President Assad is “more optimistic than any time before.” / Carter is “very upbeat”

Posted by Alex

Thanks to IDAF who translated the highlights of President Assad's talk during his meeting with Arab Intellectuals who participated in the "Conference on Pan-Arab Thought Revival and Arab Destiny" held in Damascus this week.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss and Palestinian activist Azmi Bishara were among the attendees.

Original article in Arabic here:

Syria does not keep an equal distance with all Lebanese factions, nonetheless we acted responsibly and invited PM Saniora to the Arab summit despite all the insults directed at us from the Lebanese fraction that Saniora belongs to. We view our differences with some Lebanese political factions as temporary disagreement. We feel that the US is satisfied with the current situation in Lebanon and does not want to reach a solution.
Other external parties that have influence in Lebanon do not support the Arab initiative.
I met with Saudi FM prince Saud Al-Faisal here in Syria and told him that we are ready to cooperate, but you Saudis have greater influence in Lebanon, as the governing authority in Lebanon includes key leaders "that grew in your lap and live through your support and are directly under your influence". The opposition on the other hand was not manufactured at the presidential palace in Syria. It is not true that we have more influence on the Lebanese opposition compared to your influence on the government. We have a clear vision for the solution for Lebanon.

Any initiative from our part would require establishing good relationships with the other external parties with influence in Lebanon such as the Saudis and the Egyptians.
Collin Powel met with me in Damascus weeks after the fall of Baghdad and read what is now known as the "conditions list". The list did not only ask for expulsion of Palestinian leadership from Syria, but also included a condition that I never mentioned before, that forbids Syria from hosting Iraqi scientists and Iraqi intellectuals. Later we saw these targeted in Iraq.

We were expecting to see an Iraqi resistance emerging against the occupation, but we were surprised with the pace that this resistance transformed its efforts quantitatively and qualitatively, compared to similar experiences of resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine.
Syria calls for an Iraqi national reconciliation congress that would draft a new Iraqi constitution.
The case in Iraq today is not a civil war, but a group of militias fighting to create a reality on the ground. Syria hosts over 1.5 million Iraqis from various backgrounds. No fighting took place between these sects in Syria. This proves that there are no inherent problems that make civil war inevitable… It is mainly the occupation that is behind the violence in Iraq.

Any talk on the interests of sects will not bear any fruit, and will not lead to development and unity in Iraq. Any constitution that is based on distributing interests based on sectarian divisions will not lead to stability. Al-taif constitution in Lebanon is a case in point.
Some in the Arab world might be waiting for the new US administration so they can decide their next steps on Iraq and other issues.
There is a joint Israeli-US interest in creating an enemy of the Arabs out of Iran. We know that Iran has its interests [in the Arab world] and maybe there were Iranian mistakes in managing some issues. This does not justify looking at Iran as an enemy of the Arabs. I told Arab leaders who blame Syria for its relation with Iran that we have to judge this relationship case by case and not take an absolute stance.

As the president of the Arab summit this year, Syria is coordinating between Hamas and Abbas.
If Syria's relationship with Egypt was in a better state, we would have managed to find a solution for Gaza's closure.
We considered the Yemeni initiative to be a solid starting point, and Hamas told us that they are willing to go with this initiative all the way, but the other side was not enthusiastic.
I think that there is a veto against Palestinian reconciliation. Syria does not have direct methods to interact directly. 

I'm optimistic, everyday our situation is improving while, Syria's enemies situations are getting complicated.
Syria is immune from the sectarian problems, because there is an agreement on the national stance between the people and the government.
Israel wants to normalization with the Arabs instead of peace.
War is a possibility now. It will depend on US interests. For example, Israel wanted to halt the war (in 2006) in Lebanon at one point in time, but the US forced it to continue fighting. We understand that a [Syrian-Israeli] war would be a demand by this US administration and we are preparing for the worst. However, we do not see it happening. After the last war on Lebanon, I noticed an increase in the nubmer of visits by western delegations [to Syria], especially Jewish ones. I noticed that the discussions' nature has changed dramatically from threats and pressure [on Syria] into seeking a way to peace. Some frankly said that the last war should speed up the process for reaching peace. Israelis have offered us secret negotiations and we rejected. We do not have anything to hide. 

I'm more optimistic than any time before.



Comments by Alex:

I think the obvious message from Syria is:

“Any initiative from our part would require establishing good relationships with the other external parties with influence in Lebanon such as the Saudis and the Egyptians.”

American, Egyptian and Saudi leaders are talking to anyone but Syria .. yet they want Syria and only Syria to solve the problems of Lebanon.

And they say that Lebanon is very important for them … but president Mubarak and King Abdullah (not to mention president Bush) do not want to meet with Assad.

King Abdullah even refused to meet with Lebanese speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri.

But he frequently meets with the President of Iran that many of his allies consider to be a dangerous man. And his media talking heads frequently express their country's disappointment in Assad's close relations with Iran.


Also this week, President Mubarak met with King Abdullah … it was their own Arab summit. The summit of the clueless Arab leaders.


In the mean time, a recent poll conducted in leading Arab states found President Assad to be the most popular Arab head of state.

Today Assad met with former President Jimmy Carter in Damascus. According to Haaretz "Carter is very upbeat"



Comments (129)

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If Asad is optimistic, he should let foreign reproters report freely from Syria, or better yet, he should give freedom of speech to his own people. If Asad is not afraid of the truth, let’s have it then.

This is just another facade behind which is nothing. The Asads stay in power while the people of Syria and Lebanon languish.

And really Asad has no shame. As one of the major reasons for lack of open discussion in the Arab world, he does not see the utter disregard to people’s intelligence in calling the conference:
Conference on Pan-Arab Thought Revival and Arab Destiny

April 18th, 2008, 5:24 pm


Jad said:

“Un tango voilé”

“Cette nouvelle jeunesse syrienne rêve essentiellement de partir, ailleurs. ..manger est devenu cher, et cela va empirer avec la levée des subventions sur le fuel et les produits de nécessité.”

The question is: Is really this economic model (look at Egypt..) a good one? Does Richistan has any future?

April 18th, 2008, 5:31 pm


Joshua said:

Thanks Alex and Idaf for this excellent translation. Most usefuland interesting.

April 18th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Naji said:

Ex-president Lahhoud is giving Ghada Eid a surprisingly revealing extended interview (in two episodes) on the Lebanese NewTV right now. Ghada Eid has made her reputation through her program that is dedicated to exposing corruption. She is known for never pulling her punches and for being balanced, fair, and well informed. The interview covers the whole of the Lahhoud 9-year presidency plus his previous time at the head of the army. Well worth the watch, if you can, especially to QN, HP, et al…! This is also the first time he speaks after leaving the presidency… he seems to be telling all…and when he does not name names, Ghada fills in the blanks…

April 18th, 2008, 8:22 pm


Alex said:


Yalla, be nice and translate for us a few of the more interesting points : )

April 18th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Naji said:


I knew I should have stayed away… Good night… 🙂

April 18th, 2008, 8:35 pm


kingcrane jr said:

I found the quote by President B.A. (attributed to Colin P.) to be quite interesting: the Syrian authorities were told not to hst any Iraqi intellectuals or scientists? I wished this could be more specific. Were they trying to keep them as the vanguard of an Iraqi renaissance, or did they want to apprehend them? Indeed, milicias and mercenaries killed many of them…

The Zogby poll is very interesting. All links to it are to the BBC release; does anyone have a direct link to the Zogby poll itself?

April 18th, 2008, 11:44 pm


Majhool said:


You make very valid points. The president speaks as if Syria is this oasis of free speech and tolerance.

One day they say if we (the regime) go then the Muslims Brotherhood will rule and then on another day he comes and tell us that the Syrians are so in peace with themselves. it’s ridiculous.

April 19th, 2008, 12:43 am


Majhool said:


The comments are misleading, By Scientists he (The president) meant Scientists in Neuclear Tech.

Syria, unfortunatly is not an inviroment where Scientists and intellectuals could thrive. intellectuals are actually the very same people who rotten in prisons in Syria.

April 19th, 2008, 1:02 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks for keeping it real.
There is only one way to lead, and that is by example.
Asad shouts “resistance”, yet let’s Lebanon not Syria resist.
Asad declares “thought revival” except of course in Syria.
But as usual, there are enough fools around to buy his BS. One has to admit that it is working so far. But when the Asad regime falls like Saddam’s, and the truth about Syria comes out, we will still have on the internet forever the opinions of people that prefer to be fooled.

April 19th, 2008, 1:23 am


offended said:

From the article about the polls Alex’s linked to:

And while Sunni rulers in the region worry about Shia Iran’s growing influence, ordinary Arabs don’t seem to view Iran as a threat.

I am very glad that the Shia/Sunni hype, concocted by the US and its ‘moderate allies’, and which is aimed at making Arab masses disdain and fear Iran is NOT working!

April 19th, 2008, 1:49 am


offended said:

Majhool, indeed. Syria is no place for intellectuals to thrive.
Only dumb and stupid douchebags are left behind in Syria while the smart ones like you are abroad. No wonder the Syrian people are very easy to lead. They have got not your intellect and the majhool analytical skills.

AIG blurted,
And really Asad has no shame. As one of the major reasons for lack of open discussion in the Arab world, he does not see the utter disregard to people’s intelligence in calling the conference:
Conference on Pan-Arab Thought Revival and Arab Destiny

a free FYI, the two dignitaries appearing at the photo (Azmi Beshara and Salim Al Huss) are the most respected and honest politicians/intellectuals in the Arab world (too bad for Majhool). And I daresay that they wouldn’t be able to convene anywhere else except in Damascus. I understand how that would hurt you. Damascus being almost the only safe haven in the region for people who are outspoken against your country and its murders.

It’s you and your government who have no shame. In the midst of all the feeble and impotent attempts to get the ‘peace process’ on the roll again, your government decide to build yet another illegal settlement in west bank. But of course, you’d not have the moral courage to address that issue, [removed by admin], because it’s only Syria and its allies in the region that do the bad things. And again, your argument about freedom of speech is flawed and hypocritical; you despise the Syrian regime because of its support for resistance movement in Lebanon and Palestine. You couldn’t care less about the Syrian people. So spare us the false indignation…

April 19th, 2008, 2:03 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Do you know how many “illegal” settlements there are on the Golan according to you? Why have you not done anything about them? The Syrians exemplify cowardice. They complain about the Palestinian settlements, but do nothing about theirs. Not ONE shot in the Golan since 1973. Not only do the Syrians dare do nothing against Israel, they dare to do nothing against a government that oppresses them. The few brave Syrians are in jail, while most just kowtow to the Asad lackeys and complain about corruption.

The Syrians are slaves in their own country and yet are so scared, they cannot even freely say that. Freedom is earned and fought for. Your cowardice is such, that you resign yourself and your children to a life of subjugation. All you are good at is complaining about Israel. But when it comes to anything to do about making Syria better, you are totally incapable. You are so pathetic. In 60 years most Syrians have learned nothing. How sad. If you want to earn any respect, make sure the Syria is not among the last countries in the world in technology or make sure that 30% of women are not illiterate. Until then, you are just making a fool of yourself.

April 19th, 2008, 2:36 am


Majhool said:

“more optimistic than any time before”

This reads.. he is more optimistic that any time before that Bush will not change his regime this year!

April 19th, 2008, 2:41 am


Enlightened said:

Ya Offended! Kif es Saha?

Ok Im going to stop ignoring you after your impertinent reference to me being a Boy George Fan! Ok I am over it now.

There is one point that you missed in your otherwise flawless analysis.

Isn’t Azmi Beshara the exiled Arab Mk from Israel?

Free speach in Israel if you are a Arab and a citizen often entails that you get labeled a traitor, and accused of spying for the enemy, just to ensure that you dont return home! How is that for free speach?

April 19th, 2008, 3:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Get your facts right. There are many people in Israel that say what Bishara is saying. Bishara was recorded speaking to Hizballah. He is a coward and a traitor and won’t come back to Israel to face charges. What is he afraid of? It would be a highly covered trial that the world press would follow on a daily basis.

In Syria he would be rotting in jail or would be executed. In Israel he served in the Knesset for many years. See the difference?

If there is free speech in Syria, let Netanyahu speak freely in Syria. Let Bishara and Netanyahu have a debate on Syrian television live. How about that? I won’t hold my breath. People who know they are peddling fraud, cannot allow any opening for the truth to be heard.

April 19th, 2008, 4:07 am


Majhool said:


Please don’t mind Offended, he is suffering from many unknown denial disorders. He is also paranoid from reality and resort to imaginary worlds for relief.

April 19th, 2008, 4:09 am


Enlightened said:


Its like the pot calling the Kettle Black right? What you have just witnessed is just an example of what you do! (LOL at you), it gets you riled when someone else uses your pathetic tactics against you!

You couldn’t even recognize your own moronic tactics, gee whiz AIG you slipping, looks like the break hasnt done you any good.

April 19th, 2008, 4:42 am


Alex said:


I removed “you skinflint coward” from your comment above.

Criticize his opinion as much as you want, but not more … it can get out of hand very quickly.

AIG said:

“There is only one way to lead, and that is by example.
Asad shouts “resistance”, yet let’s Lebanon not Syria resist.
Asad declares “thought revival” except of course in Syria. But as usual, there are enough fools around to buy his BS.”

Whatever it is … the majority of the Arab people seem to love Assad for what he stands for. Thanks to Saudi, and Saudi owned or financed, media (almost all the leading Arab newspapers and TV stations, except Aljazeera and Al-Quds) … your preferred way of seeing things (Bashar is a hypocrite thug) had more than its fair share of Arab readers’ and viewers and listeners’ time … but they simply do not buy it… the more the Saudis were pushing it, the more arabs rejecte it.

They like Bashar and Nasrallah much more than their leaders… there is almost zero Syrian PR going on … yet Syria’s point of view is the one that more and more Arabs are adopting.

Now, you called the Arab people “fools” for choosing to believe in Bashar. Whatever happened to your respect for “democracy”? … aren’t you the one who wants the dictators to listen to their people’s wishes?

Before you ask me your classic question for a thousand time, I will answer it again:

If Assad is so popular (and this poll proves it) .. how come he is “afraid” of having elections today? .. the answer to this question is that:

He wants to get the credit for regaining the Golan and for building Syria into a regional power and for consistent economic reforms and growth in Syria. And he wants Syria to be a catalyst for peace and stability in the Middle East. AND many other things … he wants Syria to play a leading role in the worldwide quest for peaceful coexistence… etc.

“etc” includes, inshallah, a modest effort for reforming Syria’s political system as well … in due time… 7-15 years.

Why should he get the credit for all that? … I don’t care. It is not democratic, that’s for sure. But it is working, slowly.

Why doesn’t he conduct elections anyway since he is popular today? … because when you start an election campaign everything can change … Hillary can make an arrogant expression and she would lose 3% of the vote … John Sidney McCain might look too old in some live interview and he will lose 5% … Bashar is taking advantage of the existing political system (an authoritarian one) and he is not risking a thing by not reforming today … true.

But that does not mean he is not doing well overall. And for that, I have no problem supporting him.

