“Syria had committed no crime, and Israel had no legal justification to carry out its attack” Scott Ritter

Evidence-based Bombing   (Thanks T)
By publishing intelligence on a possible Syrian nuclear facility, the US has endorsed after the fact Israel's illegal use of force in attacking it

By Scott Ritter
"The Guardian"

It looks as if Israel may, in fact, have had reason to believe that Syria was constructing, with the aid and assistance of North Korea, a facility capable of housing a nuclear reactor. The United States Central Intelligence Agency recently released a series of images, believed to have been made from a videotape obtained from Israeli intelligence, which provide convincing, if not incontrovertible, evidence that the "unused military building" under construction in eastern Syria was, in fact, intended to be used as a nuclear reactor. Syria continues to deny such allegations as false.

On the surface, the revelations seem to bolster justification not only for the Israeli air strike of September 6 2007, which destroyed the facility weeks or months before it is assessed to have been ready for operations, but also the hard-line stance taken by the administration of President George W Bush toward both Syria and North Korea regarding their alleged covert nuclear cooperation. In the aftermath of the Israeli air strike, Syria razed the destroyed facility and built a new one in its stead, ensuring that no follow-up investigation would be able to ascertain precisely what had transpired there.

Largely overlooked in the wake of the US revelations is the fact that, even if the US intelligence is accurate (and there is no reason to doubt, at this stage, that it is not), Syria had committed no crime, and Israel had no legal justification to carry out its attack. Syria is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and under the provisions of the comprehensive safeguards agreement, is required to provide information on the construction of any facility involved in nuclear activity "as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced to a new facility". There is no evidence that Syria had made any effort to introduce nuclear material to the facility under construction.

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global watchdog responsible for the implementation of nuclear safeguards inspections, has pushed for the universal adherence to a more stringent safeguards standard known as the "additional protocol of inspections", such a measure is purely voluntary, and Syria has refused to sign up to any such expansion of IAEA inspection activity until such time as Israel signs the NPT and subjects its nuclear activities to full safeguards inspections. While vexing, the Syrian position is totally in keeping with its treaty obligations, and so it is Syria, not Israel, that was in full conformity with international law at the time of Israel's September 6 2007 attack.

The United States and Israel contend that the Syrian-North Korean construction project was part of a covert nuclear weapons programme. However, even the United States admits that the facility under construction in Syria lacked any reprocessing capacity, meaning its utility for producing plutonium for a nuclear bomb was nil. Rather than serving as the tip of the iceberg for a nuclear weapons programme, it seems more likely that the Syrian facility was intended for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Following the same path as Iran, Syria most probably was positioning itself to present the world with a fait acompli, noting that the current US-Israeli posture concerning the regime in Damascus would not enable Syria to pursue and complete any nuclear programme declared well in advance. By building the reactor in secret, Syria would be positioned to declare the completed facility to the IAEA prior to the introduction of any nuclear material, and then hope to hide behind the shield of the IAEA in order to prevent any Israeli retaliation.

But this is all speculation. By bombing the Syrian facility, Israel not only retarded any Syrian nuclear ambition, peaceful or otherwise, but also precluded a full, definitive investigation into the matter by the international community. Perhaps fearful that Syrian adherence to the NPT would underscore its own duplicity in that regard, the Israeli decision to bomb Syria not only allowed the Syrian effort to be defined as weapons-related (an unproven and unlikely allegation), but by extension reinforced the Israeli (and American) contention that the nuclear activity in Iran was weapons-related as well.

The international debate that has taken place about the Syrian facility shows how successful the Israeli gambit, in fact, was, since there is virtually no discussion about the fact that Israel violated international law in attacking, without provocation, a sovereign state whose status as a member of the United Nations ostensibly affords it protection from such assault. The American embrace of the Israeli action, and the decision to produce intelligence information about the nature of the bombed facility at this late stage in the game, only reinforces the reality that the United States has turned its back on international law in the form of arms control and non-proliferation agreements.

