News Round Up (3 March 2007)

Correction: In my article Will Saudi Arabia Solve America’s Problems? I incorrectly wrote that Mohammed Ben Jelloun "was writing at a Hizbullah backed think tank." This is wrong. Ben Jelloun is a sociologist and political scientist unaffiliated with any party. I should have written that "Ali Fayyad is a "director of a think tank closely affiliated with Hezbollah." Ben Jelloun was quoting from an article by Mr. Fayyad, who is affiliated with Hizbullah. I apologize for any insult to Mohammed Ben Jelloun or to those associated with the website "Swans Commentary" that published his excellent article, all of whom are unaffilliated with Hizbullah. I recommend everyone to read Mohammed Ben Jelloun's fine article, "Hizbullah's Democratic Demands." Best, Joshua Landis 

Will Saudi Arabia Solve America’s Problems? I incorrectly wrote that Mohammed Ben Jelloun "was writing at a Hizbullah backed think tank." This is wrong. Ben Jelloun is a sociologist and political scientist unaffiliated with any party. I should have written that "Ali Fayyad is a "director of a think tank closely affiliated with Hezbollah." Ben Jelloun was quoting from an article by Mr. Fayyad, who is affiliated with Hizbullah. I apologize for any insult to Mohammed Ben Jelloun or to those associated with the website "Swans Commentary" that published his excellent article, all of whom are unaffilliated with Hizbullah. I recommend everyone to read Mohammed Ben Jelloun's fine article, "Hizbullah's Democratic Demands." Best, Joshua Landis 

Helena Cobban Interviewed Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem on Feb 28th when she was visiting Damascus. Cobban has serialized them here: one (on Iraq), two (Peace with Israel), three Israel again. Here is a bit from part one. Mouallem explains Syria's view of the upcoming Baghdad conference:

The idea of the meeting is to rally the goodwill of the neighboring countries and to express support for Iraq's security and stability.  For Syria, it's our vital interest to achieve security and stability in Iraq.  In Syria, we have more than a million displaced Iraqis.  They are a real burden on our economy, and on our education and healthcare systems.  We're not getting any support from anyone for this– including the Iraqi government.

This is a humanitarian issue, and it's increasing in gravity on a daily basis, because of the terrible security situation in Iraq.

He explained that because Syria hopes that these displaced persons can speedily return to their homes in Iraq, his government is reluctant to refer to them as refugees, calling them instead "displaced perople."

Mouallem described the Bush administration's decision to attecnd the Baghdad conference as,

a partial step in the correct direction.  But it's not the full step we are expecting Washington to reach to.  The full step will be when the Americans decide to have a comprehensive dialogue on regional issues, starting with the Arab-Israeli issue, which is the core issue in the region. 


V.P. Sharaa had this to say about the March 10 talks in Baghdad. Quoted from the Daily Star:

"I am optimistic, but in a measured fashion," Sharaa told Le Monde newspaper.

"The Baghdad meeting is a good thing, even if it is coming a bit late. It should have been held two years ago," he said. "Much depends on what the American administration has in its head."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has invited neighboring countries, including Syria and Iran; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, Russia, Britain, France and China; and representatives of the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference to the March 10 meeting in Baghdad.

Washington has said that agreeing to attend the conference does not amount to a change in policy toward Iran and Syria, which it accuses of fuelling violence in Iraq.

But Sharaa indicated that he thought the US presence might signify a shift of stance.

"I have to say that I have already noted positive elements," he said.

SANA adds this:

Al-Sharaa 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.

On Ahmedinehad's visit to Saudi Arabia, Parisa Hafezi of Reuters (1 March 2007) explains that the Middle Eastern powers are trying to reduce friction and to bring Syria out of the cold:

A Lebanese political source in Beirut said Iran wanted to break the ice between Saudis and Syrians — a key element in defusing Lebanon's crisis — before an Arab League summit set for Saudi Arabia at the end of March.

Saudi commentators, noting Syrian officials have not visited Saudi Arabia in months, say Riyadh might want a thaw in its relations with Damascus to pry Syria away from Iran.

The crisis in Lebanon and Sunni-Shi'ite fighting in Iraq has led to fears of growing sectarian divides across the region.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria have all accepted Baghdad's invitation to attend a regional conference in March on ways of easing tensions in Iraq.

Iraqi analyst Mustafa Alani, who recently visited Riyadh and met Saudi officials, said "The Iranian leadership think they are going to face a major crisis sooner or later with the nuclear programme and the United States trying to push them out of Iraq, so basically they want to neutralise Gulf opposition at the least," Alani said.

"The visit is an Iranian initiative. It wasn't an invitation. The problem is Ahmadinejad himself. He is not trusted by the Saudi leadership," he said.

"The Iranians tried to show the Saudis goodwill in Lebanon and that they are open to diplomatic bargaining. They reduced the tension markedly in Lebanon." (Additional reporting by Beirut bureau)

The first day of the meeting produced little agreement on Lebanon but "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.

The State Department is sending a special envoy to Syria to discuss Iraqi refugees. This is the first official high level US visit to Syria since Washington withdrew its ambassador two years ago; it is an additional indication that Syria's isolation is ending. John Donnelly of the Boston Globe writes (1 March 2007)

A senior State Department official has applied for a visa to travel to Syria to address the problems of Iraqi refugees, further eroding the Bush administration's previous position of not engaging in direct talks with Damascus.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the assistant secretary for the bureau of population, refugees, and migration, applied for the visa earlier this week, according to a State Department official, who asked to speak anonymously because he was not authorized to talk publicly on the issue.

The decision for the administration to ask Syria for permission for Sauerbrey's travel comes as US officials have also agreed to hold high-level talks with Iranian and Syrian officials during an upcoming international meeting on Iraq's future. President Bush had previously disallowed any direct talks with officials from the two nations, especially Iran. The United States has diplomatic relations with Syria, including a charge d'affaires at the embassy in Damascus; it has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 Islamist revolution.

The US official said Sauerbrey was given instructions to talk only about Iraqi refugees, but that still represented a significant turnaround within the senior levels of administration, particularly the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been opposing any outreach to Syria. Cheney and others have argued that senior administration officials should shun Syria because of its long period of hegemony over Lebanon and allowing weapons to flow from Iran into Lebanon to support Hezbollah fighters.

"We think that this is very important and commendable," said Dawn Calabia, a senior adviser at Refugees International, a Washington- based advocacy group, about Sauerbrey's planned trip. "Her visit is a way of saying we appreciate that Syria is permitting so many Iraqis to stay there and give them at least a safe place to be. That's an important gesture."

The conservative Heritage Foundation is dismayed that the US will talk to Syria. They oppose talks because they believe Syrian and Iranian diplomats are smarter than Americans and will "sucker" them into giving away the store. "Bush Administration has reinforced the perception that it is going soft on America's enemies," writes James Philips. "The Bush Administration must not be suckered into trading concessions on Iran's nuclear program for a cosmetic deal on Iraq that involves Iranian and Syrian promises that will never be fulfilled."

Steven Cook of the CFR says "The Decision to Meet With Syria & Iran is ‘Positive'. On Syria, He answers Gwertzman's question:

What about Syria? Can they do anything to help out Iraq?

The Syrians can do a better job on policing their border. But what’s uppermost in the minds of the Syrian leadership is relieving the pressure on the investigation and international tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That is essentially the price the United States is going to have to pay. That’s what the Syrians are looking for in terms of gaining its cooperation. Talks with the Iranians are much more important than the talks with the Syrians, to be honest with you. But there is a Syrian-Israeli angle here. The Israelis have demonstrated an interest in dealing with the Syrians as a result of the war in Lebanon over the summer. There may be something that can be done as a result of these talks to jump-start a Syrian-Israeli negotiation. But the Syrians have a history of playing both ends of the fence, being constructive in one area and being the furthest from constructive in another area.

Farid Ghadry, leader of the Syrian Reform Party, has blasted Walid Junblat, the anti-Syrian Lebanese leader of the Druze, for arguing at the American Enterprise Institute that the US should support Khaddam and the Muslim Brotherhood against Bashar al-Asad. He writes on his blog:

The event of AEI provided a hint of what is illogical in the approach of the Lebanese politicians and why it has been difficult for the international community to lock-step with their wishes. Jumblatt, in his last three visits, has called for the US to support the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Abdul Halim Khaddam, an ex-vice president of Syria and an adamant supporter of Ba’athism,….

I, personally, have a problem with someone supporting the Syrian opposition in general vs. supporting a portion of the Syrian opposition that is not representative of the people of Syria anymore than a past corrupt official and a group with a history of violence do. Lebanon’s security can not be the price for Syria’s insecurity. Yesterday’s headline in a Muslim Brotherhood Arabic web site read: “Jumblatt supports the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to Assad’. Since when the alternative is a group and not a democracy, I ask !!!