As for your argument that Bashar is a coward and a hypocrite for calling for resistance in Lebanon and Iraq and Palestine while not attacking Israel through the Golan … I answered few times already: for the same reason that America and the Soviet Union used smaller allies to fight each other … because when both parties have WMD’s … war becomes a bit too crazy for anyone’s taste… Iraq’s chaos would be nothing compared to what can happen if Israel and Syria went to war.

April 19th, 2008, 4:53 am


Mazen said:

IDAF and Alex, thank you for a good piece and translation. The speech was actually very good and I’m glad to see this article on Syria Comment.

Majhool and Obsessive Compulsive Israeli Guy (OCIG), I’m happy to see that you’ve found friends in each other. It’s not the first time that happens, as the Ikhwan movement in Syria in the 1980s did in fact receive Israeli arms.

OCIG, I really think you should try to work on your tactics a little, as they’re getting to be as predictable as the obsessive compulsive reflex that they are. However, to answer you, OCIG, being optimistic does not mean that Syria is not vulnerable to a number of forces. The likes of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat have used their platforms to promote sectarian hatred in Iraq, Lebanon, and they certainly would like to do it in Syria.

Bashar is clear about being cautious, but he’s making a case for hopefully a brighter tomorrow. The American tidal wave has hopefully broken, and is in retreat. One cannot know for sure, as another earthquake might still generate another tsunami, but, we’re hoping for the best.

Which is exactly what worries the likes of you, OCIG. You would like to see more wars carried out by this US administration or the next, with American blood and money, in order for what you think is your backyard can be pacified. Hopefully, the Americans have learned a lesson and will not commit the same stupidity again. But yet again, we don’t know.

And on the question of the press, actually, Israel imposes a much harsher (if more subtle) media gag on the entire world. Banning books, articles, newspapers, and TV stations if it can, wherever and whenever it can. Of course OCIG, you’re going to tell me that everyone that says anything negative about Israel is antisemitic, etc, etc. Yeah, well, we’re really tired of hearing that broken record. All nations try to control what the media says, some do it in a more subtle way than others, that’s all.

And, for the title of the summit, I actually like it. Because the message it is making is that the Arab voice that you lust to see vanquished will not die. Arab culture, heritage, language, poetry, and intellect will not die, no matter how much you’d love it to.

And Majhool, don’t let your hatred blind you. The Ikhwan in Syria made huge mistakes, and they received funding from the Saudis to do it, and everyone knows that. We can put that behind us and move forward, because whoever is paying to have things explode again in Syria does not care about the rights of Syrians like you and your family; they just want to use you to get at the regime, if you’ll allow them.

And what you say about the “scientists” to mean exclusively “nuclear” scientists is utterly not true. And even if it were that does not make your point valid, but actually paints you in a very bad colour for saying what you did, almost justifying Powel’s request. There are many reports that the Mossad has been running an execution campaign in Iraq, targeting Iraqi scientists in many fields. Well, someone for sure has been targeting them, and it sure is not Syria.

You see, Majhool, every bomb that goes off in Iraq, every child that’s killed, every home that’s destroyed and every scientist that’s executed, makes the likes of OCIG feel better about themselves. Their self-value seems to stem from the demise and incompetence of their enemies. This is so unfortunate, as it prevents them from a real dialogue and a genuine opening up toward the people of the region.

April 19th, 2008, 4:59 am


Majhool said:


Long time no see! No more Creative Syria? anyways, I am going to take your comments with a grain of salt and will actually respond to them.

“Majhool and Obsessive Compulsive Israeli Guy (OCIG), I’m happy to see that you’ve found friends in each other”

Isn’t that what the regime is trying desperately to achieve with the Israelis? Sucking up to the Turks and Qataris to open some channel before it’s too late? Israeli newspapers are quoted the most in SC and the focus of many posts is to amplify peace prospects with the Israleis! the only problem is that some around here created an imaginary peace loving Israelis who don’t adhere to the universal law of balance of power and get irritated with the real enemy embodied in AIG

“it’s not the first time that happens, as the Ikhwan movement in Syria in the 1980s did in fact receive Israeli arms”

Your statement embodies all what’s wrong in arab thought. let me explain, I happen to be very secular. I sympathize mostly with the Syrian National party (not in a dogmatic way though) and very close to usually Marxist intellectuals and absolutely in love with Arab and Muslim culture. So associating me with the Ikhwan is rather funny and ridiculous accusation.

“And Majhool, don’t let your hatred blind you. The Ikhwan in Syria made huge mistakes and they received funding from the Saudis to do it, and everyone knows that”
Rest assured it’s crystal clear to me. As for the Saudis, I mean give me a break do you think I give a crap of what the Saudi’s think or want? As for the Ikhwan, I mean give me a break, If you think Ikhwan are purely an import then you need a reality check. The Ikhwan was a manifestation of a frustrated community. I believe in a system that accommodates the wills of all Syrian communities. If Alawi community aspiration (culturally and economical) not accommodated I would be the first to rally their case)
“We can put that behind us and move forward, because whoever is paying to have things explode again in Syria does not care about the rights of Syrians like you and your family; they just want to use you to get at the regime, if you’ll allow them”

Very powerful thought. and I agree with you, but to see the same criminal gang (Ali Douba, Ali Haider etc)roaming Damascus unaccountable is not moving forward. Seeing an entire community harassed and excluded from power is also not moving forward. Moving forward means inclusion side by side with forgiveness. Your assumption that somehow I support the Saudis and their policies is unfounded. I never endorsed Saudi policies and it’s unlikely I would every will.

And what you say about the “scientists” to mean exclusively “nuclear” scientists is utterly not true. And even if it were that does not make your point valid, but actually paints you in a very bad colour for saying what you did, almost justifying Powel’s request. There are many reports that the Mossad has been running an execution campaign in Iraq, targeting Iraqi scientists in many fields. Well, someone for sure has been targeting them, and it sure is not Syria.

Mazen, do you seriously believe that Powel himslef would ask Assad to deny safe heaven non-military scientists? Give me a break. Heads of State Departments normally don’t get into the dirty stuff, they leave that intelligence agencies etc.

“You see, Majhool, every bomb that goes off in Iraq, every child that’s killed, every home that’s destroyed and every scientist that’s executed, makes the likes of OCIG feel better about themselves. Their self-value seems to stem from the demise and incompetence of their enemies. This is so unfortunate, as it prevents them from a real dialogue and a genuine opening up toward the people of the region.”

OCIG is the “enemy” no doubt about it, but in order to defeat the enemy I prefer to keep it real. This means that’s I am not going to hint that Syria respects its intellectuals where our national hero “Nizar Kabbani” himself despised this regime and many other reside in prison. unlike others, The Saudi-Syrian game does not interest me, and I don’t consider survival a victory and would not be blackmailed with the regime rhetoric “ It’s either us or the Salafis”.

April 19th, 2008, 5:41 am


Mazen said:

Ok, good. A Qawmi Souri, nonetheless in love with Arab and Muslim culture, yet very close to Marxists, and don’t care about the Saudis. Sounds good so far :), especially if we agree on OCIG and like minded bores.

Reading your friendly advice to him above, and using the same sectarian jargon that the Ikwan use, one might get the wrong impression, but I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

With that behind us, we can proceed. Criticize the regime all you want, Majhool. I’m not saying it’s perfect. Far from it. But I want to ask you for a favor, and I’m sincere in this and not being sarcastic: What would you do, if you were in Bashar’s place?

I think what you’re trying to prove by pointing out his contradictions is to say that he’s a liar, and he does not really believe in what he says. Fair enough. Let’s approach this in a mathematical way: If here were NOT a liar, what would he have to do for you to begin to consider him? Don’t give me generalities please, let’s try to be specific.

As for your comment on Powel, I have to disagree. The Americans were so high on their own supply in the first few weeks of the invasion that they were saying (and doing) all the wrong things. Powel himself acknowledged openly that his colourful illustration at the UN was a fake. Why are you giving him credit? And we know very well that Iraqi scientists have been targeted in Iraq, so why does Asad’s statement have to be wrong? Other than the fact that because you despise him, of course.

April 19th, 2008, 6:26 am


offended said:

Alex, I apologize… I got a little bit carried away while addressing AIG.
But don’t you think his response to me is even more obscene and more than that, it is racist? (calling all Syrians cowards?)

April 19th, 2008, 6:44 am


offended said:

Glad to see you siding by somebody who think that 99.99% of your people are coward. this says a lot about you by the way.

Irony is that according to his sweeping statement about Syrians being coward; you’d be the first to fit the profile; you post comments from the US and use a majhool name… more than enough to prove AIG’s concerns…

April 19th, 2008, 6:48 am


Mazen said:


Actually, OCIG has a pre-programmed, very short list of responses that he draws from and throws at you no matter what you say. If you wait long enough (like a couple of days) they begin to recycle.

April 19th, 2008, 6:51 am


offended said:

You are absolutely right. It’s puzzling to see people, who are free to say whatever they want (unlike us coward Syrians), are incapable of making intelligent points, so instead they’d resort to repeating the same saga over and over and over…

April 19th, 2008, 7:01 am


Alex said:


Yes that was a racist comment (although ha can come back easily and tell you that he did not mean all Syrians).

But many people here turned up the heat on “Israel” the past week when AIG was banned. I am somehow keeping track of the two sides’ agressive statements … I will let him continue to say things like “Syrians treat women like shit’ and “Syrian are cowards” … for few more comments. Then it will be even. Then I will start deleting those comments, then I will ban him for one more week.

And I will do the same to others (Arabs) who overdo it too.

By the way, all of you … please send comments about moderation to my email (you all know it). I don’t want the comments setion to turn into a useless discussion about moderation.

April 19th, 2008, 7:08 am


Majhool said:


No worries, after all you are not the first person to assume that I am affiliated with the Ikwan.

Sectarianism is such a loose word nowadays. Some use the word to describe the political system in Lebanon and the civil war in the Iraq and others (such as the Syrian regime) use it as a tool to incriminate those who object to injustices made to certain communities or privileges exclusive to others.

The tragedy of Iraq made me realize how vulnerable Arab communities are to change. Once the lid was open evil poured out. This evil is not inherent in the Arab gene it’s a result of the systemic destruction of every thing civic in the lives of these communities. I may sound that I am out there for the sunnis (sectarian) but that’s not the case. Sunnis make up the majority of Syrians and to continue to repress them is preparing for another Iraq

The Ikhwan movement resulted from the repression against middle class Sunnis in large cities. Middles class families were systematically deprived from economic opportunities, their rentals homes were practically given out to the renters (who paid pennies a month) Imports seized and merchants suffered. They were excluded from government jobs and denied political participation under the pretext that they were pro capitalists/imperialists and basically semi traitors. The community felt leaderless and resorted to “God” for salvation.

but to your question and to be more specific:

1) I want Bashar to break this vicious cycle. I want him to admit past wrong doings of excessive violence, torture, and repression. He must carry out an investigation (even if symbolic) and put some accountable for the 20 000 deaths in the 1980s.

2)I want some real reconciliation going that will rejuvenate the relationship between the government and this particular community. Modest and symbolic compensation to those who spent 20 years in prison for no crime committed.

3) I want to see him start some serious inclusion process, I want to see Sunnis free to join the army and mukhabarat; I want to go to Syria and feel that people are at ease with the regime.

4)I want to see civic life and rule of law restored in healthy doses.

5) I want to see Butayna Shaaban out of office (smile) as she embodies all what that community despise.

6) I would like to see talents going back to Syria which means that important management positions will no longer me monopolized by the Baath and Mukhabart

April 19th, 2008, 7:23 am


offended said:

Enlightened, ahleen, kifak? Keef al ahwal down under?
Thanks for the elaboration on Azmi Beshara. I think Azmi Beshara is brave enough to face the consequences of his brave stances. But you see… when the AIGs seemed like they were after him, they claimed he was caught red-handed talking with Hasan Nasserallah on the phone… planting a false evidence is the least felony they are willing to do.. high publicity trial my as*…

I didn’t say you are a Boy George’s fan. I just said you are fan of his music!

April 19th, 2008, 7:34 am


offended said:

Shai, (if you’re following this thread) this goes out to you:

Leviev plans two Dubai stores in 2008

Leviev, one of the world’s most exclusive diamond jewellery stores, is opening two new stores in Dubai in 2008, a statement said. One Leviev store will be a flagship boutique located in the Dubai Mall, which is currently under construction and set to be open in late August. The other will be a Leviev mini-boutique in the lobby of the Atlantis Hotel resort on Palm Jumeirah, currently scheduled to open in September 2008.

April 19th, 2008, 7:45 am


Mazen said:


First of all, what’s in Iraq is not a civil war. You don’t have the masses mobilized in a popular “war” per se. What you really have is you have militias, gangs of armed people with agendas, carrying out sectarian violence and cleansing. This violence is not spontaneous, though. It is imposed from the outside by parties who have the cause and the means to do so, and it is done under occupation, where the land is open to anything.

It is like sparking a dry bush. If you keep sparking it, you might actually start a fire, but if you leave it along, it’s not going to spontaneously light up.

You are right in that we are vulnerable. We still do not have the immunity against the sectarian disease. You have to admit, however, that we are not unique in this vulnerability. I think we can agree that if you lose law enforcement measures for a few weeks in a country like the US (i.e. police totally disappears from the streets,) you will have a very bad situation on your hands. Crime rate spikes by several orders of magnitude if power is lost, let alone law enforcement. So, yes, while we ARE vulnerable, we are not unique in that.

If you recall in Iraq, “Sunni” suicide bombers started blowing themselves up in Shia areas soon after the invasion. That continued for about two years with almost daily tragedies, but it was not enough to start a civil war. So whoever was behind it decided to up the ante and next we saw the two shrines blown up. At that point, Shia gangs started their own campaign campaign of sectarian terror.

In effect, what has been an intermixed society was polarized by lethal external force to segregate the society into islands of sects. If you haven’t noticed, Majhool, this is a classic tactic that has been used by invaders for ages. Who benefits from such violence?

Again, it is not unique to Iraq. It can be done in any place at any time, if you have a capable party that is criminal enough to use it as a vehicle to reach goals. And the true tragedy is that some Arab ruling families, who seem to claim a monopoly on Islam, have seemingly worked very hard to blow at this fire. Supplying money, men, and fatwas. They are Sunnis for you, Majhool.

Why did the Saudis do that? Fear of the US? fear of Iran? To keep the war away from home? To keep their young population employed? Who knows? But what is clear is that the Saudis have done everything in their power to enrage the fire, and very little to bring it down.

Sectarian violence is another face of racism and exclusion. Many outspoken sectarians are not religious, but approach it from a racial/social angle, like many Beiruti Sunnis, for instance. I have been in social settings where several elderly dinosaurs were bragging about their families having had Alawi maids in the past. None of that folk was religious, not by a far cry.

On your analysis on why the Ikwan started, I beg to differ. The loss of many advantages that had been had for centuries was not to be seen as a sectarian move, but a social and economic one. The same forces were at work in Egypt, for instance, and there were no Alawis there.

Many of the rank and file Ikhwan were uninformed young guys who were exploited and burnt by people unknown to them.

So when you see me getting a little nervous when you start saying Senni this and Senni that, I hope you know where I’m coming from.

