Readers Responses to my Last Post

I have received many responses to my last post. Many are in the comment section of the post itself. Others, were send to me by email, and I have selected a cross section here. Michael Young responded. I will not respond to it now, believing it wiser to let passions cool. Many of the issues he raises are also raised by other readers:

A Syrian Alawite woman writing from Damascus:

Thank you Josh. I believe, we have learnt to live as much solid as we can. It is our fate to live and fight, but in most cases we get nothing! Let (them [the Lebanese]) get what they want. We are the real slaves.

A Lebanese American in Lebanon:
Dear Josh, I often read your blog with interest. I have a major criticism about your last piece about “Counting Lebanon Shiite’s as Slaves.”  You seem to assume that only Shiite MPs can represent Shiites! This is completely erroneous. While the percentage of Shiite seats in Parliament are less than today’s percentage of Shiites, that does not mean that their votes counts as less. Christians, Sunnis, other denomination (you can have your pick), represent Shiites as well in their districts.

The line of argumentation you offer is quite dangerous (and slippery). It is an argument often used by the Maronite church (most notably in Patriarch Sfeir’s complaint that Christian MPs are being elected by non-Christians)… The solution to Lebanon’s problems is not in making the system even more confessional (by making members of a religious community) chose only MPs from their religion – but rather in a slow and steady deconstruction of the system.

From Charles Coutinho, Ph.D., Realestate mogul and writter of The Diplomat of the Future
Dear Professor Landis, I agree with most of the premises of your last post. I only have one caveat really and, that deals with your (mostly / somewhat) negative response to the Lebanon's current form of Democracy. It is true of course that an arrangement in which forty percent of the population, has only twenty-two percent of the political representation in Parliament, is problematic, both now and in the long-term.  The issue for me (and I suppose for Michael Young perhaps, and many others who have a mostly positive view of the Lebanon as a political model for the Near and Middle East), is that will obtaining justice for the Shiite population, have the end result of potentially destroying Lebanon's demographic and political pluralism (the real meaning of Young's statement about emigrating).
One of the remarkable aspects of Beirut for example is that it is probably the most pluralistic city in the entire Near East, remarkably so.  Whereas say, fifty or seventy-five years ago, that was probably not the case. Which is really my larger point (and perhaps Young's?): namely that in the 20th century, the entire region, with a few exceptions, witnessed a process in which most of the cities in the region (and this is probably true of Syria as well), became much more, demographically homogeneous. With in many cases this homogeneity an end result, of political violence, enforced.  For example: Baghdad circa 1945, had very large Jewish and Christian populations, where are they now? The same could be said for Tripoli, Alexandria, Damascus, et, cetera, et cetera.
And, it could very well be argued, it is this enforced demographic homogeneity, which in part helps to explain the economic backwardness of the entire region in the last one hundred plus years.  Much more so than say 'colonialism', or imperialism, et cetera (if the latter two were the problems, one wonders what to make of the economic transformations of say Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan).  As you know, many economic theorists posit that cities are really the motors of economic transformation, and, insofar as most of the Near East, has seen an exodus of most of its wealthy, and energetic economic minority groups, from its major cities in the last seventy-five years, well that points up to a key variable in the related problems of economic backwardness and political stagnation and absence of pluralism.
Obviously, it is not the only variable, but, I do think that it may be a major one. And, it could be argued, that insofar as the current constitutional arrangements in the Lebanon, hold together a fabric, which if not tended to, will witness the same (negative) transformation that has been undergone by the rest of the region, then in that sense Michael Young does have a good point to make. Sad but true.
Thanks and take care, Charles Coutinho
Landis replies: Many respondents to my article have pointed out that Syrians have few political rights in comparison to Lebanese. This is the sad truth. Lebanon presents the best example of political liberties in the Middle East and the best prospect for showing the region a way out of its authoritarian quagmire. All the more reason why reforming the system to better reflect demographics is the right thing to do, especially at this time when the entire world's attention is focused on it. A universal problem in the Middle East is finding a way to encourage reform. Some believe that violence is necessary. I believe that it will not hasten change, but, in most cases, retard it.

Martin Kramer, the Wexler-Fromer fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, whose most recent article I referred to:


My article is not about a "Shiite Crescent," and I don't use the term. It is about the "Islamist Axis" (that even appears in the title), and throughout the piece, the argument is that it includes both Shiites and Sunnis. Also, you give as title of the article the title of the conference panel I shared with Dr. Paz. The title of my own article is "Israel vs. the New Islamist Axis."

Best, Martin

Landis Replies: Thanks for the correction Martin. Perhaps there are too many axis to grind? In arguing "that the reversal of the tide driven by the Iranian Revolution is the only way for a new Middle East to come about," you refer only to an "Islamic" Axis. It is George Bush who refers to the Evil Axis, and the two Abdullahs who worry about the Shiite Axis.

Philip Weiss, a Journalist and blogger in New York:

The article is great, and underlines your other point, all these polities, including Israel, are struggling with related issues, of minority rights.

Marlin Dick, former Editor in Chief of the Beirut Daily Star, writes: 

Did you ever see this?

Is there proof in these articles that great minds think similarly? Lebanon is truly crappy these days… and one of the crappiest things about Iraq has to be the – who in the hell exactly was it? LBC/al-Hurra staff-types… or whoever, who thought that if Maronite-Shiite-Sunni has worked so well in Lebanon, Kurd-Shiite-Sunni would be perfect for Iraq?

Landis replies: Marlin Dick's article, originally written for the Fresno Bee, is a must read. He said all the things I did, only less confrontationally and with considerable depth. Here are the first lines:

The United States is wrong to envisage its Lebanese policy as an opposition between pro and anti-Syrian groups. The fundamental problem is of a socio-political nature: No solution can be found as long as the Shiite majority will not be properly represented by the institutions…

Ehsani2, a Syrian born American:

As you know, I have long maintained that Bashar made the strategic mistake of not working with America from day one of the invasion of Iraq. Were he to have helped in Iraq from day 1, he would have gotten a free pass in lebanon de facto. If it were me, by late 2002 and after the events of Sept. 11th, I would have guessed that America changed forever after that event. By early 2003, I would have expected the Americans to be in Iraq soon. I would have worked to be their man in the region. Going against them was not smart long term strategy. Yes, he was right that the invasion was not going to go smoothly but so what? What has it changed from a strategic perspective?

Even if the US said they don't need my help, I would have done everything in my power to make my shift then. I would have hinted about a deal with Israel. I would have handed Saddam loyalists. I would have stopped the Sunni insurgency. UN resolution 1559 of late 2004 would not have taken place. The 2005 killing of Hariri would not have been necessary. The subsequent weak position of the country was not the ideal time to ask for an Israel deal. I know that I am in a minority here.

Landis response to Ehsani2:

I believe the US should have made a deal with Syria, much as Baker made a deal with Hafiz in 1990. Bush didn't understand the Middle East and set his sights irresponsibly high. He wanted to change the Iraqi regime and create democracy there; he wanted to take Lebanon away from Syria and isolate Syria in the hope of later changing the regime, not to mention reform of the Greater Middle East. By shooting too high, the US sacrificed whatever chances it had of avoiding civil war in Iraq. He should have concentrated on Iraq – even at the price of placating Syria, a regime the administration detests, in order to increase the chances of a favorable outcome in Iraq. Who knows whether it would have worked, but once the US decided on invasion, it was incumbent on it to to do everything to make its gamble succeed, for the sake of Iraqis and for the sake of the American soldiers that are giving their lives in Iraq.

By refusing to deal with Syria, the US guaranteed that Asad would not police mujaheddin going in and out of the country and would work to undermine the US in Iraq.

Now Iraq is a mess. Bashar is still there and still refusing to do all he can to help the US in Iraq. The US will eventually have to deal with him if they want to make progress in the region. He has his finger in too many pies. In the mean time, what have we gained by refusing to work with Syria? Very little, I would say. On the contrary, we have lost a lot. Both Lebanon and Iraq are a mess and radicalism has flourished throughout the Middle East and our relations with most countries of the region are in shambles.

