Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria’s Inner Sanctum

Posted by Alex 

Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria's Inner Sanctum
U.S. Action Alleges Corruption

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2008; A18

The Bush administration yesterday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus.

As a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Makhluf, 38, is a key player in the Assad dynasty and is the force behind Syria's effort to privatize state-owned enterprises. However, his power over vital business monopolies has helped the government retain control over Syria's most important economic assets, according to U.S. officials and outside experts.

"Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country."

The Treasury Department sanctioned Makhluf under an executive order citing Syrians for alleged corruption. "Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Assad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "The Assad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing politics, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

The move freezes any assets Makhluf holds in the United States and restricts his transactions through U.S. financial institutions. The impact, however, may be largely political and psychological, as he is unlikely to have identifiable U.S. holdings, experts said.

The action was taken under a presidential executive order, signed on Feb. 13, which expanded sanctions on Syria — covering support for activities related to terrorism, narcotics and intervention in Lebanon — to include corruption.

The ruling Syrian dynasty was crafted with the marriage of Hafez al-Assad, the longtime president who came from a rural background and was the first in his family to graduate from high school, to Anisah Makhluf, who hailed from a wealthy Syrian family. Since a military coup in 1969, the Assads have controlled politics while the Makhlufs have been big business players. The tradition continues in the next generation, with Bashar al-Assad as president and Rami Makhluf as a leading force in business.

Makhluf is a top player in Syria's telecommunications, commercial, energy and banking sectors, said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The considerable role the Assad family, their inner circle and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals," the Treasury Department said in its announcement. "In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing."

The Bush administration has expanded punitive measures against Damascus in recent months, with the Makhluf family coming under scrutiny. In November, the Treasury sanctioned Hafiz Makhluf, Rami's brother, for his connection with efforts to reassert Syrian control over Lebanon. Syria ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon in 2005, but U.S. officials have charged that Damascus has been linked to subsequent attacks on Lebanese politicians.

"With these moves, the president of the United States is making it clear that the Syrian regime is anathema and unacceptable to him," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a fellow with the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. The U.S. action comes as the Syrian economy is vulnerable. Oil production is falling, and revenue from oil exports has accounted for as much as half of Syria's government budget, Landis said.

"A lot of people think of Makhluf as a highway robber, and in some ways he is. But he is also one of the few people who can work through the system to get things done," said Landis, referring to Rami Makhluf. "All kinds of banks and people and foreign investors who want to join in Syria's development are going to think twice and think 'What's going to happen to me?'

Comments (544)

EHSANI2 said:

The article says the following:

“The impact, however, may be largely political and psychological, as he is unlikely to have identifiable U.S. holdings, experts said.”

This is an oversimplification. The name is now on OFAC’S SDN list. This effectively shuts him out of the global financial system. All financial institutions have adopted OFAC post September 11th. It is highly unlikely for even non-US financial institutions to want to do any business or hold any assets of this individual.

February 22nd, 2008, 4:29 am


Enlightened said:

“A lot of people think of Makhluf as a highway robber, and in some ways he is. But he is also one of the few people who can work through the system to get things done,” said Landis, referring to Rami Makhluf.

Josh when are you planning your next trip to Syria? I take it you enjoyed your last trip so much that you dont want to go back! Tis Tis

Any statistics on what Mr Makhluf is worth anyone, I know that Syria does not publish a Rich 100 list but does anyone in the know, have an idea what he is worth, and what percentage of wealth has been gained due to the government granting him licences etc in the Syrian economy?

February 22nd, 2008, 4:33 am


EHSANI2 said:


Don’t waste your time with trying to find out his net worth. It is a futile exercise. If anyone does offer you a specific answer, he would be just throwing a number at you.

February 22nd, 2008, 4:41 am


Enlightened said:

Ehsani, I just read a chapter on “Inheriting Syria” Bashar’s trial by Fire ” Flynt Everett

estimations are the Makhloufs are worth $3billion, pales in comparison to what you and I are worth I bet!!

February 22nd, 2008, 4:48 am


Alex said:

Pales in Comparison to what the Hariris are worth … 12 billions?

Rami is Syria’s Hariri in many ways … minus the charisma, and the charity and the political skills. But economically he has been quite useful … first to himself, and second to Syria in general… just like Hariri in Lebanon … highly corrupt, but he built Beirut back. If for some reason the Neocons wanted to punish Rafiq and the Hariri family like they punished Rami … imagine all the Hariri business and construction projects that Beirut would not have had today.

Congratulations to David Schenker and Ammar Abdelhamid … this is the first of many steps they convinced the neocons to take to weaken the Syrian regime AND to weaken Syria and to punish the Syrian people in the process.

Here is what David was advocating few month ago

“The Syrian economy is growing — despite a 6.5 percent decline in oil production, its overall growth rate this past year was a respectable 5 percent. “Barring policy missteps or a deterioration in the regional environment,” a recent International Monetary Fund report predicted, “the near-term outlook . . . looks favorable.” Based on this assessment, Syria is not under economic duress.

…With Israeli-Syrian tensions rising and the pro-Western Lebanese government on a precipice, renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital.

    In the absence of effective measures, the Asad regime will continue to undermine Washington’s hopes for the region.

And these were my comments at the time:

But this step is not going to change a thing … one more escalation hoping to either scare the Syrian leaders, or to get Assad to lose his cool and … retaliate.

He won’t.

But it seems there will be many more steps to help him lose his temper.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:04 am


Enlightened said:


True True True, compared to what the Harriris are worth its small, and the examples about the lack of charity etc are not hollow.

I was wondering what Amar was up to he has been silent for two months, looks like he is making some friends and that meeting with Dubya did have some results after all.

I guess what we predicted a while ago, about the ratchetting up of the rhetoric etc does not bode well. I wonder which side will blink first as clearly every side is itching for some trouble.

Alex check previous post I unmasked AIG!

February 22nd, 2008, 5:11 am


Alex said:

Enlightened … Good job unmasking AIG!

Now you need to find out if AIG killed Hariri.

T-Desco can help you on that one.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:22 am


Alex said:

Italian FM says Mughniyah killing in Damascus was act of ‘terror’

By Meron Rapoport

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema termed the assassination of Imad Mughniyah “terror” in an interview to be published Friday in the popular Italian weekly L’espresso. He also said that Israeli assassinations of Hamas officials “serve as an alibi for terror.”

Concerning Mughniyah’s killing, “by my definition, the car bomb in the middle of Damascus was terror,” he said.

Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s chief operations officer, was responsible for attacks that killed hundreds of people around the world over the last quarter century.

D’Alema also termed Israeli assassinations of Hamas operatives in Gaza an “unacceptable practice.”

“Targeted killings have not bolstered the West’s image, and they serve as an alibi for terror,” he said.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:22 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Hey Josh,

In your post a few weeks ago you said:

“Washington cannot win the economic war with Syria unless it can crash the Syrian economy. The new sanction law will be hot air if it is not used to paralyse the financial freedom of Rami Makhlouf, the President’s cousin and the Mr. Economy for the Syrian regime. He will have to include all the top financiers in the sanctions regime in order to make the economy stumble and scare away foreign capital. If President Bush is serious, he will have to pursue his war all the way to the end.”

I hold you personally responsible for informing the US government of the clout Rami Makhlouf’s has on Syrian economy. Guess you were a government agent after all. Just an anti-Syrian one instead of pro-Syrian 😉

Jokes aside, this is a serious hit to the Syrian economy as a whole. But we will have to wait and see how non-American investors will react to this. And more importantly how the Americans will treat organizations that dont comply. Obstacles like these can possibly be circumvented through legal loopholes but that annoying route is often a good enough reason to make individuals and organizations rethink investing in the country.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:26 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Hopefully Makhlouf was smart enough to run his dollar-denominated accounts out of China.

I see that Fouad Siniora is in Paris for talks with Sarkozy, who says Michel Sleimane now!

February 22nd, 2008, 7:40 am


MSK said:

Ya Alex,

The moment a “Rami Makhlouf Foundation” gives out stipends to tens of thousands of poor Syrians, gives $$$ to Syrian universities, overhauls infrastructure in the Syrian countryside etc.pp. … I’ll be happy to compare him to Rafiq Hariri.

But actually, even then, one of the main differences is that Hariri made his money in KSA, where he had to work his way up (& certainly was at some time favored by the royals – and yes, KSA is not a democratic state blablabla) whereas Rami Makhlouf built his riches by being cousin to the boss & by stealing $$$ from the Syrian people.

But sure, ya Alex, keep bringing up the comparisons, however far-fetched they are, so you don’t have to admit any faults in the Syrian system … I’m surprised you mentioned Hariri and not Dubya.

Would you mind talking a bit about how Rami Makhlouf has been economically useful for Syria?

Just for kicks & illumination, here’s a fun passage of the Syrian constitution:

Article 14 [Ownership]
The law regulates ownership, which is of three kinds:
(1) Public ownership includes natural resources, public utilities, and nationalized installations and establishments, as well as installations and establishments set up by the state. The state undertakes to exploit and to supervise the administration of this property in the interest of the entire people. It is the duty of the citizens to protect this property.
(2) Collective ownership includes the property belonging to popular and professional organizations and to production units, cooperatives, and other social establishments. The law
guarantees its protection and support.
(3) Individual ownership includes property belonging to individuals. The law defines its social task in serving the national economy within the framework of the development plan. This property should not be used in ways contrary to the people’s interests.

(Emphasis mine)



February 22nd, 2008, 8:01 am


Alex said:


Did you read what I said? … I said something about lack of charitable activities didn’t I?

Besides .. the Late Hariri arrived in 1989 with 3 or 4 billions .. he left with 11 billions… and Lebanon had 40 billion debt.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:11 am


Naji said:

I am really disappointed in you…!! Such shallow, spiteful, and simply fallacious argument…!? Your stay in Beirut is not doing you any good, apparently 🙂

Hariri left with 16 Billion, not a mere 12…! But you and Josh should not fret this much, really…!! You can rest assured that there are plenty of other middlemen and new marraige alliances to take over the Makhloufs’ function for the regime… Mostly Sunnies and Christians this time… some are even very close to the Saudi regime…(think Yamamah, for example…!!) These high-stakes games make for strange bed-fellows, you know…!!

But, as I said before, let history record that this is the first “master-stroke” (darbet moallem) that the Bush administration has managed to muster in all of its levantine adventures…!! This is the first move that could gain W and, by extension, US policy any sympathy in Syria and the region…!! But what would realy make everybody in the region (including HA and Hamas!!) raise an American flag on his roof, is the application of similar sanctions to all/some corrupt crooks in Lebanon, Saudi, Egypt, Israel,…etc. (Perhaps in Obama times…!!??)

What is really worrying though, are the escalating signs of the nearing of the much touted next war… These latest manuevers (the Hajj, Moughniyeh, and Fayed assasinations; the Makhlouf sanctions; etc…) may not be de-capitation strikes, but they certainly are “head-punches” to prepare a potential battle-field…!!?? Combined with the Saudi diplomatic tour in Europe, the pull-out of the Qatari troups, the travel warning of the Kuwaitis and saudies, …, and many other ominous signs (including the hightening pitch and frequency of the Jumblatt rant), it is not looking very good from down here…!!?

February 22nd, 2008, 9:21 am


Naji said:

Nassrallah is supposed to speak tonight on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Moughniyeh, HA’s last two General Secretaries, and Hariri…(February has just not been good to HA…!!! But such are the traditional Valentine celebrations in the Lebanon…!) Let’s see what he has to say about all this…!??

February 22nd, 2008, 9:29 am


kamali said:

happy to you Alex,

your syria will get richer and more hotels and resturants will be erected high in the sky…as a present from Mr. makhloof. when Mr Lundis comapred syria to China i laughed because syria will never be like china….the closest example is Mougabi’s. I was there a few weeks ago and the similarities are dreadful, threatening and disappointing.

this step is very important. it is actually part of a process taking place in the light but nobody really feels it aprt from those affected. (didn’t you read also about syria’s man in Spain?). it is stupid to thing that if someone is sanctioned in US, he will be able to operate somewhere else (except, Sudan and a few Gulf States) and i refer to these two places because I know what is happening there.

i feel they are pushing syria to the edge and soon we will reach the crossroads.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:51 am


why-discuss said:

Whether the economy is going well or not, Damascus is getting a face lift. Most building downtown are been cleaned up from the brown dust and are we can see the white stone. New cafes are opening, some chic some more popular. “Feyruz” was a huge success, “Carmen Opera” (a french syrian coproduction) at the opera was sold out the same day the box office opened. Theatres and concerts ( one in honor of Mohammed Mohsen was a huge success) are going on and are full house. Maybe sanctions become Damascus. The same as Beirut lost its place as a financial hub to Dubai, Damas may be taking over the place as a popular arab cultural city.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:53 am


Naji said:

One hopes that Damascus-Beirut would be one gigantic cultural and artistic continum one day…,but my friend, the ESSENTIAL requirement (yes,…even before white facades on buildings!) for that is …FREEDOM …!!!

February 22nd, 2008, 10:05 am


Enlightened said:


Leave the detective to work to T Desco, I Got a submajor in contracts Law at Uni, but T Desco sounds like a Lawyer? Phorensics man, he is way smarter than me.

Ehsani what is the OFAC SDN list? Il try and google it, is it a worldwide agreement? Is it a lever to try and hinder the use of capital by (undesirable) people?

February 22nd, 2008, 10:20 am


CWW said:


You raised the possibility of a Makhlouf-Dubya comparison. While I realize that you did not make the comparison I want to add that the big problem with such a comparison is that Makhlouf has apparently been successful in his business ventures. Bush, while he may have employed his connections with the political world, has had a long career of utter failure in his business ventures (much life everything else in his life).

February 22nd, 2008, 11:51 am


Honest Patriot said:

Alex says: “Rami is Syria’s Hariri in many ways … minus the charisma, and the charity and the political skills.”

MSK complains: “The moment a “Rami Makhlouf Foundation” gives out stipends to tens of thousands of poor Syrians, gives $$$ to Syrian universities, overhauls infrastructure in the Syrian countryside etc.pp. … I’ll be happy to compare him to Rafiq Hariri.”

Alex retorts: “Did you read what I said? … I said something about lack of charitable activities didn’t I?”

The comparison is contrived (unconsciously) and evidently mistaken, not so much because of the presence or lack of charitable contributions, but at a much more fundamental level. This includes what was brought forth by MSK where the fortune of one was brought from outside the country with patriotic goals of giving back and rebuilding a native land and where the fortune of the other was a hand-me down fertile seed watered and nourished by unfair favoritism and exploitation of compatriots within his native land. Say what you want about corruption in the Hariri camp – and some of it may be true – but give the man his due credit of being at a self-actualization hierarchical level of personal development compared to the petty and “bandit-like” attitude of the other.

The sad part for me is that the attempt at a comparison – despite the caveats duly made – is simply another translucent reflection of the (perhaps unconscious) jealous longing that some folks from Syria have for subjugating as well as co-opting anything successful in Lebanon. “Go do your own thing” is the knee-jerk reaction that many Lebanese inevitably have.

We can put aside considerations of intrinsic superiority and of claims that the same people, given the same opportunities, should achieve the same results, as either bigotry and racism or as ridiculous simplifications. We won’t go there. What we will and should do is look at facts: What a group of people sharing certain beliefs and goals have been able to accomplish versus another. No excuses, no jealousy, no complaints of unfairness or attribution to the will of God. The same applies to individuals. Facts only. The conclusions are clear to any objective observer. And this applies to more than just Lebanon in the Middle East. You can hate Israel to death and want to see it washed away into the Mediterranean (I don’t – and spare me the labels of traitor or agent or what have you [if you think like that just ignore me / I have no interest in engaging you]), but you cannot fail to admire the loyalty, esprit de corps, and effectiveness of its founders, supporters, and the worldwide diaspora that ensures all the critical support it needs. The Lebanese have failed so far in matching this and they sure can learn some lessons there. The Palestinians and the rest of the arabs have more than failed; they let their jealous fervor consume them and use all their energies in a self-destructive futile pursuit.

February 22nd, 2008, 12:16 pm


MSK said:

Ya Alex,

Of course I read your full comment. I always read everything you write.

My argument still stands: Until Rami Makhlouf discovers corporate social responsibility any comparison with Hariri (&, by extension, the Saudis & Khalajlaj) is fallacious. And yes, they did it to bolster their political standing but also because they had/have a sense of responsibility towards their compatriots/subjects. And that is one thing that seems to elude Rami Makhlouf. In that the more apt comparison is to Alaa Mubarak.

And btw, I was no friend or “follower” of Rafiq Hariri when he was alive and certainly am not one of Solidere and how they re-did downtown Beirut.


I have no idea what you’re talking about. Care to elaborate? On second thought, your lumping-together of the Hajj & Fayyad assassinations with that of Mughniyeh & the Rami Makhlouf sanctions tells me that you & I will just have to … errr … “agree to disagree”.


February 22nd, 2008, 12:22 pm


Nour said:

Are you people kidding me? Hariri exploited Lebanon for his own benefit. Other than building the downtown area he did nothing for Lebanon. He merely put the country in $40 Billion debt and increased his wealth from $3 billion when he first arrived to over $16 billion when he died. The supposed education of Lebanese is not something to be proud of. It is merely a patronizing act pursued by many rich people for the sake of publicity and increased influence. Hariri didn’t attempt to build a real state in Lebanon, where services are provided for the people precisely because under such a system he could no longer exert his power and influence in the same manner. I wish people would stop romanticizing Hariri and view him for his true self. Now, I am not saying that Hariri was evil or that he had no genuine intentions whatsoever, for I’m sure he did. But in the end he was a businessman looking to build his fortune.

February 22nd, 2008, 12:55 pm


Norman said:

Israeli-Palestinian standoff makes Arab leaders reconsider peace process
By Michael Slackman

Friday, February 22, 2008
CAIRO: Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states’ growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At an Arab League meeting in March in Syria, the leaders plan to reiterate support for their initiative, first issued in 2002. The initiative promised Israel normalization with the league’s 22 members in return for the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital, and a resolution of the issue of Palestinian refugees.

But this time, “there will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace,” said Muhammad Sobeih, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of the Palestinian issue. “They will withdraw the initiative and look for other options. It makes no sense to insist on something that Israel is rejecting.”

Many Arab leaders never warmly embraced the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict because of their distaste for Israel, but they accepted it as a means to stabilize the region and tamp down extremism. Now, however, there is a growing feeling that Israel wants to create only a rump Palestinian state that would be neither viable nor truly sovereign. And that, officials say, is not only unacceptable, but also dangerous.

That perception hit Arab leaders hard when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians crashed through the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in January, in the wake of an Israeli policy to cut off supplies to Gaza to protest the rule of Hamas there and the continuing rocket fire on Israel.

When the Palestinians poured into Egypt, suddenly, officials in both Jordan and Egypt – the only neighbors with peace treaties with Israel – grew frightened that Israel planned to solve its Palestinian problem by forcing Egypt to absorb Gaza, and Jordan the West Bank.

“The crisis was an awakening for those who didn’t know or were not familiar with plans or ideas to drop Gaza on Egypt’s shoulder,” said an Egyptian government official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. Israeli officials have said over the years they would like Egypt to take over administration of Gaza.

As a result, there is a growing sentiment in Arab states that the principle at the core of the peace process – the two-state solution – has no future. Increasingly, the peace process, once aimed at figuring out how to get from here to there, is back to a more fundamental point: where to go.

“There Is No Longer Space for Two States on the Palestinian Land,” read a headline in a recent edition of Al Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper in London.

One of Egypt’s English-language newspapers, The Egyptian Mail, ran this headline about a week later: “No Hope for Two-State Solution.”

Egyptians and Jordanians say that the way events have evolved, there is no likelihood that a real Palestinian state will be formed.

A truncated entity, one dotted with Israeli settlements and divided by internal Palestinian conflict, would in the end be no state at all, and would serve only to empower radicals and fuel the conflict in perpetuity, Arab political analysts and government officials said.

“There is a general Arab sentiment of despair regarding this issue,” said Dureid Mahasneh, a member of the Jordanian team that negotiated the treaty with Israel in the 1990s. “I challenge you to find anyone who took part in the negotiations with Israel to say that he is optimistic.”

That despair is accompanied by anxiety and fear that momentum is moving in favor of the more radical players, like Hamas and its patron state, Iran.

“Hamas is going to be fortified,” said Mahmoud Shokry, a retired Egyptian ambassador to Syria who serves on the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, a government advisory group. “Not only Egypt, but all the Arab countries have to think about this.”

Arabs blame Israel – as the occupying power – for the diminishing viability of a two-state solution, even while Sobeih said he would never, under any circumstances, accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

“People no longer trust that a Palestinian state can be established, for one sole reason: the brutality of the Israeli state and the retreat of the Arab world,” said Abdullah el-Ashaal, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister and a professor of international law at Cairo University, who was articulating a widely held position in this region. “And this is why there is a return to the radicalization of the Arab attitude, meaning the words ‘peace process’ no longer hold any meaning.”

Egypt and Jordan have specific practical concerns because they fear they will ultimately be pressed to absorb the Palestinians into their states, a prospect they find as abhorrent as Israelis view the prospect of joining their Palestinians in a so-called one-state solution, meaning the end of Israel as a state of the Jewish people.

Egypt worries that absorbing Gaza would seem to extinguish the rallying cry of Arabs for a Palestinian state. It would also be a financial burden and create a potential for spreading throughout Egypt the kind of Islamic extremism promoted by Hamas, which is an offshoot of Egypt’s homegrown Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is banned but tolerated.

Jordan sees the prospect of having to take responsibility for the West Bank as a financial burden and an existential threat to its very identity.

“There are fears a federation will be forced on Jordan and the Palestinians,” said Taher al-Adwan, editor of the Jordanian newspaper Al Arab Al Youm. “This is completely rejected by the Jordanians and by the Palestinians as well. Jordan is already half-Palestinian.”

There is also the broader fear, that absorption would make permanent the fight over the land Israel is on, giving radical groups a cause to rally around, and moderates nothing to point to.

“The challenge as I see it is: do we continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians in order to achieve what we think is the best solution to this problem – a two-state solution?” said Hossam Zaki, spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Or we succumb to the will, the wishes, plans and ideas of those on both sides who are trying to change the reality on the ground and make the two-state solution impossible.”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting.


Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune |

February 22nd, 2008, 1:26 pm


Karim said:

Rami,is a very big thief but he is not less thief than the other members of the familly ,the assads have amassed billions of US dollars ,sons and wives of jamil assad were fighting in a western country court for about 5 billions US dollars..So what about the so many assads ,makhloufs,haidars,dubas and shalishs.
In the end ,Where will they go with all this money ?

February 22nd, 2008, 1:28 pm


Honest Patriot said:


Although hell is paved with good intentions, these intentions nevertheless do deserve credit. Like MSK I have no particular adulation for Rafiq Hariri or perhaps “fat-cat” business methods he may have engaged in. Still, what drew him back to Lebanon is certainly not a preconceived plan to multiply his fortune, but a genuine desire to give back. There is no telling what the trickle-down economic effect of Hariri’s investment would have entailed had it not been for the continuing sorry wars and conflicts that Lebanon suffers. To be sure, there is a terrible lack of civic sense in Lebanon and an ingrained mentality to try to cheat the system for personal gain. There is also a seemingly innate tendency to want to perpetuate a system where cronyism and palm-greasing is the method of choice to achieve any result. This has to change and it won’t happen quickly. I have to believe it likely that such faults, if they do exist in Syria, are much less severe, and probably benign, but that’s only an assumption – I don’t have factual knowledge, only a hunch. It may well be that Harir got embroiled in that culture and his system became tainted with the negatives that come along with it. We can continue engaging in the identification of faults and errors in this or the other Lebanese citizen or system. At least we (Lebanese or of Lebanese origin) acknowledge these and want to work on changing them and moving the country to stability, civility, economic development bearing fruits for all, etc. Sure, we’re just talking here and some of us are too afraid (cowardly?) to go back and contribute. But can you blame us? By the same token, we don’t blame Syrian citizens (or those of Syrian origin) for the ills in Syria but, at the same time, we don’t make analogies (like Hariri-Makhlouf) that don’t apply.

Ya3ne, we can share a breakfast of foul, a Sunday afternoon tabbouli, a morning turkish coffee, and I’m sure we (Lebanese and Syrians) have a lot of stories, issues, complaints, and plans to share. In a political system where true equality and opportunity are effected, we might even agree to form a federation and eventually merge, but that’s a long way from happening and must go through the indispensable phase of full and mutual recognition of independence, secure borders, diplomatic relations, etc. Only then can enough confidence be built to move forward.

February 22nd, 2008, 1:30 pm


MSK said:

Dear all-

In the end, my argument with Alex is one of method.

Every time someone says something critical about Syria, the Assad’s, some of their friends, etc. he answers “Yes, but XYZ has done much worse.”

This relativization of problems is a dead end. For example, what’s the goal of pointing at Rafiq Hariri’s billions? Does that mean that Rami Makhlouf still has the right to acquire $13 billion more before he may be criticized? Does the fact that Israel &a the US & KSA hold more people in their prisons that Syria &a engage in torture mean that what’s going on in Qism Falastiin & Sijn al-Askari Tadmur is ok because “The other ones do it too & sometimes even worse”? Does the fact that the 20% of Israel’s population who are of Arab descent are 2nd-class citizens (at best) mean that having no participatory political system (call it democracy or whatever you want) in Syria is just fine & dandy?

Regardless of what we talk about, there’s always going to be another place that’s “worse” – if not in the here & now, then in some past era.

This blog is called SYRIA Comment – so let’s talk about SYRIA, then.

On another issue, out of sheer curiosity: How many of the Syrians on this forum are (a) living in Syria or (b) do not live in Syria but think of going back or (c) do not live in Syria and do not think of going back but are now investing in the country or doing something else to “advance it”?

Let’s see if you guys (and gals) put your $$$ where your mouth is.



February 22nd, 2008, 1:43 pm


ausamaa said:

Has it occured to anyone that Bush may have done Bashar a big favore by this new move!!! Many Syrians may see it that way. And dont worry, Syria’s economy will not suffer by sanctions on Makhloof’s monies.

See, some good can come from bad intentions..

February 22nd, 2008, 1:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

For those who missed it, Nour and I (and Why-Discuss too) had a debate about Hariri’s legacy, last week.

I see that I didn’t succeed in changing Nour’s mind, but that’s ok.


MSK, you’re right on the money.

February 22nd, 2008, 1:53 pm


Honest Patriot said:


This is a situation where I fully agree with you. Politics of isolation and progressive punishment (albeit extremely genteel) lead nowhere. Regrettably, this is a testament to the bumbling incompetence of the current American Administration in understanding the Oriental mind in particular, but also human psychology in general. One has to either be decisive, quick, and use overwhelming force, followed by withdrawal and enablement of the local population, or just stay out of it.
For all the pressures put on the abysmal North Korean regime the real suffering there is endured by the people. With Syria, it is nowhere close to that (and maybe it is a very poor example), yet, how terribly doubtful is it that such incrementally applied pressure will lead to anything!

I (think I) still have fundamental disagreements with other opinions you probably hold on the best way forward, and the many issues in the ME, but on methods followed by the US I have to agree with your critique.

February 22nd, 2008, 1:57 pm


Norman said:

Time to invest in Syria
Friday, February 22, 2008
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Time to invest in Syria

It is the right time to invest in neighboring Syria, said Fawaz Acuz, deputy head of the Turkey-Syria Businessmen Council, the Anatolia news agency reported yesterday. Acuz reiterated that a business forum will be convened in Damascus in April and informed members of the Adıyaman Chamber of Trade and Industry in a meeting. “Syria is an important country for Turkey. Recent regulations brought a number of advantages for foreign investors. We call on our Turkish friends to benefit from these advantages,” he said.

ANK – Turkish Daily News

February 22nd, 2008, 2:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

MSK opines:

Does the fact that the 20% of Israel’s population who are of Arab descent are 2nd-class citizens (at best) mean that having no participatory political system (call it democracy or whatever you want) in Syria is just fine & dandy?

Regardless of what we talk about, there’s always going to be another place that’s “worse” – if not in the here & now, then in some past era.


You’ve brought up a good point.

And then, of course, there may also be “another place” that is always BETTER, not just “worse”. In the case of your famed “2nd class citizens (at best)”, they will always have more rights and more opportunity than your average Syrian.

If you were to ask me it would be akin to asking an American black if they would prefer to move back to Africa. I think most (99%) would prefer to stay in the US due the overwhelming freedom and opportunity they have right now.

At least;)

February 22nd, 2008, 2:10 pm


ausamaa said:

Yup but you may have missed my point: We dont care what happens to Makhlouf’s or other Makhloufs’ moneies. The “fat cats”, whowever they are, are a burden on Bashar, not an asset. So Bush may have helped Bashar and Syria in the end. Of course his intent is to “embarass” rather than “hurt” the regime, and while he has no moral or leagal justification for this and other such actions, but this one move that would help Bashar in the long run.. I bet many around the President are happy rather than worried by this action.

February 22nd, 2008, 2:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hmmm… I smell a conspiracy…

Bashar had Mughniyye killed in order to provoke HA into declaring open war on Israel in order to turn the heat up on Washington to blacklist Makhlouf.


February 22nd, 2008, 2:24 pm


ausamaa said:

What time is it at your end? Hitting the bottle early today or what?! Or had it just sank in? Why dont you just go research the Mamlouk’s and such things.. from the same historian sources you qouted!! Wink.. wink!

February 22nd, 2008, 2:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

No bottle necessary, ya Ausamaa. Your words alone are intoxicating.

February 22nd, 2008, 2:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Wonder how the Aounists are going to feel about this one:

Nasrallah (speech live): The resistance has developed from a guerilla warfare that liberates to a structure that confronts the enemy and prevents the occupation of its land. This is unique, Nasrallah said.

February 22nd, 2008, 2:41 pm


ausamaa said:

Thanks, I have heard it said before but in different circumstances. But thanks again anyway!

February 22nd, 2008, 2:41 pm


ghat Albird said:

The Makhloufs, the Abramoffs, the think tanks, the AIPACs, the K Street lobbiests, McCain’s Ms. Iseman, the Soros, the Rotschilds, the Levy’s in the UK, et al lead one to ponder as to why would a legitinate government administration as embodied by GWB make such a big deal of “sanctioning just one businessman”.

Is this a yearning back to colonial attitudes of ” we decide who lives and who to push out of a plane” a continuation of arrogance and ignorance,

Sanctions and embargoes were instituted on Castro and Cuba for over 45 years and now there is joy in Miami as well as DC. that those sanctions have finally paid off with Castro’s resignation.

Admittedly my knowledge of the intricacies of Syrian/US relations are quite limited still its hard to read Ms. Robin’s expose withut wondering how much of it is suggestive of the words of “making you an offer you cannot refuse” as in the movie The Godfather.

February 22nd, 2008, 2:45 pm


Naji said:

Nassrallah (live) also sees the Mughniyeh assasination as a pre-emptive de-capitation strike in preparation of a coming war… See…!!??

February 22nd, 2008, 2:53 pm


Naji said:

By the way, does the Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq this morning have anything to do with all this…!? It was covered and supported by the US…!!

February 22nd, 2008, 2:57 pm


Atassi said:

Rami, is a thief corrupted businessman like so many others around the World, He was the front and chairman of the enterprises and he will be replaced soon.

I wonder what the Dubai Governors were doing in Syria and Iran last week!! Did they ALERTED the Assad’s to move all the deposited “$$” out of the Dubai banks ASAP ..otherwise !!!

February 22nd, 2008, 3:06 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

During the interview, Mr. Makhlouf notes that those who profit from corrupt practices usually hide themselves rather than be as public as he has been with his investments.

He then laughs about the sanctions and claims that anyone who invests in America is stupid (majnoon). He proceeds to note that he had been expecting these sanctions for about a year but they were too late.

“My duty is to help and add and not to retrench because we have moved long ago to mega size investments in Syria”.

In contrast, the US Treasury Department had this to say:

“Rami Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Asad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians. The Asad regime’s cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing policies, including beyond Syria’s borders, in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. Syria is well known for its corrupt business environment, which denies the Syrian people economic prosperity and other freedoms. The considerable role the Asad family, their inner circle, and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals. In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing, and suffer as a result of policies implemented by an unaccountable regime.”

So what does it all mean?

Mr. Makhlouf is now officially on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) of the Office Of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Technically, this only applies to US individuals and institutions. U.S. citizen and companies are therefore barred from doing business with him.

While none US entities are not legally obliged to follow the OFAC list, almost all do. Having surveyed a number of foreign bankers this morning, the feeling is that while they “can” do business with, they most likely “should not”.

Mr. Makhlouf will be ill-advised to use the global banking system from now on.

The severity of the language used in the Treasury announcement will also mean that most people will think long and hard before they enter into a new business transaction with this individual. The world of course is full of people who are willing to do otherwise and profit handsomely.

In the end, this move must be seen as a political move. It is mostly a signal that the U.S. has decided to embarrass and humiliate the leadership. The Syrian people have long thought that the U.S. is not serious in its dealings with Damascus. The consensus has long been that everything that the White House has done has lacked teeth and falls short of touching the upper echelons of the leadership. This move will change such perceptions.

February 22nd, 2008, 3:08 pm


Norman said:

عاهل الأردن:كل الدول العربية ترغب بالمشاركة في القمة العربية

قال الملك عبد الله الثاني إن “سورية دولة مهمة والشعب السوري شعب عربي عزيز يهمنا كلنا في العالم العربي نكرس جهودنا بما في ذلك سورية من أجل حل القضايا العربية بما في ذلك قضية السلام وقيام دولة فلسطينية

February 22nd, 2008, 3:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You have re-discovered the “two wrongs make a right argument” that seems to be all that Alex has in his arsenal now.

AS for the issues at hand, there is one way to see if what Bush did is effective and has more than psychological value. Will the move stop or delay the Turkish investment in Syriatel? The jury is out. Maybe Eshani can update us on this.

February 22nd, 2008, 3:54 pm


EHSANI2 said:


To my knowledge, the Syriatel sale of 51% to Turkcell has already taken place.

When the announcement was made in December, Turkcell mentioned that Syriatel had a 50% market share. It also mentioned that Syria had about 30 mobile phones for every 100 people. If you do the math, you will conclude that Syriatel had about 3 million customers. Assuming that each line nets a profit of $15 a month, Syriatel’s annual profit ought to be close to $540 million. Attach a multiple of 10 to these earnings and the company ought to be valued close to $5.5 billion. This matches the rumours that Turkcell paid close to $2.5 billion for the 51% stake

February 22nd, 2008, 4:00 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks. Then we need to find another indicator for the practical effectiveness of the move.

February 22nd, 2008, 4:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I just found this thesis. Interesting, especially around p. 72…

February 22nd, 2008, 4:35 pm


Norman said:

36 21/02/2008

Report: Barak warns Syria IDF planning Hezbollah op

By Haaretz Service

Tags: Syria, Hezbollah, Turkey, IDF

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned Syria through Turkish mediation that the Israel Defense Forces is planning to escalate its military operations against Hezbollah and Hamas, the London-based daily Al-Hayyat reported on Thursday.

On his visit to Turkey last week, Barak asked Turkish President Abdullah Ghoul to urge Syrian President Bashar Assad to adopt a different stance toward Hezbollah, according to Al-Hayyat.

The defense minister reportedly informed Turkey of Israel’s intentions to widen its operation in Gaza and asked the Turkish leader to consider sending troops on an international mission to Gaza geared toward ending Qassam rocket fire and protecting the border.

This multi-national force will comprise representatives from Qatar, Malaysia and Jordan, according to the report.

The Defense Ministry has refused to respond to the report, which it said was the result of leaked information.

Barak said Tuesday that he anticipated Hezbollah would try to retaliate for last week’s assassination of terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah, possibly with help from Syria and Iran.

Hezbollah blamed Israel for the attack and pledged to attack Jewish targets worldwide in revenge.

The U.S. intelligence chief has said, however, that internal Hezbollah factions or Syria may be to blame for Mughniyah’s death.

Israel to extend 800 Turkish work permits given in exchange for tank upgrades

The government will approve Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s proposal to extend the working permits of 800 Turkish workers in Israel.

The workers in question were part of a deal that was signed between Israel and Turkey three years ago in which Israel upgraded Turkish tanks at the cost of 700 million dollars and in turn gave working permits to 800Turkish workers.

During Barak’s visit to Ankara last week, Turkish officials asked that the work permits be extended and Barak agreed.

“Israel agreed to the request due to the strategic importance of our ties with Turkey,” an official in the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

Five months ago, the High Court dismissed a petition of the Turks-for-tanks deal. In the petition, the Hotline for Migrant Workers said that the deal is nothing more than state-sponsored Human trafficking.

While Justice Eliezer Rivlin agreed that the agreement was problematic he dismissed the petition since the deal was both unique and temporary.

Related articles:

February 22nd, 2008, 4:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What else do you think could be coming, in the way of U.S. actions against Syria? Is war/regime change the objective here, or just cooperation on Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, etc.?

What are Bashar’s alternatives to playing the who-will-blink-first game? It’s not in his interests to do so, moral indignation aside. These kinds of sanctions can drag on for years and years, as we’ve seen with Iran. Economic growth in Syria could be stifled for a long time.

Something tells me that Hafez would not have allowed himself to be put in such a position.

February 22nd, 2008, 4:57 pm


Majhool said:


Hariri, had established his wealth long before his return to Lebanon. Moreover, He had the Syria allies’ scrutinize every move he made. Syrian allies almost always stirred strikes, launched smear campaigns (Najah Wakim) against him. I say Makhlouf tactics are quite different and definitely more brute.

Also, I will allow my self to correct Dr. Landis portrayal of the Makhlouf family as rich and prominent even before the rise of Assad to power. This portrayal must be put in perspective, True the Makhloufs were prominent within the Alawit clans, but all would pale in comparison to even any middle of the way family in the main cities at that time.


you saying

“this is the first of many steps they convinced the neocons to take to weaken the Syrian regime AND to weaken Syria and to punish the Syrian people in the process”

was really lame.

February 22nd, 2008, 4:58 pm


EHSANI2 said:


It was not Josh that made those comments but the reporter no?

February 22nd, 2008, 5:05 pm


Majhool said:


I guess you are right. Thanks! I am sure you agree with the note, right?

February 22nd, 2008, 5:12 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


I am pretty sure Turkcell did NOT buy 51% of Syriatel. Those reports were for the intention of buying these shares. Turkish law forces companies to announce plans of buying companies and therefor they had to make these intentions public. i dont think they have finalized a deal yet.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:25 pm


Alex said:


First, if I did not want to discuss this issue (the Syria-specific part), why would I post this story? (I posted it).

I knew that when I post it, the hopelessly one-sided and predictable commentators like Majhool will surface here to tell us how corrupt and bad the regime is, and how wonderful Hariri is …

Look at AIG and his one sided convictions to understand why I use that tactic (comparison with other “bad” parties) … it is a counter tactic for those who own the media and who used it systematically to blame “the Syrian regime” for everything without blaming themselves… we have a need to put things in perspective in the Middle East or else …

If you do not want Lebanon to fall into another civil war, if you do not want another Iraq in the Middle East .. then you all need to go back to reality … the Syrian regime is not more evil than any other regime among the active powers in the middle east.

I will keep using the “two wrongs make a wrong” argument and I will keep insisting that there is indeed moral equivalence… I am doing this for peace, not for the Syrian regime … believe it or not. Syria will not bend and will not blink first … we will have war(s) if this policy of demonizing Syria exclusively continues… and it is continuing and none of you realizes the ramifications… the Neocons and Saudis and M14 friends have put themselves in a corner after all the madness in their anti-Syria positions for the past few years … they now have to defeat Syria … and they are realizing that there is only one way … war.


What is lame is your selective attention / selective retention / selective information processing skills.

David Schenker was among the enthusiastic backers of this step. Here is again (for your slow brain today) what David called for few months ago:

“The Syrian economy is growing — despite a 6.5 percent decline in oil production, its overall growth rate this past year was a respectable 5 percent. “Barring policy missteps or a deterioration in the regional environment,” a recent International Monetary Fund report predicted, “the near-term outlook . . . looks favorable.” Based on this assessment, Syria is not under economic duress.

With Israeli-Syrian tensions rising and the pro-Western Lebanese government on a precipice, renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital.

In the absence of effective measures, the Asad regime will continue to undermine Washington’s hopes for the region.”

Do you understand Majhool?..Syria is not “under economic duress” … David suggested that “in the absence of effective measures” Syrian economy will still be doing well … and Syria will be too strong to submit to his neocon think tank’s dreams.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:26 pm


EHSANI2 said:


On December 10th, Turkcell announced that “it will make an offer for at least 51 percent of Syriatel” The announcement was made in a filing with the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Whether the transaction went through formally or not is something that I cannot confirm. When I was in Syria in December, the talk was that the 51% stake cost turkcell close to $2 billion. As with everything else in Syria, who knows the exact truth? It is all ultra opaque.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:39 pm


Majhool said:


Rest assured, my brain is not slow, not today at least…
Equating, Hariri with Makhlouf is a sign of either retardation or extreme spinning of the facts. Retardation is out of the question for sure knowing of you.

Also, equating the interest of the Syrian people to those of the regime and makhlouf is another spin but of a higher caliber.

The Syrian economy is able to sustain and exceed its current growth rate with/without Makhlouf
given that the regime allows people outside the inner circle to do business in fair competition. if the regime is not capable or not willing to do so, then don’t blame it on Ammar.

February 22nd, 2008, 5:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nobody wants war and you know that. The “neo-cons” are more than happy to continue with the current policy for the next 10 years and see what happens. After all, why go to war before the benefits of the tribunal are used politically and before one knows if Syria can really reform economically? In addition, we saw Syria not retaliating to any Israeli and US moves. This is a good indication that war is unlikely.

If indeed over the next 10 years or so Asad proves that he can bring significant economic growth to Lebanon while fighting KSA and the US in Lebanon and supporting terror organizations (and thus fighting Israel), then he certainly would have won. But we will have to wait and see won’t we?

February 22nd, 2008, 5:52 pm


Naji said:


“the Syrian regime is not more evil than any other regime among the active powers in the middle east.”

Common, …this is all that a “regime cheerleader” can muster these days…??! …I have never been a supporter of this regime, but I can EASILY state that it is the BEST in the region, including Israel…!! This is just a sad commentary on the current state of affairs in this God-forsaken pit of religion, hate, greed, corruption, treachery, and sheer backwardness…!

February 22nd, 2008, 5:57 pm


Alex said:


First, I did not EQUATE Hariri to Rami … I compared the specific part of corruption … the part which we are discussing here … since this is supposedly why the American administration got disappointed in Rami.

There is no comparison with Hariri in the other aspects for many more reasons. first, Rami is not supposed to or not allowed to do what Hariri used to do … pay for young Syrians to study abroad, or pay for older ones to get medical treatment abroad. Rifaat Assad used to do that just like Hariri, and there was a reason why he did it … to build his personal political support. Rami does not want to give Bashar, or anyone else, ny reason to fear that he is trying to be another Rifaat .. not when it comes to his political aspirations.

I will leave it to everyone here to decide if Hariri’s 10 billions he made out of the nation of Lebanon (4 million people) compares to the corruption of Rami who made few billions in Syria (18 million people)

Remember … Syria has almost no foreign debt, Lebanon has 45 billions … Syria accumulated $18 billion reserve the past few years.


All you are hoping for was tried in the 80’s. The Reagan and Thatcher years were the best attempt to isolate Syria and wait until it fails. It did not then, and it won’t now … But yes, we will wait.

I know you like to remember how Turkey wanted to go to war with Syria in 1998 but Syria backed down, how Israel attacked inside Syria twice this year, and Syria did not retaliate … But there was no surprise there .. Syria is focused on the Golan, not on starting new wars with turkey … and Syria is not over confident about its military power … the only thing the Syrians can do is to defend .. not attack. Syria will not start war … but if Israel wants to build on its “success” in destroying a building in Deri Ezzore by launching a massive attack on Syria, then Syria will obviously reciprocate … and there will be serious destruction on both sides… no one will win.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:23 pm


Alex said:


I was talking about corruption and other less-than-mother-Theresa types of behavior that mideast politicians engage in.

But when it comes to regional policy, the others are indeed dwarfs compared to the Syrians.

Bush, Mubarak, Chirac, Prince Bandar, King Abdullah, Mahmoud Abbas, Sarkozy, Mehlis, Jumblatt, Hariri … all combined could not do a thing.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:29 pm


Majhool said:


Foreign debt is no indication of the well being of a country’s citizens. Take Brooklyn and Manhattan for example. If you compare the debt that a sample of people from each neighborhood has you will find that the Manhattan people are “more” in debt (more expensive mortgages and cars). it does not take a genius however to figure out that the net worth of those in Manhattan far exceeds those of Brooklyn.

