News Round Up (6 Sept 2007)

Uri Avnery reviewing the The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Mearsheimer and Walt. Two Knights and a Dragon, 06/10/07

THERE ARE books that change people's consciousness and change history. Some tell a story, like Harriet Beech Stowe's 1851 "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which gave a huge impetus to the campaign for the abolition of slavery. Others take the form of a political treatise, like Theodor Herzl's "Der Judenstaat", which gave birth to the Zionist movement. Or they can be scientific in nature, like Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species", which changed the way humanity sees itself. And perhaps political satire, too, can shake the world, like "1984" by George Orwell.

Suicide bombers head to Iraq, Articulate, middle-class men are leaving Damascus and preparing to die for Bin Laden. London Times. (Interesting interviews with three bombers in Damascus, who are on their way to Iraq.)
Oct. 6 — Syria is encouraging Sunni Arab insurgent groups and former Iraqi Baathists with ties to the leaders of Saddam Hussein’s government to organize here, diplomats and Syrian political analysts say. By building strong ties to those groups, they say, Syria hopes to gain influence in Iraq before what it sees as the inevitable waning of the American presence there.

“The Syrians feel American power is much weaker in Iraq than in the past,” said Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus bureau chief of the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat. “Now they can take a bold public initiative like helping Iraq’s opposition organize without much fear, especially since President Bush has become a lame duck.”…

“Syria looks to the resistance as freedom fighters, like George Washington fighting the British,” said Mahdi Dahlala, a former Syrian minister of information. “We understand that the rising up against occupation is a natural phenomenon.”

“Syria is not going hand over any Iraqis to the Iraqi government unless they produce evidence of wrongdoing,” Mr. Dahlala said.

Officials in the Bush administration say that Syria has had a mixed record recently, taking some steps that American officials see as helpful in Iraq and others that show that Damascus is seeking to build its own influence there.

In an interview, a senior Defense Department official praised Damascus for canceling the opposition conference and noted that the Syrians had cracked down to a degree on Islamic militants operating near the border with Iraq, a move long sought by Washington.

An intelligence assessment released in August in Washington said that the Syrian government had gone after Islamic smuggling networks. But it did so not out of a desire to help the United States, the report said, but because it feared that the groups presented a threat to the Syrian government.

The report also criticized the Syrians for funneling money to Sunni insurgent groups inside Iraq “in a bid to increase Syrian influence.”…

Thabet Salem, a Syrian political commentator, said Syria was also exploiting a rift between two former Iraqi Baath Party leaders, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former vice president under Mr. Hussein, and Muhammad Younis al-Ahmed, who is believed to be living in Syria. The two men, accused by Washington and Baghdad of leading and financing terrorist operations in Iraq, have multimillion-dollar bounties on their heads.

“Younis al-Ahmed is trying to go under the umbrella of the Syrians as a way to unite the Baathists,” Mr. Salem said. “And the Syrians quietly support him, because they could have more control over their actions.”

In January, Mr. Ahmed held a conference in the northern Syrian city of Homs to try to revive the Iraqi Baath Party. Some Syrians speculated that he wanted to take a more conciliatory stance with the Iraqi government and the United States. His rival, Mr. Douri, who is suspected of having stronger ties with insurgent groups, rejected the conference.

“Douri deeply distrusts working with the Syrians because he distrusts the Iranians, who are strong allies with Syria,” Mr. Salem said.

Mr. Ahmed is believed to be garnering increasing support in Syria from former Iraqi Baathists, at the expense of Mr. Douri and other rivals, by offering cash incentives and Syrian residency permits. Loyalty to his leadership is said to be particularly strong among the poorer, Sunni Arab, segments of Syria’s two million Iraqi refugees.

“Syria could gain tremendous influence in Iraq if it could get control over the Iraqi Baathists,” Mr. Salem said. “It has much more in common, ideologically speaking, with them than it does with the Islamists in Hamas.”

A spokesman for Mr. Douri’s wing of former Baathists living in Syria, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad, condemned Mr. Ahmed and denied suggestions that former Baathists were turning away from Mr. Douri or considering negotiating with Washington.