The US has won nothing from its anger and resentment. Neither has Syria – on that you are right. Certainly Syria has made its share of mistakes, but that is no excuse for the US doing the same. Secretary of State Powell has dismissed those who claim that Syria refused to deal. He recently said that Syria "offered a lot." Most likely he was referring to his and Armitage's trips to Syria in late 2003 and early 2004, when I believe Asad was trying to make a deal. Of course Asad wanted to trade Syria's help in Iraq for America's acceptance of the status quo in Lebanon, which Bush refused to countenance. Many Lebanese, and particularly Lebanese Americans, did not want such a deal to be struck. In the interest getting it right in Iraq, Powell should have been allowed to explore a deal with Syria. If he had, we might not be in the situation we are today, in which both Lebanon and Iraq are a mess.

Ehsani2's response to Landis:

Powerful nations can make mistakes and get away with it. For Poorer nations, it is harder. It is like playing NASDAQ and the stock market with very little savings. One bad bet and your savings are gone.

First, ME leaders rarely follow the demands of their people. Second, the people want to eat, live and prosper. They are not interested in standing up to America and suffering for years after that.

Bashar knows that by 2010, he will have no oil to export. The economic challenges on his country's finances will be enormous. This was his chance. The American invasion of his number one competitor was a Godsend. Lebanon was getting restless. He was new to the office. His people were already expecting a softer and more western approach. Instead, he took the exact opposite road. In my opinion, the best achievement he can claim for his strategy is that he is still in power. If that is indeed the standard, then fine. But, is this really the standard that he should be judged by? Vision and bold leadership is what it takes. Would his father have done this? Would he have gone so far against the Americans? Would he have misunderstood the way America changed after Sept. 11th? Hafez did not have to prove his manhood. Bashar did. Regrettably, at a huge cost to his country.

Ex Secretary of State Baker today: from Associated Press

"Ex-U.S. secretary of state Baker calls for broad talks with Syria"
The Middle East has grown less stable during the presidency of U.S. President George W. Bush, but dramatic improvements could be made by opening broad talks with Syria, former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III said here Sunday.

"Once-pragmatic U.S. relations with Syria have gone downhill in recent years," said Baker, who is in Dubai to oversee the expansion of the Baker Botts LLP law offices. Baker is a senior partner at the Houston, Texas-based law firm.

But he said the outlines of a peace deal between Israel and Syria were clear and encouraged both sides to seize the opportunity. "There's the deal. It's all spelled out, Baker said. This is all by way of saying we need to engage Syria."

Israel and Syria are officially at war, though there have been no open hostilities between them for decades. Syria has demanded the return of the Golan, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed, as the price for any peace deal.

Israel says it will not discuss a formal treaty with its northern neighbor as long as Damascus continues to back Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.

Washington brands both groups as terrorists, and several of Hamas' top leaders live in exile in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has the power to force Hamas to recognize Israel if Assad believed it was in Syria's interest, Baker said. "Hamas' officers are in Damascus. They can do this, he said."

Hamas' recognition of Israel would leave the Jewish state in a stronger position to make peace with the Palestinians, said Baker, who made similar recommendations as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that recommended changes in Bush's Iraq strategy, including
direct talks with Syria and Iran.

Baker noted with some satisfaction that U.S. officials were in talks in Iraq over the weekend with both Iran and Syria. He said he hoped those early contacts could be expanded. The Bush administration had long been reluctant to talk to Syria, citing its support for groups like Hamas.

Baker said a good opportunity to forge an Israeli-Palestinian settlement was lost after the 1993 Oslo accords. He said he was dismayed to see those accords, opposed by right-wing Israelis and hard-liners in the current Bush administration, fall to the wayside. Since then, the Mideast has descended deeper into chaos.

"Am I sorry to see Oslo hasn't ripened into a greater peace? Of course I am, Baker said. It's disappointing to me to see the degree to which the Middle East today is unstable, in a number of arenas. There was a great hope back in the early 1990s. Now, we have a lot of other sources
of instability that need to be addressed."

The oil-rich Arab countries of the Persian Gulf were some of America's closest allies under former President George H.W. Bush, when Baker was secretary of state. Baker and the elder Bush brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait in 1991.

But Gulf Arab relations with the United States have become strained since September 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Baker, who turns 77 next month, said he was still hopeful for Israeli-Arab settlement in his lifetime.

Asked whether he backed the presence of two U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups in the Mideast – for the first time since the 2003 Iraq invasion – Baker said he supported the Bush administration's stance on Iran. That includes being prepared to launch a military attack on
Iran's disputed nuclear facilities, he said.

"It's too bad we can't pursue the foreign policy ideals of Mother Theresa, but we just can't," Baker said. "It's a tough world out there."

On estimates of Shiites:
From Robert Tuttle: 
Josh, with all do respect, the use of the term slave is way over the top. First, your 40 percent number has been disputed by the most recent non-official census that I know of that shows that a breakdown of about 30 percent Sunni, 30 percent Shiite and 35 percent Christian. It is true that the political system does not give Shiites representative political power but that was not the case when the country was founded. Obviously changing the sectarian distribution of spoils is sensitive business. But compare Lebanon to just about every other Arab government and tell me who are slaves. Are the Shiites of Lebanon any less represented than the Sunnis of Syria? No other sectarian group has the kind of clout held by Shiites and that is because the Shiites have their own army. Michael Young is the one person who has actually suggested a solution to this situation that would ensure majority rights while protecting minorities. If the big issue here is about Shiite representation, then in exchange for Hezbollah disarming, a bicameral legislator would be created, not unlike what we have in the U.S., and the troika would be rotating so you would have a Maronite president one year, a Sunni the next and then a Shiite.
From Gibran:

According to a recent study by Al-Jazeera (a well known Pro-Syrian/Pro-Hezbollah news network), these are the statistics: Voters according to sectarian affiliation (drawn from recent polling government records):

Sunnis 795233 %26.44
Shia 783903 %26.06
Druze 169293 %5.63
Maronite 667556 %22.19
Orthodox 236406 %7.86
Catholic 156521 %5.2
Armenians (Orthodox) 90675 %3.01
Armenians (Catholics) 20217 %0.67
Evangelical 17409 %0.58
Minorities 47018 %1.56
Alawites 23696 %0.79


Now the Shia have 27 members of parliament – equal in number to the number of MPs accorded to the Sunnis that outnumber the Shia. The Shia also have the position of the speaker of parliament which is the second highest authority in the country. With all this power Joshua still has the guts to call the Shia Lebanese Slaves.

Landis replies: Tuttle and Gibran are right in pointing out that voter registration records give the same numbers of Sunnis as Shiites. But do they offer an accurate reflection of population statistics? We don't know, but it is likely that Shiites, as the poorest Lebanese and the most frequently displaced over the last 20 years, register to vote in smaller numbers than other groups. In the past, Lebanese had to register and vote in their natal village. I am not sure if this requirement exists today, but it used to be a large disincentive from voting for Lebanese who had moved and were poor.

Estimates of Lebanon's population are all over the place. The CIA throughout much of the 1990s claimed that Muslims accounted for 70% of Lebanon's population. In 2004, it lowered the statistic on its webpage to 59.7%, where it remains today. I inquired about the reasons for this change from members of the Lebanon and Syria desk at the agency in 2004. None could give me an answer. Such estimates have great political significance and are contested. All the more reason for Lebanon to carry out a new census and end the guessing game. It would clear up this most vital issue that weighs so heavily on power-sharing issues and is the source of conflict.

Alex composed these tables based on a recent opinion poll conducted by the Beirut Center for Research & Information between the 24th and 28th of February 2007. They show that the Lebanese public is in favor of a political deal between the sects. The vast majority of Lebanese believe a deal is within reach. 51% of Lebanese believe the US is hindering a deal; whereas, 17% believe Syria is.