The Bush administration seeks to use the alleged Syrian nuclear facility as a lynchpin in making its arguments against not only the Iranian nuclear programme, but also to scuttle the current discussions with North Korea over its nuclear weapons activities. Having embraced pre-emptive war as a vehicle to pursue its unilateral policy of regime change in Iraq (and having sold that conflict based upon hyped-up weapons of mass destruction charges), it should come as no surprise that the Bush administration would seek to support, and repeat, past patterns of behaviour when pursuing similar policies with Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Truth, and the adherence to international law, have never been an impediment to implementation of American policy objectives under the Bush administration.

Comments (101)

Rowan Berkeley said:

Before even considering his interpretation, the article should be shredded, because of the fact that this statement is completely and by universal agreement untrue : “believed to have been made from a videotape obtained from Israeli intelligence”

April 27th, 2008, 1:55 am


T said:

From Ronald Reagan Diaries on GHW Bush and his son W:

‘A moment I’ve been dreading. George brought his n’er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida; the one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I’ll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they’ll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.’

From the REAGAN DIARIES——entry dated May 17, 1986.

April 27th, 2008, 2:29 am


Leila Abu-Saba said:

Scott Ritter wrote: “the fact that Israel violated international law in attacking, without provocation, a sovereign state whose status as a member of the United Nations ostensibly affords it protection from such assault.”

He is being ironic, right? Since when did Israel ever care about international law when it comes to attacking sovereign states?

Israel does this so often, for so long (more than a generation), and with so little repercussion that most of the world seems to accept that such attacks must be legal, because why else would Israel keep doing it?

Signed, a Lebanese-American eyewitness to Israeli violations of international law.

April 27th, 2008, 2:55 am


Enlightened said:

Comment By Eyal Zisser On America’s Relationship with Syria:

(An alternate view)

Eyal Zisser

For nearly all of six decades, the United States and Syria have had an impossible relationship, marked by total U.S. failure. Despite all efforts, the United States has failed to turn Syria into its ally, or even persuade Syria to respect U.S. regional interests.

The problem would seem to be not only Syria’s behavior, but the very nature of the regime, especially that of the Asad dynasty. It is useful to consider Syria as another Cuba or North Korea, with which it bears many similarities. All three countries are ruled by dictatorial family dynasties cloaked in anti-Western ideologies that legitimate them and ensure their survival. For this reason, Bashar Asad is unlikely to be “bought” by the West.

It would be a mistake to compare Bashar even to Anwar Sadat. Unlike Sadat, Bashar sends out feelers to United State and Israel, not as part of an effort to bring about a fundamental change in his country’s domestic situation, but in order to preserve things just as they are. It is more apt to compare him to Gamal Abdel Nasser, who in the 1950s sought to maneuver between the two big blocs, until Washington finally pushed him into the arms of the Soviet Union.

What Bashar is proposing to the United States is an honorable capitulation: that it depart from Iraq, abandon Lebanon, pressure Israel to return the entire Golan Heights, and acquiesce in Syria’s continued membership in the region’s Iran-centered “axis of evil” (with no more than a vague Syrian hint of a possible future withdrawal from that axis). In return for all this, Syria offers to restore the arms-length relationship it had with the United States in the 1990s. Washington tolerated that sort of Syrian maneuvering in the days of George Bush senior and Bill Clinton, but it became altogether unacceptable to the present Bush administration after 9/11.

Syria is paying a price for Bashar’s defiance of the United States and his alignment with Iran and North Korea. Syria remains weak and backward, and its economic situation is getting worse. The country is depleted of its oil reserves and impacted negatively by the global economic downturn. But domestically, on the Syrian street, Bashar’s policies appear to enjoy wide popularity. America’s sinking into the Iraqi morass and Israel’s failure to subdue Hezbollah in the Lebanese war weakened Syria’s two main rivals and strengthened Bashar, who suddenly looked like a winning gambler. In a troubled region, Syria gives the impression of a model of political stability. Its social and economic problems are not yet acute, and there is no real domestic threat to the regime’s stability.

So the question of what to do about Syria remains unresolved. There is very little Washington can do to compel a change in Syrian behavior if it is not interested in another Iraq-type adventure (i.e., regime change by means of military occupation), or not ready to use real force against Syria—for instance, by imposing a blockade on export of Syrian oil. Absent such measures, U.S. policy consists of ineffective rhetoric and insignificant economic sanctions.