1. Admitting past wrongs. Ok, to whom? To the Sunnis in general? That does not apply, because not all want what you want. To the Ikhwan who declared an Islamic state in Hama? To the Iqta3i families who lost “their” unearned advantages? To whom? And … if we can define a party, is this other party, whoever that may turn out to be, prepared to do the same? Are the Ikwan prepared to come out and denounce the Ibn Taymiyah ideology that states that non Sunnis can be freely killed, robbed and raped? Are the Iqta3i families prepared to denounce centuries of mistreatment and exploitation of the “peasants”? Are the Saudis prepared to denounce their use of religion and sectarian frenzy to forward their stance in the region? Are they prepared to denounce their outflow of fatwas and cash to fund a most repressive and intolerant views on the world around them? Wallahi I am for admitting the wrongs of all sides if we do it sincerely to clear our hearts and heritage from hatered and start a new page.

Since I don’t think the other side is prepared to meet you half way , then what else can you do other than trying to do better in the future, not making the same mistakes, and setting a good example as much as possible, which is, I believe, is what Bashar is trying to do.

2. By “this particular community” do you mean the Sunnis? the rich families of the large cities (and for heaven’s sake, please don’t label these as the Syrian Middle Class). Yes, I am against imprisoning anyone for their opinion. Many prisinors have been released, as you may know.

3. Inclusion process. There are actually many Sunnis in the army, but I’m suspecting they’re not the right Sunnis for you, Majhool. The chief of staff, the minister of defense, and many high rank officials are in fact .. “sunnis”.

4, 5, 6 we don’t disagree on, I think, especially 5.

April 19th, 2008, 8:36 am


Shai said:


Thank you. Yes, I’ve seen a mention of this on some Israeli paper this week. Leviev is one of Israel’s billionaires, who has recently relocated to London. I imagine a lot of Israelis are starting to invest in the Gulf, as there seem to be some wonderful opportunities there.

April 19th, 2008, 10:39 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Now, you called the Arab people “fools” for choosing to believe in Bashar. Whatever happened to your respect for “democracy”? … aren’t you the one who wants the dictators to listen to their people’s wishes?

Not that this is an exact comparison, but one of the biggest bestsellers in our region is the Arabic translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In other words, Hitler is extremely popular.

Popularity is a highly unreliable index, especially when the most important qualities in a leader are ruthlessness and shelf life. Bashar, in comparison to his peers, is pretty appealing. But his popularity does not stem from the same reasons that you admire him, ya Alex. So I don’t think you should equate the two.

April 19th, 2008, 12:11 pm


trustquest said:

The Assad statement about the scientists is YES very wrong. Not because it is true or false, IT IS because those guys who have been targeted and gone could have been saved has he spoken of this fact at that time, not five years later. He is not doing them any good now, he is using them.

April 19th, 2008, 12:22 pm


wizart said:

Mazen & Majhool,

Just curious about your reservations with regards to Buthina 🙂 and was wondering why you think she should be replaced and what do you think she lacks in terms of qualifications? Do you think she doesn’t portray well the popular feelings of the Syrian people when she’s being interviewed by the foreign press? What do you think her role and job description should be? Any helpful suggestions or realistic ideas would be greatly appreciated.


April 19th, 2008, 1:24 pm


Majhool said:


As for the violence in Iraq, We are not going to disagree on terms.
I know we are not unique in this vulnerability. But look how Eastern Europe managed the transition.. quite smoothly if you recall. Of course the comparison is not fair as Eastern Europeans are far ahead of us in almost everything. However I hope that you would agree with me that the bush can be and should be a little greener. As for Saudis/Iraqis, I still don’t understand why you keep bringing sunnis in Iraq and Saudis etc.. Let’s focus on Syria.

“On your analysis on why the Ikwan started, I beg to differ. The loss of many advantages that had been had for centuries was not to be seen as a sectarian move, but a social and economic one. The same forces were at work in Egypt, for instance, and there were no Alawis there”

Good point. First read my comments again, I did not say the alawis carried out the process, in fact Hafez Assad was considered by many as a relief from the more radicals (Nasser and the Baathis of the 60s. the relief that came with Hafez was not enough or maybe came in too late. Tell me the name of one political party from the late 50s to the 80s that represented the economical or even the social aspirations of middle class city dwellers? Can’t we be fair a little?

“Admitting wrong doing is not necessary”

Do you know how many innocent people fell in Hama? Do you know that many joined Ikhwan before the violence and did not participate in it yet still spent 20 years in prison or simply killed? Do you know that throughout much of 80s and 90s sunnis were harassed over and over again. Do you know the Riffat troops stormed Tadmour prison and killed prisoners heek fashet khele2. is that how a government treat its own citizen who were mislead? Bombard their city and level it? City dwellers are not limited to handful of landlords and wealthy merchants and definitely not all are Ikhwan, It’s in the name if Ikhwan that the regime repressed that entire community. look at you hashing out Ibn Taymiieh as if he is my father. Ana sho Khasni? am I going to be deprived representation because of him.

So you believe the sunnis in Large cities who make up more than half of GDP are represented? If you choose to take the path where you want to convince me that people like Outri, Shihabi, Khadam, have any representation among those in the cities then I believe the discussion is futile. a REAL Discussion on this requires a deeper look into things. Maybe I will take you one day to the homes of city dwellers ( small merchants, Artisans, Carpenters, school teachers, retirees and you would hear for your self)

When Hafez died, why did sunnis in Large cities stayed home, while the regime packed microbuses with alwawis chanting slogans in sunni neighborhoods? If many choose to think that a problem does not exist well then they are wrong. I just hope that they would not be surprised when violence erupts again.

April 19th, 2008, 4:20 pm


Karim said:

There is no need for the sunnis to be sectarian ,logically sectarian feeling can only be strong amongst the minority groups in the region who fear the majority as existential treat and unfortunately this complex is deeply rooted in the alawi community and it appear clearly in your comment Mazen.
As for Sheikh Al Islam Ibn Taymiyya what u said on him Mazen is greatly exaggerated and we must read his fatwas in their context ,so they are no more valid today.

April 19th, 2008, 4:45 pm


wizart said:

Besides Alawis act as common denominators between the majority Sunnis and second largest majority which is the Christians. They can relate to both Sunnis and Christians more easily than say the Kurds, etc.

April 19th, 2008, 4:59 pm


Nour said:


When you view society as one of minorities and majorities then you are being sectarian. You are saying that Sunnis do not have to be sectarian because they are the majority; but this in itself is sectarian. You do not view society as one where all members are equal and where no difference should be made with respect to one’s religious, sectarian, or ethnic affiliation. Rather, you believe that since Sunnis can vote for their fellow Sunnis, they do not need to have a sectarian system. However, such a mentality carries with it the very cause of the radicalization of what you may term “minority” groups. In Iraq the Shia are the majority, so they also shouldn’t have to support a sectarian system. But do you honestly believe that the Shia in Iraq are not sectarian?

The whole premise of the Ikhwan mentality is that they are the majority and therefore should rule. If this is not sectarianism, then I don’t know what is. Sectarianism is not going to end until we root it out from its foundation, namely from the people’s minds. Otherwise, you will continue to have the same problems and same arguments while the country will move from one disaster to another.

April 19th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Alex said:

Excellent point Nour.

I will write my opinion on this issue a bit later today, but for now let me post here a comment that we get almost everyday from someone who is … sectarian… his IP is filtered of course.

Obviously it represents the extreme of the extremists, but it will give you an idea of what goes on in some people’s minds.

Name: Abu Bakr | E-mail: | IP: XX.XX.XX.XXX | Date: April 19, 2008

O’ Syrian Sunnis, here we are again excercising our mandate of urging you to rise up to the most noble of tasks. O’ Syrian Sunnis you are being called upon to rise up as one man and destroy the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut. O’ Syrian Sunnis, you may think that you can take up this task at your leisure time. But believe me, O’ Syrian Sunnis, you are gravely mistaken. O’ Syrian Sunnis this task must occupy your full time and you must allocate your full efforts towards its fullfilment. O’ Syrian Sunnis you must ask yourself the following question every day as soon as you wake up: what can I do today to advance the cause of noble task of eliminating the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut? O’ Syrian Sunnis your Sunni brothers in the neighboring countries of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and others are as concerned about your predicament as you are. For this reason, they have opened their coffers for your cause. You can now receive weapons, ammunition, training, intelligence and logistical support from your Sunni brothers in order to succeesd in your campaign. Pay special attention to your Iraqi, West Bank Palestinians and Lebanese Sunni brothers who could be of tremendous help to you in your struggle against the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut. These Sunni brothers of yours have suffered tremendously due to the terrorist behaviour of this alawite dog and his alawite father dog. They would be very happy to offer all the help they can in order to get rid of this canine alawite terrorist dog son of the alawite canine terrorist dog. In particular, the Iraqi Sunni brothers have an army of over 100000 men and are supported by the liberation forces of the USA. They would be eager to unite with you in order to eliminate the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet brother of the alawite slut. O’ Syrian Sunnis, The International community has also placed a heavy leash around the neck of the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut. O’ Syrian Sunnis, this dog will soon be dragged to the abyss of the dust bin of history. O’ Syrian Sunnis, this is your chance to rise up and eliminate the alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut. O’ Syrian Sunnis you MUST rise up NOW and destroy this alawite dog son of the alawite dog and the alawite slut and worse yet the brother of the alawite slut.

April 19th, 2008, 5:33 pm


wizart said:

Like Nour is saying I think the best system is based on merit not on sectors. So Meritocracy is the best system which keeps religion at home away from government’s secular system of checks and balances.

April 19th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Zenobia said:

Comment by AIG April 19th 2:36

I find this comment very offensive. i really think that it is destructive to the blog as a whole.. for him to talk to someone like that…calling someone a “fool” “cowardice, syrians are “slaves”, “incapable” , “pathetic”…

i thought he was banned for a week? What happened. I see this stuff…and I really think it is offensive -unhelpful critiques… just designed to humiliate and be degrading. What is the intellectual purpose of such a statement.

Personally there are a lot of nasty things I would like to say to certain people here at times or about actions/thoughts of others, but I try to control myself and show some restraint. I do even more than that when possible to find commonality with those who are a world apart. Many people here are working to do that. I think that is a good thing, even if certain people disparage too much “hand holding” between adversaries.

so Why is this person allowed to transgress so badly???? at times. I think it is very destructive to this blog and to our relationships in general.

Dear AIG,
I actually do want you to participate in this blog. I do not want you to be banned. I appreciate the challenge you bring to us at times- and feel always that if the topic is Israel- you are very justified – maybe even doing us a favor to defend other points of view and explain your country and various aspects of it. However, whenever you waste your breath and our time -ranting endlessly – with the same analysis over and over about Syria, the Syrian gov’t or syrian culture… You end up the one looking foolish and arrogant. We already know the problems and critiques you are voicing. None of what you say is new. And your delivery of your opinion is usually done in an offensive and extremely disrespectful and embarrassing way. Your message is lost in this way. I don’t understand why you are doing that. You don’t need to battle anyone here. It simply puts everyone on the defensive and unable to have a conversation with you when there really is something to be discussed.
You should stay away from giving lectures on Syria. You haven’t been there and know very little of depth -to say too much about it beyond the same reiteration about democracy and authoritarianism. This is pretty old now.
Why don’t you try to learn something from others (some) rather than repeating yourself over and over. This would be much more impressive.

April 19th, 2008, 5:53 pm


Karim said:

Yes as any people in the world we would like to be ruled by a representative government,that doesnt mean that we are sectarian.
And for Iraq ,the shias are a majority only in a specific part of Iraq not in the other parts,and are minorities in the arab and islamic world so it can not be compared to Syria.
I agree that the best system must be based on merit and i dont think that that when Fares Bey al Khoury was elected prime minister of Syria it was for his religious belonging,of course you would reply that today the syrian society is different …may be and this thank to 30 years of state terror but in my opinion the natural syrian trend is toward the moderate center.And Ikhwan will not get more than 20%-30% in a democratic regime.

Alex,these slogans are repeated in middle east related blogs and i’m sure that you have no doubts that the author is not syrian and even not muslim.It’s not a smart move from you to copy and past them here.

April 19th, 2008, 5:55 pm


Majhool said:

There is some serious hypocrisy going on, you and many others in this forum trumpet the notion that Shia must be better represented in Lebanese parliament! But you want to deny it to a large segment in Syria because they are ya haram sectarian and suffer from the majority complex and need to be taught a lesson.

“The whole premise of the Ikhwan mentality is that they are the majority and therefore should rule”

What a simplification of reality. It’s not about ruling, when the regime embodies their economical aspiration and allows them to have a say on how the country is governed then the problem will seize to exit. Good governing is one that works for everyone.

When ruling is exclusive to Baath and Mukhabart this means that Sunnis are not represented because if you know Syria you know that Baath ideology does not represent mainstream sunni street

And how come all the heads of i ntellegence are Alawis? isn’t that secterian and must be noted?

April 19th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Karim said:

Majhool,ikhwan is a bad excuse ,it means in fact the sunni syrians

April 19th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Zenobia said:

if you go to the Creative Syria site on the Blogger forum to the topic on Expatriates.. you can read days of debate on why these two and others reject or praise Buthaina.

Why is Karim saying that (Alex has no doubts) the author of that sectarian treatise is Not Syrian and not even a Muslim. ?????

April 19th, 2008, 6:25 pm


Mazen said:


I was a full member of this so-called “sunni” community, and what I’m saying here are things that I know quite well and have actually endorsed for some time, to some extent.

Nour is right, your statement that the sunnis have no need to be sectarian is actually the root of the problem, because it is insensitive to all others. It is assumes, by definition and by some unseen authority, who’s right and who’s wrong. So by your definition, when Saudi funded salafi web sited target all other sects, that that is not sectarianism. It’s only sectarian if you’re not a sunni, and this is by DEFINITION. If you don’t see the contradiction, then we probably should not be having this conversation.

It is a long discussion, but I just got fed up with the hypocrisies and the self-serving idiosyncrasies, and I don’t identify myself as a Sunni anymore.

Ibn Taymiyah has some powerful input into the Islamic heritage. He made some honorable stands given his day’s circumstances. You have to also acknowledge that his writings are full with bitterness and elimination verdicts upon those who crossed him. Look at his books: “Yustataab Thalaathan fa’in taab wa Illa Qutel” repeats quite a few times if you haven’t noticed. I studied this in Saudi schools, Karim, and I’m not exaggerating. During the Ikhwan period in Syria, his verdicts were mass propagated onto the youth’s minds that it was perfectly ok to kill the rafidis, rape their women, and take their money. I heard in with my own ears, Karim, and I think you may have as well.


I did not say that admitting the wrong is not necessary. Did you see me saying that? I asked if all parties are prepared to admit wrong doing. I hereby admit that the regime made some terrible mistakes in the past. Elements of the regime often committed crimes, were corrupt, and used force excessively, and I’m not a member of the regime by any means. Are you, and is Karim, and the many bitter Syrians out there prepared to admit the wrongs from “your” side as well?

We can, and we should meet half way.

April 19th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Nour said:


The whole notion of each group electing its own representatives is in essence a sectarian way of thinking. If the majority of Syrians are sunni, that does not necessarily mean that there needs to be a number of Sunnis elected that is representative of the percentage of the population that the Sunnis make up. The idea that we elect people based on their sectarian identities is a flawed concept that cannot bring about an effective system of governance.

