News Round Up (December 19, 2008) - Syria Comment

News Round Up (December 19, 2008)

 


By Patrick Worsnip
Reuters
Wednesday, December 17, 2008; 2:53 PM

 Daniel Bellemare

Daniel Bellemare

U.N. investigator says Hariri killing can be solved

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. investigator probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri said on Wednesday he believed the case was solvable but asked for patience as he assembles evidence.

Daniel Bellemare was addressing the U.N. Security Council, which later extended the life of his Beirut-based commission for another two months until a special court to hear the politically sensitive case is set up in The Hague on March 1.

Hariri and 22 other people died in a car bomb explosion in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Some anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians have said Syria was behind the bombing, a charge Damascus denies.

Bellemare, a Canadian who will also be prosecutor when the case comes to court, sought to play down what he said were misconceptions that the move to the Hague would mean indictments would immediately be issued.

He said he would continue his investigations as prosecutor even after the commission ceases operations on February 28 and could not say when they would be completed.

“Fast food justice is not on the menu,” Bellemare said, describing the investigation as “probably one of the most difficult in recent times.”

“There will be no indictment of convenience.”

But he said there was “no such thing as the perfect crime” and, answering the question of whether the case was soluble, added, “While no one ever said it would be easy, my answer to this question is unequivocal: Yes, this case can be solved.”

While countries funding the investigation and the tribunal were entitled to ask whether it was worth continuing, the answer was “absolutely,” he said.

But, he said, “While there is anxiety and impatience, the process must be allowed to follow its course.”

In a report for the council made public earlier this month, Bellemare said his team had found new information that expanded their list of suspects, as well as fresh clues to where the suicide bomber responsible for Hariri’s death came from.

He gave no further details on Wednesday.

The Return of Realpolitik in Arabia
by Fouad Ajami in WSJ

To its surprise, the new administration could yet discover that our adversaries do not wish to see our withdrawal from their midst. The Iranians thrive on the American presence in the Persian Gulf and feed off it. They are the quintessential oppositional force. They are not good at generating policies of their own. Their work consists of subversive attacks on Pax Americana in the region. The call by President Bush’s critics for a dialogue with Iran will be exposed for the pathetic fraud it has been all along. The American drama swirling around the rise of Mr. Obama is of no interest to the theocrats in Tehran. For them, it is business as usual in the Persian Gulf.

Arrests show fears of Saddam followers: The arrests of more than 20 security officials for allegedly trying to revive Saddam Hussein’s banned political party show how the Shiite-led government believes that supporters of the old regime still pose a threat — perhaps as much as al-Qaida or Iranian-backed militias.

Iraq: The Shia Religious State – Matthew Duss, American Prospect

A moment for truth as Britain exits Iraq

Not So Fast
By Eli Lake
The New Republic, 24 December 2008

When it comes to Iraq, “withdrawal” seems to be the word of the day. In Washington, the incoming administration has revived the Obama campaign’s 16- month timetable for removing combat troops from Iraq. At his press conference on Monday, for example, Obama said he still thought that timeframe was “realistic” and said he would be meeting with military commanders to discuss “how we proceed” in what he calls a “withdrawal process.” Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Obama’s timeframe was “agreeable,” suggesting that the current Pentagon chief has also agreed to a withdrawal.

The agreement ratified on Thanksgiving Day by the Iraqi parliament would seem to lay out a road map for just the kind of withdrawal Obama has promised. It demands that all U.S. forces–with no exceptions–exit the country by the last calendar day of 2011 and that they return to their bases by the end of June 2009. What’s more, it mandates that the unsightly international zone in the center of Iraq’s capital be dismantled and requires the explicit approval of Iraq’s government for any U.S. military actions against Iraq’s neighbors or within the country. For those inclined to call America’s presence in Iraq an occupation, the Status of Forces Agreement, or sofa, as it is referred to at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom, appears to end it.

All of this has left many with the impression that American soldiers will be out of Iraq by the time Obama begins his campaign for reelection. Or, as Senator Claire McCaskill told Fox News on Sunday: “The important part about that SOFA agreement is it embraces the kind of timetable that Barack Obama made a foundation of his campaign…”

….The call by President Bush’s critics for a dialogue with Iran ill be exposed for the pathetic fraud it has been all along. The American drama swirling around the rise of Mr. Obama is of no interest to the theocrats in Tehran. For them, it is business as usual in the Persian Gulf…..

Russia in talks with Iran over sale of anti-aircraft missiles, despite Israeli objections
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz.com, 16 December 2008

Israel plans to send one of its most senior security officials to Moscow tomorrow to express concern over Russia’s decision to renew contacts with Iran for the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli officials said the government will send the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res) Amos Gilad to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with S-300 missiles – which would significantly complicate any military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

During his two-day visit in Moscow, Gilad will meet with the Russian chief of staff, the head of intelligence as well as senior defense officials and diplomats. In addition to talks on the S-300 sale, Gilad is expected to bring up the Iranian nuclear program and Syria’s supplying of Russian-made weapons to Hezbollah.

Earlier this year, Russia said it would not move forward with the transaction. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Russia, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was set up to try and persuade the Russians to drop two deals in the works – one to sell S-300 missiles to Iran and the other to sell them to Syria.

The Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman said Russia will not go ahead with the Iranian deal. “We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, unstable areas,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

The Russian official added that the Kremlin makes decisions on selling such systems based on “both preserving the balance of power in the given region, and taking into account the need to provide stability and security in the region.”

But in spite of these statements, Israeli officials say Russia and Iran renewed negotiations on the purchase of the missile system several weeks ago. The sources confirmed a report that appeared in the foreign press on the matter two weeks ago.

In a recent internal discussion on the matter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave ministry officials instructions to put in a request for clarifications from the Russian administration’s highest levels.

The weapons sales are a very sensitive issue for Israeli diplomats, who view it as a form of leverage that Russia is trying to apply on Washington. Some in the Foreign Ministry believe Russia has decided to move forward with the deal in order to demonstrate a hard line ahead of Barack Obama’s entry into the White House as U.S. President.

The S-300 missile, called the SA-10 in the West, has a range of 150 kilometers and is capable of striking a plane at altitudes of up to 30,000 meters. The movable launchers are operational within minutes, and the system’s radar is able to simultaneously acquire and engage dozens of targets.

Poll Finds Widespread International Opposition to US Bases in Persian Gulf
WorldPublicOpinion.org, 15 December 2008

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 21 nations around the world finds widespread opposition to the United States having naval forces based in the Persian Gulf. Most also believe that most people in the Persian Gulf region oppose such bases.

In general, America’s approach to the Middle East and the Muslim world gets poor grades around the world. The United States is widely viewed as disrespectful of the Muslim world. Its support for democracy in the Muslim world is seen as limited to cases where the government is cooperative with the US. More publics than not believe that the US is not really seeking the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

The poll of 21,740 respondents was conducted between July 15 and October 24, 2008 by WorldPublicOpinion.org in 21 nations (in Iran: January 13-February 9). Margins of error range from approximately +/-2 to 4 percent. Most of the world’s largest nations were included (China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia), as well as several nations in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Azerbaijan, and Turkey). Also included were Mexico, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, and Ukraine, as were publics in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Not all questions were asked in all nations…

Iran’s Regional Security Policy: Opportunities and Challenges
George Emile Irani
16/12/2008

…….The linchpin of Iran’s policy is to preserve its security and project its presence and influence in countries with major Shia populations, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Its desire is to take the leadership of the Muslim world away from the hands of Sunni-dominated states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Iranian foreign policy is dictated by the need to maintain the country’s sovereignty and independence in the light of past interventions by regional and global powers.

The country has developed a strong strategic relationship with Syria and both countries have adopted policies supporting anti-Western and anti-Israeli groups, such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon…..

