Nukes, Golan, Lebanon and the Shifting Balance (3 June 2008)

Assad to Announce from Baabda Exchange of Ambassadors
Beirut, 03 Jun 08, Naharnet

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly decided to postpone an official visit to Lebanon that was scheduled for mid-June until the end of his Arab tour.

The daily As Safir said Tuesday Assad’s visit will be a turning point in the history of Lebanese-Syrian relations where the Syrian president is expected to announce from the Presidential Palace in Baabda normalization of relations between the two neighboring countries, including the exchange of ambassadors.

Citing well-informed Lebanese sources, the daily said Damascus, which had sent an invitation to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to visit Syria, has decided to convey similar invitations to a number of Lebanese leaders.

The sources said Aoun accepted the invitation and promised to visit Damascus once Assad ends his Lebanon trip.

Assad, who arrived in Abu Dhabi Sunday, is due to visit Kuwait on Tuesday.

He also visited Dubai, where he met with the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum, who is also UAE vice president and prime minister.

The two leaders discussed “the peace process in the Middle East” and the situation in the Arab world, WAM said. They hailed the recent Lebanese reconciliation accord and the launch of a peace process in Lebanon.

Barak says Golan is not Syria's top priority
Jerusalem Post

Israel's Defense Minister Barak said that the Syrian government is much more concerned with ensuring the continuity of [President Bashar] Assad's regime; blocking the international tribunal on the Hariri murder; pursuing international recognition of Syria's "special" role in Lebanon; and receiving badly-need aid from Western countries, similar to what Egypt has received over the years.

Returning the Golan, Barak said, comes after those other four issues in Syria's priorities.

Barak added that Israel had initially requested secret and direct talks with their Syrian counterparts, whereas Damascus had insisted upon indirect and overt talks. In any case, he estimated, it is highly unlikely that any agreement would be concluded by the end of the 2008 calendar year.

Mofaz: Giving Golan Heights to Syria would mean Iran on our borders: Jerusalem Post

Syria's Assad wants US to sponsor Israel peace talks

ABU DHABI (AFP) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday that indirect peace talks with Israel would eventually need "international sponsorship" from the United States.

"The success of these negotiations is dependent on Israeli intentions and political changes in the world," he was quoted as saying by the United Arab Emirates's official WAM news agency while on a visit to Abu Dhabi.

"During later stages, the negotiations will need international sponsorship, particularly that of the United States in their role as a superpower with strong and special relations with Israel."

He said the current Turkish-brokered indirect talks were at a "preliminary stage."

Peace Fills a Vacuum
Intent on isolating its foes, the United States has instead ended up marginalizing itself.
Op-Ed Contributors, NYT
June 3, 2008

IN the last few weeks, three long-frozen conflicts in the Middle East have displayed early signs of thawing. Israel and Hamas may be inching toward a cease-fire that would end attacks by both sides and, perhaps, loosen the siege imposed on the impoverished Gaza Strip. The factions in Lebanon, after a long period of institutional paralysis and a near civil war, have reached a tentative political agreement. And eight years after their last negotiations, Israel and Syria have announced the resumption of indirect peace talks.

That so many parties are moving at the same time in so many arenas is noteworthy enough. That they are doing so without — and, in some cases, despite — the United States is more remarkable still.

The Gaza deal is being brokered by Egypt. Qatar mediated the Lebanese accord. Turkey is shepherding the Israeli-Syrian contacts. All three countries are close allies of the United States. Under normal circumstances, they would be loath to act on vital regional matters without America’s consent.

Yet in these cases they seem to have ignored Washington’s preferences. The negotiations either involved parties with whom the United States refuses to talk, initiated a process the United States opposes or produced an outcome harmful to its preferred local allies.

The region is in a mess, and Washington’s allies know it. They privately blame the United States and have given up waiting for the Bush administration to offer them a way out.

By acting as they did, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey gave the true measure of America’s dwindling credibility and leverage after American debacles in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. They are willing to take matters into their own hands and overlook American ambivalence about their doing so.

Intent on isolating its foes, the United States has instead ended up marginalizing itself. In one case after another, the Bush administration has wagered on the losing party or on a lost cause.

Israel wants to deal with Hamas because it — not America’s Palestinian partners — possesses what Israel most wants: the ability to end the violence and to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas. Israel has come around to dealing with Syria because Damascus — not America’s so-called moderate Arab allies — holds the crucial cards: Syria has a clear strategy of alliance with Iran; it supports the more powerful forces on the ground in Lebanon; and it provides refuge to opposition and Islamist forces in Palestine.

Likewise, America’s Lebanese friends had to give in to Hezbollah’s demands once it became clear that the support of the United States could not undo their country’s balance of power. Meanwhile, the process President Bush seems to care about most — that elusive Israeli-Palestinian track — is also the least likely to go anywhere.

The United States has cut itself off from the region on the dubious assumption that it can somehow maximize pressure on its foes by withholding contact, choosing to flaunt its might in the most primitive and costly of ways. It has pushed its local allies toward civil wars — arming Fatah against Hamas; financing some Lebanese forces against Hezbollah — they could not and did not win. And it has failed to understand that its partners could achieve more in alliance than in conflict with their opposition.

How much more powerful would Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, have been if, at the head of a national unity coalition, he could deliver a truce and Corporal Shalit to Israel while simultaneously broadening the support he needs to sell a peace agreement? How much stronger would Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon and his colleagues have been had they agreed two years ago to the very power-sharing accord they were forced to swallow last month?

Many questions surround these three still-incomplete deals. They could collapse or move in unintended directions. They may end up serving a quite different purpose, like constraining Syria’s, Hezbollah’s or Hamas’s ability to retaliate in the event of an American or Israeli attack against Iran. On all this there is understandable uncertainty.

