News Round Up (4 Oct. 2007)

Iran and Syria have signed an agreement for Tehran to export a billion dollars worth of gas every year to its chief regional ally.

Assad promises state employees bonus of 50%

Sana: President Bashar al-Assad on Monday issued the legislative decree number 57 for the year 2007 granting a one-time bonus of 50% of the fixed sum of salaries for civil and military employees in ministries, departments, public establishments, general sector companies, municipalities, all the departments of the public and shared sectors, and recruits in the army and armed forces.

The decree stipulates for the grant being offered to all workers, including temporary and part-time workers, and that retired employees and other recipients of pensions will also receive the bonus.

Minister of Finance Mohammad al Hussein announced that the grant will be distributed on Sunday the 7th of October, and that accountants and related authorities have been informed to take all necessary preparations.

"Five Million and Counting — Iraqi Refugees Weigh on Our National Conscience," by Sameer Lalwani on the Washington Note, is excellent.

The 'Israel Lobby’ Goes International, By Marc Perelman

After hitting Europe earlier this month, “The Israel Lobby” is preparing for a frontal assault on the Muslim world. The controversial book by American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who accuse the pro-Israel lobby of hijacking American policy, hit bookstores in Europe in September and soon will be published across the Arab world and in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.     Read more…

Daniel Levy, director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative, and Senior Fellow of the Century and New America Foundations has an interesting review of the Walt/Mearsheimer book, which is here on his blog. The review is also pasted below in its entirety. In addition, there is a little extra introductory comment on the blog. Levy also has an article calling for a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel and placing that in the context of the November Annapolis Conference here. A shorter version appeared here in the Guardian online.

In their Brookings editorial, "Lessons for Lebanon from Nahr el-Bared," Bilal Y. Saab and Bruce Riedel argue that the Lebanese state will first have to regain its monopoly over the use of force before it asks for any serious military assistance from Washington. The authors also offer some lessons that could be learned by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) from their recent battle with the terrorist group Fatah al –Islam in the Nahr el-Bared camp in the North.

Aoun to Okaz: there are attempts to cancel the Christians & the Shi’is (Website)

Syria & Hezbollah relinquish Aoun & seek to bring Suleiman to power…” (Al Seyassah)

Bush to Syria: Don't Meddle in Lebanon, AP, By JENNIFER LOVEN 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush warned Syria on Thursday against interfering in Lebanon's presidential election and said he is sending a top military commander to Beirut to find more ways to help Lebanon fight extremists.

"The United States strongly supports the success of democracy in Lebanon," Bush said after meeting with Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon's parliament. "The United States is more than just an admirer. We want to help as best as we possibly can."

Saad Hariri still acts like a guest in his own office. The executive chair behind the imposing hardwood desk remains occupied by a dead man. On it sits a huge portrait of his father, Rafik Hariri, 60, the former prime minister assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005.

Comments (21)

Enlightened said:

5 Million Refugees and counting! Will they be the New Palestinians of the Middle East?

Lets be realistic here and leave humanitarianism and nostalgia alone about their plight (although i feel this is entirely tragic) why is their plight not highlighted around the world, and why do the major news services ignore them?

The strategy is simple, do not address it, because it will simply overwhelm the Syrian Budget and push it to breaking point in a few years, another Neo con strategy, it is all part of regime change phenomenon. This will place great fiscal pressure on the Syrian Budget and the longer the conflict within Iraq is not concluded swiftly, we will find a new generation who will forget the rivers of Babylon?

A few posts ago I linked a story about an Iraqi mother whose 13 year old daughter is working in Prostitution in Damascus to support her family, that Josh posted in his next thread. After reading it my normal placid self had a sense of outrage and dis belief.

I truly believe that some fault lies with the Syrian government for not highlighting the plight of the Refugees enough, whether through the UN or other media sources, why? Maybe they thought as the last bastion of Arab Nationalism, they would welcome them and cope as best as they can?

One can sense though we might be repeating the massive population shifts as seen after both world wars and this is just a prelude to re drawing the Sykes Picot arrangement?

Either way, stay tuned for more heartbreak!

October 5th, 2007, 6:10 am


annie said:

Syrians are hospitable, period. Who has the heart to send these people back to the slaughterhouse?
I too do believe that the neocons and their Zionist masters hope to destabilize Syria under the weight of their victims.
And true, Syria should publicize the hardships everyone faces because of the colonial war next door.

