Obama Dispatches Malley to Syria?

[Addendum: Mon. Nov. 10, 2008] An assistant to Robert Malley has written me the following note denying the truth of any part fo the following story:

A quick word to stress that the story about Rob Malley visiting Egypt and Syria to deliver a message from the president-elect are a pure fabrication. The “aides” quoted in the piece are equally fictional. I would greatly appreciate if you could post this to correct the record.

Original post below:

Will Obama appoint Robert Malley, a director of the International Crisis Group, as a point man on the Middle East? If he does, it is a sign of restored sanity and promise for the future.

Malley is one of the few Americans who has taken the time and energy to understand Syria’s point of view and make contacts in Damascus when this was not easy to do. He was compelled to clarify that he had no official link to the Obama campaign in January, when some accused him of terror sympathising because he met with Khalid Mishaal, the head of Hamas.

Here is a quote from Martin Peretz taken from Mondoweiss‘s coverage of the issue:

“Martin Peretz says, with relief, that [Obama] is not [an Obama advisor]:

There are all kinds of spooky rumors that a man named Robert Malley is one of Obama’s advisers, specifically his Middle East adviser… Malley, who has written several deceitful articles in The New York Review of Books, is a [further hogwash removed for the sake of the tranquility of the Sabbath]… Malley is not and has never been a Middle East adviser to Barack Obama. Obama’s Middle East adviser is Dan Shapiro.

The following article does not spell our when the Malley trip is to take place or if it is refering to a past trip. I don’t think we can trust this story yet. The first version of this article, copied below, first appeared in the World Tribune?

In First Mideast Policy Initiative, Obama Sends Adviser To Egypt, Syria
By David Bedein, Middle East Correspondent

Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Presidential-elect Barack Obama has dispatched his senior foreign policy adviser Robert Malley to Egypt and Syria to outline the Democrat’s policy on the Middle East.

Mr. Malley, who served in the Clinton administration, relayed a pledge from Mr. Obama that the United States would seek to enhance relations with Cairo as well as reconcile differences with Damascus.

“The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests,” an aide to Mr. Malley said.

The aide said Obama plans to launch a U.S. diplomatic initiative toward Syria, regarded by the Bush administration as a leading supporter of the al-Qaida insurgency in Iraq. Mr. Obama, unlike President George W. Bush, has also 
supported Israeli peace negotiations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Malley, his aides said, met both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with Mr. Assad to explain Mr. Obama’s agenda for the Middle East.

These aides said that Mr. Obama told Mr. Mubarak that the United States would maintain military and civilian aid and sell advanced F-16 aircraft to Cairo. Egypt has not ordered F-16s in nearly a decade.

Mr. Malley, in his capacity as a senior advisor to President Clinton at the failed Camp David talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, incurred the wrath of many Israeli officials when he laid some of the blame for the failure of the Camp David talks on Israel.

Syrians stare terror in the face by Sami Moubayed in Asia Times

State television showed what it said were 12 members of the Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam, confessing that they had helped plan the suicide car bombing.

The interview sent shivers down the spine of most Syrians, who were horrified to hear that there was something called a “Syria branch” for al-Qaeda. These people looked like ordinary Syrians. They came from places like Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. One was a 24-year-old smuggler of gasoline between Syria and Lebanon. Another was a dental expert, while a third was an information technology expert. A fourth was a student at one of the private schools that recently started operating in Syria. Some of them said that they had baby children.

Originally it was believed that the terrorist who drove an automobile into the premises of a security building on the road to Damascus International Airport had come from Iraq. The license plate was Iraqi and most of the militants who had carried out attacks in Syria since 2003 came from the wilderness of Iraq.

It was too abstract for Syrians to believe that their countrymen could plot such a bloody crime against innocent fellow Syrians. The Thursday broadcast proved them wrong.

The new information confirms that the terrorists were a mixture of Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, operating not directly with al-Qaeda, but a sister organization called Fatah al-Islam, which is based in neighboring Tripoli, Lebanon.

The suicide bomber himself was a Saudi named “Abu Aysha”, whose picture was also shown on Syrian TV. This group wanted to “harm the Syrian regime” and had several targets on their hit list, including the central bank of Syria. They also had a hit list that included an Italian and a British diplomat, both based in Damascus.

