Samir al-Taki’s talk at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC

Samir al-Taki's talk at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, July 23, 2008
Summarized by Joshua Landis

The three-man delegation of Syrians which is visiting Washington spoke at the Brookings Institute today. They are Dr. Sami Moubayed (Academic, jounalist), Samir Saifan (Economist, businessman), and Samir al-Taki ([Taqi] medical doctor and head of Syria's leading think tank). They have a busy schedule of meetings and talks with congressmen and other Washington types this week. Their meeting with the U.S. State Department on Wednesday was canceled. So was a meeting with leaders of AIPAC. Here is how the State Dept. explained the cancelation:

"Representatives from the State Department will not meet with this group from Syria," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters. "Upon review of their program, and changes in schedules, ultimately, (it) did not work out."

Here are a few of the main points made by Dr. al-Taqi who gave a prepared comment of only 10 minutes before opening the floor to questions:

From 2001 until UN Resolution 1559 was issued in the fall of 2004, Israel and the US tried to end the Arab-Israeli confrontation by means of a unilateral peace. Sharon had decided to impose a peace pleasing to it on the Palestinians. Syria gambled that such a peace was impossible — "You cannot close the Arab-Israeli conflict without dealing with the core problems. There cannot be a unilateral peace," said Samir al-Taki.

We now have about eight collapsing states in the region. This means more asymmetrical conflict in the region. The regional problems are getting worse and are more over-lapping. The US and Israeli decision to use force to impose unilateral solutions on the area has failed. It has made the region more dangerous and the problems more intractable.

Only dialogue, negotiations and compromise will solve regional problems and attenuate the violence that threatens us all.

This was the gist of Dr. Taki's prepared remarks. I was unable to take proper notes on the questions. I will try to summarize some of the main categories of questions and give an inexact and highly condensed summary of the responses.

Question: What was the reason for resuming negotiations with Israel?

Answer: Because Ariel Sharon was given carte blanche to destroy the PLO and Palestinian leadership, he opened the way in front of all kinds of extremists. Syria needed to stop this trend. Only dialogue and mutual solutions can solve our problems and open a way forward for all states in the region.

Question: Compare Iran and Turkey as allies of Syria.

Answer: Syria has a right and obligation to seek out regional allies. When Syria thinks about allies in the region, it thinks of Iran. When it thinks of opportunities, it thinks of Turkey.

Question: What does Syria want from the US?

Answer: We need the US. We can discuss bilateral problems with Israel, but we need the US to discuss regional problems. The US is our neighbor now. In some ways, Fallujah is closer to Washington than New Orleans is. If Syria wants good relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other states of the region, Washington is an important part of the equation.

Question: Hizbullah. Will Syria shut down Hizbullah if there is peace with Israel?

Answer: Asymmetrical warfare is what is going on in the region. Hizbullah and non-state actors can make their enemies bleed, but what is the endgame of violence? It is to bring one's opponent to the negotiating table. Non-state actors cannot win or bring opponents to the table. For that you must have states and recognized governments.

As for whether Syria will "shut down" or "disarm" Hizbullah, Syria has left Lebanon. Hizbullah is Lebanon's problem now. We are not in Lebanon. Under the present circumstances, Syria must use all its options in its struggle to regain the Golan and secure its security and national interests in the region. Only when we are headed toward peace and assured of a real change in regional dynamics, will Syria choose between allies and make such difficult decisions, but Syria is ready to move — hopefully the need to make decisions will come sooner than later.

Question: Will Syria really support disarming Hizbullah and stopping its rearmament?

Answer: When the Lebanese as a society and one people are ready to integrate Hizbullah's militia into the army or to disarm it, Syria will be ready to support that decision.

Question: What is your advice for the next US president?

Answer: Appoint a US ambassador in Damascus. Put your considerable muscle behind land for peace – that is what we are looking for, land for peace.Iraq: Lebanon is no longer number one on Syria's agenda; Iraq is. The biggest danger for Syria is to have a weak confessional federation, like Lebanon, on our eastern border. This is our biggest concern and looming danger. Angry confessionalism and religious and ethnic violence have a way of spreading.

Question: Congressman Stephen J. Solarz explained that when he visited Syria and spoke to Foreign Minister Mu`alem, he asked the FM what Syria needed in order to give up riparian rights to the Sea of Galilee should Israel concede the northern strip of land along the lake to Syria? Mu`alem had told Solarz that Syria wanted:

1) more water from Turkey.
2) A water desalinization plant on the coast.
3) Syrian farmers on the Golan to be able to use water from some of the streams that feed Lake Tiberius. 

Solarz asked Dr. Taki if these demands were still on Syria's list.

Answer: Taqi smiled and said that whatever Mu'alem had told the congressman was undoubtedly true as Mu`alem is the source.

Then in a more serious vein, Taki insisted that the larger principle of getting all the land of the 1967 border was a separate question from the technical issues of what guarantees would be needed to achieve it. He insisted that most of the technical issues had been worked out and that remaining problems could be dealt with. He insisted that the principle of returning to the 1967 border was the important point in it all.During the last 10 minutes of the meeting, Sami Moubayed and Samir Saifan spoke.

Dr. Moubayed insisted that Syria is ready to be helpful and part of the solution to regional problems. He went through a number of examples of how and when Syria had used its influence and authority in the region to help solve problems in the recent past. He said that Washington needs to recognize this assistance and work with Syria. Syria is not looking for praise, he insisted. All Syria wants from the US is for it to halt its campaign to vilify and demonize Syria. "The US should not expect cooperation from Syria so long as it abuses Syria and seeks to demonize it," he explained.

Mr. Saifan explained that Syria wants peace in the region and wants to move ahead with its plans for a better and richer future. Negotiations and peace will benefit all sides. He thanked the leaders of "The Search for Common Ground," who had organized their trip to Washington and who had gotten them meetings with congressmen and leaders in Washington. He explained that the Syrian team had not expected such a warm welcome and such interest. They thanked Martin Indik, the head of the Saban Center, for hosting the Brookings talk.

Comments (325)

Alex said:

Who else was there? : )

July 24th, 2008, 4:08 pm


Nour said:

I think the entire thing was quite humiliating. I really don’t understand why these people would want to meet with anyone at the Saban Center or beg to meet with AIPAC. We criticize Lebanese political figures when they do the same, so I think these Syrian individuals deserve severe reproach. The Saban Center is directed by none other than Martin Indyk, an ardent neo-con Zionist whose entire agenda is to promote “Israel’s” interests. We all know the function that AIPAC performs, and the lengths they go to to dehumanize our people and assure continued support for the brutal occupation of Palestine and the destruction of our nation. This is not an encouraging trend, and only goes to show the complete lack of awareness on the part of the supposed intellectuals who celebrated the organization of this event.

July 24th, 2008, 4:39 pm


Alex said:

Damascus Exchange May Take NYSE Technology, Chairman Says
2008-07-24 10:43:10.980 (New York)

By Nadim Issa
July 24 (Bloomberg) — The Damascus Securities Exchange is
in talks with NYSE Euronext, the word’s largest stock exchange,
about installing its trading platform, said DSE Chairman Rateb Al
“I am heading to France in September to complete our
negotiations with Euronext about installing their platform to our
bourse to start our activities in early 2009,” Al Shallah, said
today in a telephone interview from Damascus.
The DSE will start trading in early 2009 even if it fails to
agree a deal with NYSE Euronext or Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. because
the exchange is in talks with another provider, he said, without
identifying the company.
Jonas Rodny a spokesman for Nasdaq OMX in Stockholm,
declined to comment.

July 24th, 2008, 5:01 pm


Alex said:

One would think that David Welch has what it takes … his parents were in “foreign service” … he served in US embassies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria … He speaks Arabic … he has the right education ….

Yet … ego beats reason.

As Ambassador to Egypt (2001 to 2005) he tried to control (or influence) the country’s foreign policy.

And when he came back to Washington … Syria became his enemy. He focused most of his energy on isolating and weakening Syria.

And he lost big time.

This week, instead of taking the opportunity to talk to the Syrians, his ego decided to score a mini-humiliation for the visiting Syrians instead.

Nour is right … I would not have trusted him. The Syrians made a mistake in scheduling and announcing the meeting with him. There is really no hope with this administration.

But AIPAC … I was surprised the meeting was officially canceled. After all Martin Indyk invited and hosted the Syrian delegation at the SABAN center.

It does not matter at all … there is no risk that Syria will now be considered too soft.

July 24th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Shai said:


Hello! Good to see you’re still very much in control of the SC ship (or, rather, Armada).

Trying to catch up some… Yes, very unfortunate what has taken place vis-a-vis the Syria delegation in Washington. I can’t imagine these were planned humiliations, at least I hope not, because it serves no one. All credit due to the three gentlemen, though, for still showing up at the Saban Center. It’s time Americans start getting used to Syrian diplomats, think-tankers, academicians, and journalists. Just as Reagan’s “Evil Empire” days are over, so are Bush’s “Axis of Evil”.

July 24th, 2008, 6:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Speaking of the Saban Center, I saw Kenneth Pollack on Charlie Rose last night. The man is well-spoken, reasonable sounding, and all the rest of it. Plus, he was talking about his latest book, A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East, which was just published. In it, he argues about the necessity for a long-term American strategy in the Middle East that takes into account all of the social and economic problems of the region, and works on solving them while also dealing with short-term flare-ups.

What is so interesting to me is that this is the same man who wrote a highly influential book (The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) back in 2002, which basically convinced the American liberal establishment to back President Bush’s war.

What is this? On the job training?!

“Oops! I guess that book was wrong. Maybe it’s time for me to write a new one which says exactly the opposite thing.”

July 24th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Shai said:


Bibi Netanyahu made a few bucks with his “How the West can Win” book quite a few years ago. He must have meant “West Bank”, or “Western Gaza”, or something like that…

Don’t worry, in his 70’s, he’ll still write “How we ALL won”, after making peace with the entire Arab world.

July 24th, 2008, 7:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai, what do you think the odds are of Bibi being the next PM?

July 24th, 2008, 7:29 pm


Shai said:


Well, you need to be specific about what you mean by “next”. If you mean through elections, then Bibi’s chances are, I’d say, as close to 100% as one can be. If you mean following Olmert, then we still have the very real possibility of either Tzipi Livni or Shaul Mofaz (god forbid) leading Kadima in the upcoming primaries in September, and then taking over the coalition as the new PM. In which case, Bibi will have to wait a bit longer. Theoretically, Livni could continue where Olmert left off, and bring us to that “promised land” of peace. But I seriously doubt it. She’s just not leadership material yet. Barak’s envy will get to him, he’ll find a reason to pull out, and in the new elections, Bibi will win.

July 24th, 2008, 7:35 pm


Akbar Palace said:

What is so interesting to me is that this is the same man who wrote a highly influential book (The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) back in 2002, which basically convinced the American liberal establishment to back President Bush’s war.

QN –

PLEASE, no book “convinced the American liberal establishment to back President Bush’s war”.

All you have to do to see what convinced the US Congress to vote in favor of the war is to Google Hillary Clinton’s speeches in front of Congress. Senators from both isles had the same intelligence, the same knowledge of Iraq’s past military adventures, the same knowledge
of the 12 UNSC resolutions that Saddam failed to comply with, and the same knowledge of their WMD that the UN could not account for.

Furthermore, the fact the US Congress voted in favor of this war should be clear enough to discout your terming the war, “President Bush’s War”. BTW – This is a war that (both Norman and I agree) we won. Moreover, it is a war Barry Obama will keep us in until at least 16 months after he (hypothetically) gets elected.

July 24th, 2008, 8:18 pm


Shai said:


Hi again. If this is called “winning” the war, what would you call “losing” it?

Winning, in my mind, normally does not include American body-bags piling up daily on flights out of Baghdad. Not to mention the many thousands of injured soldiers (I believe there are some 30,000 now). Aside from continuing to occupy Iraq, and perhaps controlling its airspace, what other “control” does the U.S. have over the fate of ordinary Iraqis?

Like in Vietnam, once the U.S. stepped in, far more deaths occurred, and civil war could not be stopped. Like in Vietnam, when the U.S. finally recognizes it cannot “win” this war, it will still lose many many soldiers lives by the time it completes its withdrawal (which will take years). When Johnson and McNamara finally realized their limitations, some 29,000 soldiers had already died. That was only 50% of the 58,000 that would die in total in that war. Leaving Vietnam cost the U.S. another 29,000 lives. How many soldiers still have to die before America leaves Iraq?

July 24th, 2008, 8:33 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Shai, I join the welcoming committee in chirping in my little welcome as well, even though I’m much more of a reader now on SC than a contributor. OK, here’s your first punch:
you said of Livini She’s just not leadership material yet.
Ahem, a little sexism here ya Shai? Beware when Zenobia reads this.

AP, yeah everyone had bad intelligence and Saddam had the worst of compliance records, etc., but really, without the set-up that was deliberately mounted to justify, by any and all means, what was a predetermined decision by Bush’s advisors, led by Cheney, the Iraq war would not have happened. For Heaven’s sake Jacques Chirac said he’ll veto the decision to go to war no matter what. Powell was brilliantly set-up and duped into believing fabricated and convoluted arguments and will carry this UN presentation he made as a black eye for the rest of his life and legacy. So, come on, this has been, is, and always will be Bush’s war.
I do think Saddam got what he deserved and the world is better without him. Still, we cannot rewrite history. Mistakes are mistakes, and Bush himself at least does have the courage to accept this responsibility.

July 24th, 2008, 8:42 pm


Shai said:


Good to see you again. Livni could well be a great PM, just not so soon. She hasn’t even been a leader within her own party (Likud or Kadima). It’s really not about her being a female. Barak, with all his military record, also wasn’t ready for PM’ship last time around.

Good night… off to bed now… 🙂

July 24th, 2008, 9:00 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Thanks Shai, I was just humoring you.
לילה טוב

July 24th, 2008, 9:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Senators from both isles had the same intelligence, the same knowledge of Iraq’s past military adventures, the same knowledge
of the 12 UNSC resolutions that Saddam failed to comply with, and the same knowledge of their WMD that the UN could not account for.

Akbar Palace,

Respectfully, if “military adventures”, flouting UNSC resolutoins, and unaccounted-for WMDs meant anything at all, then Israel would be in a considerably different position than it is in today.

The point of my comment is that Kenneth Pollack was dead wrong about Iraq. Here is what he wrote in his book, The Case for Invading Iraq:

“It is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars… We should not exaggerate the danger of casualties among American troops. U.S. forces in Bosnia have not suffered a single casualty from hostile action because they have become so attentive and skillful at force protection.”

We can’t afford on-the-job training.

July 24th, 2008, 9:56 pm


Ken Hoop said:

Anyone who believes “everyone had the same intelligence” obviously has not read the works of Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern, Sen. Dan Graham, Greg Thielmann, Paul Pillar, Tyler Drumheller, and many other experts on the issue.

July 24th, 2008, 11:08 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

I think the most interesting “hint” in Taki’s exchange was the following:

“Only when we are headed toward peace and assured of a real change in regional dynamics, will Syria choose between allies and make such difficult decisions, but Syria is ready to move — hopefully the need to make decisions will come sooner than later.”

This is the first time anyone from the Syrian side came close to publicly saying what many of us already knew, and that if push comes to shove Syria would reign in HA.

July 24th, 2008, 11:39 pm


norman said:

More Syria talks following ‘progress’

Jul. 25, 2008
Israel and Syria are expected to hold a fourth round of indirect diplomatic talks in Turkey next week, amid reports that the two sides are dealing with issues such as borders, water rights, security, and normalization of ties.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote Thursday, citing Syrian sources, that agreement was close in three areas: water rights, borders and security, with little progress having been made on normalization issues.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, who have kept all information about the indirect negotiations very close to the chest, would not confirm the report. Turkish officials, however, said it was difficult to speak about getting close to agreement while the negotiations remained indirect.

“We are very serious,” one official in the Prime Minister’s Office said of the Turkish-mediated talks. “We know what they expect, and they know what we expect. But if it is to become serious, the negotiations have to be direct.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad has indicted that serious US involvement would be a precondition for direct talks, and that this is something he did not foresee until there was a new administration in Washington.

Meanwhile, European officials said that the indirect talks between Syria and Israel have created a certain air of detente between Europe and Syria. The officials said there was a degree of hope now that Syria would distance itself from Iran and play a more positive role.

Despite the thawing of the West’s relations with Syria, the officials said there was continued concern about arms deliveries from Iran to Hizbullah.

The officials said Syria had been informed of unwritten conditions for improving relations with Europe, including convincing Hamas to be more cooperative in negotiations over the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.

Last week in Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Assad to speak with Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal about Schalit, but it is not clear whether he has indeed done so.

The officials said that France, by reestablishing ties with Syria, is now in a position to offer Syria “carrots” in exchange for greater cooperation.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331093719&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post –

July 25th, 2008, 12:35 am


Akbar Palace said:

Hi again. If this is called “winning” the war, what would you call “losing” it?


Glad you asked. In my mind, winning the war is a number of things:

1.) Bring a living a breathing democracy to country who has never had it.

2.) Bringing security along with defeating the enemies of peace.

3.) Providing a stable government with rule-of-law.

4.) Improving the economy.

5.) Improving human rights, education, and freedom.

But Shai, maybe it is up to the Iraqis to decide if the war was just or not. Here’s one poll I found, and judging from the results, I’d say we were winners:


Freedom doesn’t come without a price. Since you brought it up, we lost 54,000 of our men in Vietnam. For what? In comparison, we lost many fewer lives in a region that has a direct impact on world peace and stability. It is clear you and Barry preferred to leaving Saddam in place. I’m disagreeing. I think regime change in Iraq was the right thing to do. Hillary’s vote (“with conviction”) was the correct choice.

HP was also against the war in Iraq (surprised? Arabs just love their thuggish leaders):

… but really, without the set-up that was deliberately mounted to justify, by any and all means, what was a predetermined decision by Bush’s advisors, led by Cheney, the Iraq war would not have happened.

I love your term “set-up”. As if all the actors in this Grand Cheney Conspiracy completely pulled the wool over the eyes of the most experienced generals, politicians, diplomats, and statesmen.

Cheney and the Neocons pulled the wool over the eyes of:

– The UNSC when they voted unanimously in favor of UNSC Resolution 1441.

– They somehow put a gun to both George Tenet and Colin Powell’s head and said, if you don’t tell the UN that Saddam has a WMD program will kill you!

– They somehow knew that Iraq didn’t have a WMD program but they kept that from the UN and everyone else in the world!

The long and short of it is that Saddam didn’t comply with inspections, and we couldn’t risk not having that information with him in power. C’est tout.

QN –

Sorry, I’m not understanding your point.

July 25th, 2008, 2:46 am


JustOneAmerican said:

While it may go down in history as “Bush’s war” it could not have happened without the Congressional vote. Many did not even bother to read the intelligence assessments that were prepared for them before voting, flawed though they were. No, the vote was not the result of some Cheney cabal manipulation, but the result of politicians acting like politicians – their votes were influenced more by the perceived effects of the vote on reelection prospects than by any intelligence assessments or legal or moral conviction.

Bush, for all his flaws, was (and probably still is) a true believer in the adventure – most of Congress simply (mis)gauged the political winds in determining their vote (including Clinton especially).

July 25th, 2008, 3:56 am


Off the Wall said:


I concur with your statement regarding congress’s vote to authorize the use of force, but in reality, and from constitutional perspective, the founding fathers had no place for “authorizing the use of force”. They envisioned only one scenario, and that is a formal declaration of war that has to be specific, against a specific nation or an alliance of nations, with a well defined goal. The goal is usually defined by describing the conditions that led to such declaration, and once they are eliminated, the war is over, no but, no if.

Furthermore, when a war is declared, it is never “in” a country, it is declared “on” a country. This said, i believe that the congress has both abandoned and exceeded its constitutional mandate. Unfortunately, we only have a single constitutional Senator (Hon. Sen. Baird). His objection to the war and his chiding of his colleagues and of our little king emperor decider president have more to do with their careless and callous disregard to our constitution, than with him being a democrat.

Had we have a multi-party system as apposed to the Aristocratic structure of our congress and senate, the entire set of “bozos” would have been thrown out.We are reaching the end of usefull life of the a republican system, and we need to revise our system or at least buttress whatever democratic values it has.

I believe that we desperately need a constitutional convention. We need to make it illegal for any party to rig the electoral system in manners that exclude small and even radical parties from general elections. With this, the republican party will split into several smaller parties, same as the democrats. We may even witness the emergence of true center, true left, and true right, and we will end this non-sensical state of confusion, phony positions, and see our politicians for who they really are. This will also make lobbying, not only un-ethical, an unfeasible criminal manipulation of our government.

Finally, and standing by my concern for what words say, i am frustrated with the “Iraq War” phrase, let us call it what it is, it is the American War On Iraq. Only then, as Americans, we may want to answer such an accusation by saying, well it is not our war, it is “Bush’s War on Iraq”.

It was not the Vietnam War
It was not the war in Vietnam,

it is The War on Vietnam.

It is not the War in Lebanon,
it is the War On Lebanon.

July 25th, 2008, 4:59 am


Majhool said:

The following is really pathetic. has reported the following

احد الموقعين على إعلان دمشق للتغيير الديمقراطي يعلن انسحابه منه
أعلن حسن يونس قاسم احد الموقعين على إعلان دمشق للتغيير الديمقراطي انسحابه من قائمة الموقعين عليه وإيقاف كافة أشكال نشاطه السياسي والإعلامي وأضاف قاسم في بيان أصدره, تلقت سيريانيوز نسخة منه, انه”يتبرأ من البيان الختامي الذي صدر عما يسمى المجلس الوطني لإعلان دمشق ومن كل الأفكار التي جاءت فيه بتاريخ 1/12/2007″.وأبدى قاسم “ندمه الشديد حيال كل ما صدر عنه من تصريحات أو أقوال كان من شأنها أن تنال وأن تخل بأمن وسلامة الوطن”, متعهدا بـ”عدم ممارسة أي نشاطات سياسية تنال من هيبة الوطن والدولة في المستقبل”.

Translation: A Signatory to Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change announced his withdrawal from it.

. Hassan Younes Kasem, a signatory to Damascus Declaration for democratic national change, announced his withdrawal from the Declaration and stopping all forms of his political activity. In an announcement that Syria-News received a copy of, he added “ I denounce the latest announcement released by the so-called National Council for Damascus Declaration …He Also expressed his deepest regrets for all his past statements that potentially undermines Syria’s security….He vowed to stop any political activity that potentially undermine the prestige of Syra and the Government in the future.

Sorry for the crappy translation

OK, here is what Syria-News did not report:

علم المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان ان إدارة المخابرات العامة اعتقلت الناشط الحقوقي السوري حسن قاسم عضو المجلس الوطني لإعلان دمشق للتغير الوطني الديمقراطي المعارض بعد استدعائه إلى مقرها في دمشق يوم أمس الأربعاء 9/7/2008 ,ولا يزال مصيره مجهولا والناشط حسن يونس قاسم هو من مواليد 1980 طالب سنة رابعة في كلية الآداب قسم اللغة العربية جامعة حلب.

Basically, The Guy-28 year old- has been arrested go by the General Intelligence Administration just two weeks ago.

Things are getting worst when it comes to Human Rights.

Here is the Damascus Declaration for those who are not familiar with it.

July 25th, 2008, 5:10 am


offended said:

Very powerful speech by Obama in Berlin Yesterday. I am begining to think that he’s more popular aorund the world than in the US.

July 25th, 2008, 8:32 am


why-dicuss said:

L’orient le jour reports that Mahmoud Najjar and Hassan Qassem, signatory of the Damascus Declaraton have been freed .

“Deux membres de l’opposition syrienne, Mahmoud Najjar et Hassan Qassem, signataires de la Déclaration de Damas, qui rassemble plusieurs partis notamment laïques, ont été libérés hier, a annoncé l’Organisation nationale des droits de l’homme en Syrie (ONDHS).”

July 25th, 2008, 10:18 am


Akbar Palace said:

Very powerful speech by Obama in Berlin Yesterday. I am begining to think that he’s more popular aorund the world than in the US.


You got that right!

July 25th, 2008, 10:44 am


Akbar Palace said:

… i am frustrated with the “Iraq War” phrase, let us call it what it is, it is the American War On Iraq.

Off the Wall,

Why is it Arabs need to blame a small(er) group of people (“Americans”, “Neo-Cons”, “Likudniks”, etc) for actions a larger part of the all the world governments agree with?

For example, “Bush’s War” was initiated by a unanimous UNSC resolution which stated that Iraq would “face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations”

“Bush’s War”, “Cheney’s War”, “Israel’s War”, the “Zionist’s War”, etc, etc, was intitiated by a unanimous resolution which the government of Syria signed up to, as well as many other nations.

Lest we forget.

July 25th, 2008, 11:53 am


norman said:

LEBANON: Syria Comes In From the Cold
By Mona Alami

BEIRUT, Jul 25 (IPS) – Syrian skies seem to be finally clearing after a very long storm and the virtual shunning of President Bashar al-Assad from the international political scene for almost three years. Many may perceive the recent rapprochement between Syria and France as a mere dalliance, but others believe it can herald a new — and more peaceful — dawn in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s fate has traditionally been linked with Syria’s, which has used the Land of the Cedars numerous times in recent history to gain leverage regionally and internationally. At the end of the eighties, after Syria supported the first U.S. war on Iraq, Syria was handed an implicit mandate over Lebanon, one that ended in February 2005 with the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, for which the Damascus regime was widely blamed.

Although Syrian troops are no longer present on Lebanese soil, much of the country’s turbulence over the past three years has been largely attributed to Syria’s indirect intervention, leading to a collective Western snub of Assad’s government.

The tide now seems to be shifting again. Syria seems to be slowly emerging from its three-year isolation since Hariri’s death because of its softening stance on Lebanon, beginning with its approval of the Doha agreement, which put an end to the one-week Lebanese civil war in May, and led to the election of President Michel Suleiman. As a result, French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited Assad on Jul. 14 to attend the Mediterranean summit in Paris and the festivities for France’s independence day. It was the highest profile diplomatic visit by a Syrian official to France since the Hariri assassination.

The apparent reconciliation between France and Syria is reinforced by the announcement that Sarkozy will visit Damascus in September. After meeting with Assad, Sarkozy announced that Syria and Lebanon had decided to establish diplomatic relations by opening embassies.

“We have witnessed historic progress, with Syria and Lebanon intending on having mutual diplomatic representation in their respective capitals. It’s never happened before,” said Sarkozy, who presided over the first round of talks between the new Lebanese president and Assad. The meeting in Paris was also attended by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Qatari emir who brokered the Doha agreement.

Political scientist Walid Moubarak from the Lebanese American University says Syria’s rapprochement with France is positive. “It has become clear that international powers can’t ignore Syria any longer, especially in light of its influence on political factions, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas and its role in the Iraqi political scene. Syria has certainly been able to capitalise on U.S. problems in the Middle East.”

Signalling a possible shift in its support for Hezbollah, Syria has also engaged in indirect peace talks with Israel. The two neighbouring countries, which have been ‘at war’ since 1948, have held three rounds of indirect talks since March under the auspices of Turkey, increasing the chances of a possible peace treaty.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s meeting with President Suleiman Jul. 21 in Beirut also promises better relations, with the establishment of diplomatic ties, the demarcation of Lebanon’s borders with Syria (which has never been done) and addressing the issue of Lebanese detainees still missing in Syrian prisons, all of which point to a new détente.

According to Prof. Hilal Khashan, chairperson of the political science department at the American University of Beirut, Syria is indirectly approaching the U.S. through its talks with France and Israel. “The Damascus regime will only conclude a peace deal with Israel that is overseen by America,” he says. Any peace agreement, however, hinges on Syria’s position on Hezbollah. After Syria ended its occupation of Lebanon under intense foreign pressure, the Baathist regime realised that Hezbollah was becoming too powerful. “The Syrian regime has always relied on a ‘divide and conquer strategy’ that is no longer effective in Hezbollah’s case, as it has become too powerful since Syria’s departure from Lebanon,” says Khashan.

“However, in light of the current Syrian-Israeli negotiations, Hezbollah’s situation in Lebanon has become precarious. It is more probable that the May 7 conflict reflected Iran’s position to show that the ‘Party of God’ is still a force to be reckoned with.”

The analyst believes that Syria’s alliance with Iran remains solely tactical — a marriage of convenience that is slowly dissolving as a result of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Syria feels would relegate it to the insignificant role of a satellite state.

In recent days, tensions seem to be progressively decreasing in Lebanon, as witnessed in the more conciliatory stance between the pro-Syrian parliamentary minority Hezbollah and anti-Syrian majority leader Walid Joumblat.

Hezbollah’s softening towards the majority acknowledges the changes in regional politics and mirrors the party’s readiness to use diplomacy instead of war. “Hezbollah is aware that Syria has decided to make peace with Israel and wants to survive a subsequent and potential Syrian onslaught in case a deal is made,” Khashan says. Hezbollah, being a regional creation, can only be reined in or toppled by a regional power, he says.

Both Khashan and Moubarak believe that despite conciliatory actions, the Middle East political environment remains volatile, and the slightest change could affect the course of history. For now, though, it seems that all is quiet on the Lebanese front. (END/2008)

Send your comments to the editor

LEBANON: Bodies Swap Brings Uneasy Triumph
LEBANON: Fresh Disputes Shadow New Govt

July 25th, 2008, 12:22 pm


idaf said:

Al-Nahar newspaper’s website has misquoted Professor Landis’ summary above with all kind of misleading and simply wrong information.

Not only does the newspaper not mention the source (which is this post), they also misquote Samir Taqi, but most importantly, they mistake him for another person, report his name and Sami Moubayed’s name wrong and blatantly label them as “Syrian officials”.

It’s unfortunate that a previously good newspaper has disintegrated into such a propagandish and biased source with poor quality.. what a pity.

July 25th, 2008, 12:52 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AP, in , you were selective in quoting my comment

At the time, like most Americans, I was very much in favor of the war on Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and enable a majority-based democracy. Like most Americans, learning of the deceptions that went into pushing the war forward by deliberately hiding reservations from intelligence sources, and bulldozing anyone and anything that stood in the way of making the war happen (remember Plame, among others), I concluded that we cannot and should not act in such manner, because, the question, AP, then becomes: who’s next? No one was opposing cranking up the pressure on Saddam and continuing the policy of very tight containment.

I suggest you go make your arguments to the families of the 4,000+ soldiers who perished in the conflict and the many more soldiers who have to live with oppressive infirmities as a result of their injuries. (And let’s not forget the millions of Iraqis which include the dead, the injured, the maimed, the kidnapped, the displaced, and the expatriated refugees). Then there’s the execution, the post-conflict utter lack of preparation, the disdainful comments from Rumsfeld about the looting that took place after the war. There there’s Abu-Ghraib. You’re essentially arguing, AP, that “the end justifies the means.” Perhaps this is what governs some of Israeli official policy as well. There is a moral ground, AP, and some of us, while moderate, enlightened, and in favor of a peace that does include an Israeli state with Jewish character, do insist on satying above the ground floor of this moral ground. You’re slipping quickly below it. The quick tagging of “Arab” doesn’t endear you either. We are quite diverse here, you know.

July 25th, 2008, 1:23 pm


Nour said:


You provide basic polls and pretend that such polls prove that things in Iraq are going well. You fail to take into consideration the nature of the poll and the differences in opinion between the various groups in Iraq. The Kurds and Shiites in general feel more positive, and have done so for quite some time, because they feel that their power has increased, while the Sunnis continue to feel antangonized. The fact is that if you look at Iraq today, you see an utter failure of a state. It’s a state that cannot provide for the basic needs of its people. A state where ethnic cleansing campaigns have created permanent barriers between the various groups in the country. A state that is run not by a real government, but rather by a collection of militias, who do not answer to any state authority. A state that still captures and tortures people, bribes tribal leaders, and is rampant with utter corruption. I would suggest looking beyond mere polls and seeing what life in Iraq is really like.

July 25th, 2008, 2:04 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Let me go soft again, with a Lebanese self-deprecating joke (in Arabic, sorry for those who can’t read the language and maybe someone can translate in a way that preserves the punch line):

قرر إبليس أن يهجر لبنان.
فزع الناس كلهم للخبر و راحوا وصاروا يترجوه وقالوا له : أرجوك ما تروح … وين راح تلاقي ناس مثلنا كذّابين ومنافقين وبدّن يروحوا عا جهنّم؟؟؟

فقال لهم: إبعدوا عني إنتوا ما بتستاهلو شي!!! الواحد منكم بيجيني شحاد وحافي وما معو ياكل. أنا أعلمه وأخليه يسرق حتّى يعيش عيشة مثل الفلّ، ويغشّ حتّى يتخرّج بامتياز، ويزوّر بالإنتخابات ويرشي حتّى يطلع نايب أو رئيس وأوّل ما يقعد عالكرسي بتلاقيه معلق يافطه وراه مكتوب عليها:

هذا من فضل ربي

July 25th, 2008, 2:51 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Is this Deja Vu? It must be…

At the time, like most Americans, I was very much in favor of the war on Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and enable a majority-based democracy.

Fine. Barry Obama and his far left friends were against it from the start.

Like most Americans, learning of the deceptions that went into pushing the war forward by deliberately hiding reservations from intelligence sources, and bulldozing anyone and anything that stood in the way of making the war happen (remember Plame, among others), I concluded that we cannot and should not act in such manner, because, the question, AP, then becomes: who’s next? No one was opposing cranking up the pressure on Saddam and continuing the policy of very tight containment.

Please list “the deceptions” along with a link showing how these “deceptions” fooled the UNSC and the US Congress.

I suggest you go make your arguments to the families of the 4,000+ soldiers who perished in the conflict and the many more soldiers who have to live with oppressive infirmities as a result of their injuries.

I would tell the families that their son and daughter did a great and selfless thing to further world peace from tyrants and despots. The same tyrants and despots that Barry Obamam wants to negotiate with. The same tyrants and despots that bombed the marine barracks in Lebanon. The same tyrants and despots that threaten our allies, and the same tyrants and despots that are keeping a large part of the world back in the Middle Ages. I would also tell the families that despite the naysayers and spineless appeasers, we finally achieved your son’s and daughter’s goal of liberating a country that was in the grip of a deadly bully and that they should be proud of their achievement.

(And let’s not forget the millions of Iraqis which include the dead, the injured, the maimed, the kidnapped, the displaced, and the expatriated refugees).

I haven’t forgotten the Iraqis. As I said before, the polls show that Iraqis prefer what they have now that what they had under Saddam Hussein, no thanks to the Democrats. Please, don’t speak for the Iraqis, because you don’t.

Then there’s the execution, the post-conflict utter lack of preparation, the disdainful comments from Rumsfeld about the looting that took place after the war. There there’s Abu-Ghraib. You’re essentially arguing, AP, that “the end justifies the means.”

Becasue the War in Iraq has reduced terrorism, one (like myself) could raise the argument that the war saved lives and will continue to save lives in the long run. I think that is why Barry Obama is becoming a “neo-con”. Could be have achieved what we did with fewer casualties? Yes, most likely. I don’t know. What I DO know is that the democrats hope of another Vietnam did NOT pan out. With fewer than 10% of the casualties we absorbed from the Vietnam conflict, we successfully freed an Arab country that borders two countries knee-deep in terrorism: Syria and Iran.

There is a moral ground, AP, and some of us, while moderate, enlightened, and in favor of a peace that does include an Israeli state with Jewish character, do insist on satying above the ground floor of this moral ground.

Glad you’re a mocderate. The people we fought in the war aren’t “moderate” like you are. The people we fought would prefer to kill their own people to make the US look bad. They strap bombs to children and retards. They decapitate hostages. If you want to talk about morality, I can say with a clear conscience that the US did the right thing. I think the Iraqis agree.

You’re slipping quickly below it. The quick tagging of “Arab” doesn’t endear you either. We are quite diverse here, you know.

Diverse except for your stance on defeating despotism.


Point well taken. That said, I would move forward to make Iraq work. Instead of the insurgent goal of creating death and destruction, I would do the opposite, make an Iraq a shinning example of freedom and democracy.

July 25th, 2008, 3:18 pm


Off the Wall said:

Why is it that (some) Israeli’s are so selective with regards to UNSC resolution. Why is it this group of Israelis think that such resolutions only apply to Arabs.

Had the UN truly “Authorized the use of force”. The War on Iraq would have been joined by a True Coalition. Exactly as happened when the US, then led by Bush Senior, managed to repulse “Iraq’s war on Kuwait”.

The link you have kindly provided does not support your argument. In fact it supports the counter argument. Furthermore, it says nothing about UNSC.

Finally, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia Article: The legality of the Iraq War.


Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in September 2004 that: “From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal.”[7] The Secretary-General’s personal opinion is not that of the United Nations Organization as a whole however, because the Charter gives “primary responsibility” for matters of international peace and security to the Security Council, which has not adopted any resolutions on the matter.

——– END EXCERPT 1 ——-

The US and UK governments, along with others, claim that the invasion was entirely legal because it was already authorized by existing United Nations Security Council resolutions.[9][10] International legal experts, including the International Commission of Jurists, a group of 31 leading Canadian law professors, and the US-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy have denounced this rationale.[11][12][13]

Only individuals may commit crimes under international law, nations may not, so even if illegalities were to be established these would be against individuals and not nations. Technically, the invasion itself cannot be found to be illegal but the actions of individuals related to it could be.[14]

[edit] UN resolutions

[edit] Resolution 1441

UNSC resolution 1441 was passed unanimously on November 8, 2002 to give Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations” that had been set out in several previous resolutions (resolution 660, resolution 661, resolution 678, resolution 686, resolution 687, resolution 688, resolution 707, resolution 715, resolution 986, and resolution 1284).

The resolution strengthened the mandate of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), giving them authority to go anywhere, at any time and talk to anyone in order to verify Iraq’s disarmament.”[15]

On the day of the vote the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, assured the Security Council that there were no “hidden triggers” with respect to the use of force, and that in the event of a “further breach” by Iraq, resolution 1441 would require that “the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12”. He then added: “If the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any Member State from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security.”[16]

As the same meeting, UK Permanent Representative Sir Jeremy Greenstock KCMG used many of the same words. “If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in Operational Paragraph 12.”[17]

On March 17, 2003, the UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith argued that the use of force against Iraq was justified by resolution 1441, in combination with the earlier resolutions 678 and 687.[18]
———- END EXCERPT 2 ———

July 25th, 2008, 3:22 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Why is it that (some) Israeli’s are so selective with regards to UNSC resolution. Why is it this group of Israelis think that such resolutions only apply to Arabs.

Had the UN truly “Authorized the use of force”. The War on Iraq would have been joined by a True Coalition. Exactly as happened when the US, then led by Bush Senior, managed to repulse “Iraq’s war on Kuwait”.

If the War in Iraq was illegal, why has no one pressed charges?

The fact of the matter is the UN is in Iraq with a multi-national force under a mandate requested by the Iraqi government.

Good luck with your law suit. The International Court of Justice in The Hague will be pleased to meet you.

July 25th, 2008, 3:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Does anyone else see to what the argumentation on this forum has been reduced?

The US does not meet with Syrian officials. Not one Syrian is saying something like: Perhaps if the Syrian government freed Kilo, the US would meet with them.

No, as usual, most commenters take Syria as a given around which all the world has to change. We cannot do anything about Syria so therefore let’s try changing the US and Israel. That kind of view point will not get you very far. But have fun blaming the US and Israel.

July 25th, 2008, 4:08 pm


Off the Wall said:


Off the Wall is not an empty phrase. It was chosen carefully. I am not a lawyer, but I have some “Off the Wall” ideas about legal means to sue “Individuals”. I fully agree with the UN’s opinion regarding war crimes in the sense that only individuals can be indicted. Indicting nations would only be a manifestation of “collective” guilt theory, which runs counter to modern international norms. I can detect your contempt for the ICC, which has issued an advisory opinion regarding your own “WALL”. However, and notwithstanding the double standards and selective choice of jurisdiction, I am happy that ICC has indicted al-bashir, but as we know, indictment should not be understood as guilt. It has to be proven, and I am all for him standing trial even in abstentia.

From purely legal point of view, the War on Iraq violated the UN charter as well as the UNSC resolution. The first argument in such case would be the notion of “legislator intent”. Such argument can be used in launching actions against the perpetrators of war since the intent of the UNSC in the last resolution was to provide Iraq with a last opportunity to comply, and it is well known that Iraq was complying by then and we all know that the war was launched, when it was, to preempt the IAEA’s recognition of Iraq’s compliance.

Another off-the-wall idea, would be to use the ICC charter itself and demonstrate that Sanction Regimes are in fact a violation of the “no collective guilt” theory.