When you assessed the situation in Iraq, the very language you used was inherently sectarian. You are presenting your basic premise as “the Sunnis are the majority everywhere and should thus rule.” If I am reading it wrong please clarify. But a specific particularistic group that happens to be in the “majority” does not mean that that group should rule over all others and any discussion that starts from such a viewpoint is founded on sectarian (or any other particularistic) principles.

In Syria there needs to be a government that represents the interest of the nation as a whole. A system whereby no difference is made between one citizen and the other and all Syrians are viewed as members of a single nation with equal rights and duties to all other Syrians. There should be no talk of majorities and minorities, which has only led us to division and fragmentation as each group sees that it must protect its own interests lest it fall under the rule of another group.

Now, I am not defending the current Syrian system. But the underlying discussion is how do we move from here to an ideal system of governance. You have to build an entire system with institutions and simply carrying out elections today will not necessarily get you where you want to be, especially if each group looks only to protect its own interests, rather than viewing that the nation as a whole has a single, collective interest.

April 19th, 2008, 6:44 pm


Mazen said:


I have no bitterness against Buthaina. If anything, I think she is too politically correct to the extent of being boring. That’s about the limits of my complain about her. Otherwise, I agree to most of what she says and writes and have no issues with it.

April 19th, 2008, 6:47 pm


Nour said:


I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me, but if you’ve read my post you would know that I believe the entire Lebanese system has to change. I never argued that the Shia need to be better represented from a sectarian perspective. I have argued that the Lebanese system is inherently sectarian and does not represent the interests of the people as a whole, such that if one group is not supported by strong sectarian representation, then that group will be neglected and ignored by the state. The Shia were previously ignored and neglected because they had no powerful sectarian parties looking after particularistic Shia interests, and thus began supporting such sectarian parties when they saw that they would be better protected that way.

Therefore, I believe that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the entire sectarian system in Lebanon, whereby people do not rule based on sectarian affiliation, but rather based on what’s best for the country as a whole.

As for Syria, I never said that the Baath was a model of ideal governance. I don’t believe in the Baathist ideology and I despise the narrow Baathist way of ruling by force. However, merely allowing the Ikhwan to have a say will not produce a better system. The Ikhwan want to impose an Islamic system in Syria. Is that good for Syria? No. Would it be good if the majority wanted it? Still no. So to simplify the matter by saying that you merely need to allow everyone to have a say does not give a viable solution.

What we need first and foremost is a awareness and consciousness. When the people are aware of their national identity and conscious of their national interest, they can then be better equipped to build an effective system that is built on solid foundations.

April 19th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Karim said:

Mazen,read the leading traditional shia scholars(Majlisi,Jazaeri,Kolayni …) and you will find more takfirism than in Ibn Taymiyya writtings.In the hussayniyat ,they have no other jobs than insulting the sahabah and the wife of the prophet ….so in my opinion there is no difference between the extremist wahhabis and the rafidi shias,both are wrong and they share a culture of hatred and revenge.
Btw Ibn Taymiyya was only lately recognized by the islamic and also the western community of islamologists as one of the most interesting islamic thinkers.During the ottoman era he was considered as heretical because of his attacks against Ibn Arabi and the cult of saints.
Nour i agree with most of what you said ,specially when you called for more awarness and civicism but how is that possible under a moukhabarati sectarian and paranoiac regime ?

April 19th, 2008, 7:34 pm


ugarit said:

Majhool said: “Sunnis make up the majority of Syrians and to continue to repress them is preparing for another Iraq”

How are Sunnis being repressed in Syria? Are they repressed more than other Syrians? I doubt it. Anyone who confronts the government will be repressed and that has nothing to do with their ethnicity or sect. This is one of the few areas where the regime is fair in its treatment.

April 19th, 2008, 7:38 pm


wizart said:


Thanks for pointing that out.

I don’t know why although I think guys in general like to assume things or are more likely to jump to conclusions than women.

I was reading somewhere about more important gender differences:

Vision: Men focused. Women peripheral.

Men take pride in self reliance. Women take pride in team accomplishments.

Men have an individual perspective (the core unit is me). Women have a group perspective, (the core unit is we.)

Men are rights-oriented. Women are responsibility-oriented.

Touch: The most sensitive man is less sensitive than the least sensitive woman. (no exaggeration.)

You might be able to get your PHD sooner based on your gender.

P.S: I may have jumped to conclusion there 😉

April 19th, 2008, 7:49 pm


Mazen said:


Thank you. I think we’re moving. I agree that there are fanatics on the Shia side as well as the Sunni side for sure, but the conclusion I get from that is that we should move away from this jargon and from this way of thinking.

Are you prepared to admit that Ibn Taymiyah has many dangerous concepts throughout his writings? And that his extremist opinions and fatwas have been utilized by the wahabis and the Ikhwan for political reasons?

Traditional Shia thinking has this disease too, and what happens in many husseniyat and latmiyyat is also a shame. Let’s move away from that.

When you keep identifying people by their inherited (and unchangeable) sect, then you’re not helping move away from it.

April 19th, 2008, 8:13 pm


Alex said:

Over the past three years I have had the luxury of speaking to many of you here for long hours… 20 to 50 hours in few cases… all about Syria and the Middle East.

I also had numerous other instructive conversations with tens of other smart Syrian bloggers, analysts, business leaders, and regular Syrians. Many told me a lot about the feelings and impressions of Syrians similar to their backgrounds … in Syria and outside Syria.

The simplest thing I realized is that Syrians, and their aspirations are not easy to classify. Any general label for the different Syrian groups is very misleading … “Sunnis”, “Baathists” …

Next, I realized that initially and publicly almost everyone claims he is secular. Christians love their Muslim brothers, Sunnis have nothing against Alawites …etc.

But I think after few hours of a conversation with each, I did manage to understand the real beliefs and fears and aspirations of those I spoke to.

First few comments regarding those labels:

1) “Sunnies” can be the many figures like Mustapha Tlass who genuinely was loyal to Hafez Assad’s regime. They include many, many rich merchants with the best known Damascene family names who are benefiting just fine from the corruption and special treatment they are given from the regime. They do not like the regime, but they don’t hate it … and they definitely would think twice before supporting any effort to overthrow the regime.

But there are many other Sunnies who are less crazy about the regime. While most people like Bashar as a person who is polite to everyone and who drives his children to school and is not a womanizer, not a smoker or drinker … the majority do not like the regime in general. But … the majority are not in the mood to risk change… there is no hate, just lack of respect for all the corruption and mismanagement, plus some weak-to-moderate degree of feeling that this is a minority Alawite regime that they prefer (if it was not risky at all) to replace with a genuine Sunni regime.

There is considerably less anger in the Sunni street over the 80’s .. Hama and the very tense years that followed Hama. Alawite power is not as visible as it used to be. Majhool here stated earlier that he does not like seeing former Syrian (Alawite) security chiefs Ali Douba and Al Haidar roaming the streets of Damascus.

Ali Haidar “retired” many years ago. Ali Douba also retired years ago and I heard he is studying philosophy and meditating up in the mountains. Besides, I don’t think Majhoul or anyone else here even knows what Ali Douba looks like … Ali Douba was the real Majhool.

2) Alawites: They include those who genuinely believe they are just like Sunni Muslims. Some pretend they are (not to offend other Muslims who do not like the differences in the way Alawites interpret Islam) but many others are becoming much more similar to mainstream Sunni Islam. I have Alawite friends in Canada who fast and pray.. they are not pretending, I am Christian, and we live in Montreal.

And there are many Alawites who got sick of all the violence and anger and hate that accompanied them because they are Alawites and not regular Sunni Muslims. Those Alawites are either Atheists or proud to be Alawite. I noticed some intentionally switch, when they are with Sunnis, to speaking with their parents’ Alawite accent from the village near Lattakia. Some wear watches with the face of Hafez Assad on it…

But in general .. most Alawites are quite uncomfortable with Sunnies who are eager to change the political system in Syria quickly. They worry about those “reformists” … they feel that it is motivated by sectarian feelings or by extremist tendencies.

3) Christians: They are not in power. The past few years they lost almost all the positions that they used to have at the time of Hafez Assad.

But they are mostly supporters of Bashar. they want him to reform faster, but they understand some of the reasons why he can’t move faster. Most Christians, like most Alawites, are quite suspicious of Khaddam and others who are very eager to replace the regime at any cost.

There are many Christian reformers pushing for change. Michel Kilo and Anwar Bunni (both in jail for their political activism) are among the better known names.

4) Baathists: are not all Alawites, and they are not all peasants who took power from the rich Sunni families. Noureddine Attasi, Syria’s Baathist president before Hafez Assad, was a Sunni .. he was a Marxist too. He and his other political allies at the time (60’s) were openly anti religion. When Hafez Assad took over in 1970 he made it a point to publicly appear with religious leaders … Bishops, imams … Hafez prayed in mosques and congratulated Christians on their religious holidays.

5) the expanded role of the security and intelligence agencies:

It was during the three years of Union with Nasser’s Egypt when Syria was introduced to the intelligence agencies that specialized in “internal security” (homeland security?)

Then things got worse after the Muslim brotherhood (ikhwan)’s three years campaign of general violence. Hafez Assad used to take a walk on Damascus streets, alone or with his friend Mustapha Tlass. No secret service and no panic.

But everything changed in 1976/1977 … Assad took the decision to interfere in Lebanon to save the Christian Lebanese who were about to be defeated by a coalition of Druze/Palestinian Muslim forces. The Syrian army was ordered by Hafez Assad to fight the Muslim forces… many Syrian fundamentalists could not trust the Alawite president anymore. To them, his willingness to help the Christians against Muslims was an indication that he is definitely not a true Muslim. They decided that he had to go.

At the same time, the United States, Israel, Saddam Hussein, many Saudis, many Jordanians, and (by 1979) even some Lebanese Christian parties allied to Israel at the time, decided to benefit from this anger at Assad. they helped finance, arm, and encourage the Syria Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow Hafez Assad’s regime.

America wanted to get rid of Assad. At the Baghdad Arab summit in 1978, he (with Saddam’s help) succeeded in isolating Anwar Sadat’s Egypt which just signed a separate peace treaty with Israel.

Saddam wanted to get rid of Hafez Assad to take his place as the leader of the Arab world (after Sadat was out). Hafez won the 1973 war and he sent his troops to end the Lebanese civil war … Saddam wanted to play that same role but his problem was that his country is not in the right place … it was Hafez’ Syria that had the borders with Israel and Lebanon .. where all the action was taking place.

Wahabi inspired leadership in Saudi Arabia wanted to get rid of Assad for sectarian reasons. they also hated his siding with the Christians in Lebanon.

King Hussein of Jordan (and his brother prince Hassan) were perhaps the strongest supporters of Syria’s Muslim brotherhood. Religious reasons, plus serving American Israeli interests.

Three years later, and hundreds (thousands?) of dead Syrians (mostly innocent) the Ikhwan escalated their campaign and declared their Islamic revolution’s beginning in Hama.

The regime responded with unprecedented violence. The ikhwan managed to kill many innocent Syrians from 1979 to 1981, but the regime responded finally with a counter attack that lasted few days and killed over ten thousands ikhwan fighters and mostly innocent Hama civilians who were either ikhwan supporters or completely innocent bystanders.

Despite Hama, It is a mistake for those who are angry at the regime to ignore the reasons why Alawites, and other minorities like Christians, also remember what led to Hama.

Majhool is mostly right. What happened in Hama can not be forgotten. Actually it might be possible to continue to avoid discussing it for another generation when it will fade away from people’s memories. But for now, many Sunnis are unable to forgive “the regime”… Bahsar had nothing to do with Hama. Bashar does not even speak to his uncle Rifaat, who is more responsible for Hama than any other officer at the time. But Sadly, a number of Sunnis (I estimate them at 10%) simply want revenge.

And that is something that the regime is aware of. Bashar knows that most Sunnis like him and tolerate the regime he inherited. But he knows, and intelligence people know, that there are many out there who still hate them and want revenge.
Majhool wants Sunnis to be allowed to take leading roles in intelligence agencies. Some are by the way. There were a couple of genuinely secular Sunni heads of some intelligence agencies. But for now, it is true that Alawites and their most trusted Sunni friends (or Christians) will be in charge of Syria’s security.

Are they doing a good job at least?

Yes. Syria is safe. There is much less annoying presence of intelligence officers around the cities. they are there for sure, but when Bashar goes to have dinner in a regular Damascus or Aleppo restaurant, no one is bothered. Everyone finishes his dinner uninterrupted by the presence of visible intelligence officers.

They are successful and they are considerably less intrusive compared to the 80’s and 90’s.

The bottom line is .. as long as there is hate and need for revenge, the Alawites are not going to make things easier for political reformers.

That’s partly why is is so foolish for all those opposition forums to display without much doubt their hate to the Alawites and to the peasants and minorities …

Some think they can hide it .. but it is sooooo obvious.

One can pay attention to how easily they get angry at Shia regional parties (like Hizbollah or Iran) and how supportive and understanding they are of Saudi Arabia and Saad Hariri and Khaddam for example … those who can only see the regime’s corruption while supporting Khaddam and while leaving comments saying that they are secular … are really not helping. They are giving the truly secular a bad name.

There are many lines along which Syrians can be divided if we want to highlight those divisions. You can easily give a passionate speech that makes the poor angrier at the rich … the Sunnis more angry at the Alawites … the City people angry at the peasants (Sunnis and Alawite) or the Baathists who took power from them … the Christian who can not be prime minister like the old days …

And this is true in many countries. especially in the Middle East. So … Is it wise to ignore those divisions? is it wise to dig deep and shed strong light and those hidden divisions?

I believe that Bashar is doing the right thing .. he is aware of everything and he is working slowly to avoid making mistakes.

Although I am for a bit more motivated approach to dealing with the Hama inspired anger or hate. But as Mazen said … it is not a one way apology that is needed.

Most Syrians are secular enough … but they can turn more sectarian if regional events push them in that direction.

The regime knows how to minimize these chances.

April 19th, 2008, 8:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I usually answer kind in kind.
It is interesting that you claim that there is not need to reiterate the issues of Syria though most bloggers here like to reiterate the Israeli related issues ad-nauseaum. Most interestingly, they claim to know better

But frankly, I don’t think most Syrians realize that Arab Israelis are so much richer and so much more educated than the average Syrian. I don’t think most Syrians realize how backward their country is relative to most countries and relative to Israel. I think most Syrians do not realize how ridiculous they look when they quote Israeli papers to criticize Israel especially given the fact that there is not one free newspaper in Syria.

I think most Syrians do not understand what democracy is since many on this blog support Bashar while complaining about democracy in the US and Israel. If you can explain that to me, I would be very happy. And there are many things you may understand but if you read the other postes here you realize that they do not understand how contradictory their position is and how it cannot stand to basic scrutiny. Some people need shock therapy.

April 19th, 2008, 8:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If there was a good PM in canada that decided to stop further elections so he can stay in power and not risk elections and get credit for his future actions, would you or any canadian support him? Since the answer is obviously no, why do you think that in the case of Bashar it is an ok excuse and you supprot him?