THE TANGLED US-IRAN KNOT, Part 4, Is a deal on the Middle East possible?
By Gareth Porter

Iran is both willing and able to lend the US a hand in Middle Eastern conflicts – and with the Sunni extremists the two share as an enemy. But for there to be a grand accord to rekindle US-Iran cooperation, the will need to recognize ‘s regional power status and end its fixation on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Russia to donate 10 MiG fighter jets to Lebanon
By Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei

Moscow says it also might sell tanks and artillery to Lebanon and that its goal is to help stabilize the nation. The move signifies Russia’s military resurgence in areas long dominated by the U.S.

Russia in talks with Iran over sale of anti-aircraft missiles, despite Israeli objections
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz.com, 16 December 2008

Israel plans to send one of its most senior security officials to Moscow tomorrow to express concern over Russia’s decision to renew contacts with Iran for the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli officials said the government will send the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res) Amos Gilad to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with S-300 missiles – which would significantly complicate any military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

During his two-day visit in Moscow, Gilad will meet with the Russian chief of staff, the head of intelligence as well as senior defense officials and diplomats. In addition to talks on the S-300 sale, Gilad is expected to bring up the Iranian nuclear program and Syria’s supplying of Russian-made weapons to Hezbollah.

Earlier this year, Russia said it would not move forward with the transaction. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Russia, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was set up to try and persuade the Russians to drop two deals in the works – one to sell S-300 missiles to Iran and the other to sell them to Syria.

The Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman said Russia will not go ahead with the Iranian deal. “We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, unstable areas,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

The Russian official added that the Kremlin makes decisions on selling such systems based on “both preserving the balance of power in the given region, and taking into account the need to provide stability and security in the region.”

But in spite of these statements, Israeli officials say Russia and Iran renewed negotiations on the purchase of the missile system several weeks ago. The sources confirmed a report that appeared in the foreign press on the matter two weeks ago.

In a recent internal discussion on the matter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave ministry officials instructions to put in a request for clarifications from the Russian administration’s highest levels.

The weapons sales are a very sensitive issue for Israeli diplomats, who view it as a form of leverage that Russia is trying to apply on Washington. Some in the Foreign Ministry believe Russia has decided to move forward with the deal in order to demonstrate a hard line ahead of Barack Obama’s entry into the White House as U.S. President.

The S-300 missile, called the SA-10 in the West, has a range of 150 kilometers and is capable of striking a plane at altitudes of up to 30,000 meters. The movable launchers are operational within minutes, and the system’s radar is able to simultaneously acquire and engage dozens of targets.

Poll Finds Widespread International Opposition to US Bases in Persian Gulf
WorldPublicOpinion.org, 15 December 2008

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 21 nations around the world finds widespread opposition to the United States having naval forces based in the Persian Gulf. Most also believe that most people in the Persian Gulf region oppose such bases.

In general, America’s approach to the Middle East and the Muslim world gets poor grades around the world. The United States is widely viewed as disrespectful of the Muslim world. Its support for democracy in the Muslim world is seen as limited to cases where the government is cooperative with the US. More publics than not believe that the US is not really seeking the creation of a viable Palestinian state….

Comments (58)


Enlightened said:

Australian Policeman to probe Harriri Assassination:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=98588

Watch out Syrian’s your in trouble now!

“Fast food justice is not on the menu,” Bellemare said, describing the investigation as “probably one of the most difficult in recent times.”

Clearly this is the best one liner I have heard in a while!

What is Russia up to? The last few weeks, some reports have come out that the S-300 is already in Iran! Others have suggested that ongoing negotiations, have resumed for the supply of these highly sophisticated missiles.

If they are already in Iran, one can summarily say that this is payback for Israeli involvement in the Georgia Fiasco. This hunch will not be proved unless Moscow follows up with more “donations” to the Lebanese Army (some sophisticated ground to Air missiles) and other heavy equipment (tanks and artillery).

I am sure My Israeli friends will not be having restless nights however over the 10 donated MIG fighters. Lebanon still needs 590 more to compete with the Israeli Airforce. (Shai stop quaking in your boots)

December 20th, 2008, 1:50 am

 

norman said:

Last update – 11:24 19/12/2008

Olmert: Syria is more ripe than ever for peace deal

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Israel News, Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad is “more ripe than ever for a peace deal with Israel,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech Thursday.

Meanwhile, Olmert announced he would be meeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday to discuss the Syrian talks, among other issues.

Speaking at a conference of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, Olmert said indirect Israel-Syria talks mediated by Turkey can lead to direct negotiations, stressing that a peace treaty with Syria could be achieved.
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Referring to the ongoing indirect talks, Olmert said “the talks with Syria were thorough and important. Removing Syria from the radical axis is one of Israel’s top priorities.”

“Tough sacrifices will be required,” Olmert said, “but the prevention of lost lives is worth it. Syria is not interested in belonging to the axis of evil and wants to forge ties with the U.S.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told conference participants that Israel is strong enough to take down the Assad regime in case of war with Syria.

Barak said he spoke to an unnamed U.S. president about his belief that Israel could change the Syrian regime, but that “we don’t have a [World War II general Douglas] MacArthur to build a new government. We don’t have the patience to sit there for fifty years making sure everything’s working.”

However, even if Israel strikes a severe blow, he told the conference, Syria “even when battered and weak has a significant ability to inflict damage, as a result of the weapons it has and its capacity to use Hezbollah.”

Barak emphasized that in the case of a confrontation with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would also likely join the fighting, and that it is exceedingly difficult to forecast how another war in the Middle East would play out.

Right-wing MKs were quick to respond to Olmert’s address, with Likud MK Yuval Steinitz saying “the Golan is essential to Israel’s security, welfare and future, and cannot be used as currency by the Olmert-Livni government.”

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) also criticized Olmert’s remarks, saying that the prime minister “dreams that the Israeli public will forget the corruption scandals that brought about the end of his reign, while Assad dreams of wading in the Kinneret.”

Olmert spoke Thursday to the Turkish prime minister and they agreed to meet on Monday in Ankara,” said Mark Regev, Olmert’s spokesman. “The meeting will deal with bilateral issues as well as regional issues, including the political processes in the region.”

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said peace talks with Syria will be high on the agenda during the Olmert-Erdogan meeting.

December 20th, 2008, 2:18 am

 

norman said:

QN, Enlighted one .

You should be proud ,

Last update – 09:36 19/12/2008

U.S. report: Hezbollah fought Israel better than any Arab army

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

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The authors of the report, Dr. Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman, state that changes made by the U.S. Army in conducting urban warfare against guerrilla fighters in Iraq could compromise the military’s ability to deal with other enemies in the future.

The authors give a high grade to Hezbollah’s performance in the 2006 war, describing it as more effective than that of any Arab army that confronted Israel in the Jewish state’s history, and that Hezbollah militants wounded more Israelis per fighter than any previous Arab effort.

Unlike a traditional guerrilla force, however, Hezbollah emphasized holding territory and digging in to bunkers, instead of the usual tactic of hiding among civilian populations. Likewise, the militant organization’s discipline and coordination highly resembled those of conventional armies.

This combination of conventional and guerrilla tactics, the report claims, places new challenges before the U.S. Army. It calls for preparing the military for asymmetrical urban warfare, while at the same time working closely with civilian populations. It also calls for reducing military activity likely to harm the image of the U.S.

The report indicates that no army can be ideally prepared to deal with both kinds of enemy, conventional and guerrilla, simultaneously, and that in light of the discrepancies between the lessons of the Second Lebanon War and the current U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, serious challenges confront military planners.

While fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan demands the ability to defeat guerrilla forces, the example of Lebanon may inspire enemies of the U.S. to adopt more conventional methods.

December 20th, 2008, 2:23 am

 

Enlightened said:

Ya Ammo Norman:

I would be a lot more “proud” if all the States and “State Actors” would lay down their arms, and end 60 years of conflict. That is the pacifist in me. My logic tells me that it is wishful thinking.