As for me taking the case to ICC, i do not have strong legal ground to do so, and if Iraqis chose me as their lawyer, they will unfortunately lose the case 🙂 for I lack the knowledge, the skills, and the eloquence required for such prosecution. I have, like many of my fellow American citizen suffered the results of this war in terms of our economy, and have suffered minor psychological trauma due to recognition of the atrocities committed by my countrymen soldiers and “private contractors” (the right word would be mercenaries) as well as for the loss of 1 million Iraqis and thousands of our young kids. Yet this would be an internal matter for us as Americans finding the current regime in dereliction of duties, and perhaps as one competent prosecutor argues, trying this gang for premeditated murder of 4000+ american soldiers. But as the ICC stands, I am not a direct victim of this war. It would be Iraqis who one day will bring charges. It should be an independent Iraqi government who can and will eventually bring charges. Remember Pinochet. And yet, perhaps an independent Iraqi government will find it more beneficial to have a national reconciliation first and bury the hatchet. That would be their choice.

At some point, who knows, may be a Belgian prosecutor will, and as a result, the gang of thugs will not be able to travel outside the comfort of the US and will not be able to give talking tours in Europe. Rest assured, a trial may happen, and then I am sure that ICC will be happy to have you as character witness for the defendant.

July 25th, 2008, 4:29 pm


ghat Albird said:

While according to much repeated quoting of Churchill’s reference to “jaw, a lot better than war, war”. One would think that the time is more than opportune for the issue that will untie the gordian knot so to speak would be along the following from any Arab statesman from any Arab nation in the Middle East to the President directly and the American public indirectly:

“When will the government of the USA demand from Israel to comply unequivocally and totally with the UN Resolutions that established both the state of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and their specific boundaries?”.

Such a demand should have as a minimum a dead line of 24 months. No discussions, no haggling to be entertained. One can spend a Omar Khayyam moment with a jug of wine as to what would be the reactions of the
Arab/Muslim/Persian Middle Eastern peoples. But then as Talleyand is quoted as saying, “Rulers never remember the past and never forget any of it”. Or as Franz Fanon is claimed to have said, “when ones acts servile one becomes a slave. For one to become an equal one must act like an equal”.

Have a good week-end everyone.

July 25th, 2008, 4:36 pm


Nidal said:

Very well put, Off The Wall. Very well put.

July 25th, 2008, 5:49 pm


Shai said:


Out of the 5 “winning” definitions you provided, 4 have not been improved, but rather quite the opposite. Human rights, education, maybe.

In the poll you quoted, one of the first sentences says: “And while most Iraqis still believe US troops are making things worse…” Could it be any more clear?

Winning is when you not only defeat your rival’s army, but are left in a position to bring safety and security to the nation under your control, not chaos, violence, and endless killing, which continue to this very day.

July 25th, 2008, 5:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Bravo, OTW.

July 25th, 2008, 6:22 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Remind me not to share with you my planned lecture schedule in Europe for the next decade, or five… 🙂

Excellent commentary!

July 25th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Karim said:

Alex,your comment filter killed an interesting article that i posted yesterday.

July 25th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai

If you plan a lecture tour in the US, please share that with me, you will find me waiting for you on the Tarmac with bread and salt.

There is a possibility of relocating to Europe in the within the next decade for me. But until then, “no off the wall tricks on you my friend” 🙂

July 25th, 2008, 8:35 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

“International Law” has a synonym – it’s called international politics.

Unlike a true legal system which has an ultimate arbiter for disputes (like the Supreme Court here in the US) along with a common legal framework, international law has no arbiter and a very weak and vague framework. The closest thing to an arbiter is the UNSC, but the veto power of the five permanent members means they cannot legally be held accountable for anything unless they want to and any one can (and often do) play spoiler. And the UNSC doesn’t have any power of its own, so in the rare cases where consensus is achieved on what needs to be done, UNSC pronouncements are meaningless unless one or more states take the effort to actually carry the decision out. IOW, there is nothing to compel anyone to listen to anything the UNSC has to say – unlike a true legal system. Compliance with resolutions are left to the whims of individual nations. Hence you have the French who voted for 1701 and then immediately and publicly declared that it would make no effort to carry out portions of it.

So, it’s all ultimately a political game that everyone uses to their advantage for geopolitical, and not legal, reasons. It doesn’t have the required elements that people commonly associate with real legal systems – namely some kind of arbiter and some mechanism to compel enforcement of decisions.

July 25th, 2008, 9:55 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

And as for the war in Iraq, what about Clinton’s attack on Iraq in 1998? The legal basis for that was exactly the same basis for the 2003 invasion – perhaps we should send Clinton to the ICC too for launching an aggressive war on Iraq. Or did HA get UNSC approval to launch the 2006 raid on Israel? Or did Hamas get approval for firing rockets into Israel? Or what about Lebanon’s campaign against Fatah al-Islam? Or the Syrian intervention in Lebanon?

Pretty soon everyone will be standing in line at the ICC and maybe that would be a good thing.

July 25th, 2008, 10:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Out of the 5 “winning” definitions you provided, 4 have not been improved, but rather quite the opposite. Human rights, education, maybe.


Thank you for your negative opinion, but I’m lookinig for somethng more factual:

If you have an AP report refuting the sharp improvement in Iraq, please post a link to it.

Ghat Albird said:

While according to much repeated quoting of Churchill’s reference to “jaw, a lot better than war, war”.

Until Nazi Germany Blitzkreiged London. In retrospect Hilter should have been stopped way before Germany went into Czechoslovakia and Poland. But no, people turn their heads away pretending there is no problem until the bad guy turns up on your doorstep.

In the case of Great Britain, it was the bombing of London. In the case of the USA is was Pearl Harbor and recently, 9-11. In the case of Israel, Hezbo-occupied Lebanon and the summer 2006 war?? Maybe.

Regime change in Iraq was the world’s “finest hour” of international pre-emptiveness. A lifelong thug was “jaw-jawed” for 12 year and for 17 UNSC resolutions, until the UNSC determined that we “jaw-jawed” enough. No more mass graves, no more billions wasted on (akbar) palaces, sex slaves, racing cars, swiss bank accounts, gold faucets, and torture chambers. Freedom and democracy was the only light at the end of that 35 year dark tunnel.

It worked. Bush was right. The march against Islamofascism is now staring squarely at the face of another ME thug, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Alex –

Just remember, I reported this first. It looks like AIPAC is twisting Obama’s arm to strongly, it’s about to break off! Or maybe they just drugged him. Who knows the vast extent of the Zionist lobby?;)

PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Friday Iran should not wait for the next administration to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Obama: Iran should not wait for next U.S. president

July 25th, 2008, 10:06 pm


Majhool said:

وعلى صعيد آخر, قال الشرع إن “رئيس شعبة المخابرات العامة اللواء اصف شوكت على رأس عمله، وهو يحظى بكامل ثقة القيادة السورية”.

July 25th, 2008, 10:17 pm


Enlightened said:

AIG Said:

Does anyone else see to what the argumentation on this forum has been reduced?


“Hallelujah Brother” You are right.


The US does not meet with Syrian officials. Not one Syrian is saying something like: Perhaps if the Syrian government freed Kilo, the US would meet with them.


“Halelujah” But if Syria freed all its dissidents then the regime might be in trouble! Hows that for a catch 22, just when its talking peace with Israel?
No, as usual, most commenters take Syria as a given around which all the world has to change. We cannot do anything about Syria so therefore let’s try changing the US and Israel. That kind of view point will not get you very far. But have fun blaming the US and Israel.


Yes so true, both Israel and the US make our job here at SC so easy to poke fun at them. How else can I spend my spare time? What is my existence basically for?

Again very insightfull from you, and so very true!

July 26th, 2008, 12:40 am


norman said:

Any comments on this,

July 25, 2008, 3:55 PM
Nasrallah Orders Hezbollah Leaders To Cut All Communications With Syria
Posted by CBS News Investigates

Informed sources told al-Qanat that tensions have arisen between Iran- Hezbollah, and Syria, after the assassination in Damascus last February of Imad Mughnieh, when the Syrians refused to allow Iran or Hezbollah take part in the investigations.

The strategic relations between Damascus and Tehran (and Hezbollah) began to deteriorate and became altered by mistrust and suspicion. It seems that the doubts raised by Hezbollah about a Syrian role in selling of Mughnieh to Israel has gone beyond the leadership of the Syrian intelligence in Damascus, to include its agents in Lebanon, specifically in Beirut’s southern suburb, as Hezbollah rounded up dozens of Syrians on suspicion of links with the Syrian intelligence, and subjected them to Lengthy investigations and interrogations.

Western intelligence sources revealed that the weeks following Mughnieh’s assassination, which also saw the killing of Mohammad Abu-Libdeh, Hamas Burohead in Damascus, indicated that there is a Syrian decision to resume negotiations with Israel.

Iran’s intelligence was able to confirm such suspicions when it became aware of the negotiations taking place in Turkey. These developments prompted the leadership of Hezbollah, in coordination with Tehran, to put in place a plan of action for a possible agreement between Damascus and Tel Aviv, and reactivate a plan of separation between Syria and Iran, as Tehran does not only see such developments as an indication of a Syrian move towards disarming Hezbollah, but also as a preliminary step preceding a war against Iran, and also a major change in the regional and international equation.

The sources said Iran and Hezbollah have adopted a secret and multilateral preemptive plan, that would evolve according to the progress of the negotiations, without causing a public rupture with Syria, while still considering the possibility of the failure of the negotiations and the return of Syria to its alliance with Iran.

The first step to achieve this was to impose a new formula in Lebanon to cut off the road on Syria, and take away from it its dominance over Hezbollah. Hezbollah has thus activated a plan to shrink the Syrian role in Lebanon, and reduce its military and political involvement in the Party. In fact, last April, the leadership of Hezbollah issued a secret memorandum that was signed by Hassan Nasrallah himself, advising military officials and politicians to suspend all trips to Syria and stop dealing with the Syrian intelligence network in Lebanon.
(read the article in Arabic)

July 26th, 2008, 1:16 am


Enlightened said:


Propoganda !

July 26th, 2008, 2:43 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

I am glad you see that.

July 26th, 2008, 3:07 am


Off the Wall said:

Who is al-Qanat. I went to the web site and read the article in Arabic. I am surprised that CBS news investigates is translating verbatim an article that has not been authenticated whatsoever. Under their Investigative Roundup.

DUH, i forgot that in our US media, Judy Miller is considered an investigative journalist. With such standards, any tabloid can be passed as investigations. “stupid me” 🙂

July 26th, 2008, 3:32 am


MNA said:

What a misleading article this is??
“Syria seems to be slowly emerging from its three-year isolation since Hariri’s death because of its softening stance on Lebanon, beginning with its approval of the Doha agreement, which put an end to the one-week Lebanese civil war in May, and led to the election of President Michel Suleiman. As a result, French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited Assad on Jul. 14 to attend the Mediterranean summit in Paris and the festivities for France’s independence day.”

Syria did not soften its positon vis-a-vis Lebanon when it facilitated the Doha agreement, It is the best senario that Syria had hoped for. Its man got elected as a the president of the country and its allies achieved the blocking third in the government. It seems to me that France softened its position vis-a-vis Syria.
And France invited Assad to attend the Mediterranean summit in Paris long before the Doha agreement was achieved.

July 26th, 2008, 4:30 am


Shai said:


I’m no expert on HA, but it would seem quite foolish for it to ever sever its ties with Damascus. Syria is, after all, HA’s only lifeline. Without Syria, HA could barely receive Iranian postcards in the mail… let alone missiles. Not so easy for Iranian submarines to get to the Lebanese shores undetected by… just about the entire world.

The real question is – what IS Hezbollah doing to prepare for “the day after”, following a peace agreement between Israel and Syria? The Sayyed needn’t be a genius to understand that Israel will relinquish the Golan only with a precondition that Syria stop any and all transshipments of arms from Iran. So what does HA do? Who will vouch for its own security? Even those few tens of thousands of missiles will become obsolete eventually (either used, or destroyed). Not so easy for HA. Perhaps sparking a new regional war? What are your thoughts on this, looking at it from a few years down the line perspective let’s say?

Also, assuming Nasrallah sees things like I do (let’s assume), would it not make sense that Hezbollah would continue to hold Lebanon’s stability “hostage” as long as Syria’s relationship with Israel is unclear. That is, HA’s only card here could be Lebanon’s own internal security situation, which is obviously of utmost importance to Syria. An unspoken threat here, perhaps, could be that if you (Syria) cut off my Iranian oxygen-supply, I (Hezbollah) could bring about a very unstable neighbor on your Western border. Something to think about, no?

July 26th, 2008, 10:57 am


Shai said:

This one is for AIG:

What good is a “democracy” when articles like this are allowed to be published (freedom of speech), yet an entire nation sits numbly by, and does nothing?,7340,L-3573305,00.html

July 26th, 2008, 11:29 am


trustquest said:

Enlightened and AIG, You are partially right, because my comments are filtered. It is clear that a lot of people have a lot to say but clearly it is not going through. Thank you AIG for pointing to this.

July 26th, 2008, 12:13 pm


Shai said:


Why is it you keep missing important sentences in your own links?

Paragraph 6 in your link above says: “But for every small step forward, Iraq has several more giant steps to take before victory can be declared on any one issue.”

In other words, America is NOT winning. No victory can be declared, by your own source. It really cannot be any clearer. You are providing your OWN proof that clearly contradicts your “America is winning” claim. Am I missing something? 🙂

July 26th, 2008, 12:25 pm


ghat Albird said:


“Regime change in Iraq was the world’s “finest hour” of international pre-emptiveness. A lifelong thug was “jaw-jawed” for 12 year and for 17 UNSC resolutions, until the UNSC determined that we “jaw-jawed” enough.”

Your statement of regime change was “the world’s finest hour” denotes either a delirious or hilarious view of reality. The close to 2 million Iraqis dead and the dead and crippled for life US military along with a 3/4 trillion dollar cost as well as the “finest hour” becoming a 6 years sojourn. That kind of pontification can only be made by some who is completely detached in time and distance from the US. Say some closer in both instances to Israel.

Still if one were to apply your criticism to jaw, jawing then it must be time for one or more or all of the ruling bodies in the socalled Arab world to demand that the US along with the other UN Security Council members to “order” an unequivocal and unqualified withdrawal of all Israeli miltary and settlements from and all areas not included in the original partition maps. And a time limit of 24 months be attached to the orders.

Now that event would be a real and definite candidate for the world’s finest hour. The other resolution would be for the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza to unilaterally declare themselves a nation/state as israel did in 1948.

There is no way out. Unless of course Israel continues its daily “preemptiveness” of Palestinians and the Palestinians play along. Its over. And it should be for the better.

July 26th, 2008, 12:34 pm


ugarit said:


Even though Egypt is a democracy, the army also plays a power-broker role.

You see once a country signs a peace treaty with Israel they will be granted democratic status. So don’t worry Syria will be labeled as such once it signs a treaty with Israel.

July 26th, 2008, 3:13 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Even though I am not a huge fan of such studies, it is worth noting that this year’s index of economic freedom was just released and the results for Syria were not exactly stellar.

Those who are interested in the methodology used can read the following:

Those that are interested in the individual rankings can read this:

Syria is number 144 surrounded by Angola and Burundi.

Bahrain was the only country in the region that made the top 20.

July 26th, 2008, 3:36 pm


Off the Wall said:

I agree with most of your points, but i think that Syria is not playing alone without its strategic partners.

Syria would also be foolish to abandon one of its strongest cards before the situation is very clear. While I do not believe in conspriracy theories, i believe that an alliance as strong as Syria-HA-Iran tend to agree on basic principles. It seems to me that Iran is also waiting out, but the problem is not them, it is the current occupants in the white house. Iran learned the lessons from Iraq. Even when Iraq was in full compliance with the UN, Bush and his allies went ahead with their planned invasion. It is here with France and Turkey role become apparent. Their role is to initiate the talk with Syria, break the syrian isolation, because it is the least hard to break, and hold the fort for the next few months until a new administration is in the white house. Then, the real game will start and I have a feeling that Iran will be a player. The fact that Sarkozy has asked Assad to use his influence with Iran is an indication of that.

As for HA, the next few months would be very critical. If they can develop a preliminary outlook for future integration within the Lebanese Army or within Lebanon strategic defense poster,while at the same time retaining some say, but not all, in the formation of such strategy, then,any pre-condition on Syria or Iran not providing HA with arm shipments would be mute. These shipments will delivered to the Lebanese Army, who by the way, is not an enemy of Syria, and at the same time, is supposed to receive EU and US support as well.

I do not think Iran will ever fully relinquish their rights to full cycle nuclear fuel development. The Iranians are very proud people, and unlike their Arab neighbors, they think strategically. No matter who is in power, Iran, as a nation is committed to true technological and economical progress. The revolution created a shock, so did Iraq’s War on Iran, but they are recovering. And while the regime is currently dominated by mullas, A western oriented regime is unlikely to give up their ambitions to join the nuclear club. The region, including Israel, will have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran, for it will happen sooner or later. I believe that any attempt by Israel or the US to destroy or put back Iran’s extensive nuclear program will be a foolish attempt. Iran is not North Korea and It can not be suffocated economically because their regime is not as opressive internally as the Korean regime and because the world need what they have. Now let us think of the logic, putting back a nuclear program say 10 years, what does that do, buy Israel 10 years of what? preparing for another, bigger attack. And then what?.

In the longer scheme of things, Ahmadi Najad is irrelevant. His antisemetic rhetoric should not be taken for more than it is, rhetoric (off course that does not excuse him). Iran will have a new election, and as you have eloquently demonstrated that Bibi will have a better opportunity to partner with Syria in peace, isn’t it possible that hardliners in Iran would be also as equipped for peace.

As long as Israel retains the capacity, on a short notice, to assemble 13 nuclear devices (happened in 1973, and was the reason the US started the air-lift to avoid Israel going nuclear on every Arab capital according to Henry Kissinger). The region will be unbalanced. We all know that a uni-polar world is not attainable for the long term. Similarly, a Uni-polar region is not attainable.

Frankly, As a US citizen, and I hope that my friends in Israel, agree with me, I am much less concerned with a future Iranian nuclear weapon than with the existing Pakistani one. Iran is stable, the majority of Iranians are enlightened and political progress, while slow, is happening.The Iranian intelligence service is restrained and calculating, especially when dealing with their proxies for it is not ideological for them, it is a simple strategic and tactical security issue. The Pakistani intelligence, on the other hand, is highly infiltrated by Tribal Wahabis. It has made the capture of Bin Laden seems a distant dream, and has and will continue to support their Pashtun brothers in Afganistan. The political situation in Pakistan is very turbulent, and there is a rather strong chance for a 180 degree reversal through military coup and much bigger chance of active participation by Pakistani scientists in proliferation. No Iranian leader would be fool enough to hand a nuclear device to any of their proxies and by that throwing away their strategic initiative.

That said, personally, I am for a Nuclear Arms free world. I do not like the balance of terror. I like the balance of friendship and co-existence. And the above, was no more than a “pragmatic” look at things.

July 26th, 2008, 4:26 pm


Off the Wall said:


I scanned the method paper. It is rather complex. But i have a couple of points to argue against the actual representativeness of this study.

Without going into details, reading the summary section leads one to assess the indicators as reasonable indicators, but suspect that they are more reflective of WTO mindset and free-trade mind set. Allow me please to list these indicators

Business freedom
Trade freedom
Fiscal freedom
Government size
Monetary freedom
Investmant Freedom
Financial Freedom
Property Rights
Freedom From Corruption
Labor Freedom

As I said they all sound good and appropriate. But when you start looking into the detailed descriptions, particularly with respect to the synthesis of “qualitative-> quantitative” measures, one can easily notice that the simplified utility functions used in the study are rather subjective and are biased towards fully deregulated economy, penalty functions are mostly applied in manners that substantially reduce the score for poor countries, where governments may have to protect nascent industry, or apply some measures of price control to allow its citizen reasonable access to basic goods including food.

Another criticism I have from my scanning, and I confess, i need to spend more time reading the paper again, is that the authors assume strictly monotonic relationships between the measured variables and indicators. I do not believe that such should be the case, there are quite many situations where such relationship may be non-linear where for a given range (the more the better) and then subsequently after a certain peak, the more would be the worse. This is true for some indicators such as regulation and governmental oversight, where such oversight guarantees wider economical freedom for smaller businesses by controlling monopolies. Years a go, I have used such utility functions, and have even worked on both applied and theoretical development of composite scores using a set of scoring functions that can be adjusted to address almost any situation that requires the conversion of several non-commensurable quantities into scores reflecting a non-monotonic behavior.

Finally, I am not so sure whether the equal weight is appropriate. This is an ensmenble problem, and it lends itself better to Bayesian approach, but that would require an independent index (say index of progress) where the freedom measure is calibrated against that index. This would allow the identification of weighing parameters in manners that truely quantify the hypothesis that economic freedom = economic progress or to disprove it. Again, and forgive my auto-biographical tendency here, I have worked on theoretical development of weighing methods that can address “qualitative” and occasionally subjective prioritization and provide the means to assess the index sensitivity to changing such priority order. The weights are then identified through rather elegant closed form solution that was developed by one of my mentors and extended into a generalized form by me. Later development by a brighter colleague, led to the formulation of a method that can even handle groups of priorities, which would probably be a better solution for the problem at hand.

Needless to say, even if my initial arguments are to be considered, I doubt that such would have a strong effect on Syria’s rank. It would probably reduce the rank of some of the stars, improve the ranks of some mid-range performers, but the impact of under-performers would be minimal.

July 26th, 2008, 5:03 pm


Alex said:


Excellent analysis of the methodology used.

I think that the results of this, and most other similar studies are good for a much more crude conclusion. For example in this case they can conclude that Syria gets a below average score.

But to come up with a ranking that puts Syria specifically in number 144 for example, is too much reading into “results” based on tons of generalized assumptions.

Anyway, a huge segment of economic transactions in Syria is cash business. I don’t understand how can anyone try to study Syria and come up with useful conclusions without knowing how to measure of estimate cash transactions.


Can you explain to me what you mean here? … I just read some comments quickly and I’m not sure I understand yours:

trustquest said:

Enlightened and AIG, You are partially right, because my comments are filtered. It is clear that a lot of people have a lot to say but clearly it is not going through. Thank you AIG for pointing to this.

July 26th, 2008, 5:06 pm


Off the Wall said:


I am sorry for my continual re-editing of some of my comments. Does that pose problem for you?

July 26th, 2008, 5:09 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thank you. I am sorry that my analysis seems too technical from operations research.

You also bring up a very fundamental point regarding the cash transactions. As well as regarding the generalized assumptions. I believe a sensitivity analysis is needed whereby the evolution of single indicators is monitored for a long period, and the sensitivity of the index is analyzed according to varying quantitative and qualitative prioritization.

Unfortunately, most of these indeces are developed by economists who reside in countries that have kicked the ladder. The foundation for their own economic progress would not have happened without extraordinary protectionism and governmental control. Now they are developed, protectionism by other developing countries would allow competition they do not want. It is funny that the US, which subsidize agriculture more than any other country in the world (just think of the subsidies in water and hydroelectric energy) without the price control measures on grain and corn, want developing countries to eliminate such subsidies. This is WTO. BTW, i just noticed that my pseudonym spells OTW, exactly the opposite of WTO. Damn. 🙂

July 26th, 2008, 5:46 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

I’m sorry if I “disappoint” you, but I happen to agree with 100% of what you said. The only difference is, that I couldn’t say it nearly as well. Once again, excellent commentary!

Btw, in my comment above regarding HA and Syria, I didn’t mean to insinuate that Syria will abandon any of its allies (certainly not Iran). I was merely looking at HA’s situation, from its own point-of-view (possibly), not so much from Syria’s.

(p.s. I’ve also noticed that “Shai” and “Shia” are very close… I’m sure some of my fellow countrymen would label me an Iran-supporter, so now there’s a reason.)

July 26th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
You did not disappoint me at all. I am sorry if my comment made you think so. I started writing in full agreement with your points, but I then went on a tangential track regarding nuclear iran because this issue has been eating me lately. What I was trying to do is to explore an ulternative scenario, remote as it is, which considers the possibility that Iran is also on the verge of serious negotiating some sort of deal, with syria being the most acceptable test-case for the seriousness of Europe in supporting such peace.

I am very happy that you try to put yourself in HA shoes. This in fact was how I managed to get rid of the 25 years of pre-conditioning i went through in my formative years while in Syria and in the midst of the conflict. However, I had the comfort of living in the US, where I could re-educate myself without being subject to the daily interaction with the conflict. You are doing that while in the midst of the conflict. For that you earn not only my gratitude, by a great deal of respect.

July 26th, 2008, 6:53 pm


Alex said:


No problem at all with multiple editing or with your technical analysis.


How do Israelis feel about Chuck Hagel as a potential Obama running mate?

July 26th, 2008, 6:55 pm


Alex said:

Report: Ex-Mossad chief says strike on Iran could ‘affect us for 100 years’
By Haaretz Service

Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy told Time magazine in an interview published Thursday that an Israeli attack on Iran “could have an impact on us for the next 100 years” and should only be considered as a last resort.

Halevy, who currently heads the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, added that an Iranian attack on Israel would probably have little impact, because Iranian missiles would largely be intercepted by Israel’s advanced anti-missile defense system.

Another former senior Mossad official, who reportedly served during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s administration, told the American magazine that “Iran’s achievement is creating an image of itself as a scary superpower when it’s really a paper tiger.”

An additional Israeli source told Time that Israel sees the period between the U.S. elections in November and the president’s inauguration in January as the “window of opportunity” for a possible attack on Iran. The source explained that any military move against Iran would not be carried out before the elections, because it would negatively impact the presidential candidates, especially Republican candidate John McCain and “No Israel leader wants to be blamed for destroying the Republican chances,” Time cited the source as saying.

However, the magazine quoted intelligence sources as saying that an Israeli attack on Iran would likely stall the Islamic republic’s nuclear aspirations only by “a year or two.”

Launching a long-range strike against a multitude of hidden targets in Iran entails huge risks and uncertain rewards, which makes the cost-benefit analysis weigh against an air strike on Iran, according to some senior Israeli officials who urge caution.

July 26th, 2008, 7:00 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Firstly, I was joking about “disappointing” you. I believe I read you quite well, seeing as I agree with most if not all of your comments. I’m glad you went on that tangent, because it is a very important one. Personally, I find it outrageous that the U.S. doesn’t understand just how valuable Syria is when it comes to discussions with Iran, not to mention Iraq, Hezbollah and, closer to home, the Palestinians. Syria is in the perfect position to be THE key player in helping forge a lasting peace in our region. It would be foolish for any party to the conflict not to take full advantage of that, and to once again miss an historic opportunity (whilst, say, waiting for it to become a so-called “democracy”).

Second, in all fairness, I began to change my innate tendencies of suspicion, distrust and, yes, even hatred, only upon meeting many Arabs (Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Saudis, Iraqis, etc.) while growing up in the U.S. during my childhood. Although that has been quite a while back (two decades almost), I still have friends, as well as Arab-Israeli friends that I keep in touch with. I believe I know and understand Arabs (and they me) so much better because of this blessed opportunity that I had. It is so unfortunate that more Israelis cannot have the same, or Arabs in the Middle East with Israelis. Hopefully, that too will change soon.

July 26th, 2008, 7:03 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for the clarifications. Afterall, this is one of the things I love most about my adoptive country, the US. There is always opportunity to interact and it is getting better by the day. It just needs one to be a little brave taking the first step, and one can then be astounded at how much we all share, and how little we do not.

July 26th, 2008, 7:23 pm


Shai said:

Mr. Alex,

As I’ve only returned a few days ago, I haven’t had a chance to hear about the feelings here concerning Chuck Hagel. I just read the link you included, and it sounds like it’ll be a tough one for Obama to bring about. Although, indeed it does sound like a super-coup. In a way, perhaps that’s what Tzipi Livni is attempting to do, by suggesting Israel urgently needs a national-coalition (hinting that she might share the power with Bibi). Personally, I don’t know much about Hagel.

As for the other article, regarding Ephraim Halevy, I normally think very much in line with him. He is a very wise man, and has achieved much. Unfortunately, he, like three other ex-generals in the position of head of national security council, was not given enough decision-making powers, nor taken too seriously by Sharon. It is doubtful Olmert is paying too much attention to Halevy right now.

July 26th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

I’ve always claimed that Jews and Arabs are far more similar to each other, than to other so-called Westerners. Our genes originate from the same place, possibly the same man (Abraham?)… We are certainly more Middle Eastern than we are Eastern European, or American, or Australian.

July 26th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Off the Wall said:

On a similar note of interaction, being in academia, i was a party of heated arguments a while ago regarding the proposed academic boycott of Israeli academicians, which was gaining popularity, particularly in some European institutions. I was against it in principle and I found myself citing the late Baruch Kimmerling’s opposition to the boycott and agreeing with him but not with Illian Pappe. In fact, my interactions with an Israeli professor led to the development of strong friendship and of course to much more understanding.

For both points of view, please see both articles and comment by Jewish Voice for Peace on the subject at

July 26th, 2008, 7:36 pm


Alex said:

Mr. Shai


I think it does not really matter who Obama selects as his running mate.

Hager is generally in Colin Powell’s league. But Powell, as secretary of state, could not deviate from his administration’s policies.

I’ve stopped paying attention to what they say during election campaigns. We will only know when the new administration starts taking real actions on the Middle East.

Here is what President Bush said about nation building before he took over

July 26th, 2008, 7:48 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Thank you, I just read it. Yes, I too agree with Kimmerling’s view. Our Academia must continue to be free of any government or policy influence, as much as humanly possible. I didn’t know about the cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian universities, and I’m very happy about it.

Although not really similar, I’m suddenly reminded of an astounding short piece written in Newsweek, I believe, a number of months back, by an Iranian woman. She was heading an underground women’s rights group in Iran, and was voicing her anger at some American officials’ ongoing use of anti-Iranian rhetoric citing unequal treatment of women. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something to the tune of: “How DARE you, from a distance of thousands of miles away, endanger our movement, our aspirations, and our future, by making such irresponsible comments…?” Rather than supporting the few “sane” voices, America’s administration de-facto strengthened their massive opposition, and indeed threatened their very existence.


Bush is also famous for saying “Don’t Misunderestimate Me!”…

July 26th, 2008, 7:59 pm


Karim said:

We the arabs must stay away of this war of words between the iranian regime and the international community even if Iran is attacked.
The iranian regime and the zionist regime are both good liars ,but in the end they will have to choose or true enemies or true friends.

July 26th, 2008, 8:01 pm


Shai said:


I still remember a time when there were daily flights between Tel-Aviv and Teheran! How things changed…

July 26th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Off the Wall said:

Like it or not, the world is too interconnected for us to bury our heads in the Sand. We share the region, and we care about its stability, security, and its future. We may have different views on how to accomplish that, including off course your approach of “letting them fight it out”, and AIG and AP approach of sure dood, let us fight it out. But let me assure you that there will be no one left intact to “split the spoils” after an Israeli-Iranian conflict. What the heck, there will be no spoils to split afterward.

July 26th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Karim said:

Shai ,read this it never stopped.

Israeli Arms Sales to Iran
By Jane Hunter

In September, when the Israeli government radio accused Iranian troops of training Lebanese Shiite guerrillas for attacks on the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army, and said that Iranians themselves might also have been among those who attacked Israeli positions in Lebanon, the US media reported those charges in great detail. None found the time or space, however, to note how ironic it was for Israel to complain about Iranian military activities.

Iran might have been hard put to continue its costly six-year-old war with Iraq—not to mention simultaneously stirring up followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Lebanon—if Israel had not been willing to sell the Khomeini government great quantities of the weapons Iran desperately needed to keep its army in the field. That is only one of the anomalies of Israel’s booming arms trade. US law and US policy also come in for some stretching and twisting.

July 26th, 2008, 8:15 pm


Off the Wall said:

Do you happen to have a link to that Article about the Women underground movement in Iran? If not, don’t sweat trying to find it, I have many Iranian friends who can easily fin it.

I do not think it was Shirin Ebadi، was it?

July 26th, 2008, 8:17 pm


Alex said:

Keep the Syrians on the Roof


By Tariq Alhomayed
Editor, Asharq Alawsat

Syrian diplomats have excelled recently in making conspicuous statements that cannot be ignored by commentators, not allowing people like me to enjoy the holiday season.

It seems that the Syrian negotiator has begun to make use of the methods of Israeli diplomats in mastering how to issue striking statements.

The latest of such statements was made by the head of the Syrian delegation Dr Samir Taki who headed to Washington on the pretext of reaching a better understanding of American public opinion and to communicate Damascus’ vision and ideas for the region to the Americans in a matter of ten days!

Regarding Syrian negotiations with Israel, Taki stated that Syria cannot ignore Israel’s presence because he can see the Israeli forces from the top of his office building. When and how did Dr Samir’s eyesight improve?

But there are some points that Taki made during his talk at the Brookings Institute based in Washington that should be discussed, most prominently the way in which members of the Syrian delegation described themselves as independent researchers who have no ties whatsoever to the Syrian regime. If independents in Syria were able to act in such a way then why has Syria imprisoned a number of individuals who issued the Beirut-Damascus Declaration?

Taki’s claim that the Syrian-Iranian alliance was a product of regional circumstances “that pushed Syria to ally itself with Iran,” and that it is “not a military alliance but one to serve the interests of Syria and because Egypt became concerned with its internal affairs and Saudi Arabia and Jordan were preoccupied with their own problems,” was nothing but superficial talk.

The Syrian-Iranian alliance goes back further than the current regional circumstances to the days of the late Syrian President Hafez al Assad just as cooperation between Tehran and Damascus has led to the strengthening of military militias such as the Iranian-affiliated Hezbollah and Hamas, which will sell itself to whoever’s buying!

As for the claim that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are preoccupied with their own internal circumstances; this is new fruitless polemic and slyness on Syria’s part that should not go unnoticed. For the sake of Syrian and regional interests, the Syrians must remain on the roof so that they do not return to activities that may harm our security, most notably the alliance with Iranian ambitions in the region.

Syria has interests in Lebanon, Iraq and Washington, which have many implications and should not be facilitated for. This is not a matter of instigation; it is in the region’s interest that Syria becomes rational but without rewarding the Syrians similar to the immature French method as a result of juvenile Arab mediation.

It is important that the Syrians realize that this is no picnic and that they cannot buy time. As long as Damascus seeks to portray itself as having changed its orientation, it must realize that it is now following a road that it cannot drive through at any speed it wants.

The Syrians must observe the correct speed; driving too slow or too fast could cause a major collision.

And the role [of monitoring its speed] should be assumed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and one of the first steps is a clear and explicit Arab coordination so that the process of Syria becoming rational cannot be tampered with.

It is in our interest that Damascus chooses rationality but tampering with the process threatens Arab security; therefore the Syrians must remain on the roof.

July 26th, 2008, 8:29 pm


Off the Wall said:


In literal world, Bush did not deviate from his policy of not getting involved in Nation Building. He went for Nation De-construction by Shock and Awe. Literally speaking, little george stayed true to his promise.

July 26th, 2008, 8:31 pm


Karim said:

But let me assure you that there will be no one left intact to “split the spoils” after an Israeli-Iranian conflict…

Dear OTW ,i think that in case of israeli american iranian war and despite the iranian regime slogans ,Iran would be easily defeated and i dont think that the iranian army is very different from the Syrian army and for sure weaker than the Egyptian or Turkish armies.Look for example what happened to Serbia ,which had the most modern military complex in the former european socialist countries and is Russia’s sister.The iranian regime knows that and as very pragmatic regime which fear for its survival ,it will not repeat Sadam mistakes.

July 26th, 2008, 8:40 pm


Alex said:

That’s right OTW : )

Nation building was discussed as early as year 2000 (for those who think 9/11 changed everything)

See this clip starting from 5:05

July 26th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Embarrassed said:

Shame on you, the “three-man delegation”!
Who are you really representing? Your own egoistic interest and justify your actions by none sense talk. You should be really ashamed by such action. If you are presenting your self, stop humiliating your nation and people acting as bunch of weak and stupid intellectual with no clear agenda or strategy acting solo and talking on behalf of the nation that never elected you to carry such stupid roles….
Let me stop here, so I do not waste my time on such a silly group!

July 26th, 2008, 9:07 pm


Off the Wall said:

While militarily, Iran may be a “Paper Tiger”, the chaos unleashed by the conflict will not be affected by its military power. It is more with irregular units, and Iran has a good deal of influence in the region. Further inflaming Shia-Sunni problems, which is what KSA, Jordan, and Egypt, are trying very hard to do, will not serve anyone.

It is not in anyone interest to have a defeated Iran for out of the ashes may rise an irrational giant hellbent on revenge. Any war will not merely damage the regime but also the Iranian people. If you think that the revolution was Iran’s response to the US interfering in their internal affairs in the 50s, wait to see their response after 20 years of devastating air strikes. Furthermore, only a very small minority of Iranian oppositions would favor a military strike. Recall one of the most outspoken opposition figures, Shirin Ebadi, who said (i am paraphrasing here), “I will protect my country with every drop of my blood”. I found Iranians here much in agreement with her.

In my position i have a reasonable view of Iranian scientific progress. It is outstanding, only matched by very few universities in the region. The number of scientific publications coming out of Iran puts the Arab academia to shame. Reviewed journals are even being published at accelerated rate, in Iran itself on various topics from physics, civil engineering, environmental engineering, economy, systems engineering and operational research, and the like. The quality of publications rivals that of internationally recognized journals. And guess what, a good portion of the authors are Women. By the way, i was brought up in a Sunni family, so I am not Shia biased, but I have to recognize progress when I see it. It seems to me that despite of the repressive regime, the Iranian People are finding their own way towards progress instead of blaming everything on the west and on the regime’s undemocratic ways.

July 26th, 2008, 9:10 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The President was looking for ways to do it. The stupid Usama Bin Laden and his gang more than obliged.

July 26th, 2008, 9:19 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for the streaming. i recall the interview. Alas, it did not have the impact one would have wanted then.

July 26th, 2008, 9:27 pm


Off the Wall said:


Dear all,
In a previous comment and response to A.P. I have made a big mess mixing the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the sake of clarification. While both are located, as I understand, in the Hague, the two are rather different entities. ICC is an independent criminal court, while ICJ is the highest legal arm of the UN that is dedicated to solving international disputes. One unique thing about ICJ is that when parties accept to bring their dispute to ICJ, they must sign an agreement to abide by its ruling. If not, then ICJ would only issue an advisory ruling, especially when a case is brought on by one side without concurrence by the other. An Example of ICJ success story was the border dispute between Qatar and Bahrain.

Sorry for my tardiness.

I think that the issue of the Illegality of the War on Iraq is probably the prerogative of the UN General Assmebly, and It would be considered the moment some country files a formal complaint about that and ICJ may have to be brought on to provide advisory ruling in interpreting the UNSC resolution. But the issue of Abu Ghraib, or any other war crimes, would be handled by ICC as a last resort with status of force agreement getting some consideration in terms of immunity only if it is signed between the UN and Iraq, not between the US and Iraq. The US, if successful in obtaining a ruling that puts its forces in Iraq fully under the UN peace keeping mission, can argue, quite strongly that given the UN forces immunity rules, its soldiers can only be tried in American courts. However, mercenaries can not make such claim.

I am eager to hear an expert opinion on the matter. Anyone on our board familiar with international law, or as Enlightened put it, international politics.

July 26th, 2008, 9:36 pm


Off the Wall said:

Couldn’t agree more

July 26th, 2008, 9:37 pm


Karim said:

OTW ,they remain minorities ..what can they do ?
Even in Lebanon whose inhabitants are less than Aleppo and despite 20 years of privilegied position and total support of two regional regime they are not capable of imposing their policy against the will of other lebanese…so ask yourself what would happen to hizbollah when the regime in damascus will be other ?The answer is easy …they will be erased from the map in few days.So it’s more noises than reality.And dont forget that most of the sunnis and arabs ignore the reality of the shia beliefs based on hatred .So it’s not in their interest to open this gate and the iranian regime i’m sure will not be of great help in case of a generalized war against the shia arabs who take orders from the iranian regime apparatuses.They must remain loyal to the land of which they belong and not to becoming fifth column.

July 26th, 2008, 9:48 pm


Off the Wall said:


Shia in Lebanon are not a small minority, nore are they in Iraq or Bahrain. It is not being a 5’th column here, The Wahabis are hellbent on eliminating any “beda3” and they consider shiesim as apostasy.

I was arguing before that HA’s better opportunity is to dissolve into the wider body of Lebanese political structure. But I think you are somehow minimizing their organizational efficiency and their ability to create alliances with other minority. The sunnies in Lebanon are in no way a majority, and it is in their interest not to act as 5’th column to KSA. In fact, they could easily be the ones erased from the map and sent back packing to Damascus or other Syrian cities where some of them came from.

So as you see, again playing the Sectarian card is in no ones interest. All I am saying, never think that one sect is stronger just because they have larger numbers. I am tired of splitting the world into Sunnies, Shia, Muslims, alawis, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Budist, ……. I love them all as people, but I have no sympathy whatsoever for their superstitions. And if I am to belong to any sect, and someone in my sect was to start talking this nonsense, i would be the first to leave.I hate to see them kill each others for such superstitions and waste our limited time on this planet to aggrandize one god by spilling the blood of the followers of another. Here you go dear Karim, you managed to get me almost insulting every major religion on the face of this Earth.