Most Shiites and Sunnis want each other as allies. Saad Hariri, the Sunni leader is the most popular Lebanese politician followed by Nasrallah, the Shiite leader. Few Lebanese appreciate the extremism of Junblatt or Geagea. This shows that in obstructing a political deal between the factions, the US is working against Lebanese public wishes. (Thank you Alex.)







Comments (54)

ausamaa said:

Great Josh,

The number of responses is interesting and so are the opinions expressed.

Now dont start thinking about turning Syriacomment to a pay per view site.

Really, congratulations!

March 12th, 2007, 5:40 am


M said:

Quick comment, to Ehsani:

“Going against them was not smart long term strategy. Yes, he was right that the invasion was not going to go smoothly but so what? What has it changed from a strategic perspective?”

Yes, Assad could have went along with Bush and even helped him invade and occupy Iraq. But you’re absolutely wrong to think that doing so would’ve been in his long-term interests; quite the opposite. An insurgency was inevitable, really, because we’re talking about unnecessarily invading and occupying a deeply Islamic country and trying to radically changing the balance to impose some neo-liberal fantasy. If Assad went along with this, Syria would face an existential nightmare. The millions of Iraqis in Syria would likely take violent action in Syria and outside; Assad’s internal legitimacy, especially when Israel is occupying the Golan, would be destroyed; also what Bush did was simply morally wrong.

What Assad did was actually pretty smart. He warned Bush about going into Iraq, quite explicitly, and expends no effort to improve security in Iraq when there is no legitimacy; but he didn’t take any kind of offensive action against Bush, or directly support the insurgency. What he did was step aside and let the conflict play itself out, while also turning a blind eye to some Baathist and insurgency people in Syria.

If he didn’t toe the line as he did, I think there is a very good chance either Syria would be facing civil conflict or Assad would no longer be in power.

March 12th, 2007, 5:49 am


Alex said:


Nice to read this colorful discussion with the different points of view … this is a luxury these days … In comparison, blogs of “democracy fighters” have nothing but their own monotone black color.

That’s why you see 100 comments for every post here, and 5 comments for their posts… and you would think that they would at least notice it and learn something from you… nope.

March 12th, 2007, 6:02 am


Gibran said:

Apparently, Dr. Landis is going through a process of self criticism with regards to his last article where he described the Shia of Lebanon as slaves, and the majority coalition government as an obstructionist tool in the hand of Ambassador Feltman standing in the way of resolving the crisis in Lebanon. I feel flattered that he included one of my responses in his process of self criticism, but disappointed for not including all of my response. I believe Dr. Landis needs to fully understand the unique character of the Lebanese political system before he embarks again on the dangerous slope of analyzing the system and proposing haphazard solutions based on false presumptions. I pointed out in my response to his article the importance of the so-called unwritten political code agreed upon by the Lebanese since their nation was formed in the beginning of the last century. I repeat that part of response herein below for him to ponder upon:
“Now, we would like to give Mr. Landis a little lesson in Lebanese politics which he seems to be unaware of. If you go through the above statistics you will find that the Muslims combined (Sunnis, Shia, Druze, etc) are roughly 60% of Lebanon’s population. The Christians on the other hand account for about 40% of the population. The number of MP’s accorded to the Muslims is 64 and that’s exactly the same number accorded to the Christians. You may wonder why is it so? Why don’t the Muslims insist on 77 MPs (that’s 60% of 128) and allow the Christians 51 (that’s 40% of 128 MPs)? Well, Mr. Landis you have to remember a fundamental fact about the way Lebanon was created in the early 1920s. There is an unwritten code among the Lebanese which recognizes the absolute balance of power among the two major religions in Lebanon (Muslims and Christians i.e.). No power on earth can override this unwritten code – not Bashar, not Ahmedinejad, not Nasrallah, not Olmert, not Bush, not Abdallah and none whatsoever. It is a mutual recognition given by the major denominations to each other that ensures the balance of representation in the running of the State regardless of statistical fluctuations of population numbers. “

Dr. Landis insists on his false assumption that the Shia of Lebanon represent some %40 of the population. He becomes apologetic when the government voter’ s list proves the fact that the Shia could not represent more than %26 to %30 of the population. It would have been more appropriate for Dr. Landis to look at the comment posted by Samir which further proves the Shia are roughly %29 of Lebanon’s total population. Here is Samir’s comment:
Lebanese Muslims outnumber Christians’
November 13 2006 at 03:39PM
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent
Beirut – Lebanon’s political system, which is once again in crisis, aims to share power equally between Christians and Muslims, but a survey published on Monday shows that Christians form only 35 percent of the population.
Private statistician Youssef al-Duweihi, a Maronite Christian, said his figures were based on identity registration records and electoral rolls throughout the country.
“This is scientific, not political,” he told Reuters by telephone from his north Lebanon home. “I want to tell the Lebanese this is Lebanon and if there is a problem, resolve it.”
According to his survey, published in the independent an-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon has 4,855-million people, of whom just over 35 percent are Christian, 29 percent Shi’a Muslim, 29 percent Sunni Muslim and 5 percent Druze.
Such figures are so sensitive in Lebanon that the last official census was conducted in 1932 during the French Mandate, which said Christians made up 55 percent of the population.
Duweihi, a mathematician, said his survey showed Lebanon’s demography was at odds with the power-sharing setup. “It’s time to discuss the political system and the electoral law,” he said.
His figures appeared at a time of political crisis that pits an anti-Syrian majority coalition government against the Shi’a Hezbollah and Amal factions backed by a Christian group.
If Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government falls, there may be calls for new parliamentary elections, reopening controversy over how to reform a Syrian-designed electoral law that most Lebanese leaders say should be scrapped.
The Taif agreement which ended the 1975-90 civil war modified the complex religious power-sharing system, set up at the birth of modern Lebanon in 1943. Taif gave Muslims and Christians equal representation in parliament instead of the 6 to 5 advantage Christians had enjoyed previously.
It stipulated that the president should remain a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shi’a, while calling for the eventual abolition of the system that distributes state posts among Lebanon’s 17 recognised sects.

March 12th, 2007, 6:23 am


ausamaa said:


Do you really think that Bashar Al Assad strategy centred around Lebanon only? Give us a free hand in Lebanon, and we will accommodate you in Iraq? Why do not we for a moment consider that Syria really have other objectives. If so, and it is not, why didnt the US “neutralize” a surely expected Syrian rejection of the war on Iraq, and leave Lebanon in Syria’s hands in exchange for Iraq? No sir, the US wanted the whole thing, the Middle East or the Arab World, under its control. Lock, stock and barrel. And it thought that such a wild dream was acheivable. Only to its dismay. Why do we not take that as the presmises for analysing Syria’s position? Is Syria not entitled to have its legitimate concerns, its own vision, and its own hopes? Who died and left the US king? Syria thought No one. And so would I think thought the majority of the Arab street. And if the US sees fit to have interests here, well, we have bigger, and more legitimate intersts. And this land is ours. And if the US thinks it accomplish those interests by Shock and Awe, very well, let it learn at its own expense. Which is exactly what happened. Israel has been trying to achieve the same thing against the Palestinans since 1948, and look what Israel has gotten. You just can not write off the national aspirations of the area’s peoples because you beleive that maybe they will roll over and play dead because you “think” that you are more powerfull.

Why is it not that Syria knew that objective was not only IRAQ, NOR Lebanon, NOR Hammas, but that the objective was the Whole Area under US/Israeli domination? Which it saw to stand up against.

Why, or how can we expect that Syria, as Baker wants, can deliver the Palestinan cause, Hamas, Fateh, and all, to the US/Israel if it wanted to. The offices of Palestinan groups are in Damascus, but is that a propper line of reasoning. Why does not the US deliver Israel? Hell, it is, Israel is a crazy idea after all. A state based on religion? A “Jewish State”, imagine, as in “Christian State”, or “Muslim State”! Not only a religous state, but a Racist AND a religious one as well! In this age and time? And a nasty, cold, and bloody one at that. Why dont breach true democracy to Israel? Just because it is there now, or because it is powerfull? Well, not so powerfull after all, is it?