“We want every American soldier out of Iraq, and we won’t stop fighting until that happens,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Condoleezza Rice opposed Israel’s attack on Syrian nuclear site. US Secretary of state persuaded the Israelis to delay military strike on Syria last month. London Times

Regrets Only? By DEXTER FILKINS in NY Times Sunday Magazine (This is a brilliant article. Read all)

Kanan Makiya spent years in exile advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The war he supported brought about an Iraq he never imagined…..

Then came Fouad Ajami, a Johns Hopkins professor of Middle East history, a Lebanese-American intimately identified with the Iraqi project. The American invasion of Iraq, Ajami said between bites of fish, would yet prove to be a transforming moment in the region. “Persuading the Americans to take down Saddam was Chalabi’s finest hour,” Ajami said, referring to the Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi. The conversation drifted along on a cloud of agreement until Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi intellectual and professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis University near Boston, leaned forward to pose a question.

“How many Iraqis have died since 2003?” Makiya asked his friends.

There was silence at the table. Makiya was asking the others, but he also seemed to be asking himself.

“Five hundred thousand?” Makiya mused. “Two hundred thousand? What are the estimates?”

Someone said something about a study.

“It’s getting closer to Saddam,” Makiya said. Then he sat back in his chair, and the conversation continued on its way…..

Where did it go wrong? Makiya asks himself. Or, more precisely, where did he go wrong? It’s the second question that Makiya is finding the most troubling, for it concerns a lifetime of believing, as he puts it, that hope can triumph over experience. “I want to look into myself, look at myself, delve into the assumptions I had before the war,” he told me.

Makiya’s life is no longer what it was. In 2003, on returning to Iraq, he reunited with his sweetheart from high-school days, married and took her back to Cambridge. He also found out he has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the same disease that killed Edward Said, the Palestinian-born Columbia University professor and Makiya’s intellectual nemesis….

Comments (16)

Dr. George W. Oprisko said:

Dear Josh:

Let’s see………………..

Rocket parts on a container ship.

6 Trucks worth…………

Not boarded the entire length of the Med.
Sailed right past an aircraft carrier task force………. without
Shifted into underground bunkers……………..


At 0130 hrs…


Yea, right……………

Let’s try this one…………..

Planes configured for a raid on Tabriz…………….. where Iran has something really important.

Goal, per many blogs….. ignite an Iranian War……

Planes fly the “L” shaped course acknowledged, which takes them over or near the Russian Naval bases.
Planes identified from search radar and tracked.
Course and speed sent via landline to all bases in their path.
Authorization given to intercept via landline.
S300 AA system put on alert.

Planes surprised by being illuminated by S300 target acquisition radar, using popup tactics.

Missiles fired.

Planes drop everything as they scatter.

Planes return to base.

Why this fits, and the other does not…………
Not explained is why the planes carried drop tanks.

They don’t need them for a raid out to 700 KM. Also, the tanks would normally be bled dry first and dropped mid route to save fuel.
At the latest the tanks would have been dropped at the IP, not hither and yon over the target.

Raid killed nothing.

DPRK gave nothing away to US in confidence building measure.
DPRK has learned that such gestures don’t work.
They encourage the US to harden its position, because it interprets any such as weakness. It wants to exploit DPRK weakness to destroy
DPRK. Period.

Iranians are learning the same lesson….

I suggest you lead with this and see what falls out… make the IAF
prove they still are capable…. it’s my opinion that Syria learned the lessons of last year by interviewing Hezbollah….

If the IAF couldn’t destroy Hezbollah’s rockets and ammo, at 20 km, they certainly can’t hit 6 trucks worth of parts dispersed in bunkers at 700 km.



To go where few dare go……
To see what none have seen…..

October 7th, 2007, 7:12 am


Jamal said:

Joshua, I am so glad to see you mention Kanan Mikaya.

Mikaya’s views are worth reading in more detail (beyond the NY Times article, roundup above). It’s a shame his name is linked with Chalabi. His thesis “Putting Cruelty First” is a cry for elevating cruelty, violence, and abuse over any other consideration.

This revelation came when he started documenting the cruelty of Saddam Hussein’s regime against its people and discovered a wide chasm between the experience of the victims and the words of Arab and western intelligentsia, often on the left (“a catalogue of evasions: silence, exculpation, complicity, rationalisation, subject changing, denial, avoidance..”)