In that light, perhaps those who call upon the United States to change its policy have a point. If Washington isn’t prepared to beat Damascus, its only other option, aside from the status quo, is to think about joining it. A properly conceived Syrian-Israeli peace process could serve Israeli and U.S. interests. A different Syria also could play a stabilizing role in Lebanon. If Syria somehow ended up aligned with the pax Americana, it could work keep Hezbollah from assuming power there (which might otherwise happen in 15-20 years).

But a Syrian-American dialogue should be realistic. It cannot be based on the illusion that Syria might become another Egypt, or even another Libya. At best, it might be another North Korea—a country with which the United States could reach limited understandings after long and exacting negotiations, crafted carefully and realistically.

Eyal Zisser is director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.

April 27th, 2008, 3:45 am


Shai said:


Good article. I agree with almost everything. The U.S. is being foolish for not embracing Syria (who is asking for it in every possible way). There’s a reason even enemies talk.

April 27th, 2008, 4:11 am


Shai said:

Rowan Berkeley,

You said ‘… the article should be shredded, because of the fact that this statement is completely and by universal agreement untrue : “believed to have been made from a videotape obtained from Israeli intelligence” ‘

Why are you assuming that if Israeli intelligence had a videotape from this so-called reactor, that they would share it with Congress, or with you? What if they shared it with, at most, their friends at Langley? What if by showing us more of the tape, their sources or methods would be compromised? I imagine intelligence agencies tend not to want to share anything with anyone. Releasing material for PR purposes is probably forced upon them, not coming at their initiative. I’m sure whenever the U.S. shows us satellite imagery of various installations worldwide, there’s an innate battle between those in charge of imagery in the Intelligence community, and those who want to release this material. In the end, they compromise over quality of images, and we get to see a miniscule amount of information, compared to probably what’s available.

My guess is that the timing and the means of providing this “proof” has a lot more to do with Pyongyang than with Damascus. After all, the Americans seem to want to demonstrate the connection to N. Korea, not even the extent of Syria’s existing or non-existing nuclear program. You haven’t seen endless articles about what “could have happened” if Syria had succeeded in producing plutonium, and changing immediately the balance of power in the region. You’d imagine THAT was the concern of Israel and the U.S. But the way it came out, it seems almost clear the target here is N. Korea. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was Cheney-initiated, trying to force a hardening of his boss’s softy-attitude towards the Korean regime. Nothing more.

April 27th, 2008, 4:35 am


Rowan Berkeley said:

I’ll tell you why – it’s because the train of thought you just outlined follows exactly the same sequence of pseudo-inference as led to the phlogiston theory. The technical term for this type of pseudo-inference is ‘obscuram per obscuris,’ which means ‘the obscure through the more obscure.’

April 27th, 2008, 4:58 am


Shai said:

Rowan Berkeley,

Maybe I should have done a PhD, and not settled for a mere MA, so that I would better understand phlogiston theory… 🙂

But for the less ‘obscuram per obscuris’ of us, my point was, that if indeed this was a reactor, then we shouldn’t have expected to see convincing proof ourselves. If it wasn’t a reactor, and this is all manipulation, then it’s a pretty poor one at that. One can also doctor a moving video, you know…

April 27th, 2008, 5:07 am


annie said:

Rowan Berkeley has a very interesting blog where I found this partial transcript of a meeting at the CIA about the Syrian outfit :

April 27th, 2008, 6:07 am


annie said:

Shai, I found this on wikipedia. Where else ?

“The phlogiston theory (from the Ancient Greek φλογιστόν phlŏgistón “burning up,” from φλόξ phlóx “fire”) is an obsolete scientific theory, stated initially in 1667 by Johann Joachim Becher, whereby in addition to the classical four elements of the Greeks, there was an additional fire-like element called “phlogiston” that was contained within combustible bodies, and released, to lesser or greater degrees, during combustion. The theory was an attempt to explain oxidation processes, such as combustion and the rusting of metals.”

Note, it is obsolete.