Back to square one I believe. You just do not understand the language people talk here. It is a mix of religion, nationalisem, history, pride, hope, and a will to control own’s destiny. And you can not respond to that from a mere political and economic angle alone. Syria’s stand and position are not a great puzzel after all. They sum up the attitude, feelings and hopes of the majority of the 300 million Arabs who live in this area which stretches from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. It is called the Arab World. If you chose to call it the Middle East, do so, at your own peril. And pay for such a misconception in the End. Ask the Ottoman Empire, or the British and the French ones. This is the central point, not Syria’s deliveribg Hamas and Hizballah and Iraq baathists. Which Syria does not want to deliver to anyone, nor can it deliver if it wanted to.

March 12th, 2007, 6:35 am


Enlightened said:

Bloggers and Commentators;

Just got back from a small trip and read the previous posts, as well as this one!

I am amazed that Josh would have the Temerity or audacity, to label the shiites as SLAVES. For an academic, this is appalling and a very iresponsible posture to adopt. ( Josh you should know better, but because we love your blog so much we will forgive you)

While the Lebanese confessional system is appalling, the fractured democracy that is prevalent there is at least a start, and by comparison across the border , there is a little freedom albeit small when comparing it to a fuly fledged western democracy.

However it is the only beacon in the ARAB world,

March 12th, 2007, 6:49 am


ausamaa said:


See finally you have acheived self fullfilment at Syria comment. Pateince pays off.

So, and on this occasion as they say, and for God’s sake, can we stop talking about HOW SMART ASSAD is? As if IQ was the issue here. Why not use CORRECT? Asaad has proven to be TACTICALLY smart, definitly. He had. Strategically? He did not have to be anything -to take the stand he took- but an Arab. And that, he has been.

And from now on, and as “people are watching”, please shed off your supremacist shirt so that you can gain more people to your cause. Whatever it is. And, have you given my “proposed” Syria-Lebanon Union any further thoughts? Like starting with a SyrialebanonCommentdotcom? Ok, Lebanonsyriacommentdotcom?

March 12th, 2007, 6:51 am


ausamaa said:


What a “START AT LEAST” would Lebanon’s Democracy be??? It has been there since France left Lebanon. Back in ninteen twenty something, long before Syria became independent. Long before anyone came to power in Damascus. If STARTS take that long, look like that, and get you to where Lebanon is right now, we would better look at other better and different STARTS.

March 12th, 2007, 6:55 am


Alex said:

وزير الخارجية البلجيكى: سورية ساهمت فى الاتفاق على تشكيل حكومة الوحدة الوطنية الفلسطينية
الإثنين 2007-03-12

قال/كاريل دوغوخيت/وزير الخارجية البلجيكى ان سورية ساهمت فى الاتفاق على تشكيل حكومة الوحدة الوطنية الفلسطينية.
واضاف/دوغوخيت/فى حديث لقناة/الجزيرة/الليلة ان سورية متعاونة فى الموضوع العراقى وتأمين استقرار هذا البلد وانها استقبلت اكثر من مليون عراقى مهجر على اراضيها وقدمت لهم العون.
واوضح/دوغوخيت/ان رئيس لجنة التحقيق الدولية/سيرج براميريتس/نوه بالتعاون السورى فى قضية اغتيال/رفيق الحريرى/رئيس وزراء لبنان الاسبق وان السوريين مرتاحون لطريقة تحقيقه.

March 12th, 2007, 6:56 am


ausamaa said:


Nice, let us keep counting our blessings. While they last. But I think Bashar Al Assad was right, whatever Syria does, someone will keep saying: Not Enough!

March 12th, 2007, 7:02 am


Alex said:

Dear Enlightened, and others who asked why don’t we look at the supposedly more urgent case of Syrian political reforms.

Lebanon’s political system (democracy) is in more need of reform than Syria’s .. why? … because in authoritarian Syria it is at least stable. In Lebanon … it is chaotic. Same in Iraq.

Democracy takes responsible and mature people to not abuse it… in the Middle East … we are not there yet. It takes serious effort in reforming the education System to take religion out of politics and out of national pride… and we need to learn how to respect other points of view, and we need to accept defeat when things do not go our way … until then, thank you so much, I will take the stable authoritarian system in Syria with gradual reforms.

I ask you something: can you change anything in nature by force and then expect the change to survive after that force is removed?

Syria’s political system and Lebanon’s political system both need careful redesign … in Lebanon more risk might be justified (faster changes) because now things are already very risky. In Syria, there is no need to mess up everything… a 5-10 year transition period towards democracy is wiser.

And one last thing … look at the numbers in Lebanon’s latest poll … People want stability, not agressive “democracy fighters” .. Junblatt and Geagea are not popular … Aoun, Hariri, and Nasrallah who are more balanced are more appealing to the Lebanese people… and , you can’t fool everyonew even if you own all the Media .. most Lebanese thought the United states is the party that is hindering the solutions to their problems.

So if the Syrian regime haters (Jumblatt and geagea) want to be democratic… they should take a vacation. Not many Lebanese are buying their “the Syrian dictator is the worst enemy of Lebanon”

March 12th, 2007, 7:15 am


ausamaa said:


What REFORMES does Syria need? Same like any other Developing Country, namely:

1-Political Reforme
2-Economic Reform
3-Social Reform

Does anyone one have the magic formula for carrying out those needed Reforms and duties quickly and smiltanuously while Syria has to deal with the:

4-Most important, OR, as Important, SYRIA has a duty to Liberate its Lands, or at least to Stand up to the military dangers posed by Israel’s presence….


5- The neoconservative agenda, be it the War On Terror, or Clean Break, or Bush’s deomocratization stuff?

Tell us…

March 12th, 2007, 7:34 am


Alex said:


Many things are going Syria’s way (talks, prospects for peace negotiations ..etc)… but, there are some powerful people who are still working hard to disrupt every potential solution. Some people really want war it seems.

You’ll read more tomorrow.

March 12th, 2007, 7:35 am


Alex said:

Actually before I go to sleep, another difference between Lebanon and Syria:

1) Lebanon is a regional political playground. It is where every regional power can fight its rivals.

2) Syria is a regional power BUT lately some other regional and international powers wanted to convert it into another Lebanon … the way they converted Iraq, which used to be an even stronger regional power, into a Lebanon-like weak entity.

So, another reason why we do not want to discuss today’s imported instant democracy for Syria is that it is merely a front for the above process. When wise and honest people discuss democracy in Syria, I will listen … for now the crooks and the war criminals are the loudest supporters for Syria democracy… not very encouraging to follow such leadership.

March 12th, 2007, 7:47 am


Enlightened said:


Point taken it was around since 1920, but so what does syria have the same political freedom? NO IT DOESNT PERIOD, a brief flirtation with democracy pr baath was squashed by the armed forces. Political reformation has stalled in Lebanon because of the confesional system- it is archaic oudated and not functioning! Look at the current impasse, the President would not dare to dissolve the cabinet and parliament and order fresh elections would he? The main reason it has not progressed is mainly because those ZAIMs and their fiefdoms, and clans will not let go of power ( sound familiar with the syrian generals and the asads?) Unfortunately when you play politics in the middle east, it is life and death, you achieve the pinnacle of power and you dont let go, you die in office or are killed and your son or brother takes over, that is the sad reality.

Alex: my last point before i go home its almost seven here and im at my desk, yes syria is stable but 400,000 security agents make sure of that. Yes its amazing how the ex war lords are calling for syrian democracy, it would best be heard from all syrians.

Ps dream of a democratic middle east, with freedoms and rights for all whatever their sect or political affiliation

March 12th, 2007, 8:02 am


Akbar Palace said:

Charles Coutinho asks:

“For example: Baghdad circa 1945, had very large Jewish and Christian populations, where are they now? The same could be said for Tripoli, Alexandria, Damascus, et, cetera, et cetera.”

Perhaps they are taking refuge from the rise of Islamic intolerance. In your list you didn’t mention Palestine.