The 2006 war was very bad for Lebanon. The excuse that it is better for the Lebanese to suffer than the Syrians because otherwise the war would be too big, is quite cynical and dismisses completely the rights of Lebanese. In 2006, the Syrians did not fire ONE shot at the Israeli planes. What is this except cowardice and preferring that Lebanon get hurt and not Syria?

Look, the bottom line is that you demand and expect for yourself rights in canada that you are content that Bashar denies to most Syrians. That is a contradiction that renders your position untenable.

The Arab position is so unconvincing to the West, not because of lack of information, it is because it is not consistent. It is internally contradictory. You are saying both something and its opposite. That will never fly.

April 19th, 2008, 9:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I really should have qualified the statement about Syrians being cowards. Only the following Syrians are cowards:
1) Those that know that the regime is robbing the future of their children and do nothing.
2) Those who know that the regime is corrupt but are afraid to do anything about it.
3) Those Syrians that work with the regime to oppress others and deny them freedom of speech and other freedoms.
4) Those Syrians that supply Hizballah with weapons and ferment war in Lebanon but do not “resist” from Syria
5) Those Syrians that are aware of what rights people have in the west but do not do anything to implement such rights in Syria.
6) Those Syrians that are afraid to let intellectuals publish their thoughts freely.
7) Those Syrians who are afraid of free and fair elections in Syria.

Only the Syrians that fall into the categories above are cowards. The rest are not.

April 19th, 2008, 9:47 pm


norman said:

Thanks Alex,

Good summery , By the way , why Majhool wants sunnies to head the intelligence services if not to change the regime ,
Decentralization is important to empower people and making feel that they have a say in their lives.

April 19th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Norman. But it was not “a summary” .. I just realized how long it was : )


1) A comment on your answer to Zenobia:

If you and Akbar slow down on criticizing Syria, most Syrians here will have more time and energy to criticize their own country .. but instead you have done an amazing job of uniting them against you.

Imagine if we, Syrians, go to the YNET or Haaretz and start bombarding them with relentless “Israelis are cowards”, “Israel treats women like shit” type of comments… we will be banned very quickly. Before we get banned, we will manage to create more enemies of Syria and more fans of Netanyahu.

But we are smarter and wiser. We won’t do that.

2) You are right that it is not fair for the Lebanese to be used as pawns by Syria and Iran and Israel and America and France and Saudi Arabia… And it was definitely not fair for 1600 Lebanese to die because Israel decided to try its luck in taking revenge for TWO SOLDIERS. It was Israel who invaded, Syria did not order Israel to over react by 800 to 1 to revenge its two soldiers.

And it was not fair that all the smaller allies of the Soviet Union and the United states during the cold war who had to fight and die for wars that the superpowers wanted, while the USSR and the USA did not fight each other .. just like the “cowards” these days (Israel and Syria) are not ready to go to a full war against each other.

3) Should I answer your points about my Canada/Syria inconsistency again AIG?

I answered a million times that it is “revolutionary change” that I am against … Canada is already stable as a democracy. I will not support that hypothetical prime minister you described because I don’t support rocking the boat in general… not in Canada and not in Syria.

I explained to you that I believe that Syria CAN be more democratic in about 7 to 15 years… not 200 years as you suggested, and not tomorrow.

I do not want to waste my time reading and responding to your silly tactics of trying to discredit me through your Netanyahu style verdicts “this is silly” or “this is not consistent” … or “this is internally contradictory” …

You can ask more questions, but spare us your verdicts and your estimates of our answers’ validities.

Only facts, questions and opinions… you are very generous with your questions and opinions here, no one stops you. But Stop bothering people with your always negative verdicts… it gets tiring after a while.

You are not a qualified, knowledgeable or fair judge on your enemy Syria … leave it to the other readers here to decide for themselves if I am making sense or not. If not and you insist on writing a conclusion, then write “we obviously disagree”.

April 19th, 2008, 11:19 pm


Alex said:


There is a difference … maybe 1% in the Arab world read books … so if a Hitler book is popular. It means that maybe half a percent of Arabs read it … no?

April 19th, 2008, 11:29 pm


Mazen said:


I second Alex’s note there. If a reporter came up to people in the streets and asked about their favorite books, I’m willing to bet you on an extra large fatte bsamni w hummus that almost non will mention Hitler’s book.

April 20th, 2008, 12:05 am


Zenobia said:

thanks for your qualification and list of criteria for who is a “coward”.

i can safely conclude now – that even by your criteria, most Syrians are not cowards.
Since, most Syrians do not have these set of very very concrete and narrow ideas about their country or their government such as you have presented. Their sentiments do contain many contradictions of feeling and desires. So, their thoughts are much more dimensional and complex than the ones you outlined.
You might assert that contradictions are a sign of illogic and irrationality. I see it as a sign of the complexity of reality and the fact that people want many things at the same time that do not always fit together in an easy to achieve way or become possible simultaneously. Things take time, as Alex pointed out. Change comes into being rarely in a ‘Berlin Wall coming down’ type moment. Even that was a symbol of change not the actual change. Change happens in a incremental and organic way when it means anything at all and can be lasting and progressive.

Syrians are very cautious people, not revolutionary types at all. (a generalization of course, but a trait quite observable when you go there)
I don’t interpret this as cowardice. I see it as cautious – and the worst you could say is docile in certain respects. They are definitely not about to storm the Golan Heights in fury.
However, they are stubborn as all hell, and not likely to concede anything they feel would cause dishonor and loss of dignity to themselves.
I don’t think Syrians give a crap about how “ridiculous” they might look to you or anyone else. They have their own norms and image that they care about more than what the outside may think. And they observe quite rightly, that when outsiders come to visit Syria – they are so enthralled with Syria’s charms and the hospitality of its people – that all the negative imagery fades away.

Maybe you should visit someday. I think you would be utterly surprised. It is a contradiction indeed, that many of your criticism may be true but there is also much more that Syrians are very proud of and are not willing to put at risk… to have the things that you think they should want.

April 20th, 2008, 12:18 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Fair enough about literacy rates. But I still think that you’re confusing your reasons for liking Bashar with other people’s reasons for liking him (which are, to my mind, the same reasons that they like Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad.)

I liked your “summary”. 😉 Most informative.

Nour, a response to you about Hrawi got lost in the server. So, instead, I’ll just ask you: what is the solution, in your opinion? Forget about current offers and precedents. If you and I had to hammer out a deal, what would you suggest?

April 20th, 2008, 12:52 am


Majhool said:

Excellent post by Alex, It portrays reality as is. (Offended must learn from it)

Alex knows that I disagree with him only on the course of action that is best for Syria and Syrians. I am not going to speak for Alex (za3laneen) but I will speak for my self.

My approach is that Syria posses great potential but logically and in order to achieve this potential all Syrian must participate. Negativity with the regime resulted in alarming degree of passivism among urban sunnis.Statements such as “they broke it they should fix it” “ when are we going to get rid of them”. etc are now passing from one generation to the other. This is not limited to expatriates, scores of young people are conditioned now to finish their schooling and immediately leave.. They tell you “we feel strangers in our won countries”

This has to stop. I understand the anxiety on each side. but to be frank I believe the Ikhwan already paid the price (exile, death, or prison) but this is beyond the point, reconciliation should take place with the people (not the ikwan) and the regime. I remember how urban sunni students were forced to shout “ we pledge to crush their (Zionist & imperialist) tool the criminal and agent gang of Mulsim Brotherhood”. I used to look at their faces knowing that most had relatives killed in the incidents. resentment gushed out of their eyes as they were never able to express it.

BTY, I had the honor to see Ali Duba. And “roaming the streets of Damascus” meant that they are roaming free in Syria. some accountability for excessive and abusive use of force must come a about in order to wipe that passivism among that community.

Norman, I am totally against regime change, we want stability in Syria and want to see everyone working together, a sense of sharing and ownership among urban sunnis will go along way in making Syria a better one. Urban sunnis have wealth and talent and not incoopreating them into the system is a grave mistake let alone dangerous.

April 20th, 2008, 12:53 am


Qifa Nabki said:

For some reason, the comment section on the newest post is closed.

Here are some other relevant excerpts that Joshua did not include. Alex, this is what I was trying to say about the sources of Bashar’s popularity. And, please, remember that I’m not trying to trash Bashar (I’ll leave that to Majool and others!) I’m just trying to point out the positive effects of fashioning oneself as resisting the U.S., vis-a-vis popularity in the Arab street. This is a good strategy if you don’t intend on making peace with Israel anytime soon. But Bashar is supposedly interested in precisely that.

MR. TELHAMI: By the way, just a story on Chirac, from 2003 and the Iraq war until last year he was number one in the Arab world. People were basically rewarding him for what they saw as his standing up to the U.S., and so he was number one until last year and then he dropped second to Nasrallah. This year he is not showing up in the first place, but he is showing up on the second list and so he’s there.

MR. INDYK: What’s the explanation for Assad being there? It’s quite unusual. One can understand Hizballah, Nasrallah, even Ahmadinejad, but Ahmadinejad is down quite significantly and Bashar al-Assad is suddenly up quite high. So can you address those two issues?

MR. TELHAMI: … I think you have to look at it more in terms of the general attitudes or frustrations with the U.S. and seeing
almost everything in terms of the Israeli and American prism, so you have 95 percent saying Israel is the number one enemy, almost the same number saying the U.S., and all of the people on the wrong side of the U.S. and the people who are benefiting including Iran, and Arab governments in many ways are not scoring well. You don’t see sitting leaders in the Arab world scoring well except of course we saw — beginning to show up as a second, but we don’t usually see. And the remarkable thing over the past 2 years actually is that if you look at the top four vote getters, you haven’t seen a Sunni Arab leader in the group. That’s been rather remarkable, and this is mostly Sunni populations that I’m polling. So that applies to Assad as well where essentially the very fact that we’re putting them together, Hamas, Hizballah, Assad, Iran, we are making them as a bloc as our enemy as the people we’re confronting, there must be something right with them then, so I think there’s a lot of that.

MR. INDYK: If you’ll let me interrupt, he’s not only put in that bloc by us, we have the Sunni Arab leaders — also increasingly upset with him, boycotting the Damascus summit and so on.

MR. TELHAMI: — reinforcing because I think the truth of the matter is that what this shows is that there is not only little faith in our government, but most of them have little faith in their governments and they see them as working with us. And so that’s showing up in all these issues and so it shows up with Hamas. There’s been a campaign as you know by Arab governments to criticize Hizballah, to criticize Iran, and as we know from Annapolis until now it’s all about Iran is the biggest threat and that’s been reflected in many of the statements. But it doesn’t show up at the public level, in fact it gets the opposite result. So I think what you’re seeing here is people who are close to the U.S. and not doing well and people who are opposed by the U.S. and doing well. And that includes Assad surprisingly because I think people in general have not had this view of him particularly. His father did a little better but didn’t do very well either. So this kind of an emergence.[,] [you]You might call it the coattails of Hassan Nasrallah a little bit and clearly — it’s not surprising that Chirac would go down because he’s obviously not a president anymore, so it’s the first poll that we do where Chirac is not the sitting president, but people go to him as a second choice still in their thinking.

MR. INDYK: So the correlation is, let me put it this way, if the United States were more popular, they would be less popular. Is that what you’re saying?

MR. TELHAMI: That’s right. There’s no question. In much of the polling, a lot of the popularity is negative popularity.

April 20th, 2008, 1:31 am


Majhool said:


Statment like yours :

“How are Sunnis being repressed in Syria? Are they repressed more than other Syrians? I doubt it”

Further complicates things, if you lived in Syria and did not see how urban sunnis were sidlined in decision making, governings, and management and singled out by the security agencies then we have a serious problem of denial in Syria.

April 20th, 2008, 1:47 am


norman said:


I agree with you, All talents should be used to advance Syria from any body who is Syrian, Christian, Muslim and Jew .

April 20th, 2008, 1:54 am


norman said:


Is Dardary Sunni , there should be no cot-as .

April 20th, 2008, 1:57 am


trustquest said:

Alex, your most informative comment might look reasonable, but it is an equation of one side, the decider is the regime and others have no saying or contribution (meaning they can not talk to express their views) but only to submit to his will to the regime. And what I mean by others is Me and You and any intellectual does not fit the regime criterion. The best writer tackle this subject is Mr. Yaseen Haj Saleh, he wrote recently an article, rom Syria under the subject line: what to do when it is impossible to do anything.
(Please do not infer from the site that this site represent my views)

Here is a translated excerpt:

“The current political composition in Syrian is forcing the societal change only on the natural process bases, leaving no contribution to the human interference. It is not based on intellectual planning, education or economic planning. Syria will pay high price for this situation no doubt, because the countries which do not solve their problems intellectually is going to dissolve and degrade internally.

In some situation, not to do anything is the only logic thing to do.
To be on the opposition side, in Syria for example, where the regime work actively to paralyze the oppositions or harm them if they show any activity as suit the regime definition of opposition. The regime even frustrates the opposition to prevent the realization of good opposition before they get materialized, or mature as real one. This is the case for decades where clean fertile soil for opposition to start were always prevented by the regime. From here, the opposition deserves to be supported and they deserve our respect. “

What ever anyone views about the regime and what should be done, the first step is to gain a voice and force the other side to accept other voices. We can not afford to wait for their kids to grow up in the new schools to learn the value of critical thinking.
On my side I do not buy this divisions sunni, alawite thingy, Syrian power is in its intellectuals from all sectors of the society and I think all of them right now their mouths are taped or thrown in prison or expelled and they do not have means to speak up, they are watched for every word. And please realize that the regime is not capable of controlling the new media, that is why you see thing less restraining than the 80s not by the will of the regime.
And btw, for basher popularity, let me tell you he is not popular with me or my mother or anyone I know (except one to be truth).

April 20th, 2008, 2:21 am


Majhool said:


Exactly, and that’s why in order to do so, some grievances must be addressed. and I am glad that you brought up Dardari, I have no clue whether or not he is Sunni. Whatever his affiliation we need more people like him. But let me remind you that Dardari is hired as fixer outside the normal process of appointing public officials.

I am very intimate with the process that used to take place in Universities, Deans and Heads of sections were always appointed by the Baath and approved by the security apparatus. that’s how professors below any acceptable degree of talent and knowledge climbed up the ladder. This led to demise of higher education in Syria. This is just an example of many (Army, City municipals, etc..). Even electoral districted were designed so large in order to liquidate any urban representation only Damascus was allowed to get it’s smaller “Muhafazet Damascus City”.

This situation kept those who are not affiliated with the Baath and their relative out of the loop. Strangers in their own country

April 20th, 2008, 2:22 am


Majhool said:


Excellent point, after all, the regime is the one that has the means to broker this reconciliation.It’s not me, you, or Alex.

April 20th, 2008, 2:32 am


Nour said:


You do not need to go to great lengths to explain Bashar Assad’s current popularity among the Arabs. Obviously he is popular because he is seen as standing up to the US and Israel while the other Arab leaders are seen as the lapdogs of the US and Israel. The question isn’t why are Bashar and Nasrallah so popular? The question is why is it that the Arab public at large is not convinced even by the propaganda outlets of their own governments who have been trashing Syria, Iran, and Hizballah? And why do they view their leaders with such disfavor while the US continues to support those “moderate” rulers?