But for now at least, there’s no great mystery about where the United States stands. At a critical time in a critical region, it is quite simply missing in action.

Hussein Agha is the author, with Ahmed S. Khalidi, of “A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine.” Robert Malley, the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, was a special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001. 

U.S.-Iran regional power plays shift
By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the May 30, 2008 edition

Istanbul, Turkey – A string of events across the Middle East is shifting the US-Iran regional power play. The Iran-led “axis of resistance” arrayed against the US, its Western allies, and Israel may appear ascendant, but new chances for peace could also redefine the game in the US’s favor…..

On the peace track, Israel declared that Syria would have to cut ties with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas to regain the Golan Heights, occupied by the Jewish state since 1967. Syria rejected that demand outright, and instead on Wednesday signed a new defense agreement with Tehran.

“It won’t be like the Israelis want, which is a complete break. That is completely out of the question [for Syria],” says Mr. Khouri, a former editor of Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper. “But an adjustment is very likely, because a Syria-Israel peace will axiomatically mean that a Lebanon-Israel peace will … follow very quickly, and that would have huge implications for Hezbollah’s rationale as an armed resistance movement.”

Iran offer to United Nations

News of the Syria-Israel talks came as an Iranian offer addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, dated May 13 and called a “proposed package for constructive negotiations,” was made public.

The proposal said Iran was willing to start talks on issues from its nuclear program to a “just peace … in regions that suffer from instability, militarism, violence, and terrorism,” according to an unofficial translation. Iran would cooperate to “assist the Palestinian people to find a comprehensive plan” that was “sustainable, democratic, and fair” – effectively a peace deal with Israel, without using either word in the text.

“It’s a significant departure in foreign policy. I think they are serious,” says a political scientist in Tehran, who asked not to be named. “There is a sense of compromise [from Iran, born] primarily out of self-confidence. They think that they won in Lebanon; that they won in Iraq to a large degree. There is deadlock on the nuclear issue [so] it’s a good time to be a little more soft and compromising.”

Iran may also be looking beyond the US election, this analyst says. “This is part of an overall approach that may be a prelude … to show the next president that Iran could be worked with,” he says. “If you are serious and treat Iran with dignity … there could be windfalls in other areas as well.”

Analysts in Beirut and Tehran say Iran is not likely to prevent a Syrian peace with Israel, in the same way that – despite continuous lambasting of Israel – Iran has often stated that it will not undermine any peace deal acceptable to Palestinians.

“Peace with Syria would break up the current strategic situation because it would isolate Iran and silence Hezbollah,” Israeli infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel public radio on Tuesday. “We are talking about a true peace, an end to hostilities, an opening of the borders, and Israel is ready to pay the price for such a peace and coexistence with Syria.”

But the weak government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not likely to be able to deliver.

“The only way to divide Tehran from Damascus is to give Damascus back all of the Golan Heights,” says Toby Dodge, an expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “Then things start to look much, much different. And that series of victories for Hezbollah, Damascus, and Tehran start to look less triumphant.”

But noting that Iran serves as Syria’s strategic depth, Mr. Dodge says he “would be surprised if [Syria] did get peeled away” from Iran.

Even if Syria were willing, “it’s down to the Israeli government to be secure in itself, not just in its political sense, but in its existential sense, to do that deal,” adds Dodge. “And I see no Israeli government [now] that can do that.”

Three parallel tracks

Beyond that, Hezbollah’s top priority is domestic politics, Syria’s is the Golan, while Iran aspires to regional dominance.

“You have three parallel … tracks, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran. They are all mutually dependent and mutually supportive, but all have independent aspirations,” says Dodge. “The axis is created through a unity of common interests. And if you were sitting in Washington … you would seek to work against the axis by seeking individual and not collective interests.”

President Bashar al-Assad said Syria’s ties with Iran would not weaken, telling British parliamentarians this week that “if Israel could question Syria’s relations with Iran, then Syria could question Israel’s ties with other countries, particularly the United States,” a source familiar with the Damascus meeting told Reuters.

Still, Iran has moved fast to reinforce the resolve of the “axis of resistance.” In Lebanon this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the Qatar agreement, which essentially granted Hezbollah veto power over decisions of the pro-West government, showed “greatly weakened” US influence.

In Tehran, Iran’s defense deal with Syria on Wednesday pledged “mutual support regarding territorial independence,” and called for withdrawal of “foreign and occupation forces, which are the source of insecurity and instability in the region.”

President Ahmadinejad told Syria’s visiting defense minister, Hassan Turkmani, that Syria “will not abandon the front line until the complete removal of the Zionist threats.”

Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, echoed that theme, telling visiting Hamas chief Khaled Meshal that the “Zionist regime is at its lowest ebb,” thanks to Palestinian militancy.

And in Lebanon this week, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah marked the eight years since Israel’s withdrawal, noting that negotiations “did not return to Lebanon a single inch of land” – only armed resistance brought “victory.”

“There are two dreams; a Lebanese dream and an American dream,” Mr. Nasrallah said. “The Lebanese dream speaks about a calm and peaceful summer and the American dream speaks about a hot summer,” he added. “Come and let us realize our dreams, and not the dreams of our enemies.”

Keep expectations low for a Golan deal
By Hasan Abu Nimah
Tuesday, June 03, 2008: Daily Star

Syria says wants nuclear energy under Arab umbrella
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; 7:57 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) – Syria is not seeking nuclear weapons but wants to have access to atomic energy for peaceful purposes through a collective Arab project, President Bashar al-Assad said in remarks published on Tuesday.

The Dubai-based Gulf News also quoted Assad as saying that the United States should have sought an investigation of a Syrian facility suspected of housing a secret nuclear plant before it was destroyed in an Israeli air raid last September.