One of the men who appeared on TV was Abdul-Baqi Hussein, head of security in the Syria-branch of Fatah al-Islam, and Wafa Abbsi, the daughter of Fatah al-Islam founder Shaker al-Abbsi. They said the car was in fact stolen from Iraqis and loaded with 200 kilograms of explosives at a farm on the outskirts of Damascus.

Very troubling was the confession of Wafa, the only woman among the group, who spoke with her husband Yasser Unad. They seemed the most disturbed among the group of terrorists. Wafa said her father received money transfers to conduct his military activities from the Future Movement of Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri. Her father never trusted Hariri, Abbsi implied, saying that he feared that the latter would “trade him” for a cheap price. Wafa, whose first husband was a Syrian killed on the Syrian-Iraqi border, came to Syria with her second husband – also a Syrian – and was arrested with the terrorist team after September 27.

Wafa’s tale takes us back to an earlier argument made by veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh, who wrote in The New Yorker that Hariri, the US and certain figures in Saudi Arabia were responsible for creating Fatah al-Islam. Speaking to CNN International’s Your World Today in May 2007, Hersh said that all three parties wanted a Sunni military group in Lebanon to combat Hezbollah – which was backed by Iran – in the event of an outbreak of Sunni-Shi’ite violence. While Hersh was speaking, violence was ranging in the infamous Naher al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army. Those battles, which lasted for weeks, led to the killing of about 400 people. ….

Naturally, the anti-Syrian team in Lebanon writes off the entire story as a hoax. They claimed from day one that Fatah al-Islam was created by the Syrians. That is difficult to believe, since his prison record in Damascus – along with Syria’s history of combating Islamic fundamentalism – would certainly prevent it from engaging in such a risky scheme with such a notorious terrorist. Additionally, the terrorist bombing of September 27 adds proof that if anything, Fatah al-Islam is certainly not allied to Damascus. On the contrary, it is bent on destroying Syria. …(read the rest)

Qifa Nabki writes on his blog:

….Why doesn’t Sami just state the obvious, namely that nobody really has any idea what Fatah al-Islam is. All the theories are more or less outlandish, ranging from Seymour Hersh’s spooky conspiracy tale in The New Yorker (which I’m convinced he heard from a Lebanese service taxi driver and later had ‘confirmed’ by Michel Samaha), to the notion that it was created by the Syrian mukhabarat and controlled directly from Damascus. Who knows what is really true? There is nothing resembling actual proof, just more or less glorified conspiracy theories supported by anonymous sources and government-sponsored confessions…. (read the entire article)

[Landis comment] Sami Moubayed is not a government employee; none of his income comes from the government. Yoav Stern writes in the article copied below that his “analyses are considered the official standpoint of the Syrian government.” Of course, Sami is well connected and a good journalist so he has a keen sense of what Syria’s official position is, but it is misleading to consider his opinion the official standpoint of the Syrian government. Independent journalists like Sami exist in Syria. His last article, ““American dream expelled from Syria” ,copied on Syria Comment, was a critique of the government’s closing of the “American School” in Damascus. It did not reflect the official standpoint of the Syrian government in any way.

Like any Syrian journalist, he must figure out where the red lines are, but he has latitude to express his opinion and to dissent from the official line, as he did in his last article. Sami was invited to come to Washington in August as part of a three man team of “second track” diplomacy precisely because he is not a government employee. The reason that he was included is that Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador in DC, likes and respects Sami. He knows that Sami is an effective and smart opinion maker who is read by people like Stern and his Haaretz counterparts; he would put Syria’s best face forward. It was Sami’s first visit to the US. The same was true of Samir Saifan, who also participated on the team. He is an independent businessman, economist and consultant who understands Syria’s needs and is in constant contact with government officials, but he is not an official voice of the government nor paid by it.

Hamas praises Obama, hopes for ‘new page’ in relations with U.S.
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Associated Press, 07/11/2008

Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar says he hopes the election victory of Barack Obama will open a new page in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

However, Zahar says he does not expect immediate change in U.S policy toward Hamas. The Bush administration is boycotting the Islamic militants, along with most of the international community.

Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel. Last year, Hamas seized Gaza by force, and Zahar was instrumental in the takeover.

He said Friday that “we hope, we hope, that Obama opens a new page with the world, including the Muslim world.” But citing what he believes is undue Israeli influence on U.S. policy, he said he doesn’t expect Obama to talk to Hamas, at least at the start of his presidency.

Meanwhile, a Syrian analyst on Friday said Syria would be prepared to restrain the militant activities of Hezbollah and Hamas if a U.S. administration led by President-elect Barack Obama shifts its policy toward Damascus.

In an article published on Friday on the Asia Times Web site, Syrian analyst Sami Mubayed called on Obama to endorse the renewed peace talks with Israel to ensure their success.

Mubayed, whose analyses are considered the official standpoint of the Syrian government, urged Obama to “normalize” relations between Washington and Damascus.

Such “normalization” of ties would include dispatching a new U.S. ambassador to Damascus, the first since the deterioration of the states’ ties in 2005.

Syria would also demand that the economic sanctions against it be dropped, a change in Western rhetoric toward Damascus and compensation for the recent deadly U.S. air strike in which eight Syrians were killed.

Damascus also seeks a further role in matters regarding Iraq. “Obama must recognize that no problem can be solved in the Middle East without Syria,” Mubayed wrote.

In exchange for U.S. implementation of these demands, Syria would be ready to use its weight in the region against the militant activities of Hezbollah and Hamas, and would work in tandem with Western powers to find a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Mubayed said that Syria has nicknamed Obama “Abu Hussein” – in reference to the president-elect’s middle name.

“When all this is done, Syria will be ready to open its arms to Abu Hussein and to accept him maybe as an honored guest in Damascus, as we did with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton,” wrote Mubayad.

Helena Cobban on the Obama team

Source: U.S. meant to capture militant killed in Syria
From Nic Robertson
CNN Senior International Correpondent

LONDON, England (CNN) — The U.S. forces who killed a top militant in Syria last week intended to capture him, but he and his bodyguards were killed in a gunbattle, a Saudi source with access to detailed intelligence told CNN.

Palestinian refugee schoolboys in Damascus protest the U.S. attack in Syria, which called the strike barbaric.

Palestinian refugee schoolboys in Damascus protest the U.S. attack in Syria, which called the strike barbaric.

U.S. officials last week confirmed that an American airstrike from Iraq into Syria killed Abu Ghadiya, described as a kingpin in al Qaeda’s smuggling of foreign fighters into Iraq.

Abu Ghadiya’sbody, initially taken away by U.S. Special Forces operatives for identification, has been returned to the Syrians, the source said.

The officials — who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media — also said members of his network were killed as well. The U.S. military has not officially confirmed the October 26 strike in the town of Abu Kamal.

The Saudi source said U.S. forces picked up Abu Ghadiya’s presence at the Syrian location in the morning of October 26 and acted quickly against him.

Abu Ghadiya’s name emerged many times during Saudi interrogations of al Qaeda suspects, the source said, noting that a profile emerged of the militant as an important part of the logistical chain in al Qaeda’s network.

He had been an effective and persuasive recruiter of Arab fighters intent on attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, and had been described as a Baathist, a member of the political movement that ran Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era, the source said.

The source said Abu Ghadiya used Baathist money to smuggle fighters, and pay off Syrian generals to ignore the cross-border activities. The Saudi source said plenty of Baathist money is stashed away, hidden before the 2003 invasion.

Thousands of people demonstrated last week in the capital of Syria to protest the U.S. airstrike — that Damascus says killed eight civilians, according to reports from the country.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem last week condemned the strike as “terrorist aggression,” said civilians died in the incident, and called the claim that Americans were targeting militants a lie.

Iraq’s government also denounced the attack, which was launched from its territory.

Syria has said it has tried to secure the sprawling desert border. But it immediately withdrew its border guards from the region after the strike, leaving border posts empty and forcing Iraq to secure the areas where foreign fighters crossed the border.