Alex said”

“Many things are going Syria’s way (talks, prospects for peace negotiations ..etc)… but, there are some powerful people who are still working hard to disrupt every potential solution. Some people really want war it seems.”

Which “people really want war”? Can you be more specific?

Let me guess who DOESN’T want war, Syria (unless it only hurts Israel), Ahmadinejad, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al-Queda, and the misunderstood Iraqi insurgents.

March 12th, 2007, 11:00 am


Gibran said:

Congratulations Alex for coming to the rescue of Dr. Landis with his last filibuster. Even though they were black and white but still those figures may do a lot of damage control to Landis latest attempt to portray the Shia of Lebanon as slaves as well as his theory about obstructionism in Lebanon’s political crisis. Alex is not much different than his mentor (Landis in this case). He brings in report of a so-called opinion poll published in Al-Akbar, a well know Seyassah version with a Hezbollah/Syria flavor. And guess who is Abdo Saad, the director of the celebrated Beirut Center for Research and Information where the so-called poll took place?
He is a well known Hezbollah activist and supporter. And have you heard Mr. Nasrallah’s latest speech? First you should listen to Nasrallah speaking and then come back and read the questions of the so-called study conducted on mere 800 ‘respondents’ in an effort to gauge the political mood of one of the most diverse countries in the world. Well, after you absorb, hopefully with enough patience left in you, the ‘Sayyed’s’ arduous pronouncements/dictates come back and read this wonderful poll.
Well, at one time during my exchanges with a commentator in the last Landis post, I thought a sample of over 3,000,000 people (Government voter’s list) was statistically inadequate. I wonder what an 800 person’s sample taken by a Hezbollah member would do in terms of justice to Lebanon’s popular mood?
And we have to remember it is the fact=fiction virtual reality spot of the wonderful academic Landis of the heartland of America!

March 12th, 2007, 12:28 pm


G said:

Again, Landis, you have a problem reading right it seems. Tuttle didn’t talk about voter registrations. He talked about an unofficial census, which as I recall, was based on birth registrations.

How you are a professor beats me. You can’t even read right. Or maybe you can, but prefer to lie. Not sure which is worse.

As for quoting the Beirut Center, why not just quote Hezbollah’s press office?

March 12th, 2007, 2:14 pm


Joshua said:

For the record, I wrote that Lebanese Shiites are


like slaves. I carefully denied that they are


like slaves were in the US. If there is no concern that Shiites are undercounted and Taif has power-sharing essentially right, why not advocate for a new census and why hasn’t the Lebanese government sponsored one long ago?

The point of the article was to spotlight the important socio-political problems in the Lebanese system. They need to be addressed in order for the instability begun with the civil war to finally come to an end.

March 12th, 2007, 3:20 pm


Gibran said:

Dr Landis,
Please allow me with all humility to welcome you to your own blog. I feel obliged to do so because we, the underprivileged, non-academic, slave-like class, feel lonely when you post your article and leave us alone to our bewilderment.
Now, let’s set protocol aside. The title of your last article was a sensational: Counting Lebanon’s Shia as Slaves: Why the Lebanon Deal is Obstructed?

You go on to state in your article half way through:

“What is wrong with the “consociational” system that is held up as the epitome of Lebanese democracy and power-sharing? Quite simply, it treats Shiites like slaves. In pre-civil war America, black slaves were counted as half a white person. In Lebanon they are accorded the same political weight. Although Shiites are estimated to make up some 40% of the population, the Taif Accords, Lebanon’s constitutional arrangement, permit the Shiites only 22% of the seats in parliament.”

Now you descend upon us all of a sudden, and enlighten us with a turn-about-face execuse worse than the original blunder : “I wrote that Lebanese Shiites are counted like slaves, I carefully denied that they are treated like slaves.” Well Dr, Landis your are contradicting yourself. This is exactly what you said in your last arrticle. Should we zoom in on it? Here it is:
“Quite simply, it treats Shiites like slaves. In pre-civil war America, black slaves were counted as half a white person.” You said “treats”.
Now we’ll repeat once again at the risk of being called repetitive. But there is merit to repetition as claimed by some famous Arab saying which is not very appropriate for this discussion.
The Lebanese Shia at most make up %30 of Lebanon’s population. Sunnis outnumber the Shia according to most recent independent and scientific studies as well as Lebanese government estimates based on its records. The Shia of Lebanon hold the second highest authority in the country. In addition they are accorded equal number of MP’s as the Sunnis. The Shia had representation in the Government of Mr. Seniora until they decided to quit their posts at the behest of their patrons in Damascus and Tehran for the sole purpose of obstructing justice in the case of forming the International Tribunal. These ministers are welcome back to the fold of the legitimate government with no questions asked anytime they feel they can put their Lebanese loyalty ahead of their loyalty to their foreign despotic masters.
If the Lebanese political system is in need of reformation, the proper venue would be the Lebanese parliament where the elected representatives of Lebanon can sit down and intelligently debate the issues at hand. It can never happen by unemployed gangsters paid by Hezbollah and Tehran camping in downtown Beirut. The particularties of the Lebanese political system necessitate the utmost repect for the unwritten code of balancing the sharing of political power among the two major Religions as well as among the constituting sects. Any tampering with this code will radically transform Lebanon, and would even nullify its raison d’etre. Lebanon has a message to the region as well as to the whole world. It is, despite the ills of its sectarian political landscape, the beacon of light where all faiths can co-exist in a political framework without fear of being in danger of annihilation at the hand of a competing faith.
Regarding the end of the Lebanese civil, It has ENDED in 1989. The latest crisis is nothing more than a desperate attempt by a Syrian regime that can not come to grips with its defeat in Lebanon.
Now Dr. Landis, may I humbly ask you to do something better with your distinctive credentials and life bedsides this petty lonely place called Lebanon? We have been around for few thousand years. We appreciate your concerns. But we have more than enough qualified Lebanese who understand the country very, very very well. If we need your advise or help, rest assured we will not feel ashamed to ask for it.

March 12th, 2007, 4:06 pm


Alex said:

Gibran and G,

I did not know the two of you are experts in statistics and probabilities!

And especially G who so far contributed “oh Alex you are so stupid” type of useful comments.

So you think that a sample size for American voter preferences are calculated using YOUR method? so for 300 million Americans (100 bigger population than Lebanons, roughly) then a sample size of 80,000 will not satisfy you?!

: )

OK, I’ll give you a hint:

For populations that are large, Cochran developed this Equation to yield a representative sample for proportions.

Read it and tell me how Lebanon’s overall population size is used in determining the needed sample size for such a survery.

Another way, easier for you to understand is to check precalculated tables. So for confidence level of 95% and MAXIMUM variability .5 … a sample of 400 would have been enough.

As for your other “character assassination” tactic of refusing the results of the Poll because you do not like them … I can not help you, and no one can help you in that regard. You need something called “wisdom” … some people have it, some do not.

You could have noted that the Poll gave Saad Hariri (pro governemet) more popularity numbers thatn Nasrallah… no? .. did Asssyassa ever give Bashar better marks than King Abdullah?

This poll is not perfect (is there such a thing?), but it is good enough.

March 12th, 2007, 4:12 pm


Gibran said:

Who said we didn’t like the colors and the tabulated format of your questionnaires. They’re nice and attractive even though they are in black and white.

I did question the sample size based on the arguments raised in my last exchange with some commentator who seemed not satisfied with a sample size of over 3000000 which would be about %80 to %90 of Lebanon’s population. I also questioned the objectivity of the pollster himself in your case. Come on Alex it does not need too much wisdom to recognize the facts in Lebanon. If you have political affiliation of any kind and you set out to conduct such a study, you will be questioned regarding your objectivity. Sure it is easy I can go to Dahia, Baal beck or what have you and collect a sample of 800 people’s answers. But guess what, all my respondents are of the same political leanings. Similarly, I could go to Jounieh, Kisrwan, Bikfaya and collect the answers of another sample of 800 respondents. And guess what? All my respondents will have the same but opposite leanings as the previous sample.
Now the person himself and the way he conducts his analysis is also important. Is any independent agency checking his work? How reliable are his methods? Who else was involved in that study? Plus many more questions.
Now excuse me Alex. You presented none of that. You just popped up some table full of figures at an appropriate time clearly designed to rescue your dear friend Dr. from Oklahoma.
Now you may think we don’t have enough wisdom and may assume that our statistical knowledge is depraved, but we have the right to ask all of these questions and more.