By the Way, King Abullah’s religious tolerance conference does not seem to extend to Atheists and Agnostics.His speech indicated that sees religious dialogue as a prologue to a holly war against Atheists and non-believers. Good start, aint it

July 26th, 2008, 10:09 pm


Karim said:

OTW,forget the boundaries ,i didnt say they are small minorities in Lebanon,Bahrain or iraq but how much they represent in the Islamic or Arab world?
As i said ,lebanon inhabitants are less than Aleppo’s and Bahrain population is like 500 000 less than Hama.What can they do ?
As for the sunnis in Lebanon;they are not a majority but Lebanon is a country of minorities and it must remain(for that i’m for the transfer of palestinians of leb to other arab countries) , the shia lebanese can not antagonize their environment which is mostly sunni,they will be rejected.Most of the lebense sunnis are relative of the syrian people and for that reason no one can separate them from us.
As for the heretical views of the shias ,they are criticized by all the scholars and not only the wahhabis but that doesnt mean that they are apostates,even the Khawarij we consider them as muslims.
As for the wahhabis,they are a minority outside the Gulf and for sure the wahhabis are now more open minded because more educated so …they will only improve with the time.
As forr Shirin Abadi,dont be deluded ,many of the iranians here told me that she is an agent working for the regime ,i dont know if this is true ;it seems that she is not popular.

July 26th, 2008, 11:25 pm


Off the Wall said:


The moment you say “heretical” you exclude them from the circle of True believers (i.e., heaven). Any subsequent protestation of tolerance and acceptance is more form than substance.

Go on YouTube, search for Shia is not Islam.

Too many videos. Surprisingly, you will also find Shia made clips arguing that Ismailis are not Islam. Funny, and sad. isn’t it.

18 Billion human beings slaughtered for God during our short existence on this planet since we evolved into sapient beings (if such term applies). Don’t you think this is enough blood.

July 27th, 2008, 12:07 am


ghat Albird said:

“Quite interesting if true and may possibly be publicised at the behest of a non Middle Eastern state as a potential threat”

PA to declare statehood unilaterally
Sun, 27 Jul 2008 04:39:47

Palestinian and Israeli leaders are still at odds after Annapolis conference
Palestinian Authority officials have threatened to unilaterally declare statehood if the deadlock in negotiations with Israel continues.

“In light of the crisis we have encountered in talks with Israel, the Authority is testing a number of options,” the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat daily quoted Salah Rafat as saying on Saturday.

According to the newspaper source, the Palestinian Authority may take one of three steps: Announcing a Palestinian State unilaterally, stopping all negotiations with Israel, and redeploying security forces from the West Bank.

The paper added that the Palestinian Authority will set September 2008 as a deadline for reaching any agreements with Israeli and American negotiators on the future of Palestine.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday there was still hope to reach a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians by the end of 2008.

Palestinian and Israeli officials have regularly met since the US-sponsored Annapolis peace conference last November, but negotiations have so far shown little sign of progress.

The two sides have failed to agree on key issues including: fate of al-Quds, Israeli settlements, and Palestinian refugees.

Israelis have continued to build new settlements in the occupied territories and barred the Palestinian refugees from returning to occupied land despite agreements made at the Annapolis conference.


July 27th, 2008, 12:21 am


Karim said:

OTW ,takfirism is a creed in shia beliefs.Their major scholars like Kulayni,Majlisi,Qumi and Jazaeri wrote that the sahabis and the wife of the prophet are kufars .And some shias and not few doubted quran authenticity(scholars cited above included).It was noticed early when the great philosopher Ibn Hazm during his debates with the christian and jewish thinkers of Spain ,they used shia writing in order to reduce Islam.
And now that you have an insight of what they say in their husayniyat you can not ignore this fact.As for the ismailis ,most of the syrian ismailis i have meet are very nice people.

July 27th, 2008, 12:48 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai states:

You are providing your OWN proof that clearly contradicts your “America is winning” claim. Am I missing something? 🙂


When I provide opinion, I usually preface with “IMHO” or the like. When I post something factual, I usually provide link.

You’re free to do the same.

Are you “missing something”?

Yes, I think so. I’d say you’re missing “objectivity”.

Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost

By ROBERT BURNS and ROBERT H. REID – 11 hours ago

BAGHDAD (AP) — The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.

July 27th, 2008, 12:54 am


norman said:


I know that you are probably sleeping , but when you wake up i hope that you will read this note,

Hezbollah, Syria and the Palestinians do not want to fight to destroy Israel or for the sake of war , They want a descent settlement and a state for the Palestinians and the return of the Syrian and Lebanese land ,

With that Hezbollah will be integrated in the Lebanese army , a new election law will be implemented in Lebanon to be more representative of all the people of Lebanon without quotas and set a side ,

Israel can make all that come true if it tries to have a full settlement and try not to isolate to get better deals as that will not work .

July 27th, 2008, 1:32 am


Off the Wall said:


Here is an analysis that makes more sense by someone you love to hate. I think it is too important simply to provide a link.

Alex, since you are moderating today, please feel free to keep the link only instead of the whole article. I leave it to your judgment



Modern Myths
The Surge Has Worked?


Back in the good old days of the Vietnam War General Westmoreland, Lyndon Johnson and Bob McNamara kept sending more troops into battle, calling it “escalation.” It was a term fraught with negative meaning, but capitalizing on the horrible public relations experience of that war, George Bush has since hired PR experts who have given it a new name, i.e., “surge.” It sounds much better, and despite the horrors of what’s happening in Iraq, Bush and his political clone, John McCain, are chanting the mantra, “the surge is working,” meaning the escalation is working. Sen. McCain has come out for victory and against surrender in Iraq.

What Sen. McCain means by “the surge is working,” is that he sees America as winning the war in Iraq and that we shouldn’t stop what we are doing in order to finalize the victory there. Aside from never explaining what he means by “winning the war” he also hints that American casualties are way down because of the escalation. That chorus is intended to help him win the Presidency this fall.

In January of 2007, when Bush first announced his escalation, U.S. troop levels were at 132,000. By then the government had counted 3044 dead Americans. Iraqi civilian deaths continued to mount.

By March, 2007, U.S. troop strength reached 152,000. On March 27, 2008, Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “General Petraeus goes out there every day in an unarmed humvee . . .” But he later acknowledged that there is no such thing as an unarmored humvee.

In April, 2007, U.S. troop levels reached 150,000 soldiers, and in June, 2008, the American command acknowledged that they were arming and passing money to Sunni Tribes formerly allied with Al-Qaeda, who, after the money was passed, have promised to fight their former allies alongside their former enemies— the U.S.

In September, 2007, U.S. troop strength reached 168,000, a time when Gen. Petraeus told Congress that the escalation had largely met its military goals. By October of 2007, U.S. military casualties had dropped to levels that were lower than any before it. For example, in October, 37 U.S. soldiers died from combat; in November, 35 died, and in December, 2007, 23 died. From January, 2008, through July, 2008, the U.S. lost 215 American soldiers to combat. That, obviously, is relatively a good thing, compared to the earlier much heavier losses.

No Americans lost would be my preference, which would have been the case had Bush not lied in 2003, and had not invaded Iraq that year.

But what neither McCain nor Bush are adding to the “surge is working” mantra is a series of factors that more accurately explain the drop in casualties, a drop that has little or nothing to do with the escalation. The drop in casualty rates in fact coincided with the near completion of the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis that the Shiite militias had undertaken in Baghdad. In effect, the Sunni minority already had either been killed, or they had fled to other parts of Iraq, or had fled to Syria and to Jordan to save themselves and their families. Syria now has about 1.5 million Iraqis who are refugees from the killing fields in Iraq, and Jordan has about 750,000 of such refugees. (As opposed to less than a thousand Iraqi refugees who have been admitted to the United States).

To simplify the equation, there were very few Sunnis remaining to be killed who were within reach of the Shiite militias.

Adding to this milestone was the outright U.S. bribery of Sunni tribesmen in western Iraq, many of whom once had been allied with Al-Qaeda, and who made up the bulk of the insurgency, but who are now fighting alongside the Americans. The bribing of Sunnis started in 2006 by a fellow named Col. McFarland, and not in 2007 under Petraeus. It continued under Petraeus.

The result of this positive change in strategy has been to drive Al-Qaeda sympathizers into remote corners of Iraq, and away from where U.S. troop strength is concentrated.

While it has fortunately brought down American casualties, bribing these former enemies is itself a danger. No one knows what will happen should someone else come along and offer them more money. The danger is that they may not stay bribed and they may turn on Americans again with the weapons General Petraeus has given them. But hopefully they will stay bribed, and that would also be a good thing. One wishes that General Westmoreland would have thought of that military strategy in Vietnam, provided, that is, only if the Communists were capable of being bribed.

The third factor accounting for the drop in U.S. deaths is the cease-fire called by Moktada Al-Sadr, which has been of great help in saving American lives. One must suppose that the cease fire came about because of the departure of Sunnis from Baghdad—people who were the targets of Al-Sadr’s militia.

Far be it for me to accuse politicians of using wars and casualties to advance themselves politically, but in short, Mr. Bush and Sen. McCain have manufactured the modern myth that escalating troop strength was the correct formula for Iraq, thus giving McCain the words to his song of “Obama was wrong.” In fact, Obama is wrong on a lot of issues, but he was right when he opposed the Iraq War [though he has continued to vote the money to pay for it] and he was not wrong on the escalation.

McCain, however, has tried to turn his deadly mistake of supporting the Iraq War to his advantage by trumpeting that his policy decision has brought down American casualties. But what neither Obama nor McCain are talking about is the 32,000 wounded and maimed Americans, nor do they mention the several hundred thousand Iraqis who have died as a result of Bush’s invasion and who would be alive today had Bush not invaded. It’s as though those dead Iraqis never existed. Supporters of the Iraq war are unable so see the wreckage of Iraqi lives caused by George W. Bush, the former fraternity boy, who has left to someone else the cleaning up of the terrible mess he’s made.

The suffering of the tens of thousands of Iraqis and the killing of hundreds of thousands more is an invisible thing, invisible because of the silence of the mainstream American press as well as the silence of the politicians. That silence, that arrogance, and that refusal to see what has been done to Iraq and to the Middle East allows those people to argue for continuing a debilitating war until we reach some vague “victory,” where someone else suffers, but not them.

James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. Abourezk can be reached at

July 27th, 2008, 1:33 am


Averroes said:


True, there are takfiris amongst the Shiites. But you have to admit that there also are a lot amongst the Sunnis. In Syria, during the 1979-1982 incidents, Saudi Arabia and Jordan paid and trained the Syrian Ikhwan to wreck havoc in Syria in the name of Islam.

They really are not hiding themselves. Just look at the hundreds (if not thousands) of Saudi sponsored sites aimed at enraging sectarian hatred against the Sittes. You may also know that the Saudis executed a full-scale assault on the Saudi Shiite city of Qateef in the 1960s, killing hundreds of people.

I used to have this mindset at some point, Karim. I used to think that somehow, all of these Batiniya should .. cease to exist. That they should just disappear from existence somehow. I know where you’re coming from. I was there.

There are today enlightened scholars from all sects that rise above the labels of Sunni and Shia and see through the smoke screens. They are extending their hands to one another, but that is becoming extremely more difficult thanks to your beloved Saudis.

The finalized version of “Sunni Islam” was amalgamated during the Abbasid era, where the state had enough time to formulate the state “religion”. The Abbasids used the Turks as their main power horse, until the Turks took over later on. With nomad history and shallow philosophical roots, the Turks continued that version of Islam and enforced it wherever they ruled. Since the Turks also used the other deadly tactic of capturing young boys from European villages and training them into the fearsome Inkisharia bregades. Later, the Inkisharia leaders were placed at the heads of city garrisons in the Levant. These evolved into the Iqtaii families in these countries. You can even see that in the physical features of these families in Syria and Lebanon. Today, Sunni Lebanese leaders have the audacity of highlighting the different (darker) features of Lebanese Shiites, and conclude that they “don’t belong here.”

The mainstream Shiite schools hold the Aal el Bait as sacred and uncriticizable. The Sunnis also prevent all rational criticism of the Companions and treat them as sacred. Both are wrong. No human is sacred and no human is above criticism. This is the Islam I understand.

I encourage you to rise above the dust and to look through it. If you open your minds and ditch age-old axioms, you will start to see things much differently.

July 27th, 2008, 1:56 am


Akbar Palace said:

Hezbollah, Syria and the Palestinians do not want to fight to destroy Israel…


Can you find something in the Hamas, PLO and Hezbollah Charters that backs up your claim?

July 27th, 2008, 2:02 am


Off the Wall said:


Excellent review.

I read somewhere that part of what the Ottomans did was to force mass conversion to Sunni Islam in some cities. It is my understanding that Aleppo had a very viable Shiite community during the middle Islamic ages, So did Cairo. Is that True?

I also understand the one of the major accomplishments of the Al-Saud and their allies was the forced conversion and/or deportation of Shia families from Mecca and Madina, mostly to Iraq? Granted these are old wounds that need not be opened, but I am just asking for the sake of history?

July 27th, 2008, 2:14 am


Averroes said:


It is true, as far as I know, and I have read a lot about the subject. The Hamdani state in Aleppo for instance was Shiites, that is well known. Also, if you read the writings of Usama Ibn Munqiz, the Syrian gentleman that wrote very colourful narratives describing the Crusades, there are mentions that the Crusades surrounding Aleppo disgraced the Qur’an and the name of Ali, an indication that these were the beliefs of the city’s inhabitants. And yes, the Saudis have done what you describe and much, much more.

The point being: That was history, with all its follies and power plays. We should learn to see through it, and through the propaganda that is also today being played out.

The creation of sects was all political division lines that turned into sects and religions. Further, they have done that because of oppression, and forceful conversion. That is the lesson we should learn ya Karim. The “majority Sunni” flag that you seem to wave all the time becomes much less meaningful when we consider the roots and the evolution of these political groups.

I hate to break it to Karim, but our history is as human as any other nation. Our rulers were humans. No more and no less.

July 27th, 2008, 2:32 am


Off the Wall said:


The point being: That was history, with all its follies and power plays. We should learn to see through it, and through the propaganda that is also today being played out.

Amen to that, what an elegant way and a refreshing view.

Thanks for taking my question seriously.

July 27th, 2008, 2:43 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Things have changed since the surge and since Petraeus has taken command. And now, significant economical changes in Iraq will also come. I am sure the Asad regime is worried about this.

Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost By ROBERT BURNS and ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writers
Sat Jul 26, 7:08 PM ET

BAGHDAD – The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.


Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaida holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance, with the steady drumbeat of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and ambushes that once rocked the capital daily, has all but ceased.

This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the AP on Thursday that the insurgency as a whole has withered to the point where it is no longer a threat to Iraq’s future.

“Very clearly, the insurgency is in no position to overthrow the government or, really, even to challenge it,” Crocker said. “It’s actually almost in no position to try to confront it. By and large, what’s left of the insurgency is just trying to hang on.”

Shiite militias, notably the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have lost their power bases in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. An important step was the routing of Shiite extremists in the Sadr City slums of eastern Baghdad this spring — now a quiet though not fully secure district.

Al-Sadr and top lieutenants are now in Iran. Still talking of a comeback, they are facing major obstacles, including a loss of support among a Shiite population weary of war and no longer as terrified of Sunni extremists as they were two years ago.

Despite the favorable signs, U.S. commanders are leery of proclaiming victory or promising that the calm will last.

The premature declaration by the Bush administration of “Mission Accomplished” in May 2003 convinced commanders that the best public relations strategy is to promise little, and couple all good news with the warning that “security is fragile” and that the improvements, while encouraging, are “not irreversible.”

Iraq still faces a mountain of problems: sectarian rivalries, power struggles within the Sunni and Shiite communities, Kurdish-Arab tensions, corruption. Any one of those could rekindle widespread fighting.

But the underlying dynamics in Iraqi society that blew up the U.S. military’s hopes for an early exit, shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, have changed in important ways in recent months.

Systematic sectarian killings have all but ended in the capital, in large part because of tight security and a strategy of walling off neighborhoods purged of minorities in 2006.

That has helped establish a sense of normalcy in the streets of the capital. People are expressing a new confidence in their own security forces, which in turn are exhibiting a newfound assertiveness with the insurgency largely in retreat.

Statistics show violence at a four-year low. The monthly American death toll appears to be at its lowest of the war — four killed in action so far this month as of Friday, compared with 66 in July a year ago. From a daily average of 160 insurgent attacks in July 2007, the average has plummeted to about two dozen a day this month. On Wednesday the nationwide total was 13.

Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer.

In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged.

Now a moment has arrived for the Iraqis to try to take those positive threads and weave them into a lasting stability.

The questions facing both Americans and Iraqis are: What kinds of help will the country need from the U.S. military, and for how long? The questions will take on greater importance as the U.S. presidential election nears, with one candidate pledging a troop withdrawal and the other insisting on staying.

Iraqi authorities have grown dependent on the U.S. military after more than five years of war. While they are aiming for full sovereignty with no foreign troops on their soil, they do not want to rush. In a similar sense, the Americans fear that after losing more than 4,100 troops, the sacrifice could be squandered.

U.S. commanders say a substantial American military presence will be needed beyond 2009. But judging from the security gains that have been sustained over the first half of this year — as the Pentagon withdrew five Army brigades sent as reinforcements in 2007 — the remaining troops could be used as peacekeepers more than combatants.

As a measure of the transitioning U.S. role, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond says that when he took command of American forces in the Baghdad area about seven months ago he was spending 80 percent of his time working on combat-related matters and about 20 percent on what the military calls “nonkinetic” issues, such as supporting the development of Iraqi government institutions and humanitarian aid.

Now Hammond estimates those percentage have been almost reversed. For several hours one recent day, for example, Hammond consulted on water projects with a Sunni sheik in the Radwaniyah area of southwest Baghdad, then spent time with an Iraqi physician/entrepreneur in the Dora district of southern Baghdad — an area, now calm, that in early 2007 was one of the capital’s most violent zones.

“We’re getting close to something that looks like an end to mass violence in Iraq,” says Stephen Biddle, an analyst at the Council of Foreign Relations who has advised Petraeus on war strategy. Biddle is not ready to say it’s over, but he sees the U.S. mission shifting from fighting the insurgents to keeping the peace.

Although Sunni and Shiite extremists are still around, they have surrendered the initiative and have lost the support of many ordinary Iraqis. That can be traced to an altered U.S. approach to countering the insurgency — a Petraeus-driven move to take more U.S. troops off their big bases and put them in Baghdad neighborhoods where they mixed with ordinary Iraqis and built a new level of trust.

Army Col. Tom James, a brigade commander who is on his third combat tour in Iraq, explains the new calm this way:

“We’ve put out the forest fire. Now we’re dealing with pop-up fires.”

It’s not the end of fighting. It looks like the beginning of a perilous peace.

Maj. Gen. Ali Hadi Hussein al-Yaseri, the chief of patrol police in the capital, sees the changes.

“Even eight months ago, Baghdad was not today’s Baghdad,” he says.


EDITOR’S NOTE — Robert Burns is AP’s chief military reporter, and Robert Reid is AP’s chief of bureau in Baghdad. Reid has covered the war from his post in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Burns, based in Washington, has made 21 reporting trips to Iraq; on his latest during July, Burns spent nearly three weeks in central and northern Iraq, observing military operations and interviewing both U.S. and Iraqi officers

July 27th, 2008, 2:52 am


Off the Wall said:

Ghat Albird

After reading Yuri Avnery’s recent article about the recent desperate acts of few Arab youths in Jerusalem, I think that Obama is up to something with his Unified Jerusalem that is more than what the pundits have talked about. Avnery’s article is long, but as usual, very insightful with a sense of history and nostalgia. You may want to skip to the last few paragraphs where he talks about solutions. But I think the article is worth reading.

Here is the link (again it is from counterpunch), what can i say, I am a proud progressive 🙂

July 27th, 2008, 2:54 am


Karim said:

Averroes you said :The mainstream Shiite schools hold the Aal el Bait as sacred and uncriticizable. The Sunnis also prevent all rational criticism of the Companions and treat them as sacred. Both are wrong. No human is sacred and no human is above criticism. This is the Islam I understand.

This is not true ,nobody is infallible in sunni Islam and there is no problem if we say that all sahabis did mistakes ,even Ali and ahl bayt are not infallibles.
As for what you said ,it’s a normal reaction Averroes against those who insult the prophet’s wife and curse the sahabis…how would you react if you had shia neighors who insult the honnor of the prophet in front of you?No need to be wahhabis to react ;look….this is different ,if we criticize the sahabis and this is accepted is not the same when the shia who follow the iranian regime who say that the wife of the prophet was a whore(this shia tradition is often used by the anti islam christian propaganda for example in al Hayat channel).I know some ,but i ask you to give some names of these shia sheikhs who are not like those i described above.Averroes,that’s why all the husayniyat built by the iranian regime in Syria with the regime cover will be destroyed or transformed to mosques.
Averroes:Later, the Inkisharia leaders were placed at the heads of city garrisons in the Levant. These evolved into the Iqtaii families in these countries.

This is what they told you in the regime’s schools(the big hatred of the regime against the ottomans) now that you are free to read other versions of history,i invite you to correct these distortions.
Most of the aristocratic families in Syria were arabs and most of them were good people.Among them only few names with military roots.Most in fact had the title of asyad ,ashraf or ahl bayt.Mardam Bey family i think are of european origin but it was rare,may be Brahim Pasha in Aleppo.More commonly in Damascus and Lebanon they were of Maghrebian origin butMaghrebians are few in Aleppo.
And BTW,many of the Janisary,the elite force of the ottoman army were from the Bekteshi Alevi order during the early times of the empire,then the Janisarya had lost prestige and the Janisariya became the refuge for Beduins ;they were often in war with the city whose leaders were from the ashraf.

July 27th, 2008, 3:00 am


norman said:

Averroes ,

It was an interesting analysis about the major families in Syria ,

Do you think that there is a consiperecy between the US administration and the Al Saudi to create conflict between the Sunni and the Shea so the Muslims will be busy and have no time to attack the West , do you think that this is the price that was asked of KSA to keep the royals in power? .

July 27th, 2008, 3:02 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Freedom has its cost and it is not cheap. Most Americans believe that the lives of 600,000 Americans was worth it to bring an end to slavery in the USA (that is the number of casaulties in the US Civil War). The life of 418,000 Americans is deemed a reasonable price to pay for defeating Hitler and the Japanese. In this respect, 4000 American lives is not too high a price to pay for democracy in Iraq.

As for the number of Iraqis that have died, let’s wait 30 years and let’s have the Iraqis themselves decide if the sacrifice was worth it. For now the Kurds and the Shia, about 75% of population, are happy with the chance given them to get rid of Saddam.

In the end though, all the arguments against what happened in Iraq are just a reflection of the fear that a similar solution to democracy will be pursued in Syria. In essence, most of the bloggers here are analagous to the Sunnis in Iraq. They are a minority that supports the oppressive regime because it gives them privileges they fear to lose under a democracy.

July 27th, 2008, 3:09 am


Karim said:

The Hamdanis were not in reality the legendary picture magnified by Mutanabi,Abu Firas ,Ibn Nabata and others.The philosopher Al Farabi lived some years in his palace.He was interested by science and culture but in the same time,The hamdanis brought to Aleppo chaos and injustice and the destruction of Aleppo by the famous empeor and strategist Nicephor Phocas .Sayf al Dawla’s favorit sport was his annual razzia on Byzantian cities and villages,the french historian Jean Sauvaget wrote interesting articles on this era.The Bani Mirdas who were also Shias were better.

Aleppo during Usama Ibn Munqidh life was under the Zenkid then the Ayyubi control but it had sizeable shia population it’s also true that the great Qadi of Aleppo in the seldjuk -Ayyubi era whose name was Ibn Khashab and who was shia(but not rafidi) was worthy of respect.And all muslims should be proud of him.
OTW,the Fatimids of Egypt were Ismailis…but were not extremists,and one of their best generals was of armenian origin.

July 27th, 2008, 3:19 am


Averroes said:


To answer your question: Absolutely. Have no doubt about it whatsoever.

July 27th, 2008, 3:37 am


Averroes said:


You reject my invitation and shun my suggestions for an open mind. Rage and the will to destroy are so clear in your words, and I have no doubts that the likes of you will not hesitate to shed blood if they have the means. Zealots are the plague of civilization, and it’s not going to stop any time soon. Zealots are so extremely positive about their point of view that they’re so quick to shed blood to enforce it.

Did you read anything that suggested that I hold the Hamdanis to be of legendary stature? I don’t. But you, apparently, do hold Ibn Taymiyya, the Ottoman Turks, and possibly even the Saudis as legendary defenders of Islam. God help us all if the likes of you gain power.

July 27th, 2008, 3:50 am


Shai said:


I of course suffer from lack of objectivity. So do most people, I believe.

My comments were taken straight out of your links. Not out of your IMHO’s. I took the time to open your links, which you used to support your argument about the U.S. “winning” the war in Iraq, and I found the very clear sentences that claim the exact opposite, usually in the first few paragraphs. I suppose you can call that objectivity, since I stated no opinion on your own articles, I merely pointed to your own sources. If you’re going to use them as supporting evidence to your claim, at least explain why they do not contradict you, as it so plainly seems they are.


Thanks for the comment. I tend to agree with you, but most Israelis (like most people in their shoes) cannot see that yet.


It’s precisely this “let’s wait 30 years and…” attitude that I’m afraid of. It’s almost as if our lives are so wonderful and secure, free of existing and future threats, and we can just keep waiting. Two million dead Iraqis might seem an acceptable thing 30, or 50, or 200 years from now? Can you honestly say this without feeling just a tiny sense of shame for continuing to support this war? Who has this war been good for? The Iraqis? In Saddam’s 30 years in power not a quarter this many Iraqis have died, like in the past 5 years.

Ask the mothers and fathers of those that died, if it was worth it. Ask the American ER doctors in Baghdad who are shipping body bags back on a daily basis, if it was worth it. Ask the American parents of those thousands of dead soldiers, if it was worth it. Ask the 30,000 wounded American soldiers who will bear the price of the war in Iraq for the rest of their lives, if it was worth it. You can do all that today, while you can still learn a lesson or two from their response. You don’t need to wait 30 years for it.

July 27th, 2008, 4:08 am


Karim said:

Averroes ,i love the ottomans,i’m nostalgic of the ottoman era and i love Ibn Taymiyya but despite this love ,i have no problem if they are criticized but it should be done with methodology and needs reliable sources.And btw the ottomans were harshly anti Ibn Taymiyya and biased in favor of the andalusian great sufi master Ibn Arabi.

Averroes:God help us all if the likes of you gain power.

Be optimistic,no one Syrian can repeat what did the asads to the syrian people in Hama and other than Hama.

July 27th, 2008, 4:13 am


Alex said:

Some very interesting news from Champress;

1) Farouk Shara: There will be a new Syrian government before end of the year.

2) Assad will visit Tehran next month

3) German, Italian and Spanish foreign ministers communicated with Walid Mouallem.

4) Spanish Prime minister might visit Damascus next fall.

5) Syria will focus its attention on Iraq next. A number of meetings with Iraqi leaders is planned.


الشرع لـ صحيفة المجد : سيتم تشكيل حكومة جديدة قبل نهاية العام الجاري

قال نائب الرئيس فاروق الشرع انه “سيتم تشكيل حكومة جديدة في سورية قبل نهاية العام الجاري”, لافتا إلى أن “الظروف الصعبة والمؤامرات الخارجية التي تعرضت لها سورية أسهمت في تأجيل تشكيلها, وأضاف الشرع في حديث مع صحيفة المجد الأردنية أن “سورية تجتاز اليوم مرحلة جديدة تحتاج مجهودات مضاعفة لملاحقة كل كبيرة وصغيرة، وتداركها قبل أن تستفحل وتتحول إلى أزمة، سواء على صعيد الغلاء أو الفساد أو الروتين أو البطالة وغيرها”.وفيما يخص موضوع المفاوضات مع إسرائيل, قال نائب الرئيس إن “تحصيل الحقوق الوطنية عبر التفاوض لا يمكن أن ينجح إذا لم يقتنعوا بأننا قادرون على تحصيلها بوسائل أخرى”.وأضاف الشرع أننا “في سورية اعلم الناس بالمناورات الإسرائيلية، وبصعوبات الحل السياسي على جبهة الجولان”, مشيرا إلى أن “ثوابتنا في مسألة الحل السياسي معروفة جيداً للإسرائيليين منذ مؤتمر مدريد، وهي الانسحاب التام حتى خط الرابع من حزيران عام 1967”. ولفت الشرع إلى أن “أي طرح إسرائيلي لعلاقة سورية بإيران أو غيرها من الدول والقوى، سيعني لنا عدم جدية تل أبيب في التوجه نحو الحل السياسي”, مضيفا أن “سورية لن تضحي بعلاقتها الإستراتيجية الثابتة مع أصدقائها وحلفائها إرضاء لإسرائيل أو غيرها”.وكانت إسرائيل اشترطت أن تقطع سورية علاقاتها مع إيران وحزب الله وحركة حماس للوصول إلى اتفاقية سلام. وفي نفس السياق, قال الشرع إن “الوساطة التركية وضعت العلاقة التركية – الإسرائيلية على المحك، وفي اعتقادنا إن التعنت الإسرائيلي إذا تواصل سوف يكشف للحكومة التركية النوايا الفعلية لإسرائيل”.وفيما يخص علاقات سورية مع مصر والسعودية, قال نائب الرئيس انه لا توجد حالة استعصاء في العلاقة السورية – المصرية برغم ما يعتريها من شوائب قابلة للمعالجة”, مضيفا أن “العلاقات مع السعودية دون المستوى الذي نطمح إليه، وهي تحتاج إلى جهد مشترك للعودة إلى ما كانت عليه أيام المغفور له الملك فهد الذي برع رغم كل الظروف في الحفاظ على بوصلة العمل العربي المشترك والدور المحوري لسورية والسعودية في ذلك”. وتسعى سورية بوصفها رئيسة للقمة العربية على تنقية الأجواء العربية- العربية وذلك لتعزيز العلاقات العربية البينية وتطويرها. وعلى صعيد آخر, قال الشرع إن “رئيس شعبة المخابرات العامة اللواء اصف شوكت على رأس عمله، وهو يحظى بكامل ثقة القيادة السورية”.


بدوا استعدادهم للعمل على تحسين علاقات بلادهم مع سورية.. المعلم تلقى رسالة من نظرائه الأوروبيين

تلقى وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم رسالة أوروبية من وزراء خارجية كل من ايطاليا، ألمانيا واسبانيا ، جاء فيها أن أوروبا مستعدة لتقديم الدعم الكامل للجهود السورية في مفاوضاتها غير المباشرة مع إسرائيل.
وأبدى الوزراء فرانك والتر شتاينماير وزير خارجية ألمانيا وميغيل انخيل موراتينوس وزير خارجية اسبانيا ، وفرانكو فراتيني وزير خارجية ايطاليا في الرسالة ،التي كشفت عنها صحيفة الديلي ستار اللبنانية ، استعدادهم للعمل على تحسين علاقات بلادهم مع سورية، والعمل مع شركائهم في الاتحاد الأوروبي لتطوير العلاقات بين الاتحاد الأوروبي وسورية.
واعتبرت مصادر متابعة أن الرسالة الأوروبية تأتي بالتوازي مع القراءة الفرنسية الجديدة لدور سورية الأمر الذي جعلها تفتح الباب لدمشق لتبني معها علاقات إستراتيجية وبناءة تساهم في استقرار الشرق الأوسط وازدهاره.
وفي سياق متصل أكدت هذه المصادر أن هناك اتصالات تجرى لقيام رئيس الوزراء الإسباني ثاباتيرو بزيارة دمشق في الخريف القادم ، لافتة إلى أن هذا التحرك الغربي هو عنوان بارز لمرحلة جديدة من العلاقات بين دمشق والعواصم الأوروبية.


شاط دبلوماسي مكثف في آب والوزير المعلم إلى طهران تمهيداً لزيارة الرئيس الأسد وانفتاح أكبر على العراق

يقوم وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم بزيارة إلى طهران يوم غد للمشاركة في اجتماع وزراء خارجية دول عدم الانحياز، وذلك تزامنا مع التحضيرات لانعقاد قمة إيرانية سورية قريباً، تسبق زيارة الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي إلى دمشق في أيلول القادم. وقالت مصادر دبلوماسية إيرانية لصحيفة الوطن السورية: إن المعلم سيشارك الأسبوع القادم في اجتماع وزراء خارجية دول عدم الانحياز الذي ينعقد في طهران يوم غد، وتأتي زيارة طهران في ظل التحضير لقمة سورية إيرانية في طهران قريباً، وقبل زيارة الرئيس الفرنسي إلى دمشق، حيث كان سبق للفرنسيين أن طلبوا دوراً سورياً في تخفيف التوتر القائم بين الغرب من جهة وإيران من جهة أخرى حول المشروع النووي الإيراني، وهو ما رحبت به طهران أيضاً. من جهة أخرى قالت مصادر أخرى: إن نائب رئيس المجلس الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية في العراق عمار الحكيم سيقوم بزيارة إلى سورية الثلاثاء يلتقي خلالها المسؤولين السوريين وعلى رأسهم الرئيس بشار الأسد. وتأتي زيارة الحكيم بناء على دعوة رسمية من سورية، تستهدف «تزخيم» العلاقات السورية العراقية بعد أن كان التركيز منصباً في الآونة الأخيرة على الملف اللبناني. ويلقى الملف العراقي اهتماماً كبيراً من الجانبين الأميركي والبريطاني، وتعتبره لندن عقدة العلاقات مع سورية بشكل يتشابه مع التركيز الفرنسي على العقدة اللبنانية في العلاقات مع سورية. وكان دبلوماسي غربي قال : إن تحركاً إيجابياً على مستوى الملف العراقي من قبل سورية، سينعكس بشكل مشابه على العلاقات الثنائية بين بريطانيا وسورية مثلما جرى مع فرنسا وأضافوا: إن السوريين يعرفون تماماً ما عليهم فعله. ويعتقد مراقبون أن سياسة أكثر انفتاحاً لدمشق على بغداد ستقوي موقفها مع الإدارة الأميركية المقبلة، علماً أن التركيز الحالي للدبلوماسية السورية هو على تدعيم التهدئة في المنطقة بانتظار رحيل الرئيس الأميركي جورج بوش. كما يزور رئيس البرلمان الأوروبي هانز بوتيرينغ سورية خلال الأسبوع الثاني من شهر آب، ويلتقي المسؤولين السوريين، وتأتي زيارته بعد الزيارة التي قام رئيس لجنة الصداقة السورية الفرنسية في مجلس الشيوخ الفرنسي فيليب ماريني إلى سورية، واستغرقت عدة أيام، وذلك على حين توقعت مصادر أخرى أن يصل أواخر شهر آب الأمين العام للرئاسة الفرنسية كلود غيان للتحضير لقمة الأسد ساركوزي في الثامن من أيلول، بعد أن كانت التقديرات تذهب باتجاه مجيء وزير الخارجية بيرنار كوشنير. كما قالت مصادر دبلوماسية غربية أخرى : إن جلسة جديدة من المحادثات غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل ستبدأ في تركيا هذا الأسبوع.

July 27th, 2008, 4:16 am


Shai said:


Is Farouq al-Sharaa still as influential as he once was? Do you think he might participate in direct talks? He is, after all, the one that sat with Ehud Barak twice during Bill Clinton’s administration.

July 27th, 2008, 4:29 am


Off the Wall said:


I receive no privilege from the current regime in Syria. I have not been there for more that two decades. And I do not think that the life of a single American soldier, or a single Iraqi child is worth your green zone government, or your walled off, ethnically cleansed neighborhoods in Baghdad. This is a criminal insanity. All you care about is the destruction of Iraq as an imaginary threat to your racist vision of pure Israel, followed by the destruction of Syria as a possible hurdle for completing the ethnic cleansing of your Arab citizens and of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. So Stop selling us your democracy facade and stop justifying murder and mayhem in the name of a higher cause you have proven, time and again that you know nothing about.

You are right in one thing though, none of us want a “a similar solution to democracy” to be “pursued in Syria”. None of us, no matter how much some of us may hate the regime want this crime to occur in our beloved Syria. Not for your security, nor for Bush’s glory or legacy, or for your neoconservative knights. To you, it is numbers, to all of us it is names, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews in the beginning of their lives, relatives, and old friends. And to some of us, who have the blessing of American citizenship, it is our neighbors son or daughter, my ROTC students, and my wife’s national guard co-worker. They are people we love and care about. What A heartless thing to say.

Your mask was reveled long time ago. And many of us, who respond to you have been doing that merely out of civility. We know there are better ways to get to a brighter future for us and for your nation that does not involve violence, and we search, desperately, despite of our great differences for these ways because, unlike you, we do not warship war, nor do we have hidden agendas but proclaim higher causes. We argue, some of us have sectarian views, we try to educate them, and they try to show us their point of view. Some of us are making friends despite of our differences. And despite of your broken record singing a doomsday song for us. Together, we step into uncharted territories on our own and we do not need your disastrous maps. We have seen your treasure, a box full of pain and suffering.

July 27th, 2008, 4:35 am


Alex said:


Farouk Shara represents Hafez Assad today.

He is the one who makes sure Syria does not shy away from serious political challenges if necessary. He is the one who will reassure the rest of his colleagues that the current difficult year will be over and Syria will be able to again play its traditional leadership role, sooner or later.

Therefore, he was influential the past few years. He helped ensure Syria did not hesitate to stick to its long term plans.

So, in my opinion, his main role is mostly played when there are serious challenges. If the future brings us nothing but international cooperation, there will be no need for Farouk Sharaa. If, however, McCain and Netanyahu decide to weaken Syria before talking to her, Sharaa will be on the news every week.

It is possible that Sharaa might play some intermediate role in peace negotiations if Syria finds itself ready to trust Israeli intentions enough to send a VP … a step before Bashar’s commitment to a direct meeting with an Israeli counterpart.

But I see Muallem playing that pre-Bashar role instead.

July 27th, 2008, 4:44 am


Off the Wall said:

Thank you for the thoughful consideration of Iraqi mothers and families. It seems that compassion is becoming a rare commodity nowadays.

I know your heart is in the right place, I will keep working to get through to you. You got me interested in some readings, I hope I can do the same. But I think on these topics, Averrose is more versed and experienced. One thing I like about you is your civility in argument, although I am scared by some of what you say.

Please do not give up, work with me, we’ll get through to our Karim. 🙂

sound intriguing, your thoughts?

July 27th, 2008, 4:51 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are many people that just do not understand the concept of freedom and that it comes at a cost. I can just imagine you arguing against the US civil war: What is the use of 600,000 dead if in the end there will be Jim Crow law anyway in the south? Why not reach an agreement with Hitler and Japan, why demand unconditional surrender from them?

Nobody worships war, but if you are nor prepared to fight and sacrifice for what you believe in, then you become a slave.

Israel lost 1% of its population in its war of independence. That would be equivalent to losing 3 million Americans today. Was it worth it? You bet it was, and the people who gave their lives died for a worthy cause. And the Iraqis that paid with their lives for a chance at democracy are heroes. In 30 years I am quite confident that this will be the consesus in Iraq.

Your accusations about what I really want are hilarious. Your life is one huge contradiction. You have escaped to live in the US which you detest for what it stands for: democracy and freedom. Your problem is simple. You think you are rational, but in the end all your thinking is filtered through your honor and humilation emotions that don’t allow you to think straight.

July 27th, 2008, 4:53 am


Shai said:


Thank you. I was hoping that was the case. I remember hearing Sharaa many times on TV in the 1990’s, and have always been impressed by him. I’m glad he “stuck around”.

Off The Wall,

What do you think McCain’s chances are? In my two weeks now in the States, his position seemed just so pathetic to me. Can he really pull it off? Is his so-called “security experience” that significant to Americans, as opposed to Obama’s “inexperience”?

July 27th, 2008, 4:54 am


Alex said:


I like your conclusions about Karim .. I too think that his heart is in the right place and that he is very civilized … and I also find his obsession with everything Sunni/Shia to be nothing short of scary.

as for my thoughts on the news I posted above … Europe is opening up fast. After Chirac, there is no one in Europe who is bitter about Syria’s emergence as leading Arab nation. In the US, it seems the Texan mentality is not compatible with “oops, we made a mistake” .. they can’t say that. We’ll wait for the next administration.

Same thing holds in Saudi Arabia … I can’t see how King Abdullah will be comfortable enough to meet with a stronger young Syrian president… The man, half his age, who called him “a half man”.

Here is what Shara said in that same interview about the constant attacks in Saudi media against Syria:

وأشار فاروق الشرع في تصريحات نشرتها صحيفة “المجد” الأردنية في عددها الأخير إلى أن سورية لم تقابل الهجوم الإعلامي السعودي عليها وفقا لضرورات التضامن العربي، وقال ردا على سؤال حول السبب في تجنب أي مساس بالسعودية وبسياساتها وقيادتها في الإعلام السوري: “نحن لا نجامل احداً، بل نراعي ضرورات التضامن العربي ولو في اضيق الحدود، ونرفض الخوض في المهاترات الاعلامية منذ عهد المغفور له حافظ الاسد·· نحن نعرف ان اعلامهم يهاجمنا ويتهجم علينا، بدءاً من سيادة الرئيس، ودون ان يوفروا احداً، فقد هاجموني وهاجموا اللواء آصف شوكت وغيره من القيادات الوطنية، وبثوا حولنا من المزاعم والاكاذيب ما يندى له الجبين، ولكن نحن ندرك ان هذه الحملات الاعلامية هي محض تعبير وترجمة للهجمة التآمرية الكبرى على سورية”.