April 27th, 2008, 7:34 am


offended said:

This is what I said Yesterday (acutally I am quite suspicious that Scott Ritter might have stolen my idea!). Syria can’t be incriminated in this thing unless the facility is operational with nuclear fuel.

April 27th, 2008, 9:05 am


Rowan Berkeley said:

and ‘ahlan wa sahlan’ to you too, annie, thanks for the compliment. I think I found the link to the transcript right here somewhere, but I don’t know any more, my head is spinning.

I don’t mean to start any polemics, honestly.

April 27th, 2008, 9:12 am


SimoHurtta said:

Syrian radio goes ‘cool’ with West’s music

It’s indisputable that these are tough times for cultural understanding between the Arab world and the West. Muslim clerics rail against decadence in the United States and Europe. Right-wing politicians in America and Western Europe denounce Islam as a religion of terror and intolerance.

But despite the political and military tensions, the rhythms and textures of daily life here are increasingly meshing with those of Western nations. On the streets of Damascus, people breezily draw in American sounds, sights and icons, making them part of their own cultural DNA.

In a land viewed by the Bush administration as an associate member of the so-called axis of evil, 50 Cent floods the airwaves.

“The American media talk about everything bad in Syria,” says Michel Succar, Madina FM’s fast-talking general manager. “We love Western music.”

The 30-year-old, his shaved head gleaming, his arms flailing, continues: “We love Rihanna. It’s very cool. Syria is very cool.”

April 27th, 2008, 9:48 am


Shai said:

Annie, thank you for the source (I actually read it there also.. :-), like you said, where else…)


I don’t think Syria can be “incriminated” even if it was producing ICBM’s there “like sausages” (as Nikita Khruschchev use to say). I imagine those who attacked this facility, if indeed it was a reactor designed to produce plutonium, did so just before it became operational. They didn’t want to wait until it became operational, for obvious reasons. But again, this entire argument is moot, because none of us (not EVEN Scott Ritter) have access to the real intelligence. We only saw what was shown to members of Congress who, for all practical purposes, are like us, ordinary citizens, not intelligence committee members.

If this facility was a mere deserted army base, as was suggested, why on earth wouldn’t Syria allow hundreds of journalists from all over the world to photograph and cover this bombardment right after it took place? That would have certainly embarrassed Israel (and anyone else party to this adventure) for weeks and months to come. Why was everything “cleaned up” quickly at the hush of night? What was so secret about a deserted base? Who knows.. But, the truth is, who CARES??? If Iran and Israel can have nuclear technology, why can’t Syria??? So what if they’re signatories to the infamous NPT? What about the U.S., Israel, Russia, England, France, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, N. Korea, Libya?

April 27th, 2008, 11:03 am


norman said:

Happy Easter to the Orthodox Christians, Like Me .

April 27th, 2008, 1:59 pm


wizart said:

Happy Easter from a Humanist, like me.

We’re all humans so we have a lot in common, cheers! 🙂

April 27th, 2008, 2:17 pm


Rowan Berkeley said:

there is a news clip out there of Abbas sitting with Bush and repeatedly shaking hands for the camera, while Bush literally, audibly, sniggers. Bush looks exceptionally retarded in it. Is he on some sort of psychotropic medication, does anyone know? I almost expected to see soup on his tie.

April 27th, 2008, 3:17 pm


wizart said:


I know Bush likes to drink a lot and had a couple of “driving while intoxicated” tickets before he was sworn into office. I don’t know if he got into something more psycho-tropical while in the white house.

Anyway, has anyone seen any good Syrian films lately? ..