I am concerned however, that should there be a “round 2” I would be very wary that the Future Israeli leadership will not show “restraint” towards Lebanon or Syria for that matter.

Hoping 09 brings us a longed for Peace.

December 20th, 2008, 2:43 am

 

norman said:

enlighted one ,

The Israeli leadership does not do something out of care , They do it out of fear , look at what they are doing to Gaza, if Lebanon did not have Hezbollah to stand to Israel , The Israeli army would have been in Beirut ,

The botom line line is that when they fear you they claim restrain .

December 20th, 2008, 3:21 am

 

Nour said:

From Angry Arab:

Flash
This is breaking news. Hariri assassination investigator has just issued a new report. He basically reveals that…he is making progress. Go to sleep now. Let me predict: in two years from now, he will still be making progress.

More breaking news on Hariri investigation
The investigator reveals that several members worked together to execute the assassination. This is likely to change public perceptions of the case. You see previously, it was assumed that members worked separately on the assassination. This is a whole new ball game.

December 20th, 2008, 6:25 am

 
 

norman said:

Look at this , The comments are interesting,

WARREN AND SYRIA.

I think there’s a bit of jumping the gun here with Rick Warren and his remarks about Syria. Syria and her government are surely no fan of the Jewish people. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is prone to making anti-Semitic statements, but as far as religious freedom is concerned I don’t know that Warren’s statement is really that far from the truth. Here’s what Warren said:

“The Syrian government has long had a bad reputation in America, but if one considers a positive action like welcoming in thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq, or the protection of freedom to worship for Christians and Jews in Syria, it should not be ignored.”
According to a State Department report on U.S. relations with Syria from 2001, the Jewish community that remains in Syria is painfully small. According to the report, released earlier this year:

“Press reports in September 2000, recounting a meeting of Syrian Jewish leaders with President Bashar al-Asad, estimated that some 3,500 out of a previous total of 4,000 Syrian Jews had emigrated to the United States or Israel.”

That would leave about 500 Syrian Jews. The report adds that “Some Syrian Jews hesitate to leave their relatively prosperous lives in Syria, especially since the liberal decrees of April 1992, for a more uncertain economic future abroad, and some have remained because of age, health, or reluctance to move,” and that Syria’s “Christian community and tiny Jewish minority (see below) have been free to practice their religion without interference”.

I don’t think that justifies Warren’s conclusion that Syria gets an unwarranted “bad reputation,” they are after all a state sponsor of terrorism. But his statement that religious freedom in Syria is better than many other Arab countries is consistent with the State Department’s findings. Now maybe this information is out of date, it’s about seven years old. It certainly doesn’t excuse the anti-Semitism of Syria’s leaders. But it doesn’t sound like Warren is factually wrong about this. He’s certainly said enough offensive things that we don’t need to jump down his throat for something that isn’t that offensive. I mean am I crazy here? Because I just think I thought I saw Greg Sargent, Eric Kleefield and John Aravoisis link to people like Debbie Schlussel and publications like World Net Daily for the purpose of going after a guy who thinks women who have abortions are comparable to Nazis.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I was unable to raise anyone on the phone who could talk authoritatively on anti-Semitism in Syria, but I did find the report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor that Worldnetdaily cited, which I’ll excerpt after the jump.

There were no reported acts of physical violence against, or harassment of, Jewish persons. Government officials occasionally used radio and television programming, news articles, cartoons, and other mass media to condone anti-Semitic material. Anti-Israel material was widespread, some of which carried anti-Semitic overtones.
[…]

The government primarily cited national security as the reason for barring the country’s approximately 40 Jewish citizens from government employment, serving in the armed forces, and contact with Israel. Jews also were the only religious minority group whose passports and identity cards noted their religion. Jewish citizens had to obtain permission from the security services before traveling abroad and faced excessive government scrutiny when applying for licenses, deeds, or other official documents. The government enforced a law against exporting historical and cultural treasures to prohibit the Jewish community from sending historical Torahs abroad.

So Syria’s record of mistreating its Jews post-2001 is actually pretty bad, and Sargent was correct in his characterization of Syria. So clearly I was the one who was wrong and jumped the gun here.

–A. Serwer

Posted by Adam Serwer on December 19, 2008 3:15 PM | Permalink

COMMENTS (4)

I want to say that religious freedom in Syria is better than many other Arab countries.

i want to thank President Bashar al-Asad.

Posted by: manar makhoul | December 19, 2008 6:07 PM

TAP’s Neocons should stop the warmongering against Arabs, and Persians too. America has already squandered more than enough blood and treasure for the sake of Israel and Big Oil.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2008 9:02 PM

Most Syrians that I know make a distinction betw Jews and Zionists–it is the latter they distrust.

Syria has opened its borders and its crowded cities many times to refugees from its neighbours and beyond. This is only the most recent time that they have saved ME Christian communities from disaster.

Posted by: linda in chicago | December 20, 2008 1:23 AM

And I am sure the people going after Rick Warren for the Syria comment are the first to proclaim how stupid the Bush administration is for not trying to dialogue with Syria and break them out of Iran’s sphere of influence. But of course, when your angry, use every weapon you can grab a hold of.

And I’m no Bush or Warren fan.

Posted by: Courtney H | December 20, 2008 1:33 AM

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December 20th, 2008, 1:53 pm

 

majid said:

I made a prediction few weeks ago, that the Syrian government will fall by next summer as a result of the International Tribunal. I stand by my prediction.

December 20th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

it is taking too long, and it is done in secrecy,we lost interest in it

December 20th, 2008, 7:33 pm

 

Alex said:

Intelligent soldiers most likely to die in battle

Being dumb has its benefits. Scottish soldiers who survived the second world war were less intelligent than men who gave their lives defeating the Third Reich, a new study of British government records concludes.

The 491 Scots who died and had taken IQ tests at age 11 achieved an average IQ score of 100.8. Several thousand survivors who had taken the same test – which was administered to all Scottish children born in 1921 – averaged 97.4.

The unprecedented demands of the second world war – fought more with brains than with brawn compared with previous wars – might account for the skew, says Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. Dozens of other studies have shown that smart people normally live longer than their less intelligent peers.

“We wonder whether more skilled men were required at the front line, as warfare became more technical,” Dear says.

His team’s study melds records from Scottish army units with results of national tests performed by all 11-year-olds in 1932. The tests assessed verbal reasoning, mathematics and spatial skills.

“No other country has ever done such a whole-population test of the mental ability of its population,” Deary says. Other studies have found that childhood IQs accurately predict intelligence later in life.
Equal intelligence

A previous study found a fall in intelligence among Scottish men after the war, and at the time Deary’s team theorised that less intelligent men were more likely to be rejected for military service. The new study appears to refute that suggestion. Men who didn’t serve were more intelligent than surviving veterans, and of equal intelligence to those who died.

Analysing their data by rank offers some insight. Low-ranking soldiers accounted for three-fifths of all deaths, and their IQs measured by their childhood tests averaged 95.3. Officers and non-commissioned officers made up for about 7% and 20% of war deaths respectively. Officers scored 121.9, bringing up the average IQ for those who died. Non-commissioned officers scored an average of 106.7.

“We also wondered whether there was an overall small tendency for more intelligent soldiers to want to do the job well, perhaps meaning they ended up in more threatening situations,” Deary says.

Phil Batterham, an epidemiologist at Australian National University in Canberra, wonders what aspects of intelligence made soldiers more likely to die in the war. “One could hypothesise that the association between greater intelligence and higher war-related mortality might be driven by the more crystallised verbal abilities, leading to greater leadership roles,” as opposed to other forms of intelligence, he says.

December 20th, 2008, 8:27 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Syria spearheads anti-gay initiative—why? Why not leave this to the likes of KSA or Iran? Is it too tempting to try and score easy points with the majority of Arab public opinion?