October 5th, 2007, 10:25 am


Friend in America said:

Regarding the Wurmser statement – Interpet his departure from the administration in Washington as another sign the administration is shifting away from the hard liners (the so called “neo-cons” – an expression sometimes found here but rarely heard in the U.S.).
I am not alone in thinking Wurmser’s view is a mistake. Without a successor acceptable to the people a political vacuum would develop which will lead to chaos. More chaos no one needs. Better to work with the adminsitration in Damascus – urging and supporting constructive policies and giving stern warnings about the oppositie.We have seen some of the former and too much of the latter.

October 5th, 2007, 1:25 pm


Observer said:

The Wumser comment is in essence no different from many an administration official who find it easier to say what is on their minds after they leave office. Carter also said that the current apartheid regime in Palestine is fueling the tragedy of the ME, but again he said it after leaving office. The difference between the neo cons and the others is the AIPAC effect that would silence anyone in or out of office from coming out and saying it as it is when it comes to Israel. The picture of the Iraqi refugees posted today could be easily replaced with that of Palestinians in 1948 or Syrians in 1967 or Lebanese in 1982/2006 and no one would know the difference. Once again, the people of the ME have got to come to the realization that they cannot improve their lot by acting individually, whether on the personal level or on the goverment level.

October 5th, 2007, 1:35 pm


Friend in America said:

“The Israel Lobby” by Walt and Mersheimer:
Three weeks ago in a comment here I said a book will soon be published that will expand the debate about the relationship between US foreign policy in the middle east and the interests of the state of Israel. This is the book.
This debate has been going on in academic circles for several years. On some university campuses it became bitter. Authors Walt and Mersheimer both are outstanding if not distinguished scholars.They cannot be criticized for lack of academic skill. The arguments they make will gain attention in the wider intellectual circles in America.

But the authors leave themselves open to criticsm for lack of balance. They pay little or no attention to actions and policy decisions in Washington which dissapointed Israel. There have been many, some of which were significant. Read the book, if you wish, but also write in the fly leaf the number of actions and policy decisions in Washington over the years that were perceived by the Israel Lobby as not in Israel’s best interests. You may conclude, perhaps, the so called Israel lobby has had more successes than failures but even so a fair reading of these events is that Israel and its supporters may have influnced U.S. policy on many occasions and U.S. may have influenced Israel policy as well but neither establishes the policies of the other.

October 5th, 2007, 1:54 pm


Friend in America said:

Many leaders who served in an American administration will write a book after leaving the restraints of public service, some to justify their past decisions (Alan Greenspan is most recent example), others to carry on the argument for their viewpoints (these usually are the ones “forced out”:). Wurmser is today’s example; Bolton could be another if he were to write a book. There are, and have been, many viewpoints within an administration. While differing views are exchanged before a decision, the discussion is expected to end after the decision is made. This did not happen in the early years of the Clinton administration and it became chaotic.
It is different in Congress. Their debates are public and many feel no constraint to continue the debate after the decision has been made. The continued public criticsm and persistent pressure from Congress about Iraq did result in resignations and adoption of significantly different policies. That process is still continuing. Future scholars will point to this experience to illustrate the self correcting feature in the American political system. Scholars will also will note the ability to write a book critical of those in the present or past admistration without endangering the author’s freedom is a feature only found in democracies (There are exceptions but they are few in number).

There is too much individualism in the ME to expect a unified voice (nor should there be) unless imposed by repressive force (Adminajabad would like to do just that but he will be rebuffed by his neighbors and internally also). Consider using this reamarkable characteristic of individualism for its benefits. That needs a social and political climate that allows, no, encourages individual creativity. Just think of the explosion of creativity when not repressed by the thought police, the grafters, or an economy tilted toward a favored few. We can have a dream
A writer on this site said the ultimate purpose of any government is to create a better future for successive generations. I strongly agree. Look around the world. In country after country people are enjoying the fruits of rising economies. That is the prize. That is how our children will enjoy better lives than we have. That also gives purpose to our own lives. If the governments in the ME would keep their eyes on that prize and work toward attaining it, it will be a very different ME in 2 generations. What we need now is that awakening.
On another subject I would enjoy a discussion of President Carter’s opinion so well expressed by Observer.

