51% after the 2-year window passes, I have no problem with that.
Isn’t this what it is all about?

March 2nd, 2007, 3:24 pm


syrian said:

I would support whoever would win in a free election. My point was not that he would win, it is that trying to predict the outcome of any election two years in advance is an excercise in futility.

March 2nd, 2007, 3:32 pm


Atassi said:

I agree with you,Bashar WILL NOT get the 51% of the Syrian vote.
Not a long ago, I had a retired Alawite army General over dinner at my house, He served with Gahzi Kannan and other big shots in Lebanon, during our heated , frank and open discussions One of the question was asked, would you allow a none- Baath Sunni to rule Syria in the near future. He bluntly said no way, not in fifty years. He gave me clear indication that The Alawite domination of the Syrian political and security system is rooted deep in the Republic. After all, He remained loyal to his hometown and his sects
The regime depending on mixed loyalties of the minorities “ we should include the Sunni the pro-regime business e element too” for to protecting the interest of the Assad clan. I totally disagree with Alex that a weak family regime of Basher is protecting the minorities in Syria.
I grow up in Syria “Homs” with many minorities, 80% of my good friends were Christian. many contacts and friends came from the Christine heartland of Syria west of Homs. MOST of them thinks exactly like ALEX and Norman . They fear any change in the political system, are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the current regime “with or without” reforms, and many of them will leave Syria “ many of them holding a dual Syrian\ Canadian citizenship” as Alex said if the MB, or a similar organization or party take over.
The Syrians must start constructing a civil society that others would be jealous of , an economy others would respect and stop cutting down dissident and “un-loyal “ to the regime figures. This will guarantees a long term RADICALS DEFEAT as Alex requires …

March 2nd, 2007, 4:17 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

إيلاف: كشفت مصادر عربية لـ «الرأي» أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد على استعداد للذهاب بعيدًا من أجل التوصل إلى مصالحة مع القيادة السعودية على رأسها خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز.

وقالت إن الرئيس السوري بعث إلى العاهل السعودي برسائل، عن طريق وسطاء بين البلدين، قال فيها إنه على استعداد للتوجه إلى الرياض للاعتذار منه والاكتفاء بتقبيل رأسه في مطار العاصمة السعودية والعودة بعد ذلك من حيث أتى. كذلك كشفت المصادر أن الاسد بعث الى القيادة السعودية رسائل أخرى عدة فحواها انه لم يكن يقصد الملك عبدالله في خطابه الذي ألقاه في آب( أغسطس) الماضي إثر توقف الاعتداءات الاسرائيلية على لبنان نتيجة

* الغادري يدعو واشنطن إلى الإبقاء على نظام الأسد الضعيف كي لا يخلفه الإخوان المسلمون

March 2nd, 2007, 4:38 pm


ausamaa said:


Let us put Ideology and personal wishes and preferences aside. Let us look at Syria, and try to assess which “political machine” would have a chane to Win any election. What do ANYONE need to win an election?

1- Organization
2- A Plateform
3- Resources

Who has the above combination in Syria today?

Let us not go far away, can an Independent Candidate win in the US today? Can an independent Candidate Win anywhere today? The weakness lies in the title; INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE. He/She will be an Orphan in terms of Money and Powerfull political support.

Now let us look again at Syria. Let us presume that the Government says: OK in two years we will have FREE Elections for Parliment, and the Parliment will decide the Policy of the State. We will even allow the MB, the Communists, the Nassirits, and Everyone to run. Is there anyone else? I do not think so. Who will the Syrians give their votes to? Communists, they will put up a very nice Programme, and a very good, small but solid showing. But people will remember that they are “Godless” and that the Soviet Block is something of the Past. Two to three percent of the Vote.

The Nasrits and the Socialists? you will hear some talk, a replay of the Nasser and Suez songs, and three to four Candidates will make it in areas where they have Popular persons. Again, two to three Percent.

Now comes the MB. And Do you want those to run your Country in this day and age. Islam is fine as a galvenizing theme against Western Attacks, against Israel, against the US. But would you trust the Shiekhs to fix State Matters such as Foriegn Policy and Econommic Development? And remember. They are not “clean-hand” Hamas or Hizbullah who grew out of RESISTANCE to foriegn occupation, and who paid in blood for their counry. Our MB is a different story. They are an internal group with a very narrow focous. They are more like the Rafsanjani group in Iran at best. Mechants and traders with no claims to any participation is Syria’s past uprisings against the Frensh or against anyone else for that matter. And they were, as I and many others beleive, a tool used by the West in the seventies and eighties to destabilise Syria. Remember the bombs near the schools in Damascus. The Buses that were blown up then? Anyway, they do have a base. But what will they get at the polls? Fifteen percent, thirty percent of the Vote? I personally doubt they will get even that. This is secular, nationalist, Arabist Syria. Not Hama, old Aleppo, and Old Damascus. This Syria; from Hasaka, to Qameshli, to Dier Al Zour, to Latakia, Tartous, the mountains, Safita, Nabek, Damascus, Da’ra and Jebel Al Druz.

And then you will have the Ba’ath organization and political machine. Many people may be upset with them on the personal or on the political level. But not HATED. Not bloody-Saddam-like Frightening when you get your ears cut off for dodging draft. And where the majority supports the leadership against the two primary national threats: Israel, and the US. And they will put up a magnificant show in front of the people of the many achievements. Statistics will fill the air comparing Syria’s situation to that of Egypt, Jordan and even today’s Iraq if needed. They will even -in a such a case- be really motivated to put forward a much more modern political and economic plateform. Then, Who will Stand up to that? How much of the popular vote will they get once the average Syrian has to make a choice? Can you please tell me? I am not a Ba’athist. But given the above, I will make sure I vote for that ticket. At least they know how to run the State. And with the promisses of more Opennes. I have practically no other logical choice.

Did I miss anyone? Khaddam? Ghaderi? Al Benni, Kilo, Naeisa??

Please tell me? I really want to know!

March 2nd, 2007, 5:38 pm


ausamaa said:

Again, that is not to say that we should just forget about it.

Definitly Not.

I like the comment of ATTASI above about the need to construct CIVIL SOCIETY. And I also agree with SYRIAN note that the situation and the SYSTEM is refromable.

Two things will then be needed. First, our input and participation as Syrian Expats is needed, and Second, a regional and international environment that if not supportive of such reform, then at least not actively seeking to destablize the situation in the service of other agendas is of primary importance . And here, I am honestly a litle unsure wether the resolution of the Israeli factor should come before or after such sought development of the internal political structure!

March 2nd, 2007, 5:55 pm


EHSANI2 said:


If the Baath was as sure as you are about the outcome, why haven’t they opened the platform for others to run against them? Why is it that they monopolize the political process as the sole party of state and “society”?

March 2nd, 2007, 6:09 pm


syrian said:


Simple. Why take a chance however small it maybe when you don’t have to.