LA Times:

The Lebanese daily Assafir called Obama the “candidate of change based on all criteria,” and wrote that “the democratic candidate Barack Obama stands on the right side of American history with all his positions and his attractiveness.”

An opinion piece in the newspaper predicted that the new U.S. president, whoever he is, will lead a more pragmatic policy in the Middle East:

“Tomorrow a new American era starts marked by political pragmatism whether led by Obama or McCain after the world has rejected policies of force, arrogance and chauvinism that led to wars and economic catastrophes … Americans will vote tomorrow. Will the snake only shed its skin or will the problems of the world push it back into its pit?”

The official Syrian newspaper, Al-Watan, published an op-ed piece entitled, “Who is less bad … Obama or McCain?”

“Nobody should bet on a radical change in Washington’s foreign policy towards the Middle East,” said the article, adding that the U.S. had been showing a clear bias toward Israel for decades.

It concluded that Obama’s election might improve the U.S.-Syrian relations but would not end disputes between the two countries.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Syria’s Second Chance, by Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, Financial Times

[E]ight years after Bashar al-Assad took over upon the death of his father Hafez, Syria [is] still struggling to decide in which direction it wanted to go, politically and economically. The economy rumbles on with a massive unemployment rate, rampant inflation and dwindling oil reserves. …

Meanwhile, Syria’s behavior in the region—whether in Lebanon, where it is alleged to have been involved in the killing of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister, or in Iraq, where it was accused of sending foreign fighters to join the insurgency—has angered foes and friends, leaving hardly anyone to argue Damascus’ case. But Syria now has a second chance. Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, traveled to Damascus in September, opening the door to rehabilitation. [Last] week Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, [was] in London. A new U.S. president will soon be in office, and could engage with those whom the Bush administration was determined to isolate. Access the full article>>

Sarkozy and Obama
By Judah Grunstein
World Politics Review, 5 November 2008

Nikolas Gvosdev wonders out loud whether Nicolas Sarkozyis hoping to play trans-Atlantic interlocutor between America and Russia. I’ve argued before that a good deal of Sarkozy’s conciliatory posture towards the U.S. — which has gotten him accused here in France of an Atlanticist alignment with Washington — was in fact a gambit designed to make Paris the fulcrum upon which American-EU relations pivot.

Sarkozy has been very careful to balance his gestures towards Washington with demands for concessions (NATO vs. EU defense, for instance), and has also not been reluctant to oppose American positions (on NATO expansion, for instance) when it was both in his interest and he had sufficient support to come out on top.

But I think Gvosdev is onto something, and it goes beyond the Washington-Paris-Moscow conduit. His suggestion brings to mind the possibility that France’s recent insistence upon engaging Syria has been in anticipation of an end to America’s isolation of Damascus. (It’s interesting to note that the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. suggested that a McCain administration would have supported engaging Damascus as well.) Certainly the progress Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have made in restoring French-Syrian relations will put them in good position to help smooth the way for Washington.

But on the back end (because when it comes to quid and quo, Sarkozy’s a pro), my hunch is that he’s going to do everything he can to make sure that Obama’s willingness to engage Iran directly does not undermine the enormous efforts that have gone into maintaining a very firm and consistent EU3 negotiating position on Tehran’s nuclear program, perhaps even pushing for an American presence at jumpstartedP5+1 talks with Iran before any bilateral channels are opened up between Washington and Tehran.

Libya to Start $20 Million Syrian Cement Project, SANA Reports

By Nadim Issa
Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) — A Libyan delegation will visit Syria next week to commence a $200 million cement plant, the Syrian Arab News Agency said, citing Syrian Finance Minister Mohammad Al Hussein.

Jonathan Steele in the Guardian, here

“…In this arc of conflict – Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan – Obama’s approachis preferable to Bush’s or McCain’s. The century-old paradigm of Republicans as the party of realism and the Democrats as the party of ideologues was turned upside down by the neocons. Bush led an administration of crusaders and took the country to disaster. Obama offers a return to traditional diplomacy. ….