It is sound to say that the percentage of debt to the GDP in Lebanon is high and alarming. However, one should note that this is not necessarily the making of Hariri. The continuous wars in Lebanon are to blame; we all know that Hariri was opposed to any escalation in the region.

The fact that Syria has a low foreign debt is actually alarming. It means that not much is going on. The current growth rate is not sustainable unless direct foreign capital pours in which means more debt or at least increased reliance on global financial services.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:41 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Alex,

You make it sound like Syria’s economy is boomtown. The country accumulated $18 billion in the “last few years”? I doubt it. It may have a sum total of $18 billion perhaps.

The issue of free debt in Syria needs to be put in context. Please note that the country has very poor infrastructure. The last real highway built was during the 1970’s (Damascus-Aleppo). Borrowing money need not be viewed adversely. Indeed, I wish that Syria would actually borrow money and invest in its infrastructure. It is also worth noting that Syria’s long term budget is going to bleed from the heavy load of a losing and bloated public sector and excessive subsidies. Adding the two issues together leaves the $18 billion in reserves a rather paltry number especially when you consider that the country also suffers from an external trade deficit. The latter is only going to get worse with falling oil exports proceeds.

It is also worth mentioning that even if Syria wanted to borrow money right now, its credit worthiness may not leave it in a position to do so.

The economic policies of Syria leave a lot to be desired. One must not be fooled by the investments that have found their way into real estate recently. The nuts and bolts of the country’s budget is going to be under tremendous stress for years to come. Running subsidies for 7-8 million people in 1970-1980 is not the same when your population is doubling every 25 years. One must not end up with a false sense of security that all will be fine since the country always managed to survive in the past. Demographics and lack of investment in infrastructure is a significant headwind for the country. The leadership is yet to confront the issues head on. I see no signs of a change in the horizon.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:45 pm


Alex said:

Syria and Israel, making love not war

NOW Staff , February 22, 2008

Here we were, munching on our breakfast, when a very interesting document landed in our electronic mailbox.

It was the highlights of a recent talk at the Middle East Institute in Washington by Alon Liel, the former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society. Liel was the man who had engaged in unofficial contacts with a Syrian-American envoy, Ibrahim Suleiman, between September 2004 and July 2006. While the Israeli and Syrian governments distanced themselves from the channel (its “unofficial” nature useful mainly to offer deniability), for a time they were both plainly interested in reaching a positive outcome.

This was no doubt confirmed by the presence of Suleiman, a businessman living in the United States. He once, coyly, declared that he had “friends in Damascus” and knew the Assad family from the old days in the neighborhood. That was an understatement. He is the brother of Bahjat Suleiman, who, when the Liel-Suleiman talks began, was one of Syria’s leading intelligence chiefs. As unofficial as the contacts were, this relationship meant the Syrian regime knew exactly what was going on.

But back to the Middle East Institute event and the highlights of Liel’s presentation. What we learn is quite interesting about Syrian-Israeli interaction, and quite embarrassing in what it says about the Assad regime. Without any further ado, here is some of what Liel said: “I was in charge of talking to the top leadership in Syria through the Swiss and Syrian-American negotiator Ibrahim Suleiman. The Swiss and Suleiman were our channel to the Syrian Vice President and Foreign Minister. They agreed with us to spread Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights over a period of 15 years. They also agreed to turn 30 percent of the Golan into a park where Israelis can visit with no visa and that there will be no settlement of the land by Syrians.”

Through Israeli press reports, and through the website of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, whose Geoffrey Aronson participated in the process, we knew a lot of this. But it’s worth again hearing that senior Syrian officials were much more in the loop on the details of the talks than Damascus ever admitted to.

Liel again: “We recently contacted the Syrians to assure [us] that they still stand behind the suggested arrangement, and they responded by saying it [was] their own idea and therefore it still stands.”

So, despite Israel’s terrible relations with Syria’s allies, Iran and Hezbollah, Damascus continues to talk to the Israelis and plan a final deal.

“During the 11th day of the [2006] war with Lebanon we got a message from the Syrians that they want[ed] to talk about controlling Hezbollah and meet in Bern. When we checked with the Israeli Foreign Ministry they rejected [it] because they believed the Americans would protest.”
Fascinating. So while Lebanese were being massacred by Israel, and while Hezbollah was on the defensive, the Syrians contacted the Israelis with an offer to sell Hezbollah out. The Americans didn’t want the Israelis to go ahead, but Syria and Israel might have considered it otherwise.

“Then on a trip to Turkey [in February 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert asked the Turkish [prime minister] to check with Syria about its gestures. The response from Syria was always the same; they want bilateral talks but only with US participation. The Syrians see talks with Israel as being limited, but with the US they can [hold] talks about a broader regional understanding.”

So, not only did the Syrians have no qualms about communicating with Israel at the height of the 2006 war; they were actively seeking to expand on this to include a relationship with the United States. You have to wonder what Hassan Nasrallah would say; or Iran’s leadership. And just to clarify his previous quote further, Liel added: “Syria risks its strategic relation with Iran if it moves to negotiate with Israel without support and assurances from the US to compensate for the loss of Iran.”

Liel continued: “By the time Olmert came to Washington [in June 2007] he knew that the only way forward [was] for the US to take part in the talks. Bush’s reaction however was clear when he announced after the meeting that it’s an Israeli-Syrian bilateral issue and the US won’t participate. This was effectively an American veto.”

So what happened? The Syrians had failed in their efforts to use talks with Israel to open a line to the Americans. Liel admitted that “Suleiman lost motivation after strong criticism for visiting Israel, much publicity and repeated disappointments. Other Syrians approached us instead.”

Now Liel is peddling the argument that Washington must be more involved in talks for them to get anywhere. We don’t expect him to care about Syria’s efforts to return to Lebanon or its involvement in the Hariri assassination, because we believe Israel is on Syria’s side when it comes to those issues. The Israelis were never pleased with the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. But then Liel dropped a genuine blockbuster, outlining a specific reason why Israel is so keen on a deal with Syria.

In answer to a question, Liel pointed out: “Part of our talks with the Syrians included the [400,000] Palestinian refugees in Syria and they indicated willingness to consider nationalizing them. This will then … likely make it easier to promote the same in Lebanon.”

So Syria not only wants to impose Syrian nationality on Palestinians in Syria, Israel sees this as a way of doing the same in Lebanon.

Or to put it bluntly: The Assad regime is not only up to betraying Hezbollah and Iran, while ignoring Lebanese deaths at Israel’s hands, it will happily kill a core issue of the Palestinian national struggle – namely the refugees’ right of return. Syria’s allies in Beirut have blamed the Siniora government for wanting to do just that. Shouldn’t they bring that matter up in Damascus when they next get instructions from there?

February 22nd, 2008, 6:46 pm


offended said:

Do you guys remember when AIG was bragging a while ago that Kurdistan is one area (and the only area he could bring up) where Bush was able to bring democracy, prosperity and freedom????????

Well, I am sure the Turkish artillery today, with the blessing of the Bush’s approval, is going to attest to that ….big time…

February 22nd, 2008, 6:47 pm


offended said:

Alex, this is the same Alon Liel who posted here a while ago, no?


February 22nd, 2008, 6:50 pm


Alex said:


Again, the part I am arguing about here is related only to the complaints about my claiming that Rami is similar when it comes to public corruption to hariri.

If you want to discuss the rest of Syria’s economic situation, then I am not foolish enough to think I can challenge my friend Ehsani in economics.

But please let me move to a more macro view:

Forget all the details … if the coming few months pass, then don’t worry about Syria’s economy or its infrastructure.


Yes it is the same Alon who sent us the letter I posted last month. He is in Washington this week trying to lobby for peace with Syria.

February 22nd, 2008, 6:52 pm


EHSANI2 said:


haha..Good one…No argument there!

February 22nd, 2008, 6:54 pm


Majhool said:


“if the coming few months pass, then don’t worry about Syria’s economy or its infrastructure”

You have been saying that for more than 2 years!

February 22nd, 2008, 7:06 pm


Alex said:


The way “Now Lebanon” made conclusions from what Alon said in Washington, and Alon’s decision to portray Syria as being more flexible than what it really … are both understandable. They both have their reasons for the distortions.

Syria’s position is known .. publicly or privately it is practically the same (minus some of the hard line negotiating positions).

February 22nd, 2008, 7:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


If the NOW Lebanon article is true, and the Syrians are willing to “sell out” Hizbullah and nationalize the Palestinians in exchange for a 15-year withdrawl deal on the Golan, then why is Bashar digging himself into a deeper hole right now?

In other words, why doesn’t he agree to play ball, giving the Americans/Israelis a taste of what Syria has to offer on the regional stability front, with the implicit threat that it could go the other way as well? Bush already knows that Syria can get Hizbullah to be naughty… what about nice?

February 22nd, 2008, 7:09 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You miss my point. It is simple. You cannot have BOTH “resistance” and significant economic growth. What Reagan did was successful. There was no economic growth in Syria and it remained weak. But Hafez was fine with that. Bashar on the other hand is promising BOTH “resistance” and significant economic growth. That is almost impossible to pull off. Also let’s not forget that the Syrian population has doubled since then and that they have access to sattelite dishes and can compare their situation to others.

What is the hurry? Let’s wait 10 years and see. You are too pessimistic. Don’t worry. The Syrian regime will not fall in the next few months. Look at how successful Mugabe is at staying in power in Zimbabwe. There is no reason Asad cannot do the same. Unfortunately, the current thought leaders in Israel prefer a weak Asad in place rather than a democratic Syria.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I was asked to give an example of where Bush brought democracy and freedom and I did. I know you did not like it because you said there were no such examples. First, nothing will change in Kurdistan. And second, if anything changes, it will only prove that the Turks can hurt democracies, not Bush.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:13 pm


Alex said:


The way “Now Lebanon” made conclusions from what Alon said in Washington, and Alon’s decision to portray Syria as being more flexible than what it really is … should both be taken in proper perspectives.

Syria’s position is known .. publicly or privately it is practically the same (minus some of the hard line negotiating positions).

Think about Alon’s goal in Washington and you will understand the way he portrayed Syria’s position on all those issues.

You know from facts what Syria rejects and what Syria accepts. Syria is more strict on much smaller details.

There is no substitute for direct negotiations between Syria and Israel. relying on what Abe Suleiman says, or what “contacts in Damascus” say is not a way to negotiate.

When Washington is ready to sponsor peace talks, there will be peace.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:16 pm


Naji said:


You are right, …let’s survive the next few months, and then we can discuss everything else…! But I agree with Ehsani… You get too carried away…! About the only thing that I am willing to give the Assads credit for is keeping Syria relatively independent up to this point and for relying for their legitimacy on the defense of national dignity and aspirations (at the expense of individual dignity and aspirations, but…) and this just might (or might not?) be enough to atone for all the sins they share with the other local despots that have also added grand treason to their repetoir…!! …and what makes them “better” than their contemporay Israeli (and incidentaly, Saudi…) leaders is that at least they built a national self-image based on a christeo-islamic inclusivist model, versus an archaic talmudic exclusivist model…!!

February 22nd, 2008, 7:17 pm


Alex said:


I agree.


You are partially right .. but … there is a mix, not one choice or the other. Every Arab country has decided on its own mix of Arab National role vs. selfish (internal economic development) role.

Syria will switch to more emphasis on its economy after a peace treat is signed (Syria Lebanon and Israel) … Hizbollah as a political party will be easier to support .. Syria will start saying “we are at an equal distance from all the Lebanese parties” … that’s all.

The question that remains will be Syria’s relations with Hamas and Iran. Iran is also a problem that can be addressed with the help of an Obama type of mentality. In that case Syria will be able to maintain balanced good relations with a newly moderated Iran.

As for the Palestinian question … that’s where you will see continued Syria “support” … MAshaal can be asked to leave Damascus if it makes it easier for the Israeli people to feel comfortable with Syria .. but Syria will not sell the Palestinians. There will be continued diplomatic and political support to the Palestinian cause.

So … support for the Palestinian cause is what will remain … will that really be that offensive and unheard of? … will it limit Syria’s economic development? .. if yes, then please explain why and how?

February 22nd, 2008, 7:28 pm


Majhool said:


“Syria will switch to more emphasis on its economy after a peace treat is signed (Syria Lebanon and Israel)”

what if Peace did not take place? what if the Israelis like it as it is ( I tend to believe so)? what a lame excuse to keep the country and its citicens under distress.

reform ( civil, and economic) shoud start regardless.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I think you’ve said that a peace deal is 80% there. (Or maybe Shai said that, I can’t remember).

Somewhere in that very cramped last 20% is Syria’s relationship with Hizbullah and Iran.

The leader of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran recently wrote to Nasrallah saying, “The cancerous growth Israel will soon disappear.”

You talk all the time about the “outrageous” things that M14 people have said about Syria, but the Iranians, Mish3al, and Nasrallah have been saying far worse things about Israel since before Saad stepped into his father’s shoes. This wouldn’t be a big deal if Syria didn’t care about a peace deal. But it does.

Your thoughts?

February 22nd, 2008, 7:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Never mind… you answered my questions to AIG above.

But I don’t completely buy it. 😉

Anybody interested in a Syria Comment field trip to Lebanon?

February 22nd, 2008, 7:39 pm


Alex said:

“reform ( civil, and economic) shoud start regardless.”

Economic reform started.

Serious political reform probably will not, not for a while … just like the rest of them in Egypt and Saudi Arabia…

Either the majority of the Syrian people will accept it, or they won’t.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:39 pm


Alex said:

Ya Qifa Nabki,

Syria’s influence on Mashaal and Hamas has been positive most of the time…. accepting a 50 year hudna with Israel is practically accepting Israel.

M14’s outrageousness is not what caused the reaction in Iran and HA’s hardline position… it is America and Israel… Ahmadinejad is the east’s answer to George Bush… they will both leave politics next year.

Iran and HA’s position on Israel are not in reaction to some Fatfat interview on LBC.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have said several times that I welcome Syrian support for Palestinians but not of terror. If Syria wants to build schools and clinics in Jenin, they are more than welcome. It they want to fund and host Mesh’al that is another matter.

Syria’s economy will only have problems if Syria continues to support terror. Let me spell it out:
1) Syria cannot host terrorists like Mesh’al or Mugniyeh.
2) Syria cannot fund Hamas or Hizbollah or allow weapons to Hizballah to pass through Syria.
3) Syria needs to make sure terrorists do not get into Iraq.

When I say “cannot” I mean that of course it can, but it will be hurt by sanctions if it does and it will inhibit growth.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Iran and HA’s position on Israel are not in reaction to some Fatfat interview on LBC.

I know, this is my point. Their position is far more entrenched.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:50 pm


Majhool said:


What I see today in the economy falls short of being a reform. It’s merely creating an alternative venue to refinance the regime. Remember that when Lebanon was open for few regime men to blunder (with Lebanese associates of course) and when KSA and Kuwait was pouring aid the regime never felt a need to open up its economy.

All what is happening is that the regime along with its corrupt circle of businessmen took advantage of Syrian longing for a taste of consumerism. The trickle down effect was limited to those who already have money. In fact those close to the minimum wage (the majority) saw a decline in their purchasing power.

Your expectation of reform following peace treaty on one hand, and advocating realism on the other (by comparing us to the Saudis & Egyptians) is contradictory.

Egypt although in peace has a terrible economy.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:55 pm


Alex said:


That’s why I am relatively confident that we can have peace next year … Syria will not do any of the items on your black list if there is a well negotiated peace agreement between Syria / Lebanon / Israel.


Their position is more entrenched, but you will be surprised how they might change if America can speak to Iran the way Shai speaks to Syrians here.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Bye the way Alex, if Mesh’al is sent away from Damascus that would be one of the CBMs shai is looking for. If you support that, that is a step forward. Somehow, I don’t think it will happen, but let’s hope I am wrong.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:56 pm


Shai said:

As much as Arab solidarity is important, I believe there are ample cases to show that at least in the past two decades (if not more), Arab states always prefer their own interests over their neighbor’s. Question is, can anyone truly blame Assad for “killing a core issue of the Palestinian national struggle” by perhaps being willing to nationalize the 400,000 refugees within Syria? I’m not sure. First, providing them with (the choice of) Syrian citizenship must not necessarily mean a negation of their Right-of-Return. Second, it is, after all, a huge burden for Syria to take on, especially if it still had any hopes that one day some, perhaps many, of the refugees could return to Palestine. Third, what if we look the lens through the other side – would the Palestinians make peace with Israel (and an end to all its historic claims) conditional on Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, for instance? Probably not…

So while Alon Liel may have provided some with a “blockbuster”, I’m not that surprised by the idea of “selling your friends out”, in the senses that were described. At the end of the day, Syria has to look first and foremost after Syria, not after Hezbollah, or even the Palestinians. But this is truly an oversimplification of things, as clearly Assad would never approve steps which would “seem” like a sellout. With regards to the Palestinians, for instance, I cannot imagine that Syria would ever provide citizenship options for them, if first a refugee settlement was not put in place by Israel-Palestine-International-Community, and carried out. In theory, if each of those refugees in Syria accepted a proper financial compensation, and as such was willing to remain within Syria, Assad may be “incorporating” some 400,000 financially well-settled citizens (by comparison to the average Syrian, that is). That means more money spent, inside Syria. I won’t dare introduce the notion of who personally might benefit financially from this…

I’m not trying to say that there’s anything good, or clean, or honest about these ideas, if there’s any truth to them. They may have just been ideas brought up to test the waters. Obviously, in order to make such ideas official, much deliberation and preparation must take place by Syria, with or without their allies (Hezbollah, Iran, etc.) and with the Palestinians. I cannot imagine Assad being irresponsible, and just making decisions on his own and selling people out. He’s way too smart for that. There was great article today in Ha’aretz (in Hebrew) comparing Assad to Levi Eshkol, Israeli PM in the 1960’s, who was known for his patience and thoroughness in thinking things through, especially when it came to issues relevant to Israel-Syria.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Why doesn’t Bashar issue his own version of a comprehensive peace plan? Why leave it to the Saudis? Why not lay his terms out where everybody can see them, alongside all of his concessions?

The reason is simple: because it will make him look like the odd man out, in the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullahian axis.

February 22nd, 2008, 7:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am getting a little confused here. Are you supporting a Syrian “flip”?

February 22nd, 2008, 8:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What does Nasrallah mean when he says “International Tribunal’s prosecutor is in Meerab and its judge is in Clemenceau”?

I can’t grasp his meaning.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:13 pm


Alex said:


Mashaal is not “the Palestinian people”, he will leave Damascus voluntarily if he felt it is in Syria’s interest and hte interest of his Palestinian people.

But there will be no such CBM this year … because it would be useless … if Mashaal left Damascus, the Saudis and Neocons and M14ers will spin it in one of the following two ways:

1) a defeat to Syria (Syria was forced to kick him out)
2) A proof that Syria sold the Palestinian cause.

And the Kuwaiti Al-Syassa will claim that both are correct at the same time and will add that Asef Shawkat personally threatened Mashaal that he will kill him and his children if he does not leave Damascus, and that Rami was paid two billion dollars in some Swiss account in return for “ordering” his weak cousin Bashar to accept .. and that Bashar the hard line terrorist had to finally accept after he spent a month in a mental illness institute being treated for depression and anxiety for being scared of what will the true ruler o Syria (the Iranian ambassador) do to Bashar if he kicked Mashaal out, and that Bashar’s wife took the Children to hide in England because she knew that the days of the weak regime are numbered ….

And Syrian opposition and M14 websites will circulate this story as is … and many people will believe it.

That’s why I tell you … nothing good can happen this year.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:15 pm


Observer said:

In a previous post, I lamented parochialism of some commentators.
In follow up to this post and with Ehsani taking issue, allow me to pose the following note

I believe that the majority of us agree that we are Arabs. Some countries do have susbtantial non arab minoritites such as Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Algeria. However, I always thought that being an Arab does not mean that you belong to an ethnic or racial entity but that you are culturally, historically, linguistcally an Arab sharing common values and cultural background and therefore, like the US, one can be originally say a Kurd or a Turk and become an Arab without losing his particular background.

This idea of Arab nationalism has failed to be translanted into a living idea and document because of the failure of the leadership in combination with the lack of institutions that would support it. Nevertehless, it has survived fully in the minds of the common man and woman.

Hence the problem of identity is crucial in this regard. If one is an Arab in Lebanon, is he first an Arab and then a Lebanese or vice versa. If he/she is a Lebanese first, is he first a Christain or a Muslim. If a Christian, is he first a Maronite, Orthodox, or Roman Catholic. If he is a Maronite first, is he of the Gemayel Clan, the Chamoun Clan, or the Franjieh Clan. If he does not follow one clan or the other, does he/she have a chance to full citizenship.

As long as the question of who we are is not translanted into a living idea that people embrace as the ideal to which you strive, we will remain in dire situation.

The NYT reported today on the realization of the Arab countries that Israel is not interested in the Arab initiative. The events in Gaza clearly show that the strategy of Israel is to insure that whatever entity is established has no vialbility and more importantly no sovereingty; and that Jordan will be burdened with the economic responsobility for the West Bank and Egypt for Gaza.

Both Jordan and Egypt are terrified of this prosepct and this brings us back to the very idea of who we are. The Jordanians have adopted a Jordan first policy to inusre one thing and one thing only the survival of the monarchy. Likewise the Egyptians for the survival of the Mubarak dynasty and the Mafia style of rule.

The KSA has opted to solve the Palestinian problem at whatever cost because they want ot extinguish the fire that feeds militancy in the area. In this they are not successful despite bending over backwards for the US and Israel.

This brings us back to the question of identity and the question of who we are. If we are to have a meaningful chance of ever creating a stable and independent entity there is no escape from uprooting the current system of rule in the region. All of these pseudogoverments must go. Whether it is done with the EU as a model or by slow decay is open to question. Revolt and coup d’etats may no longer be possible, but the problems facing the region in terms of bulging population, income inequality, constant humiliation, wasted talent, occupation and refugees every ten years since 1916 is bound to create an explosive mix.

With this background, here is my take on this piece of news regaring sanctions of the inner sanctum:
The sanctions that were just applied are but one example of this division and the lack of true independence. The abscence of a regional collaboration allows such sanctions regardless of their merit to occur. If the region had a unified approach to banking, free trade, abolition of tarifs, cooperation in the technical fields, then we can argue that the sanctions will have no impact. As such, they will have some effect.

On the other hand, the entire population of the region has been practicing the game of hiding wealth and avoiding goverment scrutiny for over 450 years and I believe they will prevail against any US attempt to curb them. I expect Russian banks will step up to the plate just to spite the US after Kososvo.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:19 pm


Shai said:

Qifa Nabki,

The point you raised about Iran’s continued belligerent stance towards Israel, coupled with very harsh (and scary) rhetoric, is one of the main reasons Israelis are questioning Syria’s true motives here. Hearing Assad speak of the current Iranian regime as a close and natural ally (and militarily, not just politically), makes a lot of Israelis very uneasy and fearful for the future. Unfortunately, I’m talking about those same Israelis that supported Rabin, and that would have given back the Golan already 15 years ago. I’ve discussed in the past my own beliefs vis-a-vis the Syria-Iran alliance, and I pretty much agree completely with Alex on this point. Same goes for Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas. But we must recognize that Assad’s peaceful gestures are heavily overshadowed by other less-peaceful gestures. While politicians and analysts may understand the give-and-take reasons for these declarations, the general public usually doesn’t. And, at the end of the day, it is the public that will either back or not those same leaders that’ll have to make peace one day. It is THEM Assad needs to address, and not our dinosaur politicians.

Alex, regarding your peace-next-year scenario, from your mouth to Allah!

February 22nd, 2008, 8:20 pm


Zenobia said:

I find it irritating how the NOW articles describes “killing a core issue of the Palestinian national struggle – namely the refugees’ right of return”.
shouldn’t everybody get real on this and acknowledge that the Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc…. are not going to return to what is now Israel … before hell freezes over.
and if people tell me that maybe in 50 or a hundred years of fighting they will….. i want to block them over the head.
we might all be dead from global warming by then, people….

This is NOT an insurmountable issue at all… Palestinians in Lebanon particularly bluster a lot about how…NO MATTER WHAT they want to go back to “their village”…..that in fact, they have never ever even seen before because they were born in Lebanon!…. more than anything else….
I just don’t buy it….. money and benefit can buy anything…… even the hopes of Palestinians living outside Palestine.
the Palestinians in Syria are not suffering to the level as the ones in Lebanon. Although, they are not naturalized as those in Jordan, they do not have those heinous restriction equivalent to Lebanon, and from what I heard, economically do better and are more comfortable.
I think it would be very easy to offer Syrian Palestinians nationality and some compensation and call it good.
Lebanon is much more complex…. the level of poverty and fury is much higher. But still I think it is resolvable.
The international community and Israel should compensate these people sufficiently. They should be offered full nationality. and a small percentage could be given the right of return if they choose no compensation whatsoever and no expectation of actually acquiring their property back unless they were actually born in what is now Israel.
something like this would be interesting. Right now, Palestinians go on and on about wanting to return… to the Galilei, but what if the choice was between going back to nothing – no house- no job- no family- and also having to become an Israeli…essentially, verses being offered full citizenship in lebanon, no barrier to employment in professions, and a hearty compensation????
I have a feeling that people would take the offer and give up their right of return.

I believe there is a solution to this issue…..but it is going to require a lot of money from the rest of the world…to solve it. Lebanon and Syria cannot pay for this on their own.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:30 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


I think all politicians know this fact already. But they keep the current rhetoric for bargining purposes only. its one of the very few chips they still have to bargin with, not much i know but then again they dont have much else.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:49 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You ask:

“If one is an Arab in Lebanon, is he first an Arab and then a Lebanese or vice versa. If he/she is a Lebanese first, is he first a Christain or a Muslim. If a Christian, is he first a Maronite, Orthodox, or Roman Catholic. If he is a Maronite first, is he of the Gemayel Clan, the Chamoun Clan, or the Franjieh Clan. If he does not follow one clan or the other, does he/she have a chance to full citizenship.”

My answer is YES. He is a Gemayel clan first, Maronite second, Christian third, Lebanese fourth and Arab fifth and last.

My friend, it is precisely this dream that we are all Arabs first and everything else next that seems to frustrate you and many others. Yet, it is exactly why the Nassers and Baathists of the region have failed so miserably with their attempts to unite the umma under that illusive Arab first banner.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:50 pm


Shai said:


I completely agree with you but, as an Israeli, it is something I cannot really say without seeming almost cruel and interest-driven. By the way, I believe there’s ample international money for the compensation project, so that no nation here in fact will be paying for it. Symbolically, Israel will obviously have to pay, but I’m sure the EU, or the US (or both) will compensate us back for it. Truth is, if done right, this compensation project, with the humane aspects of it, not just the monetary ones, could be an amazing attestation to how the world can come together to treat a long overdue problem. Of all the refugees in the world, few have remained so for 60 years! Not only Israel, but indeed the entire world, is to blame for having enabled that for so long. It is time we recognized the refugees, and put an end to that sad chapter in their life.

February 22nd, 2008, 8:52 pm


Majhool said:


what Ehsani2 just said is realism, your dream of peace (next year) followed by a boom is not.

واعطسو يرحمكم الله

February 22nd, 2008, 8:59 pm


Shai said:


Please allow me to offer the following:

If god-forbid there’s war soon, I will apologize to you for not having done enough to prevent this war.

If god-willing there’s peace next year, you will apologize to me for not having done enough to bring this about.

What do you say?

February 22nd, 2008, 9:06 pm


Majhool said:

Dear Shai

Your request is not fair, because your government allows you to actually do something about it, be it a lot or very little. I, on the other hand, am hopeless (to please Alex) if you know what I mean.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:19 pm


Alex said:

No Majhool,

You are not hopeless. I am not hopeless.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:22 pm


Shai said:


You ARE doing something about it, right now. We don’t have a choice, we MUST work for peace. If we don’t do it, our children or their children will have to do it, but it’ll come after much more pain and suffering has taken place. By remaining optimistic, by engaging one another, and by endlessly searching for the “winning formula” to peace, we’re doing a lot. In Israel, at least, it is all about public opinion. We are searching for ways to convince the silent majority that supported Rabin, and would have returned the Golan already 15 years ago, to once again have faith. Extremists on all sides have taken over and are running the emotional realm. We must take back this control, which is something all too often political leaders (and especially impotent ones, like in Israel) cannot do. It is therefore up to us. And we WILL succeed!

February 22nd, 2008, 9:26 pm


offended said:

Majhool, I think you meant to say ‘helpless’?

February 22nd, 2008, 9:27 pm


Honest Patriot said:


Thank you for stating what should be Oh So Obvious! Yet, I cannot fathom why it does not sink in and hence lead to a peace deal. The topic of course is the right of return, and I bet that we have many on this forum (not the majority, but many) who subscribe to the necessity of a litteral return.

As far as the Palestinians living in Lebanon, they should be given very generous compensation and the right to go back to the new Palestine or to Syria. Being naturalized in Lebanon is another recipe for future conflict in that tiny country. I know this sounds like NIMBY, but the fact is that the small size of Lebanon and its already diverse population cannot withstand the added imbalance from the naturalization of the Palestinians living there. In fact, there indeed is a strong consensus in Lebanon on this topic – aleit with different reasons motivating the different factions to take that position (one of which is of course planning by some for actual return to what is now Israel).


Some of us are in fact quite repulsed by the idea that we might be “Arabs,” not because we are not proficient in the language or do not understand or appreciate the good parts of the culture, but because so many Arabs in this century have displayed nothing but the worst of behaviors. The fire of the cartoon of the spoiled rich Arah sheik philandering in European bars to then go back home and oppress his wife (or wives) was not created without smoke. The emotional dementia of taking on Israel militarily without a hint of the imbalance in power and military intelligence, acts that led to consecutive and shameful defeats, the obscene waste of oil money on pleaures instead of investing in true advancement of the intellectual and technological level of the native population, and I can go on and on, are not exactly what makes one proud to be an Arab and/or eager to affiliate with the Arab nation.

It is no secret that many Lebanese, mostly Christian, romanticize their descendence from the Phoenicians and distance themselves from Arabism. Whether or not there is historical validity in such claims is not as important or interesting as the drivers to make such folks want to affiliate in this manner. And let’s not call them traitors, agents, etc… They aspire, like anyone, to derive pride from their affiliation, to work hard to improve themselves, their society, and their country, and they clearly see the Arab affilitation as pulling them down.

Please do not unleash fury against me just because I am daring to spell out what many think and believe. Instead, if you want to argue the opposing point, why not enumerate the points of pride of being an Arab and why one would want to be identified as one?

February 22nd, 2008, 9:28 pm


Majhool said:

Dearest Alex,

I beg to differ. See peace with Israel means different things for me and you. For me it’s a paradigm of stability and prosperity where talents are no longer wasted because of the “struggle” where my rights are not high jacked in the name of struggle, etc..
This paradigm will be obsolete when peace is made “Egyptian Style”. Peace as I like to be has to be earned by true elements of power in the Syrian society. Something I am interested in and unfortunately not allowed in our booming modern Chinesekish-style regime.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:35 pm


Majhool said:


both Hope/help-ess

February 22nd, 2008, 9:37 pm


Alex said:


If hey wanted to sign an “Egyptian style” peace, they would have done it long time ago.

You are not helpless, but you are not interested in contributing to anything positive until your “true elements of power” in the Syrian society are actually IN power… or until there are political reforms that will ensure they are on their way to power.

February 22nd, 2008, 9:53 pm


offended said:

A failure of a certain individual has nothing to do with his/her identity. I, for one, identify as an Arab, it’s an inseparable part of my identity. And I can brag that what I have been able to achieve in the last 28 years, which constitute my life, can pass for a relative success. I didn’t feel hindered by my identity. On the contrary, I was inspired all the way. I can bring up many examples of achievers amongst Arab individuals. But on the collective level, there are some factors which we are both aware of, that are hindering the various vectors (as Alex once describe them) from mobilizing and working together. But that should not make me less proud of this affiliation. I can relate to the superb Arab culture that has wowed and dominated the world few centuries ago, more than the thousands years old Phoenicians civilization.
I know that we have our shortcomings. I acknowledge that we have a cultural crisis when I say that a female whore of a singer is more uniting for Arabs than a great poet for example. A nation in distress? Maybe we are, but do we just disown our identify thinking that once the affiliation is gone we’d be better off? No my friend, I think this like of thought is totally wrong.
There are bright examples, albeit light-hearted ones, of this day and age that I can bring up:
I am proud of the Egyptian soccer team for winning the African cup.
I am proud of the Iraqi team winning the Asian cup.
I am proud of the prompt orders of Dubai Shaikh to honor the Iraqi and Egyptian teams even before they sat foot in their respective countries after winning the cups.

I am proud of exemplary model Dubai is currently leading, and which has been built by the visionary of Arab tribal leaders, and with the sweat and genius of Arab locals and expatriates, beside many other communities and nationalities. With whom I am able to mingle confidently without the fear of losing my identity, or without developing an inferiority complex…..

Finally, let me leave you with this masterpiece of the great poet Mahmoud Darwish: : )

أنا عربي
أنا إسم بلا لقب
صبور في بلاد كل ما فيها
يعيش بفورة الغضب
قبل ميلاد الزمان رست
و قبل تفتح الحقب
و قبل السرو و الزيتون
و قبل ترعرع العشب
أبي من أسرة المحراث
لا من سادة نجب
وجدي كان فلاحا
بلا حسب و لا نسب
يعلمني شموخ الشمس
قبل قراءة الكتب
و بيتي كوخ ناطور
من الأعواد و القصب
فهل ترضيك منزلتي؟

February 22nd, 2008, 10:03 pm


Zenobia said:

IC, Shai, Honest Patriot and anyone else,

yes, the Arab leadership uses the right of return as some threat and card to play….but sadly this is at the expense of the Palestinians and everyone else because it is soo misleading to all these people….and furthers the militancy and the mythology about the possibility of leading a fight for years to come….
and then it justifies the excuses of the arab nations not to nationalize the refugee and for basically nobody to do anything to alleviate the problem.
Not to mention that now, the camps have become a dangerous breeding ground for Al-Qaeda type entities… precisely because they have been off limits to the gov’ts of the countries where they are residing.

Basically there are palestinians all over the middle east, and the biggest problem country is Lebanon, as HP has stated correctly in terms of providing citizenship.
I have big ideas on this though, and I am wondering how come I never hear what big ideas the people in power have… i mean when are they supposedly going to think about this!…later…. ?

my main idea is that the world community including the west and the developed countries have to each do their part to give citizenship to Palestinians. the Gulf states too- have to offer nationality to Palestinians living there for decades. Syria can give citizenship to its Palestinian living there already…..since they are not at all divorced from the economy as it is. And Israel as well, must offer an inoffensive percentage of Palestinians the option of return….(but there has to be an interesting system, lottery?, for this…or conditions that make it unappealing….like no compensation….or… only immediate family…to create a disincentive such that few people will choose this option).

The problem is Lebanon largely because it is tiny place – where there is huge amount of anger at the resident Palestinians historically, a resource problem worse than other places, and most significantly the fact that the non-muslims are threatened by the idea of giving citizenship to a huge number of muslims. Of course if that happened- it would further prevent a new political system of one man one vote from ever being instituted.

thus, in the case of Lebanon- the numbers cannot all be given nationality. And this is where I believe the international community of 1st nations has to step up and pick up the overflow.

All the western nations Europe, America, and anybody else in developed world… should be required to offer citizenship to a percentage of Palestinians.
I would bet everything i have that if that bloke I met who grew up in Chatila- can’t become a pharmacist even though he completed all the education for it, and who claimed that under any circumstances he wants to go to his ancestoral village in Israel….would change his mind in a second if he were offered some seed money and american nationality, or EU status, or even a less appealing choice.

I think there are so many fair and interesting solutions to this problem… possible.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I totally understand you. Most Syrians are compeletly disenfranchised politically and that is why “peace” is not something that Syria will be making but just the Asad regime. It will of course be a fraud and will not reflect the will of the people.

Alex wants peace as a means to let the Asads stay in power longer. Israel should not play this game of helping dictators. If we tolerate some dictators which is shameful (but in the case of Egypt and Jordan necessarry for our interests in the region) it does not mean that we should support all dictators. Syria can really be the leader of the Arab world if real democracy comes there first.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:20 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I change my mind (again!). Now I would like to encourage YOU to run for President of Lebanon (if Lebanese, and if not, then of whichever Arab country you claim as your native land)!

It’s about TIME we have someone with vision, courage, and intelligence in such positions.

You go, person! 🙂


I wish there were more people like you (and Observer) with the addition of influence to effect change in the Arab world. Then we would all be proud to be Arab. I agree that a person should strive for his/her own accomplishments and success to reflect upon the group he/she is identified with rather than the reverse. I do want to be positive and optimistic. I find myself being pulled back way too often by embarrassing and shameful behavior not only by individual Arabs by also by systemic incomptence that doesn’t seem to end. I’ll keep an open mind.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:36 pm


offended said:

AIG, don’t lie to yourself. You dislike the Asad regime because it supports Hamas and Hizbollah. Not because it’s undemocratic.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:36 pm


Majhool said:


I am contributing as much as I can and within my moral limits. that’s why I cannot support lawlessness in Lebanon provoked by the syrians or the the unrelaistic Hamas, or the widescale corrpution in Syria etc..


As much as I want syria’s regime to stop blaming the “struggle” for our misery, as much as I want to see Israel giving average Palestinians what they deserve wothough blaming it on Arab dictators.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:36 pm


Zenobia said:

wow. well…thanks for the encouragement!

alas,….. the father is Syrian (hence my name)…. so….hmm. I don’t think i will be running for office soon.
but i guess if you go back a couple hundred years… the origin would now be in Lebanon…….who knows!….I would at least like to leave america and go find something productive there…. people think i am nuts….but I hope one day i retire to this beautiful lebanese mountain village..right above Alley and Bhamdoun… called Sofar? you’ll find me there. : ) as an old lady giving treaties….in my salon, ha ha.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:48 pm


Alex said:

Yes Majhool,

That is the problem … people like me have been not considerate of the same strict “moral limits” that people like you and AIG and M14 supporters always agree on.

February 22nd, 2008, 10:53 pm


Alex said:

Zenobia you traitor! .. why Lebanon?

Did you consider Hassake? Dreikeesh? Horan?

February 22nd, 2008, 10:55 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nannouh,

If you think like this:

“and the Syrians are willing to “sell out” Hizbullah and nationalize the Palestinians in exchange for a 15-year withdrawl deal on the Golan, then why is Bashar digging himself into a deeper hole right now?”

Why dont you just forget about having an interest in the political affairs of this part of the world, ours I mean, and focus on Varsity Football, YMCA, Green Peace, Community Service, DAC, etc..,

See, down here, where we live, Nasrallah and Mohammed Abu Traikah are much more representative of how we -poor soles living in the Arab World- feel and think!

BTW, do you know who Mohammed Abu Traikah is????

That is us. You stick with the authors and historians you qouted in your infamous Mamlook’s articles. That is you.

Know the difference???!! Or are you living too far away from us?

February 22nd, 2008, 10:58 pm


Zenobia said:

I am sorry! to disappoint you Alex……
well….alright…..there are some pretty cute villages in the coastal Syria area …very beautiful too….. but…but….but…have you seen the lebanese mountains??
i live in northern california now….i have high standards…and there is no big beautiful city….within… reach of the syrian village mountains… Homs?…. Tartous? that just won’t due for me…. sign….
i am a big city girl…a city by water!….i have to have it….

so, well Lebanon wins out…..
but…no worries….one can drive to syria very easily…no problem…. one can have the best of all worlds….

February 22nd, 2008, 11:02 pm


ausamaa said:

Honest Patriot,

Why just Zenobia, we have another 8 million Syrian girls and another 2 million Lebanese girls who can do the job?? And they can sure do Much better than your Feb 14 & Co. idols are faring right now!

February 22nd, 2008, 11:04 pm


Majhool said:


Moral limits are relative and almost always stem from certain convections/experiences. I am with stability, civic society, and rule of law and my moral limits are outcomes of these believe.

As for squeezing me in with AIG and M14 in one camp, it reminds me with “either with us or against us” neocon paradigm of thought.


I cannot blame you, Lebanon almost always win in the beauty of its mountain/sea side. Maybe Kasab will do it for you in terms of beauty, yet again services/close metropolitan life is non existent.

February 22nd, 2008, 11:19 pm


Zenobia said:

Ausamaa dearest, take your claws in! please……no need for them here….especially at QN…… there are people more deserving…..

On the Arab Identity issue…
Ehsani said:

“My answer is YES. He is a Gemayel clan first, Maronite second, Christian third, Lebanese fourth and Arab fifth and last.

My friend, it is precisely this dream that we are all Arabs first and everything else next that seems to frustrate you and many others. Yet, it is exactly why the Nassers and Baathists of the region have failed so miserably with their attempts to unite the umma under that illusive Arab first banner. “

I was just wondering if the first point is just a realist point. Are you saying this is fine? Or wouldn’t you agree that it is a problem though? Although, i agree that arabism or arab nationalism cannot work for many reasons….(for its being too synonymous with Islam and the relevance of great diversity)…and I think you are saying that the people of the middle east have identities that are subdivided and subdivided …. into smaller more potent identifications…
Ok, this is true… but is it not something that must change???? will change??? with the unstoppable interconnectedness of the world….

We had this discussion yesterday a bit….. and i argued for secularism being a necessity… for the possibility of ever having an middle east version of an Economic Union….
but moreover, in regards to identity….people must change their view of WHO WE ARE…. as the question was put earlier.
it must move in the opposite direction of being a Gemayel first, then a Maronite, then a lebanese and then a person of the Middle East, and then of Humanity.

at this point…this was the same debate about why the Lebanese cannot get their political shit together….. they can’t form a potent nationality that is a collective identity more powerful politically then their subgroup.

I am in favor of Humanity taking precedent over everything at this point…. but there goes that california dreamin…

February 22nd, 2008, 11:20 pm


Zenobia said:

Ausamma, i thought you used to be my fan? Mr.
there are really ten million Lebanese and syrian ‘girls’ ready to rule and lead their country? why aren’t they doing it then???

February 22nd, 2008, 11:23 pm


ugarit said:

That’s laughable. The US going after foreign corruption while its house is full of corruption.

February 22nd, 2008, 11:25 pm


ugarit said:

The advantage of Kasab is that it’s close to the Turkish border, if you had to rapidly leave the country 🙂

February 22nd, 2008, 11:27 pm


Zenobia said:

Alex, thanks for the pictures…indeed this is similar terrain to the whole lovely coastal area I saw down south a bit more… near the Krak de Chevalier and a bit north between there and Meshta Helou….i thought it was paradise, really.
And, i took the train also from Aleppo (out of a very aesthetic old station) to Lattakia….and it was fantastic!…..much better than the road…..cause it winds through the mountains….
I think a lot of Syrian don’t even know there is a train that now goes. Unlike the bus rides, it was actually very clean, new, and orderly, uncrowded, and cost about five dollars. Everybody should try this.
My Tartousi friend said he didn’t even know syria had a train, and when he saw how clean and respectable it was, he joked that the train made him proud to be a syrian.

February 22nd, 2008, 11:30 pm


Alex said:


Zenobia wants you to limit your attacks to Honest Patriot who deserves them, but not Qifa Nabki.


I did not squeeze you in that group … you manage to park next to AIG and other M14 supporters rather consistently … and there is one thing in common between the three groups … no, it is not “moral limits” … but it is “wanting to get rid of the Syrian regime so bad”

Ammar Abdelhamid and farid Ghadry: don’t give the Golan back to Syria .. you will empower Assad … >> empower Khaddam’s NSF instead!

AIG and other Likudniks: No peace with those who harbor terrorists… we Likudniks can not stand violence, please.

M14 peace loving leaders Jumblatt and Geagea: The murderous regime in Damascus has to go before we can have good relations between Syria and Lebanon.

Neocons: Those corrupt Syrians are not the type we can do business with … it would be beyond our “moral limits”


February 22nd, 2008, 11:34 pm


Zenobia said:

Honest Patriot thinks i should be president. so he can’t attack him either…!… : )

February 22nd, 2008, 11:37 pm


Majhool said:


Everyone has his/her reasons:

For AIG, he uses the Syrian dictatorship as an excuse for Israel not to give back Golan, compensation for the Palestinians, a viable state for the Palestinians.

M14 supporters, well although their leaders are extremely corrupt and even wicked but the people who support M14 are really in it because they would like to see a functional state in Lebanon.

As far as I am concerned, and as a Syrian, I see the interest of my people vested in stable governments in both Lebanon and Palestine.

If it seems to you that I am parked next to M14 or AIG then I understand. After all, the same judgment was passed on hundreds of Syrian intellectuals who reside today in the stinky political prisons of your beloved regime that is paranoid of its self, let alone facebook.