April 20th, 2008, 3:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Imagine there was a US state in the South in which it was not a crime to for a brother (father, uncle) to kill his sister if she had premarital sex.
Imagine if there was a US state in which women were given an inferior education and 30% of them did not know how to read and write.
Imagine if there was a US state in which the governor decided to use the national guard to change the constitution to ban any other party and on his death his son became governor.
Imagine if there was a US state in which people of a certain religion were rarely given government jobs and most important jobs went to people from a certain minority and usually those in the governor’s family.

Now imagine that I crticize this state even though I never visited it and imagine that you told me not to criticize it because I don’t understand what Southern hospitality and dignity is. Imagine you would tell me that these people are not backward or worthy of condemnation, they are cautious and stubborn and want to stick to their ways. I don’t think you would be able to imagine that because you would be FIRST in line to criticize this state and demand IMMEDIATE change there.

It is not an issue of complexity or of not understanding. It is not an issue of me visiting. I have visited enough Arab cities and villages in my life. The Bedouin are most hospitable but I have zero respect for those that won’t let their daughters go to school. It is time for YOU to decide whether Syrians are children or adults and decide if you are going to apply to them the same criteria you would apply to anyone else.

April 20th, 2008, 3:10 am


ugarit said:

Majhool said in response to Ugarit:

“How are Sunnis being repressed in Syria? Are they repressed more than other Syrians? I doubt it” — Ugarit said

“Further complicates things, if you lived in Syria and did not see how urban sunnis were sidlined in decision making, governings, and management and singled out by the security agencies then we have a serious problem of denial in Syria.” — Majhool

Did you mean are or were sidelined? Is this still going on or was going on? Is this sidelining due to them being Sunni or being suspect because they were not of the same sect as the regime’s ruler(s)? Is this sidelining only directed at Sunni’s or are other sects and/or ethnicities also sidelined?

April 20th, 2008, 4:37 am


Majhool said:


Good question, I hear things are getting better but it’s superficial. They kept the old system intac (Baath/Mukhabarat) but they are creating a paralel and competing system (Dardari+ free(er) market+ Private univeristies and banks etc) the change is slooow but it’s changing.

April 20th, 2008, 5:02 am


Majhool said:

Did you mean are or were sidelined? Both (Now less especially in economics)

Is this still going on or was going on? Both (Now less again in Economics)

Is this sidelining due to them being Sunni or being suspect because they were not of the same sect as the regime’s ruler(s)?

Urban Sunnis are not a sect. It’s a community with interests and asperations. Those who belonged to that community were gulity unless proven innocent( I remember in School they would be singled out for Diraseh Amneyyah)

Is this sidelining only directed at Sunni’s or are other sects and/or ethnicities also sidelined?

Yes to sunnis in the 80s and 90s.

April 20th, 2008, 5:52 am


offended said:

Excellent article Alex, you should post it on the main page and get it the discussion rolling!

April 20th, 2008, 9:16 am


Karim said:

It’s too much to ask the people if they were wrong in front of brutal and arbitrary regime crimes ,the things are clear before asad there were no mass killing of civilians in Syria and all this happened during the dictatorship of the asads.
The regime is accountable…it’s true that some have answered the regime terror by terror but this is expectable reaction when they heard that muslim girls were raped in Latakkia,Aleppo or Hama add to this the mass killing in all syrian muhafazat of innocent civilians and arbitrary arrests and economic crimes ,Syrians like any other people have honnour and dignity.
Anyway ,we will see in the future what will be the impact of these events in the post Asad regime era.I pray God that the culture of revenge will not prevail.
Nour,Tt’s not sectarian way of thinking to say Muslim Syria,those who deny the dominant influence of Islam in Syria are liying to themselves ,of course that doesnt mean that the minorities will be opprimed …they will take part to the poltical and social life as any other syrian.All Syrians must enjoy egual rights whatever are their religious or ethnic belonging.

April 20th, 2008, 9:19 am


Qifa Nabki said:

The question is why is it that the Arab public at large is not convinced even by the propaganda outlets of their own governments who have been trashing Syria, Iran, and Hizballah? And why do they view their leaders with such disfavor while the US continues to support those “moderate” rulers?

Nour, I don’t think that’s a mystery either. Their rulers are no better than Syria’s/Iran’s, but they’re radiocative, thanks to their relationship with Bush.

My point is that “negative popularity” only gets you so far.

April 20th, 2008, 10:53 am


wizart said:

Karim said: “those who deny the dominant influence of Islam in Syria are lying to themselves, of course that doesnt mean that the minorities will be oppressed …they will take part to the political and social life as any other syrian. All Syrians must enjoy egual rights whatever their religious or ethnic belonging are.”


It’s such a “domineering nature” that’s most feared by minority and secular people. What about those who reject being dominated by such influence? Who’s going to guarantee them equal minority rights?

There’s already a dominant Islamic influence (as you readily admited) at a time when the regime is secular. Minority rights are likely to decrease under Islamic rule (by definition) while more Islamic dominance multiplies the risk of instability. Why?

When you have more Islamic dominance in a country already targeted by the supposed war on terror and you try to rule it according to Islamic rule, it becomes increasingly branded like Hamas and Iran which makes it a much easier target for both foreign and domestic manipulation, therefore less secure and less stable. Who wants that?

April 20th, 2008, 1:09 pm


Zenobia said:

the things you mentioned above exist in old world villages all over the globe. And 95+% Syrians would not commit these brutal actions or not wish their daughters to go to school. You are picking, as usual, the most extreme situations to make a ridiculous generalization.

You are correct to say that the legal system should be adapted to modern times and changed to reflect the modern values that most Syrians live by and believe in these days… It would still be considered a terrible and shameful thing for a female to have premarital sex – but murdering her for it occurs rarely and in very isolated areas. As I said, you are ignoring the fact that there are activists in Syria working towards having these antiquated laws changed and adding more protection for women.

And by the way, less than fifty years ago- there were laws in the United States making Adultery a crime or homosexuality a crime… that is the US!

I actually don’t think you can judge a third world country by first world standards. Otherwise, Syria is hardly the only one worth going after. Villages still living in very ancient ways around the globe have these kinds of values. So are we going to attack every country where these things exist?? That is absurd.
Again I will say that change happens in a fluid and incremental way, not by dramatic turns 90% of the time at least.
Syrians are not out of step with most of the non-developed world. Maybe you are just mistaking it for a first world country, which it is not.
The legal system is not one in which the majority society can easily pass some new laws. People are still working on it though. It is not a democracy, you know.
So, the idea that everyone is supposed to stand up and shout about creating some legal protections for women is not going to happen so easily as that.

Challenges sometimes come in the form of a very public incident like the recent rape case being disputed (the women was being punished for allowing herself to get raped) in Saudi Arabia right before Bush was going to visit with the King.
Or that rape case of a young male teenager in Dubai that happened last year – that got a lot of attention and forced the authorities there to address the lack of protections against homosexual rape.

there is stuff like this going on everywhere my friend. Asia, South America, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and former Soviet countries (regarding the trafficking of women). Syria hardly constitutes the most dangerous place for women in this world.

April 20th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Karim said:

Wizart ,what i mean is not a theocratic state,it’s a modern,liberal and civil state which i think is the political trend of the syrian society despite its religious conservatism …btw Wizart did you asked yourself why we have seen a dramatic decrease in the % of the non muslims and the decline of their social and cultural influence under these so called secular regimes ?What is remaining of the christian community in Syria ?Before they took the power,religious extremism was very weak and social conviviality was legendary .

April 20th, 2008, 5:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are about 5,000 honor killings in Syria per year. I would say that in deaths it marginalizes the Israeli-Arab conflict significantly. Where is the ridiculous generalization you accuse me of?

My whole point was that you judge Syrians according to different standards than you would normal people. If you are ok with that, that is fine. But how do third world countries become first world countries except when they understand that they have to change?

And is it really the case that people in third world countries should be jusged according to lower standards? Isn’t that patronizing?

April 20th, 2008, 5:17 pm


Alex said:

5000 honor killings in Syria per year?!

I guess we should ignore the other estimate in this Christian Science Monitor article which was 200-300 per year.

Also terrible of course. But honor killing is part of the wider group of revenge violence. It is the sickness that exists in Israel much more than in Syria … Israel (the government) took the lives of 1600 Lebanese people in 2006 to revenge the killing of two of its soldiers… that is similar to 6 to 7 years of honor killings in Syria… The revenge inspired murders in Lebanon were committed by your democratic government, compared to the ones in Syria which are mostly committed in rural areas by uneducated people.

And, it is not only third world countries that are judged to lower standards. your Israel is the most outlaw country on earth … in violation of more UN resolutions (including one related to human rights abuses) that any other country on earth.

But Israel is judged according to a lower standard… a much lower standard.

And Israel’s friends, the neocons, who started the Iraq war that led to the death of over a million Iraqi are still not in jail … so I guess they too are held to a much lower standard.

That’s life AIG. I know how much it hurts you to wake up everyday knowing that in backward Syria there is still honor killing.

For comparison, take a look at Pakistan

April 20th, 2008, 5:40 pm


norman said:

These are the rules that the West play with,

1- every body Israel kills is a terrorist either now or in the future if you want to count the children .

2_ Arabs no matter where they are from do not count as human , that is why more than a million Iraqi dead is no problem .

The question that i have is : how the West and Israel expect the Arabs and Muslim to like them and not seek revenge ,

They should look beyond the pleasure of winning to the future of mutual coexistence , from what i am seeing , i do not think that that is possible.

April 20th, 2008, 6:05 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Israel is the most outlaw country on earth? Really? Then why do most Western countries support it? It is so easy to get a bunch dictators from third world countries to vote against Israel in the UN. But building successful countries is difficult. Other democracies and developed countries have the capability to judge Israel, not third world countries like Syria that mock democracy at home.

According to your estimates since 1948 honor killings have cost at least 12,000 lives in Syria, much more than the number of Syrians killed in fighting Israel. Do the Asad regime priorities makes sense to you? How much more women would be alive and more educated if the Asad’s would have focused on developing Syria instead of antagonizing Israel?

April 20th, 2008, 6:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why do Arabs live in the West? If you hate it so much, leave. Why are you a hypocrite? If the West is so bad, you have to explain why so many Arabs keep trying to immigrate to it.

Of course you can’t. But that will never cause you to rethink your analysis. Why bother with the facts?

April 20th, 2008, 6:11 pm


norman said:

The problem is not the West , the problem is the Israeli policy and the people who cheer Israel .

April 20th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Israel is the most outlaw country on earth? Really?


I don’t know … find me another country that matches this impressive list:

A list of UN Resolutions against “Israel”

* 1955-1992:
* * Resolution 106: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for Gaza raid”.
* * Resolution 111: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for raid on Syria that killed fifty-six people”.
* * Resolution 127: ” . . . ‘recommends’ Israel suspends it’s ‘no-man’s zone’ in Jerusalem”.
* * Resolution 162: ” . . . ‘urges’ Israel to comply with UN decisions”.
* * Resolution 171: ” . . . determines flagrant violations’ by Israel in its attack on Syria”.
* * Resolution 228: ” . . . ‘censures’ Israel for its attack on Samu in the West Bank, then under Jordanian control”.
* * Resolution 237: ” . . . ‘urges’ Israel to allow return of new 1967 Palestinian refugees”.
* * Resolution 248: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for its massive attack on Karameh in Jordan”.
* * Resolution 250: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to refrain from holding military parade in Jerusalem”.
* * Resolution 251: ” . . . ‘deeply deplores’ Israeli military parade in Jerusalem in defiance of Resolution 250″.
* * Resolution 252: ” . . . ‘declares invalid’ Israel’s acts to unify Jerusalem as Jewish capital”.
* * Resolution 256: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israeli raids on Jordan as ‘flagrant violation”.
* * Resolution 259: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to accept UN mission to probe occupation”.
* * Resolution 262: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for attack on Beirut airport”.
* * Resolution 265: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for air attacks for Salt in Jordan”.
* * Resolution 267: ” . . . ‘censures’ Israel for administrative acts to change the status of Jerusalem”.
* *Resolution 270: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for air attacks on villages in southern Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 271: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel’s failure to obey UN resolutions on Jerusalem”.
* * Resolution 279: ” . . . ‘demands’ withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 280: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israeli’s attacks against Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 285: ” . . . ‘demands’ immediate Israeli withdrawal form Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 298: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s changing of the status of Jerusalem”.
* * Resolution 313: ” . . . ‘demands’ that Israel stop attacks against Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 316: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for repeated attacks on Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 317: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to release Arabs abducted in Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 332: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel’s repeated attacks against Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 337: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for violating Lebanon’s sovereignty”.
* * Resolution 347: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israeli attacks on Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 425: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 427: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to complete its withdrawal from Lebanon.
* * Resolution 444: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s lack of cooperation with UN peacekeeping forces”.
* * Resolution 446: ” . . . ‘determines’ that Israeli settlements are a ‘serious
* obstruction’ to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
* * Resolution 450: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to stop attacking Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 452: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories”.
* * Resolution 465: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s settlements and asks all member
* states not to assist Israel’s settlements program”.
* * Resolution 467: ” . . . ‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 468: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to rescind illegal expulsions of
* two Palestinian mayors and a judge and to facilitate their return”.
* * Resolution 469: ” . . . ‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s failure to observe the
* council’s order not to deport Palestinians”.
* * Resolution 471: ” . . . ‘expresses deep concern’ at Israel’s failure to abide
* by the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
* * Resolution 476: ” . . . ‘reiterates’ that Israel’s claim to Jerusalem are ‘null and void'”.
* * Resolution 478: ” . . . ‘censures (Israel) in the strongest terms’ for its
* claim to Jerusalem in its ‘Basic Law'”.
* * Resolution 484: ” . . . ‘declares it imperative’ that Israel re-admit two deported
* Palestinian mayors”.
* * Resolution 487: ” . . . ‘strongly condemns’ Israel for its attack on Iraq’s
* nuclear facility”.
* * Resolution 497: ” . . . ‘decides’ that Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan
* Heights is ‘null and void’ and demands that Israel rescinds its decision forthwith”.
* * Resolution 498: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 501: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel to stop attacks against Lebanon and withdraw its troops”.
* * Resolution 509: ” . . . ‘demands’ that Israel withdraw its forces forthwith and unconditionally from Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 515: ” . . . ‘demands’ that Israel lift its siege of Beirut and
* allow food supplies to be brought in”.
* * Resolution 517: ” . . . ‘censures’ Israel for failing to obey UN resolutions
* and demands that Israel withdraw its forces from Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 518: ” . . . ‘demands’ that Israel cooperate fully with UN forces in Lebanon”.
* * Resolution 520: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel’s attack into West Beirut”.
* * Resolution 573: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel ‘vigorously’ for bombing Tunisia
* in attack on PLO headquarters.
* * Resolution 587: ” . . . ‘takes note’ of previous calls on Israel to withdraw
* its forces from Lebanon and urges all parties to withdraw”.
* * Resolution 592: ” . . . ‘strongly deplores’ the killing of Palestinian students
* at Bir Zeit University by Israeli troops”.
* * Resolution 605: ” . . . ‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s policies and practices
* denying the human rights of Palestinians.
* * Resolution 607: ” . . . ‘calls’ on Israel not to deport Palestinians and strongly
* requests it to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
* * Resolution 608: ” . . . ‘deeply regrets’ that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians”.
* * Resolution 636: ” . . . ‘deeply regrets’ Israeli deportation of Palestinian civilians.
* * Resolution 641: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s continuing deportation of Palestinians.
* * Resolution 672: ” . . . ‘condemns’ Israel for violence against Palestinians
* at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.
* * Resolution 673: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the United
* Nations.
* * Resolution 681: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s resumption of the deportation of
* Palestinians.
* * Resolution 694: ” . . . ‘deplores’ Israel’s deportation of Palestinians and
* calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return.
* * Resolution 726: ” . . . ‘strongly condemns’ Israel’s deportation of Palestinians.
* * Resolution 799: “. . . ‘strongly condemns’ Israel’s deportation of 413 Palestinians
* and calls for their immediate return.