“Acquiring nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is an international trend that all countries are rightfully pursuing. In Syria, we want this to be done within an Arab context, which was discussed and agreed during the Arab Summit in Riyadh,” he said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates…..

Comments (33)

norman said:

I do not think Barack know what he is talking about.

June 3rd, 2008, 6:34 pm


Observer said:


Bricmont has argued many times that, the greatest event in the last century was and is the emancipation of millions of people around the world from the yoke of colonialism and now from neo colonialism.

Historians in the Western tradition have always had a centrist if not to say ego centric perspective on things: examples include the history of Japan which starts with Commodor Perry and nothing before that. The hisotrical earthquake of the twentieth century is not WWI or WWII but the liberation of millions of people from the colonial rule. The expansion of Europe since the 16th century with the advent of accelerated technological advance coupled with organization of superior military forces has come to an end and is seeing its final demise in Baghada, Fallujah, Rafah, and also in Beirut.

The list of all the articles so far being presented here goes along the same venue:

Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, and one can also add Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan did not turn out to be another victorious stroll down the Champs Elysees. The roll back has started and there seems to be no way to stop any time soon. In the equation of terror vz terror, the one that does not count his casualties and prefers death of a martyr for the sake of the nation over life in the jet age will always win at the end.

Africa is going through the same process but the loss of control of the Europeans/Americans over their destiny in ABSOLUTE terms is gone for good for the Europeans and the Americans are still delusional about the extent of their power.

This is where the obsession with the NPT and nuclear proliferation is coming to a head: the only weapon left that truly can restore that absolute control is the use not simply the possession of the nuclear weapon. The leadership of neocons in the US and their “humanitarian” interventionsits of the left in Europe are itching to use the weapon and demonstrate once again the power of the “White man and his burden” and to continue ” La mission civilizatrice”. This is the mother of all Delusions that comes just close to the idea that the ME can remain in the same division that it was left in after the vivisection of the Ottoman empire, that the area will be stabilized for the sake of the “only democracy” of the chosen ones, and that the flow of cheap oil in exchange for trinkets ( Jaguar aircraft included ) will remain the order of the day.

June 3rd, 2008, 6:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“In the equation of terror vz terror, the one that does not count his casualties and prefers death of a martyr for the sake of the nation over life in the jet age will always win at the end.”

This sounds kind of pompous and crazy coming from a person living in the US. On second thought, it is just amusing. Given that most “martyrs” killed fellow Arabs or countrymen or civillians you really must smoke something milder.

June 3rd, 2008, 6:59 pm


Atassi said:

I think someone is so much Fascinated with Bashar Assad personaly “ keeping the pace of posting his images and portraying him as celebrity !!!Come-on ….. This is SYRIA Comment Not Bashar Assad comment!!!. and I also THINK Barrak knows exactly what he is talking about … By just talking about a peace process, The Syrian regime knows it has an international shield ..

June 3rd, 2008, 7:01 pm


Alex said:


I have to also disagree partially with that point, for different reasons.

The Neocons are pushing for the same “dedication” from American adn Europe for their mission.

It is not over yet… and it is an extreme strategy if not moderated when possible.

But for now … I agree that Iran and Syria and Hizbolah (mainly) accomplished a lot.

June 3rd, 2008, 7:04 pm


Observer said:

I am not sure which point you disagree on, please explain

June 3rd, 2008, 7:16 pm


Observer said:

One more article to read about Delusions
Here is the link and a few excerpts

Sir Hugh Orde speaks rarely heard truth when he says that he has never heard of a terrorist campaign that was “policed out”, adding that he could not think of one that had not ended through negotiation………………………………….Sir Hugh’s “truth” however is likely to draw only the anger and contempt of the counter-terrorist “community”, who have yet to internalise that mainstream Islamism, in its various manifestations, is an alternative political, social vision founded on rehabilitated human values. But for Sir Hugh’s “realist” critics, all this will be imaginary: Islamist movements are “hollow” – mere products of sinister manipulation, deceit and brainwashing.

June 3rd, 2008, 7:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Joshua

So far, things are looking up for Bashar. Syria’s isolation is slowly ending, and the pace of the thaw will no doubt pick up once Bush is out of office. His allies have a blocking veto in Lebanon, and his peace talks have achieved their objective: earning laudatory remarks from various key players in Europe and a lukewarm response from Washington.

Of course, there are a few potential hiccups down the road:

1. The Tribunal.
2. The Lebanese elections in 2009: they could strengthen his hand there, or they could weaken it. We won’t know until the morning after.
3. Olmert’s woes (which may cost Bashar significant momentum on the peace track, if Olmert falls).
4. A McCain presidency would be bad, not as bad as Bush, but still not good for the region.

But if we try to be optimistic and imagine that things fall nicely into place, what do you imagine Syria’s game plan is? You once argued that Bashar had promised two key things to the Syrian people: the Golan, and resistance against Israel.

Do you think that his plans have changed? Has he decided to cash in his resistance chips now, while they are at a premium, so to speak?

If cooler heads prevail in Washington, there will be a temptation to give Bashar a little room, just to see how far he runs. If he carries the ball significantly down the field, then the new U.S. administration may be willing to call some more friendly plays. What is your sense of Bashar’s new “end game”, vis-a-vis his relations with the U.S., Europe, Iran, and Hizbullah/Hamas?

June 3rd, 2008, 7:42 pm


Alex said:


I just wanted to say that it is not one sided … there are many powerful parties in the west which are still determined to ensure their countries fight until the bitter end… and to escalate if necessary.

They are still propelled by 9/11 and are convinced that Islam is an enemy of the west.