October 5th, 2007, 3:05 pm


ausamaa said:

By any chance, does anyone know of a website where my daughter can find the lyrics of the many Fairuz songs about Damascuse? She needs it for a school project. Thanks

October 5th, 2007, 3:20 pm


ausamaa said:

Will the US Attack Iran? Hersh, Kolko Weigh In

Republished from will-us-attack-iran-hersh-kolko-weigh-in/
October 1, 2007


Seymour Hersh maintains that the Bush administration is determined to strike Iran, though tactics and justifications have changed:

This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism. …

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. …

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

But historian Gabriel Kolko writes in to say that “war with Iran is not likely.”

THE U.S. AND EUROPEAN ECONOMIES are now in a crisis, and it may be protracted. The dollar is falling in value, Gulf States and others may abandon it, etc. A war with Iran would produce economic chaos, because oil would be scarce. There are states, like Russia and Venezuela, who can sell it. In a word, the balance of world economic power is involved, and that is a great issue.

THE GULF STATES do not like Shia Iran, but they export oil, becoming rich thereby. They are dependent on peace, not war.

THE U.S. PUBLIC AND CONGRESS are variable factors. As the last election proved, anyone who thinks the Democrats will stop wars is fooling himself or herself. But war with Iran would require new authorizations. Then the Congress would, potentially, be very important. I may be wrong, but I may be right.

CHENEY AND THE NEOCONS huff and puff ideologies and are very articulate ideologues. Will they volunteer to fight Iran, and what will they do on the battlefield? How many effective fighters do they have at the Weekly Standard or AEI?

THE AMERICAN MILITARY is at the present moment stretched to the limit. They are losing both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything is being sacrificed for these wars: money, equipment in Asia, American military power globally, etc. Where and how can they fight yet another?

BUNKER BUSTERS can knock out so many bunkers – not all. If they are nuclear they are very useful, but they are also radioactive. In addition to killing enemies, they may kill friends and nearby U.S. soldiers also. It depends where you must drop them.

WHAT WILL IRAN DO, and what sorts of technology do they possess? They fought against Iraq about a decade, and suffered about half a million casualties. Perhaps they will roll over, but it’s not likely. There are a number of tiny islands in the Gulf they have had years to fortify. Can 90 percent of their weapons be knocked out? The remainder will be sufficient to sink many boats and tankers. The oil exported through the Gulf will thereby be reduced, and perhaps cease altogether.

ISRAEL may be a factor. They must cross Syrian and Jordanian airspace, and the Iranians will be prepared if they are not shot down over Syria. Their countermeasures may be effective, but perhaps not. Hence a number of Israeli pilots will realize they are embarking on suicide missions. Will they? Some will, others will not.

IRAN IS LIKELY TO GET NUCLEAR BOMBS, sooner or later. So will other nations. Israel has hundreds already. Israeli strategists believe deterrence will then exist. Why risk war?

There may be other factors. But these are sufficient.

The Bush-Cheney administration, as the Iraq war proved, is full of mad, irrational people, and there is no way to account for them. But not everyone in Washington thinks like them, especially in the military, and those on Wall Street who have the most to lose from a war have great political influence. We are obligated to count on them because that is they way the U.S. has operated for decades. According to an article in Salon, Sept. 28, “the military would revolt and there would be no pilots to fly those missions” were it ordered to war against Iran. Without them, there is no danger. The American public is a small factor, as elections have repeatedly shown, but may play some role also. But the U.S. fights wars and loses most of them. The U.S. is very likely to lose a war with Iran if it fights. It probably will not.

October 5th, 2007, 3:30 pm


why-discuss said:

In the first of a two-part series, ISN Security Watch examines the chances of military conflict between Iran and the US, which some believe could come at the start of next year.

“…Most of the experts ISN Security Watch I spoke with believe the opportunity for an attack, even a hypothetical one, would present itself sometime between January and May 2008, with January being the earliest point due to the time needed to psychologically prepare the US public and the rest of the world.”

October 5th, 2007, 3:42 pm


ausamaa said:

Huh.. this continuous talk about attacking Iran or Syria or whoever is becoming the personification of the saying:

Talk Harshly and Carry a Small Stick.

October 5th, 2007, 3:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Annie said:

Syrians are hospitable, period. Who has the heart to send these people back to the slaughterhouse?

My little experience in the Arab countries I’ve visited is that they are indeed, very hospitable.

I too do believe that the neocons and their Zionist masters hope to destabilize Syria under the weight of their victims.