French President Jacques Chirac told Lebanese parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri Friday that the "constructive" outcome of the Paris III donor conference should not be squandered by political infighting. In a meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris, the leaders also discussed plans for an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Chirac told Hariri the "constructive outcome of the Paris III donor summit should not be jeopardized by the political skirmishes prevailing on the Lebanese scene," the station said.

The French president said that the international court could be formed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, but he told Hariri that the establishment of the court "is better implemented within Lebanese constitutional institutions," adding that  if such an approach failed "other means of having the court formed will be discussed."

Hariri said after the meeting that the establishment of the international tribunal was the only way to protect Lebanon from "evil forces that roam around it."

Asked whether the court will be established under Chapter 7 if various Lebanese groups fail to agree on its formation, Hariri said that "everything will be discussed in time."

A Chapter 7 designation would allow for the implementation of the court by international parties without the approval of Lebanon's Parliament.

Speaker Nabih Berri, a member of the opposition, has so far refused to convene a parliamentary session to endorse a draft proposal for the tribunal. In an interview Thursday on CNN, Hariri said Berri was "not allowed" to suspend parliamentary sessions "because Lebanon is a democratic country." "We will denounce anyone who contributes to hindering the formation of the court," he said.

Western intelligence sources worried by jihadist upsurge in Lebanon (From
By Amos Harel, Haaretz, March 2, 2007

Western intelligence agencies are worried by a growing concentration of terror operatives associated with the global jihad movement in Lebanon.

Recent intelligence indicates that hundreds of Sunni Muslim terrorists from various Arab countries are currently residing around Tyre, mainly in a Palestinian refugee camp near the city. Some of the terrorists are apparently from Sudan and Yemen.

Both Western and Israeli intelligence agencies fear that the jihadists' growing presence in southern Lebanon will lead to more attacks against Israel and a renewed escalation along the northern border. The United Nations forces deployed along the border following last summer's war with Hezbollah are also considered potential targets. [complete article]

New polling research finds opposition to war highest among Jews
By Nathan Guttman, The Forward, March 2, 2007

Even as a new study found that American Jews are significantly more opposed to the Iraq War than are Christians, Jewish organizations decided not to take up the issue at their annual policy conference.

Drawing from the results of 13 polls conducted since 2005, the Gallup Organization found that 77% of American Jews think the Iraq War was a mistake, compared with 52% of the general American public. The poll found that Jewish opposition to the war in Iraq transcends political boundaries, with Jewish Democrats and Jewish Republicans being more likely than their respective non-Jewish counterparts to oppose the war.

"These data show that the average American Jew — even those who are Republicans and may support the Bush administration on other matters — opposes the war," Gallup concluded in the report, released last week.

Comments (69)

EHSANI2 said:

During the previous thread, YoungSyria asked how many of us can call for democracy but reject the prospect of having the Muslim Brothers reach power through the voting ballot. Mr. Ghadry seems to also fear seeing the group replace the current leadership in Damascus.


Democracy is not an end. It is a mean to an end.

The end or Nirvana world is a society dominated by civil rights, rule of law, accountability, advances in science and arts, economic growth and higher standards of living.

History has shown that liberal democracies have had a good success rates when it comes to delivering the above set of values to society.

I would argue that a movement like the Moslem Brothers is incapable of delivering or abiding by the rules and guideposts that can deliver the Nirvana world described above.

Democracy to religious fanatics is simply a convenient platform to power. Once there however, the goalpost is quickly shifted.

Again, societies do not adopt democracy as an end but rather as a mean to an end. If the end result is going to be a group of religious zealots telling us how to conduct our daily lives then I for one would not want the platform of democracy. I will give it a pass, thank you.

March 3rd, 2007, 11:22 pm


G said:

Landis wrote (after providing a link):

The first day of the meeting produced little agreement on Lebanon.

Where in the linked article does it say this?

March 3rd, 2007, 11:46 pm


Ford Prefect said:

The statement provided by the Saudi Foreign Minister after the meeting; quoting him “The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region,” is the indication that “little agreement” on Lebanon was produced. the statement talks about the region in general, and not Lebanon in particular.

March 3rd, 2007, 11:58 pm


Syrian 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.”

Page 3 at the conclusion. If you click on the Continued… link at the bottom of each page it takes you to a new page where the article continues…

March 3rd, 2007, 11:58 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Your latest post regarding democracy as a means or a process towards the nirvana of humans is well said. I am also in agreement with your notion that replacing the current Ba’athists with another Hariri-financed criminal Ba’athist who is aligned with theological autocrats is deadly process for Syria. Even replacing these Ba’athists with a neocons-driven, Israeli-focused, and Saudi-funded junta collected from Syrian rejects in diaspora (lower case d) is going to be disastrous to Syria and Syrians.
Nevertheless, Syrians are not loosing hope. Only through keeping our faith in learning, personal advancement, and balanced-mindedness would a viable and educated middle class emerge. While Syria still lacks behind in many categories of the Human Development Index (HDI), once can notice some positive leading indicators in young Syrians.
For democracy to flourish and secure its roots, indigenous raison d’être must firmly and “obsessively” be present in the minds of Syria’s emerging educated and professional class which democracy will use to defend itself. Regressionists and authoritarians in Syria need not be afraid of anything but the Tsunami of the contineous emerging of bright and motivated Syrians.

March 4th, 2007, 12:48 am


Syrian said:

a new article from the independent seems to be pointing to positive results from Economic reforms in Syria. ” Investors on the road to Damascus: Syria is hot despite the sanctions” I reposted on my blog and would like to see what people might think.

March 4th, 2007, 1:50 am


Gibran said:

To whom it may concern:

أمين عام الأمم المتحدة يعين رئيس الوفد الأممي إلى المملكة مبعوثاً خاصاً

الأمم المتحدة – أحمد حسين اليامي:
في تأكيد من قبل الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة، بان كي مون، على الثقل الكبير الذي تحتله المملكة العربية السعودية في قضايا الشرق الأوسط والقضايا العالمية، فقد أعلن السيد بان أمس الأول في الأمم المتحدة عن تعيين السيد ابراهيم غمباري مبعوثاً خاصاً له وذلك بمناسبة ترؤس السيد غمباري وفداً أممياً وصل أمس إلى المملكة.
ويعد الوفد الأممي برئاسة إبراهيم غمباري إلى المملكة هو أول وفد يبعث به الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة إلى أي دولة عضو في المنظمة الدولية منذ توليه منصبه في الأول من يناير الماضي.

والسيد ابراهيم غمباري شغل منصب وزير الخارجية في نيجيريا ثم مندوباً دائماً لها لدى الأمم المتحدة قبل أن يحتل ثاني منصب في الأمم المتحدة في فترة السكرتير العام السابق كوفي عنان وذلك كرئيس للدائرة السياسية – التي تعد الدائرة الأهم – في المنظمة الدولية.

وقال أمين عام الأمم المتحدة في قرار تعيينه للسيد إبراهيم غمباري الذي يعد أعلى مسؤول مسلم من حيث المنصب في الأمم المتحدة، أنه سيكون مبعوثاً خاصاً له لشؤون الميثاق الدولي مع العراق وقضايا سياسية أخرى. وثمّن بان كي مون العمل السابق للسيد إبراهيم غمباري كمساعد للأمين العام للشؤون السياسية معبراً عن تطلعه للعمل معه في موقعه الجديد. ويحتل السيد ابراهيم غمباري، الذي يزور المملكة على مدى أسبوع حالياً، مكانة مرموقة في الأمم المتحدة إلى درجة أنه لو كان لافريقيا نصيب حالي لاحتلال منصب الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة ثانية، فإنه الشخص الأجدر، فمكانته رفيعة لدى كافة الأعضاء ال”192″. وبالتأكيد أن مكانة هذه الشخصية الافريقية النادرة ستستمر في العلو، وعلى العالم أن لا يفاجأ وأن ينتظر المزيد والمزيد من الدبلوماسي الافريقي إبراهيم غمباري.

I’m trying to discover any Syrian ‘blessings’ (50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% anything) in this development. Could some Syrian aparatchik help me please? I know it should be there somewhere just hidden from everybody’s sight except from the discerning eyes of some Syrian regime ideologue.

March 4th, 2007, 2:50 am


norman said:

Ehsani2 Syrian Alex FP Ausama. and others ,

What do you think of these moves ,
Syria seems to be moving rapidly toward economic reform,
Investors on the road to Damascus: Syria is hot despite the sanctions
By Paul Cochrane in Beirut
Published: 04 March 2007
Billions of pounds of foreign investment is flooding into Syria, even though the Middle East country remains under American sanctions and faces growing international pressure to co-operate over Iraq and Lebanon.