The Syrian Bride
Director: Eran Riklis
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Makram Khoury, Clara Khoury, Ashraf Barhom, Eyad Sheety, Evelyn Kaplun, Julie-Anne Roth, Adnan Tarabshi, Marlene Bajali, Uri Gavriel, Alon Dahan, Robert Henig, Derar Sliman, Ranin Boulos, Hanna Abou-Manneh

“This film is about my family, your family, everybody’s family. The father is a father, the son is a son. These kinds of relationships and issues within the family are things that we can see in New York, in Kansas City for all I care.” — Eran Riklis, commentary track, The Syrian Bride

“My ambition, really, was to make a film about women,” says director Eran Riklis to film critic Karen Durbin on the commentary track that accompanies The Syrian Bride. “Once you’re making a film about the Druze, which is a society in which women are oppressed, it’s important to put the woman in the center of the story.”
cover art
* Amazon

The woman at the center of this story is Amal (Hiam Abbass), sister to the eponymous bride Mona (Clara Khoury). Amal (her name means “hope” in Arabic) is a Druze woman (“nationality: undefined”) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and she’s stuck in the middle: between her traditional, burka-wearing mother and her modern, cigarette-smoking daughter; between her pro-Syrian father and her expatriate brothers; between the past and the future.

Close-ups of Amal’s face begin and end the film, and though it’s called The Syrian Bride and set on the day of her sister’s wedding we don’t need Riklis to tell us that she’s our true protagonist. The acceptance letter from the University of Haifa’s School of Social Work that arrives for her in the morning confirms this by presenting her with a decision emblematic of the choices that her Druze community faces. Does she turn her back on tradition by defying her husband and enrolling in this program? Does she turn her back on Syria by attending a university in Israel?

On the day of the wedding she actually finds herself, along with the rest of her family, in between these two countries. It has been arranged for Mona to marry a Syrian actor named Tallel (Derar Sliman) whom she knows only from television, which necessitates leaving Israel for Syria, never to return. Unfortunately, the Israeli government has chosen this day to begin stamping the passports of the Druze leaving Israel. The Syrian border patrol won’t let Mona into their country with a passport carrying this stamp, but the Israeli border patrol won’t let someone “from Syria” back into Israel.

Eran Riklis is part of a movement that some critics are calling the “Israeli New Wave”, which includes Eytan Fox’s Walk on Water and the Oscar-nominated Paradise Now. It’s typical of this group’s humanist values that the real villain in The Syrian Bride is Bureaucracy. The central conflict of Mona stranded in No Man’s Land could be easily resolved by one side bending just a little, but the human agents on either side are powerless to act of their own volition and their phone calls to the Men In Charge go unanswered (in a series of striking shots of phones ringing in empty Israeli and Syrian offices).

With the help of a Red Cross worker named Jeanne (Julie-Anne Roth), Amal and her family on one side and Tallel on the other try to prevail upon the border officials to make an exception, to let the bride pass. Eventually, though, it becomes clear that the stalemate cannot be broken by official means and Mona decides to take matters into her own hands; inspired by her example, Amal follows suit in her own life.

This ambiguous, optimistic ending (it’s not necessary to reveal details) is keeping in the spirit of the New Wave ethos, and it contains both the secret to its success and the seed of its ultimate failure. These films are particularly popular with young Israeli audiences and abroad in the West, with people frustrated by 60 years of failed diplomacy and violence, with people willing to see things from the “other guy’s” point of view. The filmmakers suggest that it’s this same frustration which impels Mona and Amal that also motivates the suicide bombers in Paradise Now.

It’s an encouraging message, for this frustration is far easier to understand than hatred, and it seems far, far easier to combat. At their heart these films are about nothing more complicated than the idea that we are all the same inside — that if we could just sit down and talk to one another, man to man (or woman to woman!) we could work it all out. That the Middle Eastern governments, the terrorist organizations, the UN (in The Syrian Bride, benignly useless) are not the agents of change, but rather obstructions.

But look closely at the ending, examine this solution which is not a solution. For all of their optimism there’s something that, sadly, smacks of helplessness about the willingness of Riklis and his ilk to surrender in the final reel to surrealism and dreamy ambiguity. As if they lacked conviction in their implicit message that everything will be all right in the end. For all of their optimism there are no answers, no concrete solutions, here.

Perhaps, though, that’s just too much to ask of a filmmaker or a film. As humanist filmmaking The Syrian Bride excels in fleshing out the lives of a disparate cast of people in a misunderstood part of the world, of showing how they live side-by-side even if it doesn’t show how they might live side-by-side in peace.