As long the Baath can talk the good game to keep a critical mass of critics of the political system from forming, they would not need to appease anyone with any degree of political openness. But as I stated earlier, (somewhere) as long as the population is more concerned about making a living than they are about who they would vote for in an election, there is no need to have an election (of a different type than the one scheduled for this month)

March 2nd, 2007, 6:35 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

how could anyone support democracy, then exclude a party that he does not like, Aussama,think about what you said.
Also no one has statistics that is recent,the last time we have statistics about who the syrian vote for, was in 1957,it showed that MB had more than 15%, the Baath party IS HATED now,because of the corruptions and they deprived the people of their rights and freedom, as they controlled Syria,they did not apply their principles,union liberty and socialism,they became rich by steeling money and may have moved to paris living in palaces,we did not unite with any arabic country,and nationalized the industry,now they are rich and the majority of the people are poor, no young couple can buy a house and if their parents are not rich they can not buy a car either,the slums in Mezzeh and Dummar tell you the misery of the syrians.
dreaming of free election is just a dream now, no arabic country is ready for democracy,we who live in USA,are not realistic, none of us is willing to go back,except for a visit,we are wealthy here and keep counting our money,we have few vocal opposition in Syria they are in jail,the rest are waiting to detect weakness in the goverment, that is when they will rise.

March 2nd, 2007, 6:36 pm


ausamaa said:


I believe they started at one point, but they tought better of it because of two factors:

1- The opposition figures did not handle the situation in the proper manner it seems. And,

2-The September 11/Iraq War/Lebanon developing situation convinced every one that this is not the time to venture into uncharted territory espicially as outside players had Syria in their sights.

Practically, let us look at what happened before the Harriri murder, or rather the Lahoud extension: Syria WAS reducing it forces in Lebanon. From Fourty to thirty to the Twenty some thousands they finally pulled out. At that time, the Syrian Leadership knew it was “targeted” so it wanted to MAINTAIN things in Lebanon. They just did not want any surprises arising with a new presidential election, similarily, they became afraid that extending the leach to critics at Home could well play into the hands of Syrias enemies. And you know how eager, or unrestrained, or frenzied our self appointed libertarians can work selves up to be. Immature in State Matters, the outspoken ones could have provided an inroad for “others”, albit inadvertantly. And, Hell, if I was running Syria then, and had to wake up every morning to speeches about the glorious march of Democracy, first in Iraq and then in Lebanon, heck, I would have even imposed a carfew from sun rise to sun down before the Democratic Tanks and Appaches arrived.

So, I believe the System tried, but has to slow down the pace on account of threats and events occuring outside and around Syria.

March 2nd, 2007, 6:39 pm


Gibran said:

The last few comments have just reinforced my belief about how great Harriri, Jumblat, Jemayel and Geagea are. Long live 14 March. Syrians who don’t like their government are welcome to join the 14 March as honorary members. Hurry 14 March is less than 2 weeks away. Only those who openly seek an overthrow of regime need to apply, regardless of political or religous affiliations

March 2nd, 2007, 6:47 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Are you saying that had the US not invaded Iraq and were the Lebanon situation not materially different than the past, 2007 would have seen a different election system?

This system will not change. As Syrian said, why would they change it voluntarily? It would surely not be a smart risk/reward trade for them.


Frankly, you are being a real idiot here. Our discussion has nothing to do with Lebanon and your stupid March 14th comment. Stop making a fool of yourself

March 2nd, 2007, 6:51 pm


Gibran said:

I’d say it is best for you to maintain civility and refrain from personal attacks otherwise I’m equally capable of telling you to buzz off idiot.

March 2nd, 2007, 7:03 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani you are a good man

March 2nd, 2007, 7:25 pm


ausamaa said:

Dear Ehsani2,

Maybe I am an optimist or maybe my optimism leads me to believe in Good Intentions.

Remember that Damascus Spring thing a few years back? What have halted that? If there was no “special” regional circumstanses, do you think the “elite” who were holding debates in thier Saloons really represented a threat to the establishment? I doubt it. It would have been like Duraid Lahham’s lines. A vent to some pressure, but no more. A threat to no one in Normal Situations. Actually, a welcomed threat, as you can then boost about how Syria is changing. Except for the Regional Situation which forced a Halt to things.

I am a believer that “most” governments and their leaders want better things for their people. At that time, we had Bashar Al Assad; we had some one who has lived in the west, a doctor, a civillian, not an Army Officer, a new face on the block, and I believe he wanted to change things. If he was an Army officer, I would have had serious doubts. The military usually go the centralised way. That is their Nature. But a new face, we had. And he wanted to do things. To change things. But, and here we should not forget that among the leadership in Syria you HAVE to expect that there will exist people with good intentions who are afraid of Change same as you can expect that there are power centers, and benifactors, who will resist such a change. And I imagine what a fine line anyone who wanted to seek change in Syria would have to walk. You must have tried to implement changes at your business. Is it easy? Remember the resistance? Would all the stakholders let go of things for the sake of a better society? Did you not have second thoughts about implementing any new policy? How about reforming a SOCIETY? In Time of War?

March 2nd, 2007, 7:29 pm


ausamaa said:


Is Jumbo back from the US yet. Any word on what he was told to expect?

March 2nd, 2007, 7:33 pm


ausamaa said:


You said it. The base line of all my arguments is that ARAB PEOPLE ARE NOT READY FOR DEMOCRACY YET. And I might add, NOR are the powers that might be interested in offering True Salvation.

It is an incremental process. And it has two prongs: One internal and One External.

So, let us not lay it at the doorstep of our Leadership and exonorate ourselve, and our adversaries.

March 2nd, 2007, 7:41 pm


syrian said:


I did not say the system will not change. I said the change can come at a slow pace. Trying to change the direction of the elephant that is the Syrian government is not something that can be accomplished overnight. I tend to agree with Ausama that things would have looked different if the situation did not develop along the same lines after 9/11. The American takeover in Iraq did more to help suppress change in Syria than the Baathists could have ever hoped for.

March 2nd, 2007, 7:42 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I totally agree with that.

I also vividly remember the golden economic years of the country between 1970 and 1977. Once the Moslem Brothers uprising started, it was never the same again

March 2nd, 2007, 7:48 pm


ausamaa said:

Well, if all goes WELL now, change will be easier in the future. You have an Iraq without Saddam, an Israel with a more restrained and realistic attitude, and a US Adminstration, with all of Iraq’s Oil, but without Bush’s vision. Something for everyone, which will allow Syria and others a chance to breath and look at what needs to be done at home an around home if all want to have some peacefull breathing space for a decade or two.

Now I admit, this could be a case of OVER-OPTIMISM.

March 2nd, 2007, 8:06 pm


EHSANI2 said:

This man’s frustrations is a clear indication that a sea change has been taking place at the White House.