May I ask you what you studied in University? You are quite knowledgeable (with varying degrees of bias) about all the sects and religions in our area.


I really enjoyed, and learned from, reading all your comments today.

July 27th, 2008, 5:08 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As in all things the proof is in the result. Your methods have resulted in not ONE democracy among Arab countries. Its 60+ years and counting. When will you realize that what you are doing does not work? When will you realize that the price in human potential that the lack of freedom is costing is humongous?

At least the Iraqis have a chance at freedom and democracy. At a cost, yes. But under Saddam and Asad they have zero chance. Now, even the pessimists give Iraq a 50% chance. How can you say it was not worth it? Do you understand at all the value of future generations of Iraqis living in freedom and actualizing their human potential? I guess that does not matter because in your mind this would somehow help Israel and therefore should be objected too.

July 27th, 2008, 5:09 am


Alex said:


Your comments today were all very useful. But I will still ask you to stick to the 4-comments per day limit.

This limit is good for you too because it makes it difficult for you to engage in endless discussions which usually start interesting, and at some point start deteriorating quite fast.

I think you made your point very well already. Tomorrow we’ll have more things to discuss.

July 27th, 2008, 5:18 am


Karim said:

Alex:May I ask you what you studied in University? You are quite knowledgeable (with varying degrees of bias) about all the sects and religions in our area.

Alex, engineering not history.
Thanks for your compliment,about the bias nobody is neutral ,we all have our preferences but a minimum of objectivity,flexibility and self criticizm is needed in order to remain credible.

July 27th, 2008, 5:44 am


Alex said:

According to Thomas Dine (former director of AIPAC), meeting between Syrian delegation and AIPAC was not canceled, it was delayed.

قال إن البيت الأبيض ضغط على الخارجية
واشنطن: محمد علي صالح
أكد توماس داين، مسؤول الشؤون السورية في منظمة «سيرش فور كومون غراوند» (بحث عن ارضية مشتركة) التي نظمت زيارة الوفد السوري الى واشنطن، ان الوفد يريد مقابلة «ايباك»، اكبر منظمات الضغط الاسرائيلي في الولايات المتحدة، مشيرا الى «ظروف خاصة» منعت ذلك يوم الجمعة، قبل بداية عطلة نهاية الاسبوع. واكد ان الوفد السوري يزور الولايات المتحدة لعشرة ايام، وسيزور تكساس وكاليفورنيا وولايات اخرى، وسيقابل، قبل عودته الى سورية، اشخاصا من «ايباك». ونفى داين أن تكون «ايباك» هي التي رفضت مقابلة الوفد السوري، وقال ان السبب كان فقط لوجستيكيا، لكنه قال ان البيت الابيض «نعم، ضغط» على الخارجية الاميركية لالغاء الاجتماع الذي كان مقررا مع الوفد.

July 27th, 2008, 5:54 am


Off the Wall said:

As you said, Jim Craw Laws did not go away with the Civil War. What you failed to say is that when they were abandoned in 1965. It took peaceful civil disobedience, despite of violent crackdown, but with much fewer sacrifices to get rid of them, and it took a true visionary in the name of Lindon Johnson, and a True non-violence hero in the name of Martin Luther King to make that happen.

Comparing Iraq to either the US civil war, or to Israel war of independence is out of place. We have an Arabic poem that says “red freedom door can only be knocked by bloodied hands”. These were the days of Arab honor, which made many Arabs refuse the partition and later issue the three famous Khartoom NOs. Go figure. You want us to go back to these days, and solve our problems by spilling blood. Be careful what yo wish for.

You are the one full of contradictions, you fail to see Palestinians desperate situation caused by your government. You never fail to demonize them, and you dare talk about democracy and human rights. Instead of working to alleviate the pain your government policies cause, you turn and proselytize to others.

I love both my country of origin and my adoptive country. Similar to more than 70% of my compatriot Americans, I detest Bush, and I am suspicious of republicans and of neoconservatives, which is a feeling shared also by at least 50% of my compatriots. This is a political opinion and your accusations that I detest the US for what it stands for, democracy and freedom, is laughable. Obviously you haven’t paid attention to my comments. I detest greed, I dislike anything that corrupts the democratic values of my country including lobbying. Like many in the US, I believe that we are going in the wrong direction and that we need reforms. For you to accuse me of being unpatriotic, is undemocratic. I have contributed to my adoptive country in ways you can not imagine. And guess what, I will defend it if it was in real danger. So stop trying to intimidate me by this nonsense. What you fail to see is that I am an Arab who is not burdened by any notion of humiliation or machismo. I am not an alpha male, nor do I want to be one. Loss and defeat matter less to me than the human lives that could have been saved. But, contrary to what you think, I think that stopping Hitler was the right thing to do. I have walked solemnly under the holocaust monument in Boston, a friend of mine, who was walking next to me gave me a napkin as she was telling me the story of a lady she met who still had her number tattooed on her wrist. The difference between you and me is that I value life so much, and I am not willing sacrifice it unless it was really necessary and as a last resort. I do not believe that the war on iraq was necessary, i believe that Iraqis would have reached democracy without all these losses. You live in a young country, but you hail from an old civilization, I am surprised that you of all people can not understand that 20 or 30 years is a short period in human history. You assume that the fake structure your beloved Bush built in Iraq is going to last. You further assume that because 70% of the population is happy, then we can screw the remaining 30%. What you do not understand is that true democracy is not when the majority rule only, but it is when the rights of the minority are protected. This is what the founding fathers of my adoptive country thought, and this is what i will fight for.

I do not want Alawis or Christians in Syria to be ethnically cleansed, and your model, as implemented by Bush does precisely that. Your heroic notions of sacrifices are meaningless to me here, because I do not want a Civil War. There are no slaves in Syria, and I am able to see beyond empty rhetoric.

July 27th, 2008, 5:55 am


Shai said:


The issue is not whether painful sacrifices need to be made on the road to freedom. Few revolutions have been bloodless. So of course at times it is necessary for many to die.

But Iraq is not this case. Iraqis did not topple Saddam from within, and are now fighting the last remnants of his supporters. America came in, uninvited, ignoring Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions, and began systematically destroying every bit of fabric that ever held Iraq together. If the purpose was to solely “free” the Iraqi people of their dictator Saddam, the U.S. should have left already two years ago, and let the Iraqis fight their own War of Independence, just as the Vietnamese eventually did. But America, not wishing to be deemed a “loser” in this war, stayed on, as it did in Vietnam. And in 2 years, either Obama or McCain will begin pulling troops out. And a few years later (hopefully), not a single American soldier will remain in Iraq. But they will not leave Iraq a free nation, a democracy, or a safe place to live in. Instead, they’ll leave a destroyed nation, and one that could likely burst once more into widespread civil war, and another 2 million might die.

And 30 years from now, when Iraq will be a free and democratic nation, you’ll attribute its freedom to George W. Bush. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Japan and Germany are not the same. They both threatened the entire world. They both drove across and destroyed nations. They both HAD to be stopped, at ANY cost, millions or tens of millions of people. Iraq was neither Japan nor Germany. Nor was 2003 their equivalent of 1861. Any student of history would find such comparison an ignorant attempt to reduce history to a mere set of simplistic, single-dimensional events.

July 27th, 2008, 6:03 am


Karim said:

OTW,you should not drink all the anti ottoman baath propaganda ,there were many mistakes and specially after the 18 th century,no empires were perfect,but the Ottoman empire also means the cosmopolitan and tolerant,Aleppo,Izmir,Costantinople,Mosul,Baghdad,Cairo,Alexandria, Beirut,Sarajevo,Mostar ,this beautiful architecture,this elaborated art of life,the gastronomy,the music…as for the conversion of what remained of the shias was completed during the early mamelouk era ,it’s said that in the 13 th century the last majority shia city in Syria was Sarmin near Aleppo.So when Sultan Selim invaded Syria and defeated the Mameluks in 1516 north of Aleppo ,there were very few shias in Aleppo.The shias in Nebol ,came later with the Mongols ,the Ilkhans.It was also known that the number of christians had dramatically dwindled during the crusades,they were estimated at 5% of Aleppo when the ottomans invaded the city…the ottomans wanted to encourage business and industry in the Syrian cities ,they brought many christians and jews(spanish) anatolian christians greeks and armenians(the richest community in ottoman Aleppo),lebanese(the maronites of Aleppo) and from Hama.Aleppo became quickly the center of the levantine business and a center of international business,it was in this city that were inaugurated the first european consulates and they transformed Aleppo from an Islamic city to a cosmopolitan city.So the influence of the Ottoman was positive,.This is not what you,me and Averroes have learnt in baath schools.
it’s very wrong to reduce Ottoman history to 1915;this date is an accident , the belligerent were manipulated by France(Jamal and Enver Pasha ,armenians and kurds),British(arab nationalism),russians(greeks and armenians).
You will be surprised ,but the capitale of the Ottoman Empire ,Costantinople was 50% non muslim ,until 1915.

And plz his nickname is Averroes ,not Averrose ,it’s the latinized name of the famous andalusian philosopher Ibn Roshd and the commentator of Aristotle.

Averroes you said:The finalized version of “Sunni Islam” was amalgamated during the Abbasid era, where the state had enough time to formulate the state “religion”.

This true ,but is that an attack against the abassids?And it happened lately because the official mazhab was al Mo3tazila,and the Calif Al Maamun son of Harun al Rashid jailed Ahmad Ibn Hanbal because of his opposition .BTW al Mo3tazila was also criticized by the very rationalist Ibn Roshd when he compared them to the sophists of ancient greece.

July 27th, 2008, 6:20 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Karim

Thank you for the historical knowledge you share with us. I love reading your historical posts as well as those of Averroes.

The ottomans were very capable administrators and law makers. This is something that I am more than willing to give them credit for. Come to think of it, Syrian law, as well as some of the Laws in neighboring countries, including Israel are all based on Ottoman law. This is a well established legal theory, which argues that only laws that evolve in continuous manner have the chance of surviving. And it is reflected by our conservative Justice Scalia in the US’s Supreme court, who falls back to English common law when needed.

I do not hate the Ottomans. I think that their empire had a lot of potentials. But palace rivalries around the time you have mentioned marked the decline of that empire. Yet, i think that they have ignored the velayat, and they have on more than one occasion been less than tollerant with minorities. The Ottoman empire, same as the Hellenic,Romans, and others who proceeded or succeeded them including the crusades are part of my history. I am not that arrogant to deny my history.

I am aware of the last few years of the Ottoman empire, and I know that the strong Anti-Arab sentiment and strong Turkish nationalism, which is the true instigator of the Armenian holocaust are not representatives of the Sultan or of Standard Ottoman practices. I know the role of Young Turkey and other Fascist and nationalist parties in creating the animosity that did not exist, at least as strongly. From reading, I think that Sultan Abdulhamid was blamed for things he had no power over. Am I right in my reading of that snapshot of history.

As you see, it has been an SC marathon for me today. Is it OK if I respond to your question about McCain tomorrow. Your question requires a lot thinking, and my brain, trying to multi-task today between SC and programming is a bit overloaded.

July 27th, 2008, 6:43 am


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Of course. It is the middle of the night where you are, so please do take a break. Thank you for all the comments you posted. You articulate things I very much agree with, but so much more eloquently.

July 27th, 2008, 6:52 am


Karim said:

I do not hate the Ottomans. I think that their empire had a lot of potentials. But palace rivalries around the time you have mentioned marked the decline of that empire. Yet, i think that they have ignored the velayat, and they have on more than one occasion been less than tollerant with minorities

OTW;do you know other part in the world in which muslims and also shias(these big shia shrines in Iraq were build during the ottoman era),christians of all rites (the armenians were forbidden from Istanbul before the Ottoman rule),jews…european levantines(Sarkozy ancestors were ottomans) co existed together ,with their churches ,synagogues ,mosques like in Sarajevo,Aleppo,Izmir,Istanbul,in the same street?There was nothing comparable in Europe.
As for the ottoman christians ,they were in general richer than the muslims and had very good relation with the sultan.Those who are from Aleppo ,know that most beautiful houses in old aleppo are found in the christian neighborhoods of the old city.Like in Judayde and in late ottoman era ,the beautiful villas of Aziziyeh.(after 1860)

As for the provinces,it’s true that since th 18 th century the sultans became more laxist toward corruption from their pashas and also ,the villages were victims of the arab beduins and kurdish nomads razzias…so only the cities remained under control and secured.

July 27th, 2008, 7:01 am


Karim said:

OTW:From reading, I think that Sultan Abdulhamid was blamed for things he had no power over. Am I right in my reading of that snapshot of history.
No OTW ,Sultan Abdulhamid was the last ottoman sultan with true power he was deposed in 1909 and exiled to Salonika(the city of Ataturk) by the Young Turks nationalists and seculars who were paradoxally in that time allied with the Armenian nationalists the Tashnaq ,the powerless Sultan were Mohamad or Mehmet Rashad and Mohamad Wahdedin.(Buried in Damascus).

July 27th, 2008, 7:17 am


Off the Wall said:

Yes I concur, both Christians and Jews were well treated in general. But the Ottomans were also ruthless in crushing any independence movement.

As for Azyzia, I had no idea. Every time I walked the “khatt” in my youthful and less than “virtuous” years, I had assunmed that these beautiful homes were built during the French occupation. Thanks for the glimps of my beloved Alepppo.

Can we then agree that the Ottoman Empire was a good Islamic empire during its first 300 years. Not essentially the during its last 100 or so years?

One thing that I have read a while ago, which may be a Baathist interpretation of history was that after the Ottoman concurred the big cities, they took all of the craftsmen from these cities to Istanbul, to build the capital of empire, which resulted in stopping industrial development in these big cities and caused most of the velayats to lag behind Europe in the development of Industrial revoluation. What are your thoughts on that?

July 27th, 2008, 7:21 am


Karim said:

OTW,i have to go for now ,i will be glad to answer when i will be back.For Aziziyeh ,the old villas(the Villa of Qustaki Homsi ,or the villa of Al Antaky for example)were build during the Ottomans,the Villa Rosa during the french mandate ,but the architecture remained Ottoman.

July 27th, 2008, 7:26 am


Off the Wall said:

Once more, thanks for the history lesson. But I now have to go to bed. Good night everyone. 🙂

July 27th, 2008, 7:32 am


youngsyria said:

“’s a normal reaction Averroes against those who insult the prophet’s wife and curse the sahabis..”

I don’t really understand the mentality of those who violently defend some people who died 1500 years ago ,and those who care to insult them. as long as we prioritize superstitious beliefs and follow clergyman we wont advance one bit.

there is no doubt people in the ME long to theocracy. for me, the only positive way to think about it is that we are heading to our own middle ages and things ganna be better after we are done. so the faster we can get to our middle ages period and the briefer it is the better. its sad we cant learn from Europeans experience, but it looks like there are no shortcuts.

July 27th, 2008, 9:29 am


youngsyria said:

“..Be optimistic,no one Syrian can repeat what did the asads to the syrian people in Hama and other than Hama. ”

in the right timing ,circumstances and cover , wahhabi/ salafis/saudi-lovers wont hesitate throwing all non-believers (sufi/shia/christians/jews/hindu/Buddhist/athiests/others..)into the sea. putting all women in black boxes (you know.. the ninja suit is revealing). and they would feel good about it.

please DO NOT bring desert/Bedouin ideology to Syria.

July 27th, 2008, 9:45 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

OTW and Shai,
70% of the Iraqi population hated Saddam and wanted him out and they were happy about the American support. In fact they were ANGRY at the US for not finishing the job in 1991 and letting Saddam stay in power and massacre the Shia.

In the American War of Independence about 20-30% of the population in the thirteen colonies were loyalists. They in fact wanted British rule and not independence. Does this make the American Revolution a bad one? The only way the Americans could win was by getting help from the French. Without French assistance the American cause would have been lost. This is vert similar to the case in Iraq. A majority wanted freedom and looked for outside help to do it. You cannot say the Iraq war as an idea was bad, unless you are willing to also say that the American revolution was a bad idea.

Over the years the price of freedom has gone up because humans have constantly developed better weapons and better oppression methods. In fact, the Arab dictators are experts psychologically manipulating their populations and opressing them in order to remain in power. For 60+ years, democracy has been promised to the Arabs and never achieved. Furthermore, they have perfected the method of only letting the most vile opposition stay alive so that they can deflect outside pressure by saying: Look what you will get if I am gone.

So far, only force has created a real change in the Arab world. You want to convince me that what you are saying is correct, show me real improvement without force. It has been 60+ years, we are not talking about 2 days. The Arabs have had plenty of time and chances.

In 30 years your fate will be just as those American Loyalists who were all the time complaining about the American Revolution and its cost. You will be an example of people who do not have the vision to see how the sacrifice of one generation can help many future generations and why it is worth it. We will all die. I would rather live as long as possible but fighting for your own freedom and that of future generations is not a bad way to go and I have taken my chances for my country.

July 27th, 2008, 3:02 pm


Alex said:

how many of you occasionally access Syria Comment on your mobile phones?

You will now be automatically directed to a simplified text-based version that should be easier to read.

I am now testing and posting from my phone and it seems to be working fine so far. But if some of you with different devices have problems with the new format please let me know.

July 27th, 2008, 3:12 pm


Averroes said:


First of all thank you for your answer to AIG. Yes, those scores of dead are our fathers, mothers, friends, and children. AIG’s mentality is exactly what you described. They will only feel secure once the entire area are has been destroyed.


Do you really think it is OK in mainstream Sunni Islam to criticize Sahaba? Try mentioning that Mo’awiya was a criminal for hijacking the newly built state for his family and see what happens to you. Try to say that it was terribly and inexcusably wrong for Aisha, and Talha and Zubair (who were her cousins, let’s not forget) to take arms against Ali (the elected Calif) and see what happens. Try to say that Omar favored Arabs to non Arabs in a blunt way, and see what happens to you.

True, the (main stream) Shiites hold the “Imams” at a higher, almost superhuman stature and also forbid any criticism to them, but the mainstream Sunni Islam is not far behind on that.

The enlightened scholars that I’m talking about are out there. For one, the Egyptian Mohammad Saleem el-Awwa, president of the World Council for Muslim Scholars said that he met Hasan Nasralla, and that Nasrallah told him that there are some things that we cannot say out loud yet, as people are not ready for it yet. He (Nasrallah) said that Aisha is my mother. Awwa is my kind of scholar who is able to see through the smoke screen. Check this interview out to see what I’m talking about.

You seem so certain where I got my education (Baath regime) and you are totally wrong on this. I did not study in Syria, and not one person in my family is a Baathist. Get over it please, if you want a serious discussion.

On the syrian families, I never said or implied that these families are anything less than good. My partner and long time friend is from such a family, and he acknowledges the connection I mentioned to you.

You love the Ottomans and Ibn Taymiyya. Does this love blind you from their many follies? Have you seen how much blood has been hanged on Ibn Taymiyya’s writings? And what say you to the forced conversions of the Shiites in the Arab world, which changed the demographics?

Do you also love the tradition that prompted the new Sultan to slaughter all his brothers when he took office? Tell me that’s Baath propaganda as well. Do you also love that they managed to keep the Levant in total darkness for over 450 years? Do you not notice that the intellectual output of this region has been nil during their rule, sir? Could it be that you love them for particularly that?

What is your solution for all of those “minorities?” Are you for applying the recommendations of your beloved Ibn Taymiyya? You have a matter-of-factly, approving tone of the mass conversions carried out by the Turks, and Sultan Selim’s way of cleansing the empire. Am I right in assuming that you approve of that?

You ignored what I told you that I really know what I’m talking about because I was there. I know what the fundamentalist Sunnis think about the “Batiniya” and “Rafidha,” and it is much worse than what happened in Hama.


Maybe we should take Karim for a walk at al “khatt” and discuss all that over a hefty dinner at Ittihad, although they’ve changed quite a bit from their days of glory. I wonder how many times we’ve crossed paths during my own less than virtuous years down there. 🙂

July 27th, 2008, 3:16 pm


ugarit said:

Karim said:

“who insult the honnor of the prophet in front of you?”

That’s a really loaded question. Can you elaborate on what YOU mean by honor? and what kinds of insults are you talking about?

July 27th, 2008, 3:20 pm


Alex said:

so basically we are all from Aleppo? … Averroes, karim, OTW, and me.

July 27th, 2008, 3:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I will feel secure when the entire region is a liberal democracy. Only then will true security come to the middle east.

Compare this to how you can only feel secure for yourself and your family when a dictator is in power in Syria. That explains that huge gap separating us. Your hope is a dictator even though long term you know it is disastrous for Syria. You just don’t care long term and are not willing to make any scarifice short term.

July 27th, 2008, 3:48 pm


Shai said:


Just tried going on SC with my mobile. Yes, it is much faster with the text-only version. But it was also nice to be able to see the images…


You like to bring up Hitler quite often, suggesting that I would have appeased him back then (supposedly as I might appease Assad, or Ahmedinejad, or anyone else I may not want to go to war with). And you of course repeat your democracy mantra, suggesting life could be so much better then…

Do you recall that Hitler’s Germany was a Democracy? That Hitler was elected in democratic elections? So maybe democracy isn’t always good? What if democracy brought about far worse regimes in our region? Say, ones that didn’t call for making peace with Israel (like Assad’s), but rather, for destroying Israel? Are you willing to take that chance? Is that a responsible thing to do, for Israel’s security? Btw, where do you spend most of your time – in Israel, or in the U.S.? In fact, when are you in Israel?

July 27th, 2008, 4:03 pm


Alex said:


For God’s sake … we can really do without that obligatory last paragraph in your comments where you tell the the readers about the “huge gap” separating you (the amazingly civilized and caring democracy lover) from those who differ from your views (Dictator loving, selfish minority cowards)

I asked you a thousand times so far to spare us your negative evaluation of each commentator’s personality and motives. Stick to the issues.

July 27th, 2008, 4:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am only highlighting the differences, it is you that is putting any moral value into them. For some reason you do not really care when commenters here assign to me intentions that are totally false. It is only when I point out concrete differences in points of view that you suddenly take notice. Why are you ashamed of these points of view?

You are wrong, Hitler came to power in a democratic way but was not democratic. True liberal democratic regimes that are accountable to their people will not stay long in power if they work for the destruction of Israel and not the betterment of the lives of their people. Building a great economy and fighting Israel do not go hand in hand. They will have to choose one and it is clear what a real democracy will choose. The only responsible thing to do as an Israeli interested in real peace is to work for true and real democracy in the middle east.

July 27th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Alex said:

Award-winning Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine dies at age 82
By The Associated Press

Youssef Chahine, one of Egypt’s most lauded movie directors whose nearly five decades of films went on Fellini-esque flights of fancy and tackled social ills and Islamic fundamentalism, died Sunday in Cairo. He was 82.

His death comes about four weeks after he fell into a coma following a brain hemorrhage. Chahine was flown to France in critical condition for treatment but later sent back to Al Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo, where he died Sunday, according to Egypt’s official new agency, MENA.

Chahine’s eclectic work made him one of the few Egyptian directors to gain an audience abroad, particularly in Europe and France, where he won a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement Sunday calling Chahine one of cinema’s most celebrated servants and a fervent defender of freedom of expression.

“Youssef Chahine sought throughout his life to denounce, through images, censure, fanaticism and fundamentalism,” Sarkozy said.

At home, his films raised controversy for their frank portrayal of sexuality, their sharp criticism of political oppression and, in his later works, their denunciations of rising Islamic extremism in Egypt. In 1994, a fundamentalist lawyer succeeded in getting a court to ban his film The Emigrant because its plot was based on the story of Joseph, found in the Bible and Quran. Most interpretations of Islam ban the depiction of prophets.

Chahine was born on Jan. 25, 1926, to a Christian family of Lebanese origin in Alexandria, the Mediterranean port known at the time as a cosmopolitan city, with large European and other foreign communities. Throughout his more than 40 films and documentaries, Chahine sought to recapture and defend the spirit of multicultural tolerance against the forces he saw undermining it – fundamentalism, dictatorship and imperialism.

Chahine grew up speaking French and English better than Arabic, and many of his films were French co-productions, bringing criticism by some at home that he was not Arab – or Egyptian – enough. But his early films became classics of social realism, giving gritty depictions of the lowest in Egyptian society. In his 1958 Cairo Station, Chahine himself starred as Qenawi, a mentally retarded newspaper seller at Cairo’s main railroad station, who becomes obsessed with a woman selling lemonade.

The Land in 1969, seen by some as his greatest film, told an epic story of peasant farmers and landowners struggling over land in the Nile Delta.

In his Alexandria Trilogy – Alexandria, Why?, An Egyptian Story, and Alexandria Again and Forever – Chahine turned autobiographical, recounting his childhood in his hometown, his love of Hollywood and his ambiguous feeling toward the United States, which he was drawn to but also saw as an overweening power. The 1978 Alexandria, Why? has a scene of the Statue of Liberty giving a sneering laugh at immigrants arriving in America.

“I have a problem with America, you can call it a dilemma,” Chahine – who studied acting for two years at Pasadena Playhouse in California in the 1940s – once told an interviewer. “I used to love it very much, I studied there, my first love was there … I don’t hate America as some think … but it is difficult to sympathize with it”.

The trilogy broke with the realist style, bringing in wild scenes of fantasy, musical numbers and surrealism that drew comparisons with Italian director Frederico Fellini. Alexandria, Why? also raised eyebrows by telling the story of two taboo love affairs – one homosexual between an Egyptian man and a British solider, the other between a Muslim man and a Jewish woman.

His later films tackled Islamic conservatism. After the banning of The Emigrant, Chahine responded with the historical film Destiny, about the 12th Century Muslim philosopher Averroes, whose books were banned by extremists in the Islamic kingdom of Andalus in what is now Spain.

His last movie, 2007’s This is Chaos – co-directed with his protege; Khaled Youssef – was a sharp criticism of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on democracy activists, depicting a corrupt police officer who takes bribes and tortures his detainees.

Chahine is survived by his wife Colette. He had no children.

July 27th, 2008, 5:12 pm


Alex said:


I can not closely monitor everyone’s comments. But I try to often pay close attention to your comments (and another one) … both of you have consistently provoked endless discussions with others. You have a way of ensuring that you get at others’ nerves.

Stop “highlighting the difference” .. let readers draw their own conclusions if they are ever interested in the difference between two anonymous characters called “AIG” and “Averroes”

You have one comment left for today try to use it in a more interesting way than to highlight or emphasize differences with Averroes.


You can still go back to the more graphical (regular) page layout by clicking on a link at the bottom of the text-version.

Can I assume that you have an iPhone? : )

July 27th, 2008, 5:26 pm


Shai said:


When I click “Exit the Mobile Edition (view the standard browser version).”, I get a WordPress screen, asking me for my username and password. I assume this is where you wanted us to be able to reach the original home page, right? Have a look at it.

Yes, I am an avid Mac-lover, with endless Mac-products. But my mobile phone is still a Finnish Nokia N95, which outdid the iPhone until very recently with its 3.5G capabilities. I did get my wife, however, an iPod Touch, which is an (iPhone minus the phone). There’s an Israeli startup which is creating a futuristic tiny mobile phone called “Modu” (the same guy that invented the Disk-on-Key), so I’m waiting for that one as my newest gadget…

July 27th, 2008, 6:21 pm


Off the Wall said:


I am working on my response to your question. It is taking a long time because, as usual, I am finding myself going on “tangential tracks”.

Have you tried “Ubuntu”, it is a linux variety. I have switched my IBM laptop to it few months back, and I do not think that I will go back to Windows. Next year, I plan to switch all my desktop computers to that system.

I am thinking of getting the Iphone, But with my wife being the early adopter of phone gadgets, we’ll probably get her one before me.

I understand and support your moderating style and I do not want to interfere in your decision. But I am curious as to how long AIG 4 comments/day limit will last?


Do you believe that an anti hate speech law would be a beneficial thing for Syria. Many European countries have adopted such laws. While occasionally these laws have been implemented in a drastic manner, their benefit in punishing and deterring both antisemitic and anti-islamic sentiments are beginning to materialize. In Syria’s case, such laws will not interfere with any religious practice, but they can be designed to prevent the use of such practices to incite violence against others, and to ensure that such practices are done in manners that does not, in reasonable society, publicly attack the beliefs of others. This way, we can avoid the pain of converting Husainyas into Mosques, although to me there is no difference between the two. I am not sure what the text would look like, but would you support the Idea?, we can refer it to SC legal department 🙂

July 27th, 2008, 6:42 pm


norman said:

This is worth reading , QN

Yemen Observer:

Syria and Lebanon, More Than Just Neighbors
Posted in: Opinions
Article Date: Jul 26, 2008 – 8:07:30 AM
DAMASCUS — When the French occupied Syria in 1920, they famously dissected the country, giving four major parts to the newly created state of Lebanon. The French left Syria 26 years later, and Syrian lawmakers claimed that the division was null and void, asking President Shukri al-Quwatli to officially request the area be restored to Syria.

Quwatli angrily said, “Shame on you for asking that! What’s the difference anyhow between Syria and Lebanon? Are they not the same nation? These borders – created by the occupiers – mean nothing to us, and we do not recognize them. I won’t ask for a single inch back from the Lebanese. Having Syrian territory with Lebanon is just like having Syrian territory with Syria. And if the Lebanese need more land, all they need to do is ask, and they will get it!”

This story speaks volumes about how the Syrians regard their tiny neighbor, with whom they nevertheless have been at visible odds since the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005. Syria can, and will, accept an independent Lebanon, but not one that hosts a hostile regime. History provides the reason behind this insistence.

Twelve years after Quwatli’s statement, Syria decided to write off its parliamentary system for the sake of union with Egypt in 1958. In his justification, Syrian Foreign Minister Salah al-Din al-Bitar reminded his government that when independence from the French was being discussed in 1936, the Syrian negotiating team had not raised the issue of the annexed districts to Lebanon “because we believed that one day, at a certain point in history, we would be re-united with all of Lebanon. What is the use of taking back four districts when one day all of Lebanon will be restored to the mother nation, Syria?” That argument, he claimed, justified merging Syria into Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt.

Neither Bitar nor Quwatli wanted to occupy Lebanon, but they believed that the borders of the modern Lebanese republic were artificial since they were imposed, during their lifetime, on the residents of Greater Syria. Syrians had not been consulted on this appropriation of land in 1920; it was the brainchild of the infamous French general, Henri Gouraud.

There are Syrians who still remember a time when the residents of Beirut would describe themselves as “Syrian.” Until well into the 20th century, the residents of Tripoli in today’s north Lebanon would refer to themselves as residents of “Trablus al-Sham” – Syrian Tripoli – and, prior to 1918, degrees from the American University of Beirut even said “Granted in Beirut, Syria.”

The late President Hafez al-Assad, who died in 2000, never set foot in Lebanon, making only a quick trip to the sleepy town of Shtaura on the Syrian-Lebanese highway to meet with then President Suleiman Franjiyah in the early days of the Lebanese Civil War. Assad instead brought Lebanese leaders to Damascus, partly to maintain his paramount position of authority over Lebanon but mainly for security reasons.

This led many Lebanese to complain: “The president of Syria, who has troops in our country, never even visits, because he does not recognize its sovereignty.” This also explains why there was so much media attention surrounding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Beirut on March 3, 2002 – it was the first of its kind by a Syrian leader in nearly 30 years.

Long before the Baathists came to power, the argument in Damascus has always been that, although we accepted an independent Lebanon, we will never tolerate or accept an anti-Syrian regime in Beirut. It’s just too close, too dangerous, and too interconnected with Syrian affairs. As a matter of fact, deep down, every Syrian administration since the republic was founded in 1932 has regarded Lebanon, albeit quietly, as a historical part of Syria.

A closer look at Syrian-Lebanese relations shows that when Bechara al-Khoury became Lebanon’s president in 1943, he had the full backing of the nationalist government in Damascus. So interrelated were the Khoury and Quwatli administrations that when a military officer toppled Quwatli in 1949, Lebanon refused to recognize him. As a result, Husni al-Za’im, the new master of Damascus, began toying with the idea of “occupying Lebanon and returning it to its due place in Syria.” He even funded and trained a paramilitary group to invade and annex Lebanon, prompting the Syrians to eventually force him to resign in 1952.

But Syrians also forced Khoury’s successor, Kamil Chamoun, to resign in the late 1950s, this time supplying the Lebanese with arms, funds, and logistics to bring down what Damascus described as an anti-Syrian and anti-Arab nationalist government in Beirut.

What the West fails to understand is that, from the Syrian perspective, it was not the least bit awkward or embarrassing to do any of this in Lebanon. From the Syrian perspective, the intruders were meddling in Syria.

* Sami Moubayed, PhD is a Syrian political analyst and author. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

July 27th, 2008, 6:56 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

First, I appreciate how much time you always put into your comments. I learn a tremendous amount from reading comments such as yours.

Second, I’m not currently using Linux, because I’m on a Mac. I fell in love with the Mac OS-X, and never looked back. I can’t imagine using Windows anymore… (snobby me). However, I am thinking of using Linux on a PC laptop that I have, to see what it is like. I think I’ll try Ubuntu, as you suggested.

As for the iPhone, now might be the time to purchase one, after it finally has 3G capabilities, and has run through a generation or two. I’m still waiting for my “Modu”… (see its CEO, the guy that invented the Disk-on-Key:

July 27th, 2008, 6:59 pm


norman said:

I do not know why they keep trying to pull Syria away instead of having a full deal that includes everybody.

Theodore H. Kattouf

THE recent compromise on power sharing in Lebanon spares the country further bloodshed, and allows its people to return to a modicum of normalcy. However, the underlying causes of the conflict remain, and Lebanon continues to be an arena where external powers play out their rivalries.

Unless and until Syria and the United States reach a grand bargain, the Lebanese will continue to pay the price.

It should now be clear to the most casual observer that Syria’s military withdrawal from Lebanon was hardly the end of its influence there. Iran and Syria are in an alliance to thwart US and Israeli objectives in the region whenever and wherever they can. Despite the overwhelming military advantages the United States and Israel enjoy over their adversaries, Iran and Syria have been particularly adept at playing the spoiler through proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraqi tribal groups, and Shia militias.

Through much of its second term, the administration of US President George W. Bush has been loath to engage in a prolonged and serious dialogue with Syria, instead preferring attempts to isolate and marginalise its leadership. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, for his part, has borrowed pages from his late father’s playbook to demonstrate that there are no lasting solutions to regional problems without Syria. Yet even Turkish-brokered negotiations between Israel and Syria have not enticed the United States away from its policy of ignoring Syria diplomatically while throwing verbal jabs at the regime whenever it can.

The Israelis have been more pragmatic by far in dealing with Syria than has the Bush administration. The current Israeli government and its military/security leadership have concluded that they are “better off with the devil they know than the devil they don’t.”

This reasoning helps to explain why Israel went to great lengths in the summer of 2006 to assure Syria that it was not the target of Israel’s war with Hezbollah. It also helps to explain the lack of Israeli leaks after the bombing of an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria. Meanwhile, even after the Bush administration tried to discourage indirect Israeli talks with Syria about the Golan heights, Israel cautiously went ahead.

Both Israel and Syria recently concluded that making these talks known is advantageous to them. In the Israeli case, they can pressure the Palestinians for more concessions by suggesting they have another option for peacemaking. The more strategic reason is of course the hope that Syria can be weaned from its 30-year alliance with a nuclear ambitious Iran.

For its part, Syria wants to ensure its relevance and better position itself with the next US administration while the clock runs out on the current one. However, both leaderships know that even if they can agree on the terms of peace, the US government’s role is indispensable to concluding, supporting, and enforcing a treaty.

All of this leaves Lebanon in limbo. Hezbollah has demonstrated that there is no combination of other forces in Lebanon that can challenge its military predominance. And Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has left no doubt that his spiritual guide is Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. As its influence with the group diminishes, Syria can no longer promise to disarm Hezbollah’s militia in the context of a peace treaty with Israel and a positive new relationship with the United States.

It can, however, shut down the Iranian supply pipeline to Hezbollah through Syrian territory. Syria could be even more Machiavellian and work with the United States and others to strengthen the more secular elements in Lebanese society in the context of full peace.

The Syrian regime cares first and foremost for its survival. If ushering in a new relationship with the United States and signing a peace treaty with Israel enhances its prospects for longevity, it will go that route – even at the expense of Iran and Hezbollah. If such a deal is not forthcoming, Syria will continue to play the spoiler role to the best of its considerable abilities.

It is important that a new US administration work with Israel and our Arab allies to concoct a strategy that can pry Syria away from Iran. Despite the longevity of their alliance, the two regimes – one secular, the other theocratic – have little philosophically in common other than their shared insecurities concerning Israel and the West.

Thankfully, Syria appears open to a grand bargain, including perhaps one that could stabilise Lebanon without compromising that country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

(Theodore H. Kattouf is a former US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Syria. He is currently the president and CEO of AMIDEAST ( and is on the Middle East board of Search for Common Ground. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.)

July 27th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:


The 4-comment limit for AIG came after a year of trying to convince him in other ways to not drag everyone here into bitter arguments that keep escalating until everyone else abandons the comments section.

So many of people wrote to me to tell me that they are not interested in the comments section because it turned into AIG’s playground.

It is easier for me to simply count the number of his comments than to read each word he writes to find out where (not if) he is provoking others.
Why four comments? .. because according to the stats, I (the moderator) managed with daily 3.2 comments the past year. Limiting him to four is fair.


At that stage, when you are asked to login, can you simply retype the address of SC an it should remember to next time give you the graphical version… Try it then write me an email if you still have problems.

July 27th, 2008, 7:45 pm


Shai said:


Two things worry me most when I read articles like these, especially written by so-called experts such as this former ambassador to the region:

1) That they truly believe it is in the U.S. (or Israel’s) best interest to isolate Syria from Iran, and that it is even possible to do.

2) That even if they believe it, they allow themselves to voice this opinion out loud, clearly harming and undermining any such theoretical possibility, even in the most remote sense.

July 27th, 2008, 7:48 pm


Off the Wall said:


Here you go. I start by highlighting the positives for McCain

The positives for McCain

During one of the 2000 presidential debates, Al Gore made what some consider as one of his biggest mistakes. While george bush was answering one question, Gore, a much taller and imposing man, stepped out from behind the podium and walked in Bush’s direction. For a second bush hesitated. You could feel a physical tension. And that was the moment Gore’s image, became not only that of a bland candidate, but also of a bully. While many will continue to contest the integrity of both 2000 and 2004 elections, there is no doubt that they both were very close election. And in such close races, a candidate can benefit more from being the “under-dog” candidate than from being a “security”, “change”, or “family” candidate. Voters who will vote based on issues, would have settled for their candidates, but undecided voters, struggling as they are with their own priorities, can be persuaded by such imagery.
Over the past few weeks, the press has focused Obama’s stellar performance during his world tour. And that gave McCain a window of opportunity to portray himself as a victim of a one sided press, and to introduce himself slowly as an “underdog ” candidate. Obama’s confident posture during his world tour have gave his opponents another window of opportunity to portray him not as being presidential, but as acting as a president. With their traditional mistrust of “self-anointed” politicians, particularly those who are very sophisticated individuals, such an image may hurt Obama with a small, but important section of undecided voters. Americans want a humble candidate, who is magically transformed into a strong leader exactly as she/he utters “so help me god” on inauguration day. Bush has played this game well against Gore in 2000, as well as against Kerry in 2004.

Most Americans are eager for change. Bush’s popularity is at an all times low. Many of his own party’s congressional candidates are running away from him like a plague. Yet, McCain continues to solidly identify himself with Bush’s war. Granted, the war is very unpopular, and most Americans, even those who were against the surge would like to believe that things are better in Iraq, and they are better. But the complexity of the real explanation stands a little chance of being discussed in comparison with the simpler, and probably more convenient attribution of this success to “Surge has worked” and “we are winning”. With everyone wanting to believe that we are winning, and by that hoping that the next president can now withdraw the majority of US forces from Iraq and begin the end of the costly unpopular war, McCain can claim full credit for plotting the strategy that corrected Bush’s folly. On the first day of the republican convention, Bush will hand the war banner to McCain, along with the security robe and will thank him profusely for standing his ground when Obama and the Democrats were asking for defeat. Expect his speach to be full of references to freedom and democracy, of feel good about American values and of self congratulations for beginning to win the war and assurances that McCain and only McCain can end this war “honorably” and confront the Iranian menace. This will depend on whether the cooler heads in the State department continue to prevail against Chainy’s and the Neoconservatives’ rush to start another war against Iran and on Israel not taking such initiative before the convention and/or before the election in November. The republican’s election machine is already mobilizing to that end, and no protestation or explanation from Obama’s camp will help Obama, for such will be a complex conversation, and unfortunately, it will only re-enforce an image of him as being too sophisticated and as someone trying to avoid giving our soldiers credit for winning the war.