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1048330.html

Israel, Arab states at odds over first UN gay rights declaration

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz correspondent

Tags: israel news, united states

Israel has joined a group of United Nations member states calling for the institution’s first gay rights declaration, an initiative which has met with resistance by an Arab-backed opposition.

The declaration that was presented Thursday at the UN General Assembly calls for decriminalization of homosexuality.

A Syrian representative read out a statement drafted by the opposition, arguing that the declaration would result in more sex crimes against children.

France and the Netherlands initiated the declaration following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th anniversary that was marked earlier this month.

“This is the first time in history that a group of member countries voices its objection to discrimination that is based on sexual identity and orientation,” said Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen. “The issue is no longer taboo,” he added.

The United States, Russia and China have abstained on the matter.

The nonbinding declaration was read out by Argentina at a plenary session, and so far diplomats promoting it have gathered 66 supporting signatures

December 21st, 2008, 12:42 am

 

norman said:

Rumyal,

As you probably know that sex between men an women is restricted in the Arab world and that virginity is important there, by making gay sex acceptable , more same sex sex will take place and that can destroy the conservative nature of our society.

December 21st, 2008, 1:02 am

 

Rumyal said:

Norman,

There’s a lot of room between taking a pro-gay stance, through not saying anything, through supporting the anti-gay reaction, through leading the anti-gay reaction. Does Syria feel it needs to be the flag-bearer of conservatism in the Arab world, at least on this issue? Does Syria have a track record of condemning gay lifstyle more than other Arab countries? Or is the current “leadership” position on this issue the enterprising work of some hyperactive diplomats who are looking to make headlines?

P.S. I may be going dark soon, there’s a major storm heading our way 😐

December 21st, 2008, 3:48 am

 

Shai said:

Rumyal,

Bibi just got a great excuse for not making peace with Syria… 🙂

Norman, I fully agree with Rumyal – Syria, opting to remain a secular state, should certainly not jump first at such opportunities to “defend” Islam. Is Syria perhaps less secular than we think? By the way, what do secular Muslims think about gay rights? Have any ever voiced their opinion on the matter?

Putting the serious issue aside for a second, my all-time favorite when it comes to religious explanations has been the “Why we must banish Mickey Mouse” one given by a Saudi cleric not long ago. Hearing and seeing him talk of the subject in such seriousness, caused even me to temporarily consider any validity that may exist in his argument… 🙂 And then I wondered how many man-years were wasted, on behalf of Islam, over Mickey Mouse…

December 21st, 2008, 5:10 am

 

Shai said:

Assad tells European diplomats that he isn’t responsible for restraining Hezbollah, and won’t be “Israel’s bodyguard”… http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1048342.html

I don’t know if Assad assumed that the contents of his talks with these diplomats won’t be leaked out to the media, but seeing such headlines in Israel certainly won’t “help” convert more Israelis back to the Peace Camp. In fact, it’ll do the opposite. I’m not sure I understand Syrian rationale when it comes to such statements – Is Assad trying to calm down his current allies? Is he trying to remind Israel that the longer it waits, the longer he’ll remain “not our bodyguard”? Doesn’t peace between two nations normally entail agreements which very clearly specify that each side will not engage in any activity that may endanger the other?

Yes, I know Assad’s statement doesn’t say he’ll engage in arming HA, only that it’s not his role to restrain them. But to Israelis, the two sound exactly the same. This reminds me of one of those famous lessons most of us learn in school, at some point or another, which is “If you don’t have something smart to say, don’t say anything…”

But back to conspiracy theory – if Syria is indeed trying to help Bibi get elected (given he’s the only Israeli PM at the moment that can deliver peace, if he chooses to), then they’ve just helped him with this latest statement… 🙂

December 21st, 2008, 5:32 am

 

Alex said:

Rumyal,

I have to admit that Syria is a bit on the conservative side when it comes to gays and Lesbians. Most people are not comfortable promoting or even defending gay rights. But there is no hate or violence against them. I know a Syrian gay man who lives in North America but goes back to Syria for the summer and he seems to be happy with his summer vacations there. So I assume society is tolerant enough over there.

Lebanon is more tolerant.

But I think I heard Syria had one gay prime minister or president in the past …can anyone confirm?

I agree with you that if Syria’s diplomats did not want to do anything”wrong” they could have stayed on the side instead of leading the opposition to the resolution.

But don’t worry .. there is still a huge distance between Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Shai,

Syria is always monitoring the language used in Israel and the United States. What you hear in Tel Aviv (from the Likud candidates who are expected to lead Israel) and what you hear in the Untied States (Likud’s friends all over the media and Think Tanks) will affect what you hear from Syria.

The tone changed a lot lately… there is a lot of energy among those who are trying their best to slow Obama’s expected opening to Syria.

Take this example:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21pletka.html?_r=1

“Herein lies the fatal flaw of this transformational vision. It assumes that Syria’s leaders want Syria to become a normal state, when in fact, it is essential to the regime’s survival that it remain a pariah. Mr. Assad and his mafia have made an art of extorting subsistence assistance from the outside world, most recently by holding out prospects for better relations with the West and Israel. But a new Middle East would mean the end of Mr. Assad, which is why he will always turn back to Iran, and why the road to peace in the Middle East will never run through Damascus.”

December 21st, 2008, 5:59 am

 

Shami said:

It was said that Fakhri Al Baroudi the famous syrian nationalist was homosexual.
Anyway,they should be free in their houses but movements,such as Gay pride will never be accepted in our country.

December 21st, 2008, 6:56 am

 

Shami said:

I add that there were also rumors about the former prime minister of Syria ,Saadallah Al Jabri ,he died unmarried.

December 21st, 2008, 7:04 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I know, but these muscle-flexing competitions between political leaders won’t help those who’ll have to make the decision – namely, the Israeli people. You know my mantra by now… “Syria needs to talk to the Israeli people…”

December 21st, 2008, 7:05 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Very interesting article about Avraham Burg, a staunch zionist turned visionary.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/middleeast/20burg.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em

December 21st, 2008, 7:24 am

 

Alex said:

Thanks Shami.

Shai,

I’m not sure Livni will campaign for peace with Syria forcefully. I think she will be on the fence … not opposed to a settlement with Syria, but sounding tough enough so that Netanyahu will not look like the only one able to provide Israel with a dependable leadership.

Therefore, she will highlight the need to be very careful when talking to Syria … because of all of Syria’s questionable behaviors and statements …etc.

Netanyahu will not be able to benefit much from uncompromising Syrian statements.

Also, please keep in mind that Syria’s official position is that Syria only provides political support to Hizbollah … So, whatever Bashar allegedly told those European diplomats might be more meaningful when looked at in that context.

December 21st, 2008, 7:37 am

 

Rumyal said:

Shami, Alex,

In Israel the homosexuality issue has gone from taboo to almost mainstream in a matter of about 30-40 years. If you asked people in the early 70’s if they believed we’ll have gay parades some day they would have been incredulous. So maybe the same would be possible in Arab countries. On the other hand it could be that Israeli society, being so young, is much more volatile and prone to radical swings at this point. (This volatility is my source of hope for peace by the way.)

December 21st, 2008, 8:04 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I’m afraid Netanyahu will absolutely benefit from such “uncompromising Syrian statements”, because if anyone like Livni, Barak, or Oron (Meretz) try to hint at the possibility of peace with Syria, he’ll simply say “You’re unrealistic – look at their own declarations…” Most Israelis do not think about statements in context, they don’t know what Syria’s official, or unofficial policy is, towards anyone, Hezbollah, Iran, Hamas, or Monaco.

This morning, the “simple person” waking up and grabbing his paper saw, as the top article “As the woman sat on the ground floor, a Qassam erased the second floor of her house…”, and the article just underneath read “Assad says Syria won’t restrain Hezbollah…” Most Israelis will put one and one together, get seventeen, and deduce that Assad = Hezbollah = Hamas = Jihad = Qassam = Erased 2nd Floor. Therefore, Assad = Erased 2nd Floor.