March 2 (Bloomberg) — John Bolton, who helped shape
President George W. Bush’s diplomacy aimed at blocking the
nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, said those efforts
are failing and the U.S. may have to seek the ouster of the
governments in Tehran and Pyongyang.
Bolton has been quick to voice his disappointment with the
president he was serving as United Nations ambassador less than
three months ago. The agreement with North Korea to exchange
economic aid for a nuclear disarmament pledge shows the Bush
administration has “abandoned the principles it pursued for
much of its first several years in office,” he said in an
interview yesterday.
Talks with either North Korea or Iran won’t work, Bolton
asserted. “Unless you’re prepared to believe that the Iranians
are voluntarily going to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons,
the idea of pursuing negotiations is ultimately going to be
fruitless,” he said.
Bolton’s criticism reflected a split in the administration
between those who seek multinational diplomacy and those who are
skeptical that approach can deter countries bent on acquiring
nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has allowed Britain, France and Germany to “screw
around” in nuclear talks with Iran, according to Bolton. The
diplomacy has gone on for “three and a half years, and that
allowed the Iranians to make enormous progress on their nuclear-
weapons program,” he said.
Iranian officials insist their nuclear program is aimed
only at building a commercial power-generation industry.
“Regime change in Iran or, as a last resort, military
action is the only thing that will stop the Iranians from
getting nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.

No `Surrender’

The 58-year-old Yale University-educated lawyer and onetime
U.S. arms-control official said he would go into more detail in
a book he is writing, tentatively titled “Surrender Is Not an
Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.”
His criticisms drew a retort from President Bill Clinton’s
UN ambassador, Bill Richardson. “Mr. Bolton’s insults to our
European allies and this saber-rattling are irresponsible,”
Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a Democratic
candidate for president, said in an e-mail. “We need tough,
direct negotiations with Iran but also with our allies,
especially Russia, to provide a united front to pressure Iran.”
A spokesman for Bush’s National Security Council brushed
aside Bolton’s critique. “He is a private citizen, welcome to
his own views,” said the NSC’s Gordon Johndroe.

Blaming `Bureaucracy’

Bolton, who left the UN in December after failing to win
congressional support to extend his tenure, said he couldn’t
fully explain the lack of U.S. resolve on North Korea, except to
blame the “persistence of the bureaucracy” in the State
Since leaving the UN, Bolton has returned to the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington to serve as a senior fellow
on foreign policy. He fired a salvo against Bush’s accord with
North Korea a few hours after the announcement on Feb. 13 that a
six-nation negotiation hosted by China had arrived at the deal.
While Bolton has been largely alone in public criticism of
the agreement, he was joined Feb. 28 by Representative Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, ranking Republican on the House Foreign
Affairs Committee.

North Korean Pledges

“What has convinced you and the administration that the
North Korean regime will abide by its commitments in the
February 13 agreement?” she asked U.S. negotiator Christopher
Hill at a hearing. Ros-Lehtinen said the agreement doesn’t
adequately address North Korea’s transfer of missile technology
to South Asia and the Middle East, and questioned a U.S.
commitment to talk with North Korea about its designation as a
state sponsor of terror.
Hill said on Feb. 22, “We ultimately decided that, even
though North Korea does need to make a strategic decision to get
out of this nuclear weapons business, to realize that
decision is going to require a step-by-step process.”
On Iran, Bolton scoffed at the pace of diplomacy, while
cautioning that a military option has its own drawbacks,
especially if there is a secret uranium-enrichment facility.
“The downside of the military option is that you would
incur all of the costs of having undertaken military action but
potentially not gotten the benefits of decisively breaking the
nuclear fuel cycle at one or more points,” he said. “What that
says is we need better intelligence about what the Iranians are
actually up to beyond what is already in the public domain.”
Because of all of this, the U.S. needs to tap the
“substantial Iranian diaspora” and “exploit” the
dissatisfaction inside Iran to topple the cleric-led government,
Bolton said.
North Korea’s dictatorship also should be feeling the heat
from the U.S., Bolton said. Easing financial sanctions would be
a “big mistake,” he said.
“We have let them out of the corner we put them in,”
Bolton said.

March 2nd, 2007, 8:13 pm


ausamaa said:

Imagine.. and he was the Administration’s chosen tool at the UN to foster and build good relations with the international community!

The good news is that he is now in a state of……. lamentation.!

March 2nd, 2007, 8:43 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Excellent discussions, minus the obvious, occasionally disruptive one!

Road Warning Sign: While establishing liberal democracy and free market economy is the ultimate goal of all Syrians (and arguably all humans), the road of getting there is, saddly, riddled with potholes (US, Israel, Lebanon), vultures (Ghadry, Jumblatt), incensed (Gibran, AP), blood suckers (Baathists, 14 March, HA), and hapless celebrities (Ahmadinajat, Mehlis). Proceed with caution.


March 2nd, 2007, 9:14 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Jumbo’s trip was a huge success. He got NK to de-nuke, Iran to capitulate (next week), and got Syria to stop screwing around. Atta hero!

March 2nd, 2007, 9:29 pm


Samir said:

* الغادري يدعو واشنطن إلى الإبقاء على نظام الأسد الضعيف كي لا يخلفه الإخوان المسلمون

الجمعة 2 آذار/ مارس 2007

لندن – أخبار الشرق

دعا فريد الغادري رئيس حزب الإصلاح السوري المعارض المقيم في واشنطن؛ الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية إلى عدم العمل على إسقاط نظام بشار الأسد، خشية أن تخلفه في الحكم جماعة الإخوان المسلمين.

وقال الغادري في مقال نشره بالإنكليزية موقع حزب الإصلاح السوري على الإنترنت إنه “يجب أن يقول أحد ما للإخوان المسلمين في سورية أن السوريين لن يدعموا قط دولة إسلامية تحكمها مجموعة لها تاريخ في استخدام العنف”.

وأكد أن هذا الموقف تدعمه أمم عديدة في العالم، بما فيها الولايات المتحدة. وانتقد الغادري في مقاله التأييد الذي أظهره الزعيم اللبناني وليد جنبلاط رئيس الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي وأحد قادة قوى 14 آذار في واشنطن لجبهة الخلاص الوطني في سورية التي تضم الإخوان المسلمين.

وشن الغادري هجوماً على عنيفاً على الجبهة، قائلاً إنها تجمع للإسلاميين والبعثيين، وبعض هؤلاء البعثيين عملوا مع نظام صدام حسين البائد، الذي يقتل أنصاره الجنود الأمريكيين في العراق اليوم، على حد تعبيره، في تحريض واضح على الجبهة.

وقال الغادري “لا يستطيع (وليد) جنبلاط ولا (سعد) الحريري، ولا حتى (الأمير) بندر بن سلطان (رئيس مجلس الأمن الوطني السعودي) أن يفرض الإخوان المسلمين على سورية”. واعتبر التهديد الذي يمثله الإخوان المسلمون سبب سياسة الولايات المتحدة القائمة على “تغيير سلوك” النظام السوري بدلاً من “تغيير النظام”.

وشدد على أن “أمن لبنان لا يجوز أن يكون ثمنه لاضطراب سورية”، ملمحاً إلى أن جبهة الخلاص الوطني، بإسلامييها وبعثييها، حسب تعبيره، سوف تهدد أمن لبنان في المستقبل، تماماً كما يفعل بشار الأسد حالياً.

وختم الغادري مقاله قائلاً “إذا كانت جبهة الخلاص الوطني ستحل محل الأسد، فإنني – مثل الولايات المتحدة – أفضل الأسد الضعيف في السلطة على الإخوان المسلمين، فخطرهم لا يمكن التقليل من شأنه مطلقاً”.