On the other hand, the abysmal economic performance will hurt the republicans particularly in the congressional election. The cycle that started in 1996, when the south became solidly republican is about to end. But I expect that to some extent, the republican losses in congress will be correlated to the difference between the two presidential candidates. Some voters, particularly independent voters have a tendency to ballance out their own vote by voting for opposing parties. If they vote in a democrat for president, they are slightly more likely to vote a republican for the house or senate. This would probably reduce the size of the expected democratic majority in congress, but not likely to return it to republican control. Another factor in that is the loyalty to incumbents at local districts.

McCain’s Pitfalls

Making the case as a maverick republican and as an independent politician is becoming an uphill battle for McCain. Sooner or later, he will have to abandon any attempt to reclaim his legendary, but nowadays arguable maverick status and resign himself to campaigning on the apparent calm in Iraq and on his no-compromise policy with Iran and other countries. His campaign associates continue to make statements that betray their lack of touch with the gravity of how difficult life has become to many Americans especially in the past two years. Everyday, his campaign finance reformer status is also being challenged by non other than his own associates. One after another, questionable lobbying connections of some of his leading advisors, and potential cabinet members, are being exposed. The dollar amounts are not that big, but the implications on McCain as the candidate of a corrupt party that is only interested in the welfare of the wealthy and oil companies is not insubstantial.
McCain’s foreign policy lead is also evaporating fast. His gaffs are not funny, and they serve to enforce a sinister and unfair notion of an “old” senile candidate. With two weeks, this policy stalwart has made 4 references to a country that no longer exists, expanded Iraq’s borders to Pakistan, and showed himself as incapable of correcting simple errors. He is starting to act irrationally and impatiently in press conferences, such as the case when he completely ignored the WSJ reporter as a response to a previous article. In essence his honeymoon with the press is over, and the press will no longer propagate old cliché s about him. An added difficulty is McCain’s own insistence on following, to the letter, Chainy’s energy policy. Most Americans now recognize the fallacy of the proposal that drilling in ANWAR will help reduce gas prices. And they are becoming very agitated about an energy policy that will have immediate impacts on their own pocket books. McCain has avoided any in depth involvement in the housing and mortgage crisis is hurting him with the average voters.

While it is unlikely that the Democratic party establishment would accept Chuck Hagel as Obama’s running mate, Hagels active involvement in Obama’s campaign would be a nightmare scenario for McCain, who to begin with, does not enjoy a strong support among both independent minded republicans, and evangelical Christiansen. The latter group has not yet forgiven him for his stance during the 1999-2000 primaries, even with their leaders supporting him. Among independent and libertarian minded republicans, Chuck Hagel is by far the true maverick in the senate. By joining Obama on his foreign policy tour, Hagel sent these voters a signal that he is the one initiating Obama on foreign policy. And some are beginning to talk about him as secretary of defense or of state. Liberals, on the other hand, find Hagel as both economically and socially too conservative, but they would be more than willing to overlook that because of his credentials as one of few politicians who never failed to criticize Bush’s Iraq policies before and after the war. His military service is no less impressive than McCain. In fact, he made the tour on the todays talk shows and has highlighted that “McCain is on thin ground criticizing Obama for this tour”. Whether he is a VP or not, unless he unquestionably endorses McCain, he is, by default is considered in the Obama camp. This is a big boost for Obama.

Obama’s only left problem from now until mid-September would be the Clinton die-hard supporters. The only way for him to gain these supporters is to get a forceful endorsement from Bill Clinton with him, Bill, and Hillary standing on the stage together. A group hug would be very helpful. But, with energy prices not showing significant decline, and food prices rising sharply, McCain’s ability to woo this group is declining by the day. And even if Obama does not select Clinton as his VP, a majority of this group will end up in his camp as the economic situation grows more desperate and McCain continues to ally himself with the careless policies of Bush.

In summary, McCain still has a small chance of pulling it, but these chance is declining by the day. He is beginning to play harsh, but his tactics are not very successful due to his strong alliance with the bag of liability called Bush. The voters are ready for change, and Obama, although his poll numbers have not risen as sharply as expected lately, continues to be the candidate of change and hope. It remains to be seen if Obama will dust out his constitutional scholar credentials to assure Americans that he will be the candidate bringing real constitutional integrity to the oval office. It is possible that he has not done so in order to avoid being labeled as too intellectual. I think that his supporters should highlight his constitutional credentials. But that could be done during the convention.

July 27th, 2008, 8:13 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thank you very much for the explanation. Very reasonable. Come to think of it, i now recall the 3.2 number and i apologize for not going back to your original posting on the matter.

July 27th, 2008, 8:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex: what is the URL for Syria Comment Mobile?

Ammo Norman: good article, thanks.

Averroes, Karim, OTW, etc.: With respect to AIG, I think he is right about one thing, namely the 60+ years issue. Sure, there are historical vicissitudes that complicate matters and which need to be kept in mind, but let’s be honest with each other: the region is a bloody mess.

There must be an alternative to a palace coup or an invasion on the one hand, and blind plodding along with the status quo on the other.

I am continuously struck by the quality of discourse on SC, but we scarcely ever direct it at the internal issues.

July 27th, 2008, 10:07 pm


Off the Wall said:

I watched the video, and I googled Modu’s website. Did you see the GPS option (I am a sucker for GPS).

The only thing missing is a laptop PCMCIA option. I hope the next generation MODU will consider such option along with software to facilitate that. But again, devices like Modu will probably replace laptops in many applications.

Unfortunately, my current provider is rather slow in adopting new phone technology and inflexible in allowing customers to buy phones independently. I am considering a switch to AT&T, which is more flexible in allowing a variety of phones.

I like ubuntu because I got tired of the tyranny of Windows and its applications. The Ubuntu desktop is much cleaner, with a lot of Mac-like functionality. It is very customizable without burdening the computer with layers of unnecessary intermediary DLLs. Same as Mac, processes do really sleep when they are not in use and do not wake up all of the sudden to hog the entire memory and CPU. (This is not an expert oppinion, it is merely my observation).

July 27th, 2008, 10:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Speaking of technology… has anyone tried to call up their hometown in Syria on Google Earth? Not sure what the resolution looks like. Lebanon is pretty well mapped. I can find my grandparents’ apartment building in the Metn, in addition to my parents in Beirut.

July 27th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Karim said:

Averroes,i’m sorry but your history knowledge is in need to be improved ,you insist in repeating the Nasserian,Baathist version of history.I asked you give me your sources you didnt ,i asked you the names of one or two shia scholars who are not takfiri or rafidi,you didnt(they exist and if you want i will give you their names)then worse ,you finished with nasrollah …nasrollah is a takfiri and it’s possible to confirm this with a youtube link.Now if he avoid to hurt the muslims in a direct way ,it’s because by fear for his image in the arab world which is 90% sunni.
Now let me to rectify your mistakes …
Averroes:Do you really think it is OK in mainstream Sunni Islam to criticize Sahaba?
Yes of course,the stories that you spoke about were all reported by Sunni historians and traditionalists like al Tabari ,Ahmad Ibn Hanbal,Al Timidhi,Abu Dawud,Al Boukhari ….the overwhelming of the sunni traditional scholars criticized Muawiya,and among them the rigourist imam Ahmad.It’s clear that Ali had the right over Muawiya…but it doesnt mean that Muawiya was a kafir as say the shia rafidis ,he was in reality one of the greatest and most intelligent ruler in History ,he integrated the Greek culture in the Islamic state and allowed the christians to remain in their post for the sake of the Islamic Umma.We are in need of a genious politician like Muawiya in these difficult times.Ali was also wrong when he felt in the trap of the Ommayads and refused to follow the advice of those who will become the Khawarij,they were allies but in the end they slaughtered each others ..So for us nobody is perfect …all of those are humans and as rulers they are humans they took sometimes bad decisions.To summarize it ,in politic Muawiya was supperior to Ali ,In Religion there is no doubt that Ali was superior.And btw ,Imam Hasan accepted the califat of Muawiya and received protection from him.
Now all of these stories that Sultan Selim slaugtered the Nusayris (regime propganda say 2 millions)there was a battle ,but there was no known big massacres.In reality as i said above the Alevis who are close to the nusayris had very important position in the ottoman army.So how could you explain some of the elite forces of the Ottomans were alevis and in the same times they were persecuted?This is not true at all ,they were free to build their Takaya and Cemevi and many of those still exist in Albania and even one in Hungary.
Averroes:You have a matter-of-factly, approving tone of the mass conversions carried out by the Turks, and Sultan Selim’s way of cleansing the empire. Am I right in assuming that you approve of that?
I told you when the Ottomans invaded the arab world ,the Shias were already small minorities and in fact they were always minorities in the Islamic world even during the Ismaili Fatimi era,do you know one land in this earth islamized by shias ?Shia religion is based on al batiniya ,taqiyya and insulting the wife of the prophet and sahaba,it’s normal that the relations with them is always difficult and suspicious.Now they will remain among us for ever and this is why i would like that they change and reform their beliefs in order to be integrated in the islamic world …if not they will remain using taqqiya and when they have the opportunity they will commit their revenge massacres like it happened in Iran ,who was a Sunni country and here you can speak about genocides and give them other opportunity they will repeat it as they tried in Iraq and Hama.

OTW,i sympathize with your idea but these husayniyat were build in places in which there are no guess what’s the regime aims ?Otv they brought the most extremist shia takfiri like Abdulhamid al Muhajir from Kuwait,or Al Shirazi and iraqi of iranian origin.Go listen on you tube what they say on the people of Damascus ,the Sahaba and the honor of the prophet.
Ugarit,they flout the honor of the prophet when they say that his wife commited zina and 99% of his companions betrayed him and are kufars….how can we accept that for a prophet ?These shia views were instrumentalized by all those who wanted to reduce the prophet to a weak personality.

July 27th, 2008, 10:29 pm


Off the Wall said:


There must be an alternative to a palace coup or an invasion on the one hand,

That was my argument to AIG

and blind plodding along with the status quo on the other.

That is where I failed to articulate, mainly because I have no clear answer, but I tend to go for gradual building of civil society institutions. I believe, barring a major conflict, and If peace is to be a reality including a stable Lebanon, we may see a new political parties law in Syria within 5-10 years timeframe.

With respect to AIG, I think he is right about one thing, namely the 60+ years issue. Sure, there are historical vicissitudes that complicate matters and which need to be kept in mind, but let’s be honest with each other: the region is a bloody mess.

Agree 100%. But you know AIG, in his rush to highlight differences, and to accuse everyone here of being “zelem” for dictators, the good part of his comments gets lost. I think if AIG changes tactics, he will be surprised as to how much people agree with him on the need for liberal democracy, but make no mistake, not with the method that involves killing and mayhem. Or with any method that would replace one corrupt class by another class of war profiteers and tribal sectarian leaders.

July 27th, 2008, 10:54 pm


norman said:

Private Electric power plan,

Cham Holding to Operate Syria’s First Private Power Plant
A joint-venture involving the Kharafi Group will build and operate a 750 MW power plant in Syria, the first to be run by a private sector firm in over four decades.
Wednesday, July 23 – 2008 at 11:07
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Kharafi Cham, a Syrian-Kuwaiti firm, will build Syria’s first private power plant following an agreement with the Ministry of Electricity, according to SANA.

The plant will have a capacity of 750 MW and will be built in Jandar near Homs, next to the existing 450-MW plant built by Mitsubishi. It will be the first power plant to be operated by the private sector.

The two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding and it is not clear yet when a formal agreement will be inked.

The entire production and supply chain of the electricity sector in Syria is in the hands of the state, although the Ministry had announced that it was seeking to attract private investors on Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis.

In an interview with The Syria Report last April, Hisham Mashfej, Director-General of the Public Establishment for Electricity Generation and Transmission (PEEGT), had said he was negotiating with potential investors, whose major worry, he added, was the supply of gas and other sources of energy to feed the plants.

According to the Minister of Electricity, Ahmad Al-Ali, the ministry will purchase electricity from Kharafi Cham’s plant, at agreed prices, while gas supplies will be at the Ministry’s expense.

Kharafi Cham is a joint-venture between Cham Holding and three Kuwaiti firms (Kharafi Group, Kuwaiti Syria Holding Company (KSHC), and Kuwaiti Privatization Project Holding Co (KPPH)). It was established earlier this year with a capital of SYP 5 billion to tender for large utilities project.

The venture is one of many established between Cham Holding and Gulf companies. Two others are Emaar Cham, in joint venture with Emaar, which will focus on real estate projects, and Amlak Finance-Syria, in joint-venture with Amlak Finance, to supply home finance solutions.

Cham Holding groups around 70 major Syrian businessmen including Mr Rami Makhlouf, Nabil Kuzbari and Imad Ghreiwati.

According to Mr Mashfej, the Ministry of Electricity plans to add 4,500 MW in generating capacity in the coming three years.

July 27th, 2008, 10:59 pm


Off the Wall said:


I mapped many places in Aleppo including the “benayeh” where my Mom lives. The quality was outstanding. I even took a tour along the seacoast and was shocked and surprised to see how much development has occurred along my favorite spots.

I was also able to find the spot in the Magnificent Public Garden, where I used to sneak away to smoke a cigarette (not the seat, but the spot) 🙂

July 27th, 2008, 11:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Gradual building of civil society institutions? How can you say that with a straight face after 60 years of hearing the same mantra from Arab “intellectuals”? Did you already forget the “intellectuals” lining up to give excuses for Nasser’s dictatorship? Do you not see that even though you like liberal democracy you are de facto supporting the dictators by always giving excuses why democracy needs to wait 10 year? Or by tying the issue of peace to democracy? How is one related to the other? It is just an excuse for the dictators.

You seem to think you are dealing with people that haven’t read what Arab intellectuals have been writing for decades. But we do that in Israel. And if you would go read Al-Ahram from the 60’s or Tishrin from the 80’s you would see that you are regurgerating the SAME BS. Nothing has changed except there is a little less emphasis on Arab Nationalism.

In the end, actions speak much louder than words. How long can you keep saying you support liberal democracy and keep giving Asad’s regime excuses to stay in power and not make even the slightest reforms?

There is no problem finding Arab “intellectuals” that are for liberal democracy and international law. These are a dime a dozen. They line up to be invited to conferences with naive souls from the West. What is hard to find in the Arab world is a liberal intellectual that really believes what he says and is prepared to act on it. And the few that exist, the Arab regimes hit those especially hard because they know they are a viable alternative, not like the frightning Muslim Brotherhood.

And that is what Bashar has done. How can there be democracy in Syria in even 10 years if a peaceful man like Kilo is in jail? If Bashar is not prepared to let the Kilo’s of the world speak, who is he prepared to let speak?

So get off your high horse and make a choice. Are you really for liberal democracy? Or, are you for liberal democracy except in Syria?

July 27th, 2008, 11:19 pm


Off the Wall said:


One of the header titles in your posting attracted my attention
“Gulfsands sacrifices top executives to continue development of Syrian oil find”

I can not repost the article because of the unambiguous copyright statement at its end, but here is the link. It is an interesting reading. Makhlouf owns slightly over 6% of the shares in Gulfsands. And the company not only sacrificed its CEO and CFO, but is actually moving its HQ operation to London because of the new treasury department sanctions on Rami Makhlouf. Without getting into the Syrian and/or regime part of it, I just wonder how many jobs are now lost in Houston.

BTW: If i read the companies financial statement for 2007 correctly, their equity was $100 Million split 70%+ 23%+ between the US and Syria, respectively, with the remaining in Iraq and other places

July 27th, 2008, 11:28 pm


ugarit said:

Karim: “Ugarit,they flout the honor of the prophet when they say that his wife commited zina and 99% of his companions betrayed him and are kufars….how can we accept that for a prophet ?These shia views were instrumentalized by all those who wanted to reduce the prophet to a weak personality.”

The above “answer” DOES NOT address your question “who [Shi3a] insult the honnor of the prophet in front of you?”

You actually had this happen in front of you or are you reading “historical” books?

I can assure you as a person from a Shii background I have never ever heard a single Shii make this accusation against the prophets wife.

The suspicion that his wife committed adultery pre-dates Shiism by many many years and before the Arabs even reached the Euphrates, so your information does not fit the historical time line.

July 27th, 2008, 11:41 pm


Karim said:

Ugarit,i believe you ,i know that in Syria ,the shia sects respected the sahaba and the wife of the prophet and we never had problems with our own shia community …as i said once ,some shia families from Lebanon moved to Damascus in the the begining of the 20th century and built their schools like al Amine family and they were integrated without any problem in the damascene body.Ugarit,it’s not possible for the shas to antagonize the Islamiw world(even with taqqiya)if they want to be respected ,if not they will be answered by violence and for what reason the syrian regime brings these takfiri rafidi from iran,iraq,kuwait,lebanon to Syria ?btw you can listen to their vilest insults against the sahaba and the wife of the prophet on youtube….if you want the links ,i’m ready.
Here is a sample :

July 28th, 2008, 12:05 am


trustquest said:

I enjoyed reading your analysis on the election, very attentive review for the two candidates and I think you have articulated balanced and eloquent comments enriching this forum. You mentioned civil society building as one of the best vehicle for change in Syria, but none of your comments mentioned what the regime are doing to the civil society and how he thrown them in prison. I’m not a fan of just reading or just commenting as luxury, I think as an expat, I owe my country of birth something back to defend those in prison and defend their struggle for free speech in a totalitarian State over lived its time for over 60 years. I would like to know your views regarding the regime stands against the civil society and I would like to know how immigrants in the USA can contribute for change in your views.
Alex, you asked what I mean in my last comment, I mean that I placed couples of comments and did not go through.
BTW, for mapping, I prefer: Wikimapia, it is more fun than google earth and you read places name and intrigueing comments.

July 28th, 2008, 12:29 am


Off the Wall said:


At risk or raising your ire one more time. This is a blog, it is not a political party, nor it is an underground human right organization. People on this blog retain anonymity for various reasons. And you or I, have no way of knowing what any one participant is doing in her or his personal life in terms of actions.

People in Syria have rejected your approach. May be because of government pressure. But it is also possible that they did not like what you offer at the barrel of the tank. Call them inconsistent, call them afraid, non-democratic, whatever, but you can not shove your democracy by destruction, killing, and mayhem down their throat.

What you are doing is not different from the orientalists during the colonial era. You claim to know what is better for the natives, and you want to civilize them. You want to force liberal democracy as the only viable system, and even if I assume good intentions on your side, you are very impatient and even willing to take away their fundamental right of self determination by imposing only a single model on them. As you said a while a go, I am a new contributor here, but one thing struck me in your fanatic defense of democracy, is that although you keep talking about Arabs, Arab intellectuals, Liberal democracy in the Arab world, I have not read you once mention the name of a single Egyptian, Saudi, Jordanian, Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Libyan, or Tunisian political prisoner. Your canned statements are very obvious because the only political prisoner you talk about is Kilo, while many others continue to languish in prisons in Syria and in other places. Is it because that when the Jordanian PM proposes two new highly restrictive laws, you are OK with that because these laws are meant to restrict Islamists only, or is it because you never really bother knowing but like to ride high on this forum by repeating the same argument over and over again. I have no way of knowing.

You have one thing to say, you said it. I hope your vision never happens the way you want it to happen. Call me what you want, but I value the lives of my people and I do not want them wasted to enrich Israeli or American weapon manufacturers. Either way, they are stealing progress from me here and killing innocent people in many places on earth, including many children, who have not yet had the chance to decide whether liberal democracy, communism, or baathism is the system they want. These are not sacrifices for democracy, these are war crimes. But what do i know, killing children is something you are used to supporting in Lebanon, the west bank, and Ghaza. How different are you from a hamas militant, look in the mirror, you are as fundamentalist as zealot as any one of them.

July 28th, 2008, 12:37 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Trustquest
The tools I know about i learned mostly in the state where the system is mature and the judicial system is part and parcel of democratic guarantees. I may sound confrontational with my answers to AIG, and sometimes to Karim, but i am the least confrontational person in reality and tend to favor creative out of the box and off the wall nonviolent solutions. I think one of the ways we can contribute is to make sure that if Obama becomes the next president, some of us may want to make sure that he receives a full list of political prisoners before heading to syria and a strong, yet polite encouragement that he brings the subject up and make sure that addressing their situation is part and parcel of good relationship with the US. We also need to be smart enough to encourage him not to issue threats, but to make his commitment to human rights rather simple and clear. Of course cleaning up the mess in Guantanamo and closing all secret detention centers would be an excellent idea, for it will enforce his credibility both in Syria and Internationally.

Here is a possible, but probably naive “coup”, Obama and Assad can both have a joint statement, with Maher Arrar standing next to them. The two presidents issue sincere appology to Maher and to other prisoners. It would be a strong chance for the two presidents to affirm their joint commitment and the commitment of their two governments to work together on starting a sincere effort to reform the Syrian legal system. With peace either having been materialized or on the verge of being so, another nudge from the new friends in the US will be directed towards abandoning emergency laws and their offshoots.

It will take a great deal of non-threatening diplomacy. I think Syria is in need of true american friendship, and there is no need to bully the country or its current leadership into that.

If McCain is the next president. I am afraid that I have no idea how to go about that. I think a belligerent US policy will only aggravate the situation and push back any further chance of reform.

By the way, i do not think parading the regime in front of congress or in the US media is of any help. It will only antagonize the regime, and will result in its being able to justify further crackdown under the guize of combating a conspiracy against Syria. Facts can be made available and in fact most are available openly through human rights organizations including those working under grave conditions in Syria. Demands should be made discretely, and should be reasonable and achievable as a first step. I do not like any of us to be used as a hero and by that becoming a tool, we should be very responsible and careful. And must remember that we want the “3enab” not the murder of the “natour”. Karim reminded us today of the first Omayyad who once said, “if there is a hairline thread between me an people I will never cut it, if the pull, i will loose a little, if they loosen a little, I will pull, but I will never allow it to cut”. Also, “Iza Aradta an tuta3, fatlub almustata3”.

July 28th, 2008, 1:00 am


Alex said:


Are you serious?!

From now on, if you try to post a comment and you don’t see it, send me an email to let me know. I can still recover it up to few hours after you post.

If you do not attack other commentators then no one will care what you wrote.

July 28th, 2008, 2:08 am


Qifa Nabki said:

OTW said:

Agree 100%. But you know AIG, in his rush to highlight differences, and to accuse everyone here of being “zelem” for dictators, the good part of his comments gets lost. I think if AIG changes tactics, he will be surprised as to how much people agree with him on the need for liberal democracy, but make no mistake, not with the method that involves killing and mayhem. Or with any method that would replace one corrupt class by another class of war profiteers and tribal sectarian leaders.

Fine, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t really even discuss these issues when AIG is NOT around. When someone else like Karim brings it up, then people accuse him of being an Ikhwani. When Majhool or Bashmann bring it up, then it’s because they are unreasonable oppositionists. Tayeb who’s going to bring it up, then? And I’m talking details, not vague gestures towards liberal democracy (which I’m guilty of as well, let me assure you!)

As for violence and the price of change… sure, nobody wants to see another Iraq. But, as any Hizbullah partisan will tell you, facts on the ground aren’t gonna change without some horseplay. I’m all for not killing the natour but as long as there is zero strategy about obtaining the 3enab peacefully, gradually, but non-negotiably, we’re heading for more misery.

(And this goes for every country in the region… but this is Syria Comment, after all.)

July 28th, 2008, 2:10 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Interesting intiative, sponsored by Abu Dhabi.

The Pen and the Sword

The problem is, though, so few people read books anyway… why would the subject matter change things?

In other news, this is rather embarrassing:

Lebanese Hezbollah Holds Meeting in Support of Sudanese President

Text of report by Lebanese National News Agency website

[LNNA headline: “Hezbollah organizes consultative meeting in support of Sudan and its President Umar al-Bashir”]

A consultative meeting was held this morning at the invitation of Hezbollah. The meeting, which included nationalist parties, Palestinian factions, local figures and organizations, and the charge d’affaires of the Sudanese Embassy at the head of a delegation, was held in support of Sudan and its President Umar Hasan al-Bashir. The meeting was first addressed by Husayn al- Khalil, the political aide to the secretary general of Hezbollah, who said:

“We in Hezbollah are honoured to meet with you today in defence of a national, pan-Arab, and Islamic cause, which is to stand side by side with our brothers in Sudan – leadership and people. This is because this beloved country is facing an ugly conspiracy to undermine its unity, freedom, and independence.”

He added: “The peoples of our region, which is currently in the midst of a historic battle with world arrogance and its dominant forces, are recording the most splendid epics in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, moving the nation from victory to victory and dealing successive blows to the US and Israeli plan. These peoples are now called upon to defend the vanguards of their resistance and liberation movements in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Perhaps, what happened to our kinfolk in Palestine for scores of years and is still happening today and what is currently happening to wounded Iraq, and what is also being planned against brotherly Sudan confirm without the slightest shade of doubt that the process of mutilation and disintegration led by the United States is the core of a hostile plan, which aims controlling the destinies of the nation and its countries, plundering their resources, and enslaving of their peoples.”

He continued: “The deteriorating and weak condition of the official Arab order, which is witnessing daily conflicts between its components and sinking deep in the laps of the US plan, is the one that has made the tools of world crime or what are now called international courts dare to make unprecedented decisions against Arab kings and presidents. If anything, this indicates the humiliation of this ominous official order. The vicious efforts that are being exerted by the United States in the heart of our Arab World aim at changing the real direction of the conflict, split the Arabs into blocs of moderation and extremism and stab at our national crucial issues with Arab hands and portray the Islamic peoples and states such as Iran, which supports us with all its power and capabilities, as a great threat to the Arabs, and exert pressure in order to establish normal and peace alliances with our historic enemy; namely, the Zionist entity; all that constitutes a strong entry of US influence into the heart of our world and society on the political, cultural, and military levels.”

He said: “The unfair and condemned decision which has been made against His Excellency President Umar Hasan al-Bashir and that is aimed at brotherly Sudan – leadership, government, and people, with all their factions, forces, and parties including the Sudanese opposition forces, is aimed at all the noble forces, parties, and liberation movements that oppose the US-Israeli plan. This is in addition to the official regimes. It is also aimed at all the positions of power and opposition in this beloved nation. The painful reality of the official Arab order does not exempt us at all as peoples and liberation movements from assuming our full role in confronting any hostile action against any Arab country and backing its beloved people.

Concluding, he said: “We in Lebanon, the whole of Lebanon, where we went through all experiences in fighting the Zionist occupiers and invaders and where our people made great sacrifices for the liberation of our country and the preservation of our dignity, and who are living these days one of the landmarks of great victory over the Israeli enemy; we who know very well the meaning of aggression, occupation, domination, and foreign interference, are called upon to take a responsible stand by extending the hand of aid to and express our support for our kinfolk and brethren in Sudan – leadership and people – a country, which has often assumed its historic national and Islamic responsibilities.”

Originally published by Lebanese National News Agency website, Beirut, in Arabic 1356 23 Jul 08.

July 28th, 2008, 2:19 am


norman said:


France is moving to Syria while the US is losing it’s chances at affecting Syrian politics and strategy , It is sad that the US does not miss a chance to miss a chance to improve it’s standing the Mideast.

Syria on threshold of major cooperation with France

07/27/2008 11:49 PM | By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News

Abdullah Dardari, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, is in Paris for talks with his French counterparts, including the French President’s general secretary Claude Gueant.

In addition to railroads, marine transport, gas, petroleum, and electricity cooperation, Dardari held talks with the world’s fourth-largest oil and gas company Total to renew a contract for oil extraction in Syria.

Dardari also discussed a 50 million euro loan from France. He expressed Syria’s desire to lease nine Airbus planes directly from France and obtain another 50 over the next 10-20 years.

Sunday’s visit, the first for a Syrian official since President Bashar Al Assad visited France in mid-July, comes in light of a newfound Franco-Syrian friendship, heralded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy after the election of Michel Sulaiman as president of Lebanon last May.

A Syrian source noted that Syria needs 10-15 airplanes, as the Syrian Accountability Act has left Syria’s plane fleet close to obsolete. According to the US law, Syria cannot purchase spare parts for its Boeing fleet; a crippling reality that has haunted Syrian Airways since 2003.

Back in the early 1980s, Syria bought its first six Airbus 320s (each with 150 passengers). In 2006, the country announced that it needed to buy another seven for a total worth of $500 million, but was prevented from doing so by under the Accountability Act. So, Syria went ahead and bought seven airplanes from Russia.

Samir Seifan, a Syrian economist, spoke to Gulf News and noted that the Dardari visit “comes in light of the resumption of warm relations between Damascus and Paris; just as they had been before. This opens a window of opportunity for Paris to play not only a political role but to strengthen economic relations between Syria and Europe. This can be in three domains: the peace process, signing of the EU Partnership Agreement with Syria before the end of 2008, and the Airbus deal.”

Already, a French company is to build two big cement factories in Syria worth $1.2 billion. By doing so, France will be breaking the western embargo on doing big deals in Syria, imposed by the US since 2003. It will also have an effect on international banks, which in the past, were reluctant to participate in Syrian deals because of the various layers of US sanctions. Commenting on signing the Partnership Agreement with Syria, however French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said, “My personal opinion is perhaps it’s a bit too early, we are going to have to wait and see how the dialogue between Israel and Syria develops, but we should be prepared to move forward.”

For the first time ever, Syria has achieved a trade surplus with France in 2007. Syrian exports reached $700 million compared with $500 worth of imports from France. “Syrian exports have risen due to the increase in oil prices as well as the diverse basket of Syrian goods exported to France,” said Frederic Choblet from the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

He noted, “France and the European Union support and encourage Syria’s policy taken in this regard.” France will strive to activate its relations with Syria as part of the EU’s plan to strengthen ties with the Mediterranean countries particularly in the environmental, transport and energy fields.

Another French ‘giant’ to re-enter the Syrian market in recent years is La Vache Qui Rit, outlawed in Syria since imports of all milk products was outlawed in 1982. Bel Group, the host company, has now set up its own production line in Syria, labelling itself as the second largest French investment in the country.

– The writer is a Syrian political analyst.

July 28th, 2008, 2:26 am


trustquest said:

Thanks OTW for your response,
I do not want to impose my views and what should be done by immigrants, but for sure I’m with this spectrum of which, against, with, opposition, appeasement, discussion and arguments. All these colors are reflections of the color of Syrian Society and should be respected and this new news for the authority who still force one color. For me this is a new world and no one should force his way and all we should respect each other and should never ask each other to change. This is one of the best message we send to the authority to make them accept all of us. My dream is have one day a web site can aggregate all these views and poll them to show in which direction we tilt and what we agree on, and then we can send a stronger message to the authority and to the regime. The Syrian Congress started this but sadly the regime counter attack prevented us from expressing our view freely. I feel that the regime still can follow the immigrants (17 millions), everywhere and force their laws on them even after they changed citizenry. Syrians are the only community in the Diaspora who do not mingle and are scared from each others. I wish we one day will have one voice on the things we can agree on and defend our rights and this will reflect greatly on the people still living there. I do not agree with your suggestion and I find myself contributing more when I show the real face of the totalitarian regime for what it is. I also do not find the waiting and gambling on any horse is reflective of the urgency to make a difference, and I do not see why we should be scared from such system while there is one guy outside to each one inside, are we waiting to have 3 out and 1 in. I do not want Mr. Obama to release those wonderful people from prison I need to see the immigrants have a one voice to support those wonderful people.

July 28th, 2008, 2:39 am


Averroes said:


You again throw a blanket of accuse that my knowledge is Baathist and Nassiri, and you totally ignore what I told you very clearly. I did not study in Syria, and not a single person in my family is a Baathist or Nasirist.

In return, I could say that you are repeating the Wahabi schools and reading from a famous book published by the Saudis about the “Tawa’if wal Nihal fi alAlam al Islami” Your writings, and your contineous defense of the Saudis betray that link.

How useful are these accusations and counter accusations?

Nasrallah is a takfiri? So basically you know better that Dr. Saleem al Awwa that I sent you a you tube link for. Dr. Awwa is a world-known Muslim (Sunni just so you’re happy) scholar who has a different opinion about Nasrallah. If you want a name of a Shiite scholar, there is Fadlallah of course, and there are others.

The fact is that your writings have a distinct signature of hate toward the people you call the “Rafidah”, and your solution to that is also a signature one. The solution you lust for was tried in Syria, with Saudi funding and inspiration in the 1979-1982 period. The fatwas, the references, the obsession with the Sahaba, and the utter hatred for everything non-Sunni are all signature and very distinct, thank you.

I am asking you to accept my invitation to rise above all that, but you have to accept it for us to move forward. If your mind filters out anything that does not fit your model, then we cannot go far.

In the end, I do not care for what you believe until you start advocating the forced conversion, deportation, and/or killing of these “others”. Pardon me, but you really have the same signature as these people that used to quote Ibn Taymiyya before setting out on killing missions in Syria: “Youqtaloun, wa Tusba Nisaa’uhum, wa Tou’khath Amwaluhoum Ghaneemah” [They are to be killed; their women and money to be taken]. Don’t hide it. This is what you have in store for those miserable Rafidah.

I will repeat to you again: I know very well what I’m talking about. More so than you could imagine. One of my BEST friends was an Ikhwanji, whose brother used to carry out “execution orders” of Alawite figures in Syria during that time. He told me a lot. How they would get the “fatwa” allowing the spilling of blood of a certain individual, how he dressed up, how he executed his crimes. That man was later trapped and killed in a major Syrian city and his entire family fled Syria. Today his old timer Ikhwanji brothers curse the day they joined the “Jama3a” as now they see how they were used as stupid pawns. My friend is an excellent person of good heart.

I’m willing to bet you that you have a huge Saudi influence on you. Maybe you have studied there, or currently work there. Maybe you happen to adore them like many Syrians do. Money and faith: a powerful combination.

Mu3ayia, ya Kareem, hijacked the soul of Islam and turned it into a monarchy forever. There is nothing you can say or do that would reverse that fact. But you are incapable of seeing it because you hold him, and many other companions at an untouchable position.

Who is your marji3? Who is your sheikh that you follow? I’m interested to know. I’m certain that you hate Bouti for instance, who is a “Sunni” scholar. You also would feel much more consistent if people like Saleem alAwwa did not exist. People like you would.

If you’ve going to issue authoritative declarations and cast labels upon people as a given, then we will not get too far. If you’re willing to engage in dialog, then maybe we could move. What say you, OFF THE WALL? Do we invite Karim over for a discussion over a Lahmeh b Karaz dinner?

July 28th, 2008, 2:43 am


Karim said:

Averroes,nasrollah hates the sahaba and the wife of the prophet ,this is of course true because he follows blindly the iranian regime ayatollahs orders .Fadlallah ok ,he is one of the few shia scholars who refuted these shia traditional views…do you have other names ?
As for Sheikh Al Buti ,i respect him as scholar but not for his hypocrit stance towards the regime btw he also attacked the iranian regime dirty propaganda and the mukhabarati cover on it and since then the regime refused to renew in his post one of nasrollah master as iranian embassador in Damascus and i follow nobody,why shoud i follow him or another if i have a brain and faith.I’m not a sheep to follow men and this is unhealthy for our society to have marja3iyat ,it will bring more divisions and this is not a sunni tradition ,we dont have clerical system in sunni islam.And i understand Bouti hypocrisy because we live under a special regime.
And btw Averroes,who is one of my favorite thinker ,you should change this nickname because this philosopher is son of the Ommayad civilization in al Andalus if not them he would not have existed ,even if he lived during the era of the AlMowahidin rule.
Now ,as i said ,i have no problem if Mu3awiya is criticized ,and one of the the valid critics against Bani Ommaya it’s that they introduced the hereditary mechanism in al Khilafa.
But it’s strange that you hate all things related to the Islamic civilization and in the same time you are soft towards the regime that killed may be 100 000 syrians and humilated millions and praises the iranian regime and its followers ,who are the guardians of the shrine of Abu Lulua al Majusi killer of Omar ?
Averroes ,change your nickname to Abu Lulua.

July 28th, 2008, 3:19 am


Off the Wall said:


Let me spill out.

My first dilemma here is what right do I have having immigrated to the US and now living a reasonably decent life, with protections and legal guarantees to affect the political situation in Syria. I may cause some people to lose their liberty and perhaps their lives while:

(1) I am sitting here with my protection.
(2) I am unable to provide any real help without making their
lives even harder than it is.

This has been my own criticism of opposition in exile, not only Syrian opposition, but also others. To me, some of them (with emphasis on some) are no different from George bush, willing to sacrifice other people’s children for their cause. Granted some of them have paid a heavy price of being forced to live outside the country, and they desire a return. I was not forced into exile, except perhaps because I found life here to be more productive, which is a choice not a necessity. Nostalgic as I am, I do not really desire to return to Syria permanently. And will feel rather selfish and hypocritical telling others how to reach what I think is a good political system. The only thing I can do is to encourage the government of my adoptive country to start a constructive “win-win” dialogue. But would I be callous to ask them to impose economic sanctions on the country in manners that cause its children to die due to lack of medicine. I think that would be criminal.

HA partisans participate in horseplay. As such, they are in the midst of it. They are putting their lives on the line. But us here, I do not think so. Michel Kilo, Ryad Turk, and others are there, they are working and sacrificing day in day out in jails. Expats can, and should only give these brave people a voice, but not incite, in their names and absence, others to act irrationally. It is their earned right to lead and we should not take that from them.

As you can see from my post regarding McCain. I am much more familiar with the political situation here in the US. Before I can attempt to invent solutions and strategies for Syria or other Arab Countries, I must be well informed. Much Much more than where I am now. AIG mentioned that they read Arab intellectuals in Israel, well I have not done that in a long time except for my favorite collection of the late Edward Said. So the only thing I can do, is to try to make sure that the Syrians and Others have a chance to create their democracy without the utter and total destruction that was brought on in Iraq. I do not know if you feel as hopeless having failed to affect a stop to that criminal war. But I do, and I feel that I could have done more. This is why I am very vocal against any neoconservative notion of sacrifice and lofty creative destruction.

One way we can start here on SC is to have topical areas, where the discourse can only focus on one issue at a time. No one would be allowed to deviate from the issue and to go on tangential tracks like I do very frequently. Say for example, we can start discussing meaningful ways to ensure sectarian peace in a future Syria that does not involve closing any place of worship.

Another topical area may focus on how each one of us perceives our role as non-partisan, or partisan expats, and how can the two contribute constructively, which is exactly the question, and challenge you have kindly presented.

These are issue that Joshua as the owner of the site has to think about as he frames his own vision of this site. Even if this is a private site, and not hosted as his former site on a university server, Joshua is an academic with a very promising and already bright career, and as a colleague, though in a completely different field, I would hate myself forever if anything I post here on the site can inadvertently affect his career for the slightest and can be used to tarnish his reputation as a thoughtful, well informed, independent and neutral scholar.

Finally, here is something else to ponder.

Human right organizations like amnesty international do not assign their volunteers cases from their own countries. This rule allows them to create a network of activists, pushing for human rights worldwide, while each individual activist (case manager) can claim to their government that they are not interfering it its affairs. It gives them a reasonable protection. As far as the Syrian or Jordanian governments are concerned, if one of their citizens sends a letter to the the president of Tunisia requesting a release or a better treatment of a given Tunisian prisoner, they are less likely to harass that activist. I think Doctors without borders has a similar rule, but I am not so sure.

July 28th, 2008, 3:34 am


Averroes said:


Thank you. You have made my point. You cannot conceal your rage and hate, and your signature is distinctive and very very clear. Continue to shut off your mind and live in happy ignorance, where everything is pure black and white. Anything in between and you’re confused.

I am a Muslim, and I have no hate of Muslim history ya afandi; I just have learned to see through the marketing buffs that you so adore.

As for the nick name you choose for me: you’re so bankrupt answering me that you’re really pathetic.


July 28th, 2008, 3:35 am


Alex said:

Karim an Averroes,

I am enjoying your discussion, but please tr to not analyze each other. It will be even more interesting that way.

July 28th, 2008, 3:44 am


Alex said:

Red lines that cannot be crossed

Jul 24th 2008 | DAMASCUS
From The Economist print edition
The authorities don’t want you to read or see too much

FOR “defaming and insulting the administrative bodies of the state”, the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, Mazen Darwish, was recently sentenced to a salutary ten days in jail. His real crime was to report on riots in an industrial town near Damascus, Syria’s capital. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based lobby, said his case brought the number of journalists and “cyber dissidents” imprisoned in Syria to seven.

Mr Darwish may have got off lightly. In May Tareq Bayassi, aged 24, was jailed for three years for publishing “false news” on the internet after being detained without trial for almost a year. “The real reason for the sentence,” says another lobby, the online Committee to Protect Bloggers, “was his having posted an article on the shortcomings of the Syrian secret service.”

For several years Syria has been an enemy of the internet. The security services keep opposition figures and even ordinary bloggers under surveillance. The main internet service-provider bans 100-plus websites. Most sites carping at President Bashar Assad’s government are silenced, as are many Kurdish and Islamist sites. A yellow screen flashes up with the words “Access Denied”.

Even popular social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube were banned last year without explanation. They may be available at some of Syria’s many internet cafés, but the secret services are scrutinising them ever more closely. Surfing aficionados still manage to get access to the sites by using proxy addresses, but this can be tediously slow.