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will resist this. They will tell Obama that a US retreat hands victory to a resurgent Iran and Shias everywhere. But it is not a US withdrawal that will help Iran. Bush’s war has already done that, since it was bound to empower Iraq’s majority community. The best way to prevent Iran’s strong relationship with the government in Baghdad from becoming a regional threat is for the US to engage with Iran and forge a new relationship…

The challenge for Obama is to show the world whether he is ready to offer Tehran a grand bargain rather than a big bang…”

Comments (19)

atassi said:

Dr. Landis,
I would not put too much ((–!!–))into this event. I am kind speculating the reliability of the confessions is dubious with an aim to bolster the security reputation after the recent spate of embarrassing setbacks. Nothing more. This TV show with arrests and confessions is surprisingly too quick, and we still don’t know about the security breaches surrounding the deaths of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh and Syrian General Mohammed Suleiman !!!

November 7th, 2008, 8:33 pm


MSK* said:

Dear Josh,

First of all, congrats to having Barack Obama as the next president. Seems like we’ve all escaped a horror scenario, especially those of us in the MidEast…

Re: the above & some recent posts I have a question. Is Sami Moubayed a journalist who also teaches at Kalamoun or a professor/academic who sometimes writes op-ed pieces?


November 7th, 2008, 8:45 pm


norman said:

The Associated Press

Syria’s president has sent a telegram to congratulate Barack Obama on being elected president.

President Bashar Assad’s note comes just weeks after the Bush administration ordered a U.S. helicopter raid into Syria near Iraq’s border last month that strained relations between the two countries.

Syria’s SANA state new agency reports Friday that Assad expressed hope that Obama’s victory will mean “constructive dialogue.” Syria has congratulated U.S. presidents before.

U.S. officials said the raid targeted a militant leader. Damascus says eight civilians died, and closed the U.S. cultural center and an American school in Damascus in retaliation.

The U.S. has accused Syria of not doing enough to curb the flow of militant fighters from Syria into Iraq.

November 7th, 2008, 11:53 pm


Alia said:

Obama, Emanuel and Israel

In the first major appointment of his administration, President-elect Barack Obama has named as his chief of staff Congressman Rahm Emanuel, an Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran whose father, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was a member of Menachem Begin’s Irgun forces during the Nakba and named his son after “a Lehi combatant who was killed” — i.e., a member of Yitzhak Shamir’s terrorist Stern Gang, responsible for, in addition to other atrocities against Palestinians, the more famous bombing of the King David Hotel and assassination of the UN peace envoy Count Folke Bernadotte.

In rapid response to this news, the editorial in the next day’s Arab News (Jeddah) was entitled “Don’t pin much hope on Obama — Emanuel is his chief of staff and that sends a message”. This editorial referred to the Irgun as a “terror organization” (a judgment call) and concluded: “Far from challenging Israel, the new team may turn out to be as pro-Israel as the one it is replacing.”

That was always likely. Obama repeatedly pledged unconditional allegiance to Israel during his campaign, most memorably in an address to the AIPAC national convention which Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery characterized as “a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning”, and America’s electing a black president has always been more easily imagined than any American president’s declaring his country’s independence from Israeli domination.

Still, one of the greatest advantages for the United States in electing Barack Hussein Obama was the prospect that the world’s billion-plus Muslims, who now view the United States with almost universal loathing and hatred, would be dazzled by the new president’s eloquence, life story, skin color and middle name, would think again with open minds and would give America a chance to redeem itself in their eyes and hearts — not incidently, drastically shortening the long lines of aspiring jihadis eager to sacrifice their lives while striking a blow against the evil empire.

The profound loathing and hatred of the Muslim world toward the United States, which has always had its roots for America’s unconditional support for the injustices inflicted and still being inflicted on the Palestinians, can fairly be considered the core of the primary foreign policy and “national security” problems confronting the United States in recent years. Why would Obama, a man of unquested brilliance, have chosen to send such a contemptuous message to the Muslim world with his first major appointment? Why would he wish to disabuse the Muslim world of its hopes (however modest) and slap it across the face at the ealiest opportunity?