March 2nd, 2007, 10:41 pm


MSK said:

My dear fellow hitchhiker,

who says that “establishing liberal democracy and free market economy is the ultimate goal of all Syrians (and arguably all humans)”?

On what do you base this assertion?


March 2nd, 2007, 10:42 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I hope that my friend FORD PERFECT means that when Syrians, and all humans, are introduced to the virtues of free market economics and liberal democracy, they will embrace and support it as a goal and platform for their society.


Because history has shown that it is the best system known to man. It is not perfect by any means. But, it certainly beats most of the other alternatives.

Were they free to choose, I believe that Syrians would indeed choose the goals set by FP.

March 3rd, 2007, 12:47 am


Alex said:

I will be back later to add my comments on today’s reforms discussion.

But here is non related article just posted on Haaretz:

Some serious thoughts on Syria
By Ze’ev Schiff

The annual intelligence report presented to the government this week resembled an open debate of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which usually ends with a deluge of leaks. The intelligence community realized this ahead of time, took precautions, and lowered the level of secrecy. Sanitizing, they call it.

First there was a restricted meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The next round of meetings deviated from the norm. Instead of a meeting of the defense cabinet, with its small team of ministers, Olmert opted to present the report to the government plenary. Apparently he wanted to “share” responsibility on a subject as sensitive as Syria with all his ministers, although this does not free him from supreme responsibility as prime minister.

The way in which the intelligence officials were pushed into addressing political issues (shall we talk to Syria or not) also differed from normal procedure. This is not the role of the intelligence. Their job is to gather information and to evaluate it.

Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin warned that Syria is growing stronger. The message being projected to Bashar Assad is that Israel is not prepared to discuss peace, he said. Assad could reach the conclusion that force is the only solution. After last year’s war in Lebanon, there was much talk in Syria about how Hezbollah proved that a military confrontation with Israel could achieve something. If this is the case, then Israel needs to consider the possibility of war with Syria at some future date.

At first, Yadlin was not sure that Assad’s intentions were serious. Now, they say, he accepts the contention of the MI research division that Assad’s proposals are genuine. This is not to say that Assad has changed his mind about the price Israel will have to pay (the Golan Heights). On the other hand, the Mossad’s research division believes Assad’s moves are all part of a tactical ploy to reduce international pressure on Syria.

The former head of MI, Uri Saguy, says Israel and Syria are asking the same questions: Does the other side really want an agreement? Is it capable of reaching one? Saguy believes these questions need to be thoroughly investigated. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer feel the same way.

But Major General (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, insists that Israel must not give up the Golan. Doing so will not solve Israel’s other strategic problems and may even aggravate them. The Syrians will not keep their word, and if a war breaks out, without the Golan Israel will be in a worse position than it would be with the Golan. The prime minister has been opposed to unconditional talks with Damascus from the outset, although some say there are signs that he is starting to crack.

In principle, no country should declare itself unwilling to explore the possibility of peace. The question is how this exploration should be carried out. Secret contacts are of the utmost importance. Our major precondition is that Syria end its involvement in terror against Israel. At the same time, it is unreasonable to believe that Syria will sever its ties with Iran.

Coordination with Washington is also an issue, and in this area, things are changing. Previous Israeli contacts with the Arabs were usually secret and were not coordinated with the Americans. This was the case with Egypt, at Oslo with the Palestinians, and with Jordan. Israel’s interest lies in preventing war and reaching an agreement with another Arab state in a manner that will also impact on Lebanon.

We need to think like the Turks: Despite everything, it is preferable to have Bashar Assad sitting in Damascus – rather than the Muslim Brotherhood.

March 3rd, 2007, 1:01 am


ausamaa said:


There you go again: “Our major precondition is that Syria end its involvement in terror against Israel”.

Even Ze’ef Schiff sets “preconditions” for peace talks. Mind you, some are major, others are minor!

And he wants a peace agreement that impacts on Lebanon. Why not have “agreements” with every one that impact everyone? Do they just want peace with the “stronger” Syria, so that they can manhandle the “smaller” ones? Is it peace they looking for?

And again, the Israeli head of National Security Council insists on keeping the Golan “after” signing a peace agreement with Syria. Apparently, he forgets that the obstacles to signing a peace treaty with Syria is not merely the Golan, but also other wider and more fundemental issues.

It is the ever present BLINDERS which lead one to think that nothing will ever change. But we can execuse him, for he was talking to a public gathering, i.e. a sort of a PR appearnce as it appears.

March 3rd, 2007, 4:45 am


Alex said:

Ausamaa, Israel is in transition … few years ago Israelis felt that nothing can stop them. Today, many Israelis are not sure what to think anymore … they are not sure if they can afford to continue to ignore Syria, or if they should accept to talk but under their conditions, of if they should simply talk and give back the Golan (or Give UP, as they call it).

Syria needs to act in a balanced way .. not too threatening, and not too weak. Israelis need to see Syria as strong enough to deserve “painful concessions” and peaceful enough to be trusted.

That’s how THEY think, and since we will not be fighting to get the Golan back, we have to understand their mentality and accomodate it when possible.

March 3rd, 2007, 7:57 am


Alex said:

Vice President , Farouk alShara has expressed optimism over the holding of an international conference on Iraq next week , adding that a lot of the conference outcome will be pending on what the US. administration thinks since it is not easy to know if the US. participation means a real and actual change.
In an interview given to the delegate of the French Daily Le Monde and published today in Paris, alShara went on to say that Syria is an important player, Syria is ready to do her best to find a solution to the current situation in Iraq, because Syria is interested in the stability of Iraq, and if the situation in Iraq is stable, this will apply on Syria and on the whole region.

AlShara called for caution because the situation in Iraq is slipping toward chaos, and there are important proposed issues such as national reconciliation, and agreement on a timetable for withdrawal of the foreign troops, indicating that Syria stands in at the same distance from all the Iraqi parties whether in the government or in the opposition, because the role of a mediator can not be played if we take sides with any party.

On the Syrian-French relations, the vice president expressed hope that the crisis between the two countries will end by the French presidential elections whoever would the president-elect be, because there is no reason for the continuation of boycott between the two countries, and healthy normal relations should be restored in the best interest of the two countries.

Replying to a question on the international tribunal, alShara said that all what could cause division in Lebanon is a source of anxiety to Syria, and Syria said that the Syrians cooperated fully with the international investigation committee, but the international tribunal is irrelevant because the investigation has not finished yet and the United Nations did not send Syria the draft of the tribunal and did not consulted Syria … it is a pure Lebanese matter.

March 3rd, 2007, 8:05 am


Alex said:

Elaph news …

الى ذلك وعلى صعيد اخر قالت مصادر دبلوماسية عربية ان وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم الذي سيصل اليوم الى القاهرة للمشاركة في اجتماعات وزراء الخارجية العرب تحضيرا لقمةالرياض ، سيلتقي بالرئيس المصري حسني مبارك في خطوة تأتي استكمالا للاتصال الذي اجراه مبارك بالرئيس السوري بشار الاسد قبل ثلاثة ايام وأطلعه خلاله على نتائج زيارته الى الرياض.