March 12th, 2007, 4:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

ausamaa asks:

“What REFORMES does Syria need?”

Shirley, you jest. The WHOLE ME needs reform. But those leading the “ME Utopia” want you to take your eyes away from the needed reforms issue, and instead, focus on the “duty to Liberate its Lands” and/or “Stand up to the military dangers posed by Israel’s presence”.

So yes, you have made the correct assumption: Wallow in poverty, violence and oppression and wait until Allah frees you of the Joos. I mean, really, what’s more important?

It is no coincidence that Arafat and Saddam Hussein were billionaires.

March 12th, 2007, 4:38 pm


syrian said:


You should be careful in attempting to use sample sizes that constitute less than 95% of the population. Otherwise, your estimates may have some sampling bias in them. Unlike the Al Jazeera renouned researchers who carefully administered a survey to 95% of the lebanese population and carefully tabulated their numbers and discussed their methodology in order to eliminate any bias in the results.

March 12th, 2007, 4:44 pm


ugarit said:

Even if voter polls are perfect those polls reflect the statistical distribution of voters and NOT necessarily of the population at large. Economically disenfranchised populations tend to vote in smaller numbers.

March 12th, 2007, 5:12 pm


ausamaa said:

To all those sensetive soles who have expressed worried about the headline and the SLAVES word, today I printed out the Article and the responses and gave two copies to two Lebanese friends. Christians and a Shieat Muslims, mostly fortiesh, senior executives, Western educated, the works. And Guess What? None of those belonging to the Shieat sect were even the least offended. Actually, they were enraged at Gibran’s comment:”this is what the Shieats get, and nothing more”. The Christians laughed and asked: Who the hell is he?

A discussion ensued and all at the end agreed that the Hizballah and Aoun agreement followed by Aoun’s supporters embrace of the refugees during the war has done Lebanese Society a huge benifit. It has effectively reshuffled the whole deck. Not Politically only, but Psychologically.

So GIBRAN, please leave Josh and Alex’s statistics alone for a while, and try to understand that what you breach here, if its anything but bashing Syria, is not really representative of the overall Lebanese attitude. Actually, a lot of the posts here seem a bit removed from reality, having originated in the US and Canada. They, some posts, do not reflect what we experience here every day. The effect is somewhat dampened watered down at your end. It is like you guys are receiving the NEWS of what is happening in the area, but you are still somewhat insulated from the full impact of the changes as they are felt here.

And dear GIBRAN, stop feeling so insecure by Syria and all; the Lebanese I know here are not that scared of Hizballah and Syria as you are….if it is any consolation. And we do speak to each other… and laugh at things together also…


Have you given any further thoughts to my proposed Syria-Lebanon Union or Fedration. And do not worry, it would not be on the basis of one-man-one-vote. We will find a better formula. If we can wrap this up real quick, we can then start talking about accepting Jordan and then Iraq in the proposed Union??

March 12th, 2007, 7:29 pm


Samir said:

ugarit:Economically disenfranchised populations tend to vote in smaller numbers.
Again here,it’s known that the shias are better organized than the sunnis and follow their leaders like sheeps,an another myth must also fall, they are not more poor than other leb communities.

March 12th, 2007, 7:31 pm


ugarit said:


I was speaking in general about voting polls.

Are you not perpetuating a myth that the Shia “follow their leaders like sheep”? Or do you have statistics to support this claim?

March 12th, 2007, 7:55 pm


Samir said:

Aussama:if its anything but bashing Syria, is not really representative of the overall Lebanese attitude

I dont think that the so called pro syrians in lebanon love the syrian people,they love asad because he is alawite,this is not more than a sectarian alliance.When the regime will fall,will they remain pro syria ?

Most of the lebanese who have family relations with the syrian people,or the lebanese of syrian origin;those are against the regime and not anti SYRIA at all ,how can they hate their syrian cousins?

March 12th, 2007, 8:01 pm


ausamaa said:


and I guess the Syrian Workers who were murdered in Lebanon we murdered because they are ASSADISTS, not Because they were SYRIANS.

March 12th, 2007, 8:43 pm


ausamaa said:

And for the time being, and until Junblat work out a way to change the “regime” in Damascus, it is advisable for the Enlightened Lebanese (pro Feb 14) to lump the Syrian Regime and the Syrian People in one basket. As far Lebanoon Al Sayyed Al Mista’eil is concerened, Syrians and Assad have more or less the same point of view.

March 12th, 2007, 8:47 pm


Atassi said:

Olmert looks to Saudi peace plan
Abraham Rabinovich
13 March 2007
The Australian
Copyright 2007 News Ltd. All Rights Reserved


WITH hopes of Israeli-Palestinian peace mired in mutual suspicion, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will attempt to achieve a peace agreement this month with the broader Arab world by backing a five-year-old Saudi Arabian peace plan.

In a signal defining his new agenda, Mr Olmert expressed hope at yesterday’s cabinet meeting that Arab leaders assembling in Riyadh later this month would endorse the “positive elements” of a regional peace plan tabled by Saudi Arabia in 2002. That plan calls for Israel to pull back from all territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War in return for peace and normalisation of relations with all Arab states.

Mr Olmert first indicated interest in the Saudi plan a few weeks ago when he said he saw in it positive elements. That general statement was elevated to the status of policy when he expanded on it at the opening of yesterday’s meeting in the presence of television cameras and said that the Saudi initiative should be taken seriously.

“We hope very much that during the meeting of the heads of Arab states in Riyadh, the positive elements expressed in the Saudi initiative will be validated and perhaps will strengthen chances for negotiations between us and the Palestinians,” he said.

Israel has previously ignored the Saudi proposal, hoping to achieve more favourable terms in direct negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria. The main stumbling block in the proposal for Israel is its reference to the refugee problem.

The original Saudi Arabian proposal called for a “just” solution for the millions of Palestinians living now as refugees in the Arab world.

But when the proposal was endorsed in Beirut by the Arab League in 2002, this was changed to a declaration of the right of the refugees to return to homes inside Israel abandoned during the first Israel-Arab war in 1948 — a clear non-starter for Israel, which sees in it the demographic demise of the Jewish state. Israeli officials have expressed the hope that at the meeting in Riyadh this month, the Arab leaders will restore the original wording.

The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has said this will not happen. Nevertheless, Israeli leaders still hope that the Saudi leadership, which has assumed a central role in the Arab world, will moderate the wording in order to encourage Israel to enter into discussions.

It is, ironically, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran that is encouraging an unprecedented rapport between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Although there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries, Mr Olmert met six months ago with Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Amman. The prince is believed to be in ongoing contact with Israeli representatives, with Washington’s blessing.

Israeli minister Meir Sheetrit told Israel radio yesterday that although there were concerns about some aspects of the Saudi initiative, such as the refugee question, the only way to achieve political momentum was to engage with the broad Arab world.

“These concerns are real but they shouldn’t paralyse us,” he said. “If we sit and talk we will find solutions.”

March 12th, 2007, 8:48 pm


Samir said:

Aussama ,stop trying to mix shit with purity there is no people on earth who will accept a minority corrupt sectarian criminal treacherous regime,specialy the syrian sunnis and we will never accept the minority rule,we are proud people,we have dignity and memory;this is our natural right to be ruled by people who are close to our culture and not by 13 Mukhabarat apparatuses and depraved people.

March 12th, 2007, 9:31 pm


Fares said:

Josh, so you want Lebanon and Iraq perfect but what is the point if Syria is not even trying to start to be democratic.