April 20th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

According to your estimates since 1948 honor killings have cost at least 12,000 lives in Syria, much more than the number of Syrians killed in fighting Israel. Do the Asad regime priorities makes sense to you? How much more women would be alive and more educated if the Asad’s would have focused on developing Syria instead of antagonizing Israel?

No matter how much the Assad regime would stop focusing on “antagonizing Israel”, honor killings will not disappear from tribal mentalities. Look at Saudi Arabia which is not focused at all on Israel … or Egypt which settled with Israel long time ago. Honor killing is still there.

Try reading this link if you want:

Revenge is the umbrella disease that includes honor killing as one of its varieties. I absolutely agree that Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia and all the Middle Eastern countries who have this problem should focus on education type of remedies to this disease.

April 20th, 2008, 6:54 pm


Zenobia said:

i don’t accept that statistic.
I am not sure how you could collect accurate data on this…but… I simply don’t believe that.

Second, there are 18-20 million people. As usual, more people are killed in Car accidents than by honor killing.

And, finally, i think you didn’t actually read what i said. What the hell are “normal people”..???? I think you are obviously not a social scientist.
and there are many debates about cultural relativism… but if we take the idea of “normal” in this world to mean the majority of activity going on world wide, then i rest my case again….that the NORM… across the world is a lot more dangerous in other undeveloped countries for women than it is in Syria.
I am even willing to wager that domestic violence and violence in general using gun etc is probably higher per capita by far in United States than it is in Syria.
that is my guess. I haven’t researched it, but…

my stand on the cultural relativism debate is that it is far more patronizing to hold other cultures to ‘western’ standards than would be to allow for the fact that different cultures are evolving too but maybe not as fast in direction that we on the outside might like. I do believe in Universal Human Right and definitely think that these issues of oppression for women need to be addressed, but if a certain society (of which there are great numbers worldwide) have not adequately done so, I don’t think we get to call them “backwards” and be insulting and say their people are cowards. It has nothing to do with that. It is not the same thing to stand in judgment as to simply lend support for progressive causes in those countries for moving towards more civil rights and protections.

April 20th, 2008, 6:56 pm


offended said:

let me correct your pathetically biased statement: it’s the continuous arrogance of Israel and its unwillingness to be partner in peace and justice in this region that keep the Arab leaders occupied with the confrontation rather than focus on their urging issues.

Do you dare blame them?

April 20th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Zenobia said:

also,…AIG, your logic is messed up.
why does America support Israel is not related to its great human rights record. I don’t think you can say that Europe and the rest of the world supports Israel. Even if some Europeans countries send their leaders to pay lip service.
and why does America support Saudi Arabia? or call Pakistan is ally? Are these states that protect the rights of women?
Many times in the past you assert the superiority of Israel by citing its support by America. However, the credibility of America is worth about nil on the world’s stage right now. So, it becomes a rather empty assertion.

I once heard a young Afghani refugee living in Hungary temporarily say that things were better in Afghanistan with the Taliban in control than now that the US invaded. He said this despite the fact that his father had been kidnapped by the Taliban and despite his own leaving his family and fleeing over a border. He blamed the United States for the devastation of his family. Shortly after, when i was saying goodbye, he said he hopes to see me soon as he will hope to get to emigrate to the USA soon. I was sort of shocked. But it was very clear to me that for him- this was not a hypocritical contradiction. He wants a chance at economic prosperity, like everybody else, and he views America as the place to get that.

So what? Does this prove the moral superiority or the socio-cultural superiority of our Western society? I don’t think so, even if I believe in its greatness or fine qualities. This is not why others want to come here. And it is not why the ‘new’ jews want to come to Israel. It is about economics economics economics.

I believe that third world countries become first world countries through economic development. The power of women in society and culturally speaking rises in relation to their own economic independence that usually comes with economic growth in the society as a whole.

so, we will now be back at square one – where you can blame the gov’t for not allowing for more economic growth and hence hurting society and women. But again, there are multi-factors involved that are not about ineptitude of the people.

It seems like there are many things that you don’t understand. Few of us do understand all of it. But we try to restrain ourselves from coming up with fallacious theories to explain it all. You, seem to not be able to control the urge to assert your bogus theories and explanations about a place you have never been and about a society you know very little about.

April 20th, 2008, 7:11 pm


Mazen said:

Alex, Zenobia, Offended, and other fellow Syrians,

I think that time consumed in conversation with OCIG is time wasted totally. He does not have any real interest in dialogue. He has this bag of dirt that he keeps pulling things out of it and throwing at you. It does not matter what you say, what your arguments are, what Israel’s terrible mischefs are. The guy is an obsessive compulsive dirt thrower that does that in the most cold and mechanical way, with no interest whatsoever in your replies.

There is really no need to waste any energy on him because he’s probably a retired bag who’s getting paid to fart in the elevator.

I say, just ignore him.

April 20th, 2008, 7:21 pm


wizart said:

I agree with Mazen.

He’s no longer of any interest to me because he’s really here to disrupt internal Arab and Arab American communication. He’s designed to get people constantly on the defensive so we don’t spend time productively. He’s like part of an offensive psychological operation targeting Syrian sites, etc.

April 20th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Alex said:

Mazen, Wizart,

I really don’t expect to convince HIM.

But he is good at helping us sharpen our skills and gather more useful links in our library.

But I will listen to you and go for a walk.

April 20th, 2008, 7:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Lady and Gentlemen,

I have only one major theory. It is that all the problems of Syria are the result of it not being democratic. None of Syria’s real problems are related to Israel or the Palestinian situation. The education level in Syria is low not because of Israel. Does anyone want to argue about that or do you want to blame Israel for that also?

Is Syria the worst country in the world? No. Good for you, though in technology it is really one of the worst as recent rankings show. Are you happy with where Syria is? I know you are not, so why is the solution blaming Israel? Why is the solution ignoring the fact that without democratization and liberlization there is no hope for Syria? Why is there reluctance for Syrians to take responsibility for the state of their country? Why always blame someone else?

I have a few observations based on my theory. We can discuss those later once you agree with the theory.

April 20th, 2008, 9:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s say the answer why Arabs want to live in the West is economics. But why would you want to join a band of killers even for economic gain? Are Arabs so morally deprived? No they are not. Actions speak louder than words.

Look, for decades the US has supported Israel and will continue to do so well into the future. Are the Arabs so mercenary that they are willing to ignore this in order to live in the US? Maybe they are not rational. But the real explanation is that many Arabs understand that what the West is doing is reasonable and that Israel deserves support. But you will not hear them saying this.

The bottom line is very simple. If the Arabs do not want others to interfere in their affairs, they should not interfere in the affairs of others. Otherwise, all bets are off. If Syria interferes in Lebanon and Israel, why would you expect it to be left alone?

April 20th, 2008, 9:43 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Good for you, though in technology it is really one of the worst as recent rankings show.

AIG actually Israel did not rank with technology so good. It was number 16.

AIG, who own in the next 10 years the Fortune 500 companies. Most probably Arabs and Chinese.

AIG do you know who own the fast growing Muxlim service and from where it comes?

April 20th, 2008, 10:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Number 16 in the world is not so good? Ok, have it your way.
Let’s not forget Israel and the Arab states started the same 60 years ago. Israel is number 16, where is Syria? Why the huge difference?
Yes, soon the Arabs and Chinese are going to buy Nokia. Do you think they will then change the name of the Nokia Arena?

April 20th, 2008, 10:29 pm


Mazen said:


Even if Israel was no. 1 in technology. That’s not the point. All invading colonial forces were technologically more advanced at first. But even that is not enough for them to feel secure.

Actually the dependency on an out-of-proportion advantage in technology and arms is a strategic weakness because it cannot be sustained forever.

April 20th, 2008, 11:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Good for you. You finally figured that out. Now, what are you going to do about making Syria more advanced technologically than Israel? For that you need well educated citizens. How are you going to improve the schools in Syria? How are you going to improve the universities? Are you happy with what Asad has done so far or do you think more needs to be done? Are you going to wait 50 years for Asad to improve things or are you going to demand improvement soon? Are you going to demand accountability from your government? Or, I going to blame Israel for your inactions or do the right thing and advance and be able to beat Israel? I really hope you do the right thing.

The Jewish “colonial force” was just as backward technologically as the Syrians in 48. That is a fact. Why has the huge technological difference emerged over the last 60 years? But please, don’t blame the Arabs, make sure your answer only blames Israel and the US.

April 21st, 2008, 5:08 am


zenobia said:


actually, arabs who come to the west are not morally depraved or mercenary (weird choice of words) though few (in fact i haven’t met any) who agree with America’s support of Israel. Those who come have the ability to distinguish between a government and its policies and the american people who are very varied in their opinions and beliefs. Arabs don’t blame all americans for certain policies of our gov’t – obviously.

Again, it is strange to me. Who here claimed that all Syria’s problems are caused by Israel? I don’t think we said that, even if the antagonism between the two countries and the threat of war has contributed to the problems.

April 21st, 2008, 5:55 am


Shai said:


Chag Sameach. When pushed into a corner, few will give you the answer you require. Getting Syria to become a democracy is probably far more difficult than you or I could possible understand. The challenges the Syrian people are up against are tremendous. Of course blaming Israel won’t exactly advance progress, to say the least, but perhaps congratulating them on any achievement is a better tactic than highlighting their shortcomings? That’s my “good cop” kind of way, I guess… (as some here suggest).

April 21st, 2008, 6:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The US has been pursuing the same policy for 40 years, and it is a democracy. How are the people of the US not reponsible for this policy?

You just argued that the situation in Syria is not its citizen’s fault. You also argued that they are cautious and don’t want change. Syria’s problems are whose fault then?

April 21st, 2008, 6:10 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Chag Sameach gam lecha.
I like debating, you want to find a solution. To each his own.

April 21st, 2008, 6:13 am


zenobia said:

It is a dumb question. Whose “fault” is development or non-development???…

I mean… societies are complex… there is not one reason that you can attribute all to specific people. And there are things like tradition and religion that impact these things. Economy, which is not all sourced to one moment in time or one group of people.

I mean the French were in charge of Syria for a long time- why didn’t they fix all the problems…since they are such ‘developed’ European people with great values.

whose fault is the desertification in Syria…. maybe it it the Ottomans fault since they chopped down most of the trees.

Why are you looking for specific people to blame for all problems???? You are asking questions based on things that I don’t even understand to be useful questions. These are not like asking who was at fault for a particular law or a particular incident. The state of affairs is a result of a long complicated history and trajectory of developments.

Some people would say that the take over in power of Hafez al Assad would not have happened if the Syrians were not so upset after the 67 war that they were looking for a strong man to lead their country.
So maybe we should blame conflict with Israel. : ) for this rise of a dictator.

yes, the people are cautious. they are not sure they want change in all the ways you speak of. Of course, everyone want economic growth. but they are willing to be patient if it means they feel safe and not challenged to change their whole society. Alas, that is what i observed.

April 21st, 2008, 6:23 am


Shai said:


If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you I like debating plenty… 🙂 But you’re right, I am seeking a solution, though in recent days, I can’t say I’m overly optimistic…

April 21st, 2008, 6:30 am


zenobia said:

Dear AIG…i also begin to think that you know little about America too.

I hate to break the news to you….but…. it is only small percentage of Americans who concern themselves about Israel or even know anything about the US relationship to this country beyond the cliche that the two countries are geopolitical allies.

I think most americans… would not even know about the economic and military aid that is provided to Israel every year.
and even fewer people of the general public know anything about the Palestinians… until recently when they get to hear about the “terrorists”… now confounded misleadingly with those responsible for Jihad a la 9/11/01 and the like.

I hate to break the news that you are not the news most of the time… and the people who do care are mainly American jews and Arab americans and academics and the progressive communities sprinkled around the country. so, ….. believe it or not….. many policies and laws and crap goes on in Washington that few americans are aware of or know enough about to make informed decisions.
This is why people here keep trying to educate you to the fact that AIPAC has far more power than you might think from the numbers of its members or the money that it throws around. They are there for every political issue on the floor of congress that they want to influence, but unfortunately very few of their adversaries are organized on the level to present an alternative view or position – nor do they have the money (as AIPAC does) to threaten to run opposition candidates and campaigns against candidates who don’t agree with their position.

April 21st, 2008, 6:36 am


Shai said:


Good Morning! I think one of the main problems for the Arabs is the very real fear of what may happen if or once their current regime is replaced. As totalitarian or authoritarian as the regimes may be, they at least brought internal stability, as you suggested. But everyone knows that for serious reforms to take place, certainly for democracy to form, major changes will have to be made by the existing regimes, or by their replacements. The examples of Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and now Palestine, are certainly in every Arab’s mind, when considering what a change in the regime may entail. I can’t blame the Arab reluctance, or plain fear, of major change occurring too quickly.

April 21st, 2008, 6:39 am


zenobia said:

Hello!…. good morning to you!…but for me- i will go to sleep pretty soon…..: ) as I am ten hours behind you. Thanks for your thought.

I definitely agree. People in Syria are very afraid of the future and the unknown possibilities. Most people are living on the edge financially and trying to have security… but they feel very threatened by the outside…
Perhaps this is very displaced as -there are so many things causing hardship from inside. And they will acknowledge that too when they are feeling comfortable. But there is this very basic arabic mentality… that is as old as civilization…
This is that they defend life in this order: me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against my neighbor, me and my neighbor against the next village, my village and the next village against the outside tribe and so on and so forth.

The implication of this is that …. Syrians may have problems with other Syrians or their government…but their loyalty will be with their countrymen -even to their leaders they resent- if it comes down to threats from external forces or outside actors.

I once listened to someone in Syria talk for more than an hour about all the reasons he hates the gov’t and even expressed quite blatant hostility towards Alawis in general. He was extremely bitter due to people he had known who had lost family members killed or disappeared during the 80’s. He spoke with fury and a vengeful tone.
However, when I asked about how he would feel about opposition figures who are in the west now- coming back in to take over through a coup -even a bloodless one- such as Khaddam or another…. , he didn’t miss a beat informing me that he completely refused such a thing. He stated that compared to that- he would still vote for Assad over that type of opposition sponsored from the outside or by the west. This was rejected out of hand, as he did not trust any such persons.

I use the word caution a lot to speak of the Syrian character, but fearful is also very accurate, fear and mistrust for certain.

