"Secret understandings reached between representatives of Israel, Syria" by Akiva Eldar - Syria Comment

“Secret understandings reached between representatives of Israel, Syria” by Akiva Eldar

Here are three stories from one of Haaretz's best reporters about peace negotiations between Israelis and Syrians that took place between Sept. 2004 and July 2006. (Thanks Alex and Tony Karon for bringing them to my attention.)

They suggest that President Bashar al-Asad has been eager for peace talks for some time. Skeptics will point to the fact that they come after the 2003 Iraq war to argue that Asad only wanted the talks to get out of isolation. But there is a deal on the table. It is a good one. If Asad was inclined to make it out of fear of isolation and possible US military action, so what? Washington is being a spoiler. It should be pushing Israel to make the talks official rather than dissuading Tel Aviv from talking to Syria.

 

Secret understandings reached between representatives of Israel, Syria
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent: Last update – 04:05 16/01/2007
In a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, Syrians and Israelis formulated understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

The main points of the understandings are as follows:

  • An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.
  • An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.
  • An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.

  • As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.
  • At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.
  • Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.
  • The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.
  • According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

    The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing – its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe.

    The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon.

    Government officials received updates on the meetings via the European mediator and also through Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings.

    The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of "general."

    The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

    The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

    For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

    According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party.

    He also told Haaretz that Khaled Meshal, Hamas' political bureau chief, based in Damascus, would have to leave the Syrian capital.

    Syria would also exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, it would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem.

    Aronson said the idea of a park on the Golan Heights allows for the Syrian demand that Israel pull back to the June 4 border, on the one hand, while on the other hand, the park eliminates Israeli concerns that Syrians will have access to the water sources of Lake Kinneret.

    "This was a serious and honest effort to find creative solutions to practical problems that prevented an agreement from being reached during Barak's [tenure as prime minister] and to create an atmosphere of building confidence between the two sides," he said.

    It also emerged that one of the Syrian messages to Israel had to do with the ties between Damascus and Tehran. In the message, the Alawi regime – the Assad family being members of the Alawi minority – asserts that it considers itself to be an integral part of the Sunni world and that it objects to the Shi'a theocratic regime, and is particularly opposed to Iran's policy in Iraq. A senior Syrian official stressed that a peace agreement with Israel will enable Syria to distance itself from Iran.

    Liel refused to divulge details about the meetings but confirmed that they had taken place. He added that meetings on an unofficial level have been a fairly common phenomenon during the past decade.

    "We insisted on making the existence of meetings known to the relevant parties," Liel said. "Nonetheless, there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

    Prior to these meetings, Liel was involved in an effort to further secret talks between Syria and Israel with the aid of Turkish mediation – following a request for assistance President Assad had made to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    That attempt failed following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level – and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level," similar to the framework of the talks that had preceded the Oslo accords.

  • As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.
  • At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.
  • Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.
  • The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.
  • According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

    The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing – its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe.

    The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon.

    Government officials received updates on the meetings via the European mediator and also through Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings.

    The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of "general."

    The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

    The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

    For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

    According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party.

    He also told Haaretz that Khaled Meshal, Hamas' political bureau chief, based in Damascus, would have to leave the Syrian capital.

    Syria would also exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, it would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem.

    Aronson said the idea of a park on the Golan Heights allows for the Syrian demand that Israel pull back to the June 4 border, on the one hand, while on the other hand, the park eliminates Israeli concerns that Syrians will have access to the water sources of Lake Kinneret.

    "This was a serious and honest effort to find creative solutions to practical problems that prevented an agreement from being reached during Barak's [tenure as prime minister] and to create an atmosphere of building confidence between the two sides," he said.

    It also emerged that one of the Syrian messages to Israel had to do with the ties between Damascus and Tehran. In the message, the Alawi regime – the Assad family being members of the Alawi minority – asserts that it considers itself to be an integral part of the Sunni world and that it objects to the Shi'a theocratic regime, and is particularly opposed to Iran's policy in Iraq. A senior Syrian official stressed that a peace agreement with Israel will enable Syria to distance itself from Iran.

    Liel refused to divulge details about the meetings but confirmed that they had taken place. He added that meetings on an unofficial level have been a fairly common phenomenon during the past decade.

    "We insisted on making the existence of meetings known to the relevant parties," Liel said. "Nonetheless, there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

    Prior to these meetings, Liel was involved in an effort to further secret talks between Syria and Israel with the aid of Turkish mediation – following a request for assistance President Assad had made to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    That attempt failed following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level – and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level," similar to the framework of the talks that had preceded the Oslo accords.

  •  

  • As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.
  • At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.
  • Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.
  • The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.
  • According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

    The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing – its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe.

    The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon.

    Government officials received updates on the meetings via the European mediator and also through Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings.

    The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of "general."

    The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

    The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

    For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

    According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party.

    He also told Haaretz that Khaled Meshal, Hamas' political bureau chief, based in Damascus, would have to leave the Syrian capital.

    Syria would also exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, it would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem.

    Aronson said the idea of a park on the Golan Heights allows for the Syrian demand that Israel pull back to the June 4 border, on the one hand, while on the other hand, the park eliminates Israeli concerns that Syrians will have access to the water sources of Lake Kinneret.

    "This was a serious and honest effort to find creative solutions to practical problems that prevented an agreement from being reached during Barak's [tenure as prime minister] and to create an atmosphere of building confidence between the two sides," he said.

    It also emerged that one of the Syrian messages to Israel had to do with the ties between Damascus and Tehran. In the message, the Alawi regime – the Assad family being members of the Alawi minority – asserts that it considers itself to be an integral part of the Sunni world and that it objects to the Shi'a theocratic regime, and is particularly opposed to Iran's policy in Iraq. A senior Syrian official stressed that a peace agreement with Israel will enable Syria to distance itself from Iran.

    Liel refused to divulge details about the meetings but confirmed that they had taken place. He added that meetings on an unofficial level have been a fairly common phenomenon during the past decade.

    "We insisted on making the existence of meetings known to the relevant parties," Liel said. "Nonetheless, there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

    Prior to these meetings, Liel was involved in an effort to further secret talks between Syria and Israel with the aid of Turkish mediation – following a request for assistance President Assad had made to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    That attempt failed following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level – and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level," similar to the framework of the talks that had preceded the Oslo accords.

  • As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.
  • At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.
  • Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.
  • The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.
  • According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

    The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing – its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe.

    The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon.

    Government officials received updates on the meetings via the European mediator and also through Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings.

    The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of "general."

    The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

    The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

    For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

    According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party.

    He also told Haaretz that Khaled Meshal, Hamas' political bureau chief, based in Damascus, would have to leave the Syrian capital.

    Syria would also exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, it would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem.

    Aronson said the idea of a park on the Golan Heights allows for the Syrian demand that Israel pull back to the June 4 border, on the one hand, while on the other hand, the park eliminates Israeli concerns that Syrians will have access to the water sources of Lake Kinneret.

    "This was a serious and honest effort to find creative solutions to practical problems that prevented an agreement from being reached during Barak's [tenure as prime minister] and to create an atmosphere of building confidence between the two sides," he said.

    It also emerged that one of the Syrian messages to Israel had to do with the ties between Damascus and Tehran. In the message, the Alawi regime – the Assad family being members of the Alawi minority – asserts that it considers itself to be an integral part of the Sunni world and that it objects to the Shi'a theocratic regime, and is particularly opposed to Iran's policy in Iraq. A senior Syrian official stressed that a peace agreement with Israel will enable Syria to distance itself from Iran.

    Liel refused to divulge details about the meetings but confirmed that they had taken place. He added that meetings on an unofficial level have been a fairly common phenomenon during the past decade.

    "We insisted on making the existence of meetings known to the relevant parties," Liel said. "Nonetheless, there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

    Prior to these meetings, Liel was involved in an effort to further secret talks between Syria and Israel with the aid of Turkish mediation – following a request for assistance President Assad had made to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    That attempt failed following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level – and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level," similar to the framework of the talks that had preceded the Oslo accords.

  • [END]

    BACKGROUND: From Turkey, via Europe, to Damascus, By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

    It began exactly three years ago. In January 2004, Syrian President Bashar Assad came to Turkey for an important visit, some say a historic one. By complete coincidence, Dr. Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry director general and former Israeli ambassador to Ankara, was in Istanbul and staying at the same hotel as the Syrian delegation. His friends in the Turkish Foreign Ministry hinted to Liel that Israel had a respectable spot in the conversations between Assad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    A few days after Liel’s return to Israel, he was invited to a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to Israel, Feridun Sinirlioglu. The Turkish ambassador told Liel that Assad had asked Erdogan to use Turkey’s good relations with Israel to remove the rust from the negotiation channel with Syria. Liel was asked to put out discreet feelers in the bureau of then prime minister Ariel Sharon to find out if there were an Israeli partner for covert talks with Syria, to be mediated by Turkey.