Following the death of former president Hafez al-Assad in 2000, Syria started an economic reform drive and moved away from socialism towards a market economy under Assad’s son, President Bashar al-Assad. Foreign investment was allowed for the first time in 2003, and it has caused the face of Damascus to change radically. Benetton and other well-known foreign clothing outlets are now seen throughout the capital, while billboards line the streets touting wares that would have been unknown under Hafez al-Assad.

Indeed, over the past five years advertising has surged 50 per cent as branding becomes as much a part of Syrians’ everyday lives as any- where else on the planet. Satellite television, estimated to beam into 85 per cent of Syrian homes, despite being officially banned, is also playing its part.

“For years it was a closed system, and now Syrians are motivated to buy Western brands,” said Karim Saidah, general manager of France’s Bel Groupe, owner of The Laughing Cow cheese brand in Syria.

The car market, meanwhile, has surged by a staggering 60 per cent since vehicle taxes were slashed in 2005.

The Joud Company, a local conglomerate, has collared 50 per cent of the £51m soft drinks market after striking a deal with Pepsi when the US giant was taken off a Syrian blacklist. And Bel Groupe’s share of the processed cheese market rocketed from 5 per cent to 65 per cent in the 18 months since opening a £8.7m factory.

One of the most attractive sectors for investors, however, is retail and tourism. One project is a £256m joint venture between Dubai’s Emaar Properties, IGO, an offshore investment, and a development company called the Eighth Gate. Located just outside Damascus’s city centre, the project is expected to be the largest mall in the Levant.

Although economic reforms and investment are being officially encouraged, decades of bureaucratic inertia, cronyism and political ideology are hindering retail developments.

“Such projects are all plans on paper… they may be viable within 10 years,” said Dr Nabil Sukkar, managing director of the Syrian Consulting Bureau for Development and Investment.

“What takes six months in Qatar takes six years in Syria. There are a lot of hurdles for permits,” he added.

Nor are Western companies immune to the risks. Many, for example, may be attracted by Syria’s 18 million potential consumers, but not all are comfortable pouring money into a region that remains unstable. Nor do they want to risk the wrath of the US over economic sanctions. It means the biggest players tend to be Lebanese and Gulf investors, who are flush with cash from the recent spike in oil prices and remain nervous, post 9/11, of investing in the West.

Yet the reforms continue. Earlier this month, the government pushed through a law allowing the export of profits. Officials hope it will help attract some £19bn, which will be needed in the coming five years to achieve a target growth rate of 7 per cent, to diversify the economy away from dwindling oil revenues, and to reduce unemployment.

The launch of a security exchange commission later this year may also give Syria’s reforms a boost. “The stock exchange will inspire holding companies and corporations, as well as improving money transactions in the market,” said Laila al-Samman, general manager at the Bank of Syria and Overseas. “There is a big chance to make money as Syria is a new market.”
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March 4th, 2007, 3:07 am


Gibran said:

First the appetizer:

Mitri to discuss Hariri court with Arab ministers

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Acting Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri will head to Cairo on Saturday to represent Lebanon at a meetings of Arab Foreign Ministers to be held at the headquarters of the Arab League. Among the issues Mitri is expected to discuss with his Arab counterparts is the formation of an international court to try suspects in the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri and Arab support for an initiative that would solve Lebanon’s political deadlock. Mitri will also address the issue of persistent Israeli violations of Lebanese territory.

Main course will soon follow.

Tarek Mitri is acting foreign minister replacing resigned Hezbollah minister Mr. Fneish. Good things may still come out despite the best efforts of subversive despots to the contrary! I’ll give the Syrian regime a 20% ‘blessing’ for this. I’m beginning to develop a discerning eye to the unseen hands of the Syrian regime working from behind the scene!

March 4th, 2007, 3:59 am


Syrian said:

Wow G. You solved the case, its all clear now. Lebanon will be represented at a meeting. WOW. Now thats news worthy of SANA.

March 4th, 2007, 4:09 am


Gibran said:

O’ no SYRIAN no one can solve but you. Come on. Go for it. It is your opportunity to show your genius.
And I’ll give you a help bonus: G. and Gibran are not the same person. You may check with Innocent_Criminal. He has all the IP addresses of all the commentators.

March 4th, 2007, 4:57 am


Syrian said:

Nah, Gibran, I’m just a peasant from backwords Syria not a sophisticated lebanese like you. I’d have no chance trying to be as versatile as you. I mean you are the one who always shows these Baathists here how wrong they are. I mean you do not get deterred. They try their best to counter your argument but you always expose them for what they are, regime agents. And you always keep your cool, I mean, Damn, people insult you and call you an idiot and a loser and you just stay here and keep taking it and coming for more. It takes a man like you to stand up to these Baathist symathizers and I would be too modest to assume this position. So keep posting these comments and keep showing us Syrians the road to salvation, I know in the end we will all be grateful to you.

March 4th, 2007, 5:16 am


Gibran said:

Very good SYRIAN. FYI, I never hid my views and never denied where I stand – didn’t have to. I also didn’t expect praise from ideologues and regime apologists. What can I do for them if they choose to insult? They only expose their own prejudice by falling to such levels. I’m here to make sure that they stick to the subject of Syria, and that they don’t venture beyond Syria’s borders, particularly those to the west of Damascus and south of Tartous. I think that’s fair game. Now, if they don’t like it, that’s their own problem and may be yours. And no, don’t think of salvation on my hands. A genius like you should be able to find the means to his own salvation.

March 4th, 2007, 5:33 am


DJ said:

why does everybody hate you in here?

March 4th, 2007, 5:51 am


Alex said:

Norman, I think Syria has great potential. In Five years I expect our neighbors, particularly those to the west of Damascus and south of Tartous, will beg us to allow them to join us into “Greater Syria”

: )

March 4th, 2007, 5:51 am


DJ said:

I agree Alex, but what do you think we shall do then?

March 4th, 2007, 5:53 am


Alex said:

I think at that time we shall think about it logically, like we always do.

: )

March 4th, 2007, 5:55 am


DJ said:

Sure Alex, we always do that 🙂
But their track record is becoming more and more dirty, I wonder if they’ll have any credentials left by then 😉

March 4th, 2007, 5:58 am


Gibran said:

Please see my comment just previous to yours for an answer to your question.
Very good, but please wait for your expectations to materialize and not just remain hibernating in dream land. You need to work real, real hard and you also need to improve on your patriotism. No thank you. It will not happen.

March 4th, 2007, 6:02 am


Syrian said:

Hey Alex,

Did you hear, Tarek Mitri is going to Cairo.

March 4th, 2007, 6:03 am


Alex said:


As you probably noticed, I did not make any comments on the news of Mr. Mitri going to Cairo. I suggest that it would be the wise thing for you too to refrain from treating this subject sarcastically.

This serious development has taken our people back in Damascus by complete surprise. I suggest we do not rush with any comments before we get clear instructions from Damascus.

But I am worried. Very worried.

March 4th, 2007, 6:40 am


Syrian said:

you said it brother. When I heard the news I nearly shit in my pants.

March 4th, 2007, 6:47 am


Alex said:

And this part is scaring me the most… “Main course will soon follow.”

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s Ass-syassa… maybe they will tell us.

In the mean time, all we have is tomorrow’s Al-hayat, telling us that everything is fine now, and that Bashar and King Abdallah will have a Summit on the side.

اتصالات لـ «التفاهم» على جدول الاعمال … وحل أزمة لبنان والمبادرة العربية … دمشق: تحرك إيجابي سوري – سعودي يسبق مشاركة الأسد في القمة
دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي الحياة – 04/03/07//

توقعت مصادر مطلعة في دمشق ان يترك الاجتماع المتوقع بين خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز والرئيس بشار الاسد، على هامش القمة العربية المقررة في الرياض يومي 28 و29 الشهر الجاري، اثرا كبيرا في تعاطي الجانبين مع الملفات الاقليمية.

وتفيد المعلومات المتوافرة لـ «الحياة» ان مشاركة الاسد في القمة كانت نتيجة عدد من الخطوات المدروسة بين دمشق والرياض وجهود كثيفة لعدد من الوسطاء، قبل قيام الرئيس حسني مبارك بلعب «دور» في تلطيف الاجواء بين الجانبين السوري والسعودي.