February 23rd, 2008, 12:28 am


Majhool said:

دفاعأ عن الحق .. دفاعاً عن رامي مخلوف .. بقلم: خليل مخلوف مساهمات القراء

((العقوبات الأمريكية هي بمثابة وسام على صدرنا)) رامي مخلوف

عندما أشاهد المحطات الفضائية هذه الأيام وخاصة تلك القناة المسماة بالعربية والناطقة باسم السعودية, والمستقبل الناطقة والموالية لتيار المستقبل وغيرهما من حلفاء أمريكا تلك الدولة العظمى وصاحبة الديمقراطيات التي تفرضها على العالم ،

بل وحتى الصحف وعلى صفحاتها الأولى كالنهار والمستقبل أراها تتبجح بذلك القرار الذي فرضه (أكبر) رئيس دولة في العالم جورج بوش (نابغة العصر) الذي يقضي بعقوبة بعض المسؤولين السوريين ورجال الأعمال ليأتي ويخص بالأستاذ رامي مخلوف الذي ينتمي لعائلة عريقة وغنية أباً عن جد أغوات وبشوات ومناضلين للإستعمار والمحتل ,فهذا المشرع بالديمقراطية يشرع عقوبة على سورية ليخص الأستاذ رامي لأنه قريب للسيد رئيس الجمهورية الدكتور بشار الأسد حماه الله , وهذا دليل حقده وعدائه لسورية ورئيسها العظيم الذي وقف ويقف دوماً سداً منيعاً أمام المخططات والمشاريع الأمريكية الإحتلالية الإستغلالية.

إن جورج بوش لا يعرف رجل الأعمال رامي مخلوف ليسلط عليه الأنظار عن بقية رجال الأعمال في الدول العربية وغيرها إلا من خلال الخونة والعملاء والمتصهينين كعبد الحليم خدام وحلفائه وأعوانه في تيار الأكثرية كما يسمى أمثال جنبلاط وجعجع والجميل ومروان حماده

وخدام ذلك الخائن الحاقد على آل مخلوف نراه في كل طلة على شاشات العمالة يبث حقده وسمومه وشتائمه, لكن الإناء ينضح بما فيه ..

وهذا الحقد وتلك الشتائم والألفاظ النابية ناتجة عن عدم حصوله هو وأولاده المفسدين من بعده على شركات الخليوي في سورية, كانوا يريدون الحصول على كل شيء دون سواهم , ذلك عدا عن الفساد الذي نشروه في البلاد ..

وأنا هنا لست في موقف الدفاع عن السيد رامي مخلوف علماً بأنني من آل مخلوف لكنني أعلم كل شيء عن آل مخلوف تلك العائلة العريقة في المنطقة

وأنا لست مستفيداً أو موظفاً بشركاتهم ولكن أقول ما يمليه علي ضميري حول ما ذكر , وأتمنى أن يعلم هؤلاء وهم لن يعلموا بأن شركات الأستاذ رامي تعمل بها آلاف العائلات وتعيش من الرواتب والمكافآت التي يحصلون عليها لقاء عملهم مما يحد بشكل ما من البطالة في بلدنا.

وليعلم الجميع إن رامي مخلوف إنسان ومواطن قبل أن يكون رجل أعمال بارز لذلك هو لديه عدد من المشاريع الخيرية التي تصرف على الكثير من المحتاجين والفقراء وتصرف على تلك العائلات الرواتب ويقدم لهم الطبابة المجانية والتعليم بلا أي مقابل ..

أنا من كلامي هذا أدافع عن المنطق والحقيقة فأنا أكرر بأني لست بمستفيد من السيد رامي مخلوف ولا موظفاً في شركاته . .

فسر إلى الأمام ولاتبالي في نهجك لمصلحة الوطن والمواطن وكن شوكة في عيون الحاقدين وكما قلت: إن العقوبات هي بمثابة وسام على صدرنا ..

حمى الله الوطن .. وقائد الوطن .. وجميع الشرفاء .

وإن للباطل جولة ..

February 23rd, 2008, 12:33 am


Nour said:


Alex is not disputing that Syria needs to develop a better system of governance. What Alex is opposing is the extreme position that Syria should not be allowed to function or survive as long as this regime is in power. He is rejecting the implication that the Syrian regime is the “evil” of the middle east while all the other “moderate regimes” along with Israel and the US are the “good”.

The reason for his opposition to such positions is that they are bound to bring nothing but chaos and destruction. If Syria is allowed to progress naturally, it is bound to evolve, advance, and develop and eventually move into a better political phase. But trying to crumble the regime and refusing to deal with Syria barring that outcome is not in the best interest of either the Syrians or the people of the region as a whole.

February 23rd, 2008, 1:02 am


EHSANI2 said:


Visited Qnnaye so many times as a youngster.

Majhool and Ugarit,

I agree about Kassab. After all, my wife’s family owns a house there which has meant a yearly visit. Incidentally, I met Joshua there this summer. We even took a dip in the blue waters of the Mediterranean right by that Turkish border. Josh can confirm the incredible beauty of the spot.


Do I think that it is fine for us not to think as Arabs first and everything else second?

Yes, I do. The fact that the concept never succeeded is a testimony to its impracticality and failure.

Socialism is also great in theory. It has failed miserably in practice however.

To continue to dream and state “if we only could manage to unite as one” and form a common identity we can achieve miracles ends up giving us a false sense of hope. Instead, we must rely on ourselves as smaller independent entities and strive to compete, develop and raise the standards of living of our people.

February 23rd, 2008, 1:08 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t know how smart Abu Trika is, but I’m pretty sure that Nasrallah would find you embarassing. ma btiswa sirmayto, inta w 7akyetak al-7ilween.

But whatever makes you feel good about yourself is fine by me… including picking fights with other Arabs.

smallah 3a hal-qawmiye al-3arabiye taba3ak

February 23rd, 2008, 1:15 am


offended said:

I know that exquisite stretch of beach you are talking about. It’s nearby a town called Al Samra. Been there twice, but was able to swim only once, the second time the border guard was a bit concerned that his superior might pop in….

It’s incredibly beautiful over there…

February 23rd, 2008, 1:27 am


Zenobia said:

Ehsani, i got your point in the first line, and i agree that it would be absurd to think only first of one’s self as arab and everything else second.
i just think it is equally unproductive to think of one’s self first as a Gamayel or first as a …. fill in the blank with whatever religion sect you want, or first as any of these small sectarian groups either.
and besides, it seems like we are talking about Identity as if it is some fixed thing for all times and all circumstances. Of course, it isn’t.
When i am in America- i feel there is something Syrian in my heritage that i try to bring out and define. When in syria- i certainly felt very american….

And one may choose to define one’sself in differing ways for a purpose too…. political or social, etc. Aren’t we defined as the context – impacts us? for this reason, to be an Arab and to bring that to the fore might be important in some arena, and maybe not in a business situation…
Maybe a problem in the Middle East is the obsession with certain identities and the constant reinforcement of them and competition with others. perhaps better standards of living for all could be achieved if people took the lense out and saw a larger collective group (doesn’t have to be based around being arab) that can cooperate with each other.
Again, the lebanese are always good examples…. to be lebanese first before shiite or sunni or druze- would mean working cooperatively rather than sabotaging each other in the attempt to raise the power of one’s sub group above the other.
it hasn’t worked so far as a strategy for stable growth of anyone. Same goes for all the varying arab states between each other.

February 23rd, 2008, 1:32 am


offended said:

Don’t get your knickers in a twist; I’ll give you a hint: Abu Traikah is nicknamed the Maestro; even though he’s got nothing to do with music….how’s that for a hint?

February 23rd, 2008, 1:35 am


norman said:

Isn’t Kassab mostly Armenians,

February 23rd, 2008, 1:39 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Basita. I have sympathy with Gaza as well. 😉

February 23rd, 2008, 1:40 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Another Round of Explosions, but This Time It’s Fake

NY Times – Feb 22, 2008

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon is a country on edge, with every side warning about foreign interference and the spark that could lead to factional war.

So when explosions and gunfire broke out in an abandoned building east of Beirut the other day, two Lebanese Army platoons quickly surrounded the site, guns drawn.

“Cut!” yelled a frightened American voice. The sounds of gunfire stopped abruptly.

It was a foreign film crew, not a militia. And if life sometimes imitates art, this was something stranger: The crew was making a movie about a group of armed foreigners who come to Beirut and almost set off a factional war by mistake.

February 23rd, 2008, 2:48 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Nasrallah writes off Jewish state as ‘temporary’ aberration

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed again on Friday to avenge the death of one of his group’s top commanders, warning that the “resistance will not stand silent” if Israel launches a war against Lebanon. “The disappearance of Israel is inevitable, it is divine law,” Nasrallah said in a speech delivered by video link to thousands of supporters taking part in a ceremony to commemorate fallen Hizbullah members.

Those honored included two of Nasrallah’s predecessors, Abbas Moussawi, who along with his wife and children was assassinated in a 1992 Israeli helicopter strike, and Ragheb Harb, killed by the Israelis in 1984, along with senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb in Damascus the group has blamed on the Jewish state.

“The presence of Israel is but temporary and cannot go on in the region,” Nasrallah added. “Oh Hajj Imad, I swear by God that your blood will not have been spilled in vain.”

Although Israel welcomed Mughniyeh’s death, it has denied any involvement.

Nasrallah said Mughniyeh’s killing was a clear sign that Israel was preparing a new war against Lebanon but said his troops stood ready for a new “victory.”

“We will kill you in the fields, we will kill you in the cities, we will fight you like you have never seen before,” said Nasrallah, whose fighters held off the Israelis on the ground in the summer 2006 war. “Israel will be left without an army, and without an army Israel cannot exist.”

He also questioned why countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and France had upgraded security measures in Lebanon.

“We tell them that they have nothing to fear from us because Israel is our sole enemy,” he said.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this week advised their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon and France shut down two of its cultural centers here. Their actions followed Nasrallah’s declaration that if the hit on Mughniyeh meant Israel wanted “open war,” the resistance was ready.

Tackling internal issues, Nasrallah also raised questions about the United Nations-mandated Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other political killings.

Referring to the residences of two of his most frequent critics – Progressive Socialist Party boss and MP Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese Forces chieftain Samir Geagea – he quipped that the court’s prosecutor was based in Maarab, while its judge was based in Clemenceau.

Jumblatt this week reiterated accusations that the Hizbullah-led opposition was responsible for at least some of the assassinations, while Geagea repeated his desire for the court to handle crimes going back to the 1975-1990 Civil War.

Nasrallah also accused the ruling March 14 alliance of rejecting any compromise in the ongoing political crisis because they “await the Israeli war, hoping that it would finish us off.”

He also disputed claims by March 14 that the February 14 rally to commemorate Hariri’s death was attended by a majority of the Lebanese.

Nasrallah said that the “true majority” would be determined at “strictly political rallies where no one is being honored or remembered.”

In reply, Geagea said Nasrallah was taking “all the Lebanese to a war against their will.” He also challenged Nasrallah to a televised debate “where all cards will be put on the table to allow the Lebanese, the Arabs and the whole world to judge us.” – The Daily Star, with agencies

February 23rd, 2008, 3:04 am


Majhool said:


“What Alex is opposing is the extreme position that Syria should not be allowed to function or survive as long as this regime is in power”

I don’t think this is the policy of the US. so far they have been targeting the regime and the regime only. Even if it is then it’s not working.

Let me remind you that when the US was actually supporting the regime of Assad I, the country was not functioning.
so the issues are not related.

now, rejecting the notion that the Syrian regime is not the most evil in the region could be valid but is that a cause worthy of pursuit. I don’t think so.

Now, if preventing an Iraq-style regime change is the goal then its worthy.

let Ammar have it his way as long it is not violent. after all the country is better off without brute thugs such as Rami

you add

“If Syria is allowed to progress naturally, it is bound to evolve, advance, and develop and eventually move into a better political phase”

this is an overstretch. for two reasons, first, if the Americans give their blessing to the Syrians things in Syria will only get worst ( look at Mubarak and Assad I as examples)
second, how come you advocate stability in Syria but you deny it for Lebanon? Syrians are doing their best to destroy all standing institutions in Lebanon in order to bargain with the Americans.

Being true to “realism” would suggest not to mess around with the world’s most powerful country .

As far as I am concerned I don’t give a heck who is power in Syria as long the system reform its self.


My 2 cents regarding the identity question, i believe that endorsing mutlipe identities with no specific order of importance is feasible when it has to indviduals.

politically, the more decentralized the indentification the more feasible it is. i believe its more human-like. one would naturaly care for his houshold, then his street, city, country, region, etc..

February 23rd, 2008, 3:15 am


Honest Patriot said:

Well, I didn’t realize what I started when I nominated Zenobia to the presidency. I was simply impressed by her logic, courage, and creative thinking. The volley which ensued and included the beautiful pictures from Syria was quite pleasant. But I have to clear possible misconceptions:

1- Ausamaa said, addressing me, “(…)And they can sure do Much better than your Feb 14 & Co. idols are faring right now!:

Well, Ausamaa, Feb 14 & Co. are NOT my idols, sorry. There is only one person in the group that I have consistently praised and continue to have the greatest respect for as a true statesman (probably the only one I can think of), and this is Fouad Siniora. And, other than silly, superficial, often childish, sometimes obscene, accusations against him, I have neither read nor heard any valid arguments diminishing his value. As for the others in Feb 14 & Co. I am fully aware of their past sins, their flip-flopping, inconsistencies, etc., to say the least. On the satetements and positions they take however – insisting on preserving the rule of law and democracy and evolving systems peacefully and through the ballot, as well as demanding the integration of the military wing of HA into the Lebanese Army, mutual respect with Syria, etc…, all these are positions I fully agree with and support. There is no adulation of Feb 14 & Co. here. Adulation, or perhaps admiration, is certainly due Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for remarkable oratory skills, charisma, etc.,… I can enumerate myriad positive qualities, but I always add at the end that his fanaticism is regrettable. Voila, you see, it’s elementary Mr. Watson…. I mean Mr. Ausamaa.

2- Alex is upset at me because I took his comparison of Hariri and Makhlouf to task (and I must have either won or fallen in Alex’s eyes b/c he responded to all others on the points they tried to make on this subject but not to me [I think I won]).
So…. Alex, in an indirect attempt at getting back at me, says:

Zenobia wants you to limit your attacks to Honest Patriot WHO DESERVES THEM, but not Qifa Nabki.” (Capitalized emphasis is mine).

OK, then, off come the gloves…

(just kidding)

I just need to point out (can’t let this one go) that Alex has not explicated (note the French influence) WHY I deserve Ausamaa’s attack.

ya a7hi skandar shoo ma bti2darle bitfallit Ausamma 3alaye?
Ma3lesh, allah kbir woo bi sameh

February 23rd, 2008, 3:22 am


Alex said:

Ya Hewlett Packard

(ya3ni HP)

I was trying to get Zenobia in trouble with you! … SHE told Ausamaa not to go after QN … even though Ausamaa attacked both of you .. the fact she did not mention you, sounded like she though that you desrve it, unlike QN … that’s all

I replied to everyone including you when I explained in what ways I said that Rami is similar to Hariri .. in corruption only… which is the topic of this post and the reason why the US administration wanted to punish Rami… supposedly.


Thanks for your help : )

But Majhool, like the others who are in the group I talked about, are consistent … you can’t change their mind no matter what you try … they can’t admit that they are really driven by negativity and they insist that they are only interested in democratic change, that’s all.

February 23rd, 2008, 3:29 am


Honest Patriot said:

Now, Monsieur Alex, having explicated to your admittedly unsophisticated contributor the origin of your statements, everything is clear as whistle. 3ooshtom wa 3asha Loubnan wa 3ashat Sooriya,…, (sincerely)
ok I’ll keep going… (unsincerely)
wannasroo lil 3arab wal mawtoo li isra2eel

February 23rd, 2008, 3:51 am


Honest Patriot said:


Why do I get the feeling that you have something to do with making complicated computer programs work? That task requires of course eliminating every single error and so requires thoroughness and a certain level of compulsiveness in addressing every defect, every weakness in the program, not unlike the way you ensure that you’re addressing every point and clarifying it, etc.
At the same time, there is a romantic streak in you, shall we say a poetic tendency, eminently displayed in the admirable and peaceful pictures of Syria you shared.
I’m trying, but I can’t think of you as a candidate for President. You’re more of a Diplomat, Secretary of State, elder statesman, etc., maybe Historian. I’m thinking James Baker (only by way of competence – no relation to his politics).

February 23rd, 2008, 3:57 am


Majhool said:


Negativity?! I don’t think so. the regime is exercising negativity by not allowing civic life, rule of law, participation in power, and minimal personal freedoms.

for god sake, if the regime cannot even tolerate facebook, what justifies positively toward such brutal entity?

February 23rd, 2008, 4:02 am


Nour said:


Where did I say that I was against stability in Lebanon? But you are accusing the Syrian regime of creating instability in Lebanon without any substantiation to your claims. I accuse the US, KSA, and Israel of creating instability, and if you support any of those regimes, then in my opinion you are supporting instability in Lebanon.

February 23rd, 2008, 5:14 am


Majhool said:


you are funny, let me quote Dr. Landis:

“Damascus will hold tight in Lebanon, preventing the election of a president and the meeting of parliament. The Lebanese economy is groaning under this regime of paralysis”

My years spent in Syria are enough as evidence on how brutal and criminal this regime is, I know regime people up close and personal so please don’t give me this bull of providing evidence etc..


February 23rd, 2008, 5:34 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What I don’t like is a dishonest argument. I have have said many times that my interest are Israeli and what I propose I propose because it is good for Israel. I think that democracy is the only way to get to a long term peace solution. Any other solution is temporary and will only blow up in Israels face. If the muslim brotherhood take over in Egypt, will they respect the peace treaty with Israel? Of course not. So at best, peace with dictatorial regimes is temporary and is no real peace.

Of course, many people in Israel disagree with me and would rather cut peace deals with dictators to attain some temporary peace. I think the gain is close to nil and these deals will blow up in Israels face. What will we say to the Egyptians when they finally get a democracy? How will we explain our support to the regime that oppressed them? We are digging ourselves a big hole as well as impeding the progress of Egypt.

Is it not clear that US and Israeli acceptance of Asad by peace negotiations would be the end of any democratic reform in Syria? I think that is bad for Israel and bad for the region and bad for the Syrian people. Did Egypt become more democratic because of peace with Israel? No, and the same will happen with Syria. Mubarak got legitimacy and he will rule for life and so will his son. Why repeat the Egyptian mistake in Syria, especially since Syria is not in a position to fight a war with Israel and will not flip as part of a peace arrangement? I have not yet heard a good response to this inside Israel.

February 23rd, 2008, 5:54 am


Alex said:


Definitely not a candidate for president : )

Enta 3ayez twaddeea fi dahya ya HP?!

But thank you for the nomination for both the diplomat and computer programmer posts.

After spending 5000 hours promoting Syria the past three years, I guess there is a little bit of passion in me for that country.


Fine .. you want an example of your negativity? … you noticed when Facebook was Banned in Syria .. did you notice that it was allowed again? 6 weeks ago?

It is banned again now I think by the way.

But no one wrote about the news when it was allowed … only when it got banned.

February 23rd, 2008, 5:54 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Be serious. If Syria would have opened several web sites and had become less restrictive, it would be news and people would report it.

Do you think a person that nominates himself for life as president deserves praise that the garbage is picked up or that some sites are allowed in Syria? Syria’s regime needs to be benchmarked against other countries and there the track record is very negative.

Is there anything Syria excels in relative to other countries and can be atributed to the regime? I can’t think of things but I am sure you can. Please list them and let’s all acknowledge the capabilities of Asad in these areas. We can then put together a list of all things the regime has not done well in (I can help with that) and see how they compare. Fair enough?

February 23rd, 2008, 6:03 am


Alex said:


Unlike Syria, Egypt s dependent to a large extent on the United States. Egypt is a relatively easy case … 92% Sunni Muslims, 99% Egyptian Arab background… easy to try “democracy” there .. easy in comparison to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon with all their ethnic backgrounds and religious mix and regional complications.

Egypt is isolated from its neighbors geographically … Syria has complicated relations with turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel …

Why didn’t your heroes in this American administration start to promote democracy in Egypt? … the problem is not that Mubarak was not susceptible to American pressure after peace … the problem is that the American democracy promoters did not want to do anything serious in Egypt .. it was a show … they only wanted to use democracy as a weapon to weaken the Syrian regime .. period.

I have good friends among Egyptian human rights activists and I am quite aware of what was happening the past few years, their expectations and their disappointments … This aministration did not give a damn about democracy in Egypt.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:03 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Americans could do more, but every time they tried something, Mubarak was able to remind them how brittle his regime is and what the alternative was. Asad would do exactly the same and you are right, Asad has a better case than Mubarak.

But it is not just the American’s fault. It is the fault of the realists here in Israel who were against any pressure on Mubarak. Their line is: to hell with democracy in Egypt, Israel’s interest is stability. And this is the line AIPAC is pushing in the congress and making it difficult to get to democracy. That is for example, an area in which I disagree with AIPAC.

This would just repeat itself again with Syria. It would be a major blow to democracy.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:14 am


Majhool said:

Intermittent facebook is great. Actually, it’s a reason for optimism and renewed faith in the wise and graceful Syrian leadership. I am thankful for this “makramah”( gift) from the leadership. I now pledge my blood and soul for our beloved leader bel roh bel dam.. In fact I decided to learn and dance the dabkeh on a daily basis to show my gratitude to our “kadiheen” and especially abo el kadiheen Rami. In fact I now call on all Syrian to go to the streets and pledge allegiance to our leader for life, like I did with many others (under threat of diraseh amniyah) did for his father.

Look Alex, I am Syrian not Egyptian nor Zimbabwean, I, and many others, will never accept this style of governing. If you want to call it negative then be it.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:22 am


Alex said:


I will quit here, since I got you to disagree with AIPAC on something.

Good night.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:30 am


Zenobia said:

Dear HP,
good call on Alex. He’s the son of a diplomat and a photography buff….. besides being an obsessive compulsive computer geek…..

but i thought all that was common knowledge….. : )

and by the way …. Alex,
the reason i didn’t immediately reprimand Ausamaa for attacking HP in addition to QN, was because of one of those times where I was working on my comment and had not refreshed the page. so when i posted…..only then did i see his poke at HP…. and quickly… responded.
so there….you little trouble maker…..

sleep well…

February 23rd, 2008, 7:42 am


Zenobia said:

Democracy is not something that can be imposed on any people or country. Otherwise, the imposing becomes as dictatorial as anything else. Don’t people have to claim it and assert it for themselves. Your assumption is that if you wipe out governments (somehow) that in these vacuums of power, the people will just rise up and claim their civil and democratic rights.
but it is an assumption…. a great great assumption… that is not clearly true….. and it is the other possibilities for what could happen that lead others to hesitate and choose other routes to reach the same desired end.
Democracy is an ideal- an ideal that most people here would agree is the ideal form of government. However, to get to it- is not an easy task nor or a process in which those who are not the ones reaching for it….can institute from the outside.
Pressure must come from the inside not the outside i believe.
pressure can come from the outside in certain cases where the pressure can be applied precisely and with a localized effect… to a particular person for example. but even then it must be in line with the desires of the people seeking an opening in a system. They must desire to have that outside pressure. If they don’t want it, then it is completely counterproductive.

February 23rd, 2008, 7:48 am


ausamaa said:

Actually, Honest Patriot is “better” than QB. He goes straight at the issues and says what he wants directly. So you know where you stand with him. QN on the other hand plays it differently, he is less direct and candy wraps his frustration with Arabism in a seemingly more intelectualy-based sort of things. As in Sharon vs. Peres. Oh God, not that bad really. We should come to terms. Why are we making this personsal? Is it because I feel that this blog has been somehow side-tracked by some?

And OK Zenobia. I am still a fan of yours. I will pull the claws in, and you can take over as the President of Lebanon anytime you can..

And Alex, please stop manipulating innocent me and unleashing me at whoever!!!

Let us now go check the headlines and get more upset with everything and everyone around us!!!

February 23rd, 2008, 8:07 am


offended said:

A high ranking European diplomat to Al Akhbar newspaper:

Syria was genuine and honest in its cooperation with the French and in its efforts to resolve the Lebanese presidential crisis during the last week of Dec 07.

That was right before Sarkozy declared halting all comms with Syria on the matter…Go figure…

February 23rd, 2008, 10:02 am


Honest Patriot said:


Your just-revealed sense of humor makes me long for a time when a group of us here on SC can have a “mini-conference” where I would be seated at the same table as you on banquet night. This way, besides knowing where you “stand” with me, you’ll also know where you “sit.” We can then laugh it up and mix it up and you can elaborate on the Sharon-Peres analogy. I guess I’m Sharon in it, i.e., the “man of peace” as labeled by President GWB? I know, I know, you immediately had misgivings about that statement and said “not that bad really.” In any case, I’m glad you feel that I tell it like it is (or like I believe it is). That certainly is my goal. I also do understand what QN means and the depth of his analyses – making them more sophisticated than my rather simplistic statements – are more in tune with how reality works. Politics is messy, just as life is messy. Navigating both with the flexibility and adaptability displayed by QN is not only realistic, but also right.

Which brings me to a question to you and another to Alex/Joshua:

1- Ausamaa, what’s with the spelling of your handle, “Ausamaa” ? How are we supposed to pronounce it? Is it just like the arabic name OO-Sa’-Ma’ or is there another twist to it?

Alex, Joshua:

2- Alex/Joshua, is it too crazy of an idea to plan a conference, or mini-conference / workshop (say in Oklahoma (pick the city), or Montreal (Canada), or New York (expensive), or New Orleans, or New Jersey ( 😉 just for kicks to tease AIG ), or any other reasonable venue ) ? You would invite Syria’s ambassdor to the UN, all SC contributors/readers, diplomats and citizens interested in Syria, etc. It wouls be distinguished from other conferences by access for ordinary apolitical folks like me. [And, in a fully self-serving way it would get me the opportunity (delight?) to enjoy Ausamaa’s sense of humor, Zenobia’s seeming “poised brilliance,” Shai’s warmth (as his handle and his genteel writings suggest – {I can smell that sweet warm tea and almost taste the kashkaval “tartine” that I dip in it}), AIG’s energy and straight talk, and my idols MSK and QN’s remarkable wit, friendliness, and “just truth.” And, not the least, a reunion with Joshua after over 27 years (hint, hint, where were you then?) would be the frosting on this cake.

February 23rd, 2008, 1:04 pm


offended said:

HP, I see…

Offended is no guest in there…baseeta…

February 23rd, 2008, 1:35 pm


qunfuz said:

On the basis of Alex’s comments, can I request President-to-be Obama (are you reading, Barack?) to make Egypt the test case for democracy in the region. I don’t quite mean it: democracy must be developed by the people themselves, not imposed from outside. And I don’t see America as a shining beacon of democracy in any case. But Alex is right. Egypt is much more homogenous than other Arab countries, and has been a centralised state for thousands of years. Democracy could actually work there, and could help to restore Egypt to its leadership role in the region.

I fear AIG is being naive. Democratic Arab states would not make peace with an Israel that defines itself as a Jewish state. The idea that the Arabs hate Israel because of their leaders’ propaganda is rubbish. I was in Egypt a few weeks ago. 90% of people love Hizbullah and wish their government would support it.

Can we have the SC conference in Europe, please?

February 23rd, 2008, 1:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

QN on the other hand plays it differently, he is less direct and candy wraps his frustration with Arabism in a seemingly more intelectualy-based sort of things.

God forbid anyone criticize Arabism, that shining ideology with such a noble track record of brotherly love. And God forbid anyone try to see both sides of a situation, rather than following his heroes blindly and calling his enemies “whores,” “faggots,” etc.

As in Sharon vs. Peres. Oh God, not that bad really. We should come to terms. Why are we making this personsal? Is it because I feel that this blog has been somehow side-tracked by some?

Ausamaa, I don’t see eye to eye with plenty of other commentators on this blog, like Alex, Nour, Why-Discuss, AIG, and others… we somehow manage to have civil debates. If you are not actually interested in debate but are only looking to alienate other Arabs, then I will oblige you and ignore whatever you say.

Btw, thx to Zenobia and HP for coming to my defense. 😉

I vote for the SC conference to be held in Beirut or Damascus, where I’ll be next year.

February 23rd, 2008, 1:41 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Ya Offended, sorry my friend, it goes without saying that you are right and center in that, probably a plenary speaker 🙂
So is Observer. Others too…
Of course Qunfuz et al….
Blame it on my middle age (smack at 50) for inability to take a correct snapshot…
Intal kil bil kil ya offended, ma twa7hezhna, alla y7hallik

February 23rd, 2008, 1:43 pm


ausamaa said:

And reading HP and QN two posts above I should add: “.. and Honest Patriot is better at reading between the lines!!”.

Cheers all, Spring is at the doors!!

February 23rd, 2008, 2:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

An excellent editorial from the Daily Star today. It’s not clear what they want him to do, or think he can do, under the circumstances. However, this is, for my money, a very well articulated expression of how deeply Lebanon needs Nasrallah at the helm of the Shi`i community, and playing a central role in shaping the future of the Lebanese system (rather than being sucked into anothing conflict with Israel).

Nasrallah is tarnishing the value of all he has done for Lebanon
By The Daily Star

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Friday confirmed that Lebanon is in serious danger of losing yet another of the few political assets it has had in recent years. Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was taken from us by assassination. The hopeful early message of the March 14 Forces has been lost in a cacophony of contradictory and counter-productive rhetoric. And now Nasrallah is diminishing his own stature by emulating the pointless politics wielded by lesser men of meaner goals. Unless the resistance leader changes course very soon, this departure from everything we have known about him risks becoming permanent.

That would be a great loss for Hizbullah, of course, but the most painful implications would be for Lebanon as a whole. After all, in a political arena long dominated by empty talk, Nasrallah has traditionally been relatively short on words and long on deeds. It was on his watch that Hizbullah became a highly competent military force that focused on Israeli occupation troops until they and their leaders could no longer stomach the fight. It was he who was in charge, too, when his organization produced members of Parliament whose integrity and professionalism has been a credit to both the party and the legislature. And when it came time for Hizbullah ministers to sit in Cabinet (however briefly), their performance was sterling, especially when compared to that of various hereditary seat-fillers.

It is tempting to assume that Nasrallah’s new style has been forced on him by pressure from his allies in Damascus. But surely the sayyed knows how fragile Lebanon is just now – and therefore how badly it needs him to shore up its rapidly dissipating stability by once again being the rock upon which the hopes of this country’s enemies are dashed. Like trading boasts about numbers of supporters and insults about this or that with his domestic detractors, exchanging accusations and threats with Israel is beneath the man who presided over the liberation of the South.

Nasrallah has sacrificed far more than most for Lebanon: His own son Hadi died resisting the Israeli occupation, and the sayyed and surviving members of his family have been denied many of the basics of normal lives. These and other contributions to his country’s welfare should not be forgotten, but that is what threatens to happen if he cannot or will not return to the ways and means that made him a national hero when his fighters ran the Israelis out of most of South Lebanon in 2000. Nasrallah has no illusions about personal infallibility: He has admitted, for instance, that the capturing of two Israeli soldiers that gave Israel a pretext for its murderous war in 2006 was a mistake, even if his warriors acquitted themselves admirably. The stakes now are even higher, demanding that the sayyed revive the discretion that used to complement his valor.

February 23rd, 2008, 2:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have said several times that I am sure that the Egyptian people are not in favor of the peace treaty. All the more reason not to shove it down their throats, no?

I agre with you, I don’t think democratic Arab states will make peace with Israel. But I do think they will not support terrorism and they will not support war. Then after several decades, they may be ready for peace. But I am quite happy with no war and no terrorism instead of peace for several decades.

February 23rd, 2008, 2:54 pm


Alex said:


Do you really think that a democratically elected Muslim brotherhood in Egypt will not support Hamas with anything they have at their disposal?

February 23rd, 2008, 2:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, you raise an excellent point. The MB will not support Hamas because they would need international support just to make sure the Egyptians don’t starve. They will be busy making the life of Egyptians better and not supporting Hamas. And if they do (support Hamas), they will quickly have to become a dictatorship to survive. But we are assuming true democracy in which they have to stand to fair elections every few years and are really accountable. In that case, they would not support Hamas. They would even learn to live with the Egpyt-Israel peace treaty.

There is just no way you can have BOTH resistance and significant economic development. You cannot have both. Even when you have as much oil as Iran it can’t be done. And democratic regimes will always have to choose significant economic development because that is what people want and will vote out any government that wastes resources on “resistance”.

February 23rd, 2008, 3:31 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

In addition, in the specific case of Egypt, the army is based on American equipment. If they support Hamas, the army and airforce and navy will fall apart in a couple of years because of lack of replacement parts. Also, Egypt receives significant aid from the US that would stop. And lastly, if the US sanctions the Egyptian banks…

So really, the MB will not be stupid enough to have finally reached power to blow it on stupid moves like supporting Hamas.

February 23rd, 2008, 3:37 pm


Alex said:


I will tell you how I imagine those first two years:

They will be elected on a strict religious platform. During the campaign they will promise to put the Egyptian Israeli peace agreement to the test of a national referendum. It will probably not be approved. They will have to get it annulled.

There will be international pressure on them to not do that … but no one will risk destabilizing Egypt .. it is few times the size of Iraq and chaos in Egypt is not something anyone can live with. So, I expect more long term planning for dealing with the situation there rather than giving the brotherhood’s government the Hamas treatment.

And when Israel does something bad in Gaza, expect a possible urge to do something about it … I am not sure the brotherhood are good at controlling their emotions .. with an army over half a million in size, a capable air force … are you sure they won’t be tempted to help their Palestinian brothers?

And the Egyptian people will be behind them … People in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Iraq … or Israel) can be mobilized very easily if their leaders convince them that there is some existential threat to their country or their religion …

February 23rd, 2008, 3:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You forget several things. First of all, the Egyptian army is completely purged of any MB supporters post Sadat assasination. It will take the MB many many years to get control of the army and to be able to trust it. Over this time, unless they have good relations with the US, the army will crumble since it is based just on US equipment.

Second, the moment the MB put troops in the Sinai they will be breaching the peace treaty and Israel will be again on the Suez canal before they know it.

Third, Saddam’s Iraq was given the Hamas treatment for 10 years. It would be easier to give this treatment to a democratically elected government.

I have listened to quite a few interviews with the MB. They of course hate Israel but understand that a war with it would be devastating for Egypt and they stress that their goals are first and foremost improving the life of the average Egyptian.

February 23rd, 2008, 4:03 pm


Alex said:

Reasonable point about the secular leadership of the army… but the rest does not sound like what I expect.

Anyway .. it won’t happen any time soon.

February 23rd, 2008, 4:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t see why you think a government can’t pursue resistance and economic development at the same time. There’s nothing essentially mutually exclusive about the two tracks.

Empirically, of course, there is… but that’s only because America and Israel would like to make it impossible to pursue both.

Lebanon pre-2005 was an example of a society that pursued both resistance and economic development. Our economy was booming, we had tourists coming in from everywhere, our universities were attracting Arabs from all over the region, multinational companies were establishing their regional headquarters in Beirut, etc. And… 75-85% of the Lebanese supported the resistance. (Here he goes again with his percentages).

You may say that the current crisis is the result of trying to pursue both… but I would disagree. Haven’t you considered the possibility that people who live in democratic, free societies may freely and democratically choose to resist a cruel and illegal occupation, and agitate for a just solution?

February 23rd, 2008, 4:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

BTW: I just realized that if we hold the SC conference in Beirut or Damascus as I proposed, this means that AP, AIG, and Shai et al will not be able to participate.


That would make for a rather dull affair, don’t you think?

February 23rd, 2008, 4:28 pm


why-discuss said:

Refer to Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah threats to Israel:
As long as Israel threatens Iran and pressures the US to act on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, it should not be shocked to get demeaning and threatening reactions from Iran and its allies: Eye for eye.

February 23rd, 2008, 4:37 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Being curiouser and curiouser, I have just finished a web-investigation of our glorious facilitaor (and moderator and commentator) Alex. Hence my vote for the SC conference is Montreal.

Moreover, I’m becoming more convinced that such an initiative could really take traction: an innnovative engagement of real people to make their voices heard beyond the usual political exchanges (and which so far have led nowehere but to more wars and destruction).

I guess someone could write a position paper on how such an initiative (and others) wideneing the discourse to the real people – particularly those who are able to articulate the views of majorities usually not heard – can be transformational and lead to breakthroughs otherwise not possible. Who’s volunteering as author?

February 23rd, 2008, 5:28 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I just realized that if we hold the SC conference in Beirut or Damascus as I proposed, this means that AP, AIG, and Shai et al will not be able to participate.

Qifa Nabki,

Why couldn’t we participate?

I think that democracy is the only way to get to a long term peace solution.


I agree on this as well. The election of the Hamas-led PA government is a positive example. However, the questions of elections doesn’t necessarily imply a real democracy. How often do elections take place? Is there a Constitution and rule of law? Is there an independent judiciary?

All these are necessay for a democracy. One election to get a thug in power and keep him there is not a democracy at all.

February 23rd, 2008, 5:41 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Another option for the SC conference is New Zealand!
With a population of slightly over 4 Million (yes, that’s it!), an area the size of the United Kingdom (“Ingliterra” for my co-Arabs :-)), a somewhat neutral ground, they would be welcoming to such a motley group on such a strange mission. Plus, if it’s held in the winter season of the Northern Hemisphere, it will provide a nice respite for those in the colder climates (nudge-nudge to Alex). Furthermore, they might end up antying up some elements of the solutions needed by offering to take in some folks seeking a homeland. [OK, this last sentence can be ignored by those without a sense of humor, on both the Arab and Israeli side].

February 23rd, 2008, 5:46 pm


ausamaa said:

What exactly is the meaning of Secular? Is it a good or bad thing for a society or a leadership?

February 23rd, 2008, 5:46 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

احتجاز نحو 380 شاحنة سورية في العراق مع سائقيها والإفراج مقابل دفع “خوة 500 دولار ” عن كل سيارة
May be Syria should freeze Maliki money in Syria.

February 23rd, 2008, 5:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I suppose you could come, provided you have other passports, free of Israeli stamps.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:00 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I’m not sure what to make of your question. Are you fishing for a specific answer or simply asking for vocabulay help, in which case you can just as easily read .

Anyway, you hit a very sensitive nerve in your friend HP because I’ve consistently argued that the most humane and stable human political entity is one where separation of religion and state are intrinsic to the constitution and the governmental practice. Some argue that this, in fact, establishes secularism as the “religion” of the state and, in so doing, is simply substituting a particular “religion” for others. But that argument, of course, is sophist. This means, among other things, that all the mullahs and imams will have to limit their activism to areas of personal improvement of people and not to how a government or state is run. Ditto to the fundamentalist rabbis and to the fundamentalist Christians (those that believe that the Kingdom of Israel has to be restored before the second coming of Christ is possible). Being secular does not necessrily mean being anti-religious or even areligious. It simply means separating human organization at a state and global level from the often negative influence of religion. Of course this can be carried to extreme, as in the Communist Former Soviet Union persecuting followers of religion and actively suppressing religion. But wait, …, you didn’t need a lecture along those lines, did you?

February 23rd, 2008, 6:01 pm


qunfuz said:

AIG’s arguments do not address democracy in Arab countries but the transitional period. It’s true that the army in Egypt is run by pro-West officers, but an extended period of democracy would change that. An extended period of democracy, if democracy in more than name alone, would greatly reduce dependence on the unpopular US. There’s also China, Russia, Iran, etc. And anyway, with or without democracy in the region, I expect American influence to diminish greatly in the next 20 years.

The more pro-resistance countries there are, the more difficult it becomes to marginalise/ strangle them. Egypt could be the tipping point.

I agree that the MB these days seems reasonably reaslistic. I don’t expect them to immediately declare war, but I would expect them to provide depth and aid to Hamas in the way that Syria and Iran do to Hizbullah.

Has anyone read Galal Amin on the economic disadvantages of American aid to Egypt? Comments?

February 23rd, 2008, 6:01 pm


Honest Patriot said:


The short answer is yes, secularism is a good thing for society and its leadership (in my opinion).

February 23rd, 2008, 6:04 pm


Alex said:


You Googled “Alex” this time? : )

Montreal is good, Boston too. How about we meet late this year to celebrate Obama’s election? : )


By the way, AIG and AP are both American so they can go to Damascus or Beirut.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:08 pm


Alex said:


We can rely on the existing statements of the Murshid el-3am (head of the Egyptian brotherhood) … he said that he is democratic .. he welcomes the opinions of the younger generation of ikhwan … they are free to express their opinions. But he knows what s good and what is bad for Egypt or for Islam. So … democracy means freedom of expression, not participation in decision making.

Also, I believe that most of the moderation that you are perceiving the past few years is going to disappear once the leadership of the Egyptian or Syrian brotherhood starts dealing with the much ess moderate masses. The leadership learned all the politically correct words (like, eh …”Democracy”) to use in their press releases in order to look like a reasonable alternative to the current rulers of their countries.

So, for example, we had the Syrian brotherhood leader (Mr. Banayouni) state from Europe where he lives, that women and Christians can run for president in Syria… I doubt if his supporters are this progressive though. If and when his organization get to be in power, I doubt all the wonderful promises can be kept … just like the promises of politicians in America or anywhere else …

February 23rd, 2008, 6:35 pm


Alex said:

By the way, did you read about the arrest by State Security in Cairo last week of Khaled Hamza Salam, the co-editor in chief of Ikhwanweb. Hamza (as he is known) was arrested just after he met the director of the Arab Organization for Human Rights.

Hamza was one of at least 222 Brotherhood figures rounded up by Egyptian police in Cairo and five other provinces over the past two weeks. Analysts and Muslim Brotherhood leaders say the arrests were aimed at preventing the organization from fielding candidates in April 8 municipal elections.

Those rounded up were either candidates in previous election or members who could run campaigns. The Brotherhood’s official Web site ( listed doctors, teachers, civil servants and university professors among the most recent detainees.

Where is President Bush?

February 23rd, 2008, 6:40 pm


qunfuz said:

I thought he was doing the sword dance in Saudi. Thanks for updating me.

February 23rd, 2008, 6:55 pm


Shai said:

QN, Alex,

Why can’t it be in Damascus? I’m less than two hours drive away… 🙂 Unfortunately, despite having lived abroad (Europe, U.S.) for many years, I only hold Israeli citizenship… but if the issue is Israeli stamps, I can just get a new Israeli passport, stamp-free… 🙂 What about Amman? Boston is also fine… or Atlanta, my personal favorite (where my wife’s family is from).


I certainly hope you don’t think Israel has been calling for the annihilation of Iran… we’re pretty concerned about a nuclear Iran (aren’t you?) But I haven’t heard a single Israeli politician (even the most extreme right-wing) calling Iran a cancerous virus that needs to be eliminated. “Eye-for-eye” is a silly excuse, which not even the UN Secretary General would buy…


Is it my imagination, or are you really FOR another war in the region sometime soon? Do you believe war with Israel would be good for anyone, now, or 50 years from now?

February 23rd, 2008, 6:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Alas, I’m afraid Beirut and Damascus are out of the question, in your case. 🙂 And we Lebanese have enough trouble going to Syria these days (especially us neo-con, Jumblatt-idolizing, American lackey types), so maybe we should keep it on this side of teh pond.

I know of a few stories of Israelis being permitted to enter Lebanon but it requires a wasta (connection) that I’m afraid I can’t muster. (Anyway, all my family connections are opposition ones, not M14… so I’m afraid I can’t help!)

February 23rd, 2008, 7:14 pm


Shai said:


I read somewhere relatively recently that a young couple, celebrating their honeymoon in India, were supposed to fly back to Amman, and then Tel-Aviv, when their plane suddenly changed course to… Damascus! For some reason Amman was busy, and the plane had to refuel quickly. You can imagine the concerns of those two young’ins, already seeing themselves at best hostages for 3 years (as if the nation of Syria would treat them like Hezbollah did 2 soldiers), or at worst, like Eli Cohen… So they let someone in the cockpit know that they cannot leave the plan, blah blah blah… and in the end, everyone stayed on board while the plane refueled, and they were off to Amman. You see, if I was them, I would have said, excuse me, but I’m here for the SC Annual Conference, so please let me get off the plane here, thank you. What would they have said, no? 🙂

February 23rd, 2008, 7:23 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Let’s place a bet on whether Obama will be elected. My analysis (no opinion here, just guesstimate) is that even if Obama gets the democratic nomination he will lose to McCain. Contrary to the poll, my guess is that Hillary has a better chance against McCain. My reasons include an assumption of invisible and unexpressed racism that will rear its ugly head in the anonymous elections. So my bet will be against Obama (only in an actuarial prediction based on assumptions — no opinion being expressed here).

HOWEVER, if I’m wrong and Obama does win, then if/when we meet the drinks are on me.

February 23rd, 2008, 7:40 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

I think you’re completely right. And, when we meet, the drinks are on me regardless of the results, ok?