    Liel brought Geoffrey Aronson from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace into the picture. Aronson, who is Jewish, had wandered among the capitals of the Middle East, including Damascus, Beirut and Amman, and suggested bringing in Ibrahim (Ayeb) Suleiman, a Syrian-Alawite businessman who had been living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. for many years. Suleiman’s family is from the same village as the Assad family, and senior American officials had used his good mediation skills many times to make contact with Damascus. Suleiman had also been involved in opening the gates of Syria to the Jews remaining there who wanted to move to Israel.

    Suleiman left for Damascus. He arrived at the home of the Turkish ambassador to Syria in a vehicle from the president’s bureau to report that the Syrians were prepared to begin negotiations with Israel immediately: formal negotiations, certainly not “academic talks.” The Prime Minister’s Bureau in Jerusalem didn’t care whether Liel and his friends sat down with the Syrians to hear what they had to say − but no negotiations. The Israeli reason (or excuse): The Americans are not prepared to hear about contact with Syria.

    Covert meetings in a European capital

    At the end of the summer of 2004, Sinirlioglu told Liel, with great regret, that the Turkish channel had reached a dead end. But the trio of Liel, Aronson and Suleiman didn’t give up. In September, they met in a European capital that agreed to provide cover and funding for a covert Israeli-Syrian channel via a senior official in that country’s foreign ministry. Since autumn 2004, seven more meetings have been held. (Haaretz was provided the details about the conversations, on condition that the identities of the mediator and two other Israelis who participated in some of the meetings not be published.)

    Following each meeting, as soon as he returned to Israel, Liel gave a full report to a senior official Foreign Ministry official. Sharon’s bureau also received a full situation report. Suleiman joined Liel on one of his visits to the Foreign Ministry and personally described Syria’s position to the officials in attendance. The European mediator also shared his impressions with the professional staff in Jerusalem.

    To allow the European mediator to form his own impressions regarding the Syrians’ attitude toward the covert channel, Suleiman invited him to join him on his trips to Damascus. Each time they landed there, an official car awaited them near their plane. They were taken to the office of Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara, and occasionally met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and a senior official in Syrian intelligence.

    The European mediator had the impression that the Syrian leadership was treating the matter very seriously and was not wasting his time or the taxpayer’s money on “futile academic talks.” He recalled that the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians began with talks among academics, with the assistance of a European country.

    “I was convinced that the Syrians want a peace agreement with you,” the European mediator reported directly to official Israeli sources even before the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and the investigation that began afterward. His impression was that the Syrian motive for the murder went far deeper than fear of revenge from the United States or France, which points to Assad as the one responsible for Hariri’s death.

    “Farouk Shara told me radical Islam constitutes a threat to Syria and that peace is the only way to halt it,” the mediator said. He said the Syrians told him that in a few years, they would lose their oil sources and need significant amounts of foreign currency to purchase energy from external sources. The Alawite regime realizes, the European mediator said, that in order to survive, it has to bring foreign currency into Syria, and that no sane businessman would invest his fortune in a country that is not at peace with its neighbors.

    While in Damascus, the European mediator heard about Syria’s readiness to include its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in its agenda for peace negotiations with Israel. He even reported identical comments he heard from the the Syrian Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Riad Daoudi, at the ‘Madrid+15 Conference’ on Friday.

    Daoudi’s refusal to befriend the Israeli delegation at the Madrid conference is in line with the Syrians’ approach in the European channel regarding proposals for Syrian gestures toward Israel, such as the digging up the bones of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, information on missing Israeli soldiers or a visit to the grave of Rabbi Haim Vital.

    “Israel has held onto our land for 40 years now and rejects are request to open negotiations, and after all that, they expect confidence-building steps from us,” the Syrians argue.

    Wartime meetings

    The discussions dealt with all the matters that occupied the official negotiation teams: borders, water, security and normalization. Suleiman, representing the Syrian position, made it clear from the first moment that it would be a shame to waste time on futile attempts to move Syria from its position regarding the June 4, 1967, borders. Feelers regarding the possibility of territorial exchange were dismissed out of hand.

    Nonetheless, the Syrians showed surprising flexibility regarding everything connected to a timetable for evacuating Israeli communities in the Golan Heights, water use and primarily the concept of building a “peace park” in the buffer zone that would be open to Israeli visitors.

    The final document was formulated in August 2005, and has since been changed slightly. The final meeting took place a year later, in the midst of the second Lebanon war, on a day in which eight Israelis were killed by Hezbollah-fired Katyusha rockets in the Galilee. Suleiman announced that the Syrians had done all they could with the covert channel and were suggesting a meeting between a Syrian representative at the rank of deputy minister and an Israeli official at the rank of director general. They asked that C. David Welch, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, also participate in the meeting.

    That was the end of the story

    And the Full document:

    EXCLUSIVE: The full text of the draft document, By Akiva Eldar

    Nonpaper
    Draft 4
    August 29, 2004

    Preamble

    The objective of this effort is to establish normal, peaceful relations between the governments and peoples of Israel and Syria, and to sign a treaty of peace attesting to this achievement. The treaty will resolve the four “pillars” at the core of negotiations: security, water, normalization, and borders. There is be no agreement on any single one of these issues unless and until all of these issues are resolved.

    I. Sovereignty
    1. Syrian sovereignty, based upon the June 4, 1967 line in the Golan Heights, is acknowledged by Israel. The mutually agreed upon border will be determined by both parties (and guaranteed by the U.S. and the UN)

    II. Framework Agreement, Implementation, and the End to the State of Belligerency
    A “Framework Agreement” will address the issues of security (including early warning), water, normalization, and borders. Negotiations to reach such an agreement should proceed as expeditiously.

    1. The state of belligerency between the parties will cease upon signature of a framework agreement between the parties, and will include the cessation of hostile actions by each party against the other.

    2. Application of Syrian sovereignty in the Golan Heights, the establishment of normal, bilateral diplomatic relations, and the implementation of relevant provisions related to water and security will commence as soon as possible after the conclusion of a Framework Agreement but no later than the signing of a treaty of peace.

    3. Implementation of the Israeli withdrawal to the mutually agreed border will occur during a period (the exact time frame to be mutually agreed) from signature of the Framework Agreement.

    III. Peace Treaty
    1. Satisfactory implementation of provisions and obligations established in the Framework Agreement will result in the signing of a peace treaty between the parties.

    IV. Security
    1. Demilitarized zones will be established in the areas of the Golan Heights that Israeli forces will vacate.

    2. No military forces, armaments, weapons systems, or military infrastructure will be introduced into the demilitarized zones. Only a limited civil police presence will be deployed in the areas.

    3. Both parties agree not to fly over demilitarized zones without a special arrangement.

    4. The establishment of an early warning system includes a ground station on Mt. Hermon/Jabal as-Sheikh operated by the United States.

    5. A monitoring and inspection and verification mechanism will be established to monitor and supervise the security agreements.

    6. Direct liaison between the parties will be established in order to: Create a direct, real time communication capability on security issues in order to minimize friction along the international border; Help to prevent errors and misunderstandings between the parties.

    7. Zones of reduced military forces will be established in Israel west of the international border with Syria and in Syria east of the Golan Heights. The respective depth of these zones (as measured in kilometers) between Israel and Syria will be according to a ratio of 1:4.

    8. The Parties will cooperate in fighting local and international terrorism of all kinds.

    9. The Parties will work together for a stable and safe Middle East, including the solution of regional problems related to the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iran.

    V. Water
    1. Israel will control the use and disposition of the water in the Upper Jordan River and Lake Tiberias.

    2. Syria will not interrupt or obstruct natural flow of water in either quality or quantity in the Upper Jordan River, its tributaries, and Lake Tiberias.

    3. Syrian use of the waters of the upper Jordan River, its tributaries, and Lake Tiberias for residential and fishing purposes is recognized and guaranteed.

    VI. Park

    1. In order to safeguard the water resources of the Jordan River basin, Syrian territory east of the mutually agreed border will be designated as a Park open to all and administered by Syria. The Park is to be established in the Golan Heights upon completion of the Israeli withdrawal and application of Syrian sovereignty in accordance with the treaty of peace. The park will extend from the agreed upon border eastward to a line to be determined by mutual agreement.

    2. Park characteristics:
    * Park is open for tourism.
    * Park will be policed by Syrian park service personnel.
    * The park will be free of permanent residents except for conservation and law enforcement personnel.
    * No visa will be required for entry into park [from Israeli territory].
    * Syrians will issue onsite official entry permit for a nominal fee.
    * Visitors wishing to enter other Syrian territory east of the Park must have a proper visa and transit Syrian controls on park’s eastern perimeter.
    * Entry to park is valid for one day during daylight hours.