وتحدثت المصادر عن عدد من الخطوات ادت الى الوصول الى ترتيب عقد قمة سورية – سعودية ومشاركة الاسد في القمة العربية. واعتبرت ان مستوى المبعوث الذي نقل رسالة الدعوة من الملك عبدالله الى الرئيس الاسد، عامل في توفير جو ايجابي، تم التعبير عنه في اللقاء الذي عقد بين الرئيس الاسد ووزير الدولة السعودي عبدالله زينل بحضور السفير القحطاني وغياب أي مسؤول سوري آخر. واضافة الى تعبير الرئيس الاسد عن الاستجابة الفورية للدعوة بالقول ان «حضوري القمة العربية امر محسوم وسأبذل كل جهدي لإنجاحها»، فإنه تحدث عن العلاقة التاريخية بين والده الرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد والملك عبدالله والاحترام الشخصي الذي يكنه للملك عبدالله ولأهمية العلاقات السورية – السعودية. واعقب اللقاء تغيير لهجة وسائل الاعلام السورية الخاصة والرسمية، وتعرض صحافيون الى انتقادات من جهات رسمية لأنهم وجهوا انتقادات الى الدور السعودي. واضافت المصادر ان دمشق معنية تماما بأن يجري البحث بهدوء في جدول اعمال القمة بحيث يكون التفاهم سياسيا حول القضايا المطروحة سواء على الجدول الرسمي او الامور المتروكة للمشاورات بين الزعماء العرب، كي لا تحصل اي مفاجأة تنعكس سلبا بين دمشق والرياض وكي لا تتخذ خطوات من دون مباركة سورية. كما توقفت المصادر امام الدور الايجابي الذي لعبته دمشق في انجاح اتفاق مكة بين الرئيس محمود عباس (ابو مازن) ورئيس المكتب السياسي لـ «حماس» خالد مشعل، بعد شكوك بأن سورية قد تعطل اللقاء.

وتحدثت المصادر عن حصول تفاهمات في شأن الوضع في لبنان، عبر عنها الاسد بإبلاغ رئيس الوزراء اللبناني السابق سليم الحص ان دمشق ليست ضد مبدأ تشكيل المحكمة، بل انها ضد تسييسها. وفي هذا المجال، جرى التفاهم على ان المرحلة المقبلة ستشهد تشكيل لجنة لإعادة درس النظام الاساسي للمحكمة في شكل هادئ مع تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية وفق صيغة 19 + 10+ 1، بحيث يكون الاخير غير مخول بالاستقالة بما يرضي الاكثرية ويضمن الثلث الضامن بما يرضي المعارضة، مع تأجيل فكرة البحث في انتخابات مبكرة والاكتفاء بالبحث بتعديل قانون الانتخابات. وفي هذا المجال، يمكن تفسير مبادرة السعودية الى دعوة الرئيس اميل لحود مثل باقي الزعماء العرب، ذلك كي لا تتكرر تجربة قمة الخرطوم.

March 4th, 2007, 7:04 am


Alex said:

The landlords of the Middle East crises

By Zvi Bar’el

After a horse belonging to the royal family won a gold cup and the ensuing celebrations wound down, Saudi King Abdullah was asked whether he could persuade Iran to change its nuclear policy, or whether Ahmadinejad would convince Abdullah to help Iran in the face of sanctions. This was a main topic of conversation during Ahmadinejad’s visit to Saudi Arabia on his way from Sudan. It is another phase in the negotiations over recent weeks between the two figures who have become the landlords of a solution to the crises in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia insists on an international tribunal on the murder of Rafiq Hariri. Syria, which fears it could be held responsible for the murder, is against it. As long as Syrian opposition to the tribunal remains, Hezbollah will continue to impair the functioning of the Lebanese government.

Since Saudi Arabia is not talking to Bashar Assad, Abdullah will ask Ahmadinejad to pressure Syria and Hezbollah. Iran, which has hinted that it would not oppose such a tribunal, will help, but wants something in return. One demand is a unity government in Lebanon with veto power for the opposition. The Saudi compromise might establish that the right to veto not to be extended to the establishment of the tribunal.

A conference on Iraq of historic proportions is to convene in Baghdad this weekend, with Iranian and Syrian representatives along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice among the attendees. Iran wants to use the opportunity to legitimize its role as a regional leader, capable of replacing the U.S. as a stabilizing power in Iraq.

But the party asking for Iran’s help in Iraq will find it difficult to impose sanctions on it because of nuclear transgressions. Here is where intervention by the Saudis, who also fear Iran’s nuclear capabilities, is needed to propose that Iran tone down the nuclear issue and the U.S. withhold discussion of sanctions until after the conference.

Iran and the Saudis are essentially in agreement on the Palestinian issue. Iran has welcomed the Mecca agreement, and its pledge of $240 million to the Hamas government will apparently also be provided to a unity government.

March 4th, 2007, 9:06 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

on the Independent article, I’d just like to highlight the key paragraphs:

Although economic reforms and investment are being officially encouraged, decades of bureaucratic inertia, cronyism and political ideology are hindering retail developments.

“Such projects are all plans on paper… they may be viable within 10 years,” said Dr Nabil Sukkar, managing director of the Syrian Consulting Bureau for Development and Investment.

“What takes six months in Qatar takes six years in Syria. There are a lot of hurdles for permits,” he added.

It’s the same issue as with the new Investment Law – plans and regulations are all nice & very necessary, but if then the execution/implementation falls apart … then there won’t be any benefit.

And … what does Syria need the biggest mall in the Levante for? Who can afford to shop at Benetton? Do you really want Syria going down the same road as Egypt? What’s next – satellite cities in the outskirts of Damascus?

One of the main reasons why the regime enjoys (or is it already “enjoyed”?) widespread support and thus legitimacy was because Assad Sr. and his guys made sure that whatever wealth the country generated was spread out throughout the country.

Peasants weren’t much worse off than town-dwellers. The gap between poor & rich wasn’t that dramatic. Since the 90s all that changed (yeah, you can blame it on “the corruption of occupation”).

Massive foreign investment in & of itself doesn’t mean much. The question is: who benefits from it?


March 4th, 2007, 11:16 am


Gibran said:

It’s been dry and all one-sided so far with this new post of Landis. Let’s add some humor courtesy of Tony Badran:

The Cuteness of Walid Moallem

Charlottesville’s favorite resident conducted an interview with Syrian FM Walid Moallem.

One part in particular caught my eye, both for its transparency, and for Cobban’s nodding in agreement and added emphasis, that shows how these people act as water carriers for dictators and thugs (which is precisely what Hersh’s latest piece boils down to) simply because of their hatred of the US and its administration.

Listen to this by Moallem:

We are working closely with the investigation, because reaching the truth on this matter is in our vital interest.

The prospect of having a court to try those named as suspects is a purely Lebanese issue, and it a point of contention among the Lebanese themselves.

The demand of the Lebanese opposition is simple. It wants a larger government there, and to be allotted eleven of the government’s 30 members. And the issue of the court would then be on that government’s agenda.

The court itself is not an issue for us. The issue for us is to prevent others from using the court issue in a politicized way.

This is so transparent, it’s laughable. Of course, being a mere functionary, Moallem is only channeling the position laid out by Bashar Assad himself.

We are asked to believe now that it’s not the Syrians who are trying to kill the tribunal, it’s, as Assad told the hapless Salim Hoss, the “Lebanese themselves” who are in disagreement about it. It’s “purely a Lebanese issue.” (Nods of agreement from Cobban!) Please, Moallem, give us another one, that shows how this is a “purely Lebanese issue” that has nothing to do with Syria.

“The demand of the Lebanese opposition is simple. It wants a larger government there, and to be allotted eleven of the government’s 30 members. And the issue of the court would then be on that government’s agenda.”

Did you get that one, folks?! It’s very “simple.” The opposition (i.e. Hezbollah and Syria’s pitbulls) ought to get the blocking veto in government, that allows it to block any decision and/or totally topple the government by resigning.

Furthermore, the tribunal ought to be on the agenda of that government, not on the agenda of Parliament! I.e., the fact that the government has already passed the tribunal, which has been accepted by the UN, and is only waiting ratification in Parliament, ought to be completely scratched, and the tribunal must be once again put on the agenda of the cabinet in which Hezbollah has a blocking veto power, and in which the parliamentary majority would not have the two-thirds majority to pass it by a vote.

So Walid Moallem just repeated the (already well-known) instruction to Assad’s agents and allies in Lebanon that the tribunal should be completely killed by Hezbollah in a new cabinet! (Nods of agreement from Cobban!) But hey, Syria has nothing to do with this! (Nods of agreement from Cobban!)

Then the coup de grace, repeating the line set by Assad and articulated earlier by Faysal “Gebran Tueni is a dog” Mekdad: Syria is not concerned with the tribunal! We have nothing to do with it! (Just like Farouq Sharaa said UNR 1559 “doesn’t concern Syria,” and Walid Moallem said UNR 1680 is “meaningless,” etc.)

This time, however, Cobban can’t really help herself. So she goes beyond nodding to adding emphasis! She has to stress on behalf of Moallem the nefarious plots against the poor innocent regime. The tribunal is only meant to be used “in a politicized way” against Syria! Of course! Cobban has gleaned the truth from the lips of Walid Moallem, and she highlighted it for you, in case you missed it.

This is beyond credulous; beyond ideological agreement with thugs due to shared hatred of the US. This is being a willful tool for dictators.