وأضافت المصادر ان القاهرة التي تلعب دورا رئيسيا في اعادة ترتيب العلاقات السعودية السورية قبيل قمة الرياض، تحاول ازالة الشوائب، خاصة بعد ان لمس الرئيس مبارك وجود رغبة متبادلة من الجانبين في تطبيع العلاقات واعادتها الى ما كانت عليه قبل الازمة الاخيرة .وفي حين لم تستبعد المصادر احتمال نجاح العاصمة المصرية في عقد لقاء بين وزيري خارجية سوريا وليد المعلم والسعودية الامير سعود الفيصل، قالت إن القيادة المصرية باتت مقتنعة بأن نقل الهدنة اللبنانية الحالية الى مرحلة بداية الحل يقتضي تفاهما بين دمشق والرياض أولا، وهو الامر الذي شدد عليه عمرو موسى في كل اتصالاته العربية.

وقالت مصادر عربية على صلة وثيقة بطهران، ان المسؤولين الايرانيين قطعوا شوطا لا بأس به في اتصالاتهم مع السعودية وهناك لجنة سعودية ايرانية تعمل بصورة مستمرة ويشرف على عملها كل من الامير بندر بن سلطان و علي لاريجاني، وعلى الارجح فإن الايرانيين، وبإقرار من السعوديين والفرنسيين لعبوا دورا كبيرا في انجاح مؤتمر باريس 3 كما ان السعوديين طلبوا منهم اعداد مجموعة من الاقتراحات حول الازمة اللبنانية وهم يستعدون لتقديمها قريبا وعلى الارجح في خلال زيارة نجاد الى الرياض اليوم.

وقال مصدر سياسي لبناني في بيروت قوله إن إيران تريد إذابة الجليد بين السعوديين والسوريين وهو عنصر أساسي لنزع فتيل الأزمة اللبنانية قبل قمة جامعة الدول العربية التي تعقد في السعودية في نهاية مارس/آذار. وأشار معلقون سعوديون إلى أن المسؤولين السوريين لم يزوروا السعودية منذ أشهر وقالوا إن الرياض ربما تريد تحسن العلاقات مع دمشق لإبعاد سوريا عن إيران.

الزيارة مبادرة إيرانية

ويقود الدبلوماسي السعودي الأمير بندر بن سلطان، الجهود الدبلوماسية السعودية للحد من النفوذ الإقليمي المتعاظم لإيران. ويقول دبلوماسيون غربيون في الرياض إن الأمير بندر مقرب من الإدارة الأمريكية لكنه قد يكون في بعض الأحيان طرفا مستقلا لا يعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الملك. وقال المحلل العراقي مصطفى العاني الذي زار الرياض في الآونة الأخيرة واجتمع مع مسئولين سعوديين إن طهران على دراية بذلك وتشعر أنه يتعين عليها استمالة القادة السعوديين بدءا بالملك عبد الله نفسه.

March 3rd, 2007, 8:17 am


Gibran said:

Alex quotes and highlights an Israeli on matters that relate to internal Syrian politics (reform) in an effort to gain regime legitimacy: “We need to think like the Turks: Despite everything, it is preferable to have Bashar Assad sitting in Damascus – rather than the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Dear Atassi or any other Patriotic Syrian,

What do you think of the logic of Alex behind his highlighted message of an Israeli; i.e. a no-Syrian belonging to a country occupying Syrian land and is at least technically in a state of war with your beloved Syria? Doesn’t his logic smack of some unpatriotic behavior? It seems he can only relate to the opinion of ‘some enemy’ of Syria instead of involving himself in a serious debate about reform with his fellow Syrians. Do you notice that his only comment about the reform thread he started so far has been this Israeli quote?

Whereas they may or may not comment and without any prejudice, the opinions of Alex, EHSANI, FP and Norman on this are not solicited.

March 3rd, 2007, 8:28 am


Alex said:

أنت بالفعل شعلة ذكاء يا جبران


I will give you the benefit of the doubt regarding your comments about my decision to make the last paragraph of the Haaretz article bold… you are joking, right?

As for my lack of comment for the past 10 hours on the subject of reform … what exactly is your point? …. is it because I do not want the subject THAT I STARTED WITH THREE LONG COMMENTS to be discussed? .. is it possible that I liked most of the comments I read after I came back from dinner tonight? … do I have to show up every time with more long comments?

For your information, I started the same topic about a year ago … I like this edition’s comments much more than last year’s.

March 3rd, 2007, 8:45 am


Gibran said:

Joking? O’ no you must be joking Alex!
I don’t joke when it comes to patriotism. I’m sure there are close to 19 million patriotic Syrians. And I’m quite sure many, many, many of them don’t joke when it comes to patriotism. Do you think you have enough ‘genius’ to make fool of all of them?
In fact, your whole thread was a piece of joke. You begin by proposing some guaranties (a piece of disappointing joke as I remarked immediately after you started the thread) for some 20 to 25 percent of Syria’s population under the guise of seeking political reforms. You end up by seeking to legitimize a regime that represents less than a fraction of a 5-10% of your Syrian population, using the opinion of none other than a citizen of a country that Syria is in a state of war with.
Come on Alex who are you fooling?

March 3rd, 2007, 9:45 am


youngSyria said:

first:this thread is sooooo long …..
alex and others ,
why do you think that sunnis will end up eating minorities for dinner if this regime is changed?
I know that most of people have problems with alawis but not other,I think,some alawis will be eaten, not all of them(alawis).

about MB coming to power in election:
although by no means i support them, but hey, if thats what Syrians want, what is the problem?? aren’t we talking about democracy?or we don’t need democracy when its not in our favor?
so what is the difference between us and the regime?

I don’t think that Syrians (and I mean all regime,MB,NSF ,internal opposition,you and me)are ready for fact they don’t understand what it means.(this applies to all ME not only syria)

March 3rd, 2007, 12:04 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

thats the worry youngsyria. in short MB will respect democracy when its in their favor but once in control they will make sure “democracy” will never be an obstacle to their goals

March 3rd, 2007, 4:09 pm


Gibran said:

Democracy loving Arabs/Syrians: Come and learn Democracy from the only Arab Democracy in the Middle East. We have close to a century of Democratic history. Our Democracy survived an unprecedented 17 year period of civil war. It continues to survive the plots of neighboring despots. Our Beirut Cafes are open, just like during the 60s, for your dissidents to come and share their stories of past struggles and discuss future plans without any fear of the omnipresent Mukhabarat. It is the only hope for your aspirations. Honorable Mr. Hariri speaks:

الحريري: نقطة ضعف المعارضة اقتناؤها السلاح ولبّ المشكلة خوف جيراننا من ديموقراطيتنا
بيروت الحياة – 03/03/07//

مكاري والحريري وبوتيرنغ وباتري خلال الندوة (دالاتي ونهرا)
قال رئيس كتلة «المستقبل» النائب سعد الحريري أن «لبنان واللبنانيين يتعرضون اليوم لحملة تستهدف مسيرتهم الديموقراطية، وترمي إلى قلب نتائج الانتخابات النيابية من خلال أزمة داخلية افتعلها جيران لبنان ودعموها عبر حلفائهم اللبنانيين». وأضاف: «إن تهديدات النظام السوري ضد لبنان واللبنانيين تُوقِع ضحايا في الطبقة السياسية وتزرع الرعب في صفوف الصحافيين والمثقفين والسياسيين».