    End

    Comments (71)


    Leila Abu-Saba said:

    Wow, Josh. Thank you. I needed to hear some good news. Let’s hope it works out. (I’m afraid to hope for such things)

    January 16th, 2007, 5:47 am

     

    Alex said:

    RESPONSE: Minister: If there were contacts, we’d have known

    A senior cabinet minister, responding to the Haaretz report that understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria were formulated in a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, was quoted Tuesday as saying that there were no contacts between the two nations, and that the story appeared “not serious and curious.”

    “We don’t know about this, and if this had happened, we would have known about it,” Israel Radio quoted the unnamed minister was as saying. “This is not serious. It’s possible that there were contacts on the level of academics, it’s possible that there were reports to officials on a low level. But it did not reach higher than that.”

    There was no initial formal response from the Prime Minister’s Office after the story broke early on Tuesday. But the radio quoted unnamed senior Israeli officials as stating that Israel is not holding contacts with Syria.

    The officials referred to the sensitivity of the issue, in view of the opposition of Washington, Israel’s main ally, to negotiations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    “Syria is trying to topple the Siniora government in Lebanon, a government which the United States is trying to aid,” the radio quoted one official as saying. “Syria streams terror elements to Iraq, where they operate against the United States military, Syria fosters [Damascus-based Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal, it transfers arms to Hezbollah, hosts headquarters of terror organizations, supports Hamas, and, in general, undermines any attempt to reach a [peace] agreement

    A figure described as a very senior official in the office of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that “there was no reports to Sharon, there were no reports to his office, there was no connection between Sharon and Alon Liel, this never happened.”

    January 16th, 2007, 7:12 am

     

    Joe M. said:

    Wow, if this is true, it is amazing how weak Syria is that they give up everything they have politically for nominal control of their own territory. I can’t believe it. like the Israeli said, this might have been contact between academics or something, but i don’t believe that Syria is willing to 1) end support for Hamas and Hizbullah (ie. Arab Nationalism), 2) fall directly into the American camp, 3) abandon Iran as an ally (even though they did not during the war with Iraq), and 4) sell out the Palestinian right of return…

    and what makes it more shocking is that it is not even to get Golan back really, but just to internationalize it into a park. They don’t even get access to water rights or get control over who can enter and leave… why don’t they just declare it to be Israeli territory and make peace that way?

    And Israel doesn’t give up anything, they are not even forced to comply with international law or address the Palestinian problem fairly. No way, i don’t believe it.

    January 16th, 2007, 7:28 am

     

    youngSyria said:

    Assad talked about a park that covers Golan before, I was expecting something like this meetings. but it looks like Israel has more advantage in this non-paper. I wonder why would Syria agree on that specially after the summer war (where everybody says that its camp is stronger than before).
    after the repeated peace calls from Syria ,this article tone and timing could be to shift public opinion in Israel, by introducing secret meetings and expected solutions (that is to Israel interest) Israelis opinion would be shifted from that 64% against peace with Syria.
    one should not ignore access to water, Syria has shortage in water resources where accesses to tabaria lake would be vital. if Syria accepts those terms above it would mean that its position is weak (weaker than 90’s).

    this non-paper would form a basis for solution , I think final solution would take some of its spirit with some variations. if the situation is in favor of Syria, this news ,as i said, is one step to prepare Israelis to accept the final solution.if its not in favor of Syria , then after 40 years of waiting thats too bad for us.

    January 16th, 2007, 7:43 am

     

    Alex said:

    I think there is a misunderstanding.

    1) Syria wil be allowed to use the water resources, and
    2) only a small part of land next to the border of the lake will be a SYRIAN park

    read again these parts

    3. Syrian use of the waters of the upper Jordan River, its tributaries, and Lake Tiberias for residential and fishing purposes is recognized and guaranteed.

    VI. Park

    1. In order to safeguard the water resources of the Jordan River basin, Syrian territory east of the mutually agreed border will be designated as a Park open to all and administered by Syria.

    As for dropping Hamas, Iran, and Hizballah .. I agree that this is more a distorted version of what was discussed. I think the Israeli side are eager to sell the agreement in Israel and are over promising on behalf of Syria. Syria will NOT promise anyone that they will stab Iran and Hamas in the back.

    I know that part is not true.

    January 16th, 2007, 7:52 am

     

    Farid Ghadry said:

    No such deal.. Wishful thinking

    January 16th, 2007, 7:57 am

     

    Joe M. said:

    Syria will be allowed to use a very limited amout of the water, restricted only to “for residential and fishing purposes.” This probably only means for homes near the lake. Yet Israel has total control over its and Syria’s use of the lake and river water. How do you think they will farm in the area without use of the water?

    and the first article says:
    “At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret (Lake Tiberias), a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.”

    If there is a misunderstanding, it is in the different articles.

    January 16th, 2007, 8:32 am

     

    Ansar said:

    Interesting reference to Syria’s worsening economic situation. Just how close are they to meltdown? My own assumption is that things are serious but perhaps several years away from being critical

    January 16th, 2007, 9:36 am

     
     

    MSK said:

    Dear Josh,

    now that it appears that I’m clairvoyant (as I’d predicted pretty much exactly such a solution and also wondered if there aren’t any conversations/meetings going on in secret) … well, I think I better go & play the lottery.

    As for the official reaction on both sides (the Israeli AND Syrian governments have denied that such meetings ever took place) … well, that’s to be expected in the current situation.

    Also, please note that (in the original Ha’aretz article online) the Israeli official named is none other than Tzipi Livni. I can quite imagine that she never told Olmert about this …

    In any case this is pretty much what the future agreement will look like. There may be changes in detail (size of that park thingy, number of early warning stations, etc.) but not in principle.

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 16th, 2007, 10:28 am

     

    youngSyria said:

    what about the Settlements ??!!would they stay there or what?

    January 16th, 2007, 10:59 am

     

    Dubai Jazz said:

    YoungSyria, all settlements and settlers will have to be removed for good. It’s the Israelis’ responsibility to figure out a solution for this. It is not possible under any mandate that Syria can accept the existence of such alien entities on its territory. (or so I believe)

    January 16th, 2007, 11:38 am

     

    Bill Baar said:

    Who is Abe Sulieman? Where is he from in the US?

    January 16th, 2007, 12:52 pm

     

    ugarit said:

    To Farid Ghadry:

    Is it true that the “Reform Party of Syria” shared offices with Jack Abramoff?

    In addition, please refer to

    This as the accusation

    January 16th, 2007, 2:51 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    Dr. Landis,

    To a certain extent, the news of a secret deal in the works is not too surprising. After all, the Syrian President has been pleading for direct talks in public for sometime now. It would make sense for him to start a back channel discussion in the meantime.

    The key issue today of course is whether such talks were “official” or not.

    From the Syrian side, the talks seem to be “official” enough indeed. According to the article, Mr. Ibrahim Suleiman is a Syrian-Alawite businessman who had been living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. for many years. Suleiman’s family is from the same village as the Assad family, and senior American officials had used his good mediation skills many times to make contact with Damascus.

    Though I am not 100 per cent, I believe that this Gentleman’s full name is Ibrahim Suleiman Maarouf. If my information is accurate, his son happens to reside in Aleppo and is the country’s exclusive agent for “Honda”. He also happened to be the same person who won the rights to develop a part of the main Aleppo park (Mashtal) into a coffee shop. I want to emphasise that I am not 100 percent that this is the same Suleiman Maarouf.

    If the details of these talks are accurate, one has to wonder as to what is holding the Israeli side from making these talks “official”. According to the article:

    “The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry’s director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.”

    The Israeli Government cannot say that they had no knowledge of the talks and simultaneously claim that they did not agree to the Syrian request to go public. Presumably, they said no to something. They cannot claim that they said no to something they did not know about. This is disingenuous at best.

    The most critical question is of course the following:

    Were the above Syrian concessions to be true, what more can the Israeli and U.S. side expect?

    One would have thought that such overtures from the Syrian side would clinch the deal. Yet, what we see is reluctance by Israel and the U.S. to sign up. What more can they possibly want?

    This brings us to my favourite topic- Economics.

    Since I started commenting on this forum more than a year ago, I have been ridiculed for being too negative on the prospects of the Syrian economy. Time and again, I was told that I only see the glass half empty and that that my assessment of the Syrian economy was too negative and biased. My stand has always been that, if anything, I was not negative enough. In reality, the situation on the ground is much worse than the consensus has been led to believe.

    Today we learn of course that the Syrian Government shares my views. Here is the relevant quote:

    “The European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.”