February 23rd, 2008, 7:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

HP, Shai

Hillary will not beat McCain. The Republican attack machine will have its way with her, and she’ll be forced to run a very ugly campaign, which will remind everyone of the Clinton years, and the independents will migrate over to McCain (whose aisle-crossing credentials are fairly solid).

Obama can win. He’s very strong among white voters in different age groups. What’s more, he can beat McCain… the independents will break for him over the aging senator.

For every person who is horrified by the idea of a President Barack Hussein Obama, there are at least two or three others who think that this is way forward, for America.

February 23rd, 2008, 7:59 pm


Honest Patriot said:


Now, that’s an offer I cannot refuse.
Atlanta works well for me b/c it is within (a long) driving distance. The airport is not too friendly there for international travelers (upon arrival you have to re-check your bags after claiming them — a major hastle and a long story).
My #1 choice still is Montreal, perfect balance for all potential participants in many respects, and somewhat of a neutral(ish) ground. New Zealand is of course the most exciting place but probably a far-fetched option.
It’s so rewarding that this SC conference is taking a life of its own.
Now we need the position paper. Where is Josh, grading papers? It’s overcast in Norman so not too pleasant to be outdoors.

February 23rd, 2008, 8:01 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I’ll double my prayers that you’re right. I don’t see it, but that’s maybe because of the cynism of middle age (?). My guesses are based on the invisible forces that will make some vote against Obama and others (women = more than 50% of US population) for Hillary, votes that are not reflected in polls because folks don’t disclose their hidden drivers.

Laken roobbama sayakoonoo Obama (Shai, this is just a funkily rhyming arabic sentence to say “maybe it will indeed be Obama”)

PS – It’s gorgeous now in North Carolina, so I’m going to go smell the roses and will check back with you SC folks later. [I guess Ausamaa already is in that rose-smelling expedition since the morning]

February 23rd, 2008, 8:06 pm


Shai said:


Wait ’till Republicans find a creative way to remind Americans that Obama’s middle name is “Hussein”… 🙂 But I do agree with you, Barack certainly has a better chance against McCain than does Hillary. Many really do look at him as a modern JFK…

February 23rd, 2008, 8:07 pm


norman said:

QN, HP, Shai,

I think Obama will be the next president , I for one never voted fo a Democrat for president , I will be voting for Obama, he makes willing to pay higher taxes for the sake of the country ,

Obama’s campaign is similar to Bill Clinton campaign against G H W Bush in 1992 where hope and the future won against experience , so will be the next election .

February 23rd, 2008, 8:15 pm


Shai said:


He’s automatically got the Crimson Tide’s vote.. Gooo…Bama!

February 23rd, 2008, 8:15 pm


norman said:

Shai , look at it this way , a president with the name Hussein will make it easier for electing a president with the name or religion of Shai.

February 23rd, 2008, 8:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Why Obama represents a real change:

“I will also launch a program of public diplomacy that is a coordinated effort across my Administration, not a small group of political officials at the State Department explaining a misguided war. We will open “America Houses” in cities across the Islamic world, with Internet, libraries, English lessons, stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country, and vocational programs. Through a new ” America’s Voice Corps” we will recruit, train, and send out into the field talented young Americans who can speak with — and listen to — the people who today hear about us only from our enemies.

As President, I will lead this effort. In the first 100 days of my Administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence. I will speak directly to that child who looks up at that helicopter, and my message will be clear: “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

February 23rd, 2008, 8:22 pm


Shai said:


If it can help make our world a little better, I’d vote Obama if his first name was Saddam! Ahmedinejad… is another story. 🙂

February 23rd, 2008, 8:23 pm


norman said:


I have the same feeling as yours.


That is interesting , now i like him more ,This country of ours ( The US ) is a great country and has so much to improve the lives of the people around the world , in that process make the world like the US where people with different religions and ethnic backgroud can live together .

February 23rd, 2008, 8:31 pm


Shai said:


It takes living in the U.S. to understand this. But like in anything in life, if you can’t market your ideas well, you’re just not going to succeed. Unfortunately, Americans have failed miserably in marketing freedom and democracy around the world, and especially in our region. The way they are portrayed has a lot to do with horrific marketing. The one thing Americans have not been able to get rid of, is an innate feeling of superiority. Even when I was living in the U.S. in the 80’s, it was “clear” to me that I’m in the greatest nation on earth, and that all other nations have much to learn from “us”. When non-Americans sense this, they quickly develop anti-American sentiments. Maybe it really will be great to have a “Barack Hussein Obama” as president. It’ll remind people around the world that the U.S. isn’t just about frat-boy WASP’s…

February 23rd, 2008, 8:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree. Here are some more bits from that speech.

“When you travel to the world’s trouble spots as a United States Senator, much of what you see is from a helicopter. So you look out, with the buzz of the rotor in your ear, maybe a door gunner nearby, and you see the refugee camp in Darfur, the flood near Djibouti, the bombed out block in Baghdad. You see thousands of desperate faces.

Al Qaeda’s new recruits come from Africa and Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Many come from disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world. And it makes you stop and wonder: when those faces look up at an American helicopter, do they feel hope, or do they feel hate?

We do need to stand for democracy. And I will. But democracy is about more than a ballot box. America must show — through deeds as well as words — that we stand with those who seek a better life. That child looking up at the helicopter must see America and feel hope.

As President, I will make it a focus of my foreign policy to roll back the tide of hopelessness that gives rise to hate. Freedom must mean freedom from fear, not the freedom of anarchy. I will never shrug my shoulders and say — as Secretary Rumsfeld did — “Freedom is untidy.” I will focus our support on helping nations build independent judicial systems, honest police forces, and financial systems that are transparent and accountable. Freedom must also mean freedom from want, not freedom lost to an empty stomach. So I will make poverty reduction a key part of helping other nations reduce anarchy.

I will double our annual investments to meet these challenges to $50 billion by 2012. And I will support a $2 billion Global Education Fund to counter the radical madrasas — often funded by money from within Saudi Arabia — that have filled young minds with messages of hate. We must work for a world where every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy. And as we lead we will ask for more from our friends in Europe and Asia as well — more support for our diplomacy, more support for multilateral peacekeeping, and more support to rebuild societies ravaged by conflict.

The America I know is the last, best hope for that child looking up at a helicopter. It’s the country that put a man on the moon; that defeated fascism and helped rebuild Europe. It’s a country whose strength abroad is measured not just by armies, but rather by the power of our ideals, and by our purpose to forge an ever more perfect union at home.

That’s the America I know. We just have to act like it again to write that next chapter in the American story. If we do, we can keep America safe while extending security and opportunity around the world. We can hold true to our values, and in doing so advance those values abroad. And we can be what that child looking up at a helicopter needs us to be: the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny, and the light of hope to the world.

February 23rd, 2008, 8:46 pm


norman said:

I Agree but I do not think that it is only marketing , the reason that the US failed in pushing democracy is because it did not try to implement the American system of government but the British and the Israeli ones ( Representative democracy ) which is OK if the people are homogeneous not like in the Mideast , in the mideast they need a republic with districts like the us where a person is judged on his ability not religion or ethnic backgroud because the people in his district know him,

February 23rd, 2008, 8:55 pm


Shai said:

Norman, i’ve been pushing for the exact same here in Israel. Representatives must be accountable throughout and directly to their constituents, not only every four years and only to their party.

February 23rd, 2008, 9:04 pm


offended said:

Here is my proposed ceremonial song for the SC conference:

the roc boys in the building tonight
oh what a feeling I’m feeling life
you dont even gotta bring your paper out
we the dope boys of the year
drinks is on the house

Ok, I am just being silly : )

I, similar to Shai, do not have a dual citizenship. So if the conference is to be held in Boston, Montreal, Oklahoma, London or even Auckland, it’ll be difficult for me. But I am sure the Center for Peace in OK uni will take care of that ; )

February 23rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


Zenobia said:

I was appalled to learn recently from one of my arab-american cousins that her parents and all their many San Jose California friends, also all lebanese and syrian arab americans…. have been voting republican for the past thirty years…or as long as they have been citizens!
i was shocked.
however, I heard from my uncle.. (who admitted that he had voted for both bushes both times… and that he had never voted democratic – ever- even for Bill Clinton) that GWB the second Bush…has now….and forever turned him into a Democrat!
And he is voting for Barack Obama….and his whole family is, and all their many friends who have for years voted Republican.

this a tiny anecdote, but I think it says something very important…. about what is happening in this country right now.
I HOPE SO anyway.

Hilary would have a very good chance of losing to John McCain, and I simply don’t want to see it.
Also, i think a little understood secret is that sexism is more entrenched than racism in certain respects in America. More subtle, but more seemlessly accepted and unnoticed.
Despite Hilary’s qualifications, I am opting for Obama.

I want a new face on America, and more of Clintons is not going to bring it!

although the domestic policy problems are significant, and Hilary could possibly be the better president (not candidate) in this regard, for example, American needs Health Care… Universal Nationalize healthcare… hello!….
I care even more about foreign policy…. and Obama has more of what we need in that regard. A world leader… who can win back our reputation….
If Bill didn’t succeed with the Arab-I conflict, Hilary won’t either. Maybe Obama has a chance…. if AIPAC or Elliot Abrams doesn’t cow him into submission.

February 23rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


Zenobia said:

do you guys really think you can pull off an SC conference?

do you really think all these brave people are going to creep out from behind their computers?

personally…. if this fantasy came true….. Boston is great for me.. (the home town)… .and Montreal… not too bad…as long as it is summer… (actually that goes for Boston too)……

i think Alex said to me before that he refuses to set foot on American soil….so it might have to be montreal….

February 23rd, 2008, 10:04 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Is that your polite way of saying that bloggers are by definition socially dysfunctional morons with personality disorders?


I for one welcome the notion of a face-to-face encounter, and I’m sure none of you will mind if I bring my imaginary friends with me.

February 23rd, 2008, 10:25 pm


norman said:

That will be great but has to be after sometime so we can have work arrangements , That is if i am to be invited , so let us call it ( Family Reunion ). we are after all I believe a SC family.

February 23rd, 2008, 10:54 pm


Zenobia said:

yes i guess it was my way of suggesting that there is indeed….something…odd …..about this selected group…
but i am up for the face to face challenge if anybody else is… It would be hilarious, i think.

February 23rd, 2008, 11:07 pm


Zenobia said:

Regarding the American Election:

I was appalled to learn recently from one of my arab-american cousins that her Syrian born parents and all their many many San Jose California friends, also all lebanese and syrian long time arab americans…. have been voting republican for the past thirty years…or as long as they have been citizens!
i was shocked.
however, I heard from my uncle.. (who admitted that he had voted for both bushes both times… and that he had never voted democratic – ever- even for Bill Clinton) that GWB the second Bush…has now….and forever turned him into a Democrat!
And he is voting for Barack Obama….and his whole family is, and all their many friends who have for years voted Republican.

this a tiny anecdote, but I think it says something very important…. about what is happening in this country right now.
I HOPE SO anyway.

Hilary would have a very good chance of losing to John McCain, and I simply don’t want to see it.
Also, i think a little understood secret is that sexism is more entrenched than racism in certain respects in America. More subtle, but more seemlessly accepted and unnoticed.
Despite Hilary’s qualifications, I am opting for Obama.

I want a new face on America, and more of Clintons is not going to bring it!

although the domestic policy problems are significant, and Hilary could possibly be the better president (not candidate) in this regard, for example, American needs Health Care… Universal Nationalize healthcare… hello!….
I care even more about foreign policy…. and Obama has more of what we need in that regard. A world leader… who can win back our reputation….
If Bill didn’t succeed with the Arab-I conflict, Hilary won’t either. Maybe Obama has a chance…. if AIPAC or Elliot Abrams doesn’t cow him into submission.

February 23rd, 2008, 11:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Unfortunately, it’s not just the effect of AIPAC that leads to a biased American policy; it’s also the absence of real lobbying by Arab-Americans.

It is a curious irony that, while casual political analysis is such an important aspect of social culture in the Arab world, Arabs in the West are largely apolitical. Much of this has to do with the immigrant mentality of leaving the old world behind and starting afresh. Other factors play into it as well, particularly for Lebanese-Americans, many of whom don’t like to associate themselves with “Arab” causes like the Palestine-Israel conflict, out of bitter resentments dating back to the Civil War, etc.

There are worthwhile Arab lobbying groups now, however, like the Arab-American Institute (AAI:, but nothing really approaching AIPAC.

We need strong Arab leadership in the U.S. in order to put pressure on politicians, build alliances with pro-peace Jewish groups, etc. We can’t really continue to blame AIPAC if we don’t do anything productive in response.

February 23rd, 2008, 11:24 pm


Zenobia said:

you are absolutely and totally right.
I have thought a lot about this fact too.
and another one of my fantasies…..besides…i could be president of Lebanon……and such…was to start an Arab-American Lobbying group.
Of course it will never be what AIPAC is (and i am not sure i would want to create something as obnoxious as that anyway), and should not be representing just one country in the Middle East.
But we definitely need SOMETHING to have a voice.
and I really haven’t seen anything available…has anybody?

I like AAI , Zogby and company. but they are not a lobbying group in the formal sense.
And so many people with money are not involved and not giving to such groups. I think there is not even enough lobbying of Arab- American (who seem to be so politically minded… do they just like to complain??? all the time…. but do nothing political) to build a base and give their money…. in order to have someone talking back against the Elliot Abrams and horrible legislators passing the Accountability Acts and such.
It makes me so mad….

anyhow… i dream about working on something like that… in DC.

February 23rd, 2008, 11:45 pm


Enlightened said:

Just woke up, and had my Daily fix of SC, it is better than Coffee. I am disappointed in all of you! If there is to be a SC conference then Sydney Australia has to be in the mix- lets drop Auckland as a venue too cold and windy. There is no better place in the world to have a conference than the Harbour city, and I can bet that nearly 80% have not been to Australia.

Now it might be logistically difficult, but I am willing to do some groundwork to help.

Now how about some responses?

Bridgette Gabriel is at it again: Here is the link, makes interesting reading:

February 24th, 2008, 12:49 am


norman said:

‘Road to Syria runs through Washington’



As Americans contemplate their political future, a former top Israeli official came to the nation’s capital this week to have his say, too.
Former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel likes what he’s hearing from some of the presidential candidates about a willingness to talk to Syria, with whom he argued Israel could be engaged in peace talks if it weren’t for the objections of the Bush administration.

Liel, who over the last few years has conducted unofficial talks with Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman, hopes that in the last 10 months of George W. Bush’s presidency – and the presidential campaign – he can influence people to back his approach.

“I’m sure the bottleneck is here in this city,” Liel declared during a speech to the Washington-based Middle East Institute Thursday, referring to Bush administration policy to isolate rather than engage Syria. If its objections to Israeli-Syrian talks were to be dropped, he posited that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would seize the opportunity to speak to Israel’s long-time foes. “I think he [Olmert] will jump at it.”

Liel himself said he spent some two years, until the Second Lebanon War, meeting with Suleiman under the auspices of first the Turks and then the Swiss. While Suleiman was in touch with officials in Damascus about their meetings, the Foreign Ministry knew of the meetings but would not participate, Liel said, though both countries have denied the assertion.

Liel said Thursday that they had worked out a framework for an agreement, including an Israeli handover of the Golan Heights that would be spread out over up to 15 years and the creation of a park on some of the plateau where Israelis could enter visa-free. In addition, he said the Syrians wanted Israeli businesses to continue to operate there.

But, he claimed, Syria wanted US involvement before proceeding with the talks, and Israel could not deliver that because of American opposition.

Israel has denied such a barrier exists. During a press conference alongside Bush in Washington in November, Olmert said merely that he “share[d] the same opinion” with Bush that, “We are not against negotiations with Syria. We would love to be able to have negotiations with Syria, but that must be based on a certain reasonable, responsible policy, which is not preformed by Syria for the time being.”

Liel said that whatever signals the Bush administration was sending to Israel on Syria, its refusal to be a party to negotiations in any case halted the process, since ultimately what Syria wanted was to talk to the US.

A State Department official said on Friday that, “In addition to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and a two-state solution, there does need to be a broader regional settlement with all of Israel’s neighbors, including Syria. But discussions with Syria are no substitute for what we consider to be the most important focus – furthering the cause of peace and furthering the development of a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians.”

He added that, “The Syrian regime continues to engage in certain activities that are counterproductive to regional peace. We have repeatedly voiced concern over these activities, and Syria knows what it must do to improve relations with its neighbors and the international community.”

In his conversations with US congressmen and former officials, Liel said many have reacted positively and would also like to see a broader policy change under the next president.

Democratic presidential candidates Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton are on record saying they favor engagement with Syria, a sentiment they touched on at their debate Thursday night.

Speaking in the context of Iraq, Clinton said, “We need to start diplomatic efforts immediately, getting the Iranians, the Syrians and others to the table. It’s in their interest, it’s in our interest.”

Obama made a similar, wider point about Iran, though in the past he has expressed the same views about Syria.

Liel said that while he didn’t expect to have an impact on current US policy, it was important now to reach out to Bush’s successors, both Democrats and Republicans. “We have a feeling that it’s easier to catch these people now than after they’re elected,” he said.

He also said the window of opportunity might be shutting as Syria continued to hear negative responses from the Israelis and the Americans.

But David Schenker, director of the Arab Politics Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said there was good reason for US caution when it comes to engaging with the Syrians.

“I don’t think this administration wants anything to do with Syria, and rightly so. Everything Syria has done in the last eight years suggests that Syrians are not interested in seriously pursuing a peace negotiation.”

He pointed to examples including Syria’s harboring of terrorists such as Hizbullah No. 2 Imad Mughniyeh, assassinated this month in Damascus, the country’s support for anti-American attacks in Iraq and its growing ties with Iran. He noted that the importance of those ties to Syria represented a strong disincentive for President Bashar Assad to switch to an Israeli-American alliance.

Schenker added that there was a cost to the willingness to engage, pointing out that Syria received leverage just from the appearance of talks with Israel. Right now, three years after the Syrians were suspected of being behind the death of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, Syria was looking to evade an international tribunal on the assassination and saw talks with Israel as a way to do that.

“It’s a tool to alleviate pressures on the regime,” he said, casting doubt on the sincerity of Syria’s negotiating a peace deal with Israel.

Liel acknowledged that he could not be “100 percent” certain that Syria was indeed sincere, but said that his years in contact with Suleiman, and now as the chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society NGO, had convinced him they were sincere and that, at the very least, Israel should explore the option.

“It’s the first time in the history of the country [Israel] that we have an enemy country saying it wants to talk, on record and in every diplomatic channel, and we say no,” said Liel. “It’s not our national policy… this is an American policy we were dragged into.”

Schenker, though, warned that even a new administration – and new approach to Syria – wouldn’t necessarily change much.

“It’s likely to be just as frustrating,” he said. “It’ll be difficult to find much common ground with the Assad regime, regardless of whether the next administration in Washington is Republican or Democratic.”



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February 24th, 2008, 2:29 am


majedkhaldoun said:

QN said
We need strong Arab leadership in the U.S. in order to put pressure on politicians.

I strongly agree with this.
As far as S.C. conference,it will be best to integrate it in the ADC conference,which is held at the end of june in Washington,DC,even if we meet ,next to the swiming
pool, so no one wear a toupee,or a wig.but no camera please.

February 24th, 2008, 2:39 am


Alex said:

Well I just came back from attending a lecture by John Mearsheimer.

I then spent half an hour with him on the side. He was kind enough to take all my questions.

According to him

1) AIPAC is fully against peace with Syria. They will automatically oppose anything that seems to lead to territorial concessions by Israel.

2) The Arabs will not have any chance of competing with AIPAC in the US … American Jews make up AIPAC … money from Saudi Arabia can not influence American politicians and journalists… it has to be money from Arab Americans… and Arab Americans do not donate generously to their organizations … there is too much division and no determination.

3) Obama had to pull his paid ads on becuse those ads showed up partly on Mearsheimer’s book … Obama campaign purchased banner ads for the top 100 political books … Mearsheimer’s was one of those 100… I think Obama’s people got a call from the New York Sun newspaper asking them to remove those ads … in half an hour Obama’s campaign people called back the New York Sun to assure them that the ad campaign was stopped and that Obama does not agree at all with Mearsheimer in any way.

4) He believes AIPAC is extremely successful at what they are doing and that what they are doing is extremely stupid.

February 24th, 2008, 3:35 am


Enlightened said:

Alex was the Lecture taped at all? Where was it held?

Like to read his speach, Im thinking of purchasing the book.

How did you find him (Mearsheimer), intelligent, coherent etc? when you spoke to him on the side.

Let us all know

February 24th, 2008, 3:43 am


Alex said:

كشف رئيس الجانب السعودي في مجلس الأعمال السعودي – اللبناني عبد المحسن الحكير عن سحب استثمارات سعودية تجاوزت قيمتها 18 مليار ريال (ما يعادل 4,8 مليارات دولار) من لبنان خلال العامين الماضيين. وقال لصحيفة “الوطن” السعودية أن التراجع جاء نتيجة الثقة في مستقبل الاقتصاد اللبناني بعد اشتداد حدة الأزمة السياسية وتدهور الحالة الأمنية، فضلاً عن شعور الكثير من المستثمرين بالإحباط مما يجري في لبنان.وأضاف أن كثيراً من الاستثمارات المملوكة لسعوديين وخليجيين وحتى للبنانيين يقيمون في المهجر، بدأت تنسحب من السوق اللبناني. وأكد أن الثقة بالاقتصاد اللبناني بدأت تتراجع، وصبر المستثمرين آخذ بالنفاد، وعلق على ذلك بالقول “للصبر حدود والعالم مفتوح أمام جميع المستثمرين”.وأضاف أن ما يحدث هناك، يعكس حقيقة مؤلمة، وهي أن كثيراً من العقارات المملوكة لسعوديين قد تطرح للبيع إذا لم يتم حل المشاكل العالقة في لبنان. وأكد عضو مجلس إدارة غرفة الرياض، سعد الرصيص أن الطلب على العقارات اللبنانية من السعوديين منخفض للغاية، إلا أنه لا يوجد في المقابل عروض للبيع من الملاك السعوديين لعقارات في لبنان، الذين لا يزالون يبدون تريثاً على أمل تحسن الوضع. وقال: “رغم تراجع طلب السعوديين للشراء، إلا أن العقارات في لبنان سجلت بعض الارتفاع نتيجة انخفاض قيمة الدولار”.وتصل قيمة الممتلكات العقارية السعودية في لبنان إلى 5.7 مليارات ريال (توازي 1,5 مليار دولار)، وفقاً لتقديرات مصادر من داخل السوق اللبنانية، أوضحت في المقابل أن الطلب على العقارات الفاخرة “دلوكس” التي تفضلها العائلات السعودية انخفض بشكل ملحوظ، إلى ذلك، يترقب عاملون في قطاع السفر أن يتأثر حجم الإشغال لنحو 35 رحلة أسبوعية يتم تسييرها من قبل ثلاث شركات طيران بين السعودية ولبنان خلال المرحلة المقبلة، بعد أن نصحت وزارة الخارجية السعودية رعاياها بعدم السفر إلى لبنان نتيجة الظروف السياسية والأمنية غير المستقرة التي يمر بها حاليا.ولم يتضح حتى اللحظة حجم التأثير الذي سيتركه إعلان وزارة الخارجية السعودية الصادر منتصف الأسبوع الماضي، على حركة السفر بين البلدين، كما يقول مدير عام طيران الشرق الأوسط (اللبنانية) في الرياض مقداد المقداد، مشيراً إلى أن السعوديين يشكلون قرابة 30 في المئة من حجم ركاب الشركة، وتزيد هذه النسبة في الرحلات التي تسيرها الخطوط السعودية، أو شركة طيران سما، التي بدأت هذه السنة تسيير رحلات طيران عارض إلى بيروت.

February 24th, 2008, 3:43 am


Alex said:


He was a real diplomat … A very attractive female black political science student tried to push him to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, but he was very balanced in his criticism of Israel… he chose his words carefully … at this stage he knows how and where they usually criticize him .. he fine tuned his message since the first time he announced it.

And he is a very pleasant and polite man. As I said i spoke to him until I decided to leave .. he seemed to be happy to speak with me for 30 minutes.

The lecture was taped. I know the organizers. We’ll see if it will be online later.

And … He did not hear of Syria Comment : )

February 24th, 2008, 3:47 am


Alex said:

QN, Zenobia

I just released your two comments from the spam filter.

Sorry I was away from my PC today.

February 24th, 2008, 3:53 am


Enlightened said:

Alex good:

But as a student of marketing you missed a good PR moment by not telling him about SC.

And I need your numbers (Baathi Man ) to get the proposed SC conference to Sydney! What have you to say?

February 24th, 2008, 3:53 am


Alex said:

Of course I DID tell him about Syria comment. He heard of Joshua already!

What numbers do you need … you have my email! .. write to me.

Yalla … See you tomorrow. I’m going for dinner now.

February 24th, 2008, 3:58 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Nothing too surprising about the reversal of investments in Lebanon.

It can be turned around in the medium-term, provided the parties agree.

My expectation is no substantive agreement before the summer, unless there is a breakthrough between the Saudis and Syrians.

In fact, the best possible arrangement would be an agreement b/w KSA and Syria to work together to stabilize Lebanon (which means, pushing their allies to agree on agreeing), and planning a joint KSA/Syrian sponsored conference designed to reform the political system.

But it will never happen.

February 24th, 2008, 3:59 am


Enlightened said:


We leaving for the beach soon. Talk later.

Waiting to see what the gents come up with for the SC Conference forst or just to see if it gets off the ground!

QN: Does this flight of Capital surprise you? A couple of posts ago I asked you what the chances of Civil war were? ( You were in denial)

February 24th, 2008, 4:03 am


qunfuz said:

Shai – How do you work out that I want more war? I was talking about what I expect the MB govt in Egypt would do. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for the MB, however, not in Egypt or Syria. I would vote for Hizbullah – if they stood in the UK, which is the only country I’m qualified to vote in.

But I do support resistance. Not quite the same thing as wanting war. What I really want is for the Israelis to come to their senses. As they say, no justice, no peace. Which also means: Justice, peace.

February 24th, 2008, 5:22 am


Shai said:


Seems like Alon’s visit to Washington will be a success. As for AIPAC, although clearly they will try to influence the next administration’s policy towards Syria, once they see that it, as well as the rest of the modern world, is backing a restart of talks, and see some results, they too will change direction. They’re not stupid, they’ll only back something they think many will believe in. Even Microsoft, a slightly stronger organization than AIPAC, realized it had to start sounding open-source about its future…

February 24th, 2008, 5:26 am


Shai said:


I understand. And of course Hezbollah is the main reason Barak (Ehud… not Obama) pulled out of Lebanon in 2000. So there is real value to the “resistance”. But forget the word “justice”. There will be no justice today, or tomorrow. How can we bring back all those thousands of dead to their mothers and fathers? How can we bring back hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to their destroyed villages in Palestine of 1948? And the same of course for our side. We can’t, so for all those hundreds of thousands of families, there will be NO justice. And they’re the ones that count, not their leaders, not their representatives, not their neighbors. The best we can hope to achieve is a peace that is accepted by most, that seems to be fair enough to be worth grabbing now, instead of waiting another few decades, but with far greater consequences, pain and misery. What nation on earth wants to give up on territory it has gained as a result of war, and has since raised children and their children on? For Israel, too, there will be no justice. None of us “love” the idea of giving up the Golan, the West Bank, etc. It’s not a Hong Kong, where the Brits knew they’d one day give it back to the Chinese (and always knew the exact date). Here these territories were acquired because of violence, and to remind you, not just Israeli violence. After we make peace, a generation or two later, I believe the forgiving and reconciling could begin. But some time will have to pass… There’s still a chance it’ll happen in our lifetime, though, if we work hard at it NOW.

February 24th, 2008, 5:40 am


why-discuss said:


“we’re pretty concerned about a nuclear Iran (aren’t you?)”

No, I am not, neither any of the arab neighbours or arab public. I am more concerned about Israel hidden nuclear weapons that your irresponsible governement could very well use as they used uranium based weapons and forbidden bombs on the horrid destruction of Lebanon. I hope the Belgium based human rights tribunal will unveil the real danger Israel represents to the region. Israel is far too clever and concerned about its public image to publicly attack Iran but your ministry of defense, during the Lebanon war, threatened to bring lebanon back a century, didn’t he? Please don’t play on words, the intention of Israel is clear: Neutralize the only left powerful opponent to its occupation so it can have a peace under its own terms
Iran will continue its peaceful nuclear development and Israel will continue to fear it.
Support the International citizen tribunal on the crimes committed by the Israeli army in Lebanon

February 24th, 2008, 7:32 am


bilal said:

I cannot believe that you will go that far to defend a criminal like Bashar in comparing Rami to the late Hariri. It is like comparing Mother Teresa to a prostitute.
you are really something.

February 24th, 2008, 7:50 am


offended said:

Bilal, who’s mother Teresa? Hariri??
Come‘n yoo!
Can do better than this….

Let me help you out: it’s more like comparing a prostitute with a strip dancer.

February 24th, 2008, 8:42 am


Shai said:


You said: “Please don’t play on words, the intention of Israel is clear: Neutralize the only left powerful opponent to its occupation so it can have a peace under its own terms”. If we wanted to “neutralize” this opponent (Iran), why don’t we really neutralize him? If we have those massive nuclear weapons, and if we are as you claim, irresponsible, why don’t we go in and bomb the hell out of Iran? And out of Syria? And Lebanon? And in fact, destroy any and all who oppose us? Is it because of world public opinion? That didn’t seem to stop us in 1981 in Osirak, or in 1967 in launching surprise air-attacks against Egyptian and Syrian air bases. So why IS IT that we don’t just annihilate all our adversaries, if we are so powerful and irresponsible? Well, I know it’s a possibility you could NEVER accept, but maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re NOT interested in doing so. Maybe, while we’ve been making mistakes for decades, and harming innocent people, and doing terrible things during our conflicts with the Arab world, we STILL really do aim for a peaceful future, WITH all our adversaries, not without. And by the way, regarding “peace under its own terms”, I don’t know of a single country on the face of this planet, or for that matter a single negotiator of anything, that would not want peace or agreement under its own terms. I’d certainly hope that Syria wants peace under its terms, and Lebanon does, and the Palestinians do. That’s a natural thing. By “defeating” our adversaries, we would not be getting peace “under our terms”, we’d be getting a NO-PEACE under our terms.

By the way, if Israel wanted to bring Lebanon back a century, why didn’t we? Because we couldn’t? I think even your peace-loving mind knows the answer to that one. I know we’ve committed and still committing crimes. I know we’re doing terrible things, that must end. But please don’t think of insinuating we’re the only Devil in this conflict, and please don’t believe in this crap of Israel’s “Grand Scheme”. If we wanted to destroy you, we would have done so half a century ago, when Shimon Peres’s little project was complete (according to foreign sources). Please don’t insult my intelligence with your suggestions, or your own, for that matter.

February 24th, 2008, 8:55 am


offended said:

The overwhelming conviction amongst the Mughneya family is that the Syrian regime is definitely involved in his assassination.

That’s another gem from Al Seyassa.الأولى&nid=5788

They quote a lady under strict condition of anonymity, who was close to the widow during the funeral and the condolences period.

And what’s more; there is big political fuss in Kuwait because of two MPs who have opened their Majilses (reception halls) to receive condolences in Mughneya….you know the Kuwaitis still being sensitive about the Jaberiah airplane hijacking and all…

So I am wondering, given the context of these two stories reported on the same page of Al Seyassa, shouldn’t the Kuwaitis be grateful to Syria for getting rid of one of their early tormentors?

Go figure…

February 24th, 2008, 8:57 am


Naji said:

February 24, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
¿Quién Es Less Macho?
If this is truly the Decline and Fall of the Clinton Empire, it is marked by one freaky stroke of bad luck and one striking historical irony.

How likely is it that a woman who finally unfetters herself from one superstar then finds herself eclipsed by another?

And when historians trace how her inevitability dissolved, they will surely note this paradox: The first serious female candidate for president was rejected by voters drawn to the more feminine management style of her male rival.

The bullying and bellicosity of the Bush administration have left many Americans exhausted and yearning for a more nurturing and inclusive style.

Sixteen years of politicians in Washington clashing in epic if not always essential battle through culture wars, the right-wing war against the Clintons, the war-without-end on terror, and the war-with-no-end-in-sight in Iraq have spawned a desire for peace and pragmatism.

Hillary was so busy trying to prove she could be one of the boys — getting on the Armed Services Committee, voting to let W. go to war in Iraq, strong-arming supporters and donors, and trying to out-macho Obama — that she only belatedly realized that many Democratic and independent voters, especially women, were eager to move from hard-power locker-room tactics to a soft-power sewing circle approach.

Less towel-snapping and more towel color coordinating, less steroids and more sensitivity.

Business schools have begun teaching the value of a less autocratic leadership style, with an emphasis on behavior women excel at: reading emotions and social interactions, making eye contact and expressing empathy.

At the University of Texas on Thursday morning, Obama proved that he was not a cowboy in overdrive like W. when he demurred at throwing a spiral because his pass might not be as good as the Longhorn stars’.

After so many years when W. and Cheney stomped on the world and the world glared back, many Americans would like to see their government focus more on those staples of female fiction: relationships and conversation.

At first in Austin, Hillary did not channel Jane Austen. She tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raúl Castro.

Obama tapped into his inner chick and turned the other cheek. To cheers, he said, “I think that it’s important for us, in undoing the damage that has been done over the last seven years, for the president to be willing to take that extra step.”

Hillary tried to rough up Obama on copying his pal’s language even as she copied her husband’s line from 1992: “The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits that the people in this state and this country are taking every day of their lives under this administration.”

While Obama looked at her warily, even fearfully, Hillary suddenly switched to her feminine side. Getting New Hampshire misty, she said she was “absolutely honored” to be there with him and that “whatever happens, we’re going to be fine.” (Her campaign defended the originality of the John Edwardsian sentiment, saying it had even been expressed by the likes of Lindsay Lohan). The press hailed the moment as heartfelt, but it was simply Hillary’s calculated attempt to woo women and protect her future in the party — by seeming more collegial. She’s furious that the Chicago kid got in the picture.

Her “My sister, my daughter” flip from muscular to tremulous left everyone confused. Many characterized her emulation of empathy as elegiac and submissive.

But she dispelled that Friday morning when she told Evan Smith, the editor of Texas Monthly, that she will push for Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated, despite her promise. Not for herself, mind you, but for them. “It’s in large measure because both the voters and the elected officials in Michigan and Florida feel so strongly about this,” she said.

Among her other cascading woes, it turns out that Hillary is not able to manage her political family’s money. Like a prudent housekeeper, Obama spent the cash he raised — including from his continuing relationships with small donors — far more shrewdly, on ads rather than on himself.

Hillaryland spent like a hedge fund manager in a flat-screen TV store. Her campaign attempted to show omnipotence by lavishing a fortune on the take-no-prisoners strategists Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn, and on having the best of everything from the set decoration at events to Four Seasons rooms. In January alone, they spent $11,000 on pizza, $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts and $95,384 at a Des Moines Hy-Vee grocery store for get-out-the-vote sandwich platters.

But total domination in the snack arena does not cut the mustard.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

February 24th, 2008, 9:00 am


wizart said:

“Business schools have begun teaching the value of a less autocratic leadership style, with an emphasis on behavior women excel at: reading emotions and social interactions, making eye contact and expressing empathy.”

Some business schools have been doing that for decades although it’s high time more politicians learn these important skills from females in their house if they didn’t pick up on them elsewhere.

Guys often lack enough empathy to concistantly be representing the majority’s interests without having armies of advisors constantly on their side. Obama may have enough emotional intelligence to compensate for his lack of political experience and may well win.

Clinton’s perhaps too tired and overweight to be elected president.
She’s also probably still upset about Bill’s affair with Monica and sees winning a presidential election as a chance to redeem herself.
I seriously wonder if she has enough motivation to run the country as she does winning the election since she seems to be trying too hard with all the personal loans she’s extended to her campaign and most likely Bill is furious she’s spending his hard earned money:)

February 24th, 2008, 10:52 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

Lest you’ll be sending out plane tickets to unfortunate few of us who can’t just hop across the Big Blue (Atlantic or Pacific or Indic) … I suggest we hold the SC meet in either Amman, Cyprus, or Istanbul.

(I’m still working on a way to infiltrate Shai via boat – there are some people in Jounieh who still remember the Israeli Navy signals from the 1980s 😉 – but I can’t make any promises. – The only other way would be for him to visit the German embassy and [re]claim citizenship- they rarely refuse Jews.)

I’d be more than happy to help preparing it conceptually. Btw, I just attended a very interesting Carnegie meeting yesterday here in Beirut. What’s the SC take on Murhaf al-Ju’jati? Mai Yamani was there, Paul Salem of course, and some others. Can’t find the link now but will post as soon as I do.



February 24th, 2008, 11:31 am


Shai said:


If I get such an invitation, I will swim to Beirut if need be! No need for signals, I’ll be the only exhausted, wet Israeli on the beach… 🙂

Istanbul sounds great to me. Maybe Alon Liel can fix something up with the Turks in terms of hosting SC? Alex? Joshua? Any takers?

February 24th, 2008, 12:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai, please don’t swim to Lebanon. Hizbullah keeps an eye on the southern beaches for Israeli drown victims floating up the coast, and uses them in prisoner exchanges.

I can just see Sayyid Hasan at his next rally: “We still have your soldiers’ heads, arms, torsos, etc.! And, by the way, we also have a very nice man named Shai, who we’ll regret to see leave us, but that’s life.”

Cyprus or Istanbul both sound good to me. Although, sounds like only a fraction of people will attend anyway, based on the location. So, a couple of meetings may be in order.

February 24th, 2008, 2:13 pm


alon liel said:

Dear Ford Prefect, Alex, Shai and other freinds

Washington is starting to change !!!

I had meetings in Congress and diffwerent think tanks in town. The Bush policy on Syria is on its way out. People start to understand the USA will miss an opportunity. Friends of Israel here realize that the Bush policy on Syria is causing Israel damage.

It was great to meet Ford Prefect in town. This is the first time we have a meeting resulting from our contact on Syriacomment. Thanks Alex and Joshua for enabling this. The contact with Ford Prefect and other Syrians should go on at least until we have the officials talking to each others. More and more Americans would like to join us now in our track 2 activities, some of them very experienced ex-diplomats. Please continue the contact, enter our site we will do our best to srengthen it and update it on a regular basis.

All the best to all of you


February 24th, 2008, 2:18 pm


Shai said:

Alex, QN, and everyone else:

Great news from Alon, no? Very glad Ford Prefect met with him. This is the kind of effort we need, and Syria Comment is helping make things happen. Well done!

February 24th, 2008, 2:33 pm


qunfuz said:

Shai – it seems you’re one of the ‘peaceful’ Israelis who wants recognition that the theft and ethnic cleansing of 48 was all well and good, and just, and that your state-for-the-world’s-Jews should remain as it is, minus the land captured in 67, for ever.

I think what happened in 48 was a disaster and a great continuing injustice. I don’t recognise the Israeli ethno-state, just as I didn’t recognise apartheid South Africa. (Luckily for you, I’m an individual and not a state!) However, I do recognise that millions of Israeli Jews have been born in Palestine and consider it home. i wouldn’t want to push these people into the sea even if I could.

I think a one-state solution, with a constitution guaranteeing both individual and communal rights, in turn guaranteed by the UN or a coalition of world powers, would be a just solution. It would allow refugees to return, and also Jews to live next to their holy sites on the West Bank. I think time is on the side of the one-state solution. But I also realise that the vast majority of Israeli Jews are committed to their ethno-state (understandably, given European history – something that the Arabs, and Ahmedinejad, should better understand) and that each side is sick and tired of the other. So a two-state solution could be a reasonable interim solution, for 10 years or 100, to allow bridges to be built and tempers to cool. As soon as we get to that point, I will campaign for peace between Jews and Arabs.

But enough ‘peace process,’ which any unbiased informed observer will agree has not aimed at anything like peace, or justice. The two-state solution requires a full withdrawal from ALL of the 22% of Palestine captured in 67, including East Jerusalem, and Palestinian control of borders, and safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank. This could be done now, with no need for negotiation. With a withdrawal from the Golan and the Shabaa Farms, and release of all Arab prisoners, Israel would have peace with all the Arabs. There would also have to be a negotiated solution to the refugee problem. Of course, this requires negotiations, which could follow a withdrawal from the 67 lands. A mix of return to 48 Palestine, return to the new state and compensation could keep the Jewish 78% of Palestine with a Jewish majority, at least until the merging of the states.

Believe it or not I admire the Jews a great deal. (Unlike HP, I don’t admire Israel. For God’s sake, even Nazi Germany had great organisation and esprit de corps). Many of my culture heroes, from Saul Bellow to Chomsky, are Jewish. I hope that Jews and Arabs one day live together and respect each other. But pretending that both sides are equally wrong in the Palestine-Israel conflict, or that both sides are suffering equally, will not bring forward this happy outcome.

February 24th, 2008, 3:00 pm


qunfuz said:

I vote for Cyprus, but only if Shai has to swim there.

(I’m joking, my friend!)

February 24th, 2008, 3:03 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I never said I admire “Israel.” Please provide the quote if indeed you think I said that. I’ve always spoken of the hard work, discipline, unity and mutual support among my Jewish friends and colleagues. My take on Israel is that it is a fact-on-the-ground where the solution to the conflict with the Arabs – mainly the Palestinians – has to be based on principles of common sense, practicality, fairness, and long term viability. A two-state solution is, I believe, the only way. OK, a 100-year “temporary” two-state solution really means the same thing since any change later has to be voted on by the citizen of each of the two states and both must agree before any merger.

In fact, Qunfuz, I have often voiced clear criticism of certain methods pursued by Israel. Furthermore, I have always indicated that the Palestinian cause is one of the most rightful in human history, hastening to add that the way it has been argued (litigated?) by the Arabs (viewed as “lawyers”) has also been one of the worst, if not the worst, performances in such a role in human history. What remains to be done now is a reasonable way forward, away from fanaticism and unrealistic expectation, a way that has the best chance of improving the lives of people in that part of the world.

February 24th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Honest Patriot said:


You have my full support for a Cyprus location for the SC conference. Should solve everyone’s problem except for those for whom cost is an issue. But I believe we should be able to deal with that.

February 24th, 2008, 3:37 pm


Shai said:


If you promise to be there, I’ll swim to Montreal! 🙂

Look, I don’t for a second pretend that both sides are EQUALLY wrong (I never claimed that if you read my words carefully). But you cannot blame Israel’s behavior, wrong as it may be, purely on Israel. There were things that happened, before 1948, as well as after, which in many ways forced Israel to do terrible things in the short and long run. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming the other side for my wrongs. But I said to Why-Discuss not to pretend that the Arabs are more holy-than-the-pope, so to speak. To be honest, though, I think this argument is moot at this point, and it’s not going to get us anywhere. You might be surprised, by I tend to agree that a one-state solution would have been the best one. Fellow Israelis might consider me the worst traitor for what I’m saying, because it essentially means there will not be a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. But first, I agree with you, it can’t and won’t happen now. Second, I’m not sure I want a state that is 80% Jewish in this modern world in any case. And even if I did, right here, in the Middle East, is probably not the best place for it in any case. Reality on the ground, in the shape of some 3.5 million Palestinians who belong to this land no less than I do, make this place by definition NOT purely Jewish, or even mostly Jewish.

Truth is, what I REALLY want to still get to see in my lifetime, is what I referred to in earlier comments as a UME (United Middle East). Ideally, it would be some mixture of Europe and the U.S., with no borders between the States, but obvious cultural and religious differences between each of them. If and when this occurs, there will be no issue of a one-state or two-state solution, because citizens in the UME will (hopefully) be able to work and live in any State they choose, so the demographics will always be changing. If one day this region will see real peace, then I think the Jewish people will at last fee safe somewhere in this world, and will be able to start thinking differently. They will finally be able to contemplate the lack of a need for a Jewish state. But until then, I agree with you, we’ll first have a two-state solution, without the justice you require. As for withdrawing right now from the West Bank, I think we almost missed the opportunity we had with Arafat to do that. Nowadays, we’re almost back to 1967, when numerous attempts were made to see who amongst the liberated Palestinians (liberated from Jordanian control, that is) could take over the territories, and no one was found. The Palestinians at that time were made up of many “families” and “local warlords”, and no real Palestinian governing body could even be formed. I’m not sure we’re that far off today. That is why I’m against formal negotiations with Abu Mazen today. Until Fatah and Hamas work out their differences, and form a body that truly represents the Palestinian people, we cannot close a deal with anyone. I don’t care of only members of Ez-Adin el-Qassam are voted to represent the Palestinians – that’s fine with me. If they’re willing to sit with me, I’m willing to do the same with them.