Addendum: Moallem’s official line is repeated by Sharaa to Le Monde. After a really amusing trashing of Chirac (as “tribal.” Look who’s talking!) and an even more laughable diagnosis of Syrian-French relations (equal in genius to Sharaa’s assessment of UNR 1559. Apparently, he didn’t hear Sarkozy’s latest statement), Sharaa lays this on us:

Quant au tribunal international sur l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri, “tout ce qui représente un facteur de division au Liban nous trouble”, esquive-t-il.

“Nous avons dit que nous coopérerons totalement avec la commission d’enquête internationale des Nations unies. Mais la question du tribunal est hors sujet, parce que l’enquête n’est pas terminée et que les Nations unies ne nous ont pas communiqué le projet de tribunal, ni ne nous ont consultés. Il s’agit d’un sujet purement libanais”, ajoute M. Al-Chareh.

He adds an additional point that further explains what Assad and Moallem mean when they say it’s a “purely Lebanese” issue. “Anything that’s a divisive factor in Lebanon troubles us.” Yes, the Syrians are “troubled” by the tribunal because it’s a “divisive factor” in Lebanon! Absolutely classic!

And then Sharaa once again uncovers the regime’s genius that they are really not concerned by this tribunal of which we speak! The UN hasn’t even contacted or consulted Syria about it, therefore, it doesn’t exist (just like UNR 1559)! It’s “purely Lebanese.” It’s “hors sujet”!

Who said murderous thugs lack a sense of humor?

March 4th, 2007, 3:35 pm


ausamaa said:

Dear Norman,

The Gaurdian Report.

Syria is a large country. The resources are there, and the brains are there, and the Syrians have an interest in developing their country. Add to this that there is plenty of cash floating around that seek higher returns. A wise outsider will realise that Syria is a good place for investment. The opportunities are there. Stability is there. Yes, the country is not as sophisticated as other markets, but for the potential investor that could be a plus in certain ways.Investors look for returns, and wieght it against risk. They seek semi-virgin territories because they know the returns are more enormous there. And when it comes to risk analysis, Syria is not that risky after all, they realised. The biggest risk has always been one and only: a war with Israel. The results of such a war is either a HOT period after which all goes back to normal, or the slide towards a Popular War against Israel employing a Hizzbullah like strategy. The first is the more likely result, the second is a nightmare that the outside powers have to avoid at all costs as it will eventually cause an upheavle all around. Again, the consequences of the First outcome is a loss of life and property in Syria. Saudis and the Gulf would have to come and shoulder the costs of reconstruction, otherwise the country would have no option but to slide into the other scenario, which no one -of them- can afford. Hence, the cost of the risk is calcuable; a few billions in reconstruction cost. So that is the limit of the Risk. That is, if bad comes to (acceptable-imaginable)worst. And come to think about it, they will think, Syria is not a rash actor despite all its perceived shortcomings. Yes it passed during tough times, but again it was in the eye of the storm, it was practically attacked, and come to think about it, Syria has no option but to respond. And it did respond. And it did survive, more or less intact. So, and forget the newspaper talk, you still have a rational, perdictable -if not dependable-, and a solid pragmatic country. Yeh, they are idolouges, they are hot on Arabism, but that is Syria, and those are the Syrians, you know them, they will say.

And, eventually, money and investments, will flow in. And the System will eventually accomodate this and will adapt itself. And after all, Syria is not your Lebanon where whatever you will pour in will go to Bank Mideterranean and debt service, or at best will show through nothing but richer old millionairs and wider smiles from waiters in glamorous and sparkeling cafes and five-star hotels. No production, and no productive sector. They, in Lebanon, like it that way. And it is not your semi-barren Jordan with its limited capacity and infinitly unpredictable future, niether it is black-hole Egypt which can gulp up the revenues of a whole year’s oil revenues and ask for more. And Iraq, it is a US cash cow for the forseeabl future. And come to think about it, Syria maybe a better place for investment in the longterm compared to the usual stock markets which we have, and will continue to, inflate and deflate, and reap profits from day after day untill we suck the last breath of their small investors. Such may the Investors think. And above all, you know those Syrians, why dont we get them into the Money game, maybe that will soften them up and get them busy with something else while we wait for the Arab-Israeli issue to resolve itself.

Money have a nose for opportunities. And Syria remains the Virgin West to many. Full of opportunities.They may hesitate, they may hold out for a while, but in the end, they do come. And they will find a ready people, a ready land and a slow, but a willing to adapt, environment.

So I would not be surprised with anything positive economically happening in Syria or to Syria. Why should I. Life has to go on. Especially in today’s world where the internet and space channels have rendered all walls useless, and where Growth and Development became a neccesity for ALL concerned, rather than a reserved right to wealthy players.

I may have to explain myself by saying that whatever has happened since March 2003 bears a distinct similarity to what has happened during, and after, the 1956 Suez Canal War. An end of an Era.

March 4th, 2007, 4:14 pm


ausamaa said:


Don’t you really love that look on Al Shar’a face. He seems to be contemplating “his” next move, while teasingly saying to someone: OK, that one is behind us, so what is your next move now?

And the Tibunal? Forget it, it is not a real Syrian worry now. If Hizbullah have been given a gurantee card by Saudi, dont you think Syria can manage getting such a card if it wanted or needed to. And how long do international Tribunals take to come to an end? And who will support an under the 7th chapter stuff and sets an international precedent? And if a suspect has not been seriously named after a two-years hectic digging period -and not for lack of trying by any means- who would the Tribunal try?.

Habibi, some people never seem to learn. Certain over-smart warlords and Johny-come-lately figures in Lebanon, taking their cue from certain World leaders, thought they can
manipulate the Tribunal and the World to their own ends, but they ended up as confused as they are now with a what-the-hell-has-happend-look on their faces.

Another one bites the dust..??!!

March 4th, 2007, 4:41 pm


ausamaa said:

How about we try to explore what to expect from the people sitting around that table in Baghdad next week will be saying, or doing, to each other?
Forget and Forgive and let us start anew?,
You Say first?

March 4th, 2007, 4:50 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Thank you for finally explaining why you are here. You earlier said the following:

“I’m here to make sure that they stick to the subject of Syria, and that they don’t venture beyond Syria’s borders”.

By “they” of course you were referring to the “ideologues and regime apologists” as you phrased it.

During the last thread, you got upset because I referred to some of your comments as “idiotic”.

Reading what you wrote above makes me think that I was being too kind when I used that term.

You are here to stop us from talking about Non-Syrian issues?

If this is not an idiotic statement, please tell me how you would have us describe such nonsense.

March 4th, 2007, 5:37 pm


Alex said:

Dear Tony Badran,

You seem to really enjoy spending hours analyzing every word in every interview or public speech by every Syrian official… and somehow you always reach the same conclusion: they are stupid and funny thugs who will soon be punished by the good guys.

Have you ever heard an American official explaining some of their policies in Iraq with a statement similar to Sharaa’s …“tout ce qui représente un facteur de division au Liban nous trouble”?

Iraq, instead of Lebanon … American official instead of Syrian official … So are they also stupid thugs like the Syrians? .. I mean, the whole world believes that there is some degree of stupidity in this administration, and they did kill many many many more innocent Iraqi civilians than Bashar killed in Lebanon lately… How many did Bashar kill by the way?

Let me explain to you (although you are a hopeless case of revenge seeking, angry Middle Easterner) Syria’s policy in Lebanon: There should be no winners and no losers among the Lebanese factions. When “the majority” monopolizes Lebanese politics to its liking, then Syria will support the parties excluded from real decision making. If Hizbollah was the party trying to monopolize Lebanese politics (successfully) then Syria would switch to support the others. When things are balanced, like they were in the 90’s … Syria was happy with everyone practically.

Listen to what Hafez Assad told Kamal Junblat in this old video and it will explain to you Syria’s wise position on Lebanon… no winners and no losers… only a carefully balanced formula… What Sharaa is saying today is still the same Syrian policy from 1976

And while you are watching that video clip, try to notice how your friend President Amin Gemayel was not telling the truth when he claimed that Syria entered Lebanon without any invitation from Christians or from Lebanon’s president… again, from those days trying to blame Syria for everything by lying about everything …

March 4th, 2007, 6:21 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh writes:

“I recommend everyone to read Mohammed Ben Jelloun’s fine article, “Hizbullah’s Democratic Demands.” Best, Joshua Landis”

Meanwhile, most non-academics KNOW already that Hizbullah is a violent, non-democratic party, who will push Lebanon to the brink of war without the consent of the Lebanese.

Something Professor Josh doesn’t want to tell you.

March 4th, 2007, 6:29 pm


youngSyria said:

Ford Prefect, ehsani2 and others,

“Syrians are not loosing hope. Only through keeping our faith in learning, personal advancement, and balanced-mindedness would a viable and educated middle class emerge.”

“…authoritarians in Syria need not be afraid of anything but the Tsunami of the contineous emerging of bright and motivated Syrians.”

the thing is,all the news I hear about Syria’s economic situation are bad. Middle class is shrinking and the lower class is getting poorer..
how could syrians get advanced in this kind of situation? how would they be able to get educated?