    Unless one thinks that this European mediator is lying, the Syrian leadership itself thinks that an economic “crash” is possible. This is of course in direct contrast to the rosy numbers and promises that Mr. Dardari has been communicating to us when it comes to current and future GDP growth expectations. It is not 7% growth that the “Syrian leadership” expects. It is am “economic crash” that is their base case scenario instead.

    I am glad to finally have some company when it comes to my economic prognosis.

    January 16th, 2007, 2:56 pm

     

    Farid Ghadry said:

    To UGARIT

    RPS never shared offices w/Abramoff. We rented a space in a ahsred office environment called OfficeScape in which Abramoff apparently may have rented from the same company. Somehow a journalist assumed that if we shared the same company as our provider of our rented offices that we must be connected at the hip.. Never even met the guy. Thanks..

    January 16th, 2007, 3:08 pm

     

    Gibran said:

    EHSANI2 wins the argument. Israel kept the Golan for 40 years. It can still keep it for 10 more years waiting for Syrian economy to crash. Israel can then force its so-called ‘peace’ terms on Syria. I’d say 10 years from now peace will be a complete sell out of Syria. So much for Samoud and Tasadi. We’re now entering the era of ‘Salam and Taslim’.

    January 16th, 2007, 3:15 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    “No one in the government was involved in this matter,” Olmert told reporters in northern Israel “It was a private initiative on the part of an individual who spoke with himself. From what I read, his interlocutor was an eccentric from the U.S., someone not serious or dignified.”

    An individual who spoke to himself?

    An eccentric from the U.S. someone not serious or DIGNIFIED?

    Not exactly the use of kind words to describe someone involved in negotiations for over a year and a half.

    Since Mr. Ghadri (or someone from his office) is on this forum, perhaps he can shed some light on the personality of Mr. Suleiman who seems to reside in the same Washington DC. suburbs as Mr. Ghadri.

    January 16th, 2007, 3:23 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    Israeli state prosecutor has ordered Israel police to launch a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Olmert over his alleged role in the bank Leumi affair. According to the report, it is suspected that during his tenure as deputy finance minister, Olmert broke the law for two of his friends with whom he conducted, directly and indirectly, a relationship which allegedly involved bribe.

    Incidentally, in case the country needed more economic challenges, Al Thawra newspaper is quoting a government official that the country may harvest less grain this year after drought and cold wheather damaged crops in the north. It is interesting to note that as much as 60 percent of the country’s grain fields depend on rain while the rest is irrigated.

    January 16th, 2007, 4:09 pm

     

    ugarit said:

    Any government, democratic or not is going to collapse if the Syrian economy collapses. There is nothing new here.

    January 16th, 2007, 4:30 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Ehsani, Gibran, Akbar …

    The Syrian economy will not collapse. The Syrian government is not going to accept any terms that a majority of Syrian people would not approve of. They will not kick Mashaal out of Damascus and will not cut relations with Iran …

    The Syrians are very confident. Things are mostly going their way. The Palestinian and Iraqi presidents are in Damascus in one week …

    Relax.

    🙂

    January 16th, 2007, 4:47 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    Alex,

    When you say that the Syrian economy will not collapse, is this a “personal guarantee” from you?

    Do you think that the European mediator misinterpreted the leadership’s words?

    January 16th, 2007, 4:53 pm

     

    Alex said:

    When I say the Syrian economy will not collapse I am referring to what happens in reality … in the eighties it was worse (politically and economically) … the Syrian economy did not collapse and the regime did not collapse.

    They manage … they always manage. When was the last time a Middle Eastern country “collapsed” economically?

    Syria just went on a shopping trip for very expensive weapons from Russia … they are not panicking.

    January 16th, 2007, 5:10 pm

     

    Akbar Palace said:

    MSK gloats:

    “now that it appears that I’m clairvoyant (as I’d predicted pretty much exactly such a solution and also wondered if there aren’t any conversations/meetings going on in secret) … well, I think I better go & play the lottery.”

    MSK –

    Good luck with the lottery. Make sure your currency isn’t Monopoly money – those lottery salespeople are quite picky.

    “In Damascus a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said: “No negotiations took place, the Haaretz report is completely false.”

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2007-01-16T132057Z_01_L16657544_RTRUKOC_0_US-ISRAEL-SYRIA.xml

    And for added fun:

    “Israeli, Syrian officials deny TV report that peace is near”

    http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/03/03/israel.syria.02/

    Maybe, one day, Professor Josh will post something newsworthy.

    Alex asks:

    “They manage … they always manage. When was the last time a Middle Eastern country “collapsed” economically?”

    And when was the last time a Middle Eastern country had an economy?

    January 16th, 2007, 5:13 pm

     

    Atassi said:

    Ehsani analytical comment on this subject is one of most useful one so far.
    The new “way forward for peace” is simply an attempt to remedy the glaring gap between Syria failed strategies in Lebanon in particular and its ability to execute a peace agreement with its foes. There are real questions as to whether the efforts will be sufficient!!

    It’s also interesting to see some comments form what I call “benefactor oppositions @ your service” downplaying such an idea!!

    January 16th, 2007, 5:21 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Here is an interesting analysis from Dr. David Lesch who wrote a book on President Assad this year. He is still in contact with Bashar and with those who want to establish more communications channels with Syria

    Read it:

    Prof. David W. Lesch, Trinity Univ.
    Syria
    One of the priority recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report released in early December was for the United States to re-engage in a dialogue with Syria. This would be part of an overall diplomatic initiative in the Middle East that would re-start negotiations on a variety of fronts leading ultimately to that elusive comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, all of which would have serendipitous repercussions (from the U.S. point of view) for the U.S. position in Iraq, and it would by default diminish Iran’s enhanced influence in the region. According to this line of thought Syria is a keystone. It goes something like this: with Syria engaged in peace negotiations with Israel amid an improved diplomatic environment with the United States, both Hizbullah and Hamas could be more effectively emasculated, which would in turn lessen Teheran’s ingress into the Arab-Israeli arena, improve the chances for a final Israeli peace agreement with a more moderate Palestinian negotiating partner, and loosen the ties between Syria and Iran. In addition, Syria would be held to a higher standard in terms of more energetic efforts by Damascus to stem the inflow of support for Iraqi insurgents crossing over the Iraqi-Syrian border, thus helping U.S. efforts to stabilize the deteriorating situation there.

    There was a great deal of hope in Damascus that the combination of the Iraq Study Group report with the Democratic victory in both Houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm election would compel the Bush administration to finally give up its clear objective of isolating, if not overthrowing, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. It was thought—and not just by those in Damascus—that Syria’s presumed added leverage from its self-professed victory by proxy through Hizbullah in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict this past summer along with the deepening U.S. quagmire in Iraq would result in Syria’s reintegration into the Middle East diplomatic paradigm. This would improve Syria’s position in Lebanon (as something of a trade-off for re-starting negotiations with Israel), allow Damascus to acquire a voice in the diplomacy regarding Iraq and overall break-out of its diplomatic isolation regionally, and, finally, get the Bush administration off of its back and take it seriously. This was apparent the last time I met with Bashar this past July during the Hizbullah-Israeli conflict. I asked him how he felt about President Bush’s off-hand expletive regarding Syria that was recorded during a luncheon at the G-8 summit in June. Rather than expressing anger, Bashar immediately said that it was a good sign, i.e. the president of the United States was actually thinking about Syria for a change rather than ignoring it. Bashar seemed to be on the precipice of returning his country to the more cooperative relationship with the United States that existed in the 1990s.

    Not so.

    The Bush administration has made it clear in recent weeks that it will not re-open a dialogue with Syria along the lines recommended by the Iraq Study Group. Quite to the contrary, there are numerous reports that the Bush administration has embraced with renewed vigor the idea of regime change in Damascus. It will utilize Syrian exile groups and regional allies to isolate and pressure the Syrian regime as well as ensure that Syria does not “win” in Lebanon through the political empowerment of its Lebanese allies. Bush administration officials want to split Syria off from Iran, but rather than attempt to do so through diplomatic engagement with a willing Bashar, it means to do so by removing him and putting in power someone more amenable to U.S. designs. There is little hard evidence to suggest this is imminent, but with this administration, where there is smoke there is often fire, and administration ideologues have long had a monopoly on the relentless U.S. policy toward Syria. Anything less would appear, from this administration’s point of view, to be rewarding Syria for its perceived hostile policies.

    If true, this would be pure folly. Beyond the fact that the U.S. has few assets to utilize in any attempt to effect regime change in Damascus, including the divided and de-legitimized Syrian exile groups, even if this was the right thing to do, would anyone really entrust to this inept administration such a complex and delicate task? Israeli officials certainly do not want it because it would most likely lead to another Iraqi mess on their doorstep. Logic dictates that the Bush administration could not possibly be thinking along these lines, but ideology often trumps logic, and moral absolutism buries compromise; therefore, such nonsense must be quashed before it becomes a reality. Many now wish there was the political, academic, and media wherewithal to deter an ideologically driven policy toward Iraq in 2003. History doesn’t have to repeat itself.