I thought when I started reading your blog that you are an independent academic researcher but I did not know you are just a regime’s mouthpiece exactly like Tishreen or Baath, a bit more advanced in appearance but the substance is the same rotten one.

When is the last time you reported on human rights in Syria??? or you just have determined like some friends that it is not worth it to criticize the regime since it is too sensitive!

Syria shows its democratic Face

March 12th, 2007, 10:13 pm


Alex said:


The poll also showed Druze who gave America their full trust … it has Christians who did not trust Iran … and It has a majority of Shiites who liked Hariri’s speech

Howe can that be fully biased as you suggested? ..

As for the person who conducted it, Saudi Owned Al-Hayat published his earlier work, so despite his Shiite bias (If you insist) he can produce professional work.

Again, I am sure the poll is not perfect …. but it seems to be good enough and not one sided in its conclusions.

March 12th, 2007, 10:14 pm


Alex said:


Just a reminder:

At Rime’s blog recently you denied that you go after those who have opinions that are not to your liking by attacking their credibility and calling them names.

I think it is beyond your control .. you are another “democracy fighter” who is not ready for Democracy.

March 12th, 2007, 10:20 pm


Fares said:


This time you are starting to attack!

Syria Comment should reflect what is happening in Syria not just be a regime’s english blog. Josh goes full length with the help of readers like yourself to gather news about Syria but he chooses to ignore the negative news happening in Syria or because of its regime policies…this coming from a researcher is really not acceptable. Josh can have his own opinion on anything and he can ignore anything that does not please the regime, but he really should change the name of the blog to BAATH Comment and please I don’t want to argue with you this time so if Josh chooses he can aswer me.

March 12th, 2007, 10:38 pm


Fares said:


This is what some idiot wrote on my blog as a comment in the “About” section, and I did not delete it or respond to it which I could have done but that shows you how people tarnish the reputation of honest people in Syria. It is really disgusting

what do u know about the relation between michel kilo and the former chief of political system (Amen al Syeasse) Ba7jat Sleiman? i know from a source (not the mukabarat) that he was taking direct order to speak in the right time and to say that now or later and to who! and when Sleiman left the system miche was lost so he started making mistakes (with the regime according to them). and because his old (sorry to say that) “m3almen” left, the new director started to watch michel since he was consider as ZELMET the previous 1 Bahjat Sleiman! and ofcourse when michel was now without order or advice he did the big move when he signed the article abt lebanon in a very wrong time so he was putted in jail.
i m not saing that he doesn;t beilive to be free ofcouse not. but ur reader have to know all the true abt Kilo since they have the right!

Does not surprise me!!! from a rotten secret service mentality which BTW are very active on this blog.

March 12th, 2007, 10:45 pm


Enlightened said:

Last night, when i got home i got my wife (who is shiite) to read Joshs article.

Her reactions:

She wasnt offended; she thought the article encapsulated the general shiite feelings of under representation in the Lebanese system; ( I spoke to her about the general shiite feeling of always being the outcasts in the arab world, and her response was that coming from a sunni family ( and i dont pray etc etc etc ) i didnt have a clue on how they were treated in Lebanon, my mother in law has told me a few stories of her school days, and the general consensus amongst other kids that shiites had tails that they hid in their clothes, etc to highlight one)

I rang my brother in law in melbourne and got him to read it, he also wasnt offended. My father in law who is more secular than i am commented if the muslims get control of Lebanon they will ruin the country, and that yes they needed more rights than they currently do.

Yes this current thread has polarised some people including myself. I still stand by my earlier comment that it was very irresponsible by Josh and his words should have been chosen more carefully!

I wonder if he would have written about the sectarianism in the syrian system under Hafez assad and how Alawites got favourable treatment compared to the rest of the population? Rather than confront the blatant sectarianism and its problems in the ME, I think Joshs atricle has only poured more fuel on the fire! ( If that was his intent)

March 12th, 2007, 11:50 pm


Alex said:


Did I or Joshua or Rime ever accuse you of being a paid CIA spy?

As you can see from this post, Joshua posted many of the opinions of those who strongly disagreed with him… And he posted them without packaging them negatively like the rest of the “Freedom loving” blogs and sites do … In Creative Syria, you see Ammar’s name and articles (critical of the Syrian regime) always on top … no one wants to stop you or others from expressing your point of view. No one stopped you from linking here any credible stories about regime corruption or disregard for human rights … but just try to control your habit of accusing people of being Baathists or or regime apologists …

March 13th, 2007, 12:13 am


ugarit said:

SAMIR said: “…. there is no people on earth who will accept a minority corrupt sectarian criminal treacherous regime,specialy the syrian sunnis and we will never accept the minority rule,we are proud people,we have dignity and memory;this is our natural right….”

The Syrian regime is corrupt and dictatorial. What does the minority status of the dictator have to do with this? Are you implying that Sunnis will not accept anyone but a Sunni? Shay Hilo!

Are you for democracy and to be ruled by any legitimate ruler regardless of that rulers minority status? If you’re not then I don’t want your kind of Syria.

March 13th, 2007, 12:22 am


Samir said:

Ugarit,tyranny has no religion.
If the syrian people elect an alawite as president of Syria,then i have nothing to say other than accepting him as my president.
And why not many of them deserve it.
In the past,before the blood era,the christian of lebanese origin,Fares bey Al Khoury was elected prime minister of Syria and he was one of the most loved politician in the country.

March 13th, 2007, 1:51 am


K said:

1. The Beirut Centre for Media and Information is affiliated with Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Hizballa supporter. Its findings are suspect.

2. Even taken at face value, the survey deliberately words the questions so as to decrease Lebanese blame of Syria in obstructing a solution to the crisis (Q4). Rather than a unified Iran-Syria category, the respondent is presented with the options “Syria” (17%) and “Syria and Iran” (18%).

An honest observer would correct this methodological bias and report that 35% of Lebanese blame Syria and Iran, according to the BCMI survey. But Landis goes along with the deception and writes: “17% blame Syria”.

In contrast, the US category is phrased open-endedly – “the USA and others”. Landis reports: 51% blame the US.

March 13th, 2007, 6:40 am


Alex said:


You are right about the 35% blame for Syria and Iran. And you are right that Q4 is vague.

But I’m sure you can see consistent correlation between the different sections of the poll … the answers are consistent … Druze and Geagea supporters make up the roughly 30% of Lebanese who are extremely anti Syria and very much pro America.

The rest of the Lebanese (about 70%) want their leaders to find a way out of this mess .. they don’t give a damn anymore about Politics.

Is this fair enough rough conclusion?

March 13th, 2007, 7:01 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Dear Josh:

You nailed the issue and your analysis
synchs ups with the experts at the University
of St. Joseph.


March 13th, 2007, 7:01 am


K said:


“Druze and Geagea supporters make up the roughly 30% of Lebanese who are extremely anti Syria and very much pro America….The rest of the Lebanese (about 70%) want their leaders to find a way out of this mess … ”

This is propagandistic. By stating that “the rest” want their leaders to find a way out, you insinuate that “Druze and Geagea supporters” do NOT want their leaders to find a solution. It’s a silly accusation to level.

In fact, EVERYONE wants their leaders to find a way out of this mess. People differ as to what the solution will look like. Will a “solution” reestablish Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, or consolidate Lebanon’s indepedence?

The specific topic at hand, Q4 of the BCRI survey, is “Who is obstructing a solution?” According to the biased BCRI, 35% blame Syria, Iran or both. I believe the figure is higher. In my personal estimate, Lebanon is divided roughly 50-50.

March 13th, 2007, 2:56 pm


Alex said:


We are both saying our personal opinion here. When you say it is split 50/50, and when I make a statement that sounds like I believe Geagea and Jumblatt supporters do not want a solution.