March 4th, 2007, 6:53 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

once there was a guy who was very nasty,he cussed and cursed,attack joshua Landis personally, he was good in english,then he was banned from entering S.C. , well he changed his name and got different E mail,and pretended to be lebanese,and keep writing in S.C..
can anyone guess who was this person, and who is he now?

March 4th, 2007, 7:15 pm


Gibran said:

This is the second time that you claim I said things that I never said. For example you say:
“You are here to stop us from talking about Non-Syrian issues?” I never made such a statement.
Now this is the second time you show yourself to be the real idiot, and that could also be an understatement in your case, since you keep banging your head against the same wall of your ignorance. So once and for all, take you hollow ‘distinctive’ economic degree and shove it up where it belongs in a place down below your spinal chord. Next time you visit the toilet to relieve yourself, make sure you flush the toilet.
ALEX, Syria does not need to have a so-called Lebanon policy of interfering in internal Lebanese political affairs. Now, the battle of Lebanon’s independence is not yet over. When it is over (5 to 6 months from now), Syria will have no one in Lebanon on which to apply such outdated policy of interference. So, I tell you this: Syria is now in the twilight zone of its Lebanon adventure.

March 4th, 2007, 7:17 pm


EHSANI2 said:


That was very refined language from you. Just great. Please keep it up.

It seems that you write so much……( you can fill the blank) that you forget what you write.

This is what you said above. I did not make up your ………words:

At 5:33 you wrote:

“Very good SYRIAN. FYI, I never hid my views and never denied where I stand – didn’t have to. I also didn’t expect praise from ideologues and regime apologists. What can I do for them if they choose to insult? They only expose their own prejudice by falling to such levels. I’m here to make sure that they stick to the subject of Syria, and that they don’t venture beyond Syria’s borders, particularly those to the west of Damascus and south of Tartous. I think that’s fair game. Now, if they don’t like it, that’s their own problem ..”

March 4th, 2007, 7:28 pm


Gibran said:

Thanks AP for the excellent articles. Here is another one – may not be as good as yours but it fits the subject of Josh’s linked article:

Lebanon’s Demagogue Incognito
Monday, 22 January, 2007 @ 5:07 PM

By Alan Hafeza,
Ya Libnan Volunteer
If a demagogue is someone who uses false claims and promises, or stokes people’s fears and prejudices in order to gain power or to propel certain ideas with the populace, then is Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah a demagogue?

In the psyche of many in the Arab world, there is a sore ulcer caused by years of colonialism, subjugation to foreign powers, and military losses to Israel. Nasrallah knows very well the emotional hot buttons and knows how to play them. He recognizes that if stirred enough, many would be willing to forego common sense for the temporary euphoria that results from claims
of victory.

Over the past few years, Nasrallah portrayed himself as that confident, brave leader who aims to restore the pride and glory of Muslims. He attempted to be the Salah-El-Deen of our times.

So, did Nasrallah really succeed?

After all, during and immediately after the summer war, his pictures festooned the homes, taxi cabs, and businesses of many in the Arab world. Those who yearned for victory at no expense of theirs saw in him their personal healing. And those who were committed to the suicidal ideology of fighting Goliath at any cost saw in him their own dogma.

Nasrallah also managed to change the Lebanese national dialogue after Hezbollah’s disastrous war in July ’06 to his advantage. A war that resulted in the killing and maiming of thousands of innocent Lebanese citizens, the destruction of large swaths of Beirut, the demolition of whole villages in the South, and the obliteration of Lebanon civilian infrastructure. A war during which many Independence leaders remained patriotically quiet in solidarity, promising instead to open vigorous probes when the guns fall silent. Not to happen. Instead, focus was placed on the
Hezbollah’s agenda:

Instead of discussing tribunals to hold the renegades who betrayed Lebanon and started the war accountable to the horrific consequences of their actions… we’re now talking about bogus national unity government, whose only purpose would be to prevent the international investigation of who killed Lebanon Independence leaders.

Instead of a dialogue about the existence of an armed-and-dangerous state within the Lebanese state, a situation that stifles any glimmer of hope for a national recovery…we’’re now talking about the legitimacy of Lebanon’s Independence government.

Instead of devoting all means necessary to find and prosecute the killers of Lebanon national leaders… we’re now talking about the politicization of the independent international tribunal to find those killers.

Instead of exploring ways to further Lebanon’s independence from the tutelage of the Syrian regime, and move forward with reforms promised by Paris III … we’re now talking about the democratic value of illegal closure of public roads and occupying public and private property.

But something interesting happened on the way to divinity: Taxi cab drivers from Cairo, to Jordan, to Beirut removed Nasrallah’s pictures, recognizing him as an Iranian tool. As we heard recently, this tool may be used as a bargaining chip in Iran’s face off with the United States, and to preserve its nuclear ambitions.

The majority of Lebanese stood by their national Independence government and thwarted all coup d’etat attempts against this government. Yes, the Dahieh and similar areas are and will always remain beholden to Nasrallah wads of illegal Iranian cash for obvious reasons. Not the majority of Lebanon, though, who rejected the culture of death. Now, Hezbollah finds itself anteing up with threats of more strikes, and perhaps resorting to its latent tendencies for violence against other Lebanese.

People are now loudly asking Nasrallah and his party:

Did Hezbollah accomplish its goals of liberating Shebaa farms? And how can they possibly liberate this land now they are hamstrung in the South?

Did Hezbollah prevent the encroachment of the Israeli army into Lebanon that resulted in the capture of more Lebanese land, only to be liberated by government political actions?

Did Hezbollah successfully defend Lebanese infrastructure during its blind adventure?

How can Hezbollah claim victory with such horrendous costs to life and treasure?

An intellectually honest evaluation of the outcome of the war shows disastrous results for Lebanon as a whole and particular mayhem in Hezbollah’s strongholds. UN resolution 1701 effectively neutered Hezbollah south of the Litani River. The Lebanese army, along with UNIFEL is deployed all over the South. So, where are the heads of Hezbollah’s own Halut, Peretz and Olmert to address this major failure?

In a moment of honest reflection, Nasrallah admitted in an interview with Al Arabiya that his action to capture Israeli soldiers was a mistake, but he later reverted back to his “divine victory” rhetoric.

Intellectual honesty requires consistent objectivity and moral fortitude, something Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will not allow in this debate.

Yes, he is a demagogue.

March 4th, 2007, 7:28 pm


Gibran said:

I didn’t know you need lessons in English:
Saying: “I’m here to make sure that they stick to the subject of Syria” does not mean “You are here to stop us from talking about Non-Syrian issues?”
There is an ocean of difference between the two.
Maintain your civility and you will hear no evil. I think I advised you that much not long ago.
Now go back to you Syrian subjects (remember this is SyriaComment) and stop making a fool of yourself.

March 4th, 2007, 7:34 pm


Gibran said:

Here is another one for Mohammad Be Jalloun’s so-called ‘fine article’ (Josh’s description):

How Was Hezbollah’s Decision Made?
Magnus Ranstorp, the Swedish specialist* on Hezbollah, talked to Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro about Hezbollah’s kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers. (For Arabic readers who can’t read French, here’s a translation courtesy of ME Transparent.)

The title of the piece carries a quote by Ranstorp which reads, “the escalation was decided by Hezbollah and Iran.” Malbrunot asked him how Hezbollah made the decision to kidnap the two soldiers. Here’s a translation of Ranstorp’s answer:

Such a decision is taken by its head, Hassan Nasrallah, within the Shura Qarar, the highest decision-making body of the movement. It consists of seven members, two of whom are Iranians attached to the Iranian embassy in Beirut, and who are tied to the intelligence services of Tehran. Through them, Iran knows exactly what Hezbollah is doing, especially when the decision goes beyond the normal red lines, such as attacking Israel outside the Shebaa Farms. In this case, Hezbollah also consults with the Syrians, because the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers carries implications for Syria’s security. The consultations with Damascus are often done through the liaison Hassan Khalil, who is in contact with the military intelligence services in Damascus.

What about other links between Hezbollah and Iran?

They go through the Iranian embassy in Beirut, the most important one outside Iran, and by the personal representative of the supreme guide Ali Khamenei in Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek [whose house the Israelis targeted early on, to deliver the message that he’s a marked man. — AE]. But that’s not all. Imad Mughniyeh, who was responsible for the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon during the 80s, plays an equally very important role. He shuttles between Tehran and Beirut, through the Damascus airport, before using the military routes of the Bekaa valley. Mughniyeh, who is always tracked by the Americans, never passes through the Beirut airport. He is tied directly to Nasrallah, who himself has old personal ties with the Iranian directors. Through Mughniyeh, Hezbollah and Iran have been involved in the Palestinian intifada since 2000. Mughniyeh is notably in charge of recruiting foreigners for reconnaissance operations in Israel or elsewhere. In Beirut, the representative of Hamas, Ussama Hamdan [whose office was also hit by the Israelis in recent days — AE] is also an essential pawn in the Iranian involvement in Palestine; he was previously the representative of Hamas in Tehran.