وقال الحريري: «إن لبنان يواجه اليوم أزمة داخلية لكننا ندرك أن الحوار وحده يخولنا التوصل الى حل لأن غالبية اللبنانيين الذين نمثلهم في البرلمان يصرون بشدة على حل مشاكلنا عبر حوار سلمي على رغم الضغوط التي تمارس على بعض المجموعات في لبنان لإبقائه بيئة خصبة لعدم الاستقرار». وأكد: «أننا، الغالبية في البرلمان، لن نألو جهداً لإيجاد حل يحمي بلدنا وينقذ مواطنينا من العنف»، مشدداً على أن تيار»المستقبل» وقوى 14 آذار (مارس) «لا تؤمن بالسلاح بتاتاً»، معتبراً أن «نقطة ضعف المعارضة اقتناؤها السلاح».

مواقف الحريري جاءت في ندوة نظمها تيار «المستقبل» في بلجيكا، في مبنى البرلمان الأوروبي في بروكسيل تحت عنوان «لبنان بعد سنتين على اغتيال رفيق الحريري»، حضرها نائب رئيس المجلس النيابي فريد مكاري والنائبان باسم السبع ومصباح الاحدب وأعضاء في البرلمان الأوروبي وسفراء عرب وأجانب وممثلون عن قوى 14 آذار وحشد من الجالية اللبنانية.

وتحدث الحريري بإسهاب عن العلاقة مع أوروبا والجهود التي بذلها الرئيس السابق للحكومة اللبنانية الشهيد رفيق الحريري لتعزيز تلك العلاقات وصولاً الى توقع اتفاق الشراكة مع أوروبا.

وقال الحريري إن «موسم القتل يجب أن يتوقف (…) ولبنان يحتاج إلى دعمكم (الأوروبيين) لمنع ثقافة الموت من تدمير منارة الديموقراطية الوحيدة في الشرق الأوسط»، مشدداً على أن «الوسيلة لوقف هذه الحرب تتمثل بإنشاء المحكمة الدولية لمحاكمة المسؤولين عن الاغتيالات. إنها الوسيلة الوحيدة لحماية لبنان. وعلينا ألا ندع الذين ارتكبوا هذه الأعمال الإرهابية يفلتون من جرائمهم من دون عقاب».

وأوضح الحريري أن «العرب، ولا سيما المملكة العربية السعودية، يبذلون جهوداً جبارة للتوصل إلى حل سلمي للأزمة اللبنانية، ونحن، الغالبية في البرلمان اللبناني وفي البلاد، لن نألو جهداً لإيجاد حل يحمي بلدنا وينقذ مواطنينا من تهديد العنف والنزاع الداخلي».ورأى أن «إيجاد حل للنزاع العربي – الإسرائيلي قادر على جلب الاستقرار لمنطقتنا. فاتفاق مكة المكرمة شكّل إنجازاً مهماً بالنسبة إلى الفلسطينيين وأدعو العالم إلى التعامل مع الاتفاق بإيجابية ليعود الفلسطينيون إلى بناء حياتهم ومؤسساتهم».

وأكد الحريري في حوار مع الحاضرين، أن «المشكلة (في لبنان) ليست بين السُنة والشيعة أو بين المسلمين والمسيحيين بل هي في احترام الديموقراطية التي حميناها على مر خمسين سنة. وبرأيي أن جيران لبنان يحاولون زعزعة نظامنا الديموقراطي لأن تجربتنا الديموقراطية يمكن أن تكون ناجحة. فتخيلوا لو نجحت الديموقراطية في لبنان، ما سيكون تأثيرها في جيرانه. هذا هو لب المشكل». وعن مستقبل الفلسطينيين في لبنان قال: «الحل الوحيد هو عودتهم الى ديارهم في فلسطين». وأكد أن «حزب الله» حزب لبناني له ممثلون في البرلمان اللبناني، ولا بد لنا من احترام هذا الواقع، وكذلك على «حزب الله» احترام وجودنا في البرلمان. والمشكلة التي نعاني منها اليوم في لبنان هي أن البعض لا يريد احترام الدستور. ومع هذا، لا يمكننا أن نحل المشاكل إلا من خلال الحوار».

وقال الحريري رداً على سؤال عن التسلح: «إن قوتنا الأساسية في تحالف 14 آذار وتحديداً في تيار «المستقبل» تكمن في أننا لا نؤمن بالسلاح. أن نقطة ضعف المعارضة هي اقتناؤها السلاح. لقد حرّرنا لبنان من الوجود السوري الذي دام ثلاثين عاماً من دون استخدام أي سلاح، ولم يكن لدينا سوى العلم اللبناني وصوتنا واعتصامنا في ساحة الشهداء. لم يتحمّل النظام السوري الضغط وانسحب، وقد تحقق الانسحاب طبعاً بمساعدة المجتمع الدولي والاتحاد الأوروبي. إن مدرسة رفيق الحريري هي مدرسة العلم والحياة والثقافة والعيش المشترك. لن يحمل تيار «المستقبل» أبداً أي سلاح، وكذلك حلفاؤنا وليد جنبلاط وسمير جعجع وأمين الجميل لن يحملوا السلاح لأنهم يؤمنون بلبنان حر من أي تدخل أجنبي ومن أي سلاح خارج سلاح الشرعية. فالسلاح يجب أن يخضع لسلطة الحكومة اللبنانية».

March 3rd, 2007, 5:24 pm


Alex said:

First, Gibran the not-easy-to-fool political analyst, specialized in minority complexes:

So are you saying that I am here trying to fool Atassi and Gibran, and Majedkhaldoon into signing on those guarantees for minorities and therefore it is official? … Syrian minorities are now protected after Alex fooled the Syria comment readers into signing those guarantees?

Do you know what we are doing here? we are discussing issues, exchanging ideas, and we are learning from each other. The reason I posed those questions in the first place is because I wanted to get a feeling of everyone’s position on this topic and to compare it to their positions last year when I asked the same questions.

Young Syria, this thread is long because Gibran is here to make us all waste a couple extra paragraph to answer his silly comments. I do it because I enjoy the process … he is funny you have to admit.

As for understanding democracy, as IC and others have mentioned already, we can not jump into “democracy” .. we need to move toward it slowly … there is a lot of learning to be done.

For example, I still believe that most Syrians (and Arabs, including the democtaric Lebanese) have the tendency to force their opinion of others when they have the power to do so.

Another example: They usually assume that ther is some evil or dirty motive behind any opinion not to their liking … so to the Baathists others are mostly “traitors”, and to the non-Baathists others are mostly “Baathists” …

Look at the Democracy loving Gibran … anyone here who does not share his opinions is suspect, or an idiot at best.

Gibran, i’ll still give you more time to analyze what I meant by making the last paragraph in bold in the Haaretz article .. try harder. you’ll get it.