So to conclude, I actually tend to agree with most of what you say. But, like you say, this is unlikely to happen, and a two-state solution is what we’re going to see happen first, for at least a few generations. Let us remember, however, that we’re still nowhere near that solution right now either… The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in such difficult waters right now, which is precisely why I’m advocating making peace with Syria first. Syria is the ONLY Arab nation at the moment, with whom Israel can and should make peace, because it is easiest to accomplish. True, the remaining 20% aren’t a peace-of-cake, but they’re doable, and we have to succeed before we find ourselves in some crazy and very-costly regional war (not operation, like summer 2006, but real war). Our region right now is like a barrel of TNT just waiting to explode. People like us are here to try to defuse the bomb. We need your help Qunfuz!

And if I need to swim to Cyprus for that, I’ll start now… so that I’ll get there by April… -)

February 24th, 2008, 3:37 pm


Honest Patriot said:

On a lighter note, there were some jokes exchanged recently. Here’s one I just heard (but maybe some have already heard it?):

A Jewish businessman in Chicago sent his son to Israel for a year to absorb the culture. When the son returned, he said, “Papa, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity.”

“Oy vey,” said the father. “What have I done?”

He took his problem to his best friend. “Ike,” he said, “I sent my son to Israel , and he came home a Christian. What can I do?”

“Funny you should ask,” said Ike. “I too, sent my son to Israel , and he also came home a Christian.” Perhaps we should go see the rabbi.

So they did, and they explained their problem to the rabbi.

“Funny you should ask,” said the rabbi.. “I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. What is happening to our young people?”

And so they all prayed, telling the Lord about their sons. As they finished their prayer, a voice came from the heavens:

“Funny you should ask,” said the voice. “I, too, sent my son to Israel ….”

February 24th, 2008, 3:38 pm


Naji said:

a great joke HP…!! Let’s hope that everyone in Palestine/Israel comes out of this mess a Christian… This is probably the clearest path to a solution, but… I guess it has been tried already… some time ago…!?

February 24th, 2008, 3:50 pm


Shai said:

HP, Naji,

Funny you should ask… (no, I’m not a Christian yet, sorry)

February 24th, 2008, 4:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I then spent half an hour with him on the side. He was kind enough to take all my questions.

Alex –

Did you ask Dr. Mearsheimer why so many of his footnotes and quotes were false?

If I were in your place, I would have asked Dr. Mearsheimer a simple question: do you really think AIPAC “makes” Americans so overwhelming pro-Israel, or do you think it is something else?

Honest Patriot,

That was a good joke!

Here’s some factual evidence showing a slightly different story however…

February 24th, 2008, 4:29 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Back to the subject at hand:

Following the sanction on Mr. Makhlouf, David Welch made fun of Mr. Makhlouf’s empire by noting that he did not think that his fortune was made at the Harvard Business School.

Perhaps Mr. Makhlouf should have earned an Ivy League MBA before he embarked on his empire building exercise. That way he could have pointed to his MBA as the reason for his business success. Perhaps Mr. Welch may have found harder to slap him with the sanctions.

February 24th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Alex said:


Dr. Mearsheimer used a very balanced language in criticizing AIPAC’s role .. he said they are ONE OF the groups which are able to OFTEN influence American administrations. He said it is NOT “Jews” who were pushing for the Iraq war, it was AIPAC.

If some of the footnotes were wrong, most other parts of his paper or book are right.

Akbar, I have no problem with a strong AIPAC. But … AIPAC is overdoing it… because its actions will reflect on Jews in general.

Jews are blamed for the Iraq war and the million Iraqis dead … do you like that?

And … AIPAC is opposing peace with Syria (and Lebanon). While I respect their organizational skills and their determination to protect their objectives, they are not exactly Syria experts.

February 24th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Alex said:

Alon, Shai,

I’m glad to hear that there were signs of intelligent life in Washington.

Ideally … it would have been great if there was a parallel AIPAC that represents the more reasonable, peaceful, intellectual American and Israeli Jews in Washington.

And Ford Prefect (when he comes back form vacation) will write to us about his impressions of listening to Alon speak in Washington.

February 24th, 2008, 4:55 pm


qunfuz said:

Your response is intelligent and wise, Shai. Yours too, HP. Sorry to misquote you. I’ve heard a different version of that joke before, in London. … Perhaps mass conversion to scientology is the answer. It would solve our Sunni/ Shia problem too.

There’s a discussion of Mearsheimer, involving Finkelstein and Phillip Weiss, here:

February 24th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Uh oh, Amr Moussa is back in Lebanon! And of course, trusty old Naharnet has the minute-by-minute coverage, documenting the developing stagnation and the progressing gridlock.

1:15 pm Amr Moussa is holding talks with Saad Hariri’s secretary, regarding the possibility of holding talks with Saad Hariri.

2:15 pm Amr Moussa arrives in Rabiyeh to find that Aoun has placed a precondition on allowing Moussa’s convoy to park in front of Aoun’s house. “We have to have some guarantees before we make this concession,” said an aide to Aoun.

February 24th, 2008, 5:26 pm


Akbar Palace said:

.. he said they are ONE OF the groups which are able to OFTEN influence American administrations.

Alex –

Thanks for the clarification. Did he also mention Arab terrorism as a possible way to “influence American administrations”?

IMHO, Arab terrorism is influencing American administrations a bit more than AIPAC. And Syria supports Arab terrorism and there is no question about it.

February 24th, 2008, 5:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The monopoly of Israeli influence in Washington is over. No need to be bitter about it. Don’t worry, Israel will survive. But now, hopefully, both America and Palestine will too.

February 24th, 2008, 5:49 pm


Alex said:


In behavioral science research, AIPAC acts as a “moderator variable” that affect how an independent variable “Arab terrorism” affects a dependent variable (American administration reaction to Arab terrorism)

In general terms, a moderator is a qualitative (e.g., sex, race, class) or quantitative (e.g., level of reward) variable that affects the direction and/or strength of the relation between an independent or predictor variable and a dependent or criterion variable. Specifically within a correlational analysis framework, a moderator is a third variable that affects the zero-order correlation between two other variables. … In the more familiar analysis of variance (ANOVA) terms, a basic moderator effect can be represented as an interaction between a focal independent variable and a factor that specifies the appropriate conditions for its operation.

February 24th, 2008, 6:10 pm


Shai said:

Qifa Nabki,

Istanbul ok with you? I don’t want to swim to Cyprus…

February 24th, 2008, 6:10 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The monopoly of Israeli influence in Washington is over. No need to be bitter about it. Don’t worry, Israel will survive. But now, hopefully, both America and Palestine will too.

Qifa Nabki,

I’m glad you think Israel will survive. It makes me feel better there are Arabs and Muslims out there that aren’t “put off” by Israel’s survival. (BTW – Perhaps we can have your SC conference in a host country where the VISA stamps do not hamper a short visit – what about the US or Israel?)

I’m not bitter, I just humbly diagree with you. I disagree with your statement that “The monopoly of Israeli influence in Washington is over”.

a.) I don’t think there is a monopoly

b.) I don’t think there is much “Israeli” influence

c.) I think there will always be strong pro-Israeli sentiment in the US, which, you and the Miersheimer misinterpret as “Israeli influence”.

There have been numerous administrations in recent history who have been more “balanced” than the GWB administration. Moreover, terrorism never decreased during these administrations.

Bring on James Baker, Madeline Albright, Warren Christopher, and even Z. B. (please don’t make me spell his name correctly;). They will have no affect on the goals, aspirations, and actions of the terrorist organizations and the supporting Arab and Muslim governments.

Been there, done that.

Also, I still wouldn’t count out another Republican Administration at this point. Too much can happen between now and November.

February 24th, 2008, 6:15 pm


Shai said:


Already in the pub, this early in the day???

February 24th, 2008, 6:15 pm


Alex said:

: )

OK, I’ll simplify it:

AIPAC’s significant influence on American media shapes the direction and strength of the effect of “Arab terrorism”on Washington’s policies towards Syria.

So … Syria’s hosting of Mashaal is amplified .. whereas the presence of a racist man in the Israeli cabinet was muted.

CNN starting their nightly news coverage of the Lebanon war in 2006:

Bloody day … 2 Israelis injured and 7 Lebanese dead.

(in that order of significance)

And Shai … AP and AIG refuse to watch this video clip t understand how AIPAC and the different Israeli consulates in the US work as a “Moderator variable”

February 24th, 2008, 6:24 pm


Shai said:

Ah, that I can understand. By the way, do your remember how Farouq al-Sharaa came to the Madrid Conference, armed with an old photo of Yitzhak Shamir (then Israeli PM and sitting at the conference) next to some text about being a wanted terrorist by the British government, during the mandate in Palestine? I thought that was the funniest thing… and showed how Syria was going to use the term “terrorist” in ways we didn’t always expect or like to hear.

February 24th, 2008, 6:32 pm


Shai said:


I’ll watch the videos in full tomorrow. But in general, I don’t understand why anyone would expect AIPAC to be anything but biased in its attempted influence in Washington. If there was an equivalent ASPAC (America-Syria PAC), would I expect it to be “objective” in its view of the Middle East? Of course not. Since AIPAC is far stronger than anything the American Arabs have yet to produce (despite the population sizes being about the same – American Jews and Arabs, from what I understand), it influences Washington that much more… I don’t think one needs a degree in Behavioral Science, or familiarity with ANOVA, to understand that… no?

February 24th, 2008, 6:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I like the idea of an SC conference in the US, as that is where I currently reside. If it takes place sometime later this year or next year, however, I’d opt for the eastern Mediterranean, as I’ll be living in Beirut for several months.

Unfortunately, Israel is not a possibility: my country is still at war with yours, and I could be tried for treason for visiting it. Sorry!

As for your views about the lack of a stranglehold on American foreign policy by Israel, I’m going to disagree… but let’s discuss it in person.


February 24th, 2008, 6:56 pm


Alex said:


Please watch the video and let us discuss it if you don’t mind.

I have no problem with AIPAC’s power, and I said that I respect their dedication.

My problem is with their knowledge about what is good for Israel and what is not … they blindly and fiercely (and most often, successfully) fight any criticism of Israel in America… to some extent trying their best to convert American media into something similar to the soviet Parvda.

If they were that “successful” in Israel ..there would be no Ha’aretz, and you would be a certified “useful idiot” in Israel too.

The Gun lobby is also strong in America .. the result is that few times each year some teenager shoots 5 or 10 of his colleagues in school.

The results of the equally powerful AIPAC’s successful work … include a million dead Iraqis and no peace between Israel and Syria and Lebanon…. 1500 dead Lebanese in 2006 might have been alive today if AIPAC and the Neocons did not oppose an immediate ceasefire … even Israel would have been spared the defeat on the hands of Hizbollah’s successful defence of their country.

So … everyone is loser usually when AIPAC is active… because they are not qualified to understand .. becuse they are too powerful to bother reading or hearing or seeing anything they don’t like .. which turns them into something similar to the North Korean dictator.

They are too busy lobbying .. they don’t have the time or the wisdom to learn.

February 24th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Shai said:


Oh come on, Israel is not a possibility? I was willing to SWIM to Beirut, and you’re not willing to be tried for treason??? This is becoming a non-equal relationship. I’m gonna need to consult with Alex… But let’s do it in Istanbul, as I said, the Turks may be more than happy to host it there? That would certainly make for a better atmosphere than in N. America, no?

February 24th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:


1) Who wants to show up to the SC meeting?
2) North America or Mideast?
3) When?

My guess is that nothing will happen : ) .. but prove me wrong.

February 24th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Shai said:


Alright, I’ll watch them tomorrow, and let’s discuss it afterwards. In general, I’ve always claimed that it was NOT in Israel’s best interest to have an AIPAC that is always pro-Israel, that is deaf to any criticism, and that does not always represent the American Jewish community’s general stance towards Israel. For instance, after the first Intifada, the general feeling in the Jewish community was very clearly PRO Israel, and there was no way anyone was going to consider Israel being at fault. After the second Intifada, however, Jews in America began to think a little differently. In fact, many began questioning Israel’s policy in the past 40 years, and began to openly criticize us. AIPAC should be able to do the same. It wouldn’t exhibit weakness on its part, quite the opposite, only strength, maturity, and fairness.

February 24th, 2008, 7:11 pm


Shai said:


Should I reserve places in Istanbul? Sometime this summer? From what I understand, a few very serious people here will be willing to show up… and I’m sure many more will as time passes.

February 24th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

1) I’ll come.

2) Eastern Med. (Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Egypt, etc.)

3) September/October. Nice weather.

February 24th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Alex said:


So far I see one Israeli swimming champion, one German M14 supporter 😉 … and two Lebanese (one of them a high school kid) sounding serious about attending.

Let’s see how this goes… maybe sometime late summer we’ll have larger numbers.

February 24th, 2008, 7:23 pm


Shai said:

I bet the Australian would also come, so will HP, Ford Prefect, Zenobia, Norman, Qunfuz, and many others… I’ll personally send plane tickets to Why-Discuss, Nour, and Majedkhaldoun!

February 24th, 2008, 7:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Shai is right. Those other folks will come.

Who do you think won’t come?

Maybe we should call it the Syria Comment Summit (!)

That way, those who don’t come can be accused of obstructionism.

By the way, the so-called “Quartet” meeting has been underway in the Grand Serail since 8PM Beirut time (i.e. 90 minutes ago) and Naharnet has not given us any updates!!!

Maybe this means that something is actually happening.

February 24th, 2008, 7:34 pm


Honest Patriot said:

1) I’ll come.

2) Anywhere OK

3) 2009 or 2010: this is going to take extensive preparations starting with a position paper, some advertising and marketing, laying out of the principles (include non-experts, rules of behavior, etc.). Sure, it’s not an easy thing but we’re talking about the crystal seed of a transformational approach to making voices of people heard.

As mentioned I think the first step is a few-page paper on the concept. We need them academics here, the folks who read a lot and write a lot (hint, hint, nudge, nudge QN/MSK/Joshua-or-his-students?)

February 24th, 2008, 7:40 pm


Shai said:


By summer 2010 we’ll be 18 months into peace between Syria and Israel… 🙂 That’ll be too late. A position paper should be formed, laying out the goals, the rules, etc. But we also mustn’t turn this into a dissertation. I’m not sure such a conference can’t take place 7 or 8 months from now. As for marketing, I have a feeling that the more marketing is done, the more you’re running the risk of losing certain people. This thing should remain on a “Syria Comment” level, and not become a meeting of official national policies… (I’m exaggerating on purpose). It is significant, yet very low-level, and unofficial.

February 24th, 2008, 7:48 pm


offended said:

Istanbul is good ….but I have a few points to clear up with you guys before signing up; I need an undertaking letter duly signed by the organizers that nothing bad will happen to me during or after the conference, and that they will use their influence over any regime or a security apparatus that might attempt to detain or harass me. I mean, AIG will be there for crying out loud. You never know when his Sayeret Matkal instincts will take the better of him…. (You may have noticed that he’s been silent throughout the whole exchange, probably trying to figure out a ‘best laid plan’ to take us all out). Hence, metal detectors at entry points will come in handy. We need some security details and I need to be allowed to keep my full loaded Berreta holstered under my armpit. Also, I may have to wrap a Kaffeya around my face to preserve my anonymity. And, I will need to back-charge the conference organizers for all necessary equipments; bullet proof vest, night vision goggle, gas mask, the super-disguise echelon uniform, helmet, voice altering machine…etc…

And finally, I will only go if Aussama, Naji, Why Discuss, Simohurtta and Shaul are all attending…

Are you guys serious about this conference thing? : )

February 24th, 2008, 8:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Are you thinking of an actual conference?

I was imagining we would just get together, grill some lamb, smoke some argileh, drink some `araq, and argue about whether Syrian or Lebanese women are more beautiful.

February 24th, 2008, 8:14 pm


norman said:

I agree and i will probably make it as long as it is not very long ( more than one week ),I have to work , Probably a meet and greet occasion, we can start making agreements before the meeting then confirm them there. Turkey is good , My wife and kids will come too, My wife is after me for a while to go to Turkey or Egypt,
One more thing , we have to have some lectures like medical legal ones or on insurance to make the trip TAX Deductible .

February 24th, 2008, 8:14 pm


Shai said:


I can just see it – everyone shows up, and then someone asks “Hey, why didn’t Offended come?” And then Alex says “No, he’s here, camouflaged as that palm tree over there in the corner…, with the night-vision goggles…”

February 24th, 2008, 8:16 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I would also suggest that everyone bring their laptop with them, just in case we can’t stand each other in person.

That way, we can all retire to our hotel rooms, and go back to debating each other online again.


February 24th, 2008, 8:18 pm


Shai said:


Yes, of course we’ll find you a medical conference, and a swimming championship for me (according to Alex). But on a serious note, to everyone, such a conference could entail something like 4 days, with major discussion topics including: A) Syria-Lebanon, B) Syria-Israel, C) Syria-Palestine, D) Syria-Rest of World. Each topic could be give a day’s worth of lecture/s, discussion groups, etc. 1st day get-together, organization, opening, thawing of the ice, etc. In the evenings, dinners together, continued discussion over beer or argileh, and for QN, also finalizing on the issue of Lebanese vs. Syrian beauty.

February 24th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Day 1 = arrival and evening informal reception
Day 2 = Plenary, break, presentation#1 (one-point-of-view) + presentation#2 (very-different-point-of-view), lunch, afternoon = panel discussion + Q&A + moderated debate between panel and audience using a professional facilitator, 2 hour break, reception + dinner
Day 3 = Assigned presentation of summary of debates from afternoon of Day 1, break, presentation#3 + presentation#4, lunch, afternoon same as Day 1, 1 hour break, reception and banquet-dinner
Day 4 = Working brunch, adjourn at around 12:00 noon

For something like this I think you need a critical mass of at least ~30 people, with preferable something like ~100 people.
Locate a period where a good hotel group rate can be obtained.

I’m all for a soon-to-be conference if it can be pulled off. I still think the first step is a 3-4 page white paper (OK, I downgraded from position paper to white paper) to put down some definitions and initial guidelines.

Now, who’s gonna do the white paper and get us started on a serious assessment of whether something like this can happen? I don’t think you can make it SC only, you’d want to invite a few significant folks (not that we’re not all significant ;-)) like, say Madeleine Albright (she might well come), Syria’s ambassador to the UN (Josh has a pull with him), others, etc…
Depending on the location, visas may be an issue for some folks, but I suspect it will be less of an issue in a place like Cyprus, Auckland, Sydney, or Montreal. Just a aguess.

February 24th, 2008, 8:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Occam’s razor.
The NRA is a strong lobby because many Americans support its agenda. AIPAC is a strong lobby because many Americans, Jews and non-Jews support its agenda.

You can claim from here to kingdom come that the NRA policy is bad for America. It won’t help you because many people sincerely believe that “it is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people”. I am sure that the NRA is also very popular among Lebanese Americans because hunting is a Lebanese tradition.

You can claim till you are red in the face that AIPAC advocates a strategy that is bad for America but the fact is the most Americans are ideologes in foreign policy and not realists. They believe “that we should support Israel because it is the right thing to do.” For some it the right thing to do because religion, for others it is because of democracy and for others because Israel has always been a staunch ally for the US.

In order for AIPAC to grow weaker, Americans need to change. It may happen, but it will take decades.

February 24th, 2008, 8:54 pm


Shai said:


I agree, some significant people should hopefully be there. But the framework should still be within Syria Comment, and not sound like it’s too much beyond that… otherwise we may risk, like I suggested, losing some people out of concern for the “level” of the event. If it is held in Istanbul, or Cyprus, a lot more people from our region could come. I have a feeling Auckland or Sydney is a bit out of reach for most people (sorry guys).

February 24th, 2008, 8:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As for Obama, he may very well get elected but if he does, the Republicans are going to make sure he passes nothing through congress in the first year. Whoever has the majority of the senate or house, there are too many red state democrats that will not be re-elected if they support Obama’s policies. Couple that with the fact that he will not be able to withdraw the forces from Iraq as fast as he promised, he is going to be a big disappointment to his naive supporters that really think Obama can change Washington. Oh well, each generation has to learn the hard way.

“Yes we can!” Really, then why does Illinois look so different than an Obama paradise? Show me you can change Illinois before claiming you can change the US. To me the whole Obama spiel sounds too much like utopian agendas such as communism and Arab nationalism.

February 24th, 2008, 9:05 pm


Honest Patriot said:

QN, Harvard ?

February 24th, 2008, 9:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Might I suggest the following:

Rather than re-invent the wheel, and go through all the logistical nightmares of finding a location, planning, organizing, etc… why don’t we just instead submit a proposal for a large-format round table discussion at one of the big professional organization meetings, like MESA (Middle Eastern Studies Association)?

This way, we don’t have to organize the event ourselves; those who would like to participate as presenters can do so through the mechanism of the conference itself, and those who just want to come and meet people can also do so.

The deadline for MESA 2008 has already passed, but we could plan on submitting something for the 2009 conference, which will be held in Boston in November 09. Not as attractive as Istanbul, but a lot less hassle. (If I recall correctly, several Syria Comment regulars met up in Montreal last November at MESA)

We could submit a panel doubly-sponsored by Syria Comment and the SSA, for example?

Just a thought.

February 24th, 2008, 9:13 pm


Honest Patriot said:

QN, Brilliant as usual. Now fess-up as to which institution of higher learning you affiliate with 😉

February 24th, 2008, 9:22 pm


Honest Patriot said:

OK I’ll start: Me Not From Harvard 🙂

February 24th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure it has to be such a nightmare to organize. We can form a management committee, and delegate responsibilities, and make it happen more easily that perhaps we think now. Being a part of something else will diminish the value of Syria Comment, I think, and may cause a lot of people who would otherwise show up to skip the event. Plus, though I’ve only been participating in SC for a month or so, I can tell you as a still “fresh observer”, that it is plenty impressive to hold its own conference. We mustn’t turn it into an annual NRA conference now… it’s still Syria Comment, and I imagine around 40-50 people would show up, if it entails flying somewhere around the world. I think that should be okay, and not too difficult to organize… no?

February 24th, 2008, 9:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I attend the Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Natick MA. I’m repeating grade 10 as we speak, on account of my discovery of cannabis, this time last year.


February 24th, 2008, 9:26 pm


Honest Patriot said:


I think you’re just trying to get out of the assignment of writing the position paper!

February 24th, 2008, 9:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Does the world really need another conference in the US on the problems in the middle east? Even though it means I will participate via video-conferencing, let’s have the conference in Damascus and for once let’s have an honest discussion like we have on this forum. Now that would be refreshing, interesting and even helpful.

February 24th, 2008, 9:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Planning a conference is tough… I’ve done it before. It takes a lot of time and coordination.

Holding the event under the auspices of a larger forum seems to me beneficial because it will allow people to attend different panels besides the ones that we sponsor, and meet new people. Also, it will also attract other people who at the conference for other reasons, and introduce them to Syria Comment.

I guess I feel that a dedicated Syria Comment event would be a little… cramped? After all, very few of us besides Joshua and Alon are actually “experts”. As far as I can tell most of us have a casual/amateur interest in Syria and Middle Eastern politics, so it seems a bit strange to organize a formal event to replicate what we do casually under the cover of anonymity and the convenience of the web.

Many organizations that are not quite big enough to hold their own conferences (like Middle East Medievalists and others) but still have substantial memberships follow this kind of format (i.e. a round table or mini-symposium held under the auspices of MESA or AAR or other large professional org’s.)

February 24th, 2008, 9:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said:

Even though it means I will participate via video-conferencing, let’s have the conference in Damascus and for once let’s have an honest discussion like we have on this forum. Now that would be refreshing, interesting and even helpful.

AIG, I don’t think they allow political prisoners to engage in video-conferences in Damascus, but I could be wrong about that.

February 24th, 2008, 9:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

At the beginning of the conference they won’t be political prisoners…at the end, who knows?

So how about Beirut, let’s show the Lebanese that the laws against talking to Israelis have to go.

February 24th, 2008, 9:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Does the name Adnan Daoud mean anything to you?

Talking and/or having tea with Israelis is not kosher in Lebanon, habibi.

February 24th, 2008, 9:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I know, I know. I thought maybe you would like to take a stand on this. Adnan Daoud is the only true hero of the 2006 war.

One place we can all go is Aman. And while we are there, we should go to a Palestinian refugee camp and test on them our ideas. That will bring some people into the fold of reality.

February 24th, 2008, 9:57 pm


Enlightened said:

AIG Said;

“Does the world really need another conference in the US on the problems in the middle east?”

No AIG “what the world really needs is another love song , errr I mean peace song”

So we don’t have a venue?

And I am thinking of dusting off my Batman suit to hide my annoniminity , I do not want anyone to know that I m really Bruce Wayne. And Aig will wear his costume as well:

February 24th, 2008, 10:08 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Ya QN, OK I give up. I’ll settle for sharing a shawarma sandwich with you if my travels take me close to your University (hehe, a trap question, huh?), shall we say Boston, Cambridge, which side of the river?

February 24th, 2008, 10:20 pm


Zenobia said:

why do you think QN is in Boston?… you keep saying that..? and Alex keeps saying he is in High School… i am not sure what this is all about…

February 24th, 2008, 10:24 pm


Zenobia said:

AIPAC is strong and effective because gov’t in the united states is practically run by those with money. And AIPAC has money

I don’t think that there are more Arab Americans in the United States than there are Jewish Americans? does somebody actually have those numbers for a fact?

but even if they were significantly similar numbers…. Arab Americans do not have an organization with the funding of AIPAC.

Jewish Americans are not a great number in the United States comparatively to other ethno-cultural groups, but they are disproportionately….. strong economically and polititcally.
I am not objecting to this, but obviously – with Jewish americans leading many of the top financial and media institutions in the US, they have the money to fund such things as AIPAC such that it can wield enormous power in Washington.

But I disagree with AIG completely, this is not because “MOST’ american Jews support it or even care. I think most Jewish americans , like most americans are not very politically active…. or maybe only slightly more. But that doesn’t mean they are big Israel supporters of the sort who fund AIPAC. Most of the parents of my jewish friends and my friends themselves… think AIPAC is way overboard.

Comparing it to the NRA is totally misleading. A huge portion of Americans are actually gun toters. And as well….again it comes down to money. The NRA – i am sure gets shitloads of money and support from the gun makers….to promote the image that most americans support them. In this regard they may have some similarity to AIPAC.

February 24th, 2008, 10:32 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Zenobia, I’m trying to get QN to fess up to his location and status. I don’t know about you but I am EXTREMELY impressed by his facility in writing, eloquent style, and remarkable knowledge and common sense. Speaking for myself, his views resonate well with an objective, realistic, and yet positive view of what the future might hold.

Now, I do know that Alex is where Alex is, and I guess I discovered all this belatedly since you tell me it’s common knowledge. The other piece of the puzzle (are we having fun yet?) is that Alex has hinted that some contributors (and I took that to mean QN among others) are from the most prestigious universities (or at least were degreed there). Then, a little earlier QN (whom I had first believed is now in Beirut), gave away that he is currently in the US, then I think did mention Boston as an option, etc., then later spoke of Natick, Ma, etc… Anyway, I’m just enjoying the puzzle of trying to converge on at least his credentials, academic affiliation, etc., just a small game…
But seriously, I am sincere about exploring a satellite to a conference or a mini-workshop centered on how common folks (like us, or some of us) can bring to bear a creative way to enable rapprochement, understanding, and solutions to conflicts which otherwise go on ad nauseum in the hands of professional politicians. Seems like a worthwhile topic to explore by a younger person than me and also someone who is more adept at the humanities-type skills needed (vs. beeing of a science/tech/business nerdy-like bent like me).



February 24th, 2008, 10:39 pm


Honest Patriot said:

… Careful what you say QN, BIG BROTHER is watching 😉

February 24th, 2008, 10:41 pm


Enlightened said:


” Il give you a tip about QN; Go back a few posts and look for one of Josh’s comments in the posts section, it might give you a clue!

February 24th, 2008, 11:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Unfortunately, too many Arab countries are still not allowing Jews and Israelis to visit. This is a shame.

I’m still scratching my head and wondering how some Jews (like Norman Finkelstein) get special permission to visit Lebanon. I’m jealous! Maybe Shai meets this special criteria…I don’t know. He seems to be critical enough of Israel…but that’s just my opinion.

Therefore, I think a compromise is order. I recommend the following venue:

The Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up in Abu Dhabi.

I’ve been to Abu Dhabi a few times, and found it, literally, to be a Paradise in an ocean of sand. Also, if it’s good enough for David Duke, it should be good enough for AIG and myself…

…drink some `araq, and argue about whether Syrian or Lebanese women are more beautiful.

QN –

I see Saudi women aren’t so bad. Once you get to know them;)

February 24th, 2008, 11:16 pm


Enlightened said:

Meria Article on: Lebanon 2006: Unfinished War by Jonathon Spyer

Interesting reading.

February 24th, 2008, 11:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Jews are allowed to visit Lebanon.

However, anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport – no matter what nationality – cannot.

If you have American citizenship, just order up a new passport with no Israeli stamps, and you can come. Ahlan wa sahlan.

It’ll help if you are very complimentary about the national resistance, and make a point of visiting the torture prisons in the south. I can set that up for you, if you like, in addition to the interviews with Hizbullah’s press people.

They’ll be delighted to meet you. 😉

February 25th, 2008, 12:26 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Allah ykhallikon ya shabab… enough snooping!

Especially you, HP.

I’ve made it very clear: I’m a humble general, trying to run for president in my country.

February 25th, 2008, 12:31 am


Akbar Palace said:

It’ll help if you are very complimentary about the national resistance…


I am very complimentarly about the national resistance: the Israel National Resistance.

Moreover, I have no need to meet the “homarin” that make up the Hezbollah, just like I have no need to meet the esteemed leaders of Hamas, Iran, or the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan for that matter.

But thanks anyway;)

February 25th, 2008, 1:40 am


norman said:

For the people who criticize AIPAC, This is my take ,
The Jews went through a lot during the Holocaust which made them paranoid about leaving anything to chance or to the mercy of others , For that reason they vote for the democratic party as they fear Christian fundamentalism more than higher taxes , If the Arab had the same experience that the Jews had they would have their own ( AIPAC ).The Jews need to feel secure , loved and protected .

February 25th, 2008, 2:04 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Bernard Lewis gives keynote address at the Jerusalem Conference.

You can watch it, with a decent connection.

(Alex, you’ll have to wait til the last 20 seconds to hear a mention of one of your favorite people. 😉 )

February 25th, 2008, 2:06 am


Enlightened said:


Where is this preliminary report The Syrian government was releasing on The Mughniya Hit?

Is something been cooking in the Kitchen too long?

February 25th, 2008, 4:08 am


Shai said:


From what I understand, no one is ruling out Lee Harvey Oswald! They’re just looking for substantial proof… give it some time please.

February 25th, 2008, 4:39 am


Enlightened said:


There are no green grassy Knolls in Damascus only dust, Architectural beauty and a splattering of greenery. My Hunch tells me that something is being cooked up, but only a hunch we will wait to see what transpires with an open mind!

PS: Shame on you for ruling out Sydney Trust me you will want to visit here if you ever get the chance Il put you up in my place, plenty of green grassy knolls where i live!

February 25th, 2008, 5:41 am


Shai said:

Will be interesting to see what Hamas is “planning” today along the Israel fence. Will it be a Hezbollah tactic, like the one used against SLA? If this so-called “spontaneous” human-chain “suddenly” gets out of control, and some individuals come too close to the fence, will Israeli soldiers fire? Probably. Today will be an interesting day… And, let’s hope, not a violent one.

February 25th, 2008, 5:48 am


Shai said:


I would LOVE to visit Sydney (have relatives in Melbourne and I think also Sydney). I just don’t think most SC members will venture out that far. If you go to Australia/NZ, you gotta take off at least 10-14 days, otherwise it’s just not worth it, right? I think this SC Conference (which I’m still hoping would happen) will probably be a 4-day thing. Istanbul is kind of halfway for everyone (N. America, Australia, Europe), and very close to us…

February 25th, 2008, 5:52 am


Alex said:


I just came back and out of the 50 new comments I decided to do the lazy thing .. instead of reading, I decided to watch .. the video clip of Bernard Lewis.

He makes some good points… but … what a shame that he would end with the stupidest, absolutely stupidest statement:

“Farid Ghadry is the leader of the largest Syria opposition party” … he came to Israel and that is a good sign of what is happening in the Arab world … a movement towards democracy and acceptance of Israel.

If Bernard Lewis did not know … Farid Ghadry’s party has one member … his name is Farid Ghadry.

February 25th, 2008, 5:57 am


Shai said:


First you frequent your local pubs in the middle of the day, then you’re up all night watching Bernard Lewis vids? What’s going on??? Talk to us… 🙂

February 25th, 2008, 6:01 am


Alex said:


This post Accumulated 320 comments in two days!

I can follow up on 50 comments per day .. but 150 per day …

And this is the largest post ever in SC, by the way.

What did I miss? : )

February 25th, 2008, 7:41 am


MSK said:

Dear all-

I’m going with QN’s idea:

“1) I’ll come.

2) Eastern Med. (Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Egypt, etc.)

3) September/October. Nice weather.”

and that this first meet shouldn’t be a “conference” per se but more like a “friendly meeting where we can have a face-to-face Comment Section-style discussion.”

I do like the idea of pre-selecting a (limited) number of topics, so that we can all prepare our ideas (& do some background, fact-finding research) but I think anything bordering on a MESA panel would be (a) too far-fetched for us to do this year (& I don’t see why we should wait for over a year to meet) and (b) tediously boring.

QN, I can’t believe you STILL go to panels. The REAL action is at the bar!

Istanbul is the best place in terms of value-for-money — hotels are affordable & food cheap. Plus, it has the best bookstores in the region. (Please, nobody even try to argue Steimatzky is better…)

Amman would be an alright choice – but it has no culture & will only make us all miss being in Damascus or Beirut instead. Dubai … has hotel costs of $300+ per night – ’nuff said.

Cyprus – has also become expensive.

Cairo would be not bad but who wants to eat ta’meyya (Falafelensis nilotensis) for four days?

I guess it’ll just HAVE to be Istanbul, then.

Merhaba, hos geldiniz!


February 25th, 2008, 7:49 am


Shai said:


Couldn’t agree more… Should we send out the invitations?

February 25th, 2008, 8:19 am


Shai said:


First of all, congratulations. 320 comments in two days is fantastic by any standards. Second, the only thing you may have missed are the final arrangements for the next SC conference/meet in Istanbul sometime Sept/Oct 2008. I was going to send you a flyer with all the details, but since you’re back… 🙂

February 25th, 2008, 9:02 am


why-discuss said:


“we’re pretty concerned about a nuclear Iran (aren’t you?)”
I am neither concerned nor worried about Iran Nuclear development. Iran has never shown any military aggression towards arab countries. It is Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that attacked Iran and used poisonous gaz, all supported and financed by arab countries (except Syria) and the ‘technical and political” support of the US, Europe and Israel. Millions of death and still iranians suffering from the long term effect of poisonous gaz.
After such event that lasted 8 years when Iran was totally isolated and ostracized, do you blame them if they want to be strong and do not trust the West?
If some arab countries are worried about Iran, it is certainly not because of the nuclear isue but because Iran is Shia and is triggering the revival of Shias in the region who have been treated like subhumans and heretics by these same arab countries. These countries are simply racist as europe was antisemitic.
Do you seriously believe that if the nuclear sites of Iran were as naively exposed as Osirak Israel would not have bomb them years ago? Israel will not attack Iran for two reasons’ 1) they can’t attack sites that are spread underground everywhere in Iran 2) they are terrified by the retaliation that may be the end of Israel.
Israel is simply impotent in this case and they are pressing the US and its allies to act on Iran as they can’t do much.
As for Lebanon, it is NOT out of magnanimity that Israel stopped destroying Lebanon. They thought (stupidly) that these destructions will rally the lebanese against Hezbollah (I was there and this is what the tracts they send by planes that I got on my head were saying).
As this failed and 33 days later Isreal could got any result that they stopped.
If Israel wants to win the arabs, it is by showing, finally, signs of humanity and high morals. You, Shai, may be that kind of man, but what we see of your governemnt is aggression, arrogance and hasty violent reactions. Do you believe that building settlements in occupied lands, defying all international and human rights resolutions are signs that can bring the arabs to sympathise with sensible Israelis? All we see are your carrousel of power-greedy and cold politicians and the hysterical and illuminated colons coming from the US mid west calling for more lands to grab from the arabs. It is time some sensible jews, who have shown high morals and ethics in history, say NO to your governement and start to show that we arabs and jews could have a lot in common.
You may argue that arabs should show signs too: Israel is the occupier with sophisticated weapons, it is Israel who should gain the heart and minds of the arabs, but they are doing just the opposite, hatred is growing exponentially and if Israel does not make a gesture to peace, violence will prevail. Ultimately Israel is the looser, as I don’t believe a country can survive psychologically when it is living in war since its creation, and when it is surrounded by the hatred it feeds in its neighbours.

February 25th, 2008, 9:22 am


qunfuz said:

Regarding the conference, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey are the fairest venues, the nearest to neutral ground. I prefer Cyprus, because I want an excuse to visit, and then Turkey – but not Istanbul in the winter: too polluted and cold. The US is too far away (from Syria, not just from me: I think we should keep it as near as possible to Syria so that people with only Syrian passports could come relatively easily) and could be difficult for some people to get visas. Are you even allowed to say that you’re a Hizbullah supporter in the US these days? I like the idea of keeping it small and friendly. We do of course need someone to organise it, and I admit that that person will not be me. But I’d love to come. I’ll read some of my novel if anyone wants me to, and I’d like to have a side discussion or two about culture and writing in the Levant.

February 25th, 2008, 9:26 am


Shai said:


I’ll be the first person to shake your hand!


While I do agree with much of what you said, we must realize that most Israelis do not see things in such one-sided fashion. Most Israelis do not see themselves as the powerful perpetrator, but rather as an endangered victim of Arab hatred and violence. You and I can argue until we’re blue in the face about who is more crazy for thinking this way, but fact still remains that this is how people in this democratic nation feel. And they’re the ones that will decide to or not to give up land, make peace, etc. I believe there’s hope, because we’ve already seen how even right-wing leaders, whom you would have easily labeled “criminals” and “butchers”, like Sharon, Begin, and Netanyahu, have actually given land and control back to the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians. If Sharon was functioning today, there’s a good chance he’d be preparing the next stage of withdrawal (West Bank). Who in his right mind would have thought that Sharon could give back land to the Arabs? Or that Begin would, to the most dangerous, threatening Arab state at the time?

So despite your “truth” or mine, let us move forward by trying to talk to each other, to understand each other’s concerns, and to come up with solutions that would be acceptable to BOTH sides. To cause more harm, pain and suffering in the region takes only one side. But to end it all, and to finally move towards a safer future for our children, takes all sides. If we continue to harbor our ill-feelings, innate distrust, suspicion and hatred of one another, we won’t be able to engage on another, and we won’t contribute to the quest for peace. I, at least, am no longer willing to harbor these feelings. Instead, I’ve let go of them, and started opening my ears and heart to the other side. When enough people do that, empathy will be created, and then we can finally find a common language, and make peace happen.

Having said all this, I hope in’shalla we do meet one day, so that I can prove to you in person that many Israelis out there are sensible, open-minded, and are willing to do a lot for peace. But we must feel the same from you, even as the weaker side. Human nature is very often irrational, and you can’t always fight it with facts.

February 25th, 2008, 10:14 am


Naji said:

February 25, 2008
Rising Inflation Creates Unease in Middle East
AMMAN, Jordan — Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to fuel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.

Here in Jordan, the cost of maintaining fuel subsidies amid the surge in prices forced the government to remove almost all the subsidies this month, sending the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.

In Saudi Arabia, where inflation had been virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.”

The inflation has many causes, from rising global demand for commodities to the monetary constraints of currencies pegged to the weakening American dollar. But one cause is the skyrocketing price of oil itself, which has quadrupled since 2002. It is helping push many ordinary people toward poverty even as it stimulates a new surge of economic growth in the gulf.

“Now we have to choose: we either eat or stay warm. We can’t do both,” said Abdul Rahman Abdul Raheem, who works at a clothing shop in a mall in Amman and once dreamed of sending his children to private school. “We’re not really middle class anymore; we’re at the poverty level.”

Some governments have tried to soften the impact of high prices by increasing wages or subsidies on foods. Jordan, for instance, has raised the wages of public-sector employees earning less than 300 dinars ($423) a month by 50 dinars ($70). For those earning more than 300 dinars, the raise was 45 dinars, or $64. But that compensates for only a fraction of the price increases, and most people who work in the private sector get no such relief.

The fact that the inflation is coinciding with new oil wealth has fed perceptions of corruption and economic injustice, some analysts say.

“About two-thirds of Jordanians now believe there is widespread corruption in the public and private sector,” said Mohammed al-Masri, the public opinion director at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. “The middle class is less and less able to afford what they used to, and more and more suspicious.”

In a few places the price increases have led to violence. In Yemen, prices for bread and other foods have nearly doubled in the past four months, setting off a string of demonstrations and riots in which at least a dozen people were killed. In Morocco, 34 people were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for participating in riots over food prices, the Moroccan state news service reported. Even tightly controlled Jordan has had nonviolent demonstrations and strikes.

Inflation was also a factor — often overlooked — in some recent clashes that were seen as political or sectarian. A confrontation in Beirut between Lebanese Army soldiers and a group of Shiite protesters that left seven people dead started with demonstrations over power cuts and rising bread prices.

In Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, inflation is in the double digits, and foreign workers, who constitute a vast majority of the work force, have gone on strike in recent months because of the declining purchasing power of the money they send home. The workers are paid in currencies that are pegged to the dollar, and the value of their salaries — translated into Indian rupees and other currencies — has dropped significantly.

The Middle East’s heavy reliance on food imports has made it especially vulnerable to the global rise in commodity prices over the past year, said George T. Abed, the former governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority and a director at the Institute of International Finance, an organization based in Washington.

Corruption, inefficiency and monopolistic economies worsen the impact, as government officials or business owners artificially inflate prices or take a cut of such increases.

“For many basic products, we don’t have free market prices, we have monopoly prices,” said Samer Tawil, a former minister of national economy in Jordan. “Oil, cement, rice, meat, sugar: these are all imported almost exclusively by one importer each here. Corruption is one thing when it’s about building a road, but when it affects my food, that’s different.”

In the oil-producing gulf countries, governments that are flush with oil money can soften the blow by spending more. The United Arab Emirates increased the salaries of public sector employees by 70 percent this month; Oman raised them 43 percent. Saudi Arabia also raised wages and increased subsidies on some foods. Bahrain set up a $100 million fund to be distributed this year to people most affected by rising prices. But all this government spending has the unfortunate side effect of worsening inflation, economists say.

Countries with less oil to sell do not have the same options.

In Syria, where oil production is drying up, prices have also risen sharply. Although it has begun to liberalize its rigid socialist economy, the government has repeatedly put off plans to eliminate the subsidies that keep prices artificially low for its citizens, fearing domestic reprisals.

Even so, the inflation of the past few months has taken a toll on all but the rich.

Thou al-Fakar Hammad, an employee in the contracts office of the Syrian state oil company, has a law degree and earns just less than 15,000 Syrian pounds, or $293, a month, twice the average national wage. His salary was once more than adequate, and until recently he sent half of it to his parents.

But rising prices have changed all that, he said. Now he has taken a second job teaching Arabic on weekends to help support his wife and young child. Unable to buy a car, he takes public buses from his two-room apartment just outside Damascus to work. He can afford the better quality diapers for his son to wear only at night and resorts to cheaper ones during the day. He cannot send anything to his parents.

“I have to live day to day,” he said. “I can’t budget for everything because, should my child get sick, I’d spend a lot of what I earn on medication for him.”

At the same time, a new class of entrepreneurs, most of them with links to the government, has built gaudy mansions and helped transform Damascus, the Syrian capital, with glamorous new restaurants and cafes. That has helped fuel a perception of corruption and unfairness, analysts say. On Wednesday the state-owned newspaper Al Thawra published a poll that found that 450 of 452 Syrians believed that their state institutions were riddled with corruption.

“Many people believe that most of the government’s economic policies are adopted to suit the interests of the newly emerging Syrian aristocracy, while disregarding the interests of the poor and lower middle class,” said Marwan al-Kabalan, a political science professor at Damascus University.

The same attitudes are visible in Jordan. Even before the subsidies on fuel were removed this month, inflation had badly eroded the average family’s earning power over the past five years, said Mr. Tawil, the former economic minister. Although the official inflation rate for 2007 was 5.4 percent, government studies have shown that middle-income families are spending far more on food and consuming less, he added. Last year a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that Amman was the most expensive Arab capital in cost of living.

Mr. Abdul Raheem, the clothing store employee in Amman, said, “No one can be in the government now and be clean.”