There is nothing propagandistic about my statement above… In my opinion, those who seek extreme solutions in fact do not want a solution … even if they are convinced that they want a solution. If a Hizbollah fighter wants total Iranian hegemony over Lebanon or if a Junblatt supporter wants a solution that ensures Syria is boycotted (in the name of 100% Lebanese sovereignty) then they both do not want a solution…

There will be no total Syrian absence from Lebanon while there is American, Saudi, Israeli and French strong presence and influence on Lebanon. In practice, those who want zero Syria role do not want solutions.

March 13th, 2007, 11:26 pm


Maya said:

It is strange that Micheal Young’s response was not published, whereas I know for a fact that he did send one.
This professor from Oklahoma is a shady carahcter that I’m sure the Syria – Hizbollah crowd is very happy to have for it gives them international positive exposure that they could not have articulated on their own. Landis is of course entitled to his own opinion on things and I won’t throw in his face the too easy “this is not of your business you’re not from the erea you can’t understand” because I think that we can all have opinions on political issues not related to our own countries. But the problem in his case is that he’s methodicaly doing perverse propaganda for the S

March 16th, 2007, 9:35 am


Maya said:

Propagnada for the Syrian regime totaly focusing on Syrian interests and considering Lebanon as a minor detail in the process. This is neither an academic nor a responsible attitude, as a Lebanese I profoundly resent the fact that he is participating in the harm done to us through that regime and its supporters and he does it so easily from the US as if all this was a game challenging his mental gymnastics.
At the very least, someone so keen on splitting hairs counting the “sufferings” of the Shia in our so “obscurantist” Lebanese system should hyave the integrity of asking himself a fiew fundamental questions about the Syrians he’s defending. Not to mention that, for an academic, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the contradiction between defending democratic secular ideas and entering the game of counting the exact number of seat in parliment for Shia and complaining about its corredpondance to their number.
Academic people are not supposed to be saints, not even realy objective, everybody tries through method to be somewhat objective but nobody realy is. The problem with Landis is that he doesn’t even try, except on some technicalities that make things worse, his method is shady and full of contradictions.
As for all those who applaud him and run to his rescue and the rescue of the Syrian regime and its followers in Lebanon, the only thing you’re succeding in is transforming political differences in Lebanon into deep hatred because all your attitude, your actions, your arguments and those of your leaders are based on bad faith and misplaced pride. I don’t care one bit about Landis, but you are part of the country and you’re letting yourself be dragged away from it into the blackwhole of Syria.

March 16th, 2007, 9:59 am


Alex said:

Dear Maya,

Since I am one of those who “applaud him” I can only tell you that you have been a hostage to Saudi owned Media in Lebanon that you are missing the real story: You have replaced Syrian control of lebanon with Saudi/American/French control.

You can get upset at “landis” and you can find it sad that his Syrian supporters are blind and foolish enought to make the Lebanese hate us even more, but too bad Maya .. we do not hate you despite your warlords/leaders calling on the US to invade Syria and calling on “a son of the mountain” to assassinate our president.

March 16th, 2007, 4:00 pm


G said:

Ohhhh, then we are in your debt Alex! Thank you so much for your kindness! That you don’t hate us despite our brutal war against you, which has included multiple assassinations, car explosions, arms and fighters smugglings, obstruction of institutions, etc. etc.

Oh wait… never mind…

The nerve of you people… astonishing…

March 16th, 2007, 4:39 pm


The Arabist » Landis contra Young said:

[…] That post (which is longer than what’s excerpted above) was obviously provocative and generated a lot of comments on Landis’ blog. He eventually posted a follow-up with some reader responses and said he wanted to let passions cool. He did mention that Young had responded but did not put up his response. […]

March 18th, 2007, 3:19 pm


Pascale said:

To those syrians who post here and that supposedly academic, know that you make us wish for Syria a taste of what it’s giving us in Lebanon. And yes if someone can kill that giraffe president of yours we would be happy that he rotes in hell with his father.
As in Saddam’s Irak, the only thing keeping you from facing the kind of “troubles” that you seem to disdain so much in Lebanon is dictatorship. And if you’re happy with it then keep it and choke on it, just leave us alone.
What you always resort to is the conviction put in your heads by your masters that we are replacing syrian occupation by american western saudi..etc. disregarding the fact that the spirit that moved March 14 people (not leaders nor their followers) was beyond that,animated by a genuine will of freedom and democracy that smart people in the opposition in your country adhere to and syrian prisons. You ignore the fundamental issue and banalise it in temrs of just another allegance,us “daring” to change allegance!! The fact that you don’t want to see beyond that only shows your indoctrination. We, the March 14 independant people, know very well the shortcomings, mistakes and limits of the leaders we have, we also know that the US/Europe/Saudi Arabia support us according to their agenda and interests, but getting rid of you, trying to build a real state, working to achieve some form of neutrality to Lebanon that could get us out of your grip is a fundamental hope for all of us in spite of the pitty interests of anyone. But even if we follow your reasoning to the end: our actions bringing western influence instead of yours, try to understand that we have the nerve to prefer the western influence to your occupation. We’ve had the syrian regime on our back for 30 years, we know it in and out,have tasted all it this point the devil himself is better.
As to your disdain towards our country “that is not a real country and never will be”, it might be true, we certaintly don’t sit comfortably on eternal final certainties like you do thanks to your ideology, we are always affraid that our dreams for our country won’t come true, we know that we’ve not been able to construct a real state yet, we know that we killed each other in a long war, we know that the great Lebanon is more in our dreams and hopes than in reality. If all this confort you in thinking that we’re just a bothersome mess, go ahead, but for us that “idea” of Lebanon, even if it remains virtual and never materialises (can I say more to go in the sense of your logic) is worth fighting for and is worth all the arab countries put together and more. That’s what you don’t understand or don’t want to understand. But just to show you how deeply rooted what I’m saying is, a little story. My father, who was of syrian origin, was forced to go earn a living in Syria in 76 after a year of unemployment in Lebanon because of the war. We thought it was temporary but he ended up having to spend 10 years there coming and going as he could, suffering from a lonely life and going through a nightmare of fears for us everyday. My mother, a Lebanese, had her own nightmare of seeing 4 children through the war alone, we had to go to school, then university under the bombs. At some point, exhausted by fear, she asked my father that he takes us all to live with him in Syria to escape the dangers. His answer was categoric, and never changed throughout the war, “I’ll never allow my children to live in Syria, despite the war Lebanon will offer them a better life than what they would have in Syria, in spite of all my suffering I prefer Lebanon under the bombs to the stability of death in Syria”. None of us ever regretted that choice even though we all had near death experiences. Can you begin to understand what it is that made us pay that price for this country? Can you imagine our attachement to it having paid that price of tears and fear and danger? Can you comprehend that your disdain of our miseries only appeases your conscience and doesn’t even begin to penetrate the depth of the meaning of this country? A meaning which I’m sure Syria has too, but certainly not through that regime or people like you who are happy following it.
I grew up considering Israel as our ennemy and I’ve had every reason to hate them more and more as years went by and to understand the main reason for my hatred towards them: their egocentrism, bad faith, infinite capacity of lying and distorting truth, and blind violence. We’ve had again a taste of all that this summer. But guess what, if I see the same characteristics in our arab “brothers”,as I do in the syrian regime, I won’t hate them any less because they are arabs. If we can’t get past that kind of arabism then the hell with it and those who defend it, we suffered more than enough. And guess what more, I profoundly believe that the main support that the Assads have always had comes in a deep way from Israel and the fact that they were negociating over our blood this summer is only the tip of the iceberg. Israel supports that regime because they are fundamentaly the same kind of evil.

March 20th, 2007, 8:58 am


Pascale said:

I saw my comment posted with the mention “Awaiting moderation”. When our suffering and frustration will be moderated then my point of view will consider some “moderation”. As I would like to add that our lack of “moderation” has been and will always be in words and opinions, we’re not the ones obstructing justice, causing a war, killing politicians and intellectuals,and cripling the economy of the whole country by “peacful” strikes and terrorising people by “peacful” sit-ins. For us it’s words and opinionsand even our wish of death towrads some won’t kill them.

March 20th, 2007, 9:06 am


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