The Syrian Bride is an attractive film. Shooting in CinemaScope, Raklis and cinematographer Michael Weisweg find a surfeit of color in this stark desert setting that’s appropriate to the occasion of a Druze wedding. The performances are uniformly moving, and Abbass (who last year appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Munich) is particularly effective as Amal.

The DVD does the film justice. The transfer is excellent, the sound crisp and clear. The commentary track is interesting and insightful and the other extras, though commonplace (a “Making Of” documentary and a festival interview with Abbass) are well-made and worthwhile. Riklis is obviously a capable filmmaker and The Syrian Bride is a satisfyingly stirring film. Perhaps there’s little more to its political philosophy than boundless optimism, but that is a start. Depending on where he and his comrades choose to go next the Israeli New Wave might well prove a movement worth watching.

April 27th, 2008, 3:38 pm


sam said:

The truth is lying in the middle some where. Deep in my heart and mind, the place could not have been a reactor, most likely, an ICBM factory, that was making rockets for HA. The reason for not letting anyone inspect the site, would give hard evidence that Syria was violating UN 1703 or whatver number. No longer denying Isreali allegations that in fact are true but never proven that the weapons are going to HA, giving more pretext to strike harder than on 9-6-07.
The regime has been in power for so long, it’s not because they’re lucky, it’s because they can anticipate the policy forged on them by US, Isreal, and all the players who think they can make Syria there pawn. Does anyone trully believe that the Syrian Regime would risk further isoliation, and possibly military strikes from US, and almost definately impose crippling sanctions for the violation. The bottom line is they are not STUPID, they will not give anybody a hammer to hit them over the head with it!

April 27th, 2008, 3:41 pm


Rowan Berkeley said:

I expect you all know about the 2002 Palestinian film “Divine Intervention” because of the dispute over its Oscar nomination – I found a lovely clip from it, the mystery girl ninja scene:

April 27th, 2008, 4:34 pm


offended said:

Alex, as a regime apologist and a neobathist, I too think Rihanna is very cool! what do you think?

The 30-year-old, his shaved head gleaming, his arms flailing, continues: “We love Rihanna. It’s very cool. Syria is very cool.”

I mean, she can habe us all under her umbrella, couldn’t she? : )

April 27th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’m curious. Why do you post comments to articles on Syria Comment that are several months old?

April 27th, 2008, 5:42 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That paragraph that you quoted is a hoax. It would be nice if it were true, but it apparently isn’t.

April 27th, 2008, 5:43 pm


Shai said:


If you’re already here… what do you say about this article by The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/27/israelandthepalestinians.lebanon. Not very optimistic, it seems…

April 27th, 2008, 5:43 pm


Alex said:


As I said to FIM above, this is ONE reasonable argument for those who tend to believe that it was indeed a nuclear weapons project, and there are MANY reasonable arguments why it was not.

An Niqnaq (son of Naqniq) explained, one of the prerequisites to believing it was a nuclear project is the presence of electrical transmission lines.

There was nothing visible.

Underground, it is very risky to pass very high voltage (up to 765kv) lines near the river, but more importantly, where are the satellite photos of the are when the Syrians were passing those lines to the site?

The ONE valid argument … that the Syrians, logically speaking, should have opened the bombed facility to journalists, can be answered in a number of semi-convincing ways at least, compared to the many other arguments that do not have any convincing answers.

April 27th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Shai said:


Well, it really doesn’t make sense that Syria didn’t capitalize on the amazing PR opportunity to make fools out of Israel, the U.S., possibly Turkey, for conducting and permitting this raid to take place… if the facility was indeed an “innocent” one. From what I understand, the fact that there were no electricity lines coming out of or into the facility reinforced the CIA’s belief that this was a reactor built not for peaceful purposes (electricity), but for the production of plutonium. I’m no expert at any of this, but there is a lot of mystery around it all, and I’m not sure that outright denial is Syria’s best bet. Perhaps adopting the ambiguity I spoke about earlier would do it better service long term… especially with regards to Israel. Why adopt such a “peaceful” anti-nuclear stance?

April 27th, 2008, 5:55 pm


wizart said:


Sometimes I find that those old articles tie up well with a current topic or help enforce current issues or critical concepts and in those instances I also find them informative (as references) shedding more light on additional vital areas of interest to old and new readers.