March 3rd, 2007, 6:33 pm


ausamaa said:

Gibran, Do you know an intelectual by the name of “Assad Abu Khalil”, an outspoken American Lebanese intellectual? He has a site called The Angry Arab, at http//

Why dont you visit this site and learn ther truth about your so-called “close to a century of democratic history”.

You will love this experience. He is a full blooded Lebanese, not a racist anti-Lebanese Syrian.


March 3rd, 2007, 7:23 pm


youngSyria said:

alex ,
I understand your point..but you didn’t answer my questions.
I have some points in my mind:

1)for me, gibran is representing the Lebanese opinion(or part of it), but you and others are representing syrian people opinion.

thats why I’m more concerned when a syrian says that he wants democracy that wont bring MB to power!! I find this very contradicting… its like when US/Israel/EU boycotted democratically elected hamas.. we don’t need democracy when its not in our favor?

2)why do you think that sunnis will end up eating minorities for dinner if this regime is changed?

3)the thing is that I don’t want MB to rule,its going to be a nightmare if they did.but the question is: IF THIS IS WHAT SYRIANS WANT, do you want this country to adopt democracy and maybe one day it will develop and its people will become secular ,or,you prefer to stay with current regime???

4)so if some syrians are in doubt about democracy ,is democracy really important (for our case)..I mean look at china, they are developing ,there citizens are introduced to a higher life standards and they have a big potential.but they dont have democracy.

March 3rd, 2007, 7:41 pm


Alex said:


I will explain my preferred approach to political reforms in Syria through an analogy with a basic electronic RC circuit (or a digital circuit) … I hope it will still be useful even for the non-engineers among you … I think anyone who can read a graph and who understand what is a system, can follow it.

Please try to not get bored with it very quickly.


1) Syria is the electronic circuit (or “system”)

2) The current state of the system (or output of the circuit) is 0 volts (or “OFF” in digital applications)… or, democracy (being the specific output of the “Syria” system we want to study) is now at 0 value.

3) We want to raise that output to level 1 (“ON” in digital applications)… or we want to reach the “desirable” high level of democracy in Syria (the system we are studying).

Normally, in electronic circuit, we would like to be able to move to that level as fast as possible (small “risetime”).

But we would also like the transition from Zero to one (or from no democracy to full democracy, in Syria’s case) to be a controlled, predictable, stable process .. we do not want the system to go out of control.

4) We would like outside interference in our “Syria system” to be minimal (or minimal EMI electro magnetic waves around the circuit)…

We have two options

1) Slow, controllable, predictable, stable transition… like in this graph

2) Faster, more unpredictable, less stable (with more oscillations and ups and downs)… like this Red highly oscillating curve.

My conclusions from this analogy:

1) Moving from the case of a simple RC circuit, to that of the hugely complex System “Syria” which is made from the sum (and the interaction effects) of 19 million complex systems (each Syrian citizen and his own memory, and characteristics) … one can expect much more instability when trying to make the fast transition in the state of the “Syria system” from Zero democracy to full democracy …

2) The transition can be expected to be much more random and uncontrollable and stochastic in nature due to the excessive current outside interference around the system (Syria) … it would be much better to wait for less activity and interference from outside.

I prefer the slow approach … oscillations in the Syria system mean bloodshed. I am not in a hurry for political change. I want it to be controlled … but with the aim of actually achieving it, not only to avoid it.

My freind Atassi knows my time preference … 5-10 years.

And finally, for those who are familiar with basic circuit design, yes I made many simplifying assumptions to avoid complicating things even more … but the idea is still valid: faster slew rate comes at a price, in electronic circuits, or in real life systems.

March 3rd, 2007, 8:58 pm


Alex said:

And,in case the above was useless, the simpler answer to your 4 questions:

1) I’m more concerned when a syrian says that he wants democracy that wont bring MB to power!! I find this very contradicting… its like when US/Israel/EU boycotted democratically elected hamas.. we don’t need democracy when its not in our favor?

I do not want to see the MB in power, true. But I will not force my opinion on others. Besides, I support Hamas as long as their lands are still occupied by their powerful enemy. When Israel agrees to UN resolution 242 and there is peace, I would not support an extremist Hamas in power to run “Palestine” … then a milder secular Palestinian party would be what I support. Same in Lebanon, I support HA’s role as an opposition group, or as a group in a national unity government coalition, but I do not support them if they wanted to run the country. Again, a secular Lebanese party and president would be what I support (from whatever religion he might be).. provided Lebanese “democracy” is reformed to every significant Lebanese group’s liking.

Same with the Syrian MB .. they have a role to play representing the people who support their mentality .. but I don’t want them to run Syria.

Again, this is MY opinion, I will not force it on anyone. And again, Democracy can only work if you tie it to a constitution that ensures minority rights and that does not differentiate between citizens… a constitution that needs to be enforced by a secular army, like in Turkey. Otherwise, I do believe that the MB will modify the constitution when they feel powerful enough .. their moderation today is only out of necessity… they want to appeal to the Americans and to Chirac who were the past few years the MB’s best hope of getting rid of the Syrian regime.

2)why do you think that Sunnis will end up eating minorities for dinner if this regime is changed?

First, I was not too concerned about Christians when I talk about minorities … I am talking about the minority in power. Christians might suffer,mildly, when MB types are in power. Things like restrictions on way of life, not more.

I think that this generation suffers from a lot of negative memories… while most Syrian Sunnis are secular, reasonable and peaceful, there are many who can’t wait to see the day they will punish “the regime”… also, those who are more motivated to become active in opposition politics are often the ones with more anger and more need for revenge. So decision makers in opposition are more likely to seek punishment … leading to an Iraq like situation (or a lighter version of it).

3)the thing is that I don’t want MB to rule,its going to be a nightmare if they did.but the question is: IF THIS IS WHAT SYRIANS WANT, do you want this country to adopt democracy and maybe one day it will develop and its people will become secular ,or,you prefer to stay with current regime???

I answered this question in my previous comment .. the one with the analogy to electric cuitcuits and “systems”. So, yes I want the political reform proces to be started, to be sustained, to be supported and agreed upon by all parties (including the regime) .. but I don’t want it to be a confrontation… and I don’t want it to be rushed, or to be forced these days while the Middle East is hyper active and hyper loaded with sectarian sensitivities. That is not the type of environmental conditions that are conducive to a successful change process.

Do I believe there is a way to succeed in relatively peaceful political reforms? yes I do. Over 5-10 years as I mentioned above.

4)so if some syrians are in doubt about democracy ,is democracy really important (for our case)..I mean look at china, they are developing ,there citizens are introduced to a higher life standards and they have a big potential.but they dont have democracy.

I agree that starting with (or accelerating) economic reforms is very helpful for making Syrians change their priorities towards future oriented more constructive goals… instead of thinking about “I need to punish those who did me wrong in the past” it will hopefull become “I need to vote for the candidate who will help me improve my standard of living”

Oh, and … Gibran: did I answer the questions? did I avoid them? am I trying to trick anyone? if yes please explain what is my personal benefit in doing so.