That’s it, no context, no nothing… And, these same people, will tomorrow go vote for the only candidate that PROMISES them NOT to talk to leaders that erase 2nd floors, namely Assad! It is these people we need to be talking to – they’re the ones that will make the decision, not us “ya’ani intellectuals”.

December 21st, 2008, 8:21 am

 

why-discuss said:

Majid-Cassandra

What are your predictions for 2009?

December 21st, 2008, 9:10 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Syria spearheads anti-gay initiative—why? Why not leave this to the likes of KSA or Iran? Is it too tempting to try and score easy points with the majority of Arab public opinion?

Well one could say that Israel is trying score easy points by demanding rights for gays (in other countries) when it openly lets people belonging to a different religion to have less rights than Jews.

Amusingly the self assigned frontrunner of democracy and equality USA did not vote.

Surely the gay right issue is not on the top Arab countries democratization demands list. The gay rights of which the most important is the right to get married is very new even in the most liberal democracies.

On the other hand Rumyal what are the gays’ rights in Israel? Can they get married? I suppose not. So is Israel’s contribution to the gays’ rights allowing them to hold some few parades and erasing homosexuality as a crime from the laws? Hmmmm….

December 21st, 2008, 10:19 am

 

Rumyal said:

Well I was asking some questions about Syria’s position on the matter in the UN. Surely your response Simo doesn’t provide any further insights into my questions. Surely one can agree with your assessment Simo that there is some hypocrisy in Israel’s and USA’s behavior on the matter, but only if one is predisposed to consider criticism leveled at his “team”. Arguably this is largely immaterial to the position exercised by Syria and other Arab countries. Surely gay rights would be considered a serious issue by those executed for being gay in Iran and other countries, if only they still had the capacity to have an opinion. Undoubtedly gay rights in Israel are in a much more advanced state than you speculate Simo. One can read about this here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Israel. Critically one may lament the absence of civil marriage in Israel but surely it cannot be ignored that civil marriages conducted elsewhere are recognized in Israel including those of same-sex couples. Undoubtedly those who seek cheap pot shots may harp on the fact that gay Palestinians have found refuge in Israel from isolation and violence in their hometowns. Surely they must have found some positive sides to Israel’s hypocrisy.

December 21st, 2008, 11:14 am

 

Shai said:

Rumyal, who’s Shirley? 🙂

Simo, I was going to say the same about gay rights in Iran (and perhaps also KSA, I’m not sure) – but for them, the 1st important right would probably be life, with marriage coming in a close 3rd or 4th, no? By the way, in Israel gay parades also take place in Jerusalem, not just in “secular” towns. And on the other hand, last week a super-controversial march was supposed to take place in Um El-Fahm, an Arab-Israeli town, by a group from the extreme-Right (ya’ani to exercise their democratic right to march anywhere in Israel…), and the police cancelled it for fear it would ignite another violent round like we had in October 2000 (under Barak as PM).

December 21st, 2008, 12:52 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,Rumyal,

I think that Syria’s position about gays is simple, (( Do not ask do not tell )) .

Why should Syria be a bodyguard for Israel , Syria should help Israel and Lebanon including Hezbollah reach a peace treaty which could include including Hezbollah in the Lebanese army but as Syria and Israel will continue to have armies so should Lebanon.

The only solution as i see is a comprehensive one between Israel and Syria, Lebanon , The Palestinians and Iran ,
That is the only way for a secure Israel on the long run , otherwise would be just delaying the conflict, as it did in the last 40 years.

December 21st, 2008, 1:45 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Well my point was originally “inspirited” by how Israeli press does raise this human right issue as a “difference” between Israel and Arab countries (like normal). Haaretz’s header says: “Israel, Arab states at odds over first UN gay rights declaration”. Is it meant to show how liberal is Israel and how uncivilized are Arabs? Reuters’ header is “U.N. divided over gay rights declaration”. BBC says “UN split over homosexuality laws”. WP “US Refuses to Sign Measure On Decriminalization for Gays”. WIS “US, Vatican balk at backing worldwide decriminalization of …” etc. They do not emphasis so much as Haaretz this “we – those Arabs” issue. Let’s remember that 66 countries voted for and 60 against.

Did anybody seriously believe that conservative, religious and authoritarian countries, which Arab countries are, would accept this declaration? It is as certain as Vatican would support it.

Finnish newspapers internet sites I checked do not even mention this UN declaration voting. We have a Gay Parade in Helsinki, but not a “big news” or a massive event here. Not in other cities as far as I can figure out using Google.

A technical question Rumyal if an Israeli and a Palestinian (from Palestinian area) gay have civil marriage for example in Finland can they establish a home in Tel Aviv? Would Israel allow that Palestinian to move to Israel? I suppose not.

December 21st, 2008, 2:14 pm

 

Shai said:

Simo,

I now see your point, and it is well-made. Yes, by highlighting the Israel-vs-Arab world’s stance on gay rights, we are attempting to discuss those rights that are convenient for us, and not ones that aren’t. However, you must admit that by targeting the Arab world, Israel is almost asking for a response of the type “When you start treating 20% of your own population fairly, you can talk about us…”, aren’t we?

As for your question to Rumyal, it’s an interesting one, and there are cases where for instance an Arab-Israeli man marries a Palestinian woman (or vice-versa), and attempts to bring her/him into Israel. I don’t know the statistics on the success/failure, but I do know that there are certainly cases of success. It is not always the case that the Arab-Israeli has to move to Palestine. The gay dimension you added shouldn’t, in itself, be the barrier. As Rumyal suggested, also gay-marriages abroad are recognized in Israel.

December 21st, 2008, 4:07 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

I’m not sure I understand Syrian rationale when it comes to such statements – Is Assad trying to calm down his current allies? Is he trying to remind Israel that the longer it waits, the longer he’ll remain “not our bodyguard”?

Shai,

Why do you try so hard to figure out the Baathist regime and President-for-Life Assad?

Also, as a suggestion, why not add to your list of possibilities the notion that the good president thinks there are enough silly leftists and liberals in Israel and the US such that he can get the Golan back for free.

December 21st, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

Shai said:

Dearest Akbar,

“… enough silly leftists and liberals in Israel and the US such that he can get the Golan back for free.”

I can’t but assume you’ve got me in there, amongst the “silly leftists” in Israel… 🙂 That’s ok, being called silly is still better than idiot.

Look, I’m not ruling out anything about Assad. He might be bluffing through his teeth, he might be nothing more than an evil dictator intent on nothing beyond furthering his own Swiss-bank accounts, survival of his children long enough to go to the best European universities, and then to live abroad forever. He might be lying, when he says for over 5 years now that Syria wants peace with Israel. He might, like one of the articles above suggests, be very interested in maintain Syria as a pariah state and regime.

But I know of no better way to check this, than to call his bluff by making peace with Syria. Don’t forget, from THEIR side, they see an infinite amount of reasons to say the same about Israel! If we’re truly interested in peace, how come we keep occupying, subjugating, and suffocating millions of people, without even giving them basic rights? If we’re “serious”, how come we reject the idea of returning the Golan, a land conquered in war, to its rightful owner? From Syria’s point of view, we too aren’t interested in peace. So I call on both sides to call each other’s “bluff”, by trying to reach a peace agreement.

I can’t guarantee anything, but I have a feeling that I know a bit more about Syria and Syrians than the average Israeli does (and so do you AP). And, as such, I have a feeling that Assad is NOT bluffing, that he IS genuinely interested in peace with Israel, but that he is also NOT going to give Israel everything we want, BEFORE we reach an agreement. It is high time we understand, whether we like this fact or not, that the ONLY cards Syria has, the ONLY pressure means its negotiators have on that negotiation table with Israel, is Hezbollah, Iran, and Hamas. There is nothing else, almost, that Syria can offer. So how can we realistically expect that they’ll restrain HA before they know we’re ready for peace?