    For Bashar, he will now probably return to his wait and see approach regarding the United States, meaning staying alive until a new U.S. administration comes to power that may be more amenable to a dialogue and will not ask Syria to give up all of its perceived assets before negotiations on any front begin. In the meantime, he will attempt to implement real and much-needed economic reform, consolidate his gains in Lebanon, an environment in which Syria is well-placed and has the motivation to again defeat the United States there, and continue to send out peaceful signals toward Israel in the hope that an Israeli leader will have the gumption to crawl out from under U.S. pressure and explore Syrian intentions. It could be a very dull 2007 regarding Syria—or, indeed, very dramatic.

    David W. Lesch is professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. His most recent publications are ‘The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History’ (Oxford University Press, 2007), ‘The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment (Westview Press, 2007), and ‘The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria’ (Yale University Press, 2005).

    January 16th, 2007, 5:34 pm

     

    MSK said:

    AkbarPalace,

    which part of my sentence “As for the official reaction on both sides (the Israeli AND Syrian governments have denied that such meetings ever took place) … well, that’s to be expected in the current situation.” was so hard to understand?

    I didn’t say that this deal will happen now or next week or even year. But THIS deal, in its basic premises (Israeli withdrawal to the pre-67 line, demilitarization of the Golan, early-warning stations manned by US forces, and some creative way to deal with the NE shore of the lake + water resources) is what’s going to happen sooner or later.

    And my 10 Shekel are still on Tzipi Livni.

    That’s not gloating (although I did find the coincidence of me just having commented about that very issue a few posts ago humoring) – it’s stating what all parties concerned, on all sides, have concluded years ago.

    The trick question is: how long will it take to get there and how much will it cost? Are we going to see a war first or not?

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 16th, 2007, 5:47 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    Alex,

    This article (similar to many) lays out the logic behind why the U.S. and Israel “should” talk to Syria.

    What is needeed is articles that explain how the U.S. and Israel “will” talk to Syria.

    This “should” versus “will” is the main issue.

    Incidentally, I see that you chose to ignore to answer my earlier question, so I will ask it again:

    Do you think that the European mediator misinterpreted the leadership’s words when it came to describing the risks of a “crash” in the Syrian economy?

    Atassi,

    Thank you.

    January 16th, 2007, 5:55 pm

     

    John Kilian said:

    The trick question is: how long will it take to get there and how much will it cost? Are we going to see a war first or not?

    Unfortunately the Bush administration and Israel have not shown a great deal of patience, and it will take time for Hizbollah’s standing to gradually diminish over time. The war in Lebanon last summer is evidence that a gradual solution seems unsatisfactory to the US and Israel.

    Furthermore, Iran’s WMD threat is projected to be viable in the next two years, further constraining the timeframe for arriving at a peaceful settlement. The Bush administration only has two years left, so the coincidence between the timeframe when Iran is expected to radically alter the (im)balance of power and the time when the Bush administration can do something about it doesn’t leave much time for an Oslo-like confidence building scheme.

    January 16th, 2007, 6:07 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Ehsani,

    The piece written by David Lesch describes the mood in Syria … very confident and relaxed, yet disappointed in this administration’s refusal to listen to Baker/Hamilton’s recommendations.

    That’s mainly what I wanted you to get from it. I realize that you and Atassi and others here are very quick to read from any news story the part which reinforces your opinions that Syria is weak and about to collapse and about to start begging for mercy.

    Don’t expect Syrian compromises and don’t believe stories that tell you the Syrians are panicking.

    The answer to your question: I leave it to your logic. If you were ever a party in any negotiations (And I am sure you were) … do you find it a logical negotiating tactic to tell the other side “Please make a deal with me .. I am weak and I might collapse soon! … help! I will accept anything to take me out of my misery!”

    January 16th, 2007, 6:10 pm

     

    Gibran said:

    ALEX, You don’t know of any ME countries that collapsed economically? Surprise! You probably need a little lesson in history:
    Egypt sold the Suez Canal in the 19th century because it went broke.
    Saudi Arabia deposed King Saud in the 1950’s because he broke the Kingdom.

    Less assertiveness on your part will go a long way to making you become a real real true ‘Realist’. We’re all playing realism here, aren’t we?

    January 16th, 2007, 6:11 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Thank you Gibran, but let’s look at recent, more relevant examples

    Lebanon’s 4 million people have to somehow come up with 41 billion dollars to pay for their debt.

    Syria’s 20 million people have to manage only 3-4 billions.

    Yet, no one is saying Lebanon is about to collapse economically, even though the recent war probably added another 3 billions to the problem.

    Syria in the 80’s was more isolated than now … it did not have any money in its reserve (now Ehsani can tell us how much they have), and it did nto collapse and it did not sign a bad peace treaty with Israel.

    Many Arab countries are in miserable shape economically … which government collapsed recently (last 20 years) from a bad economy?

    Castro is still there despite the country’s poverty and isolation.

    January 16th, 2007, 6:21 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Saudi Arabia today issued a categorical denial that Iran asked them for help in establishing contacts with the Americans

    السعودية تنفي طلب ايران توسطها لدى واشنطن

    GMT 17:30:00 2007 الثلائاء 16 يناير

    مسفر غرم الله الغامدي

    مسفرغرم الله الغامدي من الرياض: نفت المملكة العربية السعودية رسميا اليوم التقارير الصحافية التي افادت ان تكون ايران قد طلبت من الرياض التوسط لدى الولايات المتحدة الاميركية. وصرح مصدر مسؤول سعودي في تصريح صحافي الليلة بعدم صحة التقارير جملة وتفصيلا و قال ” ان التقارير التي نشرت حول طلب الحكومة الإيرانية من المملكة العربية السعودية بأن تقوم بالتوسط ما بين إيران والولايات المتحدة الأميركية غير صحيحة”.

    وكانت بعض وكالات الانباء قد اشارت امس الى طلب طهران من الرياض التوسط مع واشنطن حول البرنامج النووي العراقي . وقالت الوكالات ان لاريجاني قد حمل في منتصف الاسبوع رسالة من الرئيس الايراني احمدي نجاد الى العاهل السعودي الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز بهذا الخصوص

    January 16th, 2007, 6:40 pm

     

    Gibran said:

    ALEX, You forgot one important fact. Lebanon is the Phoenix which always rises from the ashes. And it always emerges stronger than before! Syria is anti-Lebanon (according to ancient history) and it lacks this Phoenician spirit!
    Is that why Bashar is so dead set against Paris 3?
    It is up to you if you want a Syrian standard of living equal to that of Cuba!

    January 16th, 2007, 6:43 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    You said that you realize that me and Atassi and others here are very quick to read from any news story the part, which reinforces our opinions that Syria is weak, and about to collapse and about to start begging for mercy.

    This is not a fair statement.

    My description of the Syrian economy was borrowed from the European mediator who was quoting the Syrian leadership. I did not invent the word “crash” myself. You want us to ignore the remark, which you describe as “illogical”.

    I am sorry if I assess the economic risks differently than you do. Contrary to what you may believe, I have no preconceived notion of only seeing the negatives. I do not exactly take a joy from such.

    January 16th, 2007, 7:36 pm

     

    Alex said:

    Ehsani,

    Sorry.

    All I am saying is that you should not believe everything yu read about Syrai .. there is a lot of non sense out there. For example, this verbal quote from a European diplomat really did not make sense from a logical perspective …

    Here is a good rule: the Syrians in private discussions sound about the same like they do in public. They are always worried someone will leak what they say in private. So they NEVER say things like “we will dump Hamas, we are very weak please help us …”

    January 16th, 2007, 7:47 pm

     

    ugarit said:

    This “non-paper” is probably a trial balloon.

    January 16th, 2007, 7:54 pm

     

    simohurtta said:

    Ehsani2 before you declare yourself as the “economical champion” you should remember that most of the economical discussion in these comments has concentrated how Syria should open its markets. Not a single country in the world has opened its markets at once as you demand. It is always done in little steps when the country is ready to face the consequences of free markets on each sector. If Syria would now open its markets at once, the national wealth of Syria would go in foreign pockets with laughable prices.

    Nobody has claimed that Syria is not in long term troubles if the US political and economical blockade continues. A more acute problem for Syria is that US organized blockade and Iraq’s situation (small trade to that direction) than the future declining of oil production. To solve that biggest hurdle in the way of a better economical future Syria has to find a solution to the blockade. Sadly it seems that Syria has partner for peace and co-operation in the US regime.