A further contemptuous message is widely rumored to be forthcoming — the naming as “Special Envoy for Middle East Peace” of Dennis Ross, the notorious Israel-Firster who, throughout the 12 years of the Bush the First and Clinton administrations, ensured that American policy toward the Palestinians did not deviate one millimeter from Israeli policy and that no progress toward peace could be made and who has since headed the AIPAC spin-off “think tank”, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Neverthess, since it is almost always constructive to seek a silver lining in the darkest clouds, a silver lining can be found and cited. For decades, the Palestinian leadership has been “waiting for Godot” — waiting for the U.S. Government to finally do the right thing (if only in its own obvious self-interest) and to force Israel to comply with international law and UN Resolutions and permit them to have a decent mini-state on a tiny portion of the land that once was theirs.

This was never a realistic hope. It has not happened, and it will never happen. So it may well be salutary not to waste eight more days (let alone eight more years) playing along and playing the fool while more Palestinian lands are confiscated and more Jewish colonies and Jews-only bypass roads are built on them, clinging to the delusion that the charming Mr. Obama, admirable though he may be in so many other respects, will eventually (if only in a second term, when he no longer has to worry about reelection) see the light and do the right thing. It is long overdue for the Palestinians themselves to seize the initiative, to reset the agenda and to declare a new “only game in town”.

Furthermore, in February, Israel will elect a new Knesset. Bibi Netanyahu, who, most polls and coalition-building calculations suggest, is most likely to emerge as the next prime minister, has one (if only one) great virtue. He is absolutely honest in not professing any desire (however insincere) to see the creation of any Palestinian “state” (whether decent or less-than-a-Bantustan in nature) or to engage in any talks (even never-ending and fraudulent ones) ostensibly about that possibility. His return to power would definitively slam the door on the illusion of a “two-state solution” somewhere over an ever-receding horizon.

This would constitute a blessing and a liberation for Palestinian minds and Palestinian aspirations. Their leadership(s) could then return, after a long, costly and painful diversion, to fundamental principles, to pursuing the goal of a democratic, nonracist and nonsectarian state in all of Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all who live there.

This just goal could and should be pursued by strictly nonviolent means. If the goal is to convince a determined and powerful settler-colonial movement which wishes to seize your land, settle it and keep it (eventually cleansing it of you and your fellow natives) that it should cease, desist and leave, nonviolent forms of resistance are suicidal. If, however, the goal were to be to obtain the full rights of citizenship in a democratic, nonracist state (as was the case in the American civil rights movement and the South African anti-apartheid movement), then nonviolence would be the only viable approach. Violence would be totally inappropriate and counterproductive. The morally impeccable approach would also be the tactically effective approach. The high road would be the only road.

No American president — least of all Barack Obama — could easily support racism and apartheid and oppose democracy and equal rights, particularly if democracy and equal rights were being pursued by nonviolent means. No one anywhere could easily do so. The writing would be on the wall, and the clock would be running out on the tired game of using a perpetual “peace process” as an excuse to delay decisions (while building more “facts on the ground”) forever.

Democracy and equal rights would not come quickly or easily. Forty years passed between when, on the night before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King cried out that he had been to the mountain top and had seen the promised land and when Barack Obama was elected as president of the United States. (The Bible suggests a similar waiting period in the wilderness for Moses.) Forty-six years passed between the installation of a formal apartheid regime in South Africa and the election of Nelson Mandela as president of a fully democratic and nonracist “rainbow nation”.

While it may be be hoped that the transformation would be significantly quicker in Israel/Palestine, it is clear that many who already qualify as “senior citizens” will not live to see the promised land. However, if the promised land of a democratic state with equal rights for all is correctly and clearly perceived and persistently and peacefully pursued, there is ample reason for confidence that Israel/Palestine will one day experience the tearful exaltation of a “Mandela Moment” or an “Obama Moment”, restoring hope in the moral potential both of a nation and of mankind, and that the Jews, Muslims and Christians who live there will finally reach their promised land.

John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel,

November 8th, 2008, 2:25 am


norman said:


You are making me depressed, By the way ,if somebody wants to open a multi specialty consulting group in Syria , what is the average salary for a specialist in medicine in Syria , and can the multi specialty group open in the free zone and set their own prices without government interference.and market that to the people from the gulf or to Syrians who usually go to Lebanon or the US and The EU for Medical care.