My issue with them, first and foremost, is about their lack of understanding (I believe) of the effect their words have on the Israeli public that will vote one day yes/no to giving back the Golan. They can very easily influence our electorate this way, or the other. In one of the two meetings Farouq al-Sharaa had with Barak in the U.S., he said to the former PM, “You had a good week in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, didn’t you?…” And he was absolutely right – the Israeli public can VERY easily be swayed, one way or the other, by Syrian words and action. If Syria is serious about peace, they should also take advantage of that now, as Hafez Assad did a decade ago.

December 21st, 2008, 4:35 pm

 

Rumyal said:

>>>> Simo: Well my point was originally “inspirited” by how Israeli press does raise this human right issue as a “difference” between Israel and Arab countries (like normal). Haaretz’s header says: “Israel, Arab states at odds over first UN gay rights declaration”. Is it meant to show how liberal is Israel and how uncivilized are Arabs? Reuters’ header is “U.N. divided over gay rights declaration”. BBC says “UN split over homosexuality laws”. WP “US Refuses to Sign Measure On Decriminalization for Gays”. WIS “US, Vatican balk at backing worldwide decriminalization of …” etc. They do not emphasis so much as Haaretz this “we – those Arabs” issue. Let’s remember that 66 countries voted for and 60 against.

I concede these points, you’re hypothesis is probably true. People in Israel are constantly keeping the score on who’s better between them and the Arabs. Pretty much like AP, AIG and you like to do…

>>>> Simo: A technical question Rumyal if an Israeli and a Palestinian (from Palestinian area) gay have civil marriage for example in Finland can they establish a home in Tel Aviv? Would Israel allow that Palestinian to move to Israel? I suppose not.

That’s an interesting question, when you raised it I was thinking to myself “oh c–p it could be either way with our conflicting ‘themes’ in Israel”. So I googled a bit and unfortunately it seems you are correct and it looks like animosity towards Palestinians is stronger than the desire to maintain the civil rights of mixed couples. Read here: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news.php?id=31936. It’s a new law from 2006.

December 21st, 2008, 6:06 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai, Rumyal,

Maybe in Syria we are a few years behind Israel when it comes to gay rights, but someone reminded me today that there are two homosexual Arab leaders. Can you guess who they are?

One is obvious (everyone knows) but the other one is officially married although there are many rumors …

And I was told that in Israel many comedians portrayed the late Yasser Arafat the same way because I guess he used to greet and kiss a bit too passionately sometimes.

December 21st, 2008, 7:53 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex, believe me, from my point of view all the leaders in the region, Netanyahu included, can be gay (and merry). As long as I’m allowed to have “straight parades” every now and then, I’m happy… 🙂

December 21st, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

However, you must admit that by targeting the Arab world, Israel is almost asking for a response of the type “When you start treating 20% of your own population fairly, you can talk about us…”, aren’t we?

Shai you must admit if Zimbabwe criticizes Western world about for example Guantanamo Bay that has not much moral credibility. Likewise Israel has no credibility on human rights issues. Isn’t it sad that only Jewish gays have the right get married abroad if they are lucky to find a partner who fits legal qualification demands of the Jewish Reich.

In the article Rumyal linked reads:
“The Israeli High Court of Justice on Sunday, May 14, upheld a controversial law preventing Palestinians married to Israelis from obtaining residency in Israel.”

What if any western country would have equal laws, where the citizens are prevented to marry Jews (or Arabs)? Simply disgusting.

Shai and Rumyal again a technical question. What if a male Israeli Jewish gay couple decides to have a baby and the most cost effective rental womb is an occupied Palestinian (Christian or Muslim) woman. Would the baby be a Jew or even an Israeli if she/he would be born in Israel? I suppose that for a female Israeli Jewish gay couple the “theological and legal” problems of the child being a Jew and Israeli would be less “severe” even when the sperm donor is a Palestinian.

Maybe we should end this gay rights conversation to the conclusion that in Israel Jewish gays have rights if they choose their partner in a “Kosher way” and obey the states ethic rules and laws. Israeli Arab gays can be married with Israeli Arab gays. Jewish gays can be married (abroad) I suppose with anybody expect Arab gays, though still it is unclear for me would the partner be allowed to get Israeli citizenship if they decide to build their future in the “Jewish Reich”. Somewhat extraordinary freedom I must say.

PS.
Rumyal if some Syrian or Arab would have criticized Syrian position about this UN resolution I would have considered it as justified. But when an Israeli even a liberal Israeli criticizes Arab countries position about this issue it is a completely different matter. As you probably admit Israel’s record with gays’ (and everybody else’s) rights is not so “superior” as “one” might think.

December 21st, 2008, 10:20 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,

Tell me , I can not guess.

December 21st, 2008, 10:55 pm

 

wahib said:

It looks like those behind the killing of Mr. Harriri may have to deal other killings that shook Lebanon after Feb. 14, 2005. International investigation concluded that at least one more crime was perpetrated by the same criminals.

وقال المصدر:”طالما هناك من يعمل لتضليل الرأي العام في قضية تويني ،فإننا وقطعا لأي إلتباس ،نفيد بأن لجنة التحقيق الدولية إنتهت من ربط ملف التويني بملف اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري،وباتت على اطلاع واف بكل دوافع الجريمة ،وبالمجموعة التي راقبته منذ وصوله الى لبنان ،بدءا بباريس،مرورا بمطار بيروت ،وصولا الى منزله في بيت مري.”

وأفاد المصدرأن ملف تويني هو الملف الثاني الذي ستصدر في خصوصه لائحة اتهام ،بعد صدور تلك المتصلة بملف الحريري.

December 21st, 2008, 11:32 pm

 

Shami said:

Alex ,lol it seems that you care a lot about gay rights ,i hope not more than syrian people rights.

Norman,I guess it’s Mohamad 6 and Sultan Qaboos.

Mohamad 6 is married to a beautiful lady so the past rumours are may be wrong.
About Qaboos it’s more possible but he is also in my opinion the best arab ruler and a wise man.This is their problems but we should not banalize homosexuality in our Muslim societies ,as noticed by Simohurtta even in the most liberal countries it faces difficulties and the problem is not solved.Especially when it comes to the parental duties.

December 21st, 2008, 11:49 pm

 

norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 01:20 22/12/2008
Syria: Talks with Israel only after Knesset elections
By Yoav Stern

Damascus has proposed that Turkish-mediated talks with Israel resume “officially’ – perhaps even directly – after Barack Obama assumes the U.S. presidency and a new government is elected in Israel, according to a reporter from the Qatari paper Al-Watan, in Damascus. Arab sources told the paper that until that time, Syria is not interested in continuing talks with Israel.

The sources said Syria preferred to wait and see what Israel’s new government’s policies would be as far as the peace process is concerned. The sources noted that there was concern that the Israeli right would come to power and would not seek to continue negotiations. The sources added that Damascus wants the document that Syria presented to Israel via Turkish mediators – which discusses the future border between the two countries – to constitute the legal basis for discussions between the two countries.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to leave for Ankara today for a meeting about the peace process with Syria with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

——————————————————————————–

/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1048646

close window

December 22nd, 2008, 12:20 am

 

norman said:

By ZEINA KARAM

Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — The head of the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency warned Syria to cooperate with the investigation of its nuclear activities or face deeper confrontation with the international community.

In an interview with the London-based Al Hayat newspaper published Sunday, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said his agency expects clarifications from Syria and Israel on issues related to a Syrian site bombed by Israel last year.

In a visit this year, IAEA inspectors found traces of processed uranium at the Al-Kibar site, which U.S. officials say was a nearly completed reactor of North Korean design that could have produced plutonium, a pathway to nuclear arms.