The “neocons” have no “Zionist Masters”. I’m telling you this becasue just for educational purposes. I don’t know where you get your information. In the US, we are free to think and support whoever we wish. Ron Paul has a small following and has plenty of funds in his political war-chest. He is the only republican who thinks the war in Iraq was a mistake.

Most American are indeed interested into destabilizing regimes that support terrorism.

And true, Syria should publicize the hardships everyone faces because of the colonial war next door.

Syria (and the rest of the Arab media) publicizes “the hardships everyone faces because of the colonial war next door” all the time.

That’s how it has worked since terrorism was used to conduct foreign policy since the PLO was formed in 1964. Since then, we have hundreds of terror organizations, thousands of deaths, and millions of news articles.

Friend in America said:

Regarding the Wurmser statement – Interpet his departure from the administration in Washington as another sign the administration is shifting away from the hard liners (the so called “neo-cons” – an expression sometimes found here but rarely heard in the U.S.).
I am not alone in thinking Wurmser’s view is a mistake.

This is just wishful thinking on your part. The past few months, the debate here has changed from America is losing to America winning. No serious candidate running for president is willing to discuss a pull-out from Iraq until the US has won decisively. That said, what information do you have that “the administration is shifting away from hard liners”?

Observer said:

The difference between the neo cons and the others is the AIPAC effect that would silence anyone in or out of office from coming out and saying it as it is when it comes to Israel.

Another myth. AIPAC believes in free speech, and in the US we have it. There are plenty of candidates who aren’t happy with Israel or the War in Iraq and they have the freedom to express it. Granted, most Americans don’t want to hear it or contribute to a campaign that expresses this point-of-view.

Another article from the ideological hero of the Syria Comment website:,7340,L-3456554,00.html

October 5th, 2007, 4:14 pm


ausamaa said:

Alex, I think Akbar Palace knows and understands perfectly what you try to say. He is just playing it -but in a very primitive way- according to the Official Israeli PR manners learned from Gobbels. Actually I think his remarks are intended for “targets” mostly uninitiated in the affairs of the area. And you should give him his due, he maintains a somewhat consistant presence on syriacomment when he is not off duty.

October 5th, 2007, 4:24 pm


Observer said:
AP Please read these excellent articles about AIPAC and its influence in the foreign policy of this country. There is nothing wrong with free people freely lobbying for what they believe is important to them. As an American I take umbrage at anybody that is willing to lobby for a foreign power no matter how close an ally it is at the expense of the principles and values and interests of this country.

October 5th, 2007, 4:30 pm


Friend in America said:

Friends, Ausamaa is right. But, please note this kind of talk is hardly on the radar screen in America. And if it comes up, the country will not accept it – not at this time. I think i have said 4 or 5 times on this site there will be no such conflict. A different one? Maybe.
1. We should not underestimate the seriousness of the situation for those in the ME. Iran has 300 centrafuges. Centrafuges are not necessary for refining to get the low grade unranium used to generate electrical power; centrafuges are used in one of two systems for enriching unranium to weapons grade. There is no use for them other than refining weapons grade unranium. Iran now has 300 of them in 19 facilities.
2. Iran will try to use the threat of military weapons to change the political landscape in the ME. Iran is focusing on the U.S. now because the U.S. is the only power willing to challenge Iran directly (wait, the EU will be there soon). But its goal is the ME.
3. Iran is concerned about America because Iran’s capture of embassy personnel in 1979 is still fresh in many minds. The current President of Iran was a commnader of youth groups that participated in the take over.
3. Iran has a history of walking to the brink of precipitous action, stalling and then walking back. The ruling elite will ultimately tell the current President to back off. They will also require the release of several thousand political, social and intellectual prisoners that have been arrested since June.
4. The economic problems will utimately require walking back from the brink of a final decision. The current President is not addressing these problems in a corrective manner. He equates calls for economic reform with political dissent. Where have we heard that before?
5. Published articles about the possible military action are communications to the broader elite in Iran that the course being pursued by the current President leads to serious trouble. It is part of a broader diplomatic communication dialogue. By the way, Seymour Hersh is too paranoid to tell the difference. If he cannot interpet actions and writing as sinister, he has no story.

I may be too optimistic but I do not think so.

October 5th, 2007, 4:44 pm


Frank al Irlandi said:

Aussama I will get back to you in a moment re fairuz lyrics. It is a greta way to learn arabic.