    January 16th, 2007, 8:05 pm

     

    ugarit said:

    Gibran said: “Syria is anti-Lebanon (according to ancient history) and it lacks this Phoenician spirit!”

    The entire Syrian coast was Phoenician.

    Actually Phoenicians would not have called themselves Phoenicians. They would be called themselves Canaanites.

    January 16th, 2007, 8:05 pm

     

    Gibran said:

    OK ALEX, from now on we will maintain in public that Syria is strong, powerful and economically healthy until an ‘official’ statement is issued declaring the country is broke!

    January 16th, 2007, 8:43 pm

     

    Ehsani2 said:

    http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/countries.cfm

    According to this table (released today), Syria is just ahead of Bangladesh when it comes to an index of economic freedom. This has nothing to do with US sanction. Please study how the index is created and reflect on our ranking in the world by asking yourself why we shoud be behind Laos, Togo and Sierra Leone

    January 16th, 2007, 10:24 pm

     

    Ford Prefect said:

    Gibran, while Syria is no Switzerland, with a standard of living that is not the envy of the world, Lebanon is not a shining example either. True that Lebanon’s GDP of $5,840 is higher than Syria’s $3,610, there is absolutely nothing to be happy about the Lebanese economy. According to recent studies, 30% of the Lebanese (more than 1 million people) live below the poverty line. Every man, woman, and child in Lebanon who is alive today owes more that $10,000 of the national debt. Each Syrian citizen, however, owes less $160 of the national debt. With Lebanon’s debt equals to 180 percent of the country’s gross domestic product combined with an economy that is growing less than 5% a year, no one can see how any Phoenician, or non Phoenician, spirit will be able to manage that disaster. One shouldn’t let the five star hotels of Lebanon mask the real income disparity and the
    immensely unhealthy state of its economy. The Syrians should not wish for anything close to what Lebanon has economically.

    Finally, I am still amazed that some of our Lebanese brothers and sisters still claim that they are basically Phoenicians and have nothing to do with the average looking masses of the Levant. As if the Phoenicians were any civilization that anyone can be proud of. Careful reading of the history shows that the Phoenicians were masters of cunning and their only motivation was profit. They were so bad at their time that the Greeks named anyone with conniving business practice a “Phoenician.”

    Ugarit is absolutely correct; they called themselves Canaanites whereas the “Phoenician” name was what the Greeks called them. Phoenicians was not a name for any group to be proud of, well, until the middle of the 19th century when Tannus Shidyaq resurrected the name again. In the 1920s, certain Lebanese intellectuals embellished the Phoenician heritage – brushing aside the fact that the Phoenicians held many city-state enclaves along the entire Syrian coast and not just today’s Lebanon – to draw a distinction between the Lebanese people and their neighboring Arab population. As if the Lebanese never shared the same genes, features, and social practices of everyone who lived in the Levant. When that idea did not go well with most smart and educated Lebanese, they turned to France as their social and moral basis of being (“Al Umm al Hanoon!). We all now see how Arab the Lebanese are – their rising from the ashes is characteristically synchronous with the rest of all Levant people.

    January 16th, 2007, 10:57 pm

     

    Ford Prefect said:

    And Gibran, yes, indeed, I fully agree with you. Syria’s economy is backward, regressive, and in desperate need of reform (but please don’t quote the Heritage Foundation, their philosophy belongs in teh Smithsonian Museum). Syrian economy ranks low on any international scale while unemployment is high, productivity is low, and growth is lagging. By the way the above is not only my opinion, it is the opinion of many conscientious and patriotic Syrians, inside Syria and outside, who are stopping at nothing short of initiating and implementing improvements and reforms.

    January 16th, 2007, 11:13 pm

     

    MSK said:

    Dear Simohurtta,

    You’re wrong. The counter-example is ALL countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe after 1989.

    For some (like Slovenia, Baltic states, Czech Rep.) that worked quite well.

    Also, there are the examples of China and South-East Asia.

    Regarding the economy, from what my business friends tell me, the main issue with countries like Syria & Egypt isn’t foreign pressure but the fact that these countries are run like big mafia clans: no security for any investor (foreign OR domestic) at all unless the upper 10-50 are involved. The state cannot (will not?) guarantee that courts will actually prosecute breaches of contract, quality of labor is low, etc.

    The issue here isn’t even democracy, but rule of law. Even countries that are rather tightly ruled, like Singapore or China, are economically prosperous because they are implementing national economic plans – ruthlessly if necessary – and only let individuals enrich themselves if that doesn’t hinder the national economic progress.

    In Syria, the gov’t seems not to care. And it has been consistently ranked as the most corrupt place in the Middle East for business. That’s why outsiders (and expat Syrians) don’t invest. Many who tried in the 1990s left after years of frustration.

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 16th, 2007, 11:21 pm

     

    simohurtta said:

    According to this table (released today), Syria is just ahead of Bangladesh when it comes to an index of economic freedom. This has nothing to do with US sanction. Please study how the index is created and reflect on our ranking in the world by asking yourself why we shoud be behind Laos, Togo and Sierra Leone

    Hmmm Ehsani2 you really seem to believe in these raking lists. Heritage foundation certainly makes all tricks in the economists books to get the axis of evil to the bottom of the list. I would not put much value to these kind of rather shady subjective studies. With the measurements Heritage foundation has chosen it gets this list. With weighting a little some more other factors like social security, workers rights, summer holidays, maternity leaves etc. we get a completely different economical “liberty” ranking list. In that list USA is in a less favourable position and EU countries higher.

    This labor freedom in Heritage’s list is funny. The less worker have rights the better the ranking. What freedom for labor is that? Well freedom of rights is probably the right answer.

    Finland ranking 16
    Labor Freedom – 53.4%
    Freedom from Government – 39.0%

    Syria ranking 142
    Labor Freedom – 57.4%
    Freedom from Government – 57.5%

    Hmmm Syrians are more “free” as we state slaves in in the Finnish economical dictatorship. Buaaahaa

    Come-on Ehsani2, if you want a little more analytical and better reading of Syria’s economy than these naive biased ranking lists made for propaganda purposes, here is a link
    http://www.audi.com.lb/geteconomy/syria/SyriaEconomicReport.pdf

    Do you really have the opinion that USA’s blockade has no effect in Syria’s economy?

    January 16th, 2007, 11:39 pm

     

    Ford Prefect said:

    MSK,
    “The issue here isn’t even democracy, but rule of law.” Great observation and right on target. Thanks!

    January 16th, 2007, 11:40 pm

     

    simohurtta said:

    Dear MSK

    You are worng. The process in Baltic, Slovenia, Czech etc countries has not been without troubles. All countries are ethnically rather “solid” and small. On the other hand none of those countries did not start form scratch, they had much industrial infrastructure and experience. They had/have a very good educated population, they got much help in making laws from European Union, they had huge markets on the other side of border etc.

    Certainly I know. I live 50 kilometres from Baltic countries (Estonia) and visited often the countries during Soviet time and since then. In the first stage much of Estonia’s etc state owned companies changed ownership in very shady deals. The first years were a real Mafia economy. Then came the foreigners buying cheaply the best buildings of Tallinn’s beautiful old town with laughable prices. On stage two came the foreign companies which used the labour price gap between Baltic countries and Western Europe. Now most of the economy is run by Finnish, Swedish and German companies. No doubt that Baltic countries have gone fast forward, but they are near EU, not in Africa.

    It is a complete illusion that China and other South East Asian countries like South Korea have opened their economy totally to free trade. They have done it gradually and carefully in very little steps when their economy was/is strong enough to tolerate the consequences. Yes opening markets for example in finance is not without dangers. We Finns learned in a hard way during the 90’s.

    If somebody claims that East European countries are without corruption and “mafia clans” he doesn’t know anything about Europe.

    On the other corruption is not invented by the present regimes of the axis of evil. It has been around all the time and deeply rooted in Middle East and else where. BEA uses corruption, Halliburton and other use it.

    January 17th, 2007, 12:20 am

     

    Gibran said:

    FP,
    Your historical information is incorrect. And so is UGARIT’s. Phoenicians and Canaanites are not the same people. The Canaanites inhabited the interior whereas the Phoenicians inhabited on what is properly called the Levantine coast (the ancient name for Lebanon). If there are any cities on this coast that are currently not part of Lebanon (Arwad and Tartus perhaps, and by the way I do have blood connections in those places) then they would be properly called Phoenician and not Canaanite and therefore they would be better off becoming part of Lebanon. The Phoenicians spread out from the LEVANTINE coast and established their colonies in various places. Agree they were driven by profit which by the way is the universal motto at the moment of any thriving nation. But they also were very creative (remember Byblos is UN cultural heritage and so will Tyre and Sidon be very soon). I’m sure your Syrian comrades would love to make as much profit as they can. It seems to me even Syria’s quest for so-called peace is driven by nothing but this quest for economic profit. As a matter of fact, if I’m an Israeli I’d count to 1000 before committing to any form of peace talks with the Syrians given their real intention of easing their current economic debacle which casts tremendous doubt about their true commitment to peace. Going back to Phoenicians, never mind what the Greeks may say. The Greeks may have their own perspective and they may also have their own shortcomings. Lebanon has a debt problem, for sure, but it has no problem making peace with Israel or any other country for that matter. Rest assured, Lebanese debt is owed to Lebanese National Banks and you can also be certain that the majority of the Lebanese (Resident as well as Diaspora) have enough resources to more than cover the debt figure you quoted.