* You’ll notice the Hezbollah emblem on the front cover of Ranstorp’s book. It reads “the Islamic Revolution in Lebanon.” That was the original Hezbollah emblem before it was changed (I think in the 90’s, but I’m not sure) to “the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon” in an attempt to gain broader Sunni Arab support and so as not to constantly remind people of its direct and organic connection to the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

March 4th, 2007, 7:50 pm


annie said:

Quite comforting to read that Jews in America are 77% against the war in Iraq contrarily to Israelis.

March 4th, 2007, 8:13 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“Quite comforting to read that Jews in America are 77% against the war in Iraq contrarily to Israelis.”

Annie –

I am glad it is “comforting” for you that the majority of American Jews feel the same way you do. Perhaps, then, whenever Jews are blamed for the war, you’ll be the first to correct him/her.

Gibran –

How a professor can claim Hezbollah is “democratic” is beyond comprehension.

Keep up the good work.

March 4th, 2007, 8:39 pm


Gibran said:

Few things to note in this latest news from DailyStar:
1) All sides agree an imminent solution is on the horizon.

2)Geagea, Aridi and Berri seem to agree on the basic outlines of the solution.

3) Aoun is scrambling to go to Riyad. What for? Kiss the King’s hands? Sign a gentleman’s agreement (like the one he signed with Nasrallah)? Change his rifle from the Syro/Iranian/Hezbollah shoulder to the Saudi/March 14 shoulder? Aoun definitely doesn’t want to get left in the cold. And who wants to be? After spending a whole winter camping in Downtown Beirut, he and his followers must be suffering from the flu, and may have realized they are betting on the losing horse.

All sides see imminent solution to Lebanese crisis
Summit between ahmadinejad and king abdullah credited with breaking logjam
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Monday, March 05, 2007

BEIRUT: Rays of hope emerged in Lebanon’s political crisis over the weekend, with key politicians saying that a “solution” had been agreed upon by all sides. The positive signs followed a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz. Ahmadinejad made his first official visit to the kingdom on Saturday. Lebanon was one of the main issues on the agenda of the Saudi-Iranian summit.

The predominantly Sunni kingdom and the Shiite-ruled Islamic Republic agreed to fight the spread of sectarian strife throughout the region.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi hailed the Saudi-Iranian summit as an event that would “help reopen doors of dialogue” in Lebanon.

“What comes out of the meetings will have an immediate impact on internal affairs as it will generate a better environment for dialogue,” said Aridi.

Like other politicians from the March 14 camp, Aridi said a solution had been reached. He declined to say whether the breakthrough entailed the expansion of Cabinet to 30 members for a so-called “19 + 11” setup, with the opposition holding 11 seats.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, a strong critic of the opposition who has been repeatedly accused of hampering efforts to end the deadlock, confirmed on Sunday that there was “indeed an effective solution.”

“The solution is based on two things, on forming a joint committee that will oversee the modifications to the international court [to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri] and the formation of a national consensus government of 19 + 10 + 1,” Geagea told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

The unaffiliated Cabinet minister in Geagea’s formulation would belong neither to the majority or the opposition but would serve as an independent.

Geagea’s version of the agreement was confirmed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who earlier had called for a “joint judicial committee” to work on a final draft of the international tribunal.

This announcement by Geagea came a day after Berri told the pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat that a deal to end the country’s worst political crisis since the Civil War could emerge “within 48 hours.”

Like other politicians over the weekend, Berri said that the chances for a solution were greater than at any other point in the crisis, which spilled over into lethal street violence in late January.

“The chances of success this time are greater than at any previous time,” said Berri.

Ash-Sharq al-Awsat said the settlement would include a deal on a unity government as well as an agreement on the international tribunal.

The opposition says it agrees with the idea of setting up a tribunal but wants to discuss the details and has said that it fears the court will be used as a political tool.

Justice Minister Charles Rizk called on the two sides Sunday to study the details of the court “before making any accusations about its guarantees.”

“It was never an issue of poor formation of the court, but rather an issue of ill treatment of the issue politically,” Rizk told an Abu Dubai television station on Sunday.

Former President Amin Gemayel left Sunday for Egypt, where he is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday to discuss the Lebanese situation.

“Lebanon is now at an important point because of all the Arab and regional initiatives that focus on helping Lebanon find a solution,” Gemayel said before his departure.

While the former president expressed optimism over the negotiations, he warned against “temporary fixes.”

“It is not enough for the solution to be limited to the international tribunal and to the formation of government,” said Gemayel. “It should be more encompassing and long-term.”

Hizbullah officials, meanwhile, insisted on a 19 + 11 solution. Hizbullah Politburo member Mahmoud Qmati, accompanied by Hizbullah MP Amin Cherri, met with former Premier Salim Hoss on Saturday.

“The Arab initiatives and the Saudi-Iranian efforts have arrived at the 19 + 11 deal and at allowing certain modifications to be made to the international court,” Qmati said afterward.

“The Saudi-Iranian summit will have repercussions far beyond Lebanon, where it will help unite the region against strife and will hinder the US administration’s projects on the Middle East,” said Qmati.

Amal MP Hassan Ali Khalil said the opposition does not want a solution that would constitute a “loss” by either side.

“We refuse to accept a solution that would lead to a side being defeated, as we want to work together and participate in governing the country as equals,” he said Saturday. “We want to work hand-in-hand with the international community in prosecuting the criminals who have plagued Lebanon for years,” he added.

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said Saturday that he is waiting for a date to be set for his trip to Saudi Arabia.

“I was invited … 24 hours before the [November] assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel and so I had to postpone it,” Aoun told the Okaz newspaper. “But things have settled down now and so we asked … to set a date for a visit.”

He warned that if a solution does not materialize soon, the opposition “has no choice but to launch civil disobedience.”

“We don’t want to cause a civil war, but if it happens, we will defend ourselves if necessary,” the MP added. “But the democratic way remains our main way of dealing with problems.” – With agencies

March 4th, 2007, 9:58 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

The State Department is sending a special envoy to Syria to discuss Iraqi refugees.

Or how to collect their DNA…

March 4th, 2007, 10:54 pm


Ford Prefect said:

An interesting love story is developing between a blind Zionist whose hero is Daniel Pipes and a sorry Lebanese whose heroes are Jumbo and Gigi (for now). They even congratulate each other for their inanity. This is so cool, it rocks. I am glad SC can now proudly claim to be a match-maker. Congratulations!

Where was it again that Joshua said that HA is democratic? Oh, wait; maybe it was the reference of Ben Jelloun’s article “Hizbullah’s Democratic Demands”? The Lebanese and his master Zionist have reserved the word “democratic” for the exclusive use of their own warmongers and bloodsuckers, that they can’t even read titles straight anymore.

Hey, have you two guys considered coming out of the closet and getting a same-sex marriage? You can congratulate and kiss one another, in private or in public (but not in Israel or Lebanon, a democracy is thriving there), all day long without having to meet here and get ridiculed all the time. Soon, you might even get a tax deduction for your happy ending.

March 5th, 2007, 12:00 am


Gibran said:

A self proclaimed expert obviously enjoys reducing his comments to the level of the pathetically ridiculous ranting. Keep it up. But he shouldn’t expect any more responses to his idiotic comments after this. I’ll enjoy a burst of laughter every now and then at his foolishness.

March 5th, 2007, 12:27 am


EHSANI2 said:


Why don’t you start a and leave these Syrian experts (FP), idiots (EHSANI2), regime apologists (ALEX) and the ultra biased (Landis) alone?

This way you can be free of all this pathetically ridiculous ranting that you accused FP and EHSANI2 of.

March 5th, 2007, 12:47 am


Alex said:


Among us he feels special and different. If he started that other blog, they will all be the same.

He wants to stay with us, i know.

: )

Ok, I’m joking Gibran. By now we like you and we respect you and all those others west of Damascus and south of Tartous.

March 5th, 2007, 1:30 am


Gibran said:

If you’re interested in putting comments on Lebanese blogs, you’re quite welcome. If you don’t these blogs, I will link them to you. You can be sure no one will bother you.
Alex, What matters is who laughs in the end.
We (I mean the Lebanese) already enjoyed quite few laughs (what should I say at the Syrians? No, I will not go as low as your foolish cartoons) at your foolish band of thugs that you call government.

March 5th, 2007, 1:35 am


EHSANI2 said:

I will give it a pass thanks. My interest is more in Syria and its future prospects.

So, what do you think of starting your own blog?

March 5th, 2007, 1:41 am


Gibran said:

Thanks for the suggestion. Do you have any other suggestions?