Meanwhile, his own life has been transformed, Mr. Abdul Raheem said. He ticked off a list of prices: potatoes have jumped to about 76 cents a pound from 32 cents. A carton of 30 eggs went to nearly $4.25 from just above $2; cucumbers rose to 58 cents a pound from about 22. All this in a matter of weeks.

“These were always the basics,” he said. “Now they’re luxuries.”

With a salary equivalent to $423 and rent at $176, paying for food and fuel exhausts his income, he said. “But we are much better off than others,” he added. “We are the average.”

Nawara Mahfoud contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

February 25th, 2008, 10:30 am


qunfuz said:

Shai – to pick up on our earlier discussion, I suggest that Israel withdraw immediately from the 67 lands, whether or not it can find someone to hand them over to. Just pull out, leave the power-squabbling to the Arabs. A large part of the reason for the present division of the Palestinians is the fact that they are occupied, and that this occupied ‘authority’ is funded and encouraged in its intransigeance by Washington and Israel. More occupation is not going to help the Palestinians necome unified. It is a startegy of the occupiers (if not entirely their fault) to keep the occupied divided.

February 25th, 2008, 10:40 am


why-discuss said:

Thanks for your words. I do know there are lots of sensible israelis like you. Arab countries cannot become democracies in one day, therefore their population have little infuence on the country foreign policies. The arab population react emotionnaly and it is by exploiting their emotions negatively or positively that Israel can bring them closer or farther. Unfortunately all actions done by Israel have brought only negative emotions. I want to see Israel doing one act of high human value: building a school or a hospital in the occupied land instead of destroying them, spending money to improve the economical viablity of a state of palestine instead of building arrogant settlements, helping in agriculture instead of destroying the peasants life, showing signs that they are ready to return the Golan and its exiled inhabitants to their mother country etc..
I have yet to see ONE such act, is it so hard for Israel to do that?
Arabs would be first suspicious if they see Israel changing its tactics and trying to win the heart and mind of the arabs but this may snowball and create a dynamic of competing for positive signs instead of negative. I really hope to see such sign one day coming from Israel, then I may have hopes that we are entering into a constructive dynamic.

February 25th, 2008, 10:49 am


Enlightened said:

Shai My wife is from Melbourne ( ST Kilda), it has a very sizeable Jewish population, my son was born in Masada Hospital there last year, its a very small world, I agree about travelling that far, but talk to anyone about Australia, and they will tell you only great things , but if this is to get off the ground then we have to be practical. But swimming from Australia is nigh on impossible no matter how how many training sessions i get off Ian Thorpe.

I will put up my hand to go as long as certain condition are met, I dont want to sit next to QN or HP as they will be sharing smellly garlic Shawarmas. I will also bring a Hannibal lecter mask just in case AIG, does not behave himself, Norman can give me a New Knee reconstruction if he is up to the task!

Alex when you said two Lebanese (one being a school kid ) you were referring to QN right??????

February 25th, 2008, 12:23 pm


wizart said:

Thanks To Naji for raising a high priority issue.
Eating Healthy is one way to solve this problem…

More Important To Eat Healthy When Food Prices Are Rising….
On a Dollar Per Nutrient Basis Healthy Food Is Not More Expensive

“A little historical perspective: despite the recent price run-up, Americans still spend less to feed themselves than any other people on the planet–probably less than any monetized society in history. Just 9.9¢ of each dollar we spend is for food, down from 23.4¢ in 1929. By comparison, 16% of household expenditures in Britain go to food; Brazilians spend 23%, Thais 29%.

Americans don’t spend much on food largely because we just don’t want to. As a society gets richer, its people tend to use their extra income for things like recreation and education, not daily sustenance.

We simply don’t have to. During the Depression, the government began subsidizing commodities like corn. Today, against all logic, the subsidies continue, and corn-derived snacks and Cokes are so cheap and convenient that, as University of Washington epidemiologist Adam Drewnowski argues, it’s perfectly rational, on a dollar-per-calorie basis, to buy them. (Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t subsidized, and by nature they cost more to store and ship.) Drewnowski estimates it would cost 100 times as much to get the same amount of energy from fresh raspberries as from a typical packet of cookies.

Still, there are hidden costs to cheap calories. Environmental damage is one–in the postwar race to the lowest possible price, farmers applied oceans of pesticides and fertilizers–but obesity is the most obvious. A common objection to ending subsidies is that people will go hungry, and indeed some Americans can’t afford to eat: in 2005, according to the USDA, 2.9% of households had at least one member who went hungry at least once the previous year. But the U.S. has a bigger problem with overnutrition. More than half of us are overweight; we spend something like $94 billion annually treating ailments related to overeating.

But if food is more expensive, won’t we simply eat more cookies and fewer raspberries? In the short run, yes, although the USDA has launched programs to teach people that while convenience foods have more calories, they usually have fewer nutrients. On a dollar-per-nutrient basis, healthy food is not more expensive. Lab studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are also more satiating–they make you feel fuller than junk food even though they have fewer calories. In short, we should stop subsidizing junk. To address hunger more directly, we could take that money and use it to increase the miserably small amounts we give people on food stamps. We should also spend a little to help food banks offer fresher locally grown food.

As the great Italian food expert Carlo Petrini points out in his newly translated Slow Food Nation (Rizzoli; 262 pages), agriculture has become “completely detached from the lives of billions of people, as if procuring food had become a matter of course and required no effort at all.” But one way or another, we will pay for all that we’re eating.”

February 25th, 2008, 12:29 pm


Shai said:


For quite a while, I was exactly for your suggestion – Immediate withdrawal, unilateral, without an agreement signed by the Palestinians. I have a feeling that what’s hindering that very possibility is Abu Mazen himself, and the contact he and Olmert have. This is another reason why I’ve been against continued formal talks with Abu Mazen. We should pull out, and let the Palestinians decide who and what they want for their future. And if its Hamas, or Ez-a-din Al-Qassam, that’s fine by me. If they’re willing to sit with me at the table, I’ll more than reciprocate. If they want to fight me, the same.


Again I agree with you. The main problem has been that because we had no one to hand control over to in the days and months after the 67 war, we found ourselves doing the worst thing possible – settling there. But, you should also know, that although we were the occupying force, the so-called “Ruler”, we did amazing things in the territories for the Palestinians, all the way until 1987, when the first Intifada began. Everything you ask Israel to show you today has been done, and much more, during those first 20 years. But of course, building schools and an economy does not replace a people’s right to independence, and we should have continued to realize that while searching for a partner every day and night from 1967 on. By the way, I believe that today most people in Israel view the settlements as a semi-permanent thing, namely, something that was there to create a certain reality (pressure?), but that it was not to last forever. There is an internal crisis developing here in Israel, because slowly slowly the settlers are starting to understand that they’ve been sent out by successive Israeli governments to serve mainly as cards one day, only to be pulled back when conditions were “ripe”. There is a growing movement now to enable settlers to return to Israel willingly, already now, and receive a just compensation, as opposed to waiting until they’re forced out (like in Gaza), where their rehabilitation could be that much tougher, as in fact the settlers from Gaza have been experiencing.

As long as we don’t have someone crazy pulling the trigger, and starting WWIII in the region (and I’m not that much off what might happen), while more and more people (like us) call out for peace with Syria now, then I believe there’s a real chance to start the ball rolling in the right direction again. No less than the Arabs, Israelis too are sick and tired of war. They no longer want to see their sons and daughters buried in funerals, not for protecting settlers, not for killing innocent Lebanese in the search for militia fighters, not for strangling 1.5 million people in the most densely-populated part of the world. Trust me, we are also exhausted, and want to see a brighter future. I understand everything you said about the difference in societies, and the ability to influence foreign policy, etc., but at the very least, I want people like you to help me show what Arabs are really like to my fellow countrymen, by engaging with me, by discussing options, and by creating these infamous CBM’s (confidence-building-measures) I keep talking about. Believe me, you’re contributing tremendously towards that goal. And I deeply thank you for that.

February 25th, 2008, 12:31 pm


Shai said:


Ian Thorpe’s amazing. Too bad he’s retiring to go “make some money”… He’s absolutely brilliant.

No worries about the Shawarmas – I’m also not a great fan of these, plus, we already have it here about once an hour… There are plenty of good restaurants in Istanbul, and it actually does seem to be a great value-for-money place to hold the SC conference in. And, as I mentioned earlier, perhaps Alon Liel’s contacts there would even host the event – wouldn’t THAT be amazing? Imagine the headlines (in Turkish): “Bloggers Meet to Solve Regional Problems!” Am I exaggerating things just a bit? I don’t think so!

February 25th, 2008, 12:38 pm


Shai said:


Though I’m not quite sure why we’re discussing eating-habits here, I have a feeling that there’s a hidden and misleading error in your information. Perhaps Americans spend less per-dollar-earned on food than anyone on earth, but they certainly don’t spend less on food. If an average american family spends, let’s say, $150 a week on food, that’s certainly much much more than the average Thai family, or even Brazillian family does. When you take the actual figure spent, and divide by the amount American EARN, then you get to the 9.9 cents/1.00 dollar on food. The average Syrian makes a bit more than $100/month, so food spending in probably no more than $100-$150/month for an entire family, or 1/4 of that in America. I wouldn’t be surprised if Americans spend much more than the figures I placed here, mainly because they also eat out so much more than any other people on the planet. If an average meal costs $10-$15, a family of four spends $40-$60, that gets you closer to $400-$500 per week! Far more than in any other nation on earth except, perhaps, for Japan, or Luxembourg, or the like…

February 25th, 2008, 12:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

MSK’s right.

Istanbul makes the most sense. (Although, it’s catching up with Cyprus in terms of cost! Not so cheap anymore)


And I would second his sentiment to keep this more relaxed: more of a “reunion” (or “union”) than an attempt to create world peace. It’s not like we’re the leaders of the free world, right?

Right? Right??!!!

Am I… the only one … who isn’t like, a, prime minister or something?


By the way… has anyone noticed the VERY conspicuous silence coming from the upper right hand corner of the screen, namely Sayyid Joshua himself? Hmmm….

February 25th, 2008, 1:31 pm


CWW said:

There is an intriguing article on a recent survey of Israeli-Arab youth on the National Service program in Israel. There has been a discussion in Israel in recent years to require Israeli-Arabs, who are not required to serve in the military, to enter the national service program, which other Israelis can sign up for in lieu of the military.

Seventy five percent of Israeli-Arab youth support the idea of having a national service program for Israeli Arabs.
According to the poll 68% of Israeli Arabs would support the program “because it contributes to the country and Israeli society.”

Here’s the link:

A blog piece about the program on Commentary Magazine online:

February 25th, 2008, 1:32 pm


ausamaa said:

Rising inflation is making people cry everywhere even in the Oil or Gas rich Arab states. Well-do-households even in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, let alone UAE, have nothing totalk about except inflation. The ones who are hurting most anyway are those in Jordan and Lebanon, where prices are allready high and Income opportunities are limited. Syrians on the other hands do not appear to be complaining about this as much as their other neighbours are. I do not know the reason. Government subsidies, price controls, other income sources, low commodity prices? They just complain but they do ot seem in the desperate shape others are in. Outside Syria, all is overburdened by Gas and Electricity charges, consumer loans, cars loans, house loans, and other Loan installments.

I know some one will impart a piece of conventional wisdome here, but all in all, the noose is tightening around the average Syrian neck as it seems elsewhere. A sign of “backwardness!!??” I guess, but we are still able to suply Electricity, Kerosene, Live Animals, Grains and Water to our nieghbours. Despit the SANACTIONS! And last week the Lebanese Government “legalised” blackmarket imports and “smugling” of food, kersosene,clothing and vegetables FROM “bad” Syria to LEBANON!!!

I just hope the People in Jordan and Lebanon and the 1.5 million Iraqi refugess in Syria -who everyone seem to be forgetting nowadays-would not be hurt by Bush sanctions on Damascus. LOL.

February 25th, 2008, 1:53 pm


Naji said:


I wonder if Joshua is attending this big-deal conference going on in Damascus for the past couple of days …everybody and his brother seems to be here …mostly high-level diplomats, current and former, from Europe (Germany, in particular!), Iran and Syria…!!! I am sure that Alex can enlighten us… He knows everything…:)

February 25th, 2008, 1:53 pm


offended said:

What big deal conference is happening in Damascus, and why there is no word in the news about it?

February 25th, 2008, 4:44 pm


Alex said:


Alex knows that Joshua is not in Damascus… or at least he was not two days ago when he called me from the states.


I found out that Syria did indeed stop exporting wheat to Egypt! … actually I heard it from one person … can anyone else confirm?

I was told that Syria explained to the Egyptian government that Turkey needs that wheat supply.

That might explain the reaction of the Wafd party newspaper’s sensational editorial about Syria starving the Egyptian people into joining Syria for another foolish war against Israel …

If true, this shift from helping Egypt to helping Turkey would be consistent with Syria’s increasing willingness to move closer to non Arab neighbors and away from Arabs who are “American puppets”.

This is not some kind of revolutionary resistance against American hegemony. It is a question of survival. If Syria’s allies in the Arab world (Saudi Arabia and Egypt) can be more or less expected to always participate in some extremist (or extremely stupid) American administration’s policies of boycotting and weakening Syria, then it would be too risky to stick to this group of allies. In 1980 the Reagan years and in 2001 to 2008 the GWB years (or Cheney years) were very difficult for Syria. Syria’s Arab brothers were actively involved in American efforts to destabilize the regime and to weaken Syria’s role in the region.

In comparison, Turkey and Iran are stronger nations. They take their own decisions, not being consistently correlated with American wishes… and they stuck by their agreements with Syria .. unlike Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Fatah, and M14 Lebanese who “flip” too easily.

Syria does not want to move away from its Arab environment. But Bashar does not want his Baathist country to be taken for granted by America’s Arab puppets … the same way his father did not hesitate to side with non-Arab Iran against the obviously hostile Iraqi leader, Saddam.

The Saudi press is still expressing their shock and disappointment at how Syria is bringing Iran into the affairs of the Arab world.

It is not final yet, but if they don’t take a strategic decision to stop trying to take over Syria’s role in the region, they will have both Iran and Turkey to share regional power with, in addition to Syria.

Mubarak met with the Saudi king yesterday (both 80+ years old). They said that Syria is not doing enough to make the Arab summit a success.

Well, too bad. don’t show up.

February 25th, 2008, 4:57 pm


Alex said:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak conveyed to Syrian President Bashar Assad that he is willing to allow residents of the Golan Heights to hold Syrian identification cards as a step toward renewing peace negotiations, the London-based daily, Al-Hayat, reported Monday.

The paper quoted a Golan resident as saying that he was apprised of Barak’s message via Syrian sources.

Officials in the Syrian border town of Kuneitra claimed that the Civil Administration had already begun compiling a list of relevant Golan residents.

The Syrians were facing difficulty in trying to obtain the list from the Israeli Interior Ministry, the source said. A group of 400 residents of the Golan who were studying in Syria had obtained Syrian identification cards about a week ago; the first such group to be granted Syrian citizenship, he added.

According to the report, Israeli officials refused to comment on the details but confirmed that the defense minister was keen on promoting the Syrian negotiation track.

On Thursday, Al-Hayat reported that Barak had relayed a message to Assad through the Turkish president that Israel plans to escalate militarily the situation with Hizbullah and Hamas.

According to the report, Barak encouraged Damascus to take a different stance towards Hizbullah, and emphasized that such a move would be seen as a goodwill gesture, and would open up the possibility for peace negotiations between the two countries.

February 25th, 2008, 4:59 pm


Shai said:


I also read about Barak’s message to Syria, but what kind of “different stance” was he referring to? I haven’t seen an answer to this anywhere. Regarding Saudi-Egypt, do you think Syria can afford to NOT be a close ally to these two powerhouses in the region? I completely understand the need to have Iran and Turkey as strong allies, but to basically alienate yourself from the core Arab world could spell disaster for Syria, should it mistakenly side with Iran, or Hezbollah, or both, in some bad-scenario regional conflict. It would be far better to have Saudi and Egypt on her side, should such a case occur. In theory, the more the sides drift apart, the more likely such a confrontation might become, as each side will start thinking in terms of “punishing” the other… What do you think?

February 25th, 2008, 5:19 pm


Naji said:


I don’t know why, but the whole thing seems to be rather hushed…!? I am going to have dinner with someone who was there… I’ll let you guys know when I get back what it was all about… I hope I am not divulging some national-security secret here…!!! I couldn’t possibly be… I am not that “well-connected”, so if I found out about it, then everybody concerned has…

February 25th, 2008, 5:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Turkey is part of Nato and has American bases. In addition, it has excellent relations with Israel. Can Syria claim to credibly be in the “resistance” camp if its new found ally is Turkey?

So your argument does not make sense. Turkey is not an anti-American alternative to Saudi Arabia. Turkey is even closer to the US than Saudi Arabia. Syria is just looking for any ally it can find because it is isolated in the Arab world.

February 25th, 2008, 5:34 pm


Alex said:


Through his contacts in turkey, Barak already knows what “different stance” Syria can or wants to adopt as part of a peaceful settlement. It is probably more or less what I talked about on this blog … working with Hizbolla and the other Lebanese to turn its weapons to a secular Lebanese army and moving into politics just like any other Lebanese party. They will still have some religious and cultural affiliation to Iran, but no military or active political cooperation.

As for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Both Bashar and Mubarak are not the vindictive types, and Syria never challenged Egypt’s leading role in the Arab world. The problem with Egypt is that it is forced to play along when the Americans and Saudis take a decision to boycott Syria.

Saudi Arabia has a major role to play in the region. But to expect the Saudis to handle the role which both Syria and Egypt played before the Bush and Cheney team promised their friend and business partner Prince Bandar to switch everything in the Arab world to Saudi hands.

We are in a temporary stage … Syria bringing Turkey and Iran as a counter weight to America + Saudi Arabia.

This worked reasonably well to Syria’s advantage so far. It is the Egyptians and Saudis (and Jordanians and M14 Lebanese and Fatah) who lost many of their “cards” in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestinian affairs.

Look … they tried to assassinate Hafez Assad in 1980, and they are trying very hard to overthrow Bashar (via khaddam and others)… it is quite reasonable for the Syrians to start moving slowly away from these wonderful allies .. if they get the message one day, then Syria will be very happy to move back to some balanced position … relations with Iran ill be moderated, and relations with turkey are non threatening to the Saudis anyway .. their King visited Turkey twice th past two years … Saudi kings have not visited Turkey for decades.

Whatever the King offered turkey, the Turks stuck by Syria.

That’s an ally to keep.

February 25th, 2008, 5:40 pm


Naji said:

I just cannot understand where anybody gets the idea that Syria is “anti-American”, or that it aims to be “anti-American”, or that it sells itself, at home or abroad, as intrinsically “anti-American”…!! If anybody has a healthy and historic understanding of empire, it is the Syrians… However, if anybody has shown that you can play real-politic and still come out strangely consistent and principled, it is Syrian diplomacy, under the Asads and before…!!

February 25th, 2008, 5:43 pm


Alex said:


There you go again.

you want life to abide by your black and white labels and ideas.

Syria is not defined exclusively by being in some “resistance camp” and Syria is not looking for “Anti” American allies … Syria is looking for allies who are able to follow their countries’ best interests. Two of Syria’s best allies are Turkey and Qatar. Bth of them have good relations with Israel. Both of them have American troops or relations with the US army… but both of them demonstrate their willingness to oppose foolish American administrations.

Here is one link that might help you understand

February 25th, 2008, 5:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ahh, the earnest messianics… they’re always good for a laugh.

February 25th, 2008, 6:14 pm


Shai said:


I had a barber once in the U.S., back when I was in college, who did a little preachin’ on the side. He used to tell me each time how crucial it was for the anti-Christ to show up, how the final battle would be fought in Megido, Israel (Battle of Armageddon), and how the Christians love the Jews because without us, the anti-Christ can’t show up… (gee thanx). So yeah, I understand all those who see Ahmedinejad as that potential guy. And it sort of makes sense, that without us Jews, he certainly wouldn’t be as interesting. What would he say, “We swear Iran will soon enough ERASE cancer off the face of the planet!!!”? “That most terrible abomination in human history must be ELIMINATED, Heart Disease!”

February 25th, 2008, 6:28 pm


offended said:

AIG habibi, it addition to the excellent argument Alex had presented; and in line with the survival issue he mentioned, you should know that Syria’s cooperation with Turkey comes out of strategic necessity; we share long borders with Turkey, we share WATER with Turkey. And for lots of people living in proximity to the borders; there are shared bloodlines and family members (like yours truly). You never know; the wheat export might be in exchange for good concessions on the water; Syria was on the outset of initiating big irrigation projects in Al Jazireh last year. These kind of vital projects need water. You couldn’t possibly ask the desert ridden Saudi to supply it, or even Egypt.

Besides, Turkey is a democratic country, wouldn’t rather deal with democratic countries rather than with disgustingly totalitarian ones like Saudi and Egypt?

February 25th, 2008, 6:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Have you read Gershom Gorenberg’s book “The End of Days”? It deals with the messianic scenarios of all three Abrahamic faiths, and shows how they are all more or less dependent on one another. Even more interestingly, it shows how certain groups from each faith are working together today (directly and indirectly) to bring about the End of Days. It’s a wonderful (and sinister) read; I highly recommend it.

I’m also reminded of the Holy Land theme park that a consortium of Christian groups wanted to build in Israel, and which the Israeli government gave them permission for, despite the fact that the Jews only really figure into the Christian doomsday scenario as cannon fodder! Yossi Sarid put it best:

“As a Jew, they believe I have to vanish before Jesus can make his second appearance. As I have no plans to convert, as an Israeli and a Jew, I find this a provocation. There is something sinister about their embrace.”

You can see an article about this here.

Are they still going through with the project?

February 25th, 2008, 6:37 pm


offended said:

Here is an example of an Arab leader who’s a strong US ally, but who also don’t hesitate to criticize its policies:

(3:40 onward, don’t miss the part where he hugs Ahmadinajad and kisses him on the cheek)

February 25th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Shai said:


I think this park was supposed to be alongside the Kineret (Lake of Galilee), and as far as I recall it is not going through. But, maybe I’m wrong… and soon enough Jesus will be walking once again on the water, and your son and mine could be “riding” him, ending with a fantastic splash…

February 25th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Offended said:

Besides, Turkey is a democratic country, wouldn’t rather deal with democratic countries rather than with disgustingly totalitarian ones like Saudi and Egypt?

Right… that’s why Syria’s best friend is Iran, that shining example of democracy.

February 25th, 2008, 6:56 pm


Shai said:


No, it’s because they don’t have homosexuals… ok, not funny, I’ll stop now before I get carried away. So did we decide it’s Istanbul, speaking of Turkey?

February 25th, 2008, 6:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are the esteemed posters on this blog going to deny that Syria portrays itself in the Arab and muslim world as the leader against “American hegemony”? Are we going to have a serious debate or what. Here it is from the horses mouth:

This is not an issue of “black or white”. I am just listening to what the Syrians say.

February 25th, 2008, 7:02 pm


Alex said:

AIG you are listening to your choice of what the Syrians say … they always say that they would love to have the best relations with the United States … and they say they want genuine peace between Israel adn all the Arabs.

But you have your own black and white opinion of what the Syrians are and therefore you reject any thing they say that does not fit YOUR understanding… therefore you guarantee you will not be able to modify it.



Offended was only humoring AIG who loves democracy supposedly.

February 25th, 2008, 7:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Syria will portray itself as the leader against American hegemony… until we get a new president who starts talking to the Syrians, and then the Americans won’t be so bad anymore.

February 25th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Zenobia said:

Why would anyone need a Holy Land theme park….inside the actual Holy Land?
i saw a Holy Land theme park….off the highway in Orlando.
i don’t think Joshua is that enthusiastic to come to your SC conference, frankly.
but maybe if you show him enough impressive pedigrees and lists of important people and ‘high level’ contacts that you know, he might show up.

February 25th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That’s right, which is also why they don’t have earthquakes!!


February 25th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Shai said:


I’ve noticed that most of my comments have been really quite silly. Can you please take them off your 320 count? That should leave an average of 35 per day, and not 160… 🙂

February 25th, 2008, 7:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


In fairness, AIG wasn’t quoting some random shawarma salesman in Halab. He was quoting the INFORMATION MINISTER!

February 25th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Alex said:

Its OK Shai .. silly short comments are fine.

Better than my long boring, repetitive comments.

February 25th, 2008, 7:15 pm


offended said:

I was stunned to see these guys in Beirut moving in frenzy, but now I think they might be gearing up for Armagadon…


February 25th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Alex said:


Let me ask you something

If we quote the INFORMATION MINISTER adn conclude that Syria is an enemy of hte United States, and then if we quote something that Syria’s retired DEFENSE MINISTER (Tlass) wrote in one of his books and conclude that Syria is ANTI SEMITIC … and then we quote Abdullah Ahmar, Syria’s SECRETARY GENERAL of THE BAATH PARTY and conclude that Syria is hopelessly stuck in revolutionary ideologies from the 60’s….

Then are we not distorting the real picture?

February 25th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

And how do you like that line about “anybody can participate in demonstrations in Syria”…

How do these people keep a straight face? I would have started giggling manically if I were him.

You know, it’s so much fun to pick on the Gulfis: they’re rich, dictatorial, they spend their money on stupid things like huge palm-tree shaped islands and mile high towers, etc.

But… here’s a prediction.

Twenty years from now, if Syria/Egypt do not get their act together, their hallowed status as leaders of the Arabs will be over (if it isn’t already). The Gulf states are finally beginning to spend their trillions on smart things like infrastructure, education, media, research and development in various fields, and they’ve been draining the best brains from India, Syria/Lebanon, Egypt, Europe, Russia, China, and even the U.S.

We (i.e. Syria AND Lebanon) need to fix our own houses before we can be of much use to others (like the Palestinians). We’re being left behind, ya ikhwaan!!!

February 25th, 2008, 7:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, who should we listen to? And if Syrian officials don’t mean what they say, how can we trust that when they say things you like they are voicing their real opinions?

My solution is to look at which actions support which words better.
1) Is Syria supporting the Iraq insurgents? Yes.
2) Is Syria supporting Hamas? Yes.
3) Is it supporting Hizballah? Yes.
4) Is it supporting the opposition in Lebanon who is accusing the majority of aiding “American hegemony”? Yes.
5) Did Syria host Mugniyeh, a wanted terrorist? Yes.

Given the actions above, why aren’t the words of the Syrian information minister true? Whay makes you think he is lying?

February 25th, 2008, 7:35 pm


Alex said:


The old Arab world (Syria and Egypt) and old Europe will probably not go away. But I will be happy if Dubai and Qatar continue progressing at the current rate and int he current direction … why should anything this positive be a reason for concern?

February 25th, 2008, 7:36 pm


Shai said:

Alex, QN,

The one thing Syria and Lebanon can be most proud of is their hardworking and talented craftsmen and tradesmen. Without the oil or gas, the Gulf states would be so-called “desert dwellers”. But the nations of the Mediterranean have histories that span thousands of years. But I do agree, the Gulf will lead the Arab and even Muslim world because they’re running their nations like high-tech startups. They’re doing amazing things, and running way past the rest of the Arab world, and in many ways better than many Western nations. I know Qatar is marketing itself as the place where the world’s fastest growing economy will be. I’ve always claimed that Israel should have taken example from Dubai, and done the same. Imagine what our nations could achieve, if they put their past aside, and their heads together! All the more reasons to make peace already. Besides, who says the land belongs to a particular “person” or “people”? One day, we’ll see it as land belonging to one group of people – humans. No one will need to fight over land, because earthlings will share it. Time for nations to unite, not look for more reasons to have war.

February 25th, 2008, 7:40 pm


Alex said:


You decided to look at a specific time (the past few years) and you decided to ignore cause and effect and you decided to pick the signals that reinforce your preferred image of what Syria is.

With a US administration that made it clear to Damascus that it was next on the invasion list right after Iraq was truly “mission accomplished”, and with a Saudi Arabia installing a prime minister in Lebanon who worships King Abdullah and kisses his hand … then if you look at Syria’s actions, they are quite understandable.

Reminder for the millionth time: retired Colin Powell admitted the truth .. when he met with Bashar in 2003, BAshar ofered Syria’s help in fighting terrorism and other regional issues but when Powell went back to Washington he found out that the Bush/Cheney/Abrams administration did not want Syria to play a positive role .. because (my opinion now) they only want their Saudi friends to play that role.

If you can be patient enough till next year, you probably will find it difficult to continue seeing Syria as an enemy to the United States.

February 25th, 2008, 7:45 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Tlass was not speaking FOR SYRIA when he wrote his mumbo jumbo.

You know what, I’m sorry I started using caps… that was not a bid3a hasana. Let me start again.

Tlass was not speaking for Syria when he wrote his mumbo jumbo. Muhsin Bilal was. He specifically said:

سوريا تمثل نهج المقاومة الرسمي العربي

But, again in fairness, AIG, he didn’t mention American hegemony… just that lovely word “resistance”.

February 25th, 2008, 7:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I always find it amusing that Arabs don’t get that Qatar is the biggest “traitor” to the “Arab” cause.

When one wants to connect to a network, all one has to do is connect to one node of the network and not to all nodes. Israel is now connected to Qatar and through Qatar to the whole Arab world. One of the advantages of a “just peace” would be Israeli trade with the Arab world. But Qatar is enabling Israel to do this right now. Why should Israel then be motivated by the trade carrot?

Qatar is a true friend of the US and Israel but somehow most Arabs think it is not. They must have excellent PR.

February 25th, 2008, 7:51 pm


Alex said:


Dubai already is a place where Syrians, Egyptians, and Lebanese are welcome to share in achieving and then enjoying the fruits of its incredible success.

But I would like to remind QN and Shai that long after Hong Kong and Taiwan became what Dubai and Qatar want to be one day … China is still THE powerful nation in that part of the world.

Each nation will have its role to play.

February 25th, 2008, 7:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sure he only said “resistance”. But against who or what is this “resistance”? Ali Babba and the 40 thieves? Everyone listening knows exactly against what the Syrians are “resisting”, the “American Project or Hegemony or Conspiracy or Imperialism or Whatever”.

February 25th, 2008, 7:55 pm


Shai said:

With the exception of maybe Venezuela, Cuba, and the British Virgin Islands, I don’t know of many nations that do not wish to be allies of the U.S. (including North Korea, Libya, Sudan, even Iran… why would Ahmedinejad come to Columbia University?) GWB just managed to really IMPRESS the hell out of every leader on the face of this planet, during his amazing 8 years in office, and now few are confident they can stand up to the new IQ standards… And so they’re waiting… for his departure.

February 25th, 2008, 7:55 pm


Alex said:

No AIG .. the Arabs are not stupid as you think.

Yesterday I chatted online with one of my Haaretz friends. He appeared on Al-Jazeera (and today he is appearing on Abu Dhabi TV) .. I asked him if Al-Jazeera is nce to him. He said “they are amazingly nice to us Israeli journalists.”

Bashar is very close to the Emir of Qatar who publicly met with Shimon Peres… if that is not an indication that Syria is not the close minded backward Baathist state that some insist on seeing, then ther is not much more to say there.


Syria’s official information minister sometimes says things that are as accurate as President Bush’s statements about being neutral mediators between the Palestinians and Israel… Politicians are supposed to say the right thing .. whatever that thing is.

But having said that, ye s.. Syria is the Arab leader of resistance to crazy American administrations if necessary.

The others love their perks too much to risk American boycott or anger.

Although the Qataris did not mind being the only Gulf country not to be on President Bush’s recent Mideast itinerary.

February 25th, 2008, 8:00 pm


Shai said:


That’s true (about China). But then Bashar has a lot to learn from the Chinese. I hear Shanghai looks more modern than any European city. It’s economy has been growing at staggering rates for the past 30 years, nonstop. There are more internet pages in Chinese than in any other language. You may wish to start translating SC into Chinese…

February 25th, 2008, 8:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ya habibna Alex

Syria = China???

Come on. Not in your wildest dreams. Not at this rate.

China has long been an economic powerhouse; their leadership have taken the decision to pursue the path of becoming a superpower.

Syria will have a role to play, but until Bashar starts getting as aggressive as the Chinese on their worst days, we’re going to be completely eclipsed.

As for revealing body language, Bashar is no stranger to giving other potentates a little love.

February 25th, 2008, 8:02 pm


Alex said:


If you don’t stop it, I will call Ausamaa to take over!

Did I say Syria = CHINA?

I was giving an example of how the smaller fast growth states like Taiwan play a different role from the larger states (like China, or like Syria or Egypt).

Syria and Egypt will continue to have specific roles to play that Dubai and Qatar can not.

Fair enough?

February 25th, 2008, 8:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


A propos of that picture… what do you think Bashar was thinking, as he was grasping Mahmud’s hand so warmly and looking into his eyes?

I ask you this, because I really do want to believe you that Syria will one day (soon) become a staunch ally of a responsible U.S. administration, and make peace with Israel under just and equitable terms.

If that’s the case, then surely Syria is not wedded to Iran til death do them part, but rather til January 09 does Bush & Washington part.

Ok, I’m being silly. But you get what I mean. Syria’s ties with Iran are of a strategic nature, not an ideological one.

So again, what do you think is going through Bashar’s mind when he gets that close to Mahmud? Do you think he’s like: “Oh my god… this guy is soooooo crazy!”

Because he kinda is…

February 25th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Shai said:


Here’s a question I’ve been forgetting to ask you: Do you think Bashar is doing enough to prepare his own public for peace with Israel? I remember reading that in 1999, when it was evident that Barak was going to seriously negotiate with the Syrians, Hafez instructed the papers to completely do a 180, and almost hail Barak as a brave hero. Then of course, after he failed, the papers went back to the same old stuff. What’s happening nowadays? It is a legitimate concern of many Israelis (including some in this forum) that while the leaders make peace (Sadat, Hussein, Assad…), the people really don’t want it. Personally, I’m willing to take a cold-peace like that over a no-peace, because of the dangerous alternatives. But undoubtedly if the people have been fed too much anti-Israeli propaganda for too long, it won’t be so easy to suddenly make them change their minds…

February 25th, 2008, 8:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Please, don’t call Ausamaa!! I promise to behave.

Actually, I’m not really that attached to what I’m saying… just procrastinating and trying to get the comment count up to 500.

February 25th, 2008, 8:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When everybody is your close friend, then nobody is your close friend. Bashar is “close” to the Emir of Qatar in the same way.

So what is your point really? That Bilal does not know what he is talking about? It is clear Syria is trying to play a double game, portraying itself on one hand as the “resistance capital of the world” and on the other hand as an enlightened modern country.

I have to admit that it sometimes works as there are a lot of gullible fools out there. But in the end, what wins the day is comparing actions to words. When you do that, it becomes clear that Syria is much more “resistance” than enlightened. This is why finding out that Mugniyeh was a guest of Assad really hurts. This is why the tribunal is so hurtful because it will unmask the Syrian regime completely and will leave it with no “enlightend” aspect.

February 25th, 2008, 8:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

By the way, I think the floorboards are starting to buckle on this comment page. Maybe it can’t handle 387 (now 388!) comments.

February 25th, 2008, 8:16 pm


Zenobia said:

Why do you call Mugniyeh a “guest” of Assad.
Maybe he was just there. How do we know how many people even knew where he was in Syria…. he was just minding his own business at that point.
besides, wasn’t the guy a terrorist mastermind with as many passports (fake and real) that anyone could want.
he could have come into Syria as anybody.

and It is clear Syria is trying to play a double game, portraying itself on one hand as the “resistance capital of the world” and on the other hand as an enlightened modern country.

Isn’t is possible that Syria is both. why “portraying” ?
Being ‘enlightened’ is luxury . When the Environment allows for progress, openness and being enlightened, then this is the result. when the environment is threatening, you get regression, and movement back to resistance.

if we keep talking …we could make it to 500 i think…
in fact, we will be at that number by the end of the day….as long as Alex or Joshua doesn’t create a new post…. its all in their hands……

February 25th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Shai said:

QN, Alex,

Precisely 57% of the comments have been about the upcoming SC Conference in Istanbul Sept/Oct ’08, but Alex hasn’t even given his blessing yet… What does that mean? The Auzzies, the Europeans, the Americans, and us locals (locos) from the ‘Hood, have all given their thumbs-up. What about the leader – what sayeth thou?

February 25th, 2008, 8:25 pm


Zenobia said:

I told you what it meant….but he used his wizard of OZ powers to change my comment.
I told you that Alex actually….wouldn’t show to your conference….
i will put my money on it…..

unless he had to cause it was in Montreal……

February 25th, 2008, 8:27 pm


Alex said:

QN … noooo,, not 500 … I am only sticking around till it goes above 400.

I did not do much work today as you can tell.


People in Syria have not been fed too much anti-Israeli propaganda the past few years … for example after Israel attacked Deir Ezzore there was minimal official reaction .. no PR campaigns, no calls for revenge. And if you have not noticed, the language used to describe Israel is now mostly (mostly, not always) “Israel” and not ht eold “kayan Suhyooni” (Zionist entity).

But when Israel invaded Lebanon and killed 1500 Lebanese … the Syrian people followed the real news (not Syrian propaganda) from the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese refugees who escaped to Syria … and yes, at that time there was much more negativity towards Israel.

I can tell you what most Syrians (and Arabs) tell me: Do not trust the Israelis… and very few tell me that they hate the Israelis.

So … it is on your end to gain the trust of Syrians and Arabs.

And … An Obama administration can quickly transform the Syrians’ official language to something more positive… for now there is no hope.


I will not make the same mistake of reminding again you that if we “look at actions” (or look at the real numbers as I prefer to look at it), then you Israelis are the closest thing to criminality in the Middle East .. your Israel killed 1500 Lebanese last year.

And I mean to argue that two wrongs make a WRONG in this case, before you bring out your Netanyaho book of wisdom and effective communication skills.

I am hoping for a day where Israel will not kill hundreds of innocnet Lebanese, will not put the people of Gaza in a large prison and Syria will not “harbor terrorists”… and America will not be led by vindictive corrupt lunatics.

February 25th, 2008, 8:29 pm


Shai said:


Offended seemed to be terribly worried of Sayeret Matkal doing a hit on him during the conference, and as such prepared to use anything in his disposal to protect his identity. Perhaps he can come to Istanbul camouflaged as… Alex, and then Alex doesn’t really need to show up. But why on earth would Alex NOT show up??? He and Joshua are the leaders here, they must come, for the “show to go on”… I’ll talk to Alon when he gets back – maybe the Turks could sponsor this whole venture. I think it would be amazing.

February 25th, 2008, 8:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Mugniyeh was going to an official gathering at the Iranian embassy. The Syrians were hosting him in Damascus.

You can be anti-American all you wish. But you cross the line when you support terrorism. The insurgents in Iraq target mostly civillians. Why do the Syrians support this?

February 25th, 2008, 8:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Since Muhsin Bilal says that anyone can hold a demonstration in Syria, then surely there would be no problem for us to hold this harmless little conference in Syria, no?

What do you say, Alex. 😉

Uh oh, that may have just caused you to call Ausamaa.

I take it back, I take it back!!

February 25th, 2008, 8:39 pm


Alex said:


I am not a leader of anything walla. The hierarchy in Syria Comment is


then QN, Ehsanie, Alex and T-Desco (authors)

Which reminds me, that Ehsani might be posting something later tonight (he asked me an hour ago if I like the topic) … so it will be 400+, not 500+ comments in this post .. but that would still be the largest number of comments I have seen in ANY post anywhere.

As for attending the meeting / conference … no comment for now


We had a mini meeting last year in Montreal by the way … MESA met here .. Joshua and Ehsani were here along with QN who did not know that we were all here.


I say, you should indeed go to Damascus to show that Bilal how wrong he is.


You seem to be again full of certainty that you can backup your solid opinions with irrefutable proof.

Are you saying that Israeli intelligence failed for the past 25 years to get him even though he was SURELY living in Damascus everyday of those 25 years?

February 25th, 2008, 8:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I am not a leader of anything walla. The hierarchy in Syria Comment is


then QN, Ehsanie, Alex and T-Desco (authors)

Eh, sadda2na! Ha!

I have zero authority whatsoever on this blog… I just write what Dick Cheney tells me to write… And sometimes Nasrallah.

It’s complicated.

February 25th, 2008, 8:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When you have no good answer, out come the ridiculous allegations of Israel and the old “two wrongs make a right” routine. In some way, I am quite happy that you do not understand the difference between supporting terrorism and fighting a war in which there is collateral damage. It makes your side of the argument very weak. Mugniyeh was wanted in 42 countries. But only in Syria is he an honored guest of the regime and attends official diplomatic events. Now go explain that this is OK because Israel is so bad… Will anyone listen to you? Maybe Ausamaa and Shai.

Do you think for example that Obama, if elected, will take Syria of the list of terrorist supporting countries if they continue hosting Hamas and supporting Hizballah? Of course not. Let’s move this argument forward. Why don’t you stop supporting the terrorist aspect of the Asad regime?

February 25th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Shai said:


Alright, I won’t press the issue. Like QN, I just wanted to get to 500… 🙂 Remember, there is a reason why you’re getting 400+ comments here, it is precisely because of YOU and Joshua who are creating this wonderful forum, with good topics, great commentators, and making things happen. Well done!

And… for the record, anyone hosting Mughniyah probably said “thank you” for not getting blown away alongside the man… Harboring dangerous people is always dangerous business.

February 25th, 2008, 8:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

All I am saying regarding Mugniyeh is that it is a fact that he was in Damascus and it is a fact that the Iranians knew this and were able to send him an invitation to a formal ocassion and that if the Iranians knew and had no problem inviting him, it is because the Syrians also knew (after all there would be tons of Syrians in the gathering) and therefore Mugniyeh was a guest of Asad.

So now we are stooping so low that you are going to make arguments like “how do you know that Mugniyeh didn’t teleport himself from the Enterprise only for that night”? Let’s keep it real and not deny reality.

February 25th, 2008, 8:52 pm


Alex said:

Thank you Shai,

This post was just a copy and paste from the Washington post and it got 400+ comments … so it is the fact there are lots of middle aged interesting people here in the comments section that make it fun and interesting to be here.

Ok, MOSTLY middle Aged. You and Zenobia are 38, and QN is 17


Forget about scoring points against Alex and his Syria for now … Did you see how what’s his name was mourned in Lebanon? … everyone from your friends Jumblatt and Seniora, to Michel Aoun, to the very respected Sunni leader Salim hoss … all treated him as a Lebanese hero.

When you bury Prime minister Sharon, I will not come here and write about his role in Sabra and Shatila. I understand how the Israeli people look at him.

In the mean time, I will leave you to enjoy your own Netanyahu inventions (like the difference between terrorism and the unavoidable collateral damage … like the thousands slaughtered in Sabra and Shatilla)

February 25th, 2008, 8:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


It is precisely because we live in the real world that Alex is not denying reality, when he responds to you as he does.

Does Israel bother considering the ethical implications of strewing a million cluster bombs around Lebanon and bombing civilian areas?

To you, this is the two-wrongs-make-a-right argument. But in the real world, this is the basic logic of action and reaction.

February 25th, 2008, 9:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well, let’s spell this argument out:
Because Israel used cluster bombs as it did in Lebanon it is ok for Asad to host Mugniyeh and to support Hamas and Hizaballah.

Are you saying this argument makes sense to you and you support it?

February 25th, 2008, 9:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Tell you what, AIG. Don’t debate Alex on this issue… he’s got an Arabist image to keep up. Debate me, because I’m just a Lebanese neo-con flack.

I’ll play your game and “move the argument forward” (thereby also pressing onward to post 500).

I’ll accept your contention: “Mughniyeh is a terrorist and Damascus should not host terrorists”


You accept my parallel contention: “Pursuing collective punishment in Gaza and Lebanon are terrorist tactics, and Israel should not pursue terrorist tactics.”

Ready to move to the next step in the argument?

February 25th, 2008, 9:08 pm


Alex said:


Thanks QN

AIG is all yours now : )

February 25th, 2008, 9:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You live in a dream world in which Hafez murdering tens of thousands in Hama is ok because Sharon was bad at controlling the Christian militias in Sabra and Chatilla. At least Sharon was investigated and lost his job. Hafez was crowned king and his son prince Asad is now the ruler.

February 25th, 2008, 9:10 pm


Shai said:


It’s a good thing we’re not married (well, for more than one reason…), because I’d never win a single argument… 🙂

February 25th, 2008, 9:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Very well.
We will move to your question when we get past the first obstacle.
I repeat:

Well, let’s spell this argument out:
Because Israel used cluster bombs as it did in Lebanon it is ok for Asad to host Mugniyeh and to support Hamas and Hizaballah.

Are you saying this argument makes sense to you and you support it?

February 25th, 2008, 9:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Trust me, my wife wins all the arguments.

February 25th, 2008, 9:14 pm


Shai said:


Mine does too… But that’s because it’s in our best interest, isn’t it?