The latest casualties include the Arabic version of the reference site Wikipedia and Israel’s most liberal newspaper, Haaretz. “There’s not much logic about it,” said a Western telecoms engineer working in Syria, who had tried to reach the Logitech computer-hardware site without success. Hotmail has at times also been banned, though Yahoo! Mail has been untouched. The worldwide bookseller is blocked, yet—bizarrely—the company’s British website is open. Meanwhile, Syria’s government has signed a contract with a Chinese company to provide another 33,000 sought-after broadband lines.

Amid the confusion of what is banned or what is not, the cyber-sands often shift. A magazine in Damascus recently withdrew a story about the opposition and reprinted an altered issue after officials objected. “We thought it was quite favourable to the government as it was saying how weak and fragmented the opposition is,” says the editor. “It just shows how the red lines move.”

But in some areas there are signs of a tentative relaxation. The government has licensed several private radio stations, such as Mix FM, with its “Proud 2B Syrian” slogan. Amid an eclectic mix of Western rock, hip-hop and dance music, young, English-speaking presenters host live phone-ins of mostly idle chit-chat. Other talk shows have begun to tackle more delicate topics, such as the unpopular relocation of Damascus’s main bus station. That, so far, is about as daring as you can get.

July 28th, 2008, 4:34 am


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

First, many thanks for the wonderful summary of the McCain-Obama situation as you see it. The political reality in the U.S. is indeed very intricate, and most outside the U.S. rarely get a glimpse of it, in as much detail as you provided. There is something almost wonderfully bizarre, for instance, about voters who wish balance their choice of president by voting for the opposite party. It is this innate American need for checks-and-balances. My father-in-law (an American) once told me that unlike Political leaders in Europe or Israel, those elected in the U.S. begin their term with a grade of 0, not 100. They need to prove themselves every single minute of every single day, to be worthy of their constituents’ vote. Nothing is taken for granted. The tendency is to distrust first, and learn to trust with time, rather than the other way around. In Israel, for instance, it’s exactly the opposite. Although now, following endless corruption cases over the past many years, Israelis are also learning to distrust politicians. Maybe here too a serious revolution in checks-and-balances is required.

But getting back to the McCain-Obama race, I know someone that was close to McCain once, and she says he’s not the most “stable” guy in the world… I guess what you’re describing is perhaps demonstrating that. But what I find so odd about Americans that still consider voting for McCain, is this irrational need to justify the war on Iraq, or to even define it as a victory. Why? After Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Panama, why can’t Americans be strong enough to call a losing battle by its name? Why can’t they accept that in certain situations they were able to win (Germany, Japan), and in others they cannot? Does it make Americans less proud of their country? The opposite – they should celebrate the fact that they can replace a failing leader and a failed policy relatively quickly (once every 4 years). The way to move forward is not to keep patting oneself on the back, ignoring mistakes and their lessons as they come up. Almost regardless of what or who Obama is about, it should be almost a given that the Democrats would get the chance next. The Republicans screwed up horribly, in almost every way possible, and now democracy enables the opposition a chance to fix it. But to keep living in denial, because criticizing American policy and its leadership is so anti-American? Sometimes I wonder how America reached so far, with so much innate fear…

Thanks also for the IT thoughts. I’m also a bit of a gadget-lover… (boys will be boys). 🙂

July 28th, 2008, 4:37 am


Off the Wall said:


I guess I have that psychological hurdle to overcome. Reading TRUESTQUEST response, I think TRUESTQUEST has the better idea. Although it is an ambitious project, but having a unified expats voice, will not allow the regime to classify any group as opposition or loyals. It is simply a one voice asking the regime to take action in the name of 17,000,000 Syrians out of its reach. It makes sense, if the Syrian Expats can agree.


Thanks for your ideas. May be there is a place for both of our approaches, as long as I do not call your treason, and you do not call mine appeasement.As you know, labels are what have divided us and have been used effectively to maintain that division. The two approaches if done correctly,can be more effective than either one alone.

I like your idea of polling website. But is it achievable, and if so, how. I also appreciate your keen observation of the fact that our difference on this site are merely a reflection of the mosaic of Syria. We have to stop mistrusting each others.

QN again 🙂
Comments on Pen and Sward

A few weeks ago, AIG issued a challenge regarding not seeing Arab authors writing serious books about. I wanted to check his claim, and guess what, nothing has really changed since that famous 2002-2005 series of development report, especially with respect to the development of true political thoughts. I went to a couple of online Arabic bookstore, and most of the tranlated books were exactly the type of list presented by the pen and sward project. Some stories, some technical books, and non threatening book whatsoever.

Now here is another project. It may be less ambitious than TRUESTQUEST’s, but it is achievable. I call it DASATEER, plural for Dustoor. Let us translate, each from whatever language we feel comfortable with, the most fundamental democratic documents on the face of this earth into Arabic. These are all in the public domain, and I am sure, if not available, a call to any democratic country’s embassy would be answered with delight and a translated copy can probably be furnished in English. Now imagine having an Arabic website where these constitutions are presented, in Arabic, first without explanation or commentary to the Arab Street. You see, I am a teacher not an agitator or a warrior. I am not an intellectual, but I can present and teach. And what is better than popularizing the notion of constitutions.

In a second, or even a parallel phase, we can write in our own way, (in Arabic) description or even translate description of the working of various democratic government, this would be called (7ukoomat).

I am motivated by the three tenors. I am a classical music buff, and I was so happy that these three outstanding singers popularized Opera, and were followed by Pocelli. What a novel concept. Can we do that and show people, without imposing our own opinions, how true democracy work.

BTW, one way to do the 7ukumat or perhaps both, is to obtain a copy of the 7’th grade civic books from different countries. That way we keep it simple and not too academic. The whole idea is to popularize constitutional governments and to present alternative to “leader party” or sectarian constitutions. We can also present the various models of accountability as true Executive-Legislative-Judicial systems work. I think this is a meriting idea. What do you think.

July 28th, 2008, 4:45 am


Averroes said:


What a shame it is that men are truly and genuinely unable to open their minds. He’s cornered and he calls me Abu Lulua. The rank and file traditional teachings are so entrenched that all counter arguments are automatically blocked. This kind of mentality is truly dangerous. It is the mentality that made the Qaeda, the Ikhwaji gangs in Syria, and the Badr criminals in Iraq.

Cross them and you’re crossed out and marked up for elimination. Your very existence is something they cannot tolerate and would like to change: by forced conversions, prosecution, deportation, or physical elimination. They do not even attempt to hide it from their literature.

There are many things to be proud of in Islamic history, but there are also quite a few things that I cannot be so proud of. The man is simply incapable of calling out the mistakes. To him, if a man was around the Prophet for a few minutes, then that man becomes an infallible, unquestionable authority. If you criticize that man a little too harshly for his taste, then you’re marked for death. What kind of a country can we expect if these are the people that are hoping to “topple the regime” as he puts it. What kind of rights, or a judiciary system can we expect?

July 28th, 2008, 4:45 am


Shai said:


In that article above, was that photo taken to show the man reading a newspaper, or to sneak a shot at the lady walking near him? 🙂

On a serious note, why DOES Syria censor so much? I can understand it even 10-20 years ago (i.e. a regime wishing to keep certain views away from its public). But nowadays? When everyone has satellite TVs, and anyone with internet knows how to use proxy IPs? Having access to information today is easier than ever. So stopping it accentuates the limitation tenfold, and thus gains far fewer “points” or, rather, creates far more frustration. It’s like telling your teenage kid he can’t have a sip of alcohol. What’s he going to do? Go get slashed, around your back, time and again. And develop an innate distrust towards you, and probably lose a fair bit of respect for you. It’s a lose-lose situation. Why not the opposite – accentuate the freedom! Bashar once stated that every Syrian home would have a computer. Let him publicly celebrate the freedom of the Internet, and the ability of Syrians to “see the world” from their desktops. Won’t he (and his regime) win endless admiration that way, as opposed to the alternative?

Bashar should want every Syrian to visit blogs daily that call him a dictator. He should want every Syrian to read about the lack of freedoms in Syria. Can’t he see the logical benefits here?

July 28th, 2008, 4:49 am


Shai said:

Important words from Imad Moustapha to Israel:

July 28th, 2008, 5:32 am


Off the Wall said:


Your father in law is a very wise man. He is absolutely correct. Elected officials have to prove themselves to constituents at several levels. First there is the ideological level, where for example christian fundamentalists would monitor the vote of every official they elect to ensure if she/he is getting them to closer to accomplish one or more of a basket of targets (e.g. reversing abortion rights, school vouchers, supreme court selection, ….). A second level is the local level, in which a congresswoman sent to DC with the expectation that she will bring federal money to her district. Everybody complains about the so called “pork barrel”, which are basically amendments inserted into major bills that send a lot of money to this or that congressional district, be it to build a library, to establish a university research center, and for a while, to keep a military base within the district when the army was reorganizing. As the saying goes, all town elders visit the town’s prostitute, but all are first to condemn her. This also relevant to my favorite corruption of democracy and that is lobbying.

I think you hit it right, balancing votes are reflection of checks and balances, and that why the practice is more common among independent than among partisans. For example, in the same time California overwhelmingly elected Arnold as a governor, the voters made sure that he had a democratic state house and senate. Again, checks and balances.

I believe that the notion of criticism being anti-American is probably a post world war phenomenon. As for voting for a failing party, I have been here for more that two decades, and I am as confused by that as you are.

Perhaps nothing captures the American’s mistrust in authority as their mistrust of intellectuals and scientists. Phrases such as what to these doctors know, or, what do these weather forecasters know, continue to be told countless times despite of the medical miracles our doctors have made possible, and despite of the fact that short term weather forecasts continue to improve substantially. Brain experts are less trusted than manual “craftsman” expertise. One interesting book that highlights this phenomenon and addresses it quite well is the rather serious book “the Simpsons and Philosophy”. The authors, who are among Amreica’s most bright modern philosophers, took the most popular animated series (of which I am an avid fan), and analyzed the series depiction of various characters. The analysis of the brainy daughter lisa simpson is the chapter that addresses America’s mistrust of intellectuals as a reflection of its mistrust of authority. At the same time, phrases such as “it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do that” or “I am no rocket scientists, but….” are so prevalent id daily talk and they indicate the owe we hold science with. Like all countries on earth we are full of contradictions, which as you have very nicely described are “almost wonderfully bizarre”.

The other contradiction, which is very troubling, is that middle-middle and lower-middle class have been, to a large extent voting against their own economical interests. They now represent the wider swath (foot soldiers) of the republican party. They are so keen on this “lower taxes” issue, which in fact benefit them very little and benefit the wealthy much much more, while at the same time sacrificing any chance for a solvent social security system or for a universal health care system that ensure. The notion of personal responsibility is abused heavily and the republicans have even tried to privatize the social security system. One of our problems, as I see it, is that we have not seen a true charismatic liberal leader since the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers. Which surprisingly hail from one of the wealthiest families of their times.

Needless to say, it will take years if not decades to fix the damage caused by Bush’s imperial presidency. And that is why i brought up the issue of Obama being a constitutional scholar.

Yet what I mentioned is probably very biased toward my own view of the world.

July 28th, 2008, 5:36 am


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

You are indeed a teacher! What a shame that I could not have been your student. But, thank god for the internet… 🙂 (and I too love the Simpsons). Going to order the book you mentioned. But you know what, I’ve seen this phenomenon in almost every Western country I’ve ever been to. The “brainy” people are shunned by most. Yet they’re the ones that put the nation where it is, and that move it forward. Only through AIG’s democracy could 150 million people vote for a President a man that was a better frat-boy than a student, that studied in America’s top schools (starting with Andover) yet can barely speak without grammatical errors. (My favorite: “Don’t Misunderestimate Me!”)

And yet in the same “liberal democracy”, Columbia university professors are harassed by faculty, management, and various “other” groups, for speaking their mind about a conflict 10,000 kilometers away. So just how “free” IS America? But I suppose in Israel it’s even worse. Here, you can write just about anything (in fact, probably anything), and no one will harass you. But despite Haaretz’s endless and infinite articles about what the Occupation is doing to the Palestinians, and to our own society, an entire nation sits numbly by, unable to lift its finger until it is forced to do so by a few extremists. Does that make any sense? Maybe we’re in the wrong profession. Perhaps it truly IS better to be the town idiot. Much less frustration, much less work…

July 28th, 2008, 5:58 am


Alex said:


I totally agree with you … that’s why I posted that article.

I think there is a complicated logic behind it though. But I can’t write about it here : )

July 28th, 2008, 6:06 am


Karim said:

Averroes ,criticize them as you like but we are not talking about one day sahabi ,but his companions for life and his wife.When you listen to these rawafed who insult them wih the vilest words ,it doesnt make you feel angry ?really strange behavior.How would you have reacted if a abu shahata put his hand on your sister or mother or even less used obscene language in front of them(was it not common?) ?So 90 % of these young syrians were not ekhwan but it was a reaction against tyrany and injustice.
The ekhwan ,they are part of the syrian people ,you have to accept them.Btw ,i was not yet born ,but during the 70’s were organized university and professional orders elections ,the ikhwan won almost all of them … the order of physicians,engineers,lawyers…so you can not reduce them to followers of ayatollahs like hizbollah or badr…when you read their scholars like said hawwa (sufi) ,ali tantawi(salafi) or abu ghodda ,they are not extremists at all.
Now for Ibn Taymiyya ,it’s not for nothing that he is one of the most important thinker in history .His refutation of Aristotle(logic) ,Ibn Arabi and Avicenna is a masterpiece of philosophy.

July 28th, 2008, 6:19 am


Alex said:

The Saudis continue to warn everyone (Arabs, Europeans, Americans) not to be fooled by the tricky Syrians …

They are warning them that Syria will

1) make a deal that only benefits Syria at the expense of the Lebanese and the Palestinians

2) Promise Europe and the Untied States and Israel to flip, but will not deliver …

So their argument implies that Syria somehow will sell the Arabs … get paid a hefty price, but … will really not deliver on the deal it signs with Israel and the west.

Here is the daily alarm from Asharq- Alawasat:

جولة «أكاديمية» سورية في الربوع الأميركية!

ما زال البعض ـ رغم كل ما جرى ويجري ـ يستغرب أمرين متصلين بالسياسة السورية: الأول، قدرة الحكم السوري على الصمود في عصر ما يسمى بـ«الأحادية الأميركية»، والثاني «صبر» قوى غربية يفترض أنها جزء مكمل لـ«الأحادية الأميركية» على «الراديكالية» المروّج لها رسمياً في دمشق.

الواقع أن هناك تفاسير تبدو مقنعة لـ«صمود» دمشق و«ممانعتها»، ولصبر بعض الأميركيين ومناصري واشنطن على «راديكاليتها». منها على سبيل المثال وجود ثقة في عواصم القرار الغربية ـ وتل أبيب أيضاً ـ بأن شعارات كـ«الصمود» و«الممانعة» مجرد كلام للاستهلاك المحلي والهيمنة على ساحة حساسة في منطقة تمور بالراديكاليات الأصولية. ومنها الاطمئنان إلى أن «المزايدة» لا تضرّ البتة عندما تكون الغاية القصوى منها قبض ثمن أعلى لتأدية خدمة ما هنا وهناك في مقدّمها حماية حكم قاعدته الشعبية محدودة. ومنها اقتناع القوى الفاعلة إقليمياً ودولياً بالاستراتيجية الحقيقية لحكم أثبت بالدليل القاطع منذ خريف 1970 أنه يعرف تماماً ما هو مطلوب منه … فكانت «خطابيته» الفوقية في واد … والتزامه بالكثير من الواقعية السياسية في أداء الخدمات المجزية لأهل السطوة الإقليمية في الوقت المناسب في واد آخر.

هذه التفاسير، وغيرها، مفيدة جداً لإجراء قراءة صحيحة ليس فقط لجولة الوفد «الأكاديمي» السوري إلى واشنطن، بل لمسلسل الاتصالات السرية والعلنية، المباشرة وغير المباشرة، الشخصية وغير الشخصية الجاري منذ بعض الوقت مع إسرائيل. فأحد أعضاء الوفد ـ الذي اعتبره أستاذ قانون دولي سوري بالأمس على إحدى الفضائيات العربية «وفداً أكاديمياً يقوم بجولة عادية» (!) ـ يشرف علناً على مركز دراسات استراتيجية في دولة يوجد فيها ـ علناً أيضاً، سجناء رأي سياسيون ـ ، وهو ما يعني ضمنياً أنه لا يستطيع إجراء اتصالات سياسية وجولات خارجية في دول تعدّ حكوماتها «معادية» لدمشق من دون إذن رسمي على الأقل.

ثم أن الكلام المنقول عن أفراد في الوفد ينمّ عن أنهم «يمونون» على السلطة ويتمتّعون بهامش لا بأس به لوصف علاقاتها الإقليمية، كما أنهم منسجمون في التفكير مع أولويّات الحكم كما تعبّر عنها افتتاحيات وسائل الإعلام السورية الرسمية المرئية والمسموعة والمقروءة. ولئن كان كثيرون قد توقّفوا قبل أيام عند كلام جريء لأحد الذين ربطت الشائعات بينه وبين المفاوضات مع الإسرائيليين حتى قبل الكشف عن وجود الوساطتين التركية والروسية، فإن أحد أعضاء الوفد الدكتور سامي مبيّض قدّم مطالعة لافتة تحت عنوان «سورية ولبنان، أكثر من مجرد جارين» بتاريخ 15 يوليو (تموز) الجاري لخدمة منظمة «سيرتش فور كومون غراوند» (البحث عن الأرضية المشتركة) التي ترعى الجولة الحالية. والمثير في المطالعة «الأكاديمية» أنها تنسف عملياً كل الكلام المنمق لأركان الحكم في سورية حول اعتراف دمشق بلبنان بلدا سيدا مستقلا ابتداء من الرئيس بشار الأسد وانتهاء بوزير الخارجية وليد المعلم. أما خاتمة المطالعة التي تبحر بتصرف في العلاقة بين البلدين منذ 1920 (عند رسم حدود لبنان الحالية) فتختصر أجمل اختصار كل منطقها عندما تقول: «… من وجهة النظر السورية، ما زال الغرب عاجزاً عن فهم أن ما فعلته (دمشق) في لبنان ليس على الإطلاق تصرفاً أخرق أو مخجلا، بل أن الدخلاء يعبثون بـ(شؤون) سورية (الداخلية)!».

شرح من هذا النوع يحثّ على مراجعة الخطاب القومي في موضوع «واقع التجزئة» الذي حفظه أفراد الوفد الكريم عن ظهر قلب منذ أيام المدرسة. والحقيقة التي لا خلاف عليها أن «التجزئة» كانت كارثة على العرب، وبالتالي يجب أن تكون عملية إعادة توحيد الأمة هدفاً لكل عربي لديه الحد الأدنى من العزة والكرامة. ولكن، بخلاف الشق الإنشائي من هذا الخطاب القومي، نرى أن الممارسات كانت تؤدي الغاية المعاكسة تماماً.

فمنذ وُعدت الجماهير السورية بـ«الوحدة» بعد «القضاء على مؤامرة الانفصال» عام 1961 تعزّزت داخل سورية وخارجها كل نزعات التنافر والتفرقة الفئوية. بل أن حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي، الذي طمح إلى توحيد بلاد العرب من عُمان إلى موريتانيا مروراً بإريتريا، أخفق رغم تولّيه السلطة في كل من سورية والعراق في إبطال مفاعيل خط الحدود المصطنع لـ«معاهدة سايكس ـ بيكو» التي فصلت سورية عن العراق، بل حوّل البلدين إلى بلدين متعاديين لبضعة عقود!

وحتى داخل لبنان حيث طبّق الوجود الأمني السوري مفاهيمه لـ«الاخوّة» على امتداد ثلاثين سنة، فإنه خرج منه والبلد أكثر تمزقاً وتشتتاً… وشكّاً ـ حتى لا نقول كفراً ـ بكل أشكال الأخوة والوحدة.

مشكلة اللبنانيين، والعرب أيضاً، مع «الاخوة» في دمشق أنهم لا يريدون أن يفهموا أن «القومية» يستحيل أن تحيا وتزدهر في غياب احترام حقوق الإنسان، مع أن العالم عايش تجربة الاتحاد السوفياتي التي جاءت بعد إحدى أعظم الثورات في التاريخ، وتعلّم أن القوة وحدها لا يمكنها جمع القلوب… بل ان ما يجمعها الاحترام المتبادل ومناخات التفاهم والمصلحة المشتركة.

أما مشكلة اللبنانيين والعرب مع المستعجلين على «إعادة تأهيل» الحكم في دمشق فهي أن هؤلاء يغلّبون الغايات الآنية والمشبوهة على المصالح البعيدة المدى لشعوب المنطقة، وعلى رأسها الشعب السوري. فسورية أغلى على اللبنانيين والعرب بكثير مما هي «غالية» على قلب إسرائيل و«اللوبي» الإسرائيلي في واشنطن وباريس، وهذا قضية أصلا لا تحتاج إلى بحث. وإذا كان خبراء دهاليز العلاقات العامة في «أيباك» متحمّسين اليوم لتمرير صفقة تسويقية تحت ستار «فصل دمشق عن طهران»، حبذا لو يتنبه العرب كلهم، وعلى رأسهم الفلسطينيون، للثمن الباهظ الجاري التفاهم عليه لإعادة رسم خريطة المنطقة.

July 28th, 2008, 6:34 am


Shai said:


Why are the Saudis gambling so much here? What have they to gain?

If Syria DOES make peace with Israel, and does get closer to a new administration in Washington, won’t such harsh rhetoric all these months only serve to damage KSA’s future relations with both nations? I understand Saudi’s fear of Iran. I understand the King is hurt by some previous exchange of words with Bashar, via the media. But it’s not about today, what about tomorrow? Or is it this innate Arab experience that no matter what, almost, we can always “make up”?

July 28th, 2008, 6:47 am


Alex said:


The Saudis are worried about

1) recent opinion poll in Saudi and other “moderate” Arab states (Egypt, Jordan ..etc) showed the two most popular leaders are Nasrallah and Bashar.

Since then Saudi Media switched to a new tune for their Arab readers: the Syrian are tricky .. watch it! .. they will pretend they are the defenders of Arab rights and you might like them, but they are simply Damascene traders who are experienced in this business of trickery.

2) The Bush administration which promised the Saudis in 2003 a status almost equal to Israel in the Middle East, is leaving soon without delivering on that promise.

Obama’s Mideast advisers (Kerry and others) have all visited Damascus already… the Saudis feel that between Sarkozy and the new American administration, there will be no role for them to play any more … Syria took over Lebanon from them, Syria has Hamas under control, can influence Iraq to a large extent, and can make peace with Israel.

What can he Saudis do??

I wrote two years ago this long and boring piece … it was my 2006 guide to peace in the middle east! : )

Here is what I suggested at the time:

Egypt and Saudi Arabia along with Syria and Iraq, have been the major Arab players in the Middle Eastin in the last 50 years. The four countries sometimes cooperated but more frequently competed with each other for the regional leadership in the Middle East. Whenever one of these countries has tried to take a unilateral role, the others often countered such moves by forming informal alliances to protect their positions. For example, when late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed a separate peace treaty with Israel, Syria and Iraq managed to overcome their seemingly insurmountable differences in order to lobby the other Arab countries who were contemplating approval of Sadat’s initiative.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, should be involved in the peace process. The negotiations could be considered a first stage of King Abdullah?s peace plan or the Arab peace initiative. American and European envoys should attempt to visit and consult with both King Abdullah and President Mubarak. The peace process should not be perceived as a threat to either Egypt and Saudi Arabia, or the Sunni Arab world in general. Many Sunni opinion writers have already warned of a future deal between the United States and the members of the Shia Crescent.

July 28th, 2008, 7:33 am


Off the Wall said:

May i add that neither Kerry nor Obama are particularly fund of KSA. In fact, Kerry’s supporters during the last election were very critical of KSA and if Obama wins, it is not likely that he will dance the sward dance with the king anytime soon, but I can imagine him him taking a nice walk in Hamidya or may be Zqaq elzerb.

As for their best friend, little george, he was the tricky one, who did not deliver on his promise. I guess there will be one less wing in the bush presidential library. But after all, the fella never read anything, I wonder, what the hell is going to go into that library.

I visited the Sharq Alawsat site, there is a full section on Iran, Shia, Syria, and HA. In that section, there is a huge mix of little journalism, history, real interviews, myths, and all of that is woven into a true xenophobic story that may explain what we have been reading in the recent arguments. You now which ones I am talking about.

July 28th, 2008, 7:50 am


trustquest said:

I love Botcelli and Patti Labelle.
Your suggestion has already started and on the way to accomplished. If you use:, and get the “Destoor” word in Arabic and search it in Arabic Wikipedia, you will find that these information has started to be filled with “Dasateer” for western and Arabic countries serving the Arabic speaking readers. But you have to remember that Syria is blocking the Arabic Wikipedia.

From here I think criticizing the regime is essentials in this stage. There is no good intention here from the regime, the Fax machine invented, used, marginalized and almost on the way to be out of service, but still in Syria it is on the way to be introduced and it is not allowed without permission.

Syria is a sad story, and CHAI as you noticed, the picture has more indicators than what you have read. It is something coming from stone ages, the man, the street, the flags, the same and only government newspaper, the pictures in the newspaper of the young president, the defender of people and who occupies the whole page.

Although, I know where AIG is coming from, and although I agree with you OTW how AIG deviate and concentrate on one subject and does not allow to move on to another subject other than freedom of speech and democracy, but he is right on one thing, that if you do not concentrate on the aspect of filtering the contact with Israel, and peace negotiations to the public and by not allowing people to know how big change they are taken, what have being said, and by not allowing oppositions and counter views to prepare public for this big change, there is no chance for this peace to last.
And can you see, I would agree with him in this direction and a lot of intellectuals are behind him, but not in the way he is doing it. Sending academics (who suddenly showed up that Syria has academics who can speaks freely, it is a joke, the Academic Kamal Labwani is in prison because he visited USA last year and met only with some guys in the Administration, not AIPAC), to the USA and meeting the AIPAC, is an earthquake in the Syrian standing policy against Zionism as they filled their heads and their people’s heads for 60 years with the evil picture with this organization and with Israel and the Israelis.

July 28th, 2008, 9:59 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Off the Wall

I like your Dustoor idea. 🙂

This is what I’m talking about.

Of course, one runs the risk that such a website wouldn’t be accessible in the places where people might be interested in it.

But, it’s a start.

July 28th, 2008, 12:00 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Off the Wall responds to AIG:

You have one thing to say, you said it. I hope your vision never happens the way you want it to happen. Call me what you want, but I value the lives of my people and I do not want them wasted to enrich Israeli or American weapon manufacturers. Either way, they are stealing progress from me here and killing innocent people in many places on earth, including many children, who have not yet had the chance to decide whether liberal democracy, communism, or baathism is the system they want. These are not sacrifices for democracy, these are war crimes. But what do i know, killing children is something you are used to supporting in Lebanon, the west bank, and Ghaza. How different are you from a hamas militant, look in the mirror, you are as fundamentalist as zealot as any one of them.


cc: AIG

AIG has never advocated violence. I think what AIG is saying is that those like yourself who are tired of Arab states “… stealing progress from [you] here and killing innocent people in many places on earth…” are not vocal at all regarding this problem. For example, many of the participants here are not living in Syria, and are not in any danger from retaliation, yet they continue to overlook the sins of these Arab regimes while focusing on the same one: Israel.

How tiring does that get?

The community of Arabs in the ME and in the Arab diaspora have to first show they can make a change in their homelands before they can expect change from the outside world.

And killing children is a terrible result of Arabs “resistance fighters” firing missiles from within population centers (which is a war crime). How do you feel about “resistance fighters” who purposely jeopardize the lives of their own people’s children by fighting among civilians?

OTW said to AIG:

All you care about is the destruction of Iraq as an imaginary threat to your racist vision of pure Israel, followed by the destruction of Syria as a possible hurdle for completing the ethnic cleansing of your Arab citizens and of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Can you post for us a comment from AIG where he stated he wanted “the destruction of Iraq”? In the meantime, I have several quotes from ME “leaders” who want the destruction of Israel.

Don’t tell me you’re surprised. OK?

Also, please tell the forum what AIG’s “racist vision of pure Israel” is if 20% of the population is Arab. What percentage of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine is Jewish? BTW – A Palestinian faces the death penalty if he sells land to a Jew. Did you know that? Do Israelis face the death penalty if they sell their land to an Arab?

I’d appreciate it if you could leave out the ridiculous claims and get back to reality.

July 28th, 2008, 12:03 pm


Averroes said:


Of course you were not born during that time. I could tell that you are young and passionate about your beliefs. I just hope that with time, you will learn to see through the lies.

I tell you again and I hope you believe me. I was there. I know what I’m talking about.

The Ikhwan are a part of Syrian society? Ok. And the “rawafidh” are not? I have to accept the Ikhwanji thugs throwing acid on women walking without veil? And you are not willing to accept anyone who’s not Sunni that you call Rafida?

Of course I don’t like such occurrences as you’ve mentioned, but 1. These occurrences do not take place anymore and 2. When they did take place, the Ikhwan were (like you’re doing today) calling for the elimination of the abu shahata “villagers”.

The Ikhwanji gangs did commit crimes and they started first blood. I told you about this friend of mine and his brother, but such information seems to conveniently tzablet right out of your consciousness.

And Ibn Taymiyya is one of the greatest thinkers of all time? You can hold him as high as you like, but there’s no escape that many of his fatwas were angry and did most certainly call for death of his opponents. Please don’t tell me it does not exist because then you’d be plain out lying.

I mention that the Badr brigades in Iraq are criminals and you like that. However you remain silent about AlQaida and the Ikhwan. This is called selective attention. You should know that the Ikhwan committed many crimes as did the criminal Qaeda. Are you able to see that, Karim? Are you able to see them as crimes? Or is it perfectly OK for Qaeda operatives to go into Husseiniyat and blow themselves up killing dozens of people every time? I want an answer from you on that please.

July 28th, 2008, 1:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Iranian VP’s Remarks Spark Angry Reactions in Beirut

By Dalila Mahdawi
Special to The Daily Star
Monday, July 28, 2008

BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians and religious figures reacted over the weekend to comments made last Thursday in Vienna by an Iranian vice president, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, with two MPs accusing the Islamic Republic of using Lebanon as a bargaining chip in its attempts to resolve the international row over its nuclear program.

MP Samir Franjieh of the Future Movement party said Aghazadeh’s words amounted to an offer for stability in Lebanon in exchange for the West accepting Iran’s nuclear program.

“This should be humiliating for Hizbullah,” Franjieh told the online daily Naharnet.

“The Lebanese people have no say in Iran’s nuclear program. In fact we are for the banning of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East … We want Lebanon pacified” in Middle East conflicts, Franjieh added.

Speaking after a meeting with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Aghazadeh told reporters that “If the negotiations [on Iran’s nuclear program] get under way, then solutions could be found for many problems like Iraq, Lebanon or fuel prices.”

Aghazadeh is one of Iran’s 10 vice presidents, who are tasked with heading various national organizations related to presidential affairs. All vice presidents report to First Vice President Parviz Davoudi, who in turn reports to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who himself is required to follow the edicts of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


July 28th, 2008, 3:46 pm


Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Please understand, that AIG and AP are not bad people. They have good intentions in mind (freedom for all, democracy, peace, etc.) But unfortunately, like most Israelis, they haven’t the slightest ability to look at themselves through the eyes of an Arab. They cannot possibly understand why our toughest enemies comprise of resistance movements, rather than regular armies. They cannot fathom the kind of suffering and humiliation the Palestinian people have had to endure under our Occupation, and therefore cannot understand their rationale, nor the innate hatred towards Israel in the Arab world.

So when they cannot blame themselves for anything (we are, after all, the “good guys”, to use Bush’s lingo), they blame the Arabs. They pretend to represent millions of Syrians who are seeking Democracy far sooner than peace with Israel, and who will never forgive Israelis for shaking the hand of that ruthless dictator Assad. They pretend to represent millions of Iraqis who are forever grateful to America for bringing freedom to their nation, and find it perfectly acceptable to have 1 or 2 millions of their citizens dead to achieve that goal. They pretend to be “true” peacemakers, unlike us the “appeasers”, who irresponsibly (and out of weakness) give in to dictators and dictatorships.

You see, OTW, unlike you or the rest of the Arabs on this site (the few tens of commentators here), AIG and AP know the answers best. They understand your people’s situation far better. In fact, they don’t need to learn anything from you, because you exhibit a fine tendency to “overlook the sins of these Arab regimes”. You are, for all practical purposes, an avid Ba’athist gone West. You enjoy the luxurious lifestyle in America, yet fear criticizing your native homeland. You believe in miracles, and are unwilling to “pay the price” (millions of dead). And why? Because you do not understand. And neither do all the other Arabs on SC (with the exception of Bashmann and maybe Majhool – forgive me guys). Everyone else, including of course that “liberal lefty” Israeli, are born appeasers. Logic has passed us over, and our make-love-not-war attitude has blinded us indefinitely.

What to do, OTW. Best to go back to being the town idiot, like I suggested earlier… Let’s leave peacemaking to the professionals, those who know what they’re talking about, AIG and AP. But who will be left for them to make peace with? Ah, that’s elementary… all those Syrians who are unable to tell us the truth.


Out of sincere curiosity, can you point to a single case where an Israeli ever sold land to an Arab (let alone Palestinian), that you know of? You know, just for the “balance” thing…

You know, look at how pathetic your approach is. You’ve got perhaps THE best person in front of you to make peace with (Off The Wall). He’s educated, articulate, knowledgeable, capable of empathizing with us (Jews and Israelis), and absolutely devoted to treating our quest for peace seriously. And all you can say to him is: “I’d appreciate it if you could leave out the ridiculous claims and get back to reality.”?

Jesus man, can you imagine ever being hired to represent Israel in ANY peacemaking capacity? Is this the attitude we should adopt towards our “enemy”? Is your (and AIG’s) militant approach more likely to get us closer to peace? Has anyone, any Israeli leader from any party, ever adopted your approach? Has any Likud leader (any!) ever demanded democracy first? Or refused to talk to dictators? Or brought up imbalances between our systems as a reason not to move forward? Where do you guys get this stuff? Are you up-for-Pope next? Tell us, share with us, not just the “obvious” truth, share “your” truth.

July 28th, 2008, 6:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Out of sincere curiosity, can you point to a single case where an Israeli ever sold land to an Arab (let alone Palestinian), that you know of? You know, just for the “balance” thing…


I am familiar with a Jewish-American woman who married an Arab man and they both live in Ashdod. I never asked who owned the apartment.

I know many Arabs who own land in Israel.

As far as the “balance thing”, do you know any Jews who own land in Palestine?

You know, look at how pathetic your approach is. You’ve got perhaps THE best person in front of you to make peace with (Off The Wall). He’s educated, articulate, knowledgeable, capable of empathizing with us (Jews and Israelis), and absolutely devoted to treating our quest for peace seriously. And all you can say to him is: “I’d appreciate it if you could leave out the ridiculous claims and get back to reality.”?


Unless OTW can show where AIG cares about “the destruction of Iraq …” or a “racist vision of pure Israel”, I stand by my comments. As you know, I take what people write here quite seriously.

Jesus man, can you imagine ever being hired to represent Israel in ANY peacemaking capacity?


Of course, however, I’m not sure how to make peace with Hamas, Hezbollah, The PFLP-GC, Iran, al-Queda, etc. who all do not recognize my brethren’s government or country.

I suppose I could ask you the following:

“Jesus man, can you imagine why so many Islamofascists still do not recognize the State of Israel in this day and age?”

Is this the attitude we should adopt towards our “enemy”?

Shai, I know you want me to say that our “enemy” should be allowed to kill our people without penalty, but I just can’t bring myself to agree with that.

And I will not apologize for it.

Is your (and AIG’s) militant approach more likely to get us closer to peace?

What “militant approach”? Since when is self-defence a “militant approach”? One could argue that the self-defeatist approach of the Left (Oslo) actually got us further from peace and more Israeli dead.

Has any Likud leader (any!) ever demanded democracy first?


July 28th, 2008, 6:48 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for taking things people say here seriously. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but maybe it’s just me…

Do I know Jews who own land in Palestine? Um… yeah, I think all the Settlers do. But I know of NO Palestinian that has ever bought land from a Jew. The “land” my friend Mahmoud from Taibeh “owns” is not his – it is Keren Kayemet Le’Israel’s, and has never been sold to him by a Jew, it has been leased to him for 49 years by the State of Israel, just as to 90% of land owners in Israel.

It is indeed hard to make peace with someone that doesn’t recognize your nation. That’s why you seek for ways to talk first, to see if perhaps that can change. I don’t think Hamas, HA, and Al-Qaida should be placed in the same boat, do you? Can you not see a difference between these enemies of Israel?

Btw, how do you know that I don’t want to penalize an enemy that kills us? Have I ever said it? Because I’m willing to make peace with Syria, or talk to Hamas, means I won’t fight them at the battlefield if need be? What is this, you guys use stickers and labels freely like my 4 year-old daughter, and think you understand something?

If every ‘fricken person on this site tells you that by supporting the war in Iraq, you’re choosing a militant approach, don’t you think you should at least consider this a remote possibility? Is Israel’s Occupation (you know, that thing we’ve been doing to the Palestinian people, on their territory, for over 40 years) self defense? Was Apartheid also self-defense? Is the Occupation of Iraq self-defense?

But best of all, I love your label of self-defeatist. I took your labeling seriously enough to even search on the net for ways of curing defeatism. And I found one, in Funny enough, it suggests that “You (I) can actually defeat defeatism,” and that “Defeating defeatism is like using poison against poison. Controlled and small doses of defeatism can cure you of defeatist habits.” From that I gather, that to cure myself (and all other liberals) of defeatism, I need to practice small bits of it, say like making peace with Syria first, then with the Palestinians, then with the Lebanese (HA), etc. Eventually, after a few cases of self-defeatism, I’ll be cured of it. And, perhaps, we’ll have peace. I didn’t see anywhere a suggestion to fight defeatism, by defeating someone. Funny, that sounds like YOUR cure, doesn’t it? 🙂

July 28th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Majhool said:


With all due respect, your argument of equating the Ikhwan with Al-Quaida has no merits. Ikhawan resorted to violence to seize power. Violence is not rooted in their ideology (if they have one). If youu search for the average Ikhwan sympathizer you will find nothing but your average Syrian Joe (Abu Ahmad).


Thank you for shedding some light on the topic of “falsification of history”. Here is another example taken from wikipedia

“Parliamentary institutions remained weak and ineffectual, dominated by competing parties representing the landowning elites and various Sunni urban notables, while economy and politics were mismanaged, and little done to better the role of Syria’s peasant majority”

Since all things in life are relative, wallahi the mismanagement of politics and economy during the Assads years have no match in the entirety of Syrian history.

July 28th, 2008, 7:17 pm


PP said:

Some people value freedom highly. Others less. I liked AIG’s American loyalist example. OTW and Shai would have been against the American revolution and its cost in human life. AP and AIG think more like the founding fathers of the US that freedom has a cost and is worthwhile fighting for. That speaks to me. Not fighting for freedom because some sick people who are willing to commit suicide does not make sense to me. Those people should make you more determined to fight. Not less.

July 28th, 2008, 8:09 pm


Averroes said:


I did not equate the Ikhwan (as they are today) with the Qaeda. But at some point in time, the Ikhwan did resort to similar tactics as those of Al-Qaeda. They used takfeer and assassinations to try to subdue their adversaries.

July 28th, 2008, 8:16 pm


Majhool said:

Thank you Averroes for the clarification. Main stream Arab intellectuals find ample justification for Quaida-like tactics used by Hamas and Hezbollah under the pretext of imbalance of power with the enemy… how is that any different from Ekhwan? What about tactics ( Takhwin) and assassination used daily by the Syrian regime against dissidents . Isn’t Takhween a secular version of Takfeer?

I am not trying to make a point; I am just interested in your take on it.

July 28th, 2008, 8:27 pm


Averroes said:

I do not endorse the killing of civilians to make a political point. HA does not do that at all. When Hamas does that it is wrong.

But .. are you in your right mind when you compare the Syrian government with the Israeli occupation?

July 28th, 2008, 8:41 pm


Majhool said:

I thought I made it clear that I am not trying to make a point! and still did not get your take on Takhween VS Takfeer!

I am neither equating nor trying to compare the syrian Regime with the Israeli Occupation, but since you brought it up then where do you draw the line when it comes to crimes commited? When it comes to Syria, the regime managed to murder more people that Isreal ever did.

Israel is an enemy and they do what enemies usually do. But when your own government murders its own, now that is really troubling.

I am a firm believer of looking inward to fix Syria problems, spending our energy trying to change our enemies is a futile exercise.