Syria denies having nuclear ambitions and says the site was an unused military installation.

Syria’s foreign minister has suggested that the traces may have been from Israeli bombs dropped in the Sept. 6, 2007, airstrike.

ElBaradei said the agency has requested clarifications from Israel on the Syrian claim. “We are also looking into technical aspects to see whether it really was from the Israeli attack,” he told the pan-Arab newspaper.

“We have not received a reply from the Israeli or Syrian side,” he added.

December 22nd, 2008, 12:22 am

 

Alex said:

According to Asharq Alawsat (and Haaretz)

First batch of advanced Russian surface to air missiles delivered to Iran, and Iran is sending Syria military equipment, used in missile manufacturing, through Venezuela.

إيران تتسلم أنظمة دفاع روسية.. وتنقل معدات صواريخ لدمشق عبر فنزويلا

قال اميل كساري نائب رئيس لجنة الشؤون الخارجية بالبرلمان الايراني إن روسيا بدأت أمس تسليم نظام اس ـ 300 للدفاع الجوي إلى إيران، وهو ما يمكن ان يساعدها على صد اي هجوم جوي إسرائيلي أو اميركي على مواقعها النووية. وذكر كساري لوكالة أنباء إيران امس إن «تسليم هذا النظام يكشف عن العلاقات الطيبة بين ايران وروسيا التي لا يمكن لاسرائيل الإضرار بها». ولم يذكر كساري متى بدأ التسليم. ورفضت وزارة الخارجية الايرانية التعليق على هذا التقرير. وقالت وزارة الخارجية الروسية ان رد فعلها ربما يصدر اليوم. وفي نفس الوقت، قالت أجهزة مخابرات غربية إن إيران تمكنت بالاتفاق مع فنزويلا من الالتفاف على العقوبات الدولية ونقل معدات إلى سورية لصنع صواريخ.

وذكرت تقارير لوكالة الاستخبارات المركزية الاميركية ومخابرات غربية اخرى ان ايران تستخدم طائرات الشركة الوطنية الفنزويلية «كونفياسا» في نقل معدات تستخدم في صنع صواريخ الى سورية، وهي بلد حليف وقع مع ايران اتفاقا للتعاون العسكري عام 2006.

December 22nd, 2008, 12:25 am

 

Alex said:

Norman,

Shami got you the right answer … and I agree with him that Sultan Qabous of Oman is a good ruler.

Shami,

If you really need to know, I am neither pro or against … I support some rights, but not others (don’t support right to get married for example).

December 22nd, 2008, 12:33 am

 

Alex said:

Damascus: Talks with Israel only after U.S., Israeli elections
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

Damascus has proposed that Turkish-mediated talks with Israel resume “officially’ perhaps even directly after Barack Obama assumes the U.S. presidency and a new government is elected in Israel, according to a reporter from the Qatari paper Al-Watan, in Damascus. Arab sources told the paper that until that time, Syria is not interested in continuing talks with Israel.

The Arab sources said Syria preferred to wait and see what Israel’s new government’s policies would be as far as the peace process is concerned. The sources noted that there was concern that the Israeli right would come to power and would not seek to continue negotiations.

The sources added that Damascus wants the document that Syria presented to Israel via Turkish mediators – which discusses the future border between the two countries – to constitute the legal basis for discussions between the two countries, assuming Israel agrees to the document.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to leave for Ankara today for a meeting about the peace process with Syria with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

December 22nd, 2008, 12:43 am

 

norman said:

Hi Alex,

I just want to say something about banning Tobacco in restaurants in the US and Canada,
They did that after about twenty years of health care awareness about the risk of smoking and after years of banning advertisement for Tobacco, they started by making it more expensive to buy Tobacco , a pack of cigarette increased from about one dollar to seven Dollars, they made illegal to sell to miners,or obtaining for minors , they first mandated that restaurants have different areas to smokers and non smokers ,life insurances companies made it more expensive to buy insurance for smokers , now after all this and after significant decline in smokers they are asking restaurants to be a non smoking areas ,It is easy now most people do not smoke while in Syria most people smoke and most people who visit Syria smoke and drink and as a country who needs tourism , they should be careful and think of the consequences of this law.

I want to be clear that nobody should smoke and as you said Syria should start with young people to prevent smoking by making Tobacco expensive , reaching young people is easier than making older people stop smoking

December 22nd, 2008, 2:31 am

 

Rumyal said:

Simo,

You will always resort to dividing the world into rival national and religious “teams” and individuals on those teams are forever bound by the obligations and rights of their national collective. You wouldn’t for example be able to imagine an Individual from Zimbabwe having the moral authority to say anything critical about anything in the world because he is forever inferior morally by the actions of his government, whether he supports it or not. Well guess what dear Simo the world and the individuals that live within it are much more subtle than that. National identity is not everything and even national identity can take difference hues by different individuals at different times and it may elicit surprising alliances such as, surprise surprise, a bunch of Israelis and Syrians seeing mostly eye-to-eye their mutual future and how to approach it. Perhaps what you will always fail to understand is that if I had some critical questions about Syria or Lebanon they come from a very positive place where I see myself in partnership with my neighbors and brothers in building a mutual future for our children. My identity as a middle-eastern person stretches thousands of years back (including a branch of my family which claims to be originally from Aleppo, but I’m not sure it’s true) so I don’t need your preaching on what is my business and what is not my business. If my Syrian friends think I have stepped out of bounds they will tell me so, they don’t need your “European Protection”. On the contrary, I value their feedback on Israel and I have been told that they value my feedback on Syria. We have a lot to learn from each other (since we are not perfect like the Finish…). In short not all critical questions are bad-intentioned, and not all critical questions need to be considered based on some imagined idealized identity you ascribe to the individual who posted it.

Now regarding the piece about Israeli-Palestinians mixed couples: obviously your blind hatred of Israel did not allow you to actually understand what you read in the article I forwarded to you. First, let’s understand that the piece is about marriage (either hetero- or homo-sexual) between Israeli citizens (of whatever sex and religion) and Palestinian citizens (of whatever sex and religion). The citizens of Israel are free to marry anybody they wish. Religious marriage is offered inside Israel and covers almost all combinations of possible religions of the couple; these are administered by the state-sanctioned religious authorities of the different religions. Again to be perfect clear, couples of mixed religion have the means to get married in Israel. Those that do not have a way to get married in Israel (e.g., sworn atheists) can marry abroad. Israel recognizes any marriage performed abroad lawfully by the laws of the country at which it was conducted. There is no concept of racially unlawful marriage in Israeli law. What the law passed in 2006 says is that if an Israeli marries a Palestinian (read carefully: a citizen of the occupied territories/Palestinian Authority) then the Palestinian will still not be eligible to reside in Israel, as compared to citizens of other countries who may follow their Israeli spouse and live in Israel lawfully.

I personally really don’t like this law, because it was in all honesty racially motivated, but it could be explained in terms of national security, which would make it more acceptable. For example, suppose an Israeli citizen married an Iranian, Syrian or Saudi-Arabian girl, would that give the Israeli the ability to live in these respective countries, who view him as a citizen of an enemy country? It’s not far fetched to think that the answer would be negative.

December 22nd, 2008, 3:46 am

 

Shai said:

Simo,

It is impossible to conduct a serious conversation with a person calling Israel (my country) the “Jewish Reich”. Putting aside the entire argument we once had on the validity of comparing Zionism to Nazism, I think it shows total insensitivity towards Jews in Israel and, as Rumyal suggested, even towards Israelis that see almost eye-to-eye with you.

December 22nd, 2008, 5:33 am

 

norman said:

Shai, Rumyal,

How do you explain the lack of outrage by the world Jewry about the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel, doesn’t that give a bad impression of the Jews at large.