March 5th, 2007, 1:43 am


EHSANI2 said:

Is this a hint that you will consider it?

March 5th, 2007, 1:45 am


Alex said:


I said I am joking.

Believe me, I have Lebanese relatives and I would not call them donkeys.

Take it easy … weekend not over yet.

March 5th, 2007, 1:53 am


Gibran said:

Well ALEX, You know very well some jokes should not be made and then called jokes after the fact. Yet I’m not angry with you.

I thanked you already for the suggestion. What else do you want?

March 5th, 2007, 2:00 am


norman said:

Alex , Gibran is upset for calling a Democrat in the American politecal System .Democrat are Donkeies and Republicans are Elefants.

March 5th, 2007, 2:25 am


Gibran said:

Israel may have begun to see the positive merits of the Saudi drive to resolve the Arab/Israeli problem once and for all:

A new chance for peace

By Haaretz Editorial

The decision of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to hold the Arab League summit in Riyadh later this month to discuss proposing the 2002 Arab peace initiative anew, offers a fresh opportunity to revive the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, and to bolster the moderate axis in the Middle East against the emerging Iranian nuclear threat.

Abdullah’s original initiative proposed a simple formula: A complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories, including Jerusalem, in return for normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world. At the Beirut summit, which approved the plan as “the Arab peace initiative,” significant changes were made. It was established that the Israeli pullout should be to the lines of June 4 , 1967, and a “refugees article” was added, calling for “a just and agreed-upon solution” to the problem according to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which the Palestinians interpret as recognition of the right of return. Israel, under Ariel Sharon, had its reservations about the Saudi initiative, but in recent months Prime Minister Ehud Olmert altered his approach and began referring to “positive elements” in the initiative. This was his way of signaling that there is something to talk about.

The 2002 initiative was launched at the worst possible moment: Hundreds of Israelis were murdered in suicide bombings and the attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya resulted in Israel’s operation “Defensive Shield” in the West Bank. The circumstances today are absolutely different. Saudi Arabia is once again talking about a peace initiative, following the second Lebanon war and the pledge of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map. The Saudi message is that Israel will be a welcome partner in the region – if it pulls out of the territories. As such, Abdullah took a stance opposing Ahmadinejad and called on him not to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Saudi Arabia holds a unique status because of the king’s role as the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites and also because of the country’s oil wealth. It is therefore in a position, more than any other state, to offer religious and economic backing to peace settlements between Israel and the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and Israel also share concerns about the growing strength of Iran and both wish to prevent another war in the region. They have a shared interest in the renewal of the peace process. Taking advantage of this opportunity requires both sides to show flexibility and openness. The Saudis need to understand, as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said, that Israel has red lines on the issue of refugees, and it will not be able to accept the right of return as the basis for dialogue. It is therefore important that the Riyadh summit conclude with a more pragmatic formulation of the initiative.

It is the duty of the government of Israel not to reject the hand that is being offered by Saudi Arabia. Olmert must consider the Arab peace initiative to be an appropriate basis for dialogue, one that will lead to a permanent settlement and a settling of the status of Israel in the region, and which will serve as a definitive response to Ahmadinejad and his partners in the extremist camp. A renewed peace process will save Olmert’s government from the impasse in which it is stuck. It is important that the four weeks left before the summit in Riyadh involve intensive diplomatic efforts to formulate an agreed-upon framework for the regional peace initiative.

March 5th, 2007, 2:28 am


Alex said:

Gibran, AP, Ehsani, IC, FP, Norman, Syrian, Young Syria:

Can I suggest that we all agree to limit our jokes to the weekend only?

Although we are all having fun, it seems we are also turning Syria Comment into an almost useless forum.

I am impressed that AP rarely uses the T-word and that Gibran does not copy Ass-Syassa articles anymore. We all have to reciprocate.

I will try to act more like MSK from now on.


Gibran can you agree to at least not remind us of your mostly negative rating of the intelligence or integrity of each one of us Syrians here? We will do the same.

And on the weekend we can still discuss Tarek Mitri’s trips to Cairo.

March 5th, 2007, 2:39 am


norman said:

Alex, About Lebanon joining Syria in greater Syria , I do not think i want that ,I would rather have a fence around Lebanon so their way of treating each other does not spread to Syria .

March 5th, 2007, 2:43 am


Gibran said:

OK Alex you still haven’t noticed that my mostly negative ratings of your fellow Syrians takes place ONLY in response to a similar remark by someone. Go back and check if you want. Now about your other suggestions, I have no problem, provided no one will interpret attacks on governments as personal attacks or attacks on the people in general. If you haven’t noticed already, I don’t take attacks on the Lebanese government as personal or an attack on Lebanon.
Norman, for some reason I feel I have to thank you from the deepest depth of my heart for your last suggestion. Where have you been hiding all this time, Norman? How about we raise your suggestion to the UN and ask them to implement a resolution that may deploy some 20000 to 30000 UN troops along the Lebanese/Syrian borders?

March 5th, 2007, 3:12 am


norman said:

Gibran, I think one like you will be enough.

March 5th, 2007, 3:16 am


majedkhaldoun said:

برامرتس إلى السعودية

March 5th, 2007, 3:25 am


Gibran said:

Well Majed, you should put the full story, and include the source which is the Arabic edition of AnNahar:

برامرتس إلى السعودية

في تطور يُرجح أن يكون مرتبطاً بنتائج القمة السعودية – الايرانية، علم ليل أمس أن رئيس لجنة التحقيق الدولية في جريمة اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري القاضي البلجيكي سيرج برامرتس غادر بيروت الى المملكة العربية السعودية. وهي المرة الأولى يزور برامرتس السعودية في اطار مهمته.

Norman, I still think some 30000 UN troops would be a good idea and will make your proposed fence a very effective one.

March 5th, 2007, 3:41 am


Gibran said:

And in the same edition, AnNahar wrote as main article:

المحكمة الدولية في “غرفة العناية” بعد لقاء عبدالله ونجاد
بيروت تنتظر اليوم نتائج القمة
بري على تفاؤله والسنيورة يتريّث

ساد الغموض والحذر امس الاجواء السياسية في لبنان مع ترقب النتائج التفصيلية للقمة السعودية – الإيرانية المتصلة بالأزمة اللبنانية والتي يبدو ان القوى السياسية لم تطلع عليها بعد ولا تزال تنتظر تبلغها قبل اتخاذ اي مواقف منها.
وقال مصدر مطلع لـ”النهار” ان القمة ونتائجها المعلنة عززت مناخ الايجابيات الذي بدأ يلفح الوضع اللبناني، لكن ذلك يبقى رهناً بمعرفة طبيعة التفاهم بين الرياض وطهران على سبل معالجة الازمة اللبنانيAة التي يرجح ان تسلك طريقها الى الترجمة بحذر شديد، نظراً الى حساسية العقدة السورية التي يفترض ان يكون الجانبان تطرقا اليها.
واضاف انه من غير المتوقع تبيّن الاطار النهائي للتسوية السياسية في لبنان قبل ان تبلّغ ايران سوريا نتائج لقاء العاهل السعودي الملك عبدالله بن عبد العزيز والرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد، خصوصاً ان ايران اسوة بدول عربية واسلامية اخرى تضطلع بدور لاعادة العلاقات الطبيعية بين السعودية وسوريا مع اقتراب موعد القمة العربية في الرياض في 28 و29 من الجاري. واشار الى ان موضوع المحكمة الدولية يبدو كأنه ادخل “غرفة العناية الفائقة” على المستويين الاقليمي والعربي بعد القمة وان التسوية اللبنانية باتت تنتظر الموقف السوري النهائي من هذه القضية والذي يفترض ان يتبلور في فترة قريبة.

March 5th, 2007, 3:46 am


DJ said:

Are you in favor of deploying UN troops between Syria and Lebanon?

March 5th, 2007, 5:17 am


Gibran said:

Don’t you see the great benefits?

March 5th, 2007, 5:41 am


DJ said:

On a lighter note Gibran; you may have noticed that Alex (the one you also deem as a ‘regime apologist’ ) is the nicest person to you in here…don’t you now wish that all other commentators were regime apologists/sympathizers ?

March 5th, 2007, 5:43 am


DJ said:

Benefits ? by what scale are you gauging the outcome of such move as benefits?

March 5th, 2007, 5:53 am


Gibran said:

Regardless of nice or otherwise, you cannot tie pure personal attributes to the the quality of being sympathetic to regimes. As a qualifier, I’m not here implying Alex is nice or otherwise.

You have to answer my question first? Don’t you see the benefits? You may choose the scale you wish for the purpose of gauging.

March 5th, 2007, 6:03 am


DJ said:

Well Gibran, sorry I can’t think of any …
The better question is: will there ever be a legitimate Lebanese majority to request such deployment?

March 5th, 2007, 6:24 am


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