The Archbishop of Caterbury has gone apeshit over the suffering of Iraqi refugees in Syria and the prospects of further war in a BBC interview

I don’t think he agrees with Mr Wurmser

October 5th, 2007, 6:11 pm


Frank al Irlandi said:


Your daugter will find this site useful.

She will have togo through the discogrpahy but she will find Uhib damashq on bouldani.

Probably not exhaustive but the best source of lyrics I know.

October 5th, 2007, 6:14 pm


Friend in America said:

Link to William Cook’s Article:
It is hard for me to distinguish the reasoning in this article from the articles written in 1938 that claimed the threat of Adolf Hitler was over rated and the best way to keep the peace was to let Hitler have his way.
Cook’s adjectives reflect poor scholarship and lack of objectivity. 300 centrafuges is not folly. He ignores that. Declarations that Iran will wipe Israel off the face of the earth is as dangerous war threat as can be made. Cook ignores that. Claiming the holicost in Europe never occurred is a revisionist statement that only a person who wants to kill would make. Cook ignores that. Action taken in self defense is not illegal. Cook ignores that. If Cook has secret information proving the 8 September raid was unprovoked, he is concealing. But he does not have such information and there is strong evidence to the contrary.
A more reasoned evaluation is that Iran’s declared intentions and preparations for nuclear holicost for Israel create legitimate and serious national defense concerns for Israel. That makes all of the the ME a hot box of danger. There is no liklihood Israel would attack Iran without a perceived and imminent danger to its people. There is a liklihood, to some degree, that Iran is willing to attack Israel because Iran wants to kill. It is in the interests of everyone else in the ME to tell Iran to stop it and tell Israel to calm down. But to tell Israel its concerns are baseless is a blind assessment of reality. Cook is wrong.

October 5th, 2007, 6:41 pm


Frank al Irlandi said:


saafira al arab

This has some of my favourite songs including uhib damashq

October 5th, 2007, 6:42 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Friend in America maybe you should update your knowledge about using centrifuges in producing nuclear material fit for power production. Maybe you trust the information of your own country, the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

wait, the EU will be there soon

Like where. EU powers (minus France to some limits) have clearly said that they are not interested in new wars and support the IAEA option. The Asian nations China, India and Japan need a “functioning” Iran, 65 percent of production goes to Asia. Japan alone buys 20 percent of Iran’s oil production and pays with yens. Actually now 85 percent of Iranian oil trades are made in other currencies than US Dollar. Maybe that is one reason that Bush and his “AIPAC friends in banks” are so, so angry. When this example spreads the era of dollar domination is permanently over. And you can imagine what that will do to US ability to work as the world police.

You Friend in America seem not to understand that the nations have the same strategic needs despite the governing style. Even if there would be a regime change in Iran those defensive needs do not change. The current imbalances in Middle East will without doubt lead to that that many Arab nations will seek at least the Japanese option with nuclear weapons.

The present claim by French is 3000 centrifuges, not 300 centrafuges, if you mean by centrafuge centrifuges?

October 5th, 2007, 8:23 pm


Nour said:

“Declarations that Iran will wipe Israel off the face of the earth is as dangerous war threat as can be made. Cook ignores that. Claiming the holicost in Europe never occurred is a revisionist statement that only a person who wants to kill would make.”

The “wipe Israel off the map” phrase was mistranslated and deliberately misrepresented, as President Ahmadinejad said no such thing and was merely quoting Khomeini, who once said that the regime in Palestine shall fall. I don’t see how that’s any worse than all of the US administration’s words on regime change.

As for the Holocaust issue, does claiming that the Armenian genocide never took place also constitute a revisionist statement only a person who wants to kill would make? And if so, should we then be warning of a Turkish threat and be prepared to attack Turkey?

October 5th, 2007, 10:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Friend in America,

Your posts showing concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions is a breath of fresh air, and I concur with you. Kudos to you.

The issue with belligerent states like Iran is that when they finally get their “comeupance”, no one gives a damn. The attack on the Syrian “facility” is one small example.

The NY Times investigated the “Mahmood” translation issue and came up with something a bit different than Nour (aka: how to translate the Iranian leader’s gobs of poisonous venom over the years into innocuous nothings while he arms Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraqi insurgents, Syrian Baathists, denies the Nazi Holocaust and finalizes his nuclear weapons program)

October 6th, 2007, 1:25 am


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