March 3rd, 2007, 9:52 pm


Atassi said:

Ahmadinejad, Saudi king reject sectarian strife
By Souhail Karam
3 March 2007
Reuters News
(c) 2007 Reuters Limited

(Updates with agreement on opposing sectarianism)

RIYADH, March 3 (Reuters) – Sunni and Shi’ite heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed on Saturday to fight the spread of sectarian strife that threatens to spill over from their neighbour Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister said.

Saudi King Abdullah held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was on his first official trip to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi official said earlier the Sunni Muslim kingdom would seek Shi’ite Iran’s help to ease sectarian tensions in Iraq erupting into full-blown civil war.

Killings by Sunni and Shi’ite death squads in Iraq and the political crisis in Lebanon dividing Sunni and Shi’ite parties have led to fears of sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are among the most influential nations of their respective branches of Islam.

“The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters without elaborating.

Saudi Arabia has led a diplomatic drive in recent months to counterbalance what is regarded as Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories.

While Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Iran is a fierce opponent of Western influence in the region.

The United States is pushing for the United Nations to impose tougher sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which can make fuel for either atomic bombs or nuclear power plants.

A Saudi official said the kingdom would try to convince Tehran to comply with U.N. resolutions and suspend enrichment.


The United States and its regional allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, suspect Iran’s nuclear energy programme aims to develop weapons, an accusation Tehran denies.

U.S.-allied Arab governments also fear Iran is gaining influence in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq, where Saudi Arabia blames Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias for sectarian killings.

Riyadh also wanted to press Iran to exert pressure on Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group backed by Iran and Syria, to put an end to a political standoff in Lebanon, the Saudi official said.

Ahmadinejad was earlier quoted by Iran’s IRNA news agency as saying: “In the meeting with King Abdullah, we will discuss those issues that should be carried out jointly in the Islamic world and also the region.”

Iranian state radio said talks would also cover “Iran’s nuclear case”.

Diplomats say Iran wants to address these concerns before an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia later this month.

“Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have taken up the role of an alliance speaking in the name of the Arab world … So Iran is making sure its views and positions on Arab issues are heard at summits,” a Saudi-based Western diplomat said.

Saudi and Iranian officials have met several times in recent weeks to mediate between Lebanon’s Hezbollah-led opposition and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s U.S. and Saudi-backed government.

But their talks, as well as Saudi contacts with Washington and Paris and Iranian talks with its closest regional ally, Syria, appear to have made little headway.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria have accepted Iraq’s invitation to a regional conference in March on easing tensions in Iraq. (Additional reporting by Tehran and Beirut bureaux)

March 3rd, 2007, 10:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:

My friend ALEX,

I see no problem in following a “slow” approach. You defined slow as a time window of 5-10 years.

Success in life, business and politics is derived from being able to set specific goals and then work on meeting and achieving these goals in a preset time frame.

Bashar has been in power for close to 7 years. What metrics should we use to measure his success or accomplishments?

It has been widely argued that the past 7 years have been abnormal and that it is unfair to assume that Bashar could have done any better given the circumstances. What is going to stop us from saying the same thing over the next 10 years?

When Bashar runs for re-elections soon, it would be useful to have a set of metrics by which he ought to be judged at the end of his new 7-year term. In my opinion, this yardstick ought to be more than “we are improving and the last 7 years are better than the previous 7”.

Bashar is not alone of course. I am hard pressed to see an Arab leader offer his people a clear set of objectives and goals that he will work on meeting over a set time period.

As Bashar enters his new term, it would be refreshing to see him offer his people a measurable set of agenda items that he will commit to meeting over the next 7 years. This program ought be printed in all newspapers and have posted on his government website. Seven years from today, we can all collectively and objectively determine whether he has done a good job or not.

In conclusion,

Adopting a slow approach to reform is something I have no qualms with. However, I think that our current system of governance suffers from a lack of accountability and a near-total absence of measurability when it comes to assessing the success or failure of our leaders.

March 3rd, 2007, 10:20 pm


Alex said:

Ehsani I absolutely agree that the process needs to start at least and it needs to be “fast enough”and to have an objective… although most politicians rarely deliver on their promises in election campaigns, so I would expect the same if one day Bashar is expected to “promise” something specific in a specific time frame.

I repeat the following

1) When you are trying to change a country in such a dramatic way, you need everyone to be on the same wavelength. THe problem now is that, if we assume that Bashar really wants to implement those changes (peacefully), then he needs to convince everyone to his right (Alawites, and others who are currently enjoying the rewards of the current system) and to his left (Those who are eager for total change today)… to agree on the new direction.

My emphasis is therefore on coming up with a reasonable new direction we can all agree on before we move anywhere … otherwise we will still end up with some very unhappy parties who will resist change and will probably create enough barriers (some through violent means).

It is not enough to just repeat Khaddam’s revolutionary instant “Democratic changes”… we need to talk first…. we need to listen to each other without anger.

2) regarding the last 7 years … yes, I still give Bashar the benefit of the doubt …. the fact is: not a single leader performed well those 7 years .. Bush has been the international joke #1, Chirac’s popularity is 18%, Blair’s popularity is similar, Olmert lost the summer war to few thousand HA fighters and his government is subject to multiple financial and moral investigations, Seniora achieved chaos, Iraqi government achieved unprecedented bloodshed, the Saudis are reduced to coordinating with the neocons and with Israel (although lately things are better, hopefully), Mubarak is permanently on vacation in Sharm elsheikh … The Jordanian king is gambling in Europe …

Before I am accused of being always easy on “the regime”, I think president Hafez Assad could have done much better internally if he wanted to in the nineties .. he had everyone in his pocket, internally and regionally. He was the single most influential man in Syria and the Middle East… but he only delivered minimal reforms.

March 3rd, 2007, 10:43 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I was gone for only one day to sip espresso at Le Fouquet’s with some Syrian patriots (working for real change; not change wrapped by Ghadry and exported by Israel via Lebanon) in Paris and look what I have missed: a great thread of discussions minus the obvious nonsensical one posted from exactly one blogger that is a pure waste of his time and ours. BTW, can someone please tell him we got it: Syria is an autocracy; Lebanon is a democracy. Ausamaa, thanks for the tip you gave him – as he is continuing to annoy like a not-so-funny Jumbo-GeaGea buffoon!

MSK, Ehsani’s (thanks Ehsani!) answer squarely overlaps mine. It is the free market and liberal democracy that is arguably proven to be the ultimate aspiration of mankind. These two principles encompass in them the basis of human liberty and prosperity. What do I base this assertion on? Plato’s Republic.

See you around the galaxy 😉

March 3rd, 2007, 11:37 pm


youngSyria said:

what would force the regime to reform in the next 5-10 years, as ehsani2 said :
“our current system of governance suffers from a lack of accountability and a near-total absence of measurability”.

why do you think anything would change?

March 4th, 2007, 7:38 am


Alex said:


Force does not work. When all sides reach this conclusion, things will become a bit easier.

I agree, it is difficult. But it is not impossible to gradually reach some sort of compromise acceptible to all sides…

I’ll leave the details to some proper post in the future …I wrote enough today, I’m sure you’ll agree : )

March 4th, 2007, 8:42 am


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