And “Israel’s friends” and the friends of Saudi Arabia in Washington are still there trying to position the two countries as part of the coalition fighting terrorism, extremism and violence … and in the process the fight (against fundamentalist Islamists) continues to be complicated while the two lobbies continue to convince decision makers in Washington that “we must weaken Iran, Syria, and Hizbollah” to fight Al-Qaeda.

June 3rd, 2008, 8:00 pm


ghat Albird said:

According to a not s0 well known comedian who only draws crowds in small cities across the US Israel would not mind having Iran at its borders if the two borders met at the present Syria/Iraq border.

That kind of accomodation by the Israelis can only affirm Israeli commitment to peace and goodwill and attest to their willingness to meet anyone more than halfway to peaceful resolutions even with the dreaded fundamentalists whoever or whereever they may be.

The comedian concludes his gig by saying something to effect that if elected President McCain will defend Israel until the last American soldier,marine or other is dead. True to form thats what McCain told a cheering audience of AIPAC members and supporters.

June 3rd, 2008, 8:51 pm


Atassi said:

Qifa Nabki,
Good points and very good observation..
But I still think Bashar must perform and improve internal matters too ” Human right, Democracy staging process and improvements in economical arena” will allow him to truly gain credibility in the “civilized “ international community.
auditory remarks from various key players can be erased and interpreted at a different levels!!

June 3rd, 2008, 9:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What you say is true, but I think people are willing to wait to see how the peace talks work out before beginning to expect reforms internally.

If Bashar can win back the Golan, this will be a very big feather in his cap and will mostly erase the humiliation of losing Lebanon in 2005. This achievement will lend him the legitimacy and empowerment (both within Syria and the international community) to begin addressing reforms seriously, perhaps renewing the short-lived Damascus Spring.

The trouble is, there are several significant hurdles to leap over before reaching that point. There is the peace deal itself, negotiating with some tough customers (the Israelis), chaperoning Hizbullah’s transition away from resistance and towards pure politics, transferring the ‘kinetic energy’ of the Golan deal to the Palestinian track so that it doesn’t look like Bashar has sold out the Palestinians, and working to effect a rapprochement between the Americans and the Iranians so that Iran is not left feeling like it has lost a crucial ally.

That’s a lot to do.

And one of the reasons that it is especially challenging is that — while these developments fly in the face of U.S. policy — they are very much in line with U.S. interests. So Bashar finds himself in the curious position of oddly working toward U.S. interests while casting them in the language of Syrian interests.

But if it works, the region will be all the better for it, so more power to Bashar.

June 3rd, 2008, 9:24 pm


Observer said:

Alex, I agree with you that there are people who still have a confrontational agenda, the point I am making though is that all of those actions are what is called in military terms rearguard actions to protect a retreat except in the case of a few that have delusions of 16th century expansion. Sarkozy is one of them when he came to office and quickly realized his and France’s limitations. So now instead of pursuing Chirac’s agenda he is willing to accomodate with the new situation.

L’Orient Le Jour has a headline that Bashar may be visiting Paris later this month or next month. This is typical example of the delusion quickly fading in the mind of the French as they adapt to the new reality. They are proving to be a lot more nimble than their trans Channel and trans Atlantic friends.

June 3rd, 2008, 9:41 pm


ausamaa said:

Syrian Embassy in Beirut…

..that would surely and in one strok solve the “existential” Lebanese problem suffered from for “decades” despite being a full fledged United Nations and Arab League member. Or say it has been made to sound so. As if the issue was: Does Syria recognize Lebanon as a soverign state or not? Which Syria repeated a hundred of times that of course it does. But certain people need continuous reassurances by others that the do actually exist..they keep pinching themselves to prove it…. you know the type.

And now would Lebanese travellers through Syria be requiring an Entry or a Transit Visa through Syria? Would all the Lebanese Trucks carrying goods to Syria and other Arab countries be requiring the same, transit fees, etc…, etc… Who knows, maybe at some point in the future should the Syrian Ambassador feel little upset!

And during the past thirty years Lebanese trade and products through Syria were given exemptions and preferential treatment, would the same be the case in the future. Economically and Trade wise, commercial Lebanon benifited more than Syria did from all the Agreements and Protoclos signed through the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council, those would be undergoing revisions as I heared in statements by sposkemen of both the Lebanses and the Syrian recently. Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on wether Syria considers Syrian-Lebanese relations are good!

And soon, in Beirut we will have a Syrian Ambassador, a Syrian Council General, a Syrian Cultural Attache, a Syrian Labor Attache, a Syrian Military Attache, and a Syrian Intelligence Attache. Wow.. we will then have lots of fun. All, not miles away across the boarder or in Anjar, but in the heart of Beirut. At your finger tips. A mere phone call away.

And then we want Human treartment and full Legal rights for the “millions” of Syrian laborors in Lebanon. Proper pay, benifits, insurance, compensations. etc….. Else get the workers you need from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka if you like.

Very nice, and then we would surely expect that the Syrian Ambassador will be always accorded higher status than the Frensh, US and Saudi and other Ambassadors “beloved by some” Lebanese. know how nasty and high-nosed the Syrians can be.

Wow.. it is going to be lots of fun…

As they say, beware what you wish for. Especially if such wishes are not totally well-intentioned or sincere.

Bara, Bara, Ya Suria Tla3y Barra!!! (remember?)

As the Prime Minister of Qatar said in response to a request for a last Qatari Advice to the Lebanese during al Jazeera direct interview with Bin Jiddo in Beirut during the Election of General Sulieman: ” The Lebanses are smart people”, Bin Jiddo interjected “this is a compliment not an advice” , The Qatari Prime Minister said: ” No wait, the Lebanese are very smart, but they always try and think that they can outsmart others, which can give the exact opposit results they try to achieve. They should not overestimate thier smartness and miss use it as happens regulary because it evidently backfires”

Mabrook to the some “smart” Lebanese, they shortly will have the Embassy they wished for.