NB: According to the Central Statistical Bureau of Norway (SSB) Iranians are the least religious group of immigrants living in Norway. According to a report 4 out of 10 Iranians say that religion plays no part of their lives. Half of them have left their religion of origin all together.

The numbers for the Iranians have to be put in context with the fact that they’ve run away from a religious regime, SSB writes in the report.

In the other end of the scale we find Somalis followed by Pakistanis and Sri Lankians. According to the report 9 out of 10 Somalis say that religion play a vital role in their lives.

April 27th, 2008, 6:00 pm


Friend in America said:

I have written my bit about this story and won’t repeat my assessment again.
However, Scott Ritter’s statements inject a new topic – several interesting international law questions for us to consider, especially for the lawyers on this site (and the wanna be lawyers):

1. Construction at Dar az Zawr had been on going since 2001. Was not disclosing its intention to construct a nuclear reactor a breech of Syria’s obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty?
Ritter is quoted saying Syria was not in violation but knowing Ritter he is a little bit out of his league on this question and was too glib. This is far too serious and problematic a question to sweep it aside so brusquely. A question this serious needs serious consideration.

2. Independent of question #1, is there any justification for first strike? We will have to dig back into the cold war era for serious studies on this question.

3. If yes to #2, what are the circumstances under international law that tolerate first strike action? Specifically, did Israel have justification for first strike if Israel had no evidence of reprocessing capacity? In this respect, take note this is not the first time Israel has taken out a nuclear facility in construction is Syria. Further, previously I have stated Israel’s decision was a perceived reasonable fear to its national security. The sufficiency of that justification in law and in fact can be reviewed again.

4. Does the fact that Syria and Israel have no peace treaty and technically are still at war with each other change, or buttress, answers to the forgoing questions?
Put it another way, can a country that has refused to sign a peace treaty enjoy the benefits and protections that such treaties create, and if so, under what circumstances?

April 27th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Zenobia said:

Israel Open to Meeting With Syrians: Officials

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Published: April 27, 2008

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel would be open to participating in a senior-level meeting with the Syrians brokered by Turkey to test the waters for renewed peace negotiations, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

Such a preliminary meeting between Israeli and Syrian representatives would be the next step in mediation efforts by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who held talks over the weekend with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, the officials said.

That meeting could lay the groundwork for more formal talks in the future, Israeli officials said, though Erdogan could face an uphill task bringing the two sides to formal negotiations before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office next January.

The Bush administration has been cool to renewing Israeli-Syrian negotiations, which collapsed in 2000 without resolving the fate of the Golan Heights, Israeli officials said.

“If such an invitation comes from Turkey, I can’t see any reason why Israel would not attend,” said a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“They would accept,” another Israeli official said of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office.

Syria says it received word from Turkey that Israel would be willing to give back the Golan in return for peace with the Arab state. Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

Syrian officials said on Saturday that Damascus would cooperate with Turkey in its mediation efforts but that the Jewish state must also make an effort towards a deal.

Olmert has neither confirmed nor denied that such an offer was conveyed to Damascus, and a spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on whether the prime minister would agree to send a representative to a senior-level meeting with the Syrians.

“Israel desires peace with Syria,” Regev said. “As you know, messages have been sent. The Syrians are aware of Israel’s expectations as to the talks and we are aware of the Syrian expectations as to the process.”

While Assad sought out Olmert’s stance on the Golan, Israeli officials said the prime minister has been seeking assurances that peace talks would lead Syria to sever ties with Iran and anti-Israel groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip.

A senior Israeli official said it was unclear whether Olmert had received any assurances from Assad to that effect. “The question of what price they’re willing to pay remains an open question,” the official said.

Olmert, whose U.S.-backed peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have shown little sign of progress, has sought to shore up his public standing, damaged by Israel’s inconclusive war with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.

Renewing the Syrian track could be a major political gamble for Olmert, already under fire from Israel’s right wing parties over negotiations with the Palestinians.

Previous Israeli prime ministers have conveyed similar messages to Syria about returning the Golan for peace. But at issue is the scope of any Israeli withdrawal.