Anybody knows?.

November 8th, 2008, 3:52 am


offended said:

“In an interview with Ma’ariv, Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.””


November 8th, 2008, 4:42 am


annie said:

Obama is better news than Bush, that is for sure, but for Palestinians, there is not much good to be expected.

The influence of the zionist lobby will be worse than ever unless it comes to realize that a change of policy might be in the interest of everyone.

And what did Afghans do to the USA ? That country never attacked them !

November 8th, 2008, 6:01 am


alloushi said:

when are you gonna discuss issus related to the real syrians and not the elite? I mean the syrian position after Obama election which nobody i think anywhere in the world is thinking about. Here is one story that the people and government should seriuosly think about because it is for the future of our children…read the comments as well they are the real thing not what i read here sometimes from people who enjoy exceptional status inside or outside syria…


November 8th, 2008, 9:30 am


norman said:

What do think of this, Is it true,

ياجماعه 100 لتر بتكفي وزياده بس الي عم يصل للصف اقل من 25 لتر الباقي عم ينباع ايام رخص المازوت باعو فما بالكون من ايام الغلا صار الاساتذه والمدراء تجار وليسو اساتذه اخ قال لو حطو دنب الكلب مليون سنه بالقالب بتم اعوج

November 8th, 2008, 2:17 pm


offended said:

Hail to the Chief of Staff


The first trumpet blast of change ushers in Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff and gate keeper. This is the man who arranges his schedule, staffs out the agenda, includes, excludes. It’s certainly as sinister an appointment as, say, Carter’s installation of arch cold-warrior Zbigniev Brzezinski as his National Security Advisor at the dawn of his “change is here” administration in 1977.

Emanuel, as Ralph Nader points out in my interview with him below, represents the worst of the Clinton years. His profile as regards Israel is explored well on this site by lawyer John Whitbeck. He’s a former Israeli citizen, who volunteered to serve in Israel in 1991 and who made brisk millions in Wall Street. He is a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad’s unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent remark to the Ma’ariv newspaper that “Obviously he [Rahm] will influence the president to be pro-Israel… Why wouldn’t he be [influential]? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

Working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel helped push through NAFTA, the crime bill, the balanced budget and welfare reform. He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates. On this site in October and November, 2006, John Walsh documented both the efforts and Emanuel’s role in losing the Democrats seats they would otherwise have won.

In 2006 Emanuel had just published a book with Bruce Reed called The Plan: Big Ideas for America, with one section focused on “the war on terror”. Emanuel and Reed wrote, “We need to fortify the military’s ‘thin green line ‘around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops. …Finally we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like Britain’s MI5.” Recall that Obama has been calling throughout his recent campaign for an addition of 92,000 to the US Army and US Marine Corps.

Emanuel and Reed had fond words for the mad-dog Peter Beinart, neocon warrior theoretician for the Democrats, roosting Marty Peretz’s The New Republic, and author of The Good Fight where Beinart explained why a tough new national security policy is as essential to the future of of progressive politics as a united front against totalitarianism and communism was to the New Deal and the Great Society. Emanuel and Reed also commended Anne-Marie Slaughter’s proposal for “a new division of labor in which the United Nations takes on economic and social assistance and an expanded NATO takes over the burden of collective security.” In other words, let NATO shoot the natives and the UN clean the floors.

Walsh took a hard look at the 2006 Democratic primary race between Christine Cegelis and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois’s 6th CD, a Republican District, which had elected the disgusting Henry Hyde from time immemorial. In 2004 Cegelis, who iwas only mildly antiwar, ran as the Democrat with a grass roots campaign and polled a remarkable 44 per cent in her first run. It was not too long before Hyde decided to retire, and the field seemed to be open for Cegelis in the November poll, in 2006.

Enter Rahm Emanuel, who promptly dug up a pro-war candidate, Tammy Duckworth. Although she had both her legs blown off in Iraq, she remained committed to “staying the course” in Iraq. Duckworth had no political experience and did not live in the 6th District. Emanuel raised a million dollars for her and brought in Joe Lieberman, Barak Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to support her. Despite all this help and with the Cegelis campaign virtually penniless, Duckworth barely managed to eke out a primary victory by a measly four percentage points.