    January 17th, 2007, 1:00 am

     

    norman said:

    People and countries go broke when they spend more than they make ,yes Syrians do not shope at Macy or Sachs , they shop at walmart and old navy,As long as Syrians and Syria do not eat and dress on credit they will not go bankrupt.

    January 17th, 2007, 2:17 am

     

    ugarit said:

    Gibran said: “Phoenicians and Canaanites are not the same people. The Canaanites inhabited the interior whereas the Phoenicians inhabited on what is properly called the Levantine coast”

    Not accurate. That definition is an Occidental one and not a Levantine one. This was by design to separate the “Phoenician” for the Canaaninite since the Bible is quite anti-Canaanite. How could the Canaanites be that civilized when the Bible defames them?

    In terms of archaeology, language, and religion, there is little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other local cultures of Canaan, because they were Canaanites themselves. However, they are unique in their remarkable seafaring achievements. Indeed, in the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC they call themselves Kenaani or Kinaani (Canaanites);”

    In fact, the “Phoenicians” called themselves “bani Kanaan”. The word Phoenician is not even Phoenician. That tells us a lot about the origin of this myth.

    Sometimes I wonder if “Phoenician” is not a transformation of “banikanaan” to “Phoenician” and not the silly color purple meaning.

    January 17th, 2007, 3:33 am

     

    youngSyria said:

    While I’m not expert in history, I can’t understand why people insist to relate themselves to those who lived 3000++ B.C. What is the relation between an Egyptian citizen living in 2007 and an ancient one (pharaoh).

    And I really wonder where did we herd of Lebanon after the so called Phoenicians desappeared?

    “Going back to Phoenicians, never mind what the Greeks may say. The Greeks may have their own perspective and they may also have their own shortcomings.”

    Gibran …dude .. since you are so in love with history , how could you critisize a super power (in your time )like greac? Arent they far more superior than your Phoenicians ?

    January 17th, 2007, 3:37 am

     

    Alex said:

    U.S. officials: Cheney was kept abreast of Israel-Syria talks

    By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

    Senior American government officials received regular reports of the secret meetings that took place in Europe between a former Israeli official and a Syrian representative, Haaretz has learned.

    Senior officials in Washington told Haaretz that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was kept in the picture about these indirect talks between Syria and Israel.

    Ibrahim (Ayeb) Suleiman, the Syrian representative, also said this at his meetings with former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel, adding that Cheney had made no move to stop him from participating in the talks. Suleiman is a Washington resident.

    A document that Dr. Nimrod Novik, a former political advisor to Vice Premier Shimon Peres, disseminated last October to members of the Council for Peace and Security also said that Washington knew about the talks. “While the administration is taking care not to broadcast a U-turn in its approach as long as the president has not given it an explicit green light, the signs of a change in direction are multiplying,” Novik wrote.

    “During the fighting in Lebanon, former senior [U.S.] officials were authorized to speak with Damascus, within a narrow mandate, while Pentagon and State Department officials support a change in the policy toward Hamas and quote the president in this context.”

    Geoffrey Aronson, of the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who helped arrange the secret meetings, also participated last year in meetings organized by Alastair Crooke, the European Union’s former security envoy to the territories, with key Hamas and Hezbollah members.

    These meetings, which took place in Beirut, were also attended by two former senior Central Intelligence Agency officials. Haaretz reported at the time that Cheney also know about the existence of these meetings, and received regular reports from the American participants.

    Novik wrote that “during secret talks via a third party a few years ago, the Syrians already demonstrated much more flexibility than they did at Shepherdstown on matters such as the pace of the withdrawal, implementation of normalization and creative solutions (‘a peace park’) for the area north of [Lake] Kinneret. Then, too, it was Israel that refused direct, official talks.”

    The Shepherdstown talks were formal Israeli-Syrian negotiations started by Ehud Barak’s government.

    Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin said in media interviews Tuesday that the European mediator in the secret talks was Nicholas Lang, head of the Middle East desk at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

    Lang also played a key role in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian meetings at which Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo drafted the Geneva Initiative, their proposal for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Liel, who was the driving force behind the secret meetings with Suleiman, is one of the people closest to Beilin.

    Raviv Drucker, of Channel 10 television, reported last night that Lang met not long ago with Shalom Turjeman, Ehud Olmert’s political adviser, and presented him with the draft. According to Drucker, Turjeman told Lang that Israel has no interest in the understandings. Drucker also said that Lang visited Damascus several times during the talks, met with Syrian FM Farouk Shara, and reported that he believed the Syrian leadership genuinely wanted a deal.

    January 17th, 2007, 3:43 am

     

    Gibran said:

    UGARIT,
    If you’re taking the Bible as your historical reference then you’re contradicting yourself. I never suggested the Canaanites were civilized or uncivilized. I didn’t even mention anything about their achievements (if any). The Phoenicians have well established history: Hiram the king of Tyre figures prominently in the Bible. Mel Kart also figures in various historical references. King Solomon’s temple is well known to have been built from Levantine Cedars supplied by Phoenicians and not Canaanites. Phoenicians may also have been involved in the actual construction process as designers and/or builders. Coins have been discovered with Hiram’s insignia clearly engraved. Coins with Mel Kart insignia were also found. The history of the LEVANTINE coastal cities uniting against outside invaders is well documented. The facts are the Canaanites inhabited the interior desert which may also include present day Jordan in addition to the Syrian Desert and developed their own way of life. The Phoenicians inhabited the Levantine coast, also developed their own way of life and were perhaps the first people to sail and became sea traders. Carthage in Tunisia is a living testimony to the Phoenician civilization which ruled the Mediterranean Sea for a complete millennium ending with the Punic wars with Rome. By the way Ugarit Kingdom is Phoenician and not Canaanite.

    January 17th, 2007, 4:02 am

     

    Alex said:

    Gibran

    You are turning the phoenicians into the other builders of King Solomon’s temple!

    Joshua? MSK? .. who built King Solomon’s temple? Was Hiram Abiff the real architect? or was it some other Phoenician that King Hiram of Tyre sent?

    Ihsani? how was the temple financed at the time? was king Solomon a good economist?

    Can we go back to discussing today?

    January 17th, 2007, 5:36 am

     

    Enlightened said:

    I wonder that if all the secret peace talks between Israel and Syria might prompt that clown Nasrallah to tell Assad he is a traitor ?

    January 17th, 2007, 5:48 am

     

    Nur al-Cubicle said:

    Negotiations for the handover of the Golan Heights to start soon per L’Orient-Le Jour. The negotiators have been appointed: “Ibrahim Suleiman, un médiateur européen non précisé, et, côté israélien, un ancien directeur du ministère des Affaires étrangères, Alon Liel. ”

    In return, Syria is to sever its links to Iran and Hezbollah.

    January 17th, 2007, 6:10 am

     

    Gibran said:

    ALEX,
    Hiram Abiff that you mentioned is perhaps a fictional personality used in some Masonic ritual according to your link. I don’t believe that I referred to any such Masonic cults in any of my comments. Could it be one of the Hiram’s mentioned in the Bible? I don’t know. You have to ask an authority in the Masonic cult. Your link seems to indicate some similarity, but as you may well know the Masons are a secretive society.

    Historical Hiram (King of Tyre) is clearly mentioned in the Bible in connection with the building of the Temple. That’s the Hiram I was referring to. Here is what says:

    The name “Hiram Abiff” does not appear as such in the Bible, but there are three references to people named Hiram that are present:

    Hiram, King of Tyre, is credited in 2 Samuel 5:11 for having sent building materials and men for the original construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
    Hiram, a craftsman of great skill sent from Tyre. Second Chronicles 2:13 relates a formal request from King Solomon of Jerusalem to King Hiram I of Tyre, for workers and for materials to build a new temple; King Hiram responds “I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood and with purple, blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my lord, David your father.”
    In 1 Kings 7:13–14, Hiram is described as the son of a widow of a Tyrian citizen, contracted by Solomon to cast the bronze furnishings for the new temple. From this reference, Freemasons often refer to Hiram Abiff as “the widow’s son”. Hiram lived or at least temporarily worked in clay banks (1 Kings 7:46-47) along the Jabbok River, on the east bank of the Jordan River, near their confluence.