July 28th, 2008, 8:53 pm


Karim said:

Averroes ,
You should go to Iran and see how beautiful is the paradize of nasrollah , he is nothing more than a creation of the syrian mukhabarat and the iranian embassador in Damascus and former minister of interior ,Ali Mohtashemi who is known in Iran for his brutality.(he killed at least 10000’s of communists and intellectuals followers of Ali Shariati and Ali Taleghani)
Now if you are deluded by this mukhabarati creation it’s your problem and hezbollah is a shia version of qaida…when they are cornered they will commit the same kind of terrorist acts …and they did when they were asked by the iranian regime to bomb the iraqi embassies in the arab world,they were the first to use car bombs in the cities streets(killing the iraqi wife of Nizar Qabbani ),hezbollah members (under the name of jihad al islami)kidnapped the french scholar Michel Seurat after he wrote on the sectarian nature of the regime and the massacres against syrian civilians ,whose body was discocered lately in Dahya), ….they were the first in using suicidal attacks in iraq (al da3wa and hakim family who were agents for Iran even before the khomainist regime).But al Qaida is marginal phenomenon in the sunni world ,it’s not part of a state’s apparatuses like is hezbollah which can not be separated of the iranian regime.And it’s ,normal that as a man who hates sectarianism ,you should also hate the khumainist regime and its tools.As for the rawafed Averroes,do we have rawafed in Syria ?The tiny shia community of damascus is known ,it’s about 5000 people and they are well integrated and are not rafidis …do you mean the iranian,lebanese and iranian clerics brought by the regime to Syria ?those have no place in our country and we know the reason the regime brought them to our cities,it’s because it fears for his future and believes that those will be like a militia in their side.btw they are already resisted by normal and poor people and by intellectuals who are in response send in jail by the moukhabarat,in the end the language of force will prevail if the regime doesnt send them from where they came.

And i didnt say that you were Baathist or Nasserian ,but your reading of history is clearly biased and not based on papers and books ,just keep repeating this distorted version of History.Now i invite you to visit creative Syria and by yourself you will find how was cosmopolitan and tolerant the ottoman empire and ottoman Syria,it change from the dark and polluted Syria we have today….and one more thing this tolerance was not only toward christians and jews ……all these shrines of najaf ,kerbala,samara,kazimiya had been build or re build under the Ottoman rule(by persians).The Ottoman poet Fuzuli was a guardian of one of these shrines.Before that ,when the Sefevids invaded baghdad ,they destroyed the shrines of Sheikh Abdulkader Gilani and Imam Abu Hanifa and transformed the places in public latrines.Btw ,in 1982 ,the shrines of Kilani sheikhs and their beautiful houses in Hama ,were razed by your beloved regime.200 members of this familly have died in these sectarian massacres,they were among the best people that Syria had.(very moderate sufis)
And you dare to speak about ikhwan?
Now Averroes,plz plz change your nickname to nasrollah…because i’m sorry but the great Averroes whould have reacted otherwise.

July 28th, 2008, 9:41 pm


Jad said:

Mr. Karim, and Mr. Majhoul,
I’m Christian Syrian, and after reading your comment I’m honestly scared of even thinking that one day people like you might get the power.
When you and the ‘brotherhood” you are defending was in Syria they killed the most educated people and I will never forget Alazbakiyeh, ask your parents about it, that might open your eyes a little but I doubt that a blind people like you tow can see anymore.
How can you defend such party without feeling ashamed of yourself? What is the difference between you two and any one of the ikhwanji who bombed or killed other innocent Syrian just because they are different?
What is so wrong with being different in religion or sect, I’m Syrian like you and I do love my country, I want to improve my country and I would love to see it democratic and open, but, when people like you two spread this hatred messages I’d rather have a bathist secular corrupted regime than seeing your ‘brothers’ killing my other Syrian brothers just because they are different.
Buddies, if you are that religious blinded human being why don’t you go to Saudi or Afghanistan and live in a cave away from the society…
Where could you get all that hate from??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
What a waste…….
Mr. Averroes, don’t waste your time, energy and idea on these kind of ignorant..
Mr. Alex, PLEASE, the internet if full of hatred spread messages, don’t let it get here…check one of the comments on the last Ayman Hakki article, it’s embarrassing….

July 29th, 2008, 12:55 am


ugarit said:


Since you justly criticize Iran can you tell us your opinion of Saudi Arabia?

July 29th, 2008, 12:57 am


Averroes said:


I have one question for you, and I know the answer very well. If Nasrallah were a Sunni? what would you have thought of him? Honestly?

The answer is, you would have held him at a higher position than Saladin. But your irrational and un-concealable hate toward everyone you label as Rafida is just too blinding.

You sound defensive of the “Sunni World” and it tells a lot about you and how you perceive things. Did you see me attack the Sunni world for being Sunni? I once bought into these labels big time, and was quite keen on being “Sunni” too. This thinking is so obsessed with just one aspect of reality and it is unable and unwilling to see anything else.

If I like Nasrallah then I must approve of all the crimes that have been made by the Iranian regime, and the Safavids, and the Mongols. and if I mention Al-Qaeda, you start defending the “Sunni World”. What kind of narrow minded mindset is that?!!

The Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Arabs all committed crimes at one time or another in their history. I do not approve of those crimes. I am able to see the crimes you mention, but you are just unwilling to see the other side, which nullifies any usefulness in the discussion.

You insist on seeing Syria today as dark and twisted, and you further insist on blaming all of that to the single fact that Assad is an Alawite. Yet you deliberately ignore all other aspects that have led to Syria’s current position; an unsientific, totally biased and short sighted approach. Talk to me about a twisted vision of history!

You ask: “And you dare speak about Ikhwan?” Yes, I do, and I asked you a question that I KNOW you cannot answer in public and I DARE you to answer it:

Is it OK for Qaeda operatives to go into Husseiniyat and blow themselves up killing dozens of so-called Rafidah every time? IS IT? Don’t run away from this question. I dare you to answer it with a clear, no bullshit answer.

Please don’t try to be smart and answer with a question about other crimes. I condemn all crimes against civilians, especially those based on religion or opinion. All crimes!

And .. please stop your silly and hateful remarks about my nick name. The kind of hatred that radiates from your words reminds me of a famous incident in our great “Sunni” history, when the Abbasids ungraved the dead Umayyad rulers and lashed them in public and then burned their corpses. This is what you and your gang promise us if you take control. I hope you’re very proud of that too. (It’s 100% SUNNI so it must be pretty Kosher to you)

July 29th, 2008, 1:12 am


Majhool said:

Abdul-Naser was a sunni and had a stature far more powerful than Nasralla. I don’t believe Karim is a big fan. Karim, Correct me if I am wrong.


Abbasides are a bad example for your argument, The Abbasided relied on Shia muslims to commit the crimes you mentioned against the Ummayads.

July 29th, 2008, 1:33 am


ugarit said:


I think we need to revive the word raj3i to describe Karim’s views. He longs for returning to a past that he thinks existed but in reality is mostly fictitious.

July 29th, 2008, 1:37 am


Majhool said:

Raj3ee is Takhween in the context of the past 40 years in Syria. How is Takhween different from Takfeer?

Demonizing Sunni Islam history is counter-productive in the context of Syrian current affairs. The country has few thousands Shias as apposed to +/- 15 million Sunnis. Plus Sunnis make up 90% of the world’s Muslims. Reducing its history to raj3iah is strange coming from Syrians…

July 29th, 2008, 1:42 am


ugarit said:


I did NOT demonize Sunni Islam. I did NOT demonize Islam. I did NOT demonize Karim. I described HIS views as yearning for the past. I’m not using the word as Baathist propagandists used it.

July 29th, 2008, 2:03 am


Jad said:

Majhool, Karim,
What is strange not Ugarit or Averroes, it’s you two, you sounds like couple old KKK members….it’s so funny reading your nonsence comments…very funny way of thinking…what a waste
I’m not a Bathist, I’m Syrian.

July 29th, 2008, 2:30 am


Averroes said:


I really don’t like naming names and giving labels, but Karim and Majhool are obsessed with Sunni this and Sunni that and it’s just too unfortunate. The sectarian layer is but one of several that make up the reality of what happened in history and what is happening today, and these guys are obsessed with that one layer at the expense of everything else.


I can’t believe you’re trying to pin the Abbasi crimes on Shia as well!! This is truly amazing!! Your world is so perfectly black and white that you’re really scary.

And .. who the hell is demonizing Sunni history?? You guys are unbelievable! I’m crying from the roof that this is human history, with all its follies and all its ugliness and all its brutality. It applies to everyone, and we should see it that way. There are many things to be proud of in our history, but not all of it smells like roses. Some of it actually stinks really bad. Language just cannot compress millions of lives over millennia a with a few simple and razor-sharp words. It’s not possible to angelize or demonize a huge group of people that have existed for such a long time. Reality is much more complex even if that makes it difficult for us to comprehend. But all my talk is like a shot in the dark with you guys.

My point is that I think that the very words “Sunni”, “Shia”, “Rafida”, “Nawasib” (the list is long) are poisonous words. Every occurrence of them is counter productive and produces more problems than it solves.

It’s like coming to Europe or America and talking all the time about Italians, and the Irish, the Hispanics and the Blacks. try replacing your arguments with these substitutes and see how ugly they sound.

These words attempt to reduce a very complex reality to one personal aspect that is attained at no personal choice through hereditary inheritance. You are sunni because you were born sunni, and he’s shia because he was freaking born shia. Get over it. Flip the page. Look beyond that that raj3i language and thinking for the sake of Allah.

But Alas, billions upon billions of dollars have been spent to build this very psyche that Karim is boasting so zealotly. That is why I wrote last month that this must be countered with an organized campaign to deflate this balloon of hot, hateful air.

July 29th, 2008, 2:30 am


Majhool said:


I did not mean you. Just in general.


Just like you are asking AP and AIG to self-criticize, why don’t you see value for Syrians on SC to look inward for solutions? isn’t that better than focusin on KSA, Bush and other external elements

July 29th, 2008, 2:33 am


Averroes said:


And on your question of Takhween vs. Takfeer, you have a point. I did not accuse any of you of Khiyanna (betrayal).

July 29th, 2008, 2:38 am


Majhool said:


You got it wrong. I tend to agree with most what you had to say. But to Karim’s point, there has been some systemic distortion of history that I think is counter productive.

Ibn-Taymieh is history. And to bring his Fatwas as an excuse (not by you) to extend the dictatorship in Syria is not fair. Similarly discussing Ikhawan in the context of only Ideology and forget about the marginalization of later-to-be- sympathizers from Syrian politics is also questionable.

I believe we can all build upon the common grounds with an eye on the future, going back to history to make judgments/argument is a futile exercise. Like bring up Abbasides to make a point, becasue you will find somone else with a counter-argument. I say enough looking at the past.

July 29th, 2008, 2:42 am


Akbar Palace said:

Majhool asks Shai a question:


Just like you are asking AP and AIG to self-criticize, why don’t you see value for Syrians on SC to look inward for solutions? isn’t that better than focusin on KSA, Bush and other external elements?


Thank you for “stealing my thunder”. After posting here for several years now, I was beginning to believe only Jews self-criticize. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not crazy after all.;)

July 29th, 2008, 2:46 am


Majhool said:


hehe, now go and criticize your own. You have so much that you can start with. (smile)

July 29th, 2008, 2:52 am


Majhool said:


Just for fun (trsut me I care less wbout who did what:

“The Abbasids, who overthrew the Umayyads in 750, while sympathetic to the Iranian Shias, were clearly an Arab dynasty. They revolted in the name of descendants of Mohammad’s uncle, Abbas, and the House of Hashim. Hashim was an ancestor of both the Shia and the Abbas, or Sunni, line, and the Abbasid movement enjoyed the support of both Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Abbasid army consisted primarily of Khorasanians [Khorasan, a region in the north east of Iran] and was led by an Iranian general, Abu Moslim Khorasani. It contained both Iranian and Arab elements, and the Abbasids enjoyed both Iranian and Arab support”


Update: It seems that I can no longer post any comments.

Here is another source

July 29th, 2008, 2:59 am


Averroes said:


First of all, there’s really no fun in reading about the atrocities that took place then. Second, while the essence is correct, the name Iran is new and was certainly not known during that period.

July 29th, 2008, 3:05 am


Hasan said:

I had some comments they were never published and put on hold while others have an extremely scary comment out there and published immediately, WHY?

July 29th, 2008, 3:19 am


Shai said:


You are absolutely correct. I certainly do not expect only Jews and Israelis to change. But, with all due respect, I do not think it is my position to lecture to you about how you should change, about your 60 years of stagnation, lack of democracy, reform, freedom, whatever. The future for Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, etc. is YOURS to determine, not mine. What you choose will have bearing on me, as what my people have chosen has had a bearing on you (and especially on the Palestinians). But we cannot, indeed must not, “interfere” in each other’s nations. I know AIG and AP think it is absolutely acceptable (given America’s war-winning and freedom-bringing performance in Iraq). But I tend to differ.


I’m glad Majhool managed to “steal your thunder” for a while. You should try to be less thunderous – you’ll live longer, or so they say. Plus, having a thunderous disposition leads one to things like “Desert Storm”, “Shock and Awe”, “GWOT”, and the like.

July 29th, 2008, 3:58 am


Majhool said:


But interfering and self-critique are completely different things. I expect my enemies to interfere and launch wars under all kinds of pre-texts including democracy. That’s what enemies do.

But since this is Syria Comment, one would expect more self-critique aimed at the Syrian government including its discourse with Israel.

All in all, I believe understanding one’s enemies helps in:

1) making peace with the enemy, or
2) defeating the enemy

July 29th, 2008, 4:10 am


Shai said:


Not sure I follow you. You expect Israel to interfere in Syria’s affairs? You expect me to criticize you for not engaging in self-criticism? I hope not. It’s not my place to do so, especially as you’ve pointed out that we (Israelis) have plenty of self-criticism to do ourselves.

I differ with you on the benefits or goals of understanding each other’s side. I agree only with your 1 (making peace with the enemy), not with 2 (defeating the enemy). “Defeating your enemy” is not a possibility in our region. No nation can “defeat” another (we can’t even defeat a small militia group). Those goals belong to a previous century, to a different time. Today, more leaders are talking about peace than about annihilation. Let’s try to focus on that, rather than on options of defeat. Don’t you agree?

July 29th, 2008, 4:19 am


Majhool said:


Yes, I expect Israelis to interfere (to my dismay of course). It’s a sad reality but that’s how the world has been run for thousands of years. Don’t we Syrians interfer in Lebanon?

You said: You expect me to criticize you for not engaging in self-criticism?

I sensed sarcasim in your earlier comment:

“And why? Because you do not understand. And neither do all the other Arabs on SC (with the exception of Bashmann and maybe Majhool – forgive me guys”

As for defeat, it can mean different things, it’s not necessary annihilation, could be simply regaining the Golan by force.

All said, i agree with you (if we want to progress as a human race) tht we need to focus on number 1.

July 29th, 2008, 4:30 am


Jad said:

What a twist, Majhool a hardcore islamist, “pro ikhwan” asking the help of Israel to interfere in his own country affairs so he can get to power…. that is very funny, yet he mention the “human race”!!!!?
How low can you go Majhool?

July 29th, 2008, 4:52 am


Karim said:

Ugarit ,the Saudi regime according to the socio cultural context is better than the Iranian.We can not compare a beduin society and dont take it péjoratively to countries like Egypt,Syria or Iran that had known modernity and liberalism awhile ago.

Averroes,i’m not a bigot but also i’m not neutral ,so when i read the western scholars ,the ottomanists ,the islamologists ,there is a consensus that the Ottoman era can not be reduced to what you said about them and that the Ommayads founded one of the most beautiful and tolerant civilizations in the history ,the same for Bani Abass especially Harun al Rashid and his sons.Why sould i focalize on the details and accidents?If we are muslim it’s thanks to the Sahabis, Ommayads,to the Ottomans ,who brought Islam to Europe,Africa and Asia.
I told u about Nasrollah ,he is a small servant of the iranian regime,a rafidi and an hypocrit.
And if he were sunni ,you asked… ,it doesnt matter ,Aref Dalila the alawite or Michel Kilo the christian represent for me a civilized world,humanism and liberty,..on the contrary of the hateful Nasrollah and alikes.

July 29th, 2008, 4:56 am


Averroes said:


It looks like YOU are using takkia now, dodging my extremely clear question and making it all sound very charming meanwhile.

You are not fooling anyone.

July 29th, 2008, 5:25 am


Shai said:


I agree with you. And yes, there was sarcasm in that comment to AP. I find it odd that AIG and AP choose to ignore 95% of the commentators here (and most Syrians, other than you and Bashmann). Because you and Bashmann have engaged in much more open criticism of Syria, AIG and AP deduce that others are not critical of Syria, or are uninterested in democracy, or are avid supporters of the current regime. For a person whose nation is currently acting as an Apartheid against another people to say to Syrians that before we make peace with them, they need to become a democracy is, at the minimum, hypocritical. Wouldn’t you agree?

July 29th, 2008, 5:29 am


Karim said:

Averroes ,how can you compare Salahudin to a puppet like Nasrollah?Your question was so naive.

And Majhool is not wrong ,the term Iran is old(at least from the Sassanian era) and we can say that’s a synonym or close to Aryanam.The scholars who are specialized on old Iran are called iranologists derive from Iranology.

July 29th, 2008, 5:37 am


Majhool said:

Well, it’s hypocritical in the context of current practices towards Palestinians, you are correct. However, in the context of the region and Israel, Democracy is important to speed up the process of a long-lasting peace. Would you rather make peace with all Syrians or just with the Assad clan?

July 29th, 2008, 5:38 am


Shai said:


If Tzipi Livni, or Bibi Netanyahu, shake hands with Bashar Assad at the lawn of the White House 1 year from now, would you not call it peace between Israelis and Syrians? Is it only peace with the Syrian regime? I don’t understand that point – please clarify.

July 29th, 2008, 5:52 am


Majhool said:

look at egypt, do you really think you have peace with the Egyptians? I doubt it.

July 29th, 2008, 6:00 am


Shai said:


I know you’re not suggesting Egyptians are not at peace with us because they’re not enjoying freedom of democracy. Clearly it’s because of our treatment of the Palestinians. On the other hand, if in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Israel would have withdrawn from Gaza and the West Bank, and enabled the creation of a state of Palestine, Israelis and Egyptians would certainly be at peace with each other. Israel needs to withdraw from the Golan regardless of what Syrian leader is in power – a dictator, or a democratically elected one. Once we do that, and once Israel gets back on track with the Palestinians (towards a final agreement), there is no reason why Syrians should not be at peace with Israelis. But until that happens, I still prefer a “superficial” peace, over a non-peace. Don’t you?

July 29th, 2008, 6:07 am


Majhool said:

I do too. I doubt it will happen though, let’s wait and see.

July 29th, 2008, 6:10 am


Shai said:


Your people and mine are closer to one another than you think. There is no reason on earth why we cannot live in peace with each other, regardless of the particular leaderships that head our nations at any given time. I of course understand your concerns and your legitimate aspirations. But history doesn’t provide endless opportunities to make peace. And normally, it provides many more to make war. We must not let the current window of opportunity close.

July 29th, 2008, 6:19 am


Majhool said:

Dear Shai,

I am in total agreement with you. I just don’t believe the syrian regime is interested in peace. I hope i am wrong. we shall know soon.

July 29th, 2008, 6:44 am


Alex said:

I know it sounds almost identical to the last fifty other Asharq editorials and opinion pieces I posted the past fifty days, but … they keep writing them … every day.

This time, Mr. Abdel Rahman Rashed (Head of AlArabia and MBC) is suggesting (surprise, surprise) that Syria come clean … to stop cheating everyone about its intentions … to stop fooling the Arabs, and to stop fooling Israel and the Untied States!

الغزل السوري الإسرائيلي

عندما قرر الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس أن يفاوض قالها مباشرة ولم يركب الطريق الوعر الذي تسلكه الدبلوماسية الدمشقيه حاليا. لم يلتق بمنظمة الآيباك التي تتولى الدفاع عن المصالح الاسرائيلية في واشنطن، ولم يضطر للوقوف في الشمس الحارقة على أمل ان يقابله احد من موظفي الخارجية، اتخذ قراره واعلنه صراحة وبدأ مفاوضاته.

سورية اكبر وأهم، وستجد من الاهتمام أكثر مما حصلت عليه الرئاسة الفلسطينية لو كانت صريحة في مشروعها بدل الدوران الذي يشكك في جدية عروضها ونواياها ايضا. ما نراه حالة غزل من جانب سورية. فالسفير السوري يحاضر عن رغبة بلاده في انهاء حالة الحرب مع اسرائيل، في لقاء مع جماعة السلام الآن. وموفدون سوريون يزورون اللوبي الاسرائيلي في واشنطن، وتصريحات ايجابية متكررة من مسؤولين سوريين في كل مؤتمر ولقاء اجنبي. كل هذه لم، ولن، تعطي المسؤولين السوريين الكثير لأنها تبدو مشروع غزل اكثر من كونها زواجا جادا، في حين بإمكان سورية ان تفعل أقل وتأخذ أكثر عندما تصبح العلاقة شرعية وشفافة.

حتى المفاوضات السورية الاسرائيلية مليئة بنفس العيوب، فهي غير مباشرة وتحت مظلة تركيا الدولة غير المؤثرة، ما يجعلها غير جادة، مع العلم بان سورية سبق ان اجرت مفاوضات مباشرة في الماضي، وبالتالي لا تستطيع ان تدعي العذرية.

ان كانت دمشق جادة في تغيير سياستها فمن الأهون عليها ان تقول ذلك، وتطلب التفاعل معها. وان كانت جادة في الخروج من الدائرة الايرانية فعليها ايضا ان تثبت انها جادة. أما إن كانت تريد الاحتفاظ بعلاقتين في آن واحد، إيرانية وإسرائيلية، فمن الأسهل عليها ان تكون واضحة حتى لا تجد نفسها تعود الى المربع الأول محاصرة وملاحقة. وإن كانت لا تريد السلام ولا التخلي عن ايران، وهدفها فقط الخروج من أزمة المحكمة، فان كل ما تفعله سيكلفها اكثر مما ستجنيه.

صحيح ان الخطوات السورية اصبحت واضحة أكثر إنما نواياها لا تزال مجهولة، وهنا تكمن المشكلة. فسورية بدأت بتوسيط اصدقاء لها في الولايات المتحدة، ثم اشركت الاتراك لفتح طريق المفاوضات غير المباشرة مع اسرائيل، ووضعت اتفاق الدوحة، وسمحت بانتخاب رئيس الجمهورية ثم رئاسة الحكومة، وقبلت الجلوس مع رئيس الوزراء الاسرائيلي في المؤتمر المتوسطي بوساطة الرئيس الفرنسي، وساندت التهدئة في غزة مع حماس، اكملت سلسلة اجراءات ايجابية في لبنان اوصلت الى تبادل الاسرى بين حزب الله واسرائيل وربما سفارة في بيروت، ثم انتقلت من باريس الى تنفيذ حملة علاقات عامة في واشنطن مع اليهود الاميركيين وجماعات السلام. وصار واضحا ان المستهدف أخيرا البيت الابيض.

كلها خطوات سياسية مثيرة وشجاعة، لما فيها من خروج على الخط السوري، وهذا ما يدفعنا للتساؤل، لماذا لا تكون دمشق اكثر وضوحا، ان كانت تريد السلام والهروب من حضن ايران؟ فما نراه يبدو مجرد حملة علاقات عامة لا تكفي لإلغاء قرارات مجلس الامن، ولن توقف المحكمة، ولن تحمي سورية من تقلبات المنطقة ومخاطرها.

And here is yesterday’s Alsharq alawsat’s “don’t trust Syria” daily piece … for comparison : )

July 29th, 2008, 6:50 am


Alex said:

الإصلاح الاقتصادي أم الإصلاح القضائي؟؟
هند قبوات – 28/07/2008

عندما وصلتني دعوة لحضور مؤتمر القانون الأول في سوريا كنت متفائلة وسعيدة، وازدادت سعادتي بعد حضور الجلسات والمناقشات وسماع الرأي والرأي الآخر،

(للأسف لم تصمت ولم تنقطع نغمات رنين الموبايلات، مع العلم أنه كان هناك تنبيهات لإغلاقها قبل الدخول وأثناء الجلسات!!؟؟).
ولعل السؤال الأبرز الذي يخرج المرء به من هذا المؤتمر هو: أيهما يأتي أولاً، هل هو الإصلاح الاقتصادي أم الإصلاح القضائي؟؟ السوريون جميعاً يكادوا يتفقون على حتمية الإصلاح الاقتصادي لأن هذه مسألة أصبحت خارج النقاش، فالاستثمارات بحاجة للقانون والسوريون بحاجة لتطبيقه!؟. لكن الذي تأخرت فيه الحكومة السورية هو الإصلاح القضائي الذي يشكل الغطاء والضمانة الحقيقية لجذب الاستثمارات، وتحقيق نسبة عالية من الشفافية في التعاطي القانوني، حيث لم يعد ممكناً تأجيله، ليس لأنه مطلب الشركات العملاقة الراغبة بالاستثمار في سورية فحسب، بل هو مطلب داخلي أيضاً وله علاقة في كل تفاصيل وتفرعات الشأن العام، فضلاً عن الشأن الاقتصادي. وباعتقادي فإن الإصلاح القانوني هو الضرورة الأهم ولا بد أن يكون سابقة على غيره من الإصلاحات… لماذا؟؟
لأن سورية لا تستطيع أن تحصل على إصلاحات اقتصادية حقيقية، وأن تفتح أسواقها وتطور تجارتها دون وجود نظام قانوني صالح ومتوافق مع متطلبات هذا العصر…
السؤال الآخر الذي يطرح نفسه هو، لماذا على الدولة وضع الاصلاح القضائي أولاً ؟؟؟
أنا أعتقد ببساطة لأن الإصلاح القضائي يساعد على فتح الأسواق أمام المستثمرين الأجانب والعرب. إذ لا يمكن استقطاب استثماراتهم دون وجود قانون يحميهم أو قانون تحكيمي جديد قادر على حل أي نزاع يستطيع الجميع أن يحتكم إليه و لا بد من التاكيد على قوة العقد الموقع. فإذا كان المستثمر يدرك انه سيحقق أرباح بقيمة 10% – على سبيل المثال- من مبلغ 100.000 فإنه مع عدم وجود قانون يحمي هذا المبلغ فإن المستثمر سيفضل بالتأكيد وضع هذا المال في لندن أو باريس أو أي مدينة أخرى فيها الضمانات القانونية الكافية، حتى لو كانت نسبة الربح أقل مما سيحصل عليه المستثمر في سورية من أجل توفير ضمان للمبلغ الأساسي.
وباختصار مفيد، ولمدة يومين من المناقشات المفتوحة، وسماع الآراء المختلفة من المحاضرين والمشاركين والمحامين أصر معظم خبراء القانون الذين حضروا المؤتمر الذي أقامته الجمعية السورية البريطانية على أن القانون السوري بحاجة الى إصلاح، وعندما أعطى رئيس الجلسة غيث أرمنازي الفرصة للجميع للتعبير عن الرأي أيضاً، ساد جو المؤتمر كثير من التفاؤل نظراً لتعبير كل الحضور عن رأيهم بحرية وصراحة وشفافية، وهو الأمر الذي يعطي مؤشرات أولية على أن الجميع بات يدرك المشكلة ويبحث عن حل.
أما المحامي المعروف والمتميز في لندن ميشيل عبد المسيح، أكد خلال طرحه على أن الحكومة تحكم ولكن القانون هو الملك، مضيفاً على أن القانون هو الذي يجب أن يتم إصلاحه والباقي سيكون تحصيل حاصل. وتساءل الحضور، كم قضية وقضية بقيت وتبقى للسوريين وغير السوريين في المحاكم السورية لسنوات وسنوات، وهذا ما شدد عليه أيضاً وأيده رئيس المؤتمر الدكتور فواز الأخرس عندما أنهى المؤتمر بقوله: العدالة المتأخرة هي العدالة المحجوبة .
ولذلك أنا أعتقد، أنه وبناءً على ما تقدم فإن المطلب الأساسي هو أن لا يتم تأخير الإصلاح القضائي من أجل عيون سورية والسوريين و”العدالة المحجوبة”، حتى نجد مكاناً لسورية على لائحة الاستثمار العالمي الذي يوفر فرص العمل لمستقبل سورية. آملين أن ننتهي من قصة “الاحتكار” التي يمارسها البعض ضد الصالح العام والأكثرية.

هند عبود قبوات: مستشار دولي لشركة جوزيف يانغ
مجلة الحال – آب 2008

July 29th, 2008, 8:23 am


Off the Wall said:

Sorry for missing on the continuing discussion. Summer is time for grant proposals and we are very busy during most of the day.

I have not had the chance to read what has happened, but I have one question, Does anyone know if CSPAN is available on satellite in Syria. If not, is the website accessible

The reason I am asking is that today i was watching the House’s judiciary committee discussion of the impeachment articles brought on by one of my favorite progressives (Dennis Kucinich, from Ohio). In themselves, the articles ere not as important the of discussion. And the whole thing would be very interesting to watch in Syria. Those who may want to see little bush’s name being maligned will get their chance at satisfaction by seeing legal experts from the US doing just that. The gov. will be happy with that, but the real lesson would not be lost to cooler heads. I wish it could even be subtitled. If the US really wanted to reach the Arab world, they should completely scrap projects like al7urra and simply subtitle some of their congressional hearings, particularly contentious ones, as well as the British’s parliament sessions and broadcast them throughout the Arab world. That would be a much better, and worthy, propaganda for western values.

July 29th, 2008, 9:13 am


Off the Wall said:

No era, no people, and no history can be reduced to simple arguments. Nothing is just black or white. It is not even shades of gray. It is the entire electromagnetic spectrum, with bands that we can not even see. Good and evil reside together and I do not think that there is any nation, religion, culture, or civilization that can claim an absolute pure history. I went to the web sites you gave with these fanatic “Shia” and all of their diatribe about Aisha and Hafsa, but you know, the only anger I felt was because these stupid men, were wasting their time and the time of those listening to them with stupid chatter cursing people who lived and died, as Young Syria said, 1500 years ago.

I really do not think that either one of the ladies is tossing her grave because of what these men are saying about their honor. But I guarantee you that there are many Sunna imams who would be as hateful if not more. If you believe that they are Kuffar, and that there is a day after, then Allah will take care of them. In fact, the verse of Kuran repeatedly displayed as the transition from one clip to another in these “sunni” propaganda movies does state that point very clearly. This is one of the things that I do not understand about zealots. Each group believes very deeply that they are saved and that those who do not follow are the ones to be punished severely by god. But then, with all respect and owe they hold god at, they dare appropriate themselves one of gods own prerogative which is to exact punishment on disbelievers. If I am to be a believer, I would simply rejoice in my reward, and when god’s enemies’ punishment comes, in the day after, I would just stand on the side, wherever that is, and tell them, I told you so. I think this was Robin Williams’s idea, and I do agree with him. I have learned that jester is alwyas the wisest man/woman in the court.

One more thing, As you talked about the 5000 Shia in Damascus and describe them as the “good shia”. You remind me of some Americans, who manage to always try to flatter me by telling me, “oh, you are a nice Muslim /or Arab”, as if I am a lucky catch and I am the only “nice” person from my entire nation. My be they said that because I was in fact “the only” Arab they ever met, and they wanted to be nice but could not rise above their prejudices. I was their Muslim after all, which meant I was good. In the old days, I used to find that very patronizing, especially because of the body language accompanying that phrase. Nowadays I laugh at it off. But don’t you think that what you say about these 5000 “nice” Shia can be patronizing to them. How can you accept them, but reject almost all of their brothers and sisters in faith.

July 29th, 2008, 9:59 am


why-discuss said:


The arab/moslem civilization would never have been what it is without the extroadinary artistic power of Persia. The pearls of moslem architecture, artifacts, miniatures, carpets, gardens, poetry came from persia and have also immensely influenced the ottomans. So you may be advocating the conversion of Hussaniyat into hideous US inspired Saudi Malls but you will never be able to erase the creative artistic soul of the iranians who , despite their autoritariam regime are able to stand high in the artistic and technological world life.
Thank God the iranians are extending their influence on the artisticly and technologically sterile arab world previously lead by Egypt and KSA. The ‘dark’ age should be applied more to these countries where corruption, repression, vulgarity, and total absence of creativity prevail.
Maybe we are in for a renaisssance of the arab/moslem civilization thanks again to the Iranians.

July 29th, 2008, 10:16 am


Off the Wall said:

Excellent points. Thank you very much for stating the point that gets lost in the midst of most religuous arguments.

July 29th, 2008, 10:29 am


Off the Wall said:


Sorry for being late in getting back to you. Thanks for the article. Do you think that Syria has somehow given France a very strong guarantee of “good” intention. The accelerated speed of friendship between the two countries is still a little surprising unless france is sure that all this goodwill will not go to waste

July 29th, 2008, 10:37 am


ugarit said:

WHY-DISCUSS said “The arab/moslem civilization would never have been what it is without the extroadinary artistic power of Persia. ”

Let’s not forget the huge Byzantine influence.

July 29th, 2008, 11:02 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai states:

Because you and Bashmann have engaged in much more open criticism of Syria, AIG and AP deduce that others are not critical of Syria…

Right, and Bashmann rarely posts here and Majhool is very new.

If Tzipi Livni, or Bibi Netanyahu, shake hands with Bashar Assad at the lawn of the White House 1 year from now, would you not call it peace between Israelis and Syrians?


Replace “Bashar Assad” with “Yassir Arafat”. Hopefully now you can see how naive you are. Both Assad and Arafat were “President-for-Life”, both invoke military rule without concern for human rights, with a heavy hand, without checks and balances, and with an eye on an “external enemy”. This is their “raison d’etre”. Assad and Arafat are more similar than different. Therefore your assumptions are quite dangerous. Some people never learn.

Majhool said:

I just don’t believe the syrian regime is interested in peace.


What do YOU know that “liberal”, “yafeh nefesh”, “peacenik”, naive Shai doesn’t??

Thank you.

Majhool writes:

now go and criticize your own. You have so much that you can start with.

1.) Israelis can’t make Baklava correctly.

2.) Israelis stole the falafel and called it their own.

3.) Israelis are too aggresive, especially on the roads and highways.

4.) Israelis don’t know how to apologize.

5.) Israelis depend too much on their liberal news media (like Americans).

6.) Israelis litter way too much.

7.) Israelis could be more humble and less inclined to adultery.

McCain ahead among LIKELY voters…

Thanks to the “Edit” button, OTW said:

I am noticing that some of us on this site are beginning to take AIG and AP challenges rather seriously. I think this is a good thing. The more ones ideas are challenged, the more they get affirmed, refined, or abandoned.

Thank you. I agree 100%, which is why I enjoy this forum/blog.

I am open to all three outcomes, except for my strong commitment to none violence.

Which, automatically disqualifies you as a Hamas, Hezbollah, Tanzim, PFLP-GC, supporter (unlike Alex, who has stated that he supports Hamas).

July 29th, 2008, 11:17 am


Off the Wall said:

Thank you very much for the kind words. I also feel every once in while of wanting to be the town’s idiot so that i can relax a bit and have no worry. But then, I would start wondering what kind of worries would I have If I was the town’s idiot, and I would get scared a little:) and settle for the modest brain power I have and get back to work.

I do agree that AP and AIG are not necessarily bad people. In fact, I have been thinking of AP’s challenge, and I have to agree that he is right. Just because AIG supports the war on Iraq, it does not make him a racist, at least not from what he has said. I think I was guilty of projection and generalization and I owe AIG an apology, not for my vehement disagreement with his approach, which I think is heartless, but because I called him a racist and accused him of being an ethnic cleanser without any evidence from his own words to that effect. Doing so was simply me mirroring his calling people like you and me “dictator lovers”. I think this is wrong when he does it, and it was wrong when I did it.

I am noticing that some of us on this site are beginning to take AIG and AP challenges rather seriously. I think this is a good thing. The more ones ideas are challenged, the more they get affirmed, refined, or abandoned. I am open to all three outcomes, except for my strong commitment to none violence.

I enjoyed reading your conversation with MAJHOOL. You are an excellent diplomat and peace maker. Thank god for the internet that has allowed us to cross path :).

July 29th, 2008, 11:17 am


Off the Wall said:

How about the Hellenic as well. Doesn’t feel good to have such a mixed and rich heritage?

July 29th, 2008, 11:24 am


Off the Wall said:

See now, Arabs know how to applogize when they are wrong 🙂

July 29th, 2008, 11:29 am


Off the Wall said:


Replace “Bashar Assad” with “Yassir Arafat”. Hopefully now you can see how naive you are. Both Assad and Arafat were “President-for-Life”,

Mubarak is Also a president for life, with his son being prepared to inherit the country as well. He rules with no less iron glove than the Assad’s or Arafat’s, Qaddafis or Abdullas (the Hashemite). His party is rather corrupt and it still enshrines a “weirder” form of socialism than that found in Syria. Egypt is a “leading” party country. But Israel not only have peace with his regime, the two governments sometime share strategic and tactical alliances. Can you say the freedom of press is 1/10th it is in egypt than in Israel. Hell man, he won with the same 95+% common in the rest of the Arab and African Monarpublics

July 29th, 2008, 11:41 am


ugarit said:

OFF THE WALL asked: “How about the Hellenic as well. Doesn’t feel good to have such a mixed and rich heritage?”

Hellenic is part of Byzantinism. It does feel good to have a mixed heritage. I don’t want to compliment the imperial expansion of the Arabs via Islam but without the Persians, Byzantines and Syrianis of those lands Arabs would not have reached such hights

July 29th, 2008, 11:48 am


Karim said:

This is true a great number of scientists and thinkers of the Islamic civilisation were Persians.
But where you are wrong ,it’s when you mixed shia’ism with the persians ,Iran became shia since the 16th century,most of persian scientists,historians ,philosophers of the medieval era were Sunnis .
For example ,the poets of Persia :al Firdawsi ,Saadi,Hafez ,Attar,Omar Khayyam.And btw ,the persian that the Afghanis speak is more pure than the persian of today Iran,those are also Sunnis.
Why Discuss,ask the iranians what they think about their regime…be careful with their soviet style propaganda,the reality is other.
Ugarit ,you are right.And also dont forget the indian influence.
Why Discuss ,i have no problem with the iranian people or the shias ,for example one of my favorite intellectual is Ali Shariati.Our problem is with the rafida ,they are the shia version of Qaida and even worse.

July 29th, 2008, 11:57 am


Akbar Palace said:

Mubarak is Also a president for life, with his son being prepared to inherit the country as well. He rules with no less iron glove than the Assad’s or Arafat’s, Qaddafis or Abdullas (the Hashemite). His party is rather corrupt and it still enshrines a “weirder” form of socialism than that found in Syria. Egypt is a “leading” party country. But Israel not only have peace with his regime, the two governments sometime share strategic and tactical alliances. Can you say the freedom of press is 1/10th it is in egypt than in Israel. Hell man, he won with the same 95+% common in the rest of the Arab and African Monarpublics


We hear you LOUD and CLEAR, and we (me, AIG, Shai) agree with your disappointment/frustration.

Here’s where I part with AIG. Would you prefer that Israel wait until all these regimes become democratic before making peace with them? Avoiding a war between Egypt and Jordan was a “mitzvah” for all the countries who signed these peace treaties.

Do you believe Israel should wait to make peace with Syria until they become democratic? Please discuss with pro-regime spokesperson, Mr. Alex…

July 29th, 2008, 12:24 pm


norman said:


With the Bush Administration leaving , France is looking after it’s own interest and trying to preempt an American charm offensive in the Mideast with the next American Administration. so it is trying to get back into Syria before the American change course and become friends with Syria.

July 29th, 2008, 1:11 pm


ugarit said:


What do you mean by rafida? Who has the authority to determine who is rafida and why?

As far as I know rafida means any Muslim who does not subscribe to Sunnism. So what are you talking about when you use it?

Which Shia are rafida and which are not?

July 29th, 2008, 1:15 pm


Averroes said:


Thank you for trying with Karim, but I think it will take a lot lot more to wake such people up.

I have dared him to answer one question, and the guy is just incapable of answering in public, because his answer will not sound too great.

So, he dodges the question, pretends it’s not there, and pulls up some more text on why the Sunni is pure white, and the Shiite is pure black. He shuts down the PC, and sleeps soundly afterwards.

It would have been entertaining if it were not so dangerous.

July 29th, 2008, 1:23 pm


ugarit said:

Karim said: “Ugarit ,the Saudi regime according to the socio cultural context is better than the Iranian”

What a pathetic answer. Why can’t you also say “according to the socio cultural context” Iran is fine? It seems that you’re hateful of Iran because it’s not Sunni.

July 29th, 2008, 2:00 pm


Shai said:


I’ve told you before, you must have some chutzpah to call me “yafeh nefesh”. When you’ve served Israel 1/10th of what I have, you can begin to chirp. When you’ve lived here while rockets were raining down all over, you can begin to talk. When your family fought and died in wars for Israel, maybe I’ll even listen. Until then, keep living in your safe, luxurious New Jersey residence (or wherever you live), and once or twice a year, send your guilt-money. As for referring to Israelis who saw their friends abuse Palestinians while on patrols in Gaza during the first and second Intifadas “liberals” and “peaceniks”, as if those are bad words, or something no human should aspire to be, I suggest first getting a mirror, and then looking at it. When you’ve come to know yourself better, reconsider your label-making factory, and the time you’re spending using it.