Any other non-issues those certain “smart” Lebanese want to ask for while they are being offered what they thought they need from Syria?

June 3rd, 2008, 10:26 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

I just noticed that you unending “well intentioned and caring” efforts to demonize and cast shadows of doubt on any step or action taken by Bashar Al Assad makes the efforts of the Catholic Church and the Vatican to expose and discredit anti-Christ seems like a child play.

You sweet-wrape it indeed; but it is vert transparent.. no matter how inquisitevly elegant and deceivly balanced you make your thought and enquiries sound or appeare.

Forget man, the Guy is got it made through the tunnel unscathed and emerged much stronger than ever. Your daydreaming about a reversal in his fortunes aint gonna get you anywhere.

Ask Olmert, Saud Al Faisal or Sarkozy!!!

June 3rd, 2008, 10:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Habibi Ausamaa

Funny how you assume that other people are as obssessed with political fan clubs as you are. Despite what you think, I don’t daydream about Bashar’s fortunes, nor anyone else’s. I dream about peace and stability in the region, and freer societies for its people.

Maybe the prospect of politicians coming “through the tunnel unscathed” and “stronger than ever” blows your skirt up, and if so then please don’t let me get in the way.

If Bashar is serious about peace, and he is willing to influence decisively Hizbullah in this regard, thereby strengthening the Lebanese state, and to exchange diplomatic missions with Lebanon, demarcate the borders, and be a force for stability in the region, then I will wholeheartedly support his efforts.

How’s the gardening? From the sounds of it, not so great.

June 3rd, 2008, 11:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

As for your Syrian embassy diatribe… amazing how you manage to sound petulant, threatening, vengeful, and hilarious all at the same time!

Not very sisterly, that’s for sure. 😉

Ausamaa, Bashar may have come “out of the tunnel unscathed”, but habibi, the tunnel spat him into a whole new world: one in which Syria no longer rules Lebanon, Syria is negotiating with Israel, and Syria is looking to end its isolation by re-establishing solid relations with the U.S. and Europe and moving away from Iran…

Kind of bittersweet, no?

June 3rd, 2008, 11:24 pm


Enlightened said:

“Any other non-issues those certain “smart” Lebanese want to ask for while they are being offered what they thought they need from Syria?”

How about a reality check?

One thing for sure , the Syrian cult of personality is not dead!

“With our blood, with our soul we will redeem you Bashar”

We will wait till he can turn water into Golani wine, that would be bittersweet!

June 3rd, 2008, 11:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The alliances are already shifting, and look who’s first out of the starting gates? Jumblatt, of course!

Amal, PSP ink joint statement calling for reconciliation
By Anthony Elghossain
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Amal, PSP ink joint statement calling for reconciliation

BEIRUT: Officials from the Amal movement and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) met Tuesday in Parliament and issued a joint statement calling for broader reconciliation in Lebanon. Alongside other party officials, Amal MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ali Bazzi and PSP MPs Akram Chehayeb and Wael Abu Faour attended the meeting, which concluded with the declaration of a four-point statement.


Repression, the Arab state’s foul habit
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Egyptian Parliament’s decision last week to extend emergency rule for another two years, including sweeping powers to detain citizens indefinitely, reflects an exaggerated reliance on heavy-handed police methods to govern and keep the peace. Visiting Cairo this week, I became more convinced than ever that this is a counter-productive approach that Arab governments should quickly reconsider before they do irreparable damage to their societies.

Single-party ruling elites that have been in power for three to four decades find it easier to clamp down quickly, or even preemptively, on troublemakers and opposition forces than to seek stability through orderly politics, equitable economic growth, and the rule of law. Beyond the few wealthy oil-producing welfare states, the double stresses of steady price increases and persistent political autocracy are causing grave damage to the Arab national fabric. They lead to a slow fraying at the edges of social orders, economic forces and political systems that had held steady in most Arab states since the 1920s.

The political institutions that should provide a mechanism for resolving disputes, solving problems and agreeing on consensus policies are slowly degrading in most Arab countries. Parliaments, political parties, elections and most civil society and non-governmental organizations have all suffered from steadily eroding credibility and declining impact.

This is partly due to the phenomenon that is so visible in Egypt, where the state uses security measures to crush any potential opposition, and that includes jailing thousands of its opponents. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition grouping, claims that 50,000 of its members have been repeatedly arrested, tried, jailed and released since the start of the emergency laws era in 1981.

The continued use of emergency laws for 27 years non-stop suggests that the basic institutions of Arab governance are decaying. This is also reflected in other recent developments in Egypt: violence between police and demonstrators during labor strikes and food price protests in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla, and clashes between Muslim and Christian citizens in the Minya region of Upper Egypt.

Egypt is not an isolated case. Many top-heavy, security-focused Arab governance systems end up breeding increasing frustration at the community and household levels, instead of fostering order and stability. Ordinary Arab citizens who endure the prolonged, self-inflicted decay of their governance institutions have no real options. Even those who have turned to Islamist movements have seen some of those groups lose credibility when they proved unable to break through the hardened firewall of political control erected by the ruling elite. In the past year, Islamist parties that had previously done well in elections have lost ground in countries like Jordan and Morocco.

This is a troubling sign, because it reflects one of two things that are equally dangerous: Either the state is fixing the elections and gerrymandering the electoral districts to strangle the Islamists, or masses of ordinary citizens have lost confidence in the Islamists’ move into electoral politics. When security clampdowns, emergency laws, fraudulent elections, and heavy-handed and preemptive arrests are normal operating procedures for Arab political systems, most citizens slowly drift away from civic and political engagement. They seek refuge in tribal, family, communal or religious identities. Some embrace the corruption of the prevailing system. A few emigrate legally or illegally. An even smaller number join terrorist groups.