February 25th, 2008, 9:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You say:
“Pursuing collective punishment in Gaza and Lebanon are terrorist tactics, and Israel should not pursue terrorist tactics.”

I think Israel should make every effort to minimize collective punishment but that some collective punishment is always going to happen when two entities fight. The moment Israel fights hizballah in southern Lebanon, how can it be that the population there will not suffer?

February 25th, 2008, 9:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You’re switching the rules on me. What do you want to talk about, the real world or the ideal world? If you want to talk about the real world, then yes I’ll accept the argument you spell out. If you want to move into the ideal world (whereby we condemn our regimes rather than make excuses for them) then let’s get back to MY game:

You asked Alex: “Why don’t you stop supporting the terrorist aspect of the Asad regime?”

And so I offered you a deal:

You recognize the terrorist aspects of Israel’s regime, and I’ll recognize the same in Syria.

I’m waiting….

February 25th, 2008, 9:20 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are you consulting with your wife? 🙂

February 25th, 2008, 9:20 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


What do you think is the most probable scenario for the state of affairs between Israel and Syria in the next ten years?

February 25th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I think Israel should make every effort to minimize collective punishment but that some collective punishment is always going to happen when two entities fight. The moment Israel fights hizballah in southern Lebanon, how can it be that the population there will not suffer?

Ahhh, but now you’re hemming and hawing AIG! You’re getting back to the real world, where we split hairs and equivocate, and make excuses, and and and… Trust me, the Arabs can do this just as well as the Jews.

If you want me to call those aspects of Syria’s regime to be “terrorist”, then my friend you need to do the same for Israel.

Otherwise, we’ll go round and round forever…

Progress (i.e. moving the argument FORWARD) comes at a price, and we’re not going to be the only ones to pay it.

That’s what reconcilliation is all about.

February 25th, 2008, 9:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, so your point now is that Alex is making excuses for the Syrian regime as some sort of neogitation tactic. Have I understood this right?

As for Israel’s “terrorism”, please suggest how you as Israel would fight Hizballah and convince me that your method is effective and also causes no colatteral damage and collective punishment. If there is such a method, Israel should certainly adopt it.

February 25th, 2008, 9:25 pm


Shai said:


You know my view on these issues. But there is something that always comes to my mind when I see the results of Israeli fighting in Gaza and Lebanon. And that is, that Israel simply does not know how to fight militias. I imagine few, if any, nations on earth know how to eliminate militias without killing many many innocent lives. Let’s imagine, for just a second, that there’s a Syrian militia fighting for the return of Iskanderun and, every day for 7 years it launches Qassam rocket attacks against nearby Turkish towns. Can you imagine what would happen if the Turks decided to roll in and wipe out this militia? 1,500 innocent dead, in the first 24 hours maybe… The Turks would have a lot less “patience”, and would just wipe out anything and everything in its way. Perhaps that’s exactly why Syria quickly withdrew some years back when there was some chance of a military confrontation between the two nations. The Israelis, have been known to be cruel, but also humane. And Hamas and Hezbollah take full advantage of that (I would too). Unfortunately, when the IDF doesn’t know how to pick a Hezbollah fighter from another 100 innocent civilians in a particular village, it all too often makes horrible decisions, and ends up killing innocent people. The decision to spread such a huge quantity of cluster-bombs is truly beyond me. I’ve yet to hear a reasonable answer as to why this amount.

February 25th, 2008, 9:28 pm


Alex said:


You don’t need tofight Hizbollah .. you shouldn’t fight Hizbollah .. you should do what Syria did after Israel attaked Deir Ezzore… analyze, understand, and look at the long term interests of Israel … you should see how peace with Syria and Lebanon can help you fight Hozbollah’s THREAT .. not fight Hizboallah … Hizbollah is 30 to 40% of the citiznes of Lebanon … do you want to fight them? .. do you wnat the majority of hte people in the Arab world to hate you even more? .. Nasrallah is highly popular everywhere.

February 25th, 2008, 9:29 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not splitting hairs or hemming and hawing. There is quite a lot of case history as to what people consider terrorism and what is not terrorism. Mesh’al is an expert at blowing up discotheques, pubs and restuarants. He is a special guest of Asad. Now, you want to claim that in the real world this is morally equivalent to Israel fighting in Southern Lebanon.

Reconcilliation is not about giving up ones moral compass. Have you heard me complain about Syria’s attack on Israel in 73? I am more than happy to put this behind me because that is how wars are fought. I am not willing to “reconcile” with Asad supporting people who blow up pubs. Call me crazy.

February 25th, 2008, 9:32 pm


Alex said:

NO AIG … yo are not crazy … you want the Arabs to stick to wars because this is where Israel usually wins. You don’t want to face populations hating what you did to them .. like Hamas and Hizbollah and their combined supporters.

You want Syria and Iran and the whole Arab world to not look when you go and show the local Palestinians and the Lebanese Shia how you will punish them when they dare to complain against you.

And you want us here to accept your classification of this thing under “moral compass”


February 25th, 2008, 9:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Why are you waffling? Why aren’t you accepting my outstretched hand? I’m trying to MOVE THE ARGUMENT FORWARD!

Instead, you are trying to go back to the old tactic, which gets us nowhere (according to you), namely by saying:

As for Israel’s “terrorism”, please suggest how you as Israel would fight Hizballah and convince me that your method is effective and also causes no colatteral damage and collective punishment. If there is such a method, Israel should certainly adopt it.

Here’s my response:

“As for Hizbullah’s “terrorism”, please suggest how you as Hizbullah would fight Israel and convince me that your method is effective and also causes no collateral damage and collective punishment. If there is such a method, Hizbullah should certainly adopt it.”

Ahhh, yes, but now you will say that Hizbullah deliberately targets civilians whereas Israel tries to hit militants only but occasionally hits civilians. And then I will say that Hizbullah has repeatedly stated that it is after military personnel, but when Israel kills Lebanese civilians, they have to retailiate against Israeli civilians…

And around and around and around we go…

I see that you actually have no desire to more the argument forward. You just want us to say that we’re bad and you’re good. Ausamaa may find me a self-hating Arab, but I’m not that self-hating.

February 25th, 2008, 9:36 pm


Shai said:


I couldn’t agree more. Peace is a far more effective means of “fighting” Hezbollah and Hamas. My guess, 10 years from now, Israeli diplomats are sitting at banquets with Hezbollah and Hamas diplomats, each representing their country, each understanding and accepting of each other. I can’t think of many great leaders in this world’s history that haven’t been labeled “terrorists” (or its equivalents). And yet, most of the world is at peace with each other. No reason on earth we can’t do the same!

February 25th, 2008, 9:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Muslim Brotherhood is about 50% of Syrians. Why did Hafez attack them in Hama? He should have not reacted and gotten into a dialogue with them and then they should have exchanged kisses and made peace. Do you know how much collateral damage was inflicted? In Hama Hafez killed more Syrians than Israel killed in all its wars with Syria.

Please stop with your ridiculous kumbaya arguments. The northern border of Israel has been quiet for 18 months because of the 2006 war.

February 25th, 2008, 9:38 pm


offended said:

This is what I’ve been trying to say since the emergence of AIG in this forum…
Instead of fighting Hezbollah or assassinating Mesha’l, try to defuse the reasons why Hezbollah and Hamas have become popular (or rather have existed) from the first place….
Some people won’t listen you know, they just want to persist in idiocy and blood thirst…

February 25th, 2008, 9:39 pm


Alex said:

AIG .. “The Muslim Brotherhood is about 50% of Syrians. Why did Hafez attack them in Hama?”

Are you trying to use the two wrongs make a right argument again??

I am totally ashamed of what happened in Hama. It was terrible. No way to justify it.

I see from your conversation with QN .. who is not a big fan of Assad I or II, that you are also not able to win friends… or even have a constructive conversation.


Some people are sensitive enough to learn … others are not.

February 25th, 2008, 9:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I am not willing to “reconcile” with Asad supporting people who blow up pubs. Call me crazy.

I’ve offered you a condemnation of Asad’s support of people who blow up pubs!!

In exchange for… your parallel condemnation of Israeli support for cluster bombs, collective punishment tactics, etc.

This is what is so comical about you. You refuse to condemn your own people for such ghastly tactics! Why? Because Asad supports terrorists.

This argument of yours is formally IDENTICAL to the one that you accused Alex of.

That was the whole point of this little game that I offered you, but you don’t even want to play it with me!

So let’s forget about moving the argument forward, and go back to chasing our tails, shall we?

Game Over.

February 25th, 2008, 9:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why does Hizballah need to fight Israel? Israel is out of Lebanon.

Again, is the following now your point:
You support Syria supporting Hamas and Hizballah because Israel will not admit that it uses terrorism also to fight Hamas and Hizballah.

I am just trying to zero in on the argument.

February 25th, 2008, 9:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What you offerred me is that I agree that there is no way Israel can fight Hamas and Hizballah without terrorism and collective punishment. That is patently false.

If Israel fights hizballah in Lebanon, is just the fighting itself terrorism? If cluster bombs are legal, why does Israel not have the right to use them?

Let’s not stop. Let’s ge to the bottom of this. I think this is an important debate.

February 25th, 2008, 9:46 pm


offended said:

ha ha ha ha !
(that’s a wild hysterical laughter)

MB is 50 % of Syrian people???? For **** sake AIG where do you get your info from?

Okay let me put it in a way that your puny mind could comprehend; MB didn’t articulate the case for national resistance that Hezbollah or Hamas did. They just wanted to oust the bunch of heretic Alawites from power. The overwhelming secular majority in Syria has refused them and refused their agenda, and this is the only reason they didn’t succeed…

February 25th, 2008, 9:47 pm


wizart said:


Food inflation is a high priority problem to solve in Syria as it’s a problem in most under-developped countries so in the face of economic sanctions it’s increasingly important for people there to learn how to eat better for less! certainly more important than in America where there’s an opportunity for more waste. Eating better is best revenge:)

The past 500 posts have not solved any pressing problems in Syria despite all the diligent efforts expended. If we talk about food for peace unstead perhaps people will have better return on time invested.

Food for peace initiative..
Make better food not better war machines..
Need Food Tasting Festivals Across Syria..
What’s new with the Arab capital of food/culture?

February 25th, 2008, 9:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Just so we’re clear, this is the offer (best price, for you, promise!)

I say: “Asad should not harbor terrorists like Mughniyyeh”

You say: “Israel should not use terrorist tactics like cluster bombs and bombing civilian areas.”

That’s the deal… take it or leave it.

To me, not all fighting is terrorism. Some things, as you say, are beyond the pale. Blowing up a pub or a bus or a discotheque is beyond the pale.

Dropping huge bombs on an entire neighborhood and strewing cluster bombs all over a countryside for little children to pick up, is also beyond the pale.

Call me crazy.

February 25th, 2008, 9:52 pm


Shai said:


I stand corrected – you’re right. 🙂 And to the rest of you gentlemen, and ladies, I bid you all good night, from this wonderful region of the planet. May you succeed in reaching the 500-mark (I think you will), and thereby set a record that’ll truly be difficult to defeat. But then again, our goals here are not to “defeat”, but rather to “achieve”. Peace, that is.

February 25th, 2008, 9:54 pm


Alex said:


After we have peace next year … we will be discussing a lot of food related topics.

And QN and Auamaa will still be arguing over their favorite meloukhiyah recipes.

February 25th, 2008, 9:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s make the argument easier for you. Let’s take something that Israel did and there is a consensus that it is illegal, which is where it built the fence. The international court said it is illegal so let’s assume it is.

So is your argument that because Israel does illegal things like building the fence, that Syria should support Mesh’al?

Or is your argument that until Israel admits that the fence is illegal, Syria should support Mesh’al?

Or is your argumet that until Israel changes the course of the fence or takes it down, Syria should support Mesh’al?

And if it is not one of the three above, then what is your argument?

Let me tell you that I don’t care if the fence is illegal. I think Israel should not move it. Is your position the mirror of mine? Are you saying that you don’t care that Mesh’al blows up pubs, you think that Asad should support him?

Let’s have a direct and honest discussion if we may.

February 25th, 2008, 9:56 pm


offended said:

Wizart, for the drooling dudes; there are couple of semi specialized food blogs written by Syrians.

If you want, I can give you some directions..: )

February 25th, 2008, 10:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You either believe that Asad should host Mugniyeh or you don’t. Is your belief dependent on what I believe? I really do not understand your deal. We are not negotiating, we are telling each other what we believe.

I will tell you what I believe:
Bombing Dahyeh in order to hit the underground Hizballah bunkers is not a terrorist activity if the civillians in the area are given fair warning. Using cluster bombs is legal and until cluster bombs are illegal, the number used does not matter as long as the bombs were fired at areas from which Hizballah was shooting rockets. If the IDF was not acting to the rules above, it is terrorism and the perpetrators should be harshly punished.

February 25th, 2008, 10:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What really is the point of a “direct and honest discussion” with you if you’re not even willing to accept any arbiters of judgment beyond what’s between your two ears?

First you tell me that cluster bombs are legal, so they cannot be considered terrorism. Then you tell me that you don’t care what the international court thinks of the fence. Why would I debate someone who can’t be persuaded of anything based on outside evidence, let alone public opinion.

This entire thought experiment has been about arriving (via a totally hypothetical and streamlined process) at a mutual recognition of unacceptable modes of conflict. You are not willing to do your share, not matter how many arguments I’ve offered you. So then, why would I engage in non-hypoethical arguments about the wall and Mesh`al and Nasrallah, etc. when I know there is no hope of you ever admitting that Israel is a partner in this sad history of violence?

That’s the difference between you and Shai (among many other things). You think that patriotism means never having to say that your country is guilty of crimes against others. So how can you expect other patriotic people to do the same?

February 25th, 2008, 10:08 pm


Enlightened said:


“As for revealing body language, Bashar is no stranger to giving other potentates a little love.”

I Think the exchange might go a little like this:

” Bashar you have the most beautiful of blue eyes”

Bahar ( 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,2)

“Your eyes”

Bashar to Mahmoud ( You crazy little man we are just dancing)


“Ok we’l talk now about your intentions to rule the world during our next dance break”

February 25th, 2008, 10:12 pm


offended said:

Are you sure QN is only 17?

He surely sounds like he’s 17 and a half…

February 25th, 2008, 10:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I really do have to go now. This has been fun… but a little pointless.

You say:

Bombing Dahyeh in order to hit the underground Hizballah bunkers is not a terrorist activity if the civillians in the area are given fair warning.

Funny. You think telling people to kindly step aside and go live in refugee camps while their homes and belongings are completely decimated does not constitute terrorism.

Hmmm. Then surely Hizbullah giving the residents of Haifa fair warning before shooting rockets at them also does not constitute terrorism?

Really, now the game is truly over. Kick yourself AIG, because you missed a golden opportunity to move the argument forward.


February 25th, 2008, 10:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course Israel is a partner in the violence. Where did I say it isn’t. There are many ways to perpetuate violence and Israel has certainly made mistakes.

Let’s make this VERY simple. I believe that Israel did not use terorrism in the war in Lebanon in 2006.

Now do you say: I believe Mesh’al is not a terrorist?

It is really quite simple. It is not about patriotism. It is about understanding what each other considers the appropriate means of using violence. So I will repeat: Israel had every right to use cluster bombs in Lebanon.

Now, I will like to know what tou think: Do you believe that Asad is right in hosting Mesh’al?

February 25th, 2008, 10:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You are evading the question.

As for Haifa, if Hizballah thought that Israel had military bunkers under civillian residential areas, it had every right to warn the citizens and bomb it.

Are you claiming that this is the case?

February 25th, 2008, 10:20 pm


Zenobia said:

QN is 17….and he has a wife???? very odd…..

February 25th, 2008, 10:24 pm


Enlightened said:


Read Murphy’s Law!

February 25th, 2008, 10:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Oh my God, never say never on this blog.

That’s right AIG.

If you say “I believe that Israel did not use terorrism in the war in Lebanon in 2006,” then I will accept your definition of terrorism, and therefore be justified in saying: “I believe that Mesh’al is not a terrorist.”

What I offered you was the condemnation of Mesh`al (or Mughniyyeh), in exchange for the consequent condemnation of Israel’s acts in Lebanon.

That’s what this is all about, namely, setting a limit on acceptable modes of violence and calling anything beyond the pale “terrorism” (or whatever).

AIG, I haven’t even pulled out the argument that is used by certain people, namely that almost every Israeli (with the exception of children) is actually a non-civilian, because of your universal draft. If you are wiling to use such ridiculous discriminations as legal/illegal, bunker/building, etc. then I could easily use such an argument, as advanced by some Hizbullah military strategists.

February 25th, 2008, 10:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ok, now I really have to go.


February 25th, 2008, 10:32 pm


Zenobia said:

I will add:

Terrorism is useless stupid word that has no meaning anymore as it has been indiscriminately applied…

Was Mugniyeh living in Syria or just visiting….i am not clear about this? Tons of syrians at the Iranian function? how do you know that?

Israel should just not be fighting Hezbollah, that simple. It is absurd. Fight the problem by eliminating the reasons for the provocations.

and nobody knows how to fight militias or ‘insurgents’ effectively. there never was a war like that where the power with the planes and massive firepower can win.
where has this ever happened.

just two days ago…. nice, play by play article in the NYTs about how the US military is admittedly getting ass kicked in the Korengali valley in Afghanistan by guys in “manjammies”…. round and round with no progress….
hello!…. and they bring in the planes to try to laser the ‘bad guys’ down…. but guess what ..they get frustrated, drop a few bombs on the houses where the ‘insurgents’ run into, and. then there is “collateral damage” of civilians….
so they go in on the ground…..and the manjammy guys ambush them and kill these decked out soldiers….
can you imagine how much money is spent for each go around….flying in the helicopter gunners….for no progress at all…

Israel has a choice…. be a tyrant or stop fighting as a solution.

February 25th, 2008, 10:33 pm


Alex said:


“As for Haifa, if Hizballah thought that Israel had military bunkers under civillian residential areas, it had every right to warn the citizens and bomb it.”

So .. when Hizbollah attacked the Israeli soldiers in occupied south Lebanon, they had every right to do it?

And if this is the case .. why did you retaliate and kill 1500 Lebanese people?


Yes, QN is 17. Here he is.

February 25th, 2008, 10:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not care about condemnations. I care about what you think and believe. So I will ask again just to make sure:

Because I think that what Israel did in Lebanon was not terrorism, you accept my definition of terrorism and therefore you believe Mesh’al is not a terrorist?

I will ask another way: Is what you believe what Mesh’al is influenced by what I think about the methods used in Lebanon?

February 25th, 2008, 10:39 pm


Zenobia said:

Alex, you are such a bullshitter….. you linked some picture of QN a week or two ago…..and it was a different kid…. !


February 25th, 2008, 10:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How would you get the Taliban out of Afghanistan without a war?
Please be serious.

February 25th, 2008, 10:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

While Israel was in Lebanon, and Hizballah was attacking soldiers in Lebanon, it had every right to do it.

But in July 2006 Hizballah crossed into Israel and attacked Israeli soldiers and it bombed civillian targets in the process. Because Hizbollah crossed the border, Israel had every right to retaliate.

February 25th, 2008, 10:46 pm


offended said:

Alex, it’s not that i don’t believe you…

But he seriously sounds like he’s 17 and a half

February 25th, 2008, 10:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s see where we stand and what we disagree on.

Alex, QN, Zenobia and Shai think Mesh’al is not a terrorist and should be supported by Asad. I disagree.

I think Israel did not use terrorism in Lebanon. You four disagree.

No problem, we will each make our position clear to the public and we will have to wait and see which position makes more sense to most people.

February 25th, 2008, 10:51 pm


Alex said:

I see .. So when a bit earlier Israel “crossed the border” of Lebanon a bit further than Hizbollah did … didn’t this give Hizbollah every right to hit Israeli civilians in Haifa long time ago? .. from 1981 to 2000 for example?… you know, the same way you killed 1500 Lebanese because “hizbollah crossed the border”?

Let’s compare:

1) Israel “crosses the border” in 1981 … all the way to Beirut
2) 18,000 Lebanese die as a reult of that border crossign (mostly civilians)


1) Hizbollah “crossed the border” in 2006 … few meters?
2) 1500 Lebanese civilians die.

It seems no matter what happens Israel will kill thousands.
(while trying its best not to do so of course)

And you are only interested in the definition of “terrorism” and who “supports terrorism”.

February 25th, 2008, 10:51 pm


Enlightened said:

Murphy’s Law still applies To AIG Ladies and Gentlemen

February 25th, 2008, 10:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ok, I lied… I’m back.

Yes, AIG, that’s what I believe.

It makes no sense to have a debate if we don’t harmonize our terms. I could call you a terrorist and you could call me a terrorist, while our wives and children call us heroes. That’s what happens when we each have our own private definitions.

If we are going to harmonize our definitions and I have to accept yours (because you have made it clear that you don’t accept mine), then Khaled Mesh`al is not a terrorist.

If we accept mine [remember, this is all hypothetical], then Mesh`al is a terrorist, and so is Dan Halutz, who famously said: “If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.”

If that’s not the definition of collective punishment, I don’t know what is.

February 25th, 2008, 10:57 pm


Alex said:

Zenobia you are such a liar!

it was not a week or two ago!!!

I expect an apology.

February 25th, 2008, 10:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The fact that any party targets civillians does not give the other party the right to target civillians.

You can complain till kingdom come. It is a sad and true fact, that the party on whose ground the war is fought will have the most collateral damage. If the fighting is in Beirut then of course buildings in Beirut will be damaged and civiallians in Beirut will be inadvertently killed, not those in Tel-Aviv.

That is why since 73 Asad has made sure that all wars were fought in Lebanon and not in Syria. It is really quite simple.

I am simply interested to know if YOU think Mesh’al is a terrorist or not? What do you think? It is really a simple question.

February 25th, 2008, 10:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok then, let’s take your definition that both Mesh’al and Halutz are terrorists (with which I don’t agree).

Is your position that Mesha’al (terrorist according to you) should be hosted and supported by Asad?

Or is your position the Asad should support and finance Mesh’al until Israel condemns or puts in jail Halutz?

If not, the two above, what is your position?

February 25th, 2008, 11:05 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Of course he’s a goddamn terrorist! He blows up buses, for Christ’s sake!

But so are your beloved IDF commanders who kill Lebanese children out of frustration.

And we’re back where we started.

I’m going to dinner.


February 25th, 2008, 11:05 pm


Alex said:


That is why since 73 Asad has made sure that all wars were fought in Lebanon and not in Syria. It is really quite simple.

No that won’t work… this will not make QN switch to your side.

Especially that unlike you I am immediately willing to say that it is sad that smaller countries (like Lebanon) have to pay for the fight between the neighbors who have larger armies who can not fight directly anymore (mutually assured deterrence) … so, Assad is not willing to fight Israel diretly, like Israel is not willig to fight Syria directly (so far) .. because both expect such a war to go out of their control.

We, in Syria, suffered the same .. we fought Israel in 67 and in 73 and even in 81 (in Lebanon) … at the time THE USSR used us the same way we use Lebanon today.

Unlike you, I am not happy with that … that’s why I want COMPREHENSIVE peace NOW … not a separate settlement between Syria and Israel that ignores the situation in Lebanon.

I am simply interested to know if YOU think Mesh’al is a terrorist or not? What do you think? It is really a simple question.

I think that

1) Mashaal is generally more moderate than the rest of Hamas … Damascus had a mostly ositive influence on Hamas… Damascus will have even more positive influence on Hamas when there is a serious peace sponsor in Washington.

2) Hamas often relied on terrorism .. they targeted civilians. I completely deplore that … no matter how many Palestinian civilians Israelis murdered (many many more)

February 25th, 2008, 11:09 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I know you think the IDF commanders are terrorists. We are already past that. We are now trying to figure out what follows. Therefore my questions are relevant:

Is your position that Mesha’al should be hosted and supported by Asad?

Or is your position the Asad should support and finance Mesh’al until Israel condemns or puts in jail Halutz and other IDF commanders?

If not the two above, what is your position?

February 25th, 2008, 11:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You didn’t answer my question, but I would prefer that you answer this one:
Do you think Asad should be hosting Mesh’al? Do you think this is a good move for the Asad regime?

February 25th, 2008, 11:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And by the way Alex, Mesh’al is the one responsible for targeting civillians he has said so himself. He is the leader of the military arm of Hamas, the part of Hamas responsible for the attacks. There is no one more radical than him in Hamas.

February 25th, 2008, 11:22 pm


Alex said:


I answered your question .. we KNOW that Hamas ordered many terrorist attacks on innocent Jews. So I deplored Hamas’ occasional reliance on terrorism.

I do not KNOW if Mashal ordered any Hamas operation … so I will not accuse him of things that I am not sure of.

And I answered your new question as well if Hosting Mashaal is good?) … if it helps moderates Hamas, then I am for it or for any new arrangement that allows Mashaal to be elsewhere (qatar?) while maintaining Syria’s excellent relations with Hamas and half the Palestinian people who support Hamas.

February 25th, 2008, 11:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How does hosting Hamas help moderate them? They killed 1000 Israeli civillians while being hosted by Asad.

You don’t KNOW that Mesh’al is the leader of the military arm of Hamas and is responsible for the suicide operations attacking civillians? Are you joking?

February 25th, 2008, 11:27 pm


Naji said:

OK… I just came back from my dinner with one of the participants in this conference… Quite fascinating… apparently a high-level, quasi-official affair (Joschka Fischer and our Moallem were in attendence) strongly opposed by the Americans and the French… so the Germans kept it quite and the Saudies boycotted…! The whole thing was no more than 30 people: Chatham House (not sure if our Rime was there!?), Iranian think-tank close to the regime, etc…

Anyway… I am no reporter, but Sami Mobayed and Flynt Everett apparently participated and I am sure they will give a much better account…

February 25th, 2008, 11:28 pm


Alex said:


I don’t know but I understand that he is the “political” leader of Hamas.

I have a question for you … King Hussein of Jordan was Israel’s closest friend .. why did n’t Israel insist that he kicks out Mashaal from Amman?

Because kicking out Mashaal from damascus won’t make a differenec… Hamas will be Hamas, only more radical and less reasonable.

You just want to take that “card” out of Bashar’s hand .. that’s basically it.

And I won’t discuss how Israle helped create Hamas int he first place …

February 25th, 2008, 11:36 pm


Enlightened said:


“And I won’t discuss how Israel helped create Hamas int he first place”

Alex do ; then he might see the connection and the absurdity in his thinking! But then again The Dark lord of the Sith might use the force and spin it into something else!

February 25th, 2008, 11:40 pm


Naji said:

By the way, according to my friend, the one position that the Syrians made absolutely clear at this conference is that they are ready, willing, and able to go to peace without the Palestinians this time…!! They echoed Alex’s nuance about doing it without the Palestinians, but not at their expense… a nuance that I find contorted and impossible, but that my friend (considered an expert and hence invited) found new and interesting…

February 25th, 2008, 11:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Israel tried killing Mesh’al while he was in Jordan! Not just kick him out.

And making sure Mesh’al is not in Syria will make a huge difference. If he has to go farther away or if no country will accept him, he will have much more difficulty commanding the Hamas operations. Terrorists need a base and a country to host them. Otherwise, they find it very difficult to operate.

Yes, Israel helped Hamas get going, but as a political organization and not a military one. It was looking for local people with support in order to come to agreement with instead of having to deal with Arafat. In retrospect, it was a mistake. What does that have to do with Mesh’al blowing up busses?

February 25th, 2008, 11:57 pm


Enlightened said:

“Yes, Israel helped Hamas get going,”

I think we are making some headway, not a giant leap for mankind like the lunar landing, but it is important to recognize this small step as significant, I wish that QN was around to witness this, better still if he is having a garlic shawarma for dinner he might just gag!

February 26th, 2008, 12:04 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Unlike you, I do not live in denial. The facts are what they are. Israel tried many times over the years to “create” local leaders in the the West Bank and Gaza so as not to deal with Arafat. Hamas was one of the experiments, the “village conferences” was another that you do not know about. Israel never imagined that Hamas would become what it is. Its vision for Hamas was like that of religious parties in Israel. The reality was different.

Why do you think that stating a known fact that no one disagrees with, we are advancing?

The problem is that you Enlightened think it is ok for Syria to host Mesh’al because Israel is also terrorist according to you. Or maybe you would say that if your were honest but then you would not be enlightened would you? Kind of an uncomfortable position to be in, no?

February 26th, 2008, 12:13 am


Qifa Nabki said:

QN is back from dinner, and sees you’re all still chasing your tails.

So sad, really, when we could have agreed about 100 comments ago.

AIG said:

Is your position that Mesha’al should be hosted and supported by Asad?

Or is your position the Asad should support and finance Mesh’al until Israel condemns or puts in jail Halutz and other IDF commanders?

If not the two above, what is your position?

AIG, my position is that, in an ideal world, all of the participants in this sad history would be held responsible for their actions, by a single authority. If you want to condemn Mesh`al and Asad etc. you have to be willing to let Halutz, Sharon, Olmert, etc. also stand trial. Under such an arrangement, I would have no problem allowing murderers and extremists on both sides to hang for their crimes.

This is my position.

Since we don’t live in an ideal world, then I’m willing to let Asad go on supporting Hamas and Hizbullah, since without these groups, Israel would be able to exercise its terrorism unchecked. It would still be in South Lebanon, it would still be in Gaza, etc.

February 26th, 2008, 12:27 am


Enlightened said:

You AiG are being a bit presumptious about what I think; so let me honestly tell you so you are left in no doubt about my denial (lol)

That was not the original argument you were having with QN!

1. Personally I think that Meshaal is a terrorist, so is Mughniya, so is Abu Nidal, so is Carlos the Jackal etc etc etc etc

2. Equating Israeli government actions as perfectly legal as you did, by targetting innocent civilians (and UN posts, il throw this one in) as perfectly legitimate no matter how you spin it, does not wash with me (sorry)

3. Both sides use of violence to achieve their stated aims (Both Arab and Jew) is to be abhorred. Neither side has the moral high ground.

4. The difference between you and me is I can see the situation for what it is, and you live in denial, the uncomfortable position is yours AIG I am afraid to say.

5. Sadly the only way that peace will ever be achieved AIG, is if there are less people like you in the MID East AIG, and more people like me.

Enlightened now AIG?


February 26th, 2008, 12:27 am


Enlightened said:

QN: NOW lebanon Article whats your take on this, first steps in Political Party building ?

The ties that bind
March 14 establishes its General Secretariat
David Kenner, NOW Staff , February 25, 2008

The March 14 coalition is conventionally described as the temporary intersection of many diverse interests and ideologies within Lebanon’s political landscape. The currents that make up the movement originated from different parts of the country, the thinking goes, and will diverge again in the future. However, leaders from across the March 14 coalition are attempting to create an alliance to outlast short-term political developments. Their efforts have proceeded in fits and starts, but they reached a landmark with the establishment of the March 14 General Secretariat a month ago.

Former March 14 MP Fares Soueid, who serves as the General Secretary, described how the movement has evolved over the years. In 2005, March 14 leaders “thought that this movement was only triggered by the assassination of [former Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri, and the goal of this movement was the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.” As the coalition has found itself entrenched in a drawn-out struggle against the opposition, it found the need to organize its efforts. Hezbollah’s high level of organization contrasted greatly with the informal alliance that bound together the pro-government parties. “The Secretariat is now the center of the coordination of the March 14 movement,” stated Soueid.

Around twenty high-ranking officials in all of the major pro-government parties serve as members of the General Secretariat. They have recently been assembling as often as three times a week, to coordinate their response to political developments. Tripoli MP Mustafa Allouch, who represents the Future Movement, explained why the institution was sorely needed. “Sometimes we have differences with regards with how to respond to daily events or remarks,” he noted. “If members want to go to the media and start talking about the issue, they can go back to the Secretariat to have a clear idea of the consensus of March 14.”

The General Secretariat was envisioned as a professional political team that could act as the public face of the March 14 movement. They have organized visits of pro-government parliamentarians to Cairo and Europe to discuss the crisis in Lebanon with foreign leaders. They also play a growing role in Lebanon’s internal debate. Members of the General Secretariat have recently met with trade unions sympathetic to March 14 and worked to organize Lebanese youth movements. “We want to be part of the dialogue with those who are still searching for the truth,” stated Allouch.

The Secretariat could also play a role in resolving more fundamental differences between the factions of March 14. The parties which share the most in common have, paradoxically, been one of the greatest sources of division within the March 14 Movement. “The majority of problems are between the Christian leaders of March 14, not between the Christian and Muslim leaders. It is a competition between them,” explained Soueid.

Indeed, March 14 is still far from a unified political party. Specifically, Soueid noted how the rivalries between the Christian leaders, who are vying to be the dominant Christian party in the government, have placed the March 14 movement at a competitive disadvantage from the opposition. “What we have opposing March 14 is a highly sophisticated, criminal party,” commented Soueid. “We can’t continue with the disconnected behavior of Samir Geagea, the behavior of Amin Gemayel, Boutros Harb, Nassib Lahoud – all the leaders who want to be elected president and know March 14 could be a good lift for all of them.”

March 14 leaders insist that a great deal of progress has been made over the past three years to unite the movement. It was not that long ago, for example, that many members of March 14 were seen as polar opposites on Lebanon’s political spectrum. “To join Walid Jumblatt with the Lebanese Forces was a very hard job because we had something like 10,000 people killed during the War of the Mountain. And during part of the time when Samir Geagea was in jail, Walid Jumblatt was close to the Syrian regime,” remembered Soueid. Only a series of meetings, held just before Hariri’s assassination in 2005, were able to truly reconcile the two political forces. Now, through the General Secretariat, the two parties coordinate their daily statements and share a broad political vision.

Members of the General Secretariat, however, are quick to play down any suggestions that March 14 is poised to become a single political party. “We are aware that March 14 is a coalition, not a homogenous political party,” explained Antoine Haddad, a member of the General Secretariat representing the Democratic Renewal movement headed by Nassib Lahoud. “We need just to implement our platform, which is limited to achieving the independence of the country and trying to convince the parliamentary minority to return to Lebanese considerations. If we succeed in these two missions, which are not easy tasks, I think this would be an achievement for the country.”

Nevertheless, the increasing coordination of the March 14 parties will only serve to strengthen the bonds tying them together. The members of the General Secretariat see their efforts as the next, but not the final, step on this path. The goal is to transform the March 14 coalition into a movement united by a common vision of Lebanon’s future, rather than merely by a common enemy. It is a long, gradual process fraught with pitfalls; but, after all, the March 14 leaders are used to that sort of struggle.

February 26th, 2008, 12:51 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I now understand your position. You condone terrorism as a way of fighting because you think it is effective and works against Israel. Suit yourself. I am sure that based on this logic you also support the insurgents in Iraq that are killing Americans and civillians. After all, without them, the US will surely not consider leaving. And of course, any Israeli “terrorism” is really dwarfed by the American “terrorism” in Iraq. No?

You insist that Israel is using terrorism and that basically any Western army when it fights is a terrorist organization. I do not agree. At least we know where we stand.

February 26th, 2008, 12:59 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are a waffler.
Do you support Asad hosting Mesh’al in Syria? Yes or no.
Is this question so difficult to answer?

February 26th, 2008, 1:01 am


Enlightened said:


February 26th, 2008, 1:05 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why don’t you humor me? Perhaps I missed one of your posts?
Do you support Asad hosting Mesh’al in Syria? Yes or no.

February 26th, 2008, 1:09 am


Enlightened said:


You AiG are being a bit presumptious about what I think; so let me honestly tell you so you are left in no doubt about my denial (lol)

That was not the original argument you were having with QN!

1. Personally I think that Meshaal is a terrorist, so is Mughniya, so is Abu Nidal, so is Carlos the Jackal etc etc etc etc

2. Equating Israeli government actions as perfectly legal as you did, by targetting innocent civilians (and UN posts, il throw this one in) as perfectly legitimate no matter how you spin it, does not wash with me (sorry)

3. Both sides use of violence to achieve their stated aims (Both Arab and Jew) is to be abhorred. Neither side has the moral high ground.

4. The difference between you and me is I can see the situation for what it is, and you live in denial, the uncomfortable position is yours AIG I am afraid to say.

5. Sadly the only way that peace will ever be achieved AIG, is if there are less people like you in the MID East AIG, and more people like me.

Enlightened now AIG?

February 26th, 2008, 1:14 am


Naji said:

Everyone has probaly read this essay already, but somehow I am reminded of it tonight…!!?

Prospect Magazine, May 2007.
The middle of nowhere
by Edward Luttwak
Western analysts are forever bleating about the strategic importance of the middle east. But despite its oil, this backward region is less relevant than ever, and it would be better for everyone if the rest of the world learned to ignore it

Edward Luttwak is senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC

Why are middle east experts so unfailingly wrong? The lesson of history is that men never learn from history, but middle east experts, like the rest of us, should at least learn from their past mistakes. Instead, they just keep repeating them.

The first mistake is “five minutes to midnight” catastrophism. The late King Hussein of Jordan was the undisputed master of this genre. Wearing his gravest aspect, he would warn us that with patience finally exhausted the Arab-Israeli conflict was about to explode, that all past conflicts would be dwarfed by what was about to happen unless, unless… And then came the remedy—usually something rather tame when compared with the immense catastrophe predicted, such as resuming this or that stalled negotiation, or getting an American envoy to the scene to make the usual promises to the Palestinians and apply the usual pressures on Israel. We read versions of the standard King Hussein speech in countless newspaper columns, hear identical invocations in the grindingly repetitive radio and television appearances of the usual middle east experts, and are now faced with Hussein’s son Abdullah periodically repeating his father’s speech almost verbatim.

What actually happens at each of these “moments of truth”—and we may be approaching another one—is nothing much; only the same old cyclical conflict which always restarts when peace is about to break out, and always dampens down when the violence becomes intense enough. The ease of filming and reporting out of safe and comfortable Israeli hotels inflates the media coverage of every minor affray. But humanitarians should note that the dead from Jewish-Palestinian fighting since 1921 amount to fewer than 100,000—about as many as are killed in a season of conflict in Darfur.

Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war. And as for the impact of the conflict on oil prices, it was powerful in 1973 when the Saudis declared embargoes and cut production, but that was the first and last time that the “oil weapon” was wielded. For decades now, the largest Arab oil producers have publicly foresworn any linkage between politics and pricing, and an embargo would be a disaster for their oil-revenue dependent economies. In any case, the relationship between turmoil in the middle east and oil prices is far from straightforward. As Philip Auerswald recently noted in the American Interest, between 1981 and 1999—a period when a fundamentalist regime consolidated power in Iran, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war within view of oil and gas installations, the Gulf war came and went and the first Palestinian intifada raged—oil prices, adjusted for inflation, actually fell. And global dependence on middle eastern oil is declining: today the region produces under 30 per cent of the world’s crude oil, compared to almost 40 per cent in 1974-75. In 2005 17 per cent of American oil imports came from the Gulf, compared to 28 per cent in 1975, and President Bush used his 2006 state of the union address to announce his intention of cutting US oil imports from the middle east by three quarters by 2025.

Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Muscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence between traditionalists and Islamists, and between Sunnis and Shia, nor would it assuage the perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists towards the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries.

Arab-Israeli catastrophism is wrong twice over, first because the conflict is contained within rather narrow boundaries, and second because the Levant is just not that important any more.

The second repeated mistake is the Mussolini syndrome. Contemporary documents prove beyond any doubt what is now hard to credit: serious people, including British and French military chiefs, accepted Mussolini’s claims to great power status because they believed that he had serious armed forces at his command. His army divisions, battleships and air squadrons were dutifully counted to assess Italian military power, making some allowance for their lack of the most modern weapons but not for their more fundamental refusal to fight in earnest. Having conceded Ethiopia to win over Mussolini, only to lose him to Hitler as soon as the fighting started, the British discovered that the Italian forces quickly crumbled in combat. It could not be otherwise, because most Italian soldiers were unwilling conscripts from the one-mule peasantry of the south or the almost equally miserable sharecropping villages of the north.

Exactly the same mistake keeps being made by the fraternity of middle east experts. They persistently attribute real military strength to backward societies whose populations can sustain excellent insurgencies but not modern military forces.

In the 1960s, it was Nasser’s Egypt that was mistaken for a real military power just because it had received many aircraft, tanks and guns from the Soviet Union, and had many army divisions and air squadrons. In May 1967, on the eve of war, many agreed with the prediction of Field Marshal Montgomery, then revisiting the El Alamein battlefield, that the Egyptians would defeat the Israelis forthwith; even the more cautious never anticipated that the former would be utterly defeated by the latter in just a few days. In 1973, with much more drama, it still took only three weeks to reach the same outcome.

In 1990 it was the turn of Iraq to be hugely overestimated as a military power. Saddam Hussein had more equipment than Nasser ever accumulated, and could boast of having defeated much more populous Iran after eight years of war. In the months before the Gulf war, there was much anxious speculation about the size of the Iraqi army—again, the divisions and regiments were dutifully counted as if they were German divisions on the eve of D-day, with a separate count of the “elite” Republican Guards, not to mention the “super-elite” Special Republican Guards—and it was feared that Iraq’s bombproof aircraft shelters and deep bunkers would survive any air attack.

That much of this was believed at some level we know from the magnitude of the coalition armies that were laboriously assembled, including 575,000 US troops, 43,000 British, 14,663 French and 4,500 Canadian, and which incidentally constituted the sacrilegious infidel presence on Arabian soil that set off Osama bin Laden on his quest for revenge. In the event, two weeks of precision bombing were enough to paralyse Saddam’s entire war machine, which scarcely tried to resist the ponderous ground offensive when it came. At no point did the Iraqi air force try to fight, and all those tanks that were painstakingly counted served mostly for target practice. A real army would have continued to resist for weeks or months in the dug-in positions in Kuwait, even without air cover, but Saddam’s army was the usual middle eastern façade without fighting substance.

Now the Mussolini syndrome is at work over Iran. All the symptoms are present, including tabulated lists of Iran’s warships, despite the fact that most are over 30 years old; of combat aircraft, many of which (F-4s, Mirages, F-5s, F-14s) have not flown in years for lack of spare parts; and of divisions and brigades that are so only in name. There are awed descriptions of the Pasdaran revolutionary guards, inevitably described as “elite,” who do indeed strut around as if they have won many a war, but who have actually fought only one—against Iraq, which they lost. As for Iran’s claim to have defeated Israel by Hizbullah proxy in last year’s affray, the publicity was excellent but the substance went the other way, with roughly 25 per cent of the best-trained men dead, which explains the tomb-like silence and immobility of the once rumbustious Hizbullah ever since the ceasefire.

Then there is the new light cavalry of Iranian terrorism that is invoked to frighten us if all else fails. The usual middle east experts now explain that if we annoy the ayatollahs, they will unleash terrorists who will devastate our lives, even though 30 years of “death to America” invocations and vast sums spent on maintaining a special international terrorism department have produced only one major bombing in Saudi Arabia, in 1996, and two in the most permissive environment of Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994, along with some assassinations of exiles in Europe.

It is true enough that if Iran’s nuclear installations are bombed in some overnight raid, there is likely to be some retaliation, but we live in fortunate times in which we have only the irritant of terrorism instead of world wars to worry about—and Iran’s added contribution is not likely to leave much of an impression. There may be good reasons for not attacking Iran’s nuclear sites—including the very slow and uncertain progress of its uranium enrichment effort—but its ability to strike back is not one of them. Even the seemingly fragile tanker traffic down the Gulf and through the straits of Hormuz is not as vulnerable as it seems—Iran and Iraq have both tried to attack it many times without much success, and this time the US navy stands ready to destroy any airstrip or jetty from which attacks are launched.

As for the claim that the “Iranians” are united in patriotic support for the nuclear programme, no such nationality even exists. Out of Iran’s population of 70m or so, 51 per cent are ethnically Persian, 24 per cent are Turks (“Azeris” is the regime’s term), with other minorities comprising the remaining quarter. Many of Iran’s 16-17m Turks are in revolt against Persian cultural imperialism; its 5-6m Kurds have started a serious insurgency; the Arab minority detonates bombs in Ahvaz; and Baluch tribesmen attack gendarmes and revolutionary guards. If some 40 per cent of the British population were engaged in separatist struggles of varying intensity, nobody would claim that it was firmly united around the London government. On top of this, many of the Persian majority oppose the theocratic regime, either because they have become post-Islamic in reaction to its many prohibitions, or because they are Sufis, whom the regime now persecutes almost as much as the small Baha’i minority. So let us have no more reports from Tehran stressing the country’s national unity. Persian nationalism is a minority position in a country where half the population is not even Persian. In our times, multinational states either decentralise or break up more or less violently; Iran is not decentralising, so its future seems highly predictable, while in the present not much cohesion under attack is to be expected.