April 21st, 2008, 7:03 am


wizart said:

Well everybody assumes America is a Democracy although it’s really more like a one party system with two factions and little variations among them. The average American, like Zenobia hinted earlier, does not engage in politics to the level of being politically aware of conflicts half way around the world. Most Americans spend their entire life in the states and even president Bush himself only started traveling overseas extensively and learning about the world after he become president. Americans for the most part work hard all week, watch films (and headline news) in the evening and football on weekends! Hot travel spots often means going for a week or so in Cancun, Paris or some tropical Island in Thailand or elsewhere.

April 21st, 2008, 7:36 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well then, instead of educating me, organize an alternative to AIPAC. And if you can’t, then stop complaining. AIPAC is a prefectly legal organization that works within the laws. The Americans that form and support AIPAC have every right to do so. All your comments sound hollow if you are not willing to take the elementary steps to counter AIPAC. AIPAC is not too strong, you are too weak. Nobody is stopping the American Arabs from organizing.

April 21st, 2008, 1:08 pm


wizart said:


If you can barely face the truth about your own country, who’s going to believe your claims about the American political system? Most of us here know more about it through its foreign policy yet you keep attacking us even when most Americans are still asleep!

You’re simply dedicated to trying to change important subjects as usual. We want the Golan back because it’s not yours and it belongs to Syria. You live in denial in a world of fantasy and you love attention even when it comes from the enemies you love to create.

May we suggest you stop all your smoke and mirrors and start facing the music as it is. (Be courageous and confront your politicians!)

April 21st, 2008, 1:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I love it when a Syrian gives Israelis advice to face their politicians. The irony there is precious. How about getting an accountable government in Syria?

Building successful countries and political organizations is hard. Complaining and asking others to work is easy. Why don’t you stop complaining and do something positive? You always have an excuse what not do and when you do something and fail you blame Israel or AIPAC.

You may want the Golan back but it is Israeli now because you started a war and lost. That is how it works. Don’t start wars you may lose. But who am I kidding. Instead of blaming the people that got you into the 67 war (Hafez was defence minister), you blame the Israelis for winning. How crazy is that? Do you understand why few people think you make sense?

April 21st, 2008, 2:02 pm


wizart said:


Where do you get your information that Assad started that war and therefore you can keep it? What were you doing in June 1967?

The Golan Heights then and now

Prior to 1967, the Syrian population of the Golan Heights was roughly 140,000, living in two cities (Quneitra and Afiq), 164 villages and 146 agricultural farms. Almost all of them were uprooted and expelled during and after the war, forced to relocate to refugee camps around Damascus and today numbering around half a million people.

Following Israel’s conquest, the two cities, 130 villages and 112 agricultural farms were destroyed. Six villages with a total population of 7,000 remained. In 1971, the Israelis destroyed the village of Sukhatah and deported its residents to the adjacent village of Masadah. The place of Sukhatah was turned into a military base.

Today, the Golan communities are concentrated in five villages: Majdal Shams, Masadah, Buqatah and Ain Kinya to the north and east of the heights, and Ghajar in the northwest. Today the number of Syrians living in the Golan Heights totals around 20,000, the majority Druze with an Allawite minority. There are a similar number of Israeli settlers, and continued settlement, though illegal under international law, is actively encouraged.


At the time of the
Golan Heights Law, the Arab population was obliged to change its citizenship from Syrian to Israeli, which was met with complete opposition and resulted in a six-month general strike and other non-violent actions. Identity cards handed out by the Israeli authorities were publicly burned, and eventually the authorities relented and allowed the Arab residents to retain their Syrian citizenship.

April 21st, 2008, 2:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Syrian regime partnered with the Egyptian regime and they started the war by blocking the Tyran straits. This is very well known (Asad was part of the regime).

Blocking maritme routes is an internationally recognized act of war. Egypt and Syria started the war. They lost land and they complain? The Golan belongs now to Israel. Get used to it.

April 21st, 2008, 2:26 pm


wizart said:


Really? That’s news to me. Was that another act of deception or a pretext for taking over parts of three different countries? What kind of religion does your logic come from? No wonder you’re an atheist!
Strategic importance

The pro-Israel lobby continues to claim that the Golan Heights is of great strategic military importance to Israel due to the territory’s topography and plateaus, which overlook southern Syria and northern Israel. Furthermore, they claim that Israel captured the territory in 1967 because it was used by Syria to menace its southern neighbour.

Firstly, the strategic value of a territory provides absolutely no moral or legal justification for its conquest by a foreign force.

Secondly, in the words of Israel’s then-Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, released posthumously, Israeli policy on the Syrian border between 1949 and 1967 consisted of “snatching bits of territory and holding on to it until the enemy despairs and gives it to us.” Concerning border incidents in the Golan Heights, he goes on:

“I know how 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let’s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow someplace where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also…” (Rami Tal, “Moshe Dayan: Soul Searching,” Yediot Aharonot, 27 April 1997, cited Shlaim, pp. 235-6)

April 21st, 2008, 2:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes Wizart the sky is green. You are denying well known facts.

April 21st, 2008, 3:05 pm


wizart said:

You’re being deceptive. The sky is blue. What’s green is the Golan.

I see you have a case of projective identification where you deny your own denial by assuming your enemy is in denial. Very difficult case.

Imagine starting a five-day day vacation hiking through the fluffy powder of snow-capped mountain peaks. Later, you head down to lush green valleys ripe with cow-grazing and grape- growing. Finally, you end up on the palm-lined shores of a tranquil lake, the winter water warm enough to dive into. Each evening you’re treated to the remarkable cuisine of the area – homemade cheeses, giant fresh steaks and sparkling prize-winning wines. And then you retire to luxurious accommodations in wood-paneled chalets.

It sounds as if it is a trip that combines the best of the Swiss Alps, Napa Valley and Tuscany. But a hearty group of Californians recently found all the elements in one of international tourism’s best-kept secrets – the Golan Heights.

From the snow covered 6,000-foot heights of Mt. Hermon to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which lies 200 feet below sea level, the Golan encompasses about 600 square miles. According to the California hiking group Friends of the Golan who traversed the terrain earlier this month, the Golan region is one of unparalleled beauty – both physically and spiritually.

“We went on a wonderful hiking trip – stayed in amazing places and ate wonderful food,” group leader Bennett Zimmerman told ISRAEl21c while relaxing from the journey days later in a Jerusalem hotel. “We went wine tasting – met incredibly friendly people. I can’t think of a better vacation spot.”

The Golan came under Israeli control as a result of the 1967 Six Day War. The kibbutz of Merom Golan was founded shortly after in July 1967, and by 1970, there were 12 Jewish communities on the Golan. Since the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 when Syrian forces attacked before being pushed back beyond the 1967 line by the main Israeli counterattack, the Golan has been one of Israel’s most peaceful borders Israel.

“When I mentioned that was planning a trip to the Golan to people back in LA, I heard things like, ‘ Wow it’s really heating up over there.’ But what people don’t realize is that the Golan has been nearly without incident for 30 years,” said Zimmerman, an investment banker. “It’s really an unknown aspect. When you say Golan Heights, people think politics and borders – we just say it’s an amazing piece of land to walk through.”

For the other members of the California delegation, the hike offered an eye-opening experience and an affordable vacation option that many Americans are unaware even exists. Dr. Roberta Seid, who walked with her husband Arnold, was impressed by the wide variety of landscapes and textures in such a relatively small area.

“I was taken aback by the breathtaking view – It’s like Montana or Wyoming, all rolling green fields with wild flowers sprouting up, and the wide open gorgeous spaces with cows grazing,” she said.

“It’s like a postcard,” chimed in Moti Gur, “When we started going down the last day to the valley between the Golan and the Galilee, there was such a dark vibrant green, it was like the volcanic slopes of Hawaii.”

While the Mt. Hermon range is mostly limestone, the Golan Heights proper are mostly basalt and other types of volcanic rock. The Heights are a plateau that drops off to the west, to the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret and to the south, to the Yarmuk River.

Today, there are approximately 14,300 Jewish residents in 31 communities on the Golan Heights and the slopes of Mt. Hermon. These include kibbutzim, moshavim, and the town of Katzrin.

There are approximately 17,700 Druze and Muslim inhabitants on the Golan Heights today who reap the benefits of Israel’s welfare and social security systems. Israel has built or refurbished schools and classrooms and extended compulsory education from seven years to ten and has made secondary education available to girls for the first time.

The origins of the California trip to the Golan began back in 1999 when Zimmerman founded Friends of the Golan, an activist pro-Israel organization.

“What we noticed was unique about the group was that we brought in all kinds of people – who despite their political affiliations felt some connection to the Golan,” said Zimmerman.

In addition to lobby efforts and petition drives on behalf of Israel, the organization also looked to do things in a more positive and fun way, thus the idea of walking across the Golan. Zimmerman worked with the American Jewish Congress in LA, as well as organizations like Stand With US and Physicians for Israel, and soon the trip became a reality.

“It was more of a reward trip for activists who have been working for Israel,” said Zimmerman. And rewards there were plenty for the group.

Whether staying in the Alpine village of Neve Ativ at the foot of Mount Hermon or dining in the cowboy restaurant of Kibbutz Merom Golan, or visiting the ancient historical site of Gamla, the group gained new insight and varied views of the Golan.

But one thing they all agreed on was the wine. During the past 15 years, the Golan has been transformed into the Napa Valley of the Middle East with award winning wines being produced by the Golan Heights Winery and Chateau Golan. Ancient history tells of grapes being cultivated in Israel for thousands of years, in the Golan Heights region in particular. And today thanks to the Golan, Israel is on the map of the selected wines of the world.

“The Golan Wineries has done in a few years what it took France 400 years to do,” said orthodontist Don Salem. “They’re already getting gold medals.”

“And then you go to Chateau Golan and see what they’re building there and you go ‘my God, the Napa Valley is arising here,” he added.

“It’s an unspoiled Napa Valley,” chimed in Roberta Seid.

But, ultimately, beyond the wine, or the history or the snow, the hikers were taken in by a feeling of tranquility on the Golan that is missing from most parts of the world.

Ari Salem, Don’s recently marriedson, said that the greatest attribute of the Golan was the peacefulness.

“For me it was a stress-relieving experience – to leave the city and walk – the roads are basically empty, and you can feel like you’re alone with your thoughts in natures. It’s very therapeutic,” he said. “Plus you still have all the spoils of an incredibly hospitable surroundings at night. There’s a tremendous tourist appeal in that you can work up a sweat during the day and come back to a luxurious setting for a nice shower, an amazing meal and some incredible Golan wine.”

April 21st, 2008, 3:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You keep quoting Israeli sources out of context and denying basic facts known to everybody. If the Arabs would have had a comission of investigation after 67 maybe they would have had any ground to stand on. But do Arabs investigate their mistakes? No. They invent excuses and expect people to listen to them. You have learned nothing in 60 years.

April 21st, 2008, 3:32 pm


wizart said:


The Arabs have become increasingly aware how your country (Israel) has been engaged in daylight theft, death, lies and videotapes with the full knowledge of its Jewish citizens. Perhaps you need a new religion? Have you tried Zen Buddism? It’ll help you live in peace with international laws.

April 21st, 2008, 3:53 pm


norman said:

Aig , said,

The Golan belongs now to Israel. Get used to it.

You are leaving no other choice but to get rid of Israel ,

It is good you live in the US. you do not have to worry about that .

Shai will.

April 21st, 2008, 3:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I would take you seriously if it were not for the remarkable track record of the Arab countries in the last 60 years. Trash talk from people that cannot build anything is highly amusing.

It is you that is leaving no choice. I would be happy to give the Golan as a gesture of good will to a democratic Syria if it wants peace. But the Golan is not Syrian anymore. It is Israeli. You lost it in a war you started. That is the end of that.

But have it your way. Let’s fight this to the end. Either Syria goes or Israel goes. May the better country win. And remember, you asked for it, so no complaining afterwards.

The lion of Lebanon that is a mouse in the Golan will eventually give up the charade of getting back the Golan in order to keep his seat. After all, he is good mainly in fighting his own people. Israelis, not so much.

April 21st, 2008, 4:06 pm


wizart said:

Iran And Syria Sign Defense Agreement

by Farhad Pouladi

Tehran (AFP) Jun 16, 2006

Defense ministers from close allies Iran and Syria on Thursday signed an agreement for military cooperation against what they called the “common threats” presented by Israel and the United States. In a joint press conference, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and visiting Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkmani said their talks had been aimed at consolidating their defense efforts and strengthening support for one another.

“Our cooperation is based on a strategic pact and unity against common threats. We can have a common front against Israel’s threats,” Turkmani told reporters after two intensive rounds of talks with Najjar.

“Our cooperation with the Iranians against Israeli threats is nothing secret and we regularly consult about this with our friends,” he said.

Before the press conference, Iran’s defense ministry said the two sides “stressed strengthening mutual ties and the necessity to preserve peace and stability in the region.”

The defense ministry statement also said they discussed “ridding the region of weapons of mass destruction,” in an apparent reference to the widely held belief that Israel possesses nuclear warheads.

The United States has led opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is aimed at civilian energy purposes but which Washington suspects is a cover for atomic weapons-making.

US President George W. Bush has advocated diplomacy to resolve the international row over Iran’s aims but has also said “all options are on the table” if Iran refuses to halt sensitive uranium enrichment work.

Washington has included Syria in its so-called axis of evil that also comprises Iran and North Korea, citing these nations as “supporters of terrorism.”

Asked about US threats against Damascus and Tehran, both top brass brushed off the importance of such threats.

“This is nothing new, we will resist these threats,” the Syrian defense minister said.

However, Turkmani dismissed the possibility of hosting an Iranian military base on Syrian soil.

“The language of a (foreign) military base in our country is alien to us. I want to say that it is not on the agenda,” he added.

The Iranian defense minister said: “US threats are a kind of psychological operation. It is not new. With unity among the region’s nations, these threats will not prevail.”

Although the two refused to give specifics about the agreement for military cooperation, Najjar said Iran “considers Syria’s security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria.”

Najjar also shrugged off reports that Iran could pose a threat to the region.

“Iran is ready to sign a non aggression pact with regional countries,” he said.

“Our military warfare equipment is based on deterrent policies and strategy. Enemies should know about our capabilities and should not even think about an assault against us,” he said in response to a question about the optimization process going on for the medium range Shahab-3 missile.

Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), capable of hitting arch-enemy Israel and US bases across the Middle East.

Najjar added that the Syrian side has purchased some Iranian military equipment, but did not elaborate on the purchased items and did not say whether the purchases were made as part of Thursday’s agreement.

During his trip, Turkmani has also met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Islamic republic’s military chiefs and visited Iranian military factories in Isfahan and Tehran.

April 21st, 2008, 4:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Good. That means that when Israel or the US attack Iran, Syria will either have to put up or shut up. Either is does nothing and is ridiculed or it attacks Israel and is an aggressor in a war with all the due consequences.

April 21st, 2008, 4:39 pm


Mazen said:


You are not here for dialogue as I’ve mentioned. You’re here just to throw dirt and make noise. The tactic is well known and extensively used by pro-Israel groups to derail lectures, shout-down speakers in conferences and TV debates, and now in forums.

I’m working, and other Syrians are working, and we’re not about to give someone like you a report, nor care about your rating.

Give it your best shot. Earn your money. Fill the forum with your babel. The hard disks are quite big and there’s no rush. The only thing it would do is inform people who you really are.

April 22nd, 2008, 1:31 am


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