Thanks for the kind words…

July 29th, 2008, 2:05 pm


ugarit said:

Karim said: “The tiny shia community of damascus is known ,it’s about 5000 people and they are well integrated and are not rafidis …do you mean the iranian,lebanese and iranian clerics brought by the regime to Syria ?those have no place in our country and we know the reason the regime brought them to our cities,it’s because it fears for his future and believes that those will be like a militia in their side”

So you’ve revealed your cards. The Shiis that are outside of damascus are rafidis, such as Alawis, Ismailis, etc. Now I understand where you’re coming from. You’re a dangerous man. Your views need to be put in the “Museum of Dangerous and Regressive Thoughts”

So it’s ok for Muslims to take over Syria and convert it to Islam but for a few clerics from Iran coming to Syria is a no no.

July 29th, 2008, 2:09 pm


offended said:

One has to wonder, are these guys paid to write this outrageous crap?

عبد الله الهدلق

تاجر الأشلاء والجثث
بصيحات (الفرح!) استقبلت الجموع في لبنان المجرم الوحشي وقاتل الأطفال الذي قتل عام 1978 ثلاثة إسرائيليين بينهم طفلة في الرابعة من عمرها، إنه الدرزي سمير قنطار، بالاضافة الى أربعة مجرمين وحشيين وإرهابيين هم خضر زيدان، محمد سرور، ماهر كوراني، وحسين سليمان فضلا عن جثث وأشلاء (199) ارهابيا آخرين في مشهد جديد يؤكد أن (حزب الله!) الارهابي المهزوم والمدعوم من الكيان الفارسي (إيران!) تنظيم ارهابي مجرم يستقبل المجرمين ويفتخر بمجرم وحشي هو سمير قنطار ارتكب بكل وحشية وبدم بارد جريمة قتل اطفال ابرياء، كما ان ذلك الحزب يعتبر عدواً شرساً وصلفاً وحقيراً يستهين بالارواح البشرية ويتاجر بالرفات والاشلاء والجثث ويعتبرها وسيلة تبادل.
ان المتأمل للاشلاء والجثث التي وصلت إلى لبنان في عملية التبادل ليدرك ان ما يستحقه (حزب الله!) الارهابي المهزوم هو الاحتقار وفقط الاحتقار فهو الذي ضحى بلبنان، ودمر اقتصاده، وخلف وراءه مئات العائلات الثكلى، والنائحة، وآلاف الجرحى وها هو اليوم يتاجر بالرفات والاشلاء والجثث محاولاً التباهي والفخر باستقبال خمسة مجرمين ارهابيين بينهم الوحشي سمير قنطار قاتل الطفلة البريئة ذات الاربعة الأعوام، والذي وعدت اسرائيل ـ وستفي بوعدها قريباً ـ باغتياله وتصفيته، وهكذا يثبت تاجر الاشلاء والجثث انه صغير يقبع في الخفاء دائماً بعيداً عن ضوء الشمس خوفا من ان تغتاله وتصفيه إسرائيل، ولكن اجهزة الاستخبارات الاسرائيلية ستصل اليه في النهاية وتغلق الحساب معه.
اصبح هذا النوع من المبادلات معلماً كئيباً مألوفاً من معالم الصراع مع (حزب الله!) الارهابي المهزوم تتم فيه مبادلة مجرمين وارهابيين من ذلك الحزب بجثث وأشلاء ورفات مستخرجة من قبور مؤقتة او من المشارح، وربما سعى (حسن نصر الله!) لإبراز حزبه كحركة (مقاومة وطنية!) تعمل من أجل كل اللبنانيين باستقباله لسمير قنطار (الدرزي) وليس فقط من اجل الشيعة، ولكن (حسن نصر الله) نسي أو تناسى انه كان قد حول اسلحته الى صدور المواطنين اللبنانيين عندما تحولت الازمة السياسية الى صراع طائفي ومذهبي وقتال في شوارع بيروت في مايو الماضي.
وقف الإرهابيون الخمسة سمير قنطار ورفاقه الأربعة امام الحفرة التي القيت فيها جيفة المجرم الهالك عماد مغنية الذي اغتيل في دمشق في فبراير الماضي واقسم المجرم سمير قنطار للهالك الملعون عماد مغنية بان يواصل درب الارهاب والاجرام والقتل حتى ينال منزلة مغنية، ويبدو ان سمير قنطار لن يحنث في قسمه لا سيما بعد ان اعلنت اسرائيل انها ستصل إليه وتغتاله وتصفيه، ولن تهدأ قيادة الاستخبارات الاسرائيلية حتى تحقق للمجرم الارهابي ما اراد وتبر له بقسمه، اذ لم يبق لاسرائيل ـ بعد خروجه من سجونها ـ اي التزام تجاه قنطار فهو ارهابي قاتل وسيصفى الحساب معه حتى النهاية.
زيّن (حزب الله!) الارهابي المهزوم والذي اعاد الكيان الفارسي (ايران!) تجهيزه وتسليحه بصواريخ اكثر تطوراً وابعد مدى، زين الجانب اللبناني من الحدود مع اسرائيل بملصق يتحدى المشاعر الانسانية ويعكس الطبيعة الارهابية لذلك الحزب المجرم غداة عملية تبادل الجثث والرفات والاشلاء، يقول ذلك الملصق بكل وقاحة وشماتة: »اسرائيل تذرف دموع الحزن ولبنان يذرف دموع الفرح!«. فاي فرح ينتظر لبنان في وجود ذلك التنظيم الارهابي المهزوم المسمى (حزب الله!) الذي البس لبنان ثياب الحداد سنوات طويلة؟! وليعلم زعيم الارهاب ان اياماً حزينة تنتظره وتنتظر ارهابييه على ايدي قوات الجيش الاسرائيلي لو فكر في ارتكاب حماقات او تهورات جديدة مع اسرائيل، وليعلم ايضا انه حتى اتباعه الاغبياء يعرفون ان الاحتفالات بقدوم سمير قنطار هي مجرد حلقة اعلامية اخرى يقصد منها تبرير الكارثة التي جلبها (حزب الله!) الارهابي المهزوم على لبنان في صيف عام 2006.

July 29th, 2008, 2:28 pm


norman said:

Syria will always be far behind others if the Syrians continue to care more about the ethnic and the religious back ground of people instead of who they are and what they can offer to improve Syria ,
The time for personal accountability is now , and people are good or bad no matter what their religious or ethnic background is .

July 29th, 2008, 2:36 pm


Majhool said:


Great comment. We should start with the Army and Public administration, it’s striking to me how secterian the hiring is.

July 29th, 2008, 2:50 pm


norman said:

QN ,

This is for you , Lebanon is a big benificiery of Syria/ Lebanon relation.



Trade between Lebanon and Syria rose last year to a two decade high and for the first time since 1990 Lebanon is now gaining more from the exchange then Syria according the Damascus based business newsletter The Syria Report (TSR). The economic relationship between the two countries has usually been characterized by Syrian laborers immigrating to Lebanon and taking jobs from the locals in order to send money home.

However, according to the editor of TSR Jihad Al-Yazigi the relationship is much more complicated. Due to the unstable political situation in Lebanon, over the years well-educated Lebanese have left their home country in order to find employment elsewhere. Many of them ended up in the Gulf but some of them found their way into Syria, and, according to Al-Yazigi, Syria would probably not be liberalizing its economy and reviving its service sector without the influence of Lebanese managers.

Al-Yazigi also pointed out that now is the time for Lebanese business people to take advantage of the opening up of the Syrian economy since the market is still relatively untouched. Geographical closeness and business know-how are both weighing in Lebanon’s favor, he said.

By The Media Line Staff on Tuesday, July 29, 2008


July 29th, 2008, 2:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Thanks ya Ammo. 😉

July 29th, 2008, 3:15 pm


Off the Wall said:


Do you believe Israel should wait to make peace with Syria until they become democratic? Please discuss with pro-regime spokesperson, Mr. Alex…

Allow me to agree with SHAI and with Alex on this point. I would, of course prefere that all countries in the region be “liberal docmracies”, each with its flavor of political parties. The reasons why I agree with Alex includes a long list, and I will not have time before the weekend to even write about them. As newbi here, I do sweat out my writing, but I will try to explain my point of view hopefully within few days from now. Would you grant me that time?

I am amazed at the economic potential of Syria. I knew it was big, but I never thought it would be that significant.

July 29th, 2008, 5:00 pm


Off the Wall said:

Does “yafeh nefesh” mean a young inexepreinced person in Hebrew (e.g., naive) ?

July 29th, 2008, 5:10 pm


norman said:


If you look at Syria between Turkey and the EU on one side and the Gulf and Asia on the other side , you can see how important Syria for trade , I just hope that Syria can have better roads and Rail system with tolls and fees so it can benefit from that trade.

July 29th, 2008, 5:24 pm


Alex said:


Ya habibi … when will we get over this claim of yours? “unlike Alex, who has stated that he supports Hamas”

How do you feel if I kept saying that you support the Israeli soldiers on trial who killed or injured innocent Palestinians just for fun?

You understand why the Israeli army is in Palestinian territories, and I understand why Hamas is Hamas.

anyway .. I don’t bother too much. I know (or hope) that you are being semi-sarcastic.

July 29th, 2008, 6:07 pm


Alex said:

Olmert: Syria must choose between peace and isolation
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Syria must make a strategic choice between peace and isolation, as a new round of mediated peace talks began in Turkey.

In his speech at the Hebrew University to graduates of a security course, Olmert directed this statement at Syria: “The time will come when signals, as positive as they may be, are not enough.

Israel has been pressing for direct talks, though skeptics contend that Syria is interested more in the appearance of peace talks to break its isolation than in actually making peace.
Olmert said he discussed the prospects with security officials, and they told him that the potential benefits outweigh the risks in the peace negotiations with Syria, and that this opportunity must be explored.

Olmert also sent a veiled warning: “Israel is a powerful nation. Our friends know it, and so do our enemies.”

Meanwhile, Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are at odds over how Israel should conduct its recently renewed negotiations with Syria.

An argument erupted betwen the two on Monday during a Knesset plenum meeting regarding the negotiations.

Haaretz has learned that during the argument, Livni said she opposed the concessions Olmert has been willing to make regarding the various matters on the agenda, as part of his efforts to see direct talks between the two states.

Olmert’s advisers Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman are currently in Istanbul for the fourth round of indirect negotiations. These latest talks began on Tuesday and are expected to last for a day.

Senior officials in Jerusalem confirmed Monday that Syria has carried out a number of measures in recent weeks that reflect that it is taking talks with Israel seriously.

The sources refused to say whether they were referring to such measures as lowering the alert levels of the Syrian army or stemming the flow of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon through its territory, but they did say that the effects of the measures were “tangible.”

Olmert said he was pleased with the measures and with the negotiations with Syria. He predicted that Israel’s talks with Damascus would soon cause Syria to come into conflict with Hezbollah and Iran. Olmert said that when Syria reaches that crossroad it will have to decide which direction to pursue.

“The Syrians will soon discover that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” Olmert said, paraphrasing U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, a Western source said Monday that Syria is interested in making as much progress as possible with Olmert so that his successor will be bound to whatever commitments he makes.

July 29th, 2008, 6:12 pm


Alex said:

Ahmadinejad to Mouallem “looking forward to meeting Assad in Tehran soon”

أحمدي نجاد للمعلم: نتطلع للقاء الرئيس الأسد في طهران قريباً
الثلاثاء, 29 تموز , 2008 – 05:00


أكد الرئيس الإيراني محمود أحمدي نجاد حرصه على تطوير العلاقات مع سورية وتطلعه للقاء السيد الرئيس بشار الإسد في طهران قريباً.

جاء ذلك خلال استقبال الرئيس أحمدي نجاد في طهران بعد ظهر اليوم للسيد وليد المعلم وزير الخارجية الذي يشارك في أعمال المؤتمر الخامس عشر لوزراء خارجية دول عدم الانحياز حيث جرى بحث التطورات الاقليمية والدولية وسبل التعاون القائم بين ايران وسورية في سعيهما المشترك لتسوية المشكلات التي تواجهها المنطقة.

حضر اللقاء الدكتور فيصل المقداد نائب وزير الخارجية والدكتور حامد حسن السفير السوري في طهران.

كما التقى الوزير المعلم الدكتور علي لاريجاني رئيس مجلس الشورى الاسلامي حيث هنأه بانتخابه رئيسا لمجلس الشورى الاسلامي في ايران.

وأكد وزير الخارجية على الدور الذي يمكن ان يقوم به مجلس الشورى الإسلامي في ايران ومجلس الشعب في سورية في توطيد العلاقات بين الشعبين الصديقين.

كذلك التقى الوزير المعلم السيد منوشهر متقي وزير الخارجية الايراني

July 29th, 2008, 6:25 pm


norman said:


It all comes to this ,

Does Israel really wants peace with Syria or it wants only to isolate Syria from Iran , Hezbollah and Hamas,

I fear that the later is the case.

Israel has to prove otherwise.

July 29th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Akbar Palace said:


All of the above. And BTW, what kind of peace would it be if Syria continued to supply terror organizations with weaponry?

July 29th, 2008, 7:17 pm


youngsyria said:

“مع العلم بان سورية سبق ان اجرت مفاوضات مباشرة في الماضي، وبالتالي لا تستطيع ان تدعي العذرية.”


July 29th, 2008, 7:25 pm


Karim said:

Dear Ugarit ,there is no need for your irritation ,i ‘m not what you pretented me to be….I’m a Muslim liberal ,and Muslim Democrat ,for a secular and tolerant state ,in which all syrians are equals in rights and duties ,i’m against the interference of the sheikhs in politics ,they should be allowed to give their opinion but not usurping the dress of politicians.

Now when i attack those rawafid ,which it means ,the people who insult the sahabis and the wife of the prophet ,and rafida in my eyes is limited to them and only them.And this is by fear for stability in my country because today 90% of our people ignore what the rafidas say in these Iranian regime build hussayniyat(places of fitna),when they will be aware of this reality ,it’s very likely that many will react by violence not against these iranian rafidi clerics protected by the moukhabarats ,but my fear is that it will be directed towards our own shia communities which are very moderate and are in good terms with the sunni majority.

Now let us listen what is Awwa’s opinion who was presented by our friend Averroes as the champion figure of moderate Islam.(i disagree with him here)i will say why….

July 29th, 2008, 10:32 pm


Alex said:

Apologies to Hasan and Jad

I just noticed your comments stuck in moderation. when youa re new you automatically go to moderation.

Anything you write from now on will hopefully appear in real time

Here is Jad’s longer comment (above) that we all missed:

July 30th, 2008, 12:29 am


Jad said:

Karim, you are far from being liberal you are blind by your hate toward other sects and religions.
I just hope that you only represent minority in Syria. You have some fan though, Majhool.
You are a very scary man.

July 30th, 2008, 12:33 am


Alex said:


Thank you for letting me know about the offensive comment on CS … I deleted it (and deleted yours too since it would be meaningless without the one above it)

That lunatic has been trying to post the same comment everyday for the past year or two. usually the spam filter catches him, but sometimes he gets through.

Thanks again.

July 30th, 2008, 12:42 am


Karim said:

Jad = ?,no the majority in Syria are more extremists and less liberals than i’ sure of that.
as for you ,otw or averroes ,it’s may be accepted to insult God and may be you would have welcomed a gay pride in Damascus ,and this is unacceptable for the people.I’m not against if Atheist views are debated between scholars,academics but not in the streets or popular medias.
As for the insults against the wife of the prophet ,go insult the wife of any syrian ,muslim or other,then come to us to show what happened to you(if still alive)…so guess how averrage syrian muslims would react when the wife of their prophet is called a whore by a rafidi.Forget me but be realistic ,logical and rational….and be polite.

July 30th, 2008, 1:37 am


Nidal said:


Could we move on to another topic? This exchange of comments about sunnis, shias, rafidis, ikhwans, … is getting nowhere. I am only seeing attacks and counter-attacks. It is not constructive at all. Let’s refrain from this nauseating religious verbiage. Alex, could you at least warn people when they go too far in that fashion? The reason is that it is repulsing and it is discouraging others like me to engage in this blog on more constructive issues. Plus, I am not learning anything when people engage in excessive comments.

Since there are a few people who would like to see more arabs (or Syrians in this case) criticizing themselves, let me put back on the table Alex’s previous proposition: to write an article about corruption in Syria (or any other arab country), or to write something about arab self-criticism. Or simply we could blog about it here.

July 30th, 2008, 1:53 am


norman said:

I do not think that the prophet or his wife needs protection from anybody , GOD will protect their names and the people who insult them will go to hell , so let us leave it to GOD .

July 30th, 2008, 1:58 am


Jad said:

Thank you Alex.
I totally agree with Mr. Nidal, we should move to other subjects. We are having many well-educated people disputing over narrow personal preferences instead of crucial enlightening issues.
Mr. Karim, you are A MINORITY when it comes to your ideology and believes. By the way, you can’t state that “…. I’m a Muslim liberal ,and Muslim Democrat ,for a secular and tolerant state…..” When u wrote “I’m not against if Atheist views are debated between scholars, academics but not in the streets or popular medias.” It doesn’t work this way. You can’t put any constrain over democracy, everybody are free to think and debate away from any form of violence.

July 30th, 2008, 2:30 am


norman said:

Last update – 08:06 29/07/2008

Jerusalem officials: Syria taking talks with Israel seriously

By Shahar Ilan, Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern

Tags: syria, golan heights, israel

Senior officials in Jerusalem confirmed Monday that Syria has carried out a number of measures in recent weeks that reflect that it is taking talks with Israel seriously.

The sources refused to say whether they were referring to such measures as lowering the alert levels of the Syrian army or stemming the flow of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon through its territory, but they did say that the effects of the measures were “tangible.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was pleased with the measures and with the negotiations with Syria. He predicted that Israel’s talks with Damascus will soon cause Syria to come into conflict with Hezbollah and Iran. Olmert said that when Syria reaches that crossroad it will have to decide which direction to pursue.

“The Syrians will soon discover that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” Olmert said, paraphrasing U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

Olmert said that he expects Hezbollah to try and avenge the death of top figure Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a bomb blast in February in Damascus that has been attributed to Israel.

Meanwhile, a Western source said Monday that Syria is interested in making as much progress as possible with Olmert so that his successor will be bound to whatever commitments he makes.

The sources in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said Syria is interested in having the U.S. or a European country mediate talks with Israel. France, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is considered a strong candidate for the role. Paris has improved its ties with Syria over the past few months and brought it out of international isolation. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, discussed the matter at the Mediterranean summit earlier this month.

Olmert and Assad were in close proximity for much of the summit and at one point stood only meters away from one another. However, they never met or shook hands. Assad seemed determined not to make contact with Israel’s prime minister.

“I knew Assad wouldn’t want to be part of such a meeting,” Olmert said. “We sent messages in advance that we did not intend to make contact during the summit. We thought such efforts would be artificial and unnecessary.”

On the issue of finding a third party to mediate, sources say that Damascus may agree to direct negotiations. Talks are currently being held via indirect channels.

Meanwhile, Syria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, Monday told the American branch of Peace Now that a peace deal with Israel, Syria and Lebanon was possible.

“Let’s sit down, make peace and end this war status once and for all,” Moustapha said. He later added that Israel had an opportunity to make peace with Lebanon at the same time.

Moustapha, a senior Syrian policymaker, is considered close to Assad. Also Monday, Haaretz learned that the U.S. State Department canceled a meeting with a visiting Syrian delegation in Washington last week because it was leaked to the press and because they believed the Syrians were behind the leak.

Related articles:

Public figures attempting Syria talks outside official track, says Olmert

Syria envoy to U.S.: Israel has chance for peace with all Arabs

Syria says determined to forge diplomatic ties with Lebanon

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July 30th, 2008, 2:34 am


Karim said:

Jad 80 % of syrian women are veiled and hijabi,more than any other arab country ,it means what it means ,Syria is not Scandinavia.A minimum of realism is needed.

July 30th, 2008, 2:39 am


ugarit said:


Don’t worry about insults to a human that lived over 1400 years ago and his wives. God will solve the problem. Or do you have doubts about an all powerful God?

No one has authorized you to protect the “honor” of someone who has not been with us for over 1400 years.

July 30th, 2008, 2:46 am


Karim said:

Dear Ugarit,you said once that you were atheist,this is your right, but our people prefer to die than listening to such insults.We speak about the repercussion on a whole society not on Karim,OTW,Averroes,Majhool ..

July 30th, 2008, 2:57 am


JAD said:

I know very well that Syria is not Scandinavia, but the last time I checked the census of Hijab in the Arab world, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and probably 19 countries came before Syria,( 80 % of syrian women are veiled and hijabi,more than any other arab country )!!!!!!
Where did you pin your percentage accuracy from, faceboock or This is a funny sketch that will help you cool down a bit…hehe
I’m not talking about religion demography; I’m talking about extreme ideology in the religion that you represent, it is a minority point of views; loud people are not always the majority.

July 30th, 2008, 3:05 am


Majhool said:

Monsieur Jad,

I noticed that my comment(s) made you scared. Could you please point out what exactly in my comments you found to be all scary. I would appreciate if you can put it between quotes for me. I would greatly appreciate it.

July 30th, 2008, 3:20 am


Karim said:

Jad ,dont forget that the alawites and christians are not veiled,together they represent 20%,even with these communities ,Damascus has a more Islamic character than Amman so what about Aleppo,Hama ,Homs,Deir Ezor,Abu Kamal,Raqqa,Edleb,old Lattakia….and in Saudi Arabia they are obliged .On TV5(francophonie channel)the maghrebian journalist was surprised by the number of veiled girls when she asked an intellectual of the city he said more than 85% for Aleppo ,and when she asked an intellectual from Damascus he said more than 80%.But if you have the survey i m very interested ,do you have the link?

July 30th, 2008, 3:22 am


Alex said:


I will be happy to ask them again:

Who is interested in writing 500 words about corruption in Syria?

– its causes
– how to fight it.

Do I have five of you interested to write about it? … we’ll make it a SC post two days from now.

As for the ongoing discussion among Karim , Majhool, Averroes, and Jad … unfortunately this is a real issue in the Middle East and in Syria specifically.

Although a majority of Arabs (Sunni Arabs) do not see Iran as a serious danger, their “Moderate Arab” leaders (Saudis etc) are busy portraying Shia Islam as some scary monster trying to destroy Sunni Islam.

The good news is that opinion polls tell us that most people are not falling for this stupidity. he Bad news is that 10 to 20% of people (my rough estimate) are by now indeed paranoid about the Shiite danger.

Many “Syrian opposition” people expressed to me their disappointment that Syrian Christians are solidly with the regime (the non-democratic regime) and with the Sunni majority.

Jad’s comment above explains how Syrian Christians feel … they are utterly repulsed by the way “Syrian opposition” figures brought religion as a central issue in their political discourse. Minorities (including Christians) get scared when they listen to someone like Karim who is completely focused on religion. When Karim calls for political change in Syria, the Christians will run the other way.

Same applies to Khaddam, Ammar Abdelhamid … and of course the scary Ikhwan.

I told Ammar (when I used to speak to him) that he should stop talking about Elites vs. Alawites and villagers (like Karim often writes) if he is to have a chance of attracting more Syrian monorities to his cause.

There is no way to go forward if we are motivated by removing one sect from power and restoring another one… even if it is a majority religion in Syria.

Leave religion out of it .. for real, not simply by issuing politically correct statements.

July 30th, 2008, 3:34 am


Nidal said:

Thank you, Alex. Good comments.

July 30th, 2008, 3:40 am


Majhool said:

I agree with Alex’s last statement . We should keep religion out of it.

I believe Karim find it to be his duty to defend his religious beliefs and the way he understand its history. Although I don’t share Karim’s enthusiasm when it comes to religion especially in politics. I do understand (not necessarily accept) his sentiment. Urban Sunnis in Syria have been ill treated by the regime for some decades now. This is strongly embedded in their minds rightly or wrongly id does not matter.

Not understanding their sentiment is equally extreme and dangerous. Jad’s comments are really discouraging for that it does exactly that.

Radicalism foster radicalism.

July 30th, 2008, 3:59 am


Off the Wall said:


We may not have to write the 500+ words essay on corruption in Syria. The phenomenon, or better yet, phenomena as its is a synergy of more than one, is rampant throughout the Arab world.

When i googled the term “Corruption in the Arab World”, there were more than 4000 returns. Luckily, the first was a decent study by Paul Salem titled

The Impact of Corruption on Human Development in the Arab World

The study is available @

Granted some may not like the fact that it is general and it may allow us to escape the specifics. But it can be good start.

By the way, i have not yet figured how to add html tags into my post. It would be more elegant and will save us the long directory listing.

July 30th, 2008, 4:17 am


Karim said:

Alex,why should we hide the reality ?we have to face the reality as it is and we are 80% sons of asad era…do you really fear me or an educated man like Ammar Abdulhamid ?or even do you fear the ikhwan?btw there is no more ikhwan party and nore more ikhwan members in Syria because of law 49 and those who were related to the party died or are old people.So how could you fear the sons of asad regime ?If 40 years of Asad regime didnt succeed to make the syrians love each others but instead it keeps trying to terrorize the minorities from the majority with apocalyptical scenarios ,is not the regime the central problem?
BTW ,allah yerham ayam souria el bien heureuse….Syria of our fathers….you know that 80%(according to my eyes and intellect) of the under 30 years old christians left Syria and often with one way ticket…what remained of the christian community ,only women ,and old persons?Is that not directly related to the regime political and economic policy which is determinated by the logic of the minority regime surival?
Alex ,Ugarit,Norman,tayeb i’m a Muslim and nostalgic of the islamic civilization and backward looking (thanks Ugarit) ,and i have no objection if you are elected president of Syria and i’m for the amendment of the constitution for allowing christians to presidency…so why fearing the other syrians ?you make happy bashar and his gang when you persist to remain prisoner of your minority complex.

July 30th, 2008, 4:21 am


Majhool said:

Jad Said:

“What a twist, Majhool a hardcore islamist, “pro ikhwan” asking the help of Israel to interfere in his own country affairs so he can get to power”Jad,

Jad, I will try to have some restrain in respect for Alex rules of commentary and will clarify few things for you

First, I am not an Islamist, I am heathen Syrian Nationalist (my own and not of the SNPP). Some here know enough about me and will be able to confirm this fact.

Second, I am not pro-Ikhwan, not even close. My political views revolve around a secular and democratic Syria that guarantees the rights of every Syrian especially minorities.

As for “expecting the Israelis to interfere in Syria’s affair (to my dismay) “your blindness, anger, and … have led you to believe that I am advocating for interference against syria, while in reality it’s simply saying that I expect my enemy to interfere so I prepare for it or do something about it.

July 30th, 2008, 4:27 am


JAD said:

Mr. Karim,
I fear you when you look and judge the religion or the sect or the politics background of the person before the human being in them
I fear you when you express your respect to someone who killed your Syrian brothers and sister with no right.
I fear you when you want the revolution without thinking of the aftermath
I fear you when you want to look at the history but not learning from our mistake.
I fear you because you are an educated person with a backward way of thinking.
I fear you most when I think that you are spreading the culture of hate and segregation instead of the culture of brotherhood.
I fear to loose my Syria because of your ideas

July 30th, 2008, 4:50 am


Off the Wall said:


your views are feared because they are simply Stasist. A as you forbid ideas other than yours from being discussed on the “streets”, you do exactly as any other dictatorial regime would. You attempt to halt any possible evolution of society in directions that do not suite your vision and beliefs. Could excessive religiosity be a transient phenomenon in Syria and other places due to certain conditions, it could be, but according to what said, you will freeze the society at that 80% or whatever ratio, and we will never know whether it is transient, or as permanent as you claim it to be.

In a system that accepts banning contrary ideas as floor instead of ceiling, those you are willing to treat as incomplete citizen by preventing their point of view from being discussed “on the streets”, are robbed of participation and of their ownership of the street their tax money helped paved. In my syria, there are no half citizens. George, will have the same rights as Ahmad. And and Atheist book can stand on the same shelf with the memories of Tantawi. Neither would be forbidden.

Once you place any group in under suspicion, some one in your security services would think that it is wise to “observe” them so that they do not do or say anything that can hurt your sensibilities, and by that, damage the social solidarity. Then another more “faithful” person, would recommend that someone infiltrate their gatherings. Pretty soon, some of these rafidis, atheists, christians, alawis, assyrians, progressive kurds, will find their way into the same jail cells, under new management. We have have been watching and living this movie for 60 years, and your scenario is no different.

July 30th, 2008, 5:03 am


Majhool said:


Try to understand that similarly Karim lost “his” Syria. Both you and Karim are victims of the Baath regime that caused this rift and unsubstantiated fear.

There is no way forward for Syria unless the root cause of the Ikhwani problem is solved. (i.e power sharing)

People sharing karim’s background ruled Syria in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. These were the golden days for democracy in Syria. If you keep your rhetoric the way it is, you will find nothing but Ikwan mentality ( a reaction)

July 30th, 2008, 5:05 am


Karim said:

Dear OTW ,where did i say that i’m for the prohibition of the ideas other than mine ?What i meant is that any irresponsibility in sensitive subjects like religion could endanger the civil peace.For example ,we should not allow christian newspapers attacking Islam and the opposite too (and so was exactly the opinion of Awwa,the friend of Averroes ).
But i see no problem ,if Islam or Christianity are criticized in a academic context for example a debate between Atheists thinkers and Muslim thinkers in a civilized way.As for the books ,i myself enjoy reading Jean Paul Sartre,Gramsci,Marx,Nietzsche,Freud….and they influenced me.

July 30th, 2008, 5:28 am


Majhool said:


You said addressing karim: “…you are spreading the culture of hate(..)”

Let me remind you that accusations of “hate” is not allowed here.

July 30th, 2008, 5:28 am


Alex said:


I will strongly agree with OTW.

Sociological cycle theory argues that events and stages of society and history are generally repeating themselves in cycles, whereas you would like to freeze today’s “reality” because you like it the way it is (at a nicely large 80% to your liking).

Syria was different in the 50’s and 60’s … The world was different in the happy 50’s and in the revolutionary 60’s.

This is what many Egyptian actresses look like these days

And here is a typical Egyptian movie from the old (liberal) days

Things will change again … you will like half the cycle, and you will hate the second half.

July 30th, 2008, 5:40 am


Karim said:

Yes Alex,we are back.Btw ,i dont believe in such determinist ideas or theory in human sciences.Even if this cycle theory was first enunciated by the great Ibn Khaldun.

July 30th, 2008, 5:53 am


Zenobia said:

I can attest to the fact that Majhool is a genuine heathen. : )

by the way, Jad, I love that link to the categories of hijab on the Syrian street. It is hilarious, and oh so painfully true.
i especially appreciated the “abu rumaneh hijab” .. ie the chic girl with the veiled indonesian maid! i love it…lol.

July 30th, 2008, 5:59 am


Karim said:

BTW Alex,nseet one thing ,so were Syria and Egypt inherited from the Ottomans ,which preserved a cosmopolitan and multi religious society….many of these filmakers were in fact Syro Lebanese christians,Jews,Greeks,European levantines……..what kind of Syria will we inherit from this regime?

July 30th, 2008, 6:08 am


Alex said:


We will not inherit a Syria from this regime … Syria will continue to change as a result of an infinite number of influences … the regime is one of them. You are another … try to do your best to be a good influence : )

Tell us more please about Ibn khaldun and the cycles theory.

July 30th, 2008, 6:16 am


Zenobia said:

you guys really love this thread don’t you. when are you going to part with it. It’s a symbol of being afraid to give up the old and move on to the new.

July 30th, 2008, 6:17 am


Majhool said:

Mirvat Amin is super hot; Jad, see nothing to be scared from. I wish I can further my credentials by glorifying Arak. Unfortunately, I am an avid wine drinker.


Did you watch the movie Yacoubian Building? If not then you should. I believe it argues that radical Islamists are product of

1) The Revolution ( or mismanagement of it)
2) The Dictatorship
3) Corruption

Where does the cycle theory fit into all this? Aren’t we over-theorizing?

July 30th, 2008, 6:25 am


Karim said:

Alex ,the regime has no positive influence other than it corrupt people and such people when they revert they often become Qaida and alikes.Dont be happy with Ali Al Deeek ,Festival al Mahabeh and prostitution …the people will hit back by more bigotery.
As for Ibn Khaldun theory ,google it and you will find many interesting pages…In Ibn Khaldun Theory ,when the regime becomes corrupt ,it enter in the decline process..but the problem here with our arab regimes is that they survive Ibn Khaldun fatality.So there is a problem somewhere.May be the international and Israeli cover on these regimes.

July 30th, 2008, 6:30 am


Shai said:

Alex, Norman,

Reading the article above about Olmert’s comments to Assad (must choose between peace and isolation) makes me very concerned that he simply does not understand what this is al about. His words, and the message behind them, are terribly patronizing, and will undoubtedly be received coldly by the Syrians, and Assad himself. This is not how you build trust, understanding, or mutual respect, all of which are necessary for successful negotiation, let alone a peace agreement. Clearly, Israel will not move from a single inch of the Golan until it is assured by the Syrians that arms to HA or Hamas will not cross Syrian territory. That Syria’s military alliance with Iran will have to change. That perhaps housing Hamas and Jihad in Damascus might have to end, etc. etc. But to voice this out loud, in such condescending manner, and to suggest that the alternative is “isolation”, as if Israel decides if, when, or how Syria will be isolated, is both chutzpah and not self-serving. It shows at best a lack of sensitivity (zero grade on diplomacy), and at worst a pure lack of understanding which can lead to the breakdown in talks.

My only hope, is that this was not a “slip up”, and that Olmert does understand things correctly, but that he felt this had to be delivered in this fashion, for the purpose of those 70% of Israelis who reject a potential peace agreement (with a return of the Golan). As I’ve said in the past, there will probably be a fair bit of “marketing” going on by both sides, preparing their constituents for peace, even at the price of “slight” (or more than slight) deception. Every single Israeli leader that spoke with the Syrians about the return of the Golan, including Rabin, Peres, Barak, Netanyahu, Sharon, and Olmert, all started out telling their voters that they’d never withdraw from this territory… And those that needed to, bought it long enough to vote for these guys. The same might be happening here, but this time with the idea of Syria “leaving” the Axis of Evil. It’s an amazing lesson in what leaders have to do and say, in order to survive long enough to carry out their own policy. And the more amazing part is, that most people actually buy into it.

For the AIG’s and AP’s out there, watch carefully as Bibi does the same thing. Incidentally, Olmert is voicing his concern over the apparent behind-the-scene contact between high level opposition figures (from the Right) who allegedly have started making certain contacts with Syria, asking them not to close a deal with the Olmert government, and instead to just wait a while longer, and to do so with them… 🙂 Heresay? Maybe, but let’s not forget Bibi’s friend from America, who sat with Assad the father, and talked about the exact distance from the shores of Lake Kinneret to which Israel will withdraw… If Hafez had said yes back then, I would have been sipping Ahweh with Alex in Aleppo already 8 years ago!

July 30th, 2008, 6:38 am


Majhool said:


Ali El-Deek is funny. He is the regime’s most liked singer.

Here is a snapshot at the new Syria many are scared to lose.

New Elite and new official culture.

Here is the old one

July 30th, 2008, 6:43 am


Alex said:


Good morning, and don’t worry about Olmert’s “marketing” efforts. The Syrians also say some negative things like “Israel does not want peace, it is only interested in taking our lands” …

As long as they are advancing in Turkey, these things do not matter.

But there are many other challenges.

One day at a time.


I watched the movie before it was playing in the theaters. A friend of mine got it from Egypt.

I might have walked by that building too. it looks familiar to me.

In my opinion, the movie mostly represents one point of view … that of the Egyptian Elite… especially their longing for the good old days.

I don’t think I can exclusively blame corrupt regimes (or “the revolution”) for radical fundamentalists.

Anyway. Time to go to sleep for me.

July 30th, 2008, 7:16 am


Nidal said:

I find the last exchanges between Jad, Karim and Majhool very interesting. In the essence, they are all proponents of a secular democratic society. Yet, Jad and Karim express their differences based on their fear of religious talk (or the lack of it) in public. For me, this sounds like déjà-vu: aren’t Turks actually living a similar thing in their own country, with a religious party running a secular government?

As Majhool said, Jad and Karim are more similar than they are different. The only thing that they have to build is trust. Their situation is so typical of the majority of Syrian society (and for that matter, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Irak).

July 30th, 2008, 1:39 pm


Majhool said:

well said Nidal

July 30th, 2008, 1:51 pm


JAD said:

I agree with you on the Turkish example, yet I don’t agree in the way you see similarity between someone who doesn’t see the religion as an obstacle to move on and someone whose ideology and beliefs are blinding him from seeing the real mix we have and that we should deal with it rationally.
Good that you mentioned all the countries of our region, that will explain how dangerous the situation will become when you agree with some extreme ideas,
In Lebanon, they had democracy yet they end up having a sectarian war that they didn’t fix it yet
In Palestine, the situation went totally bad when they wanted to fix corruption with religion group taking power and forgetting to separate it from politics and end up loosing any focus on the main problem.
In Iraq, they are killing each other and spreading all kind of fatwa against each others, just because they can In the name of freedom!
Jordan doesn’t have that many sects we have in Syria, there problem is between the same sect, liberal/radical, and it shift to the definition of their nationalism.
As a result, do you doubt that being closed minded about your religion might cost you everything?
For me the fundamental strength of our country is in understanding, respect and tolerance to your other citizens.
I’m against any extreme ideology and those ideas shouldn’t be tolerated at all, your religion and belief is between you and your God not the Society and your God. it’s so wrong.
P.S. I know very well that there are more issues and complexity in those countries I mentioned I just wanted to showcase what happen when we don’t understand the situation and start tolerating extreme ideologies.

July 30th, 2008, 5:58 pm


Nidal said:


I totally agree with your argument. You misunderstood me, or perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. Let me explain.

I see Karim as someone belonging to a group of people from whom their rights and privileges were taken away. They feel that they’ve been misrepresented for decades now. Furthermore, in that same group of people (it may not be Karim’s case), there are some that have become poor or underprivileged and are not being cared for respectfully. I understand that the natural reaction from them is to try by any means to get their frustrations out in the open in order to recuperate their rights. In repressive regimes, this often leads people to turn to their own religion. They try to find answers, solutions. (Again, let me reiterate that I am not targeting Karim, because I don’t know his background; I am simply trying to analyze the most general situation )

This is the case with young helpless disoriented souls joining AlQaeda-type ranks, or some other violent (or non violent like salafists) groups (other examples are hizballah in the 1980s, Hamas…).

This is also the case with fundamentalist jewish settlers. In their case, it’s more about trying to find an explanation to their actions and belief, and not necessarily about poverty. Their injustice is also a bit different, because as I try to analyze them, they believe that their injustice has been coninuing for more than 2000 years. (Shai, can you correct me if I am wrong? Thanks)

It is the case also with Christian groups… in the US for example with evangelicals, or in many other countries (I can think of the followers of Geagea in Lebanon, or the newly converted evangelicals of sub-saharan Africa; or also in Asian countries such as China where christianity is growing very rapidly).

This was the case with human beings throughout the history of mankind, when injustices have been perpetrated and inflicted upon groups of people.

I have seen this first hand as I grew up in Lebanon and Nigeria.

I must also add that ignorance often plays a major role, as well as not being well educated or well raised. But those are also products of underprivileged families and poverty…

In my opinion, looking at Turkish society (and at what Algerian society might have been if the islamic democratic victory in the early 1990’s had not been annulled and repressed), I truly believe that, with solid institutions and high levels of human development, everybody will prefer to live in a secular society. There will always be a minority of extremists, but they will be unable to gain any ground.

BTW, I am not a muslim. I was raised in a Lebanese maronite family, who had no political affiliations whatsoever (for those who doubt, let me say that my family and ancestors hated the Chamouns, Gemayels, Frangiehs… I only recall that they felt represented under Fouad Shehab). But I consider myself first as a human being, then a Lebanese-Canadian. Christianity (as you, Jad, say) is a personal and private matter for me and my family, as is the case with any other religion.

Again, I agree with your thinking and your arguments. I hope you understand mine. I think Majhool said it nicely above too (

July 30th, 2008, 6:43 pm


Shai said:


You are correct. Most Jewish settlers live nowhere close to the poverty line. They are ideologists, most are strongly religious, believing in their “Right” to the land based on the ancient history of the Jewish people, and the tribes of Israel that inhabited and once ruled that land.

Of course it didn’t “help” that all governments since 1967 (Labor, Likud) gave plenty of incentives to those willing to settle the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan (tax reduction, grants, etc.) So you also have a mix of some who came purely for economic reasons (e.g. a young couple that wants to raise a family, wants to own their own house instead of an apartment, and live in beautiful rural surrounding, rather than in cramped cities… etc.)

The fact that they’d live surrounded by 2-3 million Palestinians wasn’t overly highlighted in the “brochure”…

July 30th, 2008, 7:02 pm


fornetti said:

I do not believe this

August 31st, 2008, 4:31 am


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