It is sobering to read him and then apply that prism to the actions of the Israeli regime against Arabs and Arab governments against their citizens (and in Syria’s case against the citizens of Lebanon as well for good measure).

For anyone who wants to think beyond rhetoric and newsbabble, see his a 2-part interview “Putting Cruelty First” in Democratiya (late 2005 and early 2006) and

October 7th, 2007, 12:28 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Syrian plane crashes near Damascus, 2 killed

About 2 weeks ago, a Syrian Mig crashed not far from Israel.

October 7th, 2007, 12:30 pm


Disaffection said:

thought you might enjoy this, its cracked a few smiles.

October 7th, 2007, 12:30 pm


Jamal said:

Thanks also for the Avnery article link. It is terribly rare to read something on Walt and Mearsheimer’s book that is not hysterical and dismissive and sinks into personal attacks.

For a look at AIPAC in action (200 staff, $47 million annual budget etc) see Boston Globe, October 7, 2007 “I was lobbied by the ‘Israel lobby – A dispatch from inside the soft sell” By Elaine McArdle

October 7th, 2007, 12:32 pm


why-discuss said:

Jamal, Thank you.

This article is fascinating as it show the subtle, soft and emotional psychological propaganda Israel’s supporters have mastered. Playing on the vulnerability of the Israelis on the border, showing the touching efforts of trying to live normally and of course obliterating completely the hopelessness of being a palestinian in a camp, living in Gaza or the occupied lands. Are the palestinians prouder and do they refuse to play the role of victims that Israelis have played for years? Or they are not savvy enough to exploit their ordeals as a tool to move western countries opinions, or simply they don’t have the IAPAC lobby’s money?

October 7th, 2007, 2:49 pm


idaf said:

Turkey assures Syria on Israeli strike
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Turkey assured the Damascus government on Sunday it would not let Israel use its airspace to strike Syria after an Israeli raid heightened tension in the Middle East.

Diplomats said at least four Israeli planes flew in attack formation along the Syrian-Turkish border before striking deep into Syria on Sept 6. Syria and Israel have given little information on the target.

“Turkey will not let Turkish territory or airspace be used in any activity that could harm the security or safety of Syria,” Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Babacan said he chose Syria as his first destination abroad since being named foreign minister in August to underline the importance of maintaining strong Turkish-Syrian ties. He is due to visit Israel next.

The minister, a member of the Islamist-rooted AK party, repeated Turkey’s assertions that Ankara had no prior knowledge of the Israeli raid, which Assad said had targeted an unused building linked to the Syrian military.

“I hope that during my visit to Israel to be given answers and clarifications about this issue,” Babacan said. “The region is at a very dangerous and sensitive stage. We always urge all parties to reach solutions through dialogue and peaceful means.”

Turkey and Syria have built closer security and economic ties in recent years despite persisting water disputes and past Syrian support for Kurdish rebels.

Ankara, a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also has good ties with Israel and allows Israeli planes to train on its territory, according to diplomats in Damascus.

Israel confirmed this month that it had carried out an air strike on Syria. Syrian officials have not ruled out the possibility of another Israeli raid.

Several U.S. officials have linked the raid to apparent Israeli suspicions of secret nuclear cooperation between Damascus and North Korea. Diplomats suggested the intended target may have involved missiles supplied by North Korea, playing down reports of a nuclear link.

The raid came after speculation that Syria and Israel could resume peace talks that collapsed in 2000 over the scope of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a plateau which Israel occupied in 1967.

Syria has called for the Golan issue to be on the agenda of a peace conference in November sponsored by the United States, Israel’s chief ally. Babacan said the Golan should be part of any Middle East settlement.

“Syria’s participation is necessary to reach solutions,” he said. “The peace process must proceed along all tracks, including the Syrian one.”

October 7th, 2007, 3:56 pm


Alex said:

Idaf, there is more on the Turkish foreign minister’s statements in an interview with Alhayat’s Ibrahim Hamidi

Babacan said he chose Syria as his first destination abroad since being named foreign minister in August to underline the importance of maintaining strong Turkish-Syrian ties.

Just another reminder that Syria is very close to Turkey, and not only Iran… Syria’s close relations with Iran are part of its decision to not depend entirely on the useless “Arab allies” who are really more competitors and less allies.