December 22nd, 2008, 2:28 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Dear Norman,

The question you raise has been the subject of books, phd works etc.—it’s difficult to summarize succinctly. But I’ll try 🙂

First, it’s simply not true. There are many voices inside Israel and abroad that do decry the situation with the Palestinians. The very strong Jewish support for Obama and the rise of groups such as J-Street, Jewish Voices for Peace and new philanthropic groups such as the New Israel Fund illustrate the shift that is taking place in mainstream American Jewish opinion.

Beyond that, many American Jews simply don’t care enough to learn about the situation and analyze it and make a stand. Many of whom I talked to simply have this sorry look in their eyes (not *extremely* sorry, just a little bit, you know, American style :-)) when they discuss Israel and Palestine. In their mind we’re basically behaving like toddlers in a sandbox and we are all victims of our infantilism. According to this stance, there is not much to be gained by endorsing one side or the other, since we are all crazies who are hell bent on mutual destruction, so why bother.

Then, there are a lot of Jews (and others—Evangelicals for example) that squarely identify with the Zionist narrative. This narrative puts the Jewish independent state as a noble moral cause. In order to make it so, every other narrative that would doubt the morality of exclusionist Zionism needs to be vilified. The architects of the Zionist narrative were very smart and calculated people (even if hopelessly short-sighted and misguided) and they were successful in crafting a whole set of mass-consumption intellectual tools to serve their ideology. You could definitely accuse them of cynicism. However the millions of followers, among them people such as myself who were raised in the Israeli education system, do what normal people usually do, which is to follow norms. But as time passes, truth settles in and that results in one of two things: either the dogma is tossed out the window, or, people get more entrenched, usually with the cover of religion/mysticism. In 2008, you would find in Israel more seculars who support a totally democratic country then ever before and more religious messianic Jews then ever before.

I think we are prone to being somewhat insensitive to the plight of others in this stage of Jewish history. For centuries, we have been in the position of a persecuted minority. In this position, we have developed a consciousness of being always on the “right side” and oppressing others was never a possibility. Now, when we have power over others, this is not a situation we know what to do in, given our historic psyche.

Finally, the Palestinians, and maybe Arabs in general, were not able to awe the world in general and Jews in particular with great humanists such as MLK, Ghandi or Mandela. On the contrary their struggle has been sometimes extremely inhumane and that inevitably causes people to remain entrenched in their protected views of the situation.

December 22nd, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

Alex said:

Man eats 46 latkes in 8 minutes to win N.Y. Hanukkah contest
By The Associated Press

LAKE GROVE, New York – That’s a lot of latkes: A 23-year-old mechanical engineering student has downed 46 of the potato pancakes in eight minutes to win a contest at a Long Island deli.

Pete Czerwinski (sir-WIN’-skee) says he’d never eaten a latke before consuming about seven pounds of them Sunday at Zan’s in Lake Grove.

The contest coincided with the first day of the eight-day Hanukkah festival.

The Toronto bodybuilder says he’s just “a power eater” whose brain never signals that he’s full.

Association of Independent Competitive Eaters Chairman Arnie Chapman says Czerwinski demolished the contest’s previous record of 31 latkes, set in 2006.

December 22nd, 2008, 9:04 pm

 

norman said:

Rumyal,

I just think that the Jews are more vocal on Darfur and Bosnia before that and other areas than on the plight of the Palestinians and they have a chance to change the future of the Palestinians, They should be more vocal to show the world that right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who is involved.

I hope we hear more from American Jewish leaders things that will push Israel to change course and understand that the only way to have people care about Israel is to show that it cares about the Palestinians , and I am not saying the militants , The ordinary Palestinians that count and can change the attitude in the Mideast.

December 23rd, 2008, 2:10 am

 

Rumyal said:

Dear Norman,

I’m not sure how to measure that, but I’ll try and explain further why they were less vocal on the issue.

The relationship between the Jews in America and the state of Israel is complex. As I said there are the fan-boys that will follow Israel in an axiomatic manner. Israel is a great source of pride and they will stick to the ideology that will not deprive them of of this source of pride. So, unlike Darfur, supporting the Palestinians does involve a personal price for these folks.

Those that do wish to voice a more critical opinion are in a bind. Traditionally, the Jews in the US felt on shaky moral ground with respect to Israel because unlike their relatives in Israel who spilled their blood and lived an uneasy life building a “shelter for all Jews”, they have preferred the comforts of the US. Former Israelis who have migrated to the US were even on a lower rung on the moral ladder, being denounced as sell-outs etc.

In this climate, US Jewry felt compelled to shut up, disengage, or become unconditional fanboys and, of course, always keep the wallet open…

As I alluded to in my previous comment, I think this is changing. I personally feel that many more US Jews are feeling now that they have both the right and the obligation to start helping chart a new way for Israel. Both because Israel has been very consistent in doing the wrong things and also because of their conflict as Israeli supporters on one hand and their universal humanistic beliefs on the other hand.

There is also a change in perception in the way Israelis view the diaspora. In the early days those who didn’t come to Israel were considered weak-willed and the grand-vision was that all Jews will converge to Israel. Now, it is clear that Israelis themselves are not willing to give up their personal ties to the diaspora, they seek their dual citizenship, go live abroad periodically, etc. So there is more fluidity—and as a result a sense of a more equal partnership—between diaspora and Israeli Jews, which empowers diaspora Jews to voice their opinions on what the future of Israel needs to look like.

December 23rd, 2008, 2:49 am

 

norman said:

Rumyal ,

I am glad that things are changing for the sake of the Jews in and outside Israel.

December 23rd, 2008, 3:05 am

 

Rumyal said:

Norman,

Me too. I don’t know how good I am at reading the communal tea-leaves in the US but it seems to me this is the current direction. For example, the support for the current set of conscious objectors to military service is mostly coming from US Jewish organizations—this was unheard of before.

December 23rd, 2008, 3:11 am

 

norman said:

Rumyal,

Interesting , I hope they can get on CNN , Lary King, that would reach many people around the world.

December 23rd, 2008, 3:40 am

 

Deborah said:

One of the most fascinating things I find about political commonsense in Washington D.C. on the Palestinians is the assumption that they can be pushed into enclaves, surrounded by a wall that winds deep into Palestinian Territory, and call that a “state.” Even Olmert has argued in a Dec. 4, 2008 interview in the New York Review of Books that “anyone who wants to control all of Jerusalem will have to absorb 270,000 Arabs into Israel.” As he notes, the same is true for the West Bank. In other words, either Israel gets out and a Palestinian state with sovereignty is established or you will have a Palestinian leadership emerging in less than twenty years which will say, “fine we’ve tried freedom, now we want equality.” Again, Olmert himself has noted that the struggle for one person, one vote, is likely to be far “cleaner.”

Is anyone in any U.S. administration at all concerned that U.S. national security is not enhanced by the current political arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel? Olmert has recognized it. Too bad U.S. politicians can’t do the same.

There is a “hearing” problem among U.S. policy makers when it comes to public opinion in the Arab world, a kind of wish to hear that Arab publics mean something other than what they say or that they can just be bought off by economic growth. When they say they like U.S. policy toward Israel and that they don’t like the U.S. double standard when it comes to Israel, they are not being irrational or expressing some kind of false consciousness. They are giving us political viewpoints that are only amenable to a more evenhanded policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict based on international resolutions and law. The Bush administration thinks that the “new realities” established on the ground by Israel, namely major settlements in the West Bank, will have to be taken into account in any negotiated settlement. Yeah, they’ll be taken into account, when the Palestinians decide to take a different strategic path after years of a peace process that has not delivered them from Israeli occupation.

December 24th, 2008, 11:48 pm

 

George Kronfli said:

I really don’t see the point of negotiating with “Israel”. Left alone, the built in hatreds will cause it to implode in the next 50 years and the world will be rid of this evil entity.

December 26th, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

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