To win the House, the Dems had to win 15 seats from the Republicans. Walsh identified 22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents. Of these, nine adopted a US “must win” in Iraq position and only one of Rahm’s candidates was for prompt withdrawal from Iraq.

Then, after the election, Walsh assessed Rahm’s supposed brilliance in winning back the House. “Looking at all 22 candidates hand-picked by Rahm, “ Walsh wrote, “we find that 13 were defeated [including Duckworth], and only 8 won! And remember that this was the year of the Democratic tsunami and that Rahm’s favorites were handsomely financed by the DCCC. The Dems have picked up 28 seats so far, maybe more. So out of that 28, Rahm’s choices accounted for 8! Since the Dems only needed 15 seats to win the House, Rahm’s efforts were completely unnecessary. Had the campaign rested on Rahm’s choices, there would have been only 8 or 9 new seats, and the Dems would have lost. In fact, Rahm’s efforts were probably counterproductive for the Dems since the great majority of voters were antiwar and they were voting primarily on the issue of the war (60 per cent according to CNN). But Rahm’s candidates were not antiwar.


November 8th, 2008, 5:21 pm


The Strange First Man said:

[…] Also, I need to point out two things concerning the new president-elect: there was some talk that Robert Malley (Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group who was Obama’s ME advisor and was fired when people started making a fuss out of him talking to Hamas) had been sent as an envoy to the region to discuss what Obama’s policies will be. Apparently, the story was fake. […]

November 11th, 2008, 1:47 am


Murray said:

“[Addendum: Mon. Nov. 10, 2008] An assistant to Robert Malley has written me the following note denying the truth of any part fo the following story:

A quick word to stress that the story about Rob Malley visiting Egypt and Syria to deliver a message from the president-elect are a pure fabrication. The “aides” quoted in the piece are equally fictional. I would greatly appreciate if you could post this to correct the record.”

What is the assistants name? We need the name to confirm the info..

November 13th, 2008, 1:13 am


Alex said:

A positive development:

Peres today acknowledged the difference between the Saudi and Arab peace initiatives:

“This seems more feasible today in light of the Saudi proposal which evolved into a Arab peace initiative. The initiative’s portrayal of our region’s future provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations,” he added.

November 13th, 2008, 3:38 am


Shai said:


I wouldn’t call it “a positive development”. All he did was acknowledge the Saudi King by suggesting the Arab Initiative was originally his. Peres reads a lot of articles before such presentations – perhaps he even read your amazing piece about the Initiative… 🙂 (wouldn’t it be amazing if Peres joined our forum, hiding behind a name like AIP – Another Israeli President…)

November 13th, 2008, 4:38 am


Alex said:

Shai Lol

But seriously, Peres in the past talked about the “Saudi plan” but today he reduced it to “Saudi proposal” and continued talking about the Arab initiative (and not the Saudi proposal) providing hope to the people…

And this is a very formal speech delivered on this “historic” event…

November 13th, 2008, 8:43 am


Qifa Nabki said:

For anyone interested in what Obama’s Middle East team is going to look like, if you haven’t read this yet, you should:

Obama’s Mideast Team – Who’s In, Who’s Not In (Yet), Who’s Probably Out

November 13th, 2008, 9:03 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki

I think he is very close.

Dennis Ross is indeed a serious candidate. And it would be a mistake to appoint him … Look at our collective opinions at the SC poll and note the shared opinion of the progressive liberal orthodox Zionist blogger(?!) you linked to.

While I understand how A Rahm ISRAEL Emanuel might be good to undo the damage of Barack HUSSEIN Obama, but .. Why Ross??

Kurtzer is a fine choice though… As long as Dennis is not his boss.

November 13th, 2008, 10:06 am


Spookie said:

why didn’t Shapiro sign his name??

“A quick word to stress that the story about Rob Malley visiting Egypt and Syria to deliver a message from the president-elect are a pure fabrication. The “aides” quoted in the piece are equally fictional. I would greatly appreciate if you could post this to correct the record.”

November 20th, 2008, 4:22 am


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