The bulk of the citizenry, with no real options, become passive, indolent, and angry, in some cases feeling dehumanized by the fact that their own societies treat them with the same disdain that they had experienced previously from foreign colonial occupiers. The most dangerous consequence of states and governments turning to security-based governance and control, when a rule of law system would do much better, is that this makes violence first routine, and then the norm. This is compounded by the fact that all native and invader governments in the Middle East – Arabs, Israeli, Turkish, Iranian, American and British – now routinely use violence against their own people or their foes.

The lesson for all, however, should be that the gun does not produce security, stability or docility. It only turns once law-abiding citizens into numbed and angry people who feel they have little stake in a system that does not treat them like human beings. Agitated, demeaned, pauperized and fearful for their children’s future, they start to resist and defy their own power elite. Ultimately, some strike back, initially through passive resistance, strikes, and peaceful protests. When those outlets are blocked, however, they use the violence that they see being used against them by their governments and their governments’ foreign backers.

The Arab world is destroying itself from within by relying more and more on emergency laws, when it needs more rule of law and independent judiciaries.

June 4th, 2008, 12:18 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Obama has clinched the nomination.

June 4th, 2008, 12:35 am


norman said:


I can’t believe you beat me .

June 4th, 2008, 1:03 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Sorry ya Ammo Norman 😉

In other news:

Facebookأوّل حانة للـ
في العالم … فتحت في بيروت

هاني نعيم
… ونزل ال«فايس بوك» على الأرض. فأصبح لبنان أول بلد في العالم يمتلك حانة خاصة بالموقع الأكثر شهرة في العالم «الفايس بوك». منذ أشهر قليلة انتقل الموقع الإلكتروني للتواصل الاجتماعي الذي اكتسب شهرة كبيرة في السنوات القليلة الماضية من الحيّز الافتراضي الإلكتروني إلى الحيّز الواقعي، حيث افتُتحت في العاصمة اللبنانية بيروت وفي شارع «مونو» حانة مخصّصة لروّاد الـ«فايس بوك» وأهله. «منذ حوالى خمسة أشهر أطلعنا إدارة الموقع في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية على فكرة إنشاء المحل، وأخذنا الموافقة على ذلك» يوضح شربل مونّس مالك الحانة ومديرها. ويؤكّد «أنّ الاسم ليس مسروقاً أو مستخدَماً بطريقة غير شرعية»، مضيفاً «إنّ إدارة الموقع الرئيسية في الولايات المتحدة بصدد إرسال ممثلين عن الـ«فايس بوك» للاطّلاع على المطعم، لكونها الحانة الوحيد في العالم التي تحمل هذا الاسم». المحل مؤلّف من طابقين، ولديه قدرة على استيعاب حوالى 80 شخصاً. الديكور والأكسسوارات مصمّمة للتماشي مع أجواء الموقع كما يبدو على صفحات الإنترنت. فألوان المحلّ «فايسبوكيّة»، أي أبيض وأزرق، كما يعلّق أحد الساهرين «نحن هنا، نشعر كأننا داخل صفحة فايس بوك على شاشة الكمبيوتر، الأجواء نفسها والأصدقاء كثر»، أمّا المشروبات، فسُمّيت بمصطلحات خاصة بالـ «فايس بوك»، ويوضح بيار المسؤول عن البار أنه «أحياناً يرسل أحد الزبائن الشباب shot poke إلى إحدى الصبايا، كبادرة للتعارف، وهذا عادةً ما يحصل على الـ«فايس بوك» بشكل افتراضي»، وتطول لائحة المشروبات «الفايسبوكية» مثل «super poke shot»، وFacebook sky وFacebook dark وغيرها من المشروبات التي يجري تناقلها كهدايا بين الزوّار تماماً كما يحصل بين الـ «فايسبوكيين» على شبكة الإنترنت. وكما هناك «حائط» (Wall) على الموقع الإلكتروني خاص بكل مشترك في الموقع كذلك خصّص المحلّ مساحة كبيرة من الطابق الثاني حيث وُضع لوح يكتب عليه الزوّار تعليقاتهم وأفكارهم وحتى يرسلون منه إشارات إلى آخرين لا يعرفونهم.
المحل مثّل فسحة التقاء «الفايسبوكيين»، حيث إنّ الكثيرين منهم تعرّفوا بعضهم إلى بعض في البدء عبر مجموعة المحل على موقع (Facebook pub)، وجاؤوا إلى المحل للتعارف «واقعيّاً» على الآخرين… وهكذا نشأ العديد من الصداقات والعلاقات بين الشباب والصبايا عبر المحل، «حتى إنّ هناك ثنائيّاً تزوّج بعد لقائهما في المحل» يشير مونّس، إضافة إلى الحشرية التي تدفع بعض المارّين للدخول إلى المحلّ ثم التعرّف إلى من فيه عبر الإنترنت بتبادل العناوين والمعلومات والمواقع…
«إذا نسيتوا الكاميرا الخاصة بكم، فلا تهتمّوا» عبارة مكتوبة على مجموعة المحل على الـ«فايس بوك»، وذلك لأنّ موظّفي المطعم يقومون بخدمة إضافية تعدّ من الميزات الأساسية للموقع وهي الصور الشخصية، فهم يقومون بتصوير الساهرين، وإنزال صورهم على موقع المجموعة، «وذلك بعد أخذ الموافقة طبعاً» يقولها مونّس، مؤكّداً على احترام خصوصيّة الزبائن. أما نشاطات الحانة، فمتعدّدة، ويتضمن برنامجها الأسبوعي سهرات مخصّصة للأغاني القديمة والسحر وتوزيع بعض الجوائز على الساهرين…

عدد الاربعاء ٤ حزيران ٢٠٠٨

June 4th, 2008, 1:12 am


norman said:

Obama is delivering his acceptance speech.