    January 17th, 2007, 6:12 am

     

    Nur al-Cubicle said:

    Oh, and France is getting directly involved and will be sending an envoy to Tehran to discuss Lebanese Hezbollah. Chirac told Dubya to take a hike. Bien!

    January 17th, 2007, 6:13 am

     

    Alex said:

    Nur, Chirac has been pushing the “talk to Iran” option for some time now. To him, it means “Show Bashar that we will not need him, if we decide to coordinate things with Hizballah, we will talk to Iran, and not to Bashar”.

    January 17th, 2007, 6:39 am

     

    Alex said:

    Gibran

    I was joking, but anyway, that’s an interesting analogy.

    You will be happy to know that the Freemasons admire another Phoenician … Pythagoras, who is not really Greek, but from Sidon or Samos.

    January 17th, 2007, 6:48 am

     
     

    MSK said:

    Dear Simohurtta,

    I don’t disagree with you on your description of the East European development post-’89.

    But my point was that there are a number of countries where the change from a socialist statist system to a liberal economy did not translate into a total economic crash.

    Also, Syria isn’t as small as, say, Slovenia but it’s also not as big as Egypt. And, contrary to Slovenia, there are a LOT of Syrians abroad who have business expertise and can raise investment money, not to speak of Gulf and other foreign investors.

    So what if a Dubai or Canadian or Indian company owns the Homs cement factory (no idea if there is one in Homs, but just as an example)? Why would that be so bad?

    And my point with China/Singapore was that an immediate switch to total free market economy isn’t even necessary.

    But what IS necessary is a clear economic program set by the gov’t and then implemented. The business elites should be offered to join in & benefit from it, but if some don’t like it … then they will get pushed aside.

    But no program will succeed unless it is accompanied by the establishment of rule of law. Unless a citizen or foreign investor can be sure that the laws & regulations are followed or, in case of a breach, s/he will be able to call upon the gov’t institutions (incl. courts of law) to enforce them … well, until then there’s no way that Syria will get out of the current situation.

    I’ve witnessed the development in Syria for a while now and agree that today’s situation is much better than, say, 10 years ago. But so far the only economic liberalization and investments are on small-scale projects, like the opening of restaurants in Damascus. But that will never provide enough jobs or seriously raise the GDP.

    And time is running out.

    Again, none of this requires a change in government, as the Chinese (and Vietnamese) example shows. And it can be done gradually. But it has to be DONE.

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 17th, 2007, 9:57 am

     

    Ford Prefect said:

    Gibran,
    The subject of the Phoenicians has been analyzed and debated extensively in the literature. One can find a wealth of knowledge, often contradictory, about the lives and the different civilizations in our region. The real issue in not the academic discussion of whether the Phoenicians were Canaanites or not; but rather why anybody is talking about them in the context of nationalism of the modern state of Lebanon. The real issue is that while all Lebanese read and understand the history of the land, not all of them see that the Phoenicians form a basis for their uniqueness. A certain group of Lebanese have drawn the delineation back to the Phoenicians to compose a unique identity that is presumably different, but many other Lebanese do not share that line of thinking but rather consider themselves an integral part of the indigenous inhabitants of the region. The idea of “we are Phoenicians” is a 19th century invention contrived to counter the horrible events that befell on the Maronites in Mount Lebanon. In today’s Lebanon, while that idea is still marginally surviving, it is noticeable that it is no longer forming the basis of a national Lebanese identity.

    January 17th, 2007, 10:38 am

     

    simohurtta said:

    Dear MSK

    I have never said that Syria doesn’t need a plan and change its economical “system”. What I have pointed out is that it can not be done by simply “demanding” free markets and low governmental interference. The transformation of a closed economy to an open economy takes a relative long time dependent from the development stage. At least 5 to 10 years.

    Selling state owned companies must be done in good time in order to get the best price. Not by selling those assets fast like in Eastern Europe to very shady “investors”.

    A real rapid economical development can only start when USA stops it rather extraordinary blockade. The other hurdle is the peace with Israel. No serious investments in large scale and long term are made to Syria if the is a high probability of war and/or a fear for the investors to be put on US black list.

    Simply shouting time after time free trade and markets, without talking about those blocks on the road in that direction, is not very constructive. Especially when USA does its best to block that free market development. Syria doesn’t lack the desire and need to develop economically. The problem is that it is not allowed to develop.

    January 17th, 2007, 11:51 am

     

    Ford Prefect said:

    I hope that I am not the only only who happens to agree with both MSK and Simohurtta and see that both are making valid points. MSK’s rule of law combined with Simohurtta’s rational approach to the fundamentals of free market infrastructure form the basis of the free enterprise system. Both of you are making excellent points with no fundamental difference that I can discern.

    January 17th, 2007, 12:24 pm

     

    ugarit said:

    Gibran said: “If you’re taking the Bible as your historical reference then you’re contradicting yourself.”

    No not at all. The point I was making is that Orientalists have tended to push for the name Phoenician over Canaanite for Biblical reasons.

    The Phoenicians (that’s what the Greeks called them) called themselves bani kanaan. Kanaan means Canaan.

    January 17th, 2007, 3:28 pm

     

    MSK said:

    Dear FP,

    I think the essential difference between Simohurtta & me is that he (just like the Syrian gov’t) says that Syria can’t do anything economically until there’s a solution to the Israel “issue” while I say that that’s a cheap excuse and not true.

    Establishing rule of law in Syria has absolutely nothing to do with outside forces. Or are the Americans & Israelis responsible for the Makhlouf mafia & the government’s failure to deal with it? Or for the corruption und powerlessness of the Syrian judiciary?

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 17th, 2007, 3:56 pm

     

    simohurtta said:

    Dear MSK

    As IMF has stated Syria has done steps towards opening their markets and developing economy. So it is simply unfounded to say that Syria is not doing anything. I have never said that Syria would not need to take steps in the “rule of law”. Of course it has to do it better like most other countries in the world had to do. It is a rather wild assumption that I am against increasing the rule of law.

    Would you MSK invest your property to a country which is
    a) getting a Lebanon treatment from Israel
    b) a “democracy treatment” from USA in Iraq style
    c) a + b.

    with some certainty. I guess not. Neither are the big investors who have ready plans to invest to Syria. That is why it is rather difficult for Syrian government to take bold steps.

    I would say it is pure insipidity not admit that the Israel and USA relations have no effect to Syria’s development of economy.

    Certainly Syria has to fight against corruption, like Israel, Saudi Arabia etc have to. Is the business ethics in Syria much different that it is in the area? I suppose not.

    January 17th, 2007, 6:04 pm

     

    MSK said:

    Dear Simohurtta,

    you keep evading my argument and obfuscating the issue.

    There is NOTHING external to the fact that the Syrian judiciary is corrupt, for Syrians and foreigners, that there is no accountability whatsoever on part of the government and the zu’amaa, that the economy is run along a pre-89 Soviet style, and that the few get (super)rich while the masses don’t get much.

    Syria has done “steps towards opening their markets and developing economy” according to the IMF, yes. Well, when you start at almost nothing, any improvement is quite visible. As in, if you have one factory and build another one, you have a 100% growth, but when you have 50 factories and build five more you “only” have 10% growth.

    But regardless of all that – the main issue I was talking about was that of “rule of law”. You have it in Finnland: If you sign a contract with someone else and that other person breaks it, then you go to court and either force the other party to pay the contractually agreed fine or get them to fulfil the terms of the contract, PLUS the other party will also get sentenced to a penalty (money and/or prison).

    In Syria … forget about it.

    THAT’s what I am talking about.

    No Israeli and/or American interference or pressure has anything to do with that.

    –MSK

    http://www.aqoul.com

    January 18th, 2007, 12:28 am

     

    simohurtta said:

    Dear MSK

    In the “pre-89 Soviet era” there were no super-rich in Soviet Union. The super rich emerged during the Mafia economy era (post-89 capitalist era). 🙂

    I have never claimed that Syria has no problems with the rule of law. Certainly it has, but so has Israel, USA and Finland. It is a never ending job make it better. Of course the lack of rule of law is “internal”, nobody has claimed it would not be. But with political and economical blockade USA and Israel have much to do.

    Even though the rule of law and “blockade” are both linked to the economical development they are completely separate issues. The lack of rule of law in Syria doesn’t wash away Syria’s need to end the blockade and making peace with Israel nor it does justify US/Israeli actions against Syria.

    January 18th, 2007, 8:22 am

     

    Tara30HENDRIX said:

    One acknowledges that today’s life is not very cheap, however some people require money for different issues and not every one earns enough cash. Thus to get fast loans and collateral loan should be good way out.

    October 18th, 2010, 3:16 pm

     

    Post a comment