The third and greatest error repeated by middle east experts of all persuasions, by Arabophiles and Arabophobes alike, by Turcologists and by Iranists, is also the simplest to define. It is the very odd belief that these ancient nations are highly malleable. Hardliners keep suggesting that with a bit of well-aimed violence (“the Arabs only understand force”) compliance will be obtained. But what happens every time is an increase in hostility; defeat is followed not by collaboration, but by sullen non-cooperation and active resistance too. It is not hard to defeat Arab countries, but it is mostly useless. Violence can work to destroy dangerous weapons but not to induce desired changes in behaviour.

Softliners make exactly the same mistake in reverse. They keep arguing that if only this or that concession were made, if only their policies were followed through to the end and respect shown, or simulated, hostility would cease and a warm Mediterranean amity would emerge. Yet even the most thinly qualified of middle east experts must know that Islam, as with any other civilisation, comprehends the sum total of human life, and that unlike some others it promises superiority in all things for its believers, so that the scientific and technological and cultural backwardness of the lands of Islam generates a constantly renewed sense of humiliation and of civilisational defeat. That fully explains the ubiquity of Muslim violence, and reveals the futility of the palliatives urged by the softliners.

The operational mistake that middle east experts keep making is the failure to recognise that backward societies must be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do in Sicily, once they recognised that maxi-trials merely handed over control to a newer and smarter mafia of doctors and lawyers. With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history—the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them.

That brings us to the mistake that the rest of us make. We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts—excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world’s population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all. Not many of us would care to work if we were citizens of Abu Dhabi, with lots of oil money for very few citizens. But Saudi Arabia’s 27m inhabitants also live largely off the oil revenues that trickle down to them, leaving most of the work to foreign technicians and labourers: even with high oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s annual per capita income, at $14,000, is only about half that of oil-free Israel.

Saudi Arabia has a good excuse, for it was a land of oasis hand-farmers and Bedouin pastoralists who cannot be expected to become captains of industry in a mere 50 years. Much more striking is the oil parasitism of once much more accomplished Iran. It exports only 2.5m barrels a day as compared to Saudi Arabia’s 8m, yet oil still accounts for 80 per cent of Iran’s exports because its agriculture and industry have become so unproductive.

The middle east was once the world’s most advanced region, but these days its biggest industries are extravagant consumption and the venting of resentment. According to the UN’s 2004 Arab human development report, the region boasts the second lowest adult literacy rate in the world (after sub-Saharan Africa) at just 63 per cent. Its dependence on oil means that manufactured goods account for just 17 per cent of exports, compared to a global average of 78 per cent. Moreover, despite its oil wealth, the entire middle east generated under 4 per cent of global GDP in 2006—less than Germany.

Unless compelled by immediate danger, we should therefore focus on the old and new lands of creation in Europe and America, in India and east Asia—places where hard-working populations are looking ahead instead of dreaming of the past.

February 26th, 2008, 1:15 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Cute. Mischaracterizing the arguments of your opponent is what they teach you in first-grade debating school. It saddens me to see you stoop so low, just because you (a) can’t admit that bombing civilian areas and using cluster bombs is terroristic, and (b) because you lost the subsequent debate.

As I said, my position is that all acts of violence that go beyond the pale are to be condemned in no uncertain terms. If you are going to use terror against people, they have to be able to resist. What are they supposed to do? Complain to the UN? They tried that, and Israel didn’t give a damn. Tell me, how should Hizbullah have liberated their land?

You can nit-pick, split hairs, and play word games with me, but at the end of the day, you are basically arguing for positions that strain credulity, namely:

1. Destroying civilian areas is not terrorism, because you asked people to leave their homes behind before you turned them into rubble. Somehow, over 1000 civilians were killed anyway.

2. Dropping a million cluster bombs in the final two or three days of an armed conflict is not terrorism, because cluster bombs are legal.

I’m sorry AIG, but as long as you can actually look yourself in the mirror and believe this, then we really are on completely different planets.

February 26th, 2008, 1:25 am


Akbar Palace said:

Tell me, how should Hizbullah have liberated their land?


Perhaps they should have liberated their land the same way the Egyptians and Jordanians did:

A peace treaty.

But that’s the difference between a jihadist terror organization and the Israelis, no jihadist terror organization has ever contemplated making peace with anyone.

February 26th, 2008, 1:30 am


Akbar Palace said:

Tell me, how should Hizbullah have liberated their land?


Perhaps they should have liberated their land the same way the Egyptians and Jordanians did:

A peace treaty.

But that’s the difference between a jihadist terror organization and the Israelis, no jihadist terror organization has ever contemplated making peace with anyone.

February 26th, 2008, 1:30 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Let me tell you a story, AIG, just to turn all this theory into reality.

A friend of mine returned to Lebanon after the war with his family (who live in the Gulf), to check on their house in their village in the south.

It was destroyed, along with every house on their street (in a village with only a couple of streets). Why? Presumably, the Israelis determined that there was a Hizbullah fighter hiding out there.

My friend’s house was completely destroyed, burned. His family’s photographs, heirlooms, gone. His own book collection – which he had begun as a young child, and which numbered over 4000 texts by the time he left Lebanon to come to the U.S. for his Ph.D. — was completely destroyed.

And this does not even recall the large number of people who were killed or maimed in that village.

How meaningful is this favorite term of yours, “terrorism”, when you can so easily manipulate it to rule out such forms of aggression?

February 26th, 2008, 1:32 am


Enlightened said:

Naji Sad isn’t it?

However if the region is left alone, it will become more backward than it already is? It is only the engagement and interaction with the rest of the world that will lift the ME out of its predicament!

February 26th, 2008, 1:33 am


Qifa Nabki said:


We can keep playing the bludgeon your opponent with self-fashioned categories game, if you like.

Think fast:

“Should Sharon be considered a terrorist b/c of Sabra and Shatila?”

Yes/no answer! Don’t waffle!

If yes, then Sharon is a terrorist. We agree!

If no, then my conclusion must be:

You support the killing of innocent civilians, and don’t consider that to be terrorism. I don’t. At least we know where we stand.

Ok, gotta go. Let’s have this same meaningless conversation again tomorrow.

February 26th, 2008, 1:39 am


norman said:

It is sad to see how Israelis like AIG give bad impression of the Jewish people , As long as Israel treats it Neighbors the way it does Israelis should be always worry about the next day.

February 26th, 2008, 1:59 am


norman said:

Mossa failed,

موسى يغادر بيروت دون الوصول إلى اتفاق

غادر الأمين العام لجامعة الدول العربية عمرو موسى لبنان بعد فشله في إقناع الموالاة والمعارضة في التوصل إلى اتفاق ينهي الفراغ الرئاسي الحاصل في لبنان.


February 26th, 2008, 2:43 am


norman said:

Syrian Ambassador In Pittsburgh For Speech; Rips Peace Summit
Moustapha Sees No Middle East Peace Under Bush

POSTED: 2:45 pm EST February 25, 2008
UPDATED: 3:17 pm EST February 25, 2008

PITTSBURGH — Syria’s ambassador to the United States will travel to Pittsburgh on Monday to speak at a free event at Carnegie Mellon University.

Imad Moustapha’s speech — “U.S., Syria and The New Old Middle East: Confrontation or Cooperation?” — starts at 6:30 p.m. in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center.

Earlier in the day, Moustapha told The Associated Press that he doesn’t think there will be an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this year, despite the November summit that was overseen by President George W. Bush in Annapolis, Md.

Moustapha said there is no enthusiasm within the Bush administration to make progress in the Middle East, and he called the Annapolis summit “an exercise in public relations” where “people were smiling and saying cheese.”

He also said Palestinians are disappointed by a lack of progress in recent one-on-one talks with Israel.

The U.S. only makes positive statements about Syria when it serves a political purpose, and there are powerful forces within the Bush administration who believe “chaos is constructive” in the Middle East, Moustapha said.

“I don’t think there is a unanimous belief among the administration, across the departments of this administration, that peace should be the path forward in the Middle East,” he said.

Tom Casey, a spokesman with the U.S. State Department, rejected Moustapha’s claims.

“I don’t know who he is referring to. I certainly know that we have serious and ongoing concerns about Syria’s unconstructive role in the region,” Casey said.

The White House accuses Syria of harboring terrorists, supporting Hezbollah and allowing insurgents to freely cross its border into Iraq.

Moustapha said Hezbollah leaders will remain active in Syria despite the mysterious killing earlier this month of one of the group’s top commanders, Imad Mughniyeh.

“I think if anyone has to answer for their promotion of chaos and instability in the region, it is most likely the Syrian government,” Casey said.


Related Links:

Moustapha’s Blog
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Copyright 2008 by ThePittsburghChannel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

News headlines on WTAE

February 26th, 2008, 2:49 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Guys, we’re so close! Five away from 500!

AIG, AP, Enlightened, anybody! Say something!

What do I have to do, pick a fight?

Alright, if I must…

I vote to rename this blog from Syria Comment to Greater Lebanon Comment.

So there.

February 26th, 2008, 3:29 am


norman said:


Now you crossed the line!.

February 26th, 2008, 3:41 am


norman said:

According to history until Lebanon was established , there was only Lebanon mountains In Syria , that is until the French carved that part and called it Lebanon.


I feel your pain , keep trying .

February 26th, 2008, 3:46 am


norman said:

To all ,

Can we have a meeting between christmas and the new year, Business is slow at that time.

February 26th, 2008, 3:49 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree… that was totally out of line.

I’m sorry.

February 26th, 2008, 3:56 am


Qifa Nabki said:


February 26th, 2008, 3:56 am


Enlightened said:


We are close, but if you subtract the meaningless and inane dialogue we had with AIG, we still have a long way to go


how was your garlic shawarma dinner?

What do I have to do, pick a fight?

ok Ive got one “You terrorist Syrian Baathi Sympathiser”

is that bait was it good or should I try harder?

February 26th, 2008, 3:57 am


Zenobia said:

You guys are sick.
500 comments later, and you are still arguing the same things over and over again.

Does it really matter WHO IS A TERRORIST?????? or who is the worst terrorist or is a terrorist state or the most guilty of all??


Isn’t all the violence bad? whether it comes from an army wearing uniforms and dropping bombs….
or a militia hiding in tunnels and shooting rockets out of launchers……
cave dwelling men in ‘manjammies’ staging ambushes……..
a guy wearing a ton of TNT blowing himself and everybody around him up………

Isn’t it allll pretty much SICK????

or who has god on their side? or even who has the power of the world on their side?

What is the point of debating what is the “appropriate” or “justifiable” level of violence?, as if there is some line….that defines everything….
because it is obvious….that there is no line…. the line can always be moved…. under some created justification. Everyone defines and places the lines of acceptable violence where they see fit.
If there are any legitimate lines at all- they may only be drawn by a world court- if we had one….an unbiased…. unfettered….. uncorrupted- impartial world court…or body..

yet, the lack of this reality is hardly a reason to go on making up our lines as we go…. debating whether certain violence is warranted or not….whether torturing people is ok, whether cluster bombing is justified. whether if the violence is against soldiers or civilians it is acceptable. Mugniyeh planned the bombing of 241 soldiers…. and those aren’t civilians…. was that justifiable warfare then? and is Israeli bombing a Red Cross truck if it was in the wrong place according to their warning….warranted and justified?

Isn’t this a despicable line of debate?

Wouldn’t we rather find an end to it allll????
Is there any violence that doesn’t 90% of the time.. simply bring a reaction of more of the same. Endless revenge of man against man. and there is no end…..

Because, ultimately, the army cannot destroy the suicide bomber and the suicide bomber and even a militia cannot destroy an army…..

and isn’t the point really to figure out what people want and how we can minimize the motivation to continue the assaults- whether they come from armies or jihadists (even) or suicide bombers, or oppressive governments?

Because, everybody wants something. That is my assertion.
…. there are no human beings who just do things…including committing violence for no reason at all…. just because they are crazy irrational or think they are serving god…. THAT IS NOT THE REASON. Religion is just pretext….used for convincing people to identify with a group and get behind some cause.
But the needs behind the cause are real.

EVERY violent expression is a political expression….. an attempt to achieve something needed (no matter how misguided the justification or the pretext or the method)…. and unless there is some proper recognition and redress to the needs that are attempting to be met….. the violent method will continue…. end of story.

It serves no purpose to argue that one type of violence is justified…because it is committed to serve a god or to serve a state… or to serve justice….
It is allllll a sin….
and it all is useless destruction in the end.

so cease your useless arguments about who is the biggest sinner and evil person or group. It is so absurd a debate.

February 26th, 2008, 3:57 am


Qifa Nabki said:


It was delicious, thank you.


You’re right. But it’s still fun to argue.

Yalla, shabab… with the Lord’s work now done, I bid you night night.

Tomorrow, we shoot for 600.

February 26th, 2008, 4:00 am


Enlightened said:

Zenobia Im with you read my posts you terrorist sympathiser!

And please answer the Question should Meshaal be hosted by the Syrian Govt?

February 26th, 2008, 4:01 am


norman said:

Nader Intered the race today , how will that affect the presidental race , Any thoughts?.

February 26th, 2008, 4:05 am


Zenobia said:

Nizar Qabbani: “I am with Terrorism”

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended rose and woman
and the mighty verse …
and the blueness of sky …
A dominion .. nothing left therein…
No water, no air ..
No tent, no camel,
and not even dark Arabica coffee!!

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended with guts
the hair of Balqis
and the lips of Maysun
if we defended Hind, and Da`d
Lubna and Rabab ..
and the stream of Kohl
coming down from their lashes like the verses of revelation.
You will not find with me
a secret poem
or a secret logos
or books I put behind doors.
I do not even have one Qasidah
walking down the street, wearing Hijab.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we wrote about the ruins of a watan
torn, weak …
a watan with no address
and an ummah with no names

I seek the remnants of a watan
none of its grand poems is left
except the bemoans of Khansa.

I seek a dominion in whose horizons
no freedom can be found
red .. blue or yellow.

A watan forbidding us from bying a newspaper
or listening to the news.
A dominion wherein birds are forbidden
from chirping.
A watan wherein, out of terror [ru`b],
its writers got accustomed to write about nothing.

A watan, in the likeness of poetry in our lands:
It is vain talk,
no rhythm,
Ajam, with a crooked face and tongue:
No beginning
No end
No relation with people’s worry
mother earth
and the crisis of man.

A dominion …
going to peace talks
with no honor
no shoe.

A watan,
men peed in their pans ..
women are those left to defend honor.

Salt in our eyes
Salt in our lips
Salt in our words
Can the self carry such dryness?
An inheritance we got from the barren Qahtan?
In our Ummah, no Mu`awiya, and no Abu Sufiyan
No one is left to say “NO”
and face the quitters
they gave up our houses, our bread and our [olive] oil.
They transformed our bright history into a mediocre store.

In our lives, no Qasidah is left,
since we lost our chastity in the bed of the Sultan.

They got accustomed to us, the humbled.
What is left to man
when all that remains
is disgrace.

I seek in the books of history
Ussamah ibn al-Munqith
Uqba ibn Nafi`
Omar, and Hamzah
and Khalid, driving his flocks conquering the Shem.
I seek a Mu`tasim Billah
Saving women from the cruelty of rape
and the fire.

I seek latter days men
All I can see is frightened cats
Scared for their own souls, from
the sultanship of mice.

Is this an overwhelming national blindness?
Are we blind to colors?

We are accused of terrorism

If we refuse to die
with Israel’s bulldozers
tearing our land
tearing our history
tearing our Evangelium
tearing our Koran
tearing the graves of our prophets
If this was our sin,
then, lo, how beautiful terrorism is?

We are accused of terrorism
if we refused to be effaced
by the hands of the Mogul, Jews and Barbarians
if we throw a stone
at the glass of the the Security Council
after the Ceasar of Ceasars got a hold of it.

We are accused of terrorism
if we refuse to negociate with the wolf
and shake the hand with a whore

Against the cultures of the peoples
with no culture
Against the civilizations of the civilized
with no civilization
a mighty edifice
with no walls!

We are accused of terrorism:
if we refused an era
Amrika became
the foolish, the rich, the mighty
translated, sworn
in Ivri.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we throw a rose
to Jerusalem
to al-Khalil
to Ghazza
to an-Nasirah
if we took bread and water
to beleaguered Troy.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we raised our voices against
the regionalists of our leaders.
All changed their rides:
from Unionists
to Brokers.

If we committed the heinous crime of culture
if we revolted against the orders of the grand caliph
and the seat of the caliphate
If we read jurisprudence or politics
If we recalled God
and read Surat al-Fat-h
[that Chapter of Conquest].
If we listened to the Friday sermon
then we are well-established in the art of terrorism

We are accused of terrorism
if we defended land
and the honor of dust
if we revolted against the rape of people
and our rape
if we defended the last palm trees in our desert
the last stars in our sky
the last syllabi of our names
the last milk in our mothers’ bossoms
if this was our sin
how beautiful is terrorism.

I am with terrorism
if it is able to save me
from the immigrants from Russia
Romania, Hungaria, and Poland

They settled in Palestine
set foot on our shoulders
to steal the minarets of al-Quds
and the door of Aqsa
to steal the arabesques
and the domes.

I am with terrorism
if it will free the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth,
and the virgin, Meriam Betula
and the holy city
from the ambassadors of death and desolation

The nationalist street was fervent
like a wild horse.
The rivers were abundant with the spirit of youth.

But after Olso,
we no longer had teeth:
we are now a blind and lost people.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended with full-force
our poetic heritage
our national wall
our rosy civilization
the culture of flutes in our mountains
and the mirrors displaying blackened eyes.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended what we wrote
El azure of our sea
and the aroma of ink
if we defended the freedom of the word
and the holiness of books

I am with terrorism
if it is able to free a people
from tyrants and tyranny
if it is able to save man from the cruelty of man
to return lemon, olive tree, and bird to the South of Lebanon
and the smile back to Golan

I am with terrorism
if it will save me
from the Ceasar of Yehuda
and the Ceasar of Rome

I am with terrorism
as long as this new world order
is shared
between Amrika and Israel

I am with terrorism
with all my poetry
with all my words
and all my teeth
as long as this new world
is in the hands of a butcher.

I am with terrorism
if the U.S. Senate
enacts judgement
decrees reward and punishment

I am with Irhab [terrorism]
as long this new world order
hates the smell of A`rab.

I am with terrorism
as long as the new world order
wants to slaughter my off-spring.
and send them to dogs.

For all this
I raise my voice high:

I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism …

Nizar Qabbani
London, 15 Nisan (April) 1997.

February 26th, 2008, 4:07 am


norman said:

Enlightened one ,
Yes , Palestine is part of Syria and Mashal is a Palestinian Syrian Arab leader.

February 26th, 2008, 4:07 am


norman said:

That is inspiring Zenobia, Good job.

February 26th, 2008, 4:10 am


Enlightened said:

Norman I am kidding I was just using AIG’s line of thinking


My head is in a spin, how does this poem sound in Arabic, was it translated into english?

I wouldnt put this poem up with Miltons Paradise lost, nor is it in the league of ny of Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, but what the heck I dont read or write arabic anyway! (who am I to judge)?

February 26th, 2008, 4:16 am


Zenobia said:

ys, of course it is translated.
i am sure it is more amazing in Arabic, if you can read it. lots of sites would have it i think.
i took it off this one, that has the arabic on the right side, but i couldn’t copy it.

February 26th, 2008, 4:23 am


Zenobia said:

Anyhow, i am not a terrorist sympathizer.

i think what the poem is saying is….. is that behind this word terrorism – that is hurled against people….. are in fact, real needs and a giant struggle to survive and to have life…… and the struggle becomes violent….but he is conveying through poetry….everything that is really the substance of the experiences and desires and desperateness underneath….any decision to undertake terrorism.

I am not inspired by some ability to be defiant, I think what is inspiring is the attempt to articulate the passionate yearning and pain underneath this violence.

and then if finally, the reader only chooses to focus on the word…terrorism…to see only that….again….
then this is the tragedy of not hearing and not seeing and not knowing the middle east… and the desperation of many of its people.

February 26th, 2008, 4:32 am


Enlightened said:

Sorry Zen, dont read Arabic thats why I asked, but I do not condone violence since I am a pacifist, but i support Meshaal, and everyone else in Syria who has no home to go to ( Damn my head is in a spin, did I just say that)

better stop here or others might accuse me of something…………

February 26th, 2008, 4:34 am


Enlightened said:

lol i understood what he said, someone like AIG might not see the shades of grey, but only in black and white

February 26th, 2008, 4:36 am


Alex said:

This story is about an amazing Saudi invention … sold 30,000 copies in the first ten days … and we are happy about our 500+ comments in 2 days.

Zenobia and Enlightened, I am sorry you do not read Arabic.

February 26th, 2008, 4:38 am


Zenobia said:

long live poetry.

i am worn out myself now, too. but i feel we did our job (the lords work as QN said lol)….getting past 500 ….even if a fair share was nonsense…

goodnight everyone….

February 26th, 2008, 4:40 am


Enlightened said:

LOl Have to go to, have to pick up the boy, i might sign in later tonight at home.

Alex: I feel your empathy, you could have felt mine earlier. Anyway we are making headway AIG is sounding less and less like Netanyahu and more like Peres( damn who am i kidding) he is the Dark lord of the Sith and he is looking for a new apprentice!

Wonder if he will appear soon!

February 26th, 2008, 4:45 am


Enlightened said:

Heres a story for QN when he comes back;

Shillong, INDIA (AFP)

When politician Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak stands for election in an Indian hill state next month, even he may have a tough time standing out in a field of the most unusually named candidates.

Politician and school teacher Frankenstein Momin is also hoping not to scare away the voters in Meghalaya, especially when faced with competition from more benign-sounding candidates such as Hilarious Pochen and Billykid Sangma.

The state in India’s remote northeast goes to the polls on March 3, with more than 331 candidates jostling for around 60 seats in the assembly in the state capital Shillong.

Looking for re-election in his seat is Zenith Sangma, and also trying to outshine their rivals are Celestine Lyngdoh, Starfing Jove Langpen Pdahkasiej, Edstar Lyngdoh Nongbri and Moonlight Pariat.

Romeo Phira Rani and Darling Wavel Lamare are also busy trying to seduce the electorate, while Bison Paslen is locking horns with his rivals in Sutgna Shangpung constituency.

Forward Lyngdoh Mawlong is leading the charge in his constituency, while Admiral K Sangma is also setting sail for battle — as are H. Britainwar Dan and Bombersingh.

Meghalaya is one of three northeastern Indian states voting over the next fortnight.

With a population of 2.3 million, the state is a predominantly Christian area with Khasi as the main language.

English is spoken, but not very fluently — so people often name their children after words and famous people they have little familiarity with or understanding about.

“Often they don’t know the background of the names. They get attracted to exquisite names,” said the conservatively named David Reid Syiemlieh, a professor of history at the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong.

Hitler-Marak — a stocky, balding and mustached figure — said his parents probably had no idea the name was a big no-no.

“Maybe my parents liked the name. But I am not a dictator,” he once told AFP. “My parents did not know who Hitler was.”

In any case, the voters do not seem to mind — Hitler-Marak has been elected to public office before and has served as a state forestry minister, while Frankenstein Momin is a former state education minister.

“It doesn’t matter to us,” said local journalist Geoffrey Kharkongor.

“Parents may christen their children funny names, but as long as the candidates perform their duties, we have no problem.”

And there is a serious side to all this because the elections in Meghalaya and the other two northeastern states will be closely watched as an indicator of national trends.

India’s federal ruling Congress party currently leads the coalition government in Meghalaya — which means the “home of the clouds.”

The results are expected there on March 7.
عودة للأعلى

February 26th, 2008, 4:49 am


offended said:

Good night Zenobia.

The morning crew in Dubai will take it from here…

Thank you…

February 26th, 2008, 5:06 am


qunfuz said:

I’m not going to have a discussion with AIG, except to say that my wife’s best friend is a Lebanese who lost 27 members of her extended family in 2006. I mean they were murdered by Zionist bombs. People who don’t benefit from the power structure are never going to accept one legal definition of terrorism, written by powerful states, that it is the political violence perpetrated by non-state actors. The term is meaningless. It’s pure propaganda. A better definition is ‘violence aimed at terrorising civilians for political purposes’ in which case the US and Israeli armies do it better than anyone else. They also blow up civilian targets, including buses and other civilian vehicles, and mosques and markets and private homes. AIG, you’re pathetic. Modern war involves murdering and terrorising civilians, full stop. It’s immoral and unIslamic, but it’s modern war. Calling your opponent a terrorist is, firstly, an attempt to make him submit silently to your violence and, secondly, a pyschological attempt to deny your own criminality and barbarism. The occupied and oppressed facing a relentlessly violent enemy have the right to use violence. Whether it’s always advisable is another matter…

And you haven’t left all of Lebanon, nor have you released all Lebanese hostages. And whether people agree with it or not, whether it’s wise or not, it’s clear that Hizbullah has a wider Arab-Islamic agenda beyond the Lebanese agenda. You haven’t left the Golan or Palestine. Your 48 lands are run on apartheid principles.

February 26th, 2008, 5:22 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You say:
“Since we don’t live in an ideal world, then I’m willing to let Asad go on supporting Hamas and Hizbullah, since without these groups, Israel would be able to exercise its terrorism unchecked. It would still be in South Lebanon, it would still be in Gaza, etc. ”

This is an exact quote. So when I say you support terrorism because you think it is an effective way of fighting Israel I am not putting any words in your mouth. You don’t want to call it terrorism that is fine. I will phrase it differently: You support Asad funding Mesh’al to send Palestinians to blow themselves up in buses and restaurants and pubs because that is an effective way to fight Israel.

It appears also that Alex, Zenobia and the not so enlightened Enlightened support this.

Now, your view is that the way Israel fights and the way the US fights, since it causes civllian casualties is terrorism. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so if this is not what you believe let me know (we know Qunfuz believes it). If the Israeli army is terrorist to you, the US army must be the mother of all terrorists, no? And how about the US Congress that funds the terrorist Israeli army to the tune of $3 billion dollars per year KNOWING FULL WELL how Israel fights and approves the weapon sales to Israel. Is the US Congress supporting terrorists? I am not asking rhetorical questions, I would really like to know what you believe.

This is not a meaningless argument. At its heart are crucial questions on which we differ. If we follow your logic through, the US Congress is equivalent to Asad in supporting terrorism. Also, it shows that for you, the aim justifies the means. Blowing up busses works, and since this is not an ideal world, then this method should be used and supported. Now just tell me this is the same as firing cluster bombs at Hizballah positions.

February 26th, 2008, 5:50 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you for being honest and not beating around the bush like the other enlightened people on this blog. I appreciate your clear positions to the extreme waffling that is going on. You are at least not ashamed of where you stand. Yours is the true Syrian-Lebanese position regarding Hamas and Hizballah when the tons of makeup are taken off Alex’s and QN’s arguments.

We will of course have to disagree since we have zero basis for any dicussion.

February 26th, 2008, 6:00 am


offended said:

AIG, going by your line of thinking:
1- Hezbollah’s foray into northern Israel was totally justified.
2- Hezbollah’s firing of rockets over residential areas is justified as reciprocation for the Israeli massacres of Tire (27 civilians) and Qana (around 50 civilians)…

I see the gap of disagreement is getting narrower….

February 26th, 2008, 6:21 am


wizart said:


Did you know Shai means tea in Arabic? Just noticed Nizar Abbani discussed food when talking about why he’s proud to be a terrrrurist. Alex please explain Mlukieh is like Arabic Apple pie minus all the suggar. It’s green, healthy & full of nutrients

Food is really the basic most fundamental reason for war or peace.

Anyway, check this out..part of the solution is floating currency..

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan says dollar peg ‘needs to go’

By Ahmed A. Elewa, Senior Reporter
Published: February 25, 2008, 23:40

Abu Dhabi Floating the Gulf currencies is the best means to relieving the region’s rising inflationary pressures, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The dollar peg forces the Gulf states to follow US monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates to ward off recession and Gulf economies are experiencing an unprecedented boom from oil revenues.

“It [de-pegging] is probably the most useful thing that can be done to stop the increasing influence of foreign assets on the monetary system and therefore the monetary base which is basically the major force in inflationary pressures,” Greenspan told the Abu Dhabi Corporate Leadership Forum.

Arab economies have been reeling under rising inflationary pressure. In Saudi Arabia, where inflation was virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 per cent.

According to the New York Times, the oil price boom is fuelling an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class.

“Inflation has many causes, from rising global demand for commodities to the monetary constraints of currencies pegged to the weakening American dollar. But one cause is the skyrocketing price of oil itself. It is helping push many ordinary people towards poverty even as it stimulates a new surge of economic growth in the Glf,” the report said.

At a conference in Jeddah yesterday Greenspan said: “In the short term free floating … will not fully dissipate inflationary pressure, although it would significantly do so.”

A number of participants in the Abu Dhabi Corporate leadership forum agreed with Greenspan. Pam Woodall, Asia Econ-omics Editor at The Economist, said that this is the beginning of the end for the US dollar as the currency of choice for foreign exchange reserves.

“If Asian central banks hold today more than 80 per cent of the global foreign exchange reserves, which indicates the shift of the global economy domination towards Asia, it seems quite awkward that the UAE still maintains the peg of its currency to the US dollar,” she told Gulf News.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister, told Reuters that the exchange rate contributes about 40 per cent to inflation in Qatar, where the riyal is 30 per cent undervalued. “We prefer always to act with all the GCC countries. It’s now time for the Gulf to have its own currency,” Shaikh Hamad said.

February 26th, 2008, 6:44 am


Alex said:


No … Picking the right words is not like applying “make up” to mask my otherwise terror supporting arguments.

I have said it very clearly many times: the two wrongs are NOT right… they are both wrong! .. how much simpler can it get? … I think the two wrongs (Israel’s and Hamas) are … wrong.

I am a fan of Gandhi’s non-violence .. it worked in India and it would have worked in Palestine. But the PLO and then Hamas were too stuck to the same methd your amy always uses against them …violence, retaliation, teaching the enemy a painful lesson .. and other stupidities.

AIG, you seem to be struggling as you try to place each player neatly into one of the two corners: the Good group and the bad group … it won’t work no matter how much you try.

February 26th, 2008, 7:06 am


MSK said:

Now this is really interesting:

Report: Widow of slain Hezbollah terrorist blames Syria for killing

“The Syrian traitors are responsible for his death,” Army Radio quoted Mughniyah’s widow as telling a press conference in Tehran. “Damascus’ refusal to allow Iran to investigate the incident is further proof,” she said.

According to the report, rumors abounded in the months prior to Mughniyah’s death regarding a rift between himself and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The rumors were that Mughniyah was attempting to take over command of the militant organization.

Any thoughts? Comments? Maybe even Syria(n) Comments?


February 26th, 2008, 7:10 am


Alex said:


“Army Radio quoted Mughniyah’s widow as telling a press conference in Tehran”

Do you know that if this is the case then the Iranians would be furious at the Syrians (and Nasrallah) according to this story?

Do you think the Iranians who supposedly organized this press conference and allowed the widow’s words to be known to all … will take this Syrian assassination of one of their top figures (Muhniyah) with some sense of humor?

I am not saying that it is impossible for Syria to assassinate him … but … I doubt it.

And .. remember that this same story was first made popular few days ago in the ridiculous Al-Syassa.

February 26th, 2008, 7:24 am


MSK said:

Ya Alex,

I have no clue who assassinated Mughniyeh & didn’t post the article “to show who did it”.

I saw it, found it bizarre, and posted it.

So, are you coming to Istanbul or not?


February 26th, 2008, 7:43 am


offended said:

MSK, this reports about Mughneyia’s widow blaming the Syrians have initially appeared in the Kuwaiti Al Seyassa, I posted a comment about it yesterday:

Al Syeassa concoct those lies and then everyone else report them….

February 26th, 2008, 8:07 am


Shai said:


The article you posted is very very sad indeed. And I too disagree with its conclusion, that the region should be left alone. The region was once the most advanced, and it can once again flourish, but it needs help from outside. I believe that we are not that far from peace, that given a few applications of pressure in the right places, we’d soon find ourselves storing the past 60 years into neat little archive boxes, and beginning to focus and work towards a better future. The same negative energies that persist at the moment, can and will turn into positive energies that’ll fertilize the region once more. As for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, it is truly difficult to expect societies that 50 years ago were mostly Beduin, to already show signs of patent-invention skills, especially when their sudden wealth enables the employment of others at their service.


As to your analysis of the waste in arguing over who is a justified terrorist, and who isn’t, I could not agree with you more. You are ABSOLUTELY correct in stating that it gets us nowhere. While it may be “fun to argue”, as QN put it, it really doesn’t move us forward one inch, only serves to further implant our innate ill-feelings towards one another. Now is the time to focus on shedding those feelings, and opening up our ears and hearts towards one another. Empathy MUST be a strategic goal no less than getting our armies and militias to stand down. This is where it all starts, where forgiveness and reconciliation can begin. We have no other choice. Our fate is to live with one another, to share with one another, to face the same challenges and the same future. The way I see it, Zenobia, it is people like YOURSELF that are the real “warriors” in this region – fighting day and night for PEACE!

February 26th, 2008, 8:33 am


MSK said:

Ya Offended,

Fair enough – I didn’t catch your post. (The connections here in Beirut are such that if an SC post has more than 150 comments it often does not completely load ’cause the server times out.)

If Israeli Army Radio quoted Al-Siyassa, then I take my post back. It WOULD’ve been interesting, though, had Mughniyeh’s widow blamed the Syrian gov’t. Oh well …

Feverishly awaiting the Mehlis- … errrr … Muallem-Report.


February 26th, 2008, 9:32 am


idaf said:

Just not to miss taking part in this historic post of 500+ comments, here’s my contribution:

Imad Moustapha defends Hezbollah
The Bush administration ignored concerns by Syria five years ago that invading Iraq would further destabilize the Middle East, and briefly reached out to the nation in the fall to ensure its participation in a peace conference, a top Syrian diplomat said Monday.
Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador to the United States since 2004, said he was ignored in Washington until two weeks before the November peace conference in Annapolis, Md. Suddenly, Moustapha said, he began receiving invitations to dinners at the White House and State Department.

“In Annapolis itself, everything was beautiful. Photo opportunities! We had to say ‘cheese’ plenty of times. The only bad part was, there was not a single discussion of any issue. … We already knew, prior to going to Annapolis, it was merely a grand photo opportunity.”

“I don’t believe this administration is capable of delivering peace to our region,” Moustapha said after his speech.

The Bush administration accuses Syria of harboring terrorists, of supporting Hezbollah — a Lebanese group classified by the United States as a terrorist organization — and of allowing insurgents to freely cross its border into Iraq.
The White House yesterday said President Bush is committed to making progress in the peace process, and that Syria has played a negative role by harboring terrorist groups.

Moustapha said Hezbollah is considered a national liberation movement from Morocco to Bahrain.

“We are very proud of Hezbollah. Hezbollah has successfully fought against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and drove the Israelis out of most of Lebanon. We are not ashamed of saying this,” he said.

“It’s incredible: Israel occupies Lebanon. (Hezbollah fights) against Israel in their own Lebanon, and you consider them terrorists!”

Moustapha said numerous U.S. senators and members of Congress have told him dialogue with Damascus is essential to bringing stability to the region. And U.S. participation in peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders is essential, he said, despite his doubts about the Bush administration.

“We believe, in Syria, the peace process in the Middle East can never yield results without the brokerage of the United States,” Moustapha said.

February 26th, 2008, 11:34 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I’ll tell you how simple it can get. It can get very simple.
Since you support Asad hosting and funding Hamas and Mugniyeh, you support what most people in Canada, US and Europe consider terrorism.

You don’t think it is terrorism or you think like QN that this is justified because what Israel does is also terrorism. But that is beside the point. The facts are what they are.

February 26th, 2008, 12:38 pm


wizart said:

Can We Save Honey Bees from Colony Collapse Disorder?

* Better Planet: Beepocalypse

Normally, the announcement that yet another species is in danger does not trigger economic jitters and hyperbolic headlines—but there is nothing normal about the disappearance of honeybees. The die-off has been rapid and inexplicable. The first reports surfaced in October 2006; within months beekeepers in 27 states, from Florida to California, reported a serious decline in the insects, and similar troubles were showing up in Canada and Europe. And honeybees, or Apis mellifera, are big business: Bee pollination of agricultural crops—everything from almonds to apples to carrots—provides one-third of the U.S. diet, and the bees’ services are valued at $15 billion annually. If these six-legged laborers vanish, then many of the staples that we take for granted could be threatened—and a lot more expensive. By March 2007, Congressional hearings were under way to explore how Colony Collapse Disorder, as the bee syndrome has been dubbed, threatens America’s agricultural vitality and what can be done about it.

There is no easy answer to the problem. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, appears to differ significantly from previous bee maladies in that the bees simply fly away from the hive and never return, leaving behind only an egg-laying queen and a few young workers. Colony losses first seemed to be restricted to migratory beekeepers, merchants who transport hundreds of beehives from state to state, selling pollination services to farmers. Hypotheses proliferated: A brand-new disease is killing the insects. Pesticides are disrupting bees’ ability to navigate. Parasitic mites are weakening them. Mite-killing chemicals, sprayed into the hives, are building up in the wax and eliminating the bees instead. It’s a fungus. It’s a virus. Maybe vibrations in the trucks that transport bees across the country are driving the little buzzers insane. Overwhelming stress is making the bees vulnerable to disease. And some of these conjectures sound truly loopy. The British newspaper The Independent ran an article anxiously asking, “Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?�? It floated a baseless theory—citing a study that was not, in fact, carried out—that radiation from cell phones was disorienting the bees.

For the rest of this article, please visit:

February 26th, 2008, 12:43 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I imagine that at one time, people like you were able to win arguments with Palestinians, and convince the sleepy-eyed corn-fed politicos in Washington that Israel held the moral high ground.

This is not the case anymore. You’re simply not convincing.

It’s one thing to play word games. (You support terror, we fight like modern western armies. You target civilians. We give notice before murdering ten times more civilians).

It is another thing to be right.

I don’t really know why you come here, if you’re not willing to actually learn something, have an opinion altered, give yourself something to think about. If you can’t even do this with an interlocutor who is sensitive to your anxieties and feelings of injustice (namely, someone like me), then what hope does our region have?

If you actually get off by trying to label someone as a terror-supporter, and then generalizing up the ladder such that this person’s views are now indistinguishable from those of Ahmadinejad, then I suppose you are free to do that.

I could do the same with you, but it’s just not satisfying to me. I could say, for example: AIG, Hamas is justified in blowing up suicide bombers in cafes and buses because your society is essentially a militarized society, and Hamas actually has a far greater success rate in killing people with military background than Israel does when it drops bombs on Lebanon.

But then, that would make me a hair-splitter like you, who supports the murder of civilians behind the cover of sophistic word play.

There’s no makeup.

February 26th, 2008, 1:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said to Qunfuz:

We will of course have to disagree since we have zero basis for any dicussion.

Ha! That’s cute.

Tell me AIG, what constitutes a “discussion” for you, since someone either agrees with you or is a terror supporter?

If you really believe that, then there really is zero basis for discussion, and I suppose that Alex should ban you after all.

Zero basis, indeed.

February 26th, 2008, 1:43 pm


Shai said:


Instead of spending so much energy uncovering one another for “what-we-are”, why aren’t we investing time looking for a common language, which we can use to move forward. What some people are attempting to do on this forum, it seems to me, is to get to the facts of our history. While this is a legitimate thing to do, and certainly historians will be debating these issues for the next century or two, I think this forum should be used to bridge our gaps, so that we really can move forward. And when I say “gaps”, I don’t mean our individual subjective understanding of our history, as some might claim is a prerequisite to discussing the future, I mean our concerns and needs from one another, which up until now, have yet to be overcome.

When we bring up these concerns, we mustn’t argue over their legitimacy (i.e. “do the Lebanese have a right to fear Israeli terrorism” or “do the Israelis have a right to fear Syria”), but simply accept them as facts. Whether I like it or not, you may see my army as a bunch of terrorist warmongers . I can try to convince you until I’m blue in the face that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, but if your family lost 27 members last summer to IDF bullets and bombs, you’re still going to view us as terrorists. By arguing this point and others endlessly, because I don’t accept your view, we won’t get anywhere. The real questions, and the real debate, should be with the premise “Ok, this is how you view me, and this is how I view you. Now, how do we move forward?” What are your concerns, and what are mine? What are your demands, and what are mine? The so-called exercise cannot take place if either side already assumes that peace cannot occur, or that only the other side must alter reality to achieve it. We must come clean to the table, open to hear anything, regardless of how we may view it. The arguments should be over bridges to the future, not the past. This is my humble opinion…

February 26th, 2008, 1:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You and I are in agreement. I was naively trying to bring AIG into the fold, with an offer to do precisely what you (and he) suggested: move FORWARD.

I am willing to agree on a definition of crimes against humanity that apportions guilt to both sides, because there is guilt on both sides. However, I’m ultimately not so interested in even this discussion. I’m interested in moving WAY beyond these silly incriminations, and addressing true concerns, as you’ve suggested.

As for concerns, and briding gaps for the future, here are my ideas:

Israel should withdraw from Shebaa and return the Lebanese hostages, so as to remove the final pretexts for Hizbullah’s war. They will find new ones, but ultimately even Hizbullah understands that their future is in the Serail and not on the border. Israel should simultaneously engage in aggressive peace talks with Syria and Lebanon. You have to understand, Shai, the Lebanese are ready for peace. Even many of the people who support Hizbullah. We are tired of this conflict. But we’re not going to accept a situation that will perpetuate the chaos under new terms.

What are your concerns, vis-a-vis Lebanon.

February 26th, 2008, 2:13 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Seriously, this post is now starting to crumble! Is there a news roundup in our future, or should I put one up?

February 26th, 2008, 2:18 pm


offended said:

Husni Mubarak is in Bahrain; using his charms to undermine the upcoming summit.

Alex, I think we need a fresh post (the page is taking ages to load), for these new developments…

February 26th, 2008, 2:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex & T_Desco,

I hate to do this, but JUST for the record: I’m sure you realize that Mughniyyeh’s widow accusing Syria is exactly the same as Hawi’s family accusing Israel.

Not that it matters what grieving family members have to say (which was my original point).

February 26th, 2008, 2:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

New post up. Your browsers will thank us.

February 26th, 2008, 2:42 pm


why-discuss said:

Qifa Nabki
“Israel should withdraw from Shebaa and return the Lebanese hostages, so as to remove the final pretexts for Hizbullah’s war.”

Israelis will never make a move that could be interpret as a failure or a weakness. This has been their policy throughout their history and its is shared by their ally the US. They believe that any sign of weakness will endanger the country even more. That explains the hysteria they went in at the end of the 2006 Lebanese war, where they knew they were loosing and persisted in destroying more of the countries to make it look as a victory. Israel will only negotiate in a position of strength, and that is where the problem lies, because Hezbollah and Iran are in the same state of mind.
It is only after Israel and Hezbollah (and its allies) recognize that they are equal in terms of strength that they may agree to negotiate. The escalation of violence is testing that balance of power. Iran with its nuclear facility is posing as a strong enough opponent to threat seriously Israel for the first time in Israel’s history. When Israel will accept that Iran is a respectable adversary, then they may think about a peaceful relationship. Iran has not recognized Israel as a country because Israel is a country with NO constitutionally defined borders. Iran rightly calls it the “Zionist entity”. Ahmadinejad and official statements never mention the word ‘Israel’ . The biased medias are more than happy to translate “Zionist entity” to “Israel”. When Israel will renounce to the Zionist principles of undefined borders and to opportunities to grab “jewish” sacred lands in palestine, it will no longer be a “Zionist entity” it will be a country with defined borders that Iran and arab countries deal with peacefully.
This can only come from the combined pressure of Israelis citizens and the international community.

February 27th, 2008, 9:49 am


Alex said:

UPDATE 1-INTERVIEW- Turkcell to complete Syriatel talks in March

By Ercan Ersoy

415 words

28 February 2008


Reuters News


(c) 2008 Reuters Limited

(Adds quotes, details, background)

ISTANBUL, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Turkey’s leading mobile firm Turkcell expects to complete within 30 days talks on buying a stake in Syriatel and will decide within three months whether to buy an east European operator, its CEO told Reuters.

Sureyya Ciliv also said in an interview on Thursday that the strong lira was a major reason for the 54-percent rise in Turkcell’s 2007 net profit to $1.35 billion, announced in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf told Reuters on Tuesday he was in talks to sell a majority stake in Syrian’s leading mobile operator Syriatel and Ciliv said Turkcell may seek a Syrian partner.

“This operator has 3.4 million subscribers and has a 54 percent market share in Syria. We expect these talks to be completed within 30 days. We have still not decided firmly on the financing,” Ciliv said.

But he said the company wanted to get a balance between using its own funds and credit for the project.

Shares in Turkcell were up 1.6 percent at 12.4 lira by 1018 GMT having hit 13.0 lira in the wake of the results.

February 28th, 2008, 3:17 pm


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