June 4th, 2008, 2:11 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This is exactly the reason why Israel bombed first. If Israel would have gone with the data to the IAEA, the Syrians would just have refused inspections like they refuse for 3 additional sites. What are the Syrians hiding?

Diplomats: 3 suspect Syrian nuke sites off limits
By GEORGE JAHN – 6 hours ago

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Syria has told fellow Arab countries that it will not permit an International Atomic Energy Agency probe to extend beyond a site bombed by Israel, despite agency interest in three other suspect locations, diplomats told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The agency’s main focus during its planned June 22-24 visit to Syria is a building in the country’s remote eastern desert that was destroyed by Israeli jets in September.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced Monday that Damascus has agreed to an agency check of U.S. assertions that target was a plutonium-producing reactor that was near completion, and thus at the stage where it could generate the fissile material for nuclear arms.

The U.N. agency is also interested in following up on information that Syria may have three other undeclared atomic facilities. Diplomats and a nuclear expert told the AP on Monday that at least one of the sites may have equipment that can reprocess nuclear material into the fissile core of warheads.

One of the diplomats said the IAEA was following up on a U.S. intelligence-based tip but emphasized the IAEA had not seen the intelligence itself. The nuclear expert said two of the military sites were operational and one was under construction. He and the diplomats asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.

On Tuesday, a senior diplomat familiar with the planned IAEA trip to Syria told the AP that expectations were Syria would gradually warm to the idea of giving agency experts access to those three sites, as well as the bombed Al Kibar facility.

But two other diplomats briefed on the Syrian stance said outside a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board that a senior official from Damascus had ruled that out during a meeting with chief delegates of the 10 Arab nations accredited to the IAEA.

The diplomats said Syrian atomic energy chief Ibrahim Othman told the Arab delegates his country could not open secret military sites to outside perusal as long as Syria and Israel remained technically in a state of war.

After fighting three wars and clashing in Lebanon, Israel and Syria are bitter enemies whose last round of peace talks collapsed eight years ago. Both countries recently confirmed that they are holding peace talks through Turkish mediators.

The diplomats also said Othman expressed fear that too much openness on Syria’s part would lead to years of relentless international perusal of the kind Iran’s nuclear program is now undergoing, despite Tehran’s assertions its aims are purely peaceful.

After-hours calls to the Syrian Mission to the IAEA in Vienna for comment went unanswered.

Israeli government officials refused to comment on the issue.

Syrian President Bashar Assad denied once again that his country has a secret nuclear program in interviews appearing Tuesday in United Arab Emirates newspapers.

Neither the U.S. nor Israel told the IAEA about the bombed site until late April, about a year after they obtained what they considered decisive intelligence: dozens of photographs from a handheld camera of the inside and outside of the compound.

Since then, Syria had not reacted to repeated agency requests for a visit to check out the allegations.

Satellite photos appear to show construction crews using the interval to erect another structure over the site — a move that heightened suspicions of a possible cover-up.

Pressure on Syria to respond positively mounted with the approach of the latest meeting of the IAEA board that opened Monday.

In announcing the Syrian visit to the board, ElBaradei repeated his criticism of Israel and the U.S., taking Washington to task for waiting so long to brief him on its suspicions, and Jerusalem for the airstrike.

Israel has never officially confirmed September’s air strike on the Al Kibar site, though it has not disputed the foreign reports, or U.S. government comments, on the incident.

June 4th, 2008, 4:01 am


why-discuss said:


Ausamaa, Bashar may have come “out of the tunnel unscathed”, but habibi, the tunnel spat him into a whole new world: one in which Syria no longer rules Lebanon, Syria is negotiating with Israel, and Syria is looking to end its isolation by re-establishing solid relations with the U.S. and Europe and moving away from Iran…

Syria not ruling Lebanon is not a big loss, it was unhealthy both for Syria and for Lebanon because of the ramping corruption that it created. Syria does not seem to suffer as much as the Lebanese had predicted as if the whole economy of Syria was made in Lebanon. It has also triggered in Syria the conscience that reforms are necessary. Overall, it’s a better way to control what is going on in Lebanon with an official embassy, foreign attaches, computers etc.. than unofficial mokhabarat (see Feltman for guidelines) Nothing to loose here for Bashar , in the contrary
– Syria negotiating with Israel. It may have been a priority for Bashar, but i think now it is a low priority. Israelis who are panick-striken by Iran were hoping they could flip Syria away from its long term and stable ally, Iran. I did not think Israelis could be so naive..
In addition any peace deal Israel-Syria will be a disaster for Lebanon as Lebanon will have to deal directly with Israel on the insolvable issue of the return of the Palestinians. So on the Israeli front and the Lebanese front, Bashar has the best cards to play.
– Syria is not looking to establish “solid relations with the US and Europe and moving away from Iran”. This is wishful thinking .. Syria becoming an obedient lamb!
Syria want to establish “normal” relations not “solid”. The US and Europe are too moody to trust them and they end up by putting pressures when something bothers them. They are unreliable partners and should be treated as such, useful but not made indispensable. Iran on the other side has not shown any sign of unreliability until now. They have acted and delivered without putting pressures of any sort on Bashar. So Bashar has just dismissed this infantile condition made by Israel and signed a defense treaty with Iran. Well played and here again he has all the cards.
The economy is a problem, but isn’t a problem in Jordan, Egypt who have ‘solid relations with the US and Europe” that doesn’t seem to have much benefits?
If Syria look east and reaches Turkey, Iran, India , Russia, China etc.. they need less strong relations with the US and Europe.
The more delicate issue is the Hariri tribunal but it seems that this may last years so Bashar will come up with some face saving outlet when time comes.
Overall, in the political game we have seen since 3 years, the one who was consistent and did not change his objectives and focus is Bashar and it seems that the cards he’s got in his hand are making him an indispensable player in the region, something France and the western countries are starting to come to terms with.