October 7th, 2007, 6:23 pm


Alex said:

It seems they will try to make it hard for Saudi Arabia to show up to the fall “peace” conference

Palestinians will hold a national conference in Damascus November 7th

October 7th, 2007, 6:31 pm


Alex said:


I am “an optimist” as you know, so to counter the bad news you linked (the small plane crash in Syria), I found a more positive related story

Syrian air awarded skyliners’ award (Manchester) for best landing and takeoff performance.

: )

October 7th, 2007, 6:45 pm


norman said:

Israel killed every one involved in the Munich massacre , and only 20 Israelis were killed , I want to ask the west how do you think the Arabs should respond to the killing of more than 500,000 Arabs in the last 5 years?.It seems that things get worse when outsiders intervene in the middleast , I wish the west will leave that area alone.

October 7th, 2007, 11:16 pm


ausamaa said:

That was the plane that was the one which asd perhaps smuggled the nucks out of Dier Azzzour before Israels/US murcky attack.

God bless the dead airmen. The ones who give their lives to defend Syrian and Arab soil and degnity…. a trait which many rulers lack in our part of the world.

…. so, we are practicing and training close to the boarder..

October 7th, 2007, 11:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

I want to ask the west how do you think the Arabs should respond to the killing of more than 500,000 Arabs in the last 5 years?.


Speaking for the “West” (since I am one) I’ll give you my answer:

Start a grass-roots compaign calling for democracy in all Arab captials throughout the Middle East.

That would be a start.

Once the democracies take hold, vote in governments that are pro-peace.

I hope I answered your question.

October 7th, 2007, 11:36 pm


norman said:

Akbar Palace,
Democracy is like religion , It is a way to a better life for the people not a goal in itself , there are many religions and all of them will lead to heaven if you do not hurt others and you do to them what you want them to do to you and help others , so is democracy there are many kinds and western democracy is not the only way to improve the live of the people in a country neither is believing in the Masai and Jesus christ as savior is the only way to heaven , you should know that.

October 7th, 2007, 11:47 pm


abraham said:

Also speaking for “The West” (since I am also one), I laugh at AP’s self-satisfied response to Norman. He is delusional if he thinks, as an American, that he lives in a true democracy and can therefore make arrogant assertions to other peoples.

In our country, most members of either main political party are ignoring the vast majority of the American people and continue to perpetuate a war that poll after poll has shown that We do not want. Our pretend president has violated our Constitution by instituting programs of spying on our citizens, suspending Habeus Corpus (with the consent of Congress), employing torture in the Constitutionally undeclared “War on/of Terror”, and has violated his oath of office by lying and willfully ignoring the laws Congress has passed. Our voting machines remain unaccountable and controlled by proprietary software that private vendors refuse to release into the public domain, and with questionable outcomes in races throughout the country in all elections since and including 2000, it is debatable whether our election system is even sound at this point. Corruption is rampant, with billions upon billions upon billions of dollars being siphoned from the public trust by corrupt companies profiteering in the worldwide wars and conflicts they helped to create (with the assistance of corrupt members of Congress).

I am not alone in this assessment.

Get over yourself, you jack-ass.

October 8th, 2007, 5:49 am


kingcrane jr said:


There is an error about Kinan Makiya and Edward Said.

The good news for Kinan Makiya is that his disease is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or CLL, a leukemic (ie running in the blood and bone marrow) form of (very) low grade lymphoma, and a disease that rarely kills im the first five years after diagnosis. In fact, some people have lived fifteen or more years with this disease. Progression is very slow. It is rumored that the late President Hafez el-Assad had CLL.

As to Edward Said, he had Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), a very aggressive disease that affects the bone marrow, the blood, and ultimately kills within 2 to 5 years after diagnosis, despite intensive chemotherapy.

Interestingly, the man with a huge intellect (Edward Said) is suffering from an aggressive disease, while his diminutive (we are talking intellect here, not body parts) “nemesis” (Kinan Makiya) is suffering from a very slowly progressing disease.

I also had never heard of Makiya before; he is probably not linked to the more famous (or infamous) neo-con apologist Fuad Ajami, who, despite royal treatment by the US media, is not even at 1/1,000,000 of the intelelct of Edward Said.

October 8th, 2007, 3:47 pm


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