June 4th, 2008, 5:41 am


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Suite yourself… but contrary to what you keep trying to explain the situation to us, I think since the begining of the Iraq War, Bashar has got an A+ for Effort, A+ for Results, A+ for Consistency and an A for Presentation perhaps. You can not say the same for any other leader in the area.

If you think othewise, what can I say; this is a free world!

“Regime Change” and “Behavior Change” and a “New Mideast”,… common dreams by bsome just a few years -or maybe months- back. Huh…!!!

As to your correct undestanding my post about the Syrian Embassy in Beirut; that sums the whole new Syrian seen in Lebanon which certain Lebanese claimed that they desperatly “wanted”!

BTW, did you not read the peice above: “Lebanese and Syrian Leaders as Seen by a Harvard Graduate Student,” by Kiernan
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Here is the full account:


June 4th, 2008, 6:42 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

I heard that Syria will indeed send a new ambassador to Beirut.

Rustum Ghazali.

: )

June 4th, 2008, 7:38 am


ausamaa said:

Imagine, with the new Syrian Embassy located near Quraitem.

But I think one in Anjar is better. Most Lenanese politicians know how to get there with eyes blindfolded from years of continuous visits.

June 4th, 2008, 7:59 am


Qifa Nabki said:


You look at the same three issues: (Syria out of Lebanon, Syria negotiating with Israel, and Syria seeking to end its isolation) and come to completely different conclusions. That’s fine: it will always be possible to interpret events in whatever way one would like. Let’s just say that I like the current arrangement a lot more than the situation that existed prior: Syria IN Lebanon, and Syria NOT negotiating for peace…


Just an “A” for presentation? Not an A+ as well? Wow, you might be in danger of losing your seat as Bashar Fan Club President if you keep up such a highly critical attitude.


June 4th, 2008, 11:45 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I heard the same story!

And guess who will be Lebanon’s ambassador to Damascus? Walid Jumblatt!

June 4th, 2008, 12:03 pm


why-discuss said:


The difference is that Rustum Ghazale will be more than happy to go back to see all his friends in high positions and have a subhieh with Nayla, while Jumblatt will get an irritable bowel syndrome out of fear.:)

June 4th, 2008, 4:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss habibi

You underestimate the strength of Walid Jumblatt’s bowels.


By the way, I wanted to ask you about some of the points you made earlier.

You said:

Syria not ruling Lebanon is not a big loss, it was unhealthy both for Syria and for Lebanon because of the ramping corruption that it created.

I agree that it was unhealthy, but you are mixing Syrian interests with regime interests. There is no question that both Syria and Lebanon were living unhealthily off each other; the new arrangement is better for all involved. However, the withdrawal from Lebanon under those ignominious circumstances in 2005 did not look good for Bashar… not one bit. He looked weak, and that is tantamount to a death sentence in our region’s political arena. These days, he’s looking much stronger, and if he can get the Golan back, it will put him in a very good position, both internally, regionally, and globally. This was the point I was trying to make.

It has also triggered in Syria the conscience that reforms are necessary.


Overall, it’s a better way to control what is going on in Lebanon with an official embassy, foreign attaches, computers etc..

So you’re saying that you believe things will go back to the prior arrangement, except now the saytara will be coming from the embassy rather than from Rustom Ghazali’s office? I disagree, if that’s your argument. It will have to be a new relationship, or there will continue to be international problems for Syria.

Syria negotiating with Israel. It may have been a priority for Bashar, but i think now it is a low priority.

So then you must think the Americans are reading it correctly? That it is just “window dressing” as AIG likes to say?

In addition any peace deal Israel-Syria will be a disaster for Lebanon as Lebanon will have to deal directly with Israel on the insolvable issue of the return of the Palestinians.

Why-Discuss, do you actually believe the Syrians will accept that Lebanon discuss terms with Israel on their own?! Syria will want a peace deal between Israel and Lebanon to follow immediately after their own; they will not accept any possibility of a group in Lebanon jeopardizing Syria’s regaining the Golan. Plus, Syria’s biggest card is Hizbullah, a Lebanese asset. Therefore, Lebanon will be central to the Syrian-Israeli deal… it is in fact the reason that there will even be a deal in the first place.

As for the Palestinian issue, I agree that it is a tough one, but it’s not like Syria could have solved it anyway. Do you think that if Syria was still in Lebanon and they were talking peace with Israel, there would ever have been a just solution involving their resettlement in Palestine? Probably not. There would have been some kind of accommodation. Let me remind you that Hizbullah is just as opposed to tawteen as the most hard-core Maronites. Therefore, I think that Syria will take its greatest Lebanese ally’s interests into account when it negotiates on its behalf.

Syria is not looking to establish “solid relations with the US and Europe and moving away from Iran”. This is wishful thinking ..

Don’t blame me for thinking this… blame all of the reports in recent days that suggest that Syria has been sending strong signals for the past three years that it wants to be on the best terms with the U.S. Ask Alex! He has repeated this many times, and I believe him.

I agree that Bashar is sitting pretty these days. I also think that he is using his new-found influence in smart ways, namely peace negotiations and stabilizing Lebanon. In these regards, I like what I’m seeing.

June 4th, 2008, 5:20 pm


Majhool said:

Very nice picture. Negativity aside, this couple is indded charming.

June 4th, 2008, 11:29 pm


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