Erdogan has said that mediation efforts would start at a low level and move up the chain if successful. Turkey, which is a NATO member, has close ties with Israel.

But without full U.S. backing, diplomats doubt talks will go anywhere. Last week, Washington released intelligence alleging Syria had built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help before an Israeli air strike destroyed the facility last September.

In remarks published in a Qatari newspaper on Sunday, Assad said the site was not part of a nuclear weapons program, but was a military facility under construction.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

April 27th, 2008, 6:29 pm


Shai said:


From the “little” I’ve seen, and from what I know of the past 60 years, few things that have occurred in our region could be considered “legal”. The Middle East has been going through a 60 year war, which has not ended yet, and has endured endless crimes committed by all parties concerned. Arguing the legality of action taken by any of the sides today is pointless, given that we are still amidst this war. Why can’t Syria develop a nuclear program in secret, in clear violation of the NPT, if Iran and Israel are doing the same? There’s a reason many nations in the ME have been showing interest in nuclear technology, and not all of it relates to peaceful alternative electricity sources. Chances are, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Algeria, and perhaps others, have either an active nuclear technology program, or are soon to acquire one. That’s what happens, when you have no peace in your region, and you don’t know who your enemies or your friends are…

April 27th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai, if you’re still awake:

Very interesting article. There are two ways to look at the situation, in my opinion:

1. Hizbullah is indeed planning for a war as part of their revenge for Mughniyyeh, or to press their advantage before Israel adapts its warfare strategies.

2. Hizbullah is not planning a war, but is simply re-arming and expanding its deterrence capabilities through more and better trained soldiers, in anticipation of a conflict that will be imposed on it by Israel.

I regard scenario two as the more likely one. I don’t think that Hizbullah will openly provoke a war, given the current political situation in Lebanon. They will lose many supporters. However, precisely this vulnerability might induce Israel to create a pretext to attack Hizbullah, and they feel that they must be ready.

April 27th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Shai said:


Hi there! You have no idea what they’re doing to “poor Olmert” here in Israel… He’s being crucified alive… Everyone almost, even within his own party! Bibi of course is calling him “irresponsible”, and they’ve begun a back-and-forth dance, each blaming the other. Olmert reminded everyone that Bibi too sent an American businessman friend of his to tell Hafez that he’s willing to give Syria the Golan, and all this prior to beginning negotiations… So things are heating up now in Israel, which is precisely what we wanted. This is the only way a national discourse can begin on the topic, long long overdue.

April 27th, 2008, 6:41 pm


Shai said:


This is my biggest fear, my so-called “Doomsday Scenario”. That Israel, understanding that Hezbollah cannot afford to attack us again, may feel more free to enter into a massive ground operation in Gaza (following, say, a Qassam that kills 8-9 kids in Sderot). And then, after hundreds or more Palestinians die, and Hezbollah is known to have rearmed itself completely after 2006, and probably have some 10,000 long-range missiles and 20,000 short-range ones (according a UN report), what choice will they have? Won’t Hezbollah be forced to do something in show of support? What are all those rockets for, only self-defense? That’s what I’m afraid of… And if HA attacks, we’re going straight into a nice little regional war, with everyone involved (probably Iran as well). Everything will depend on HA’s nerves. Will they react to what may happen in Gaza, or not. Syria will not, that’s quite clear. Iran, also. HA, not sure…

April 27th, 2008, 6:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Hizbullah will not act offensively. They have staked their political identify in Lebanon upon the concept of defensive resistance. The missiles (which apparently “can reach any point in all of occupied Palestine,” according to SHN) are a big piece of effective deterrence.

Israel has engaged in ground wars in Gaza in the past, and Hizbullah didn’t start raining missiles down on Haifa. They won’t do it now, not with so much at stake for them in Lebanon.

They need to make sure they don’t “get dead”. After all, they’re the “A-Team of terrorism”, remember? 😉 With that kind of reputation, and these kinds of enemies (i.e. the U.S. and Israel), you can’t take any chances.

On the other hand, it sure helps to postpone their further integration in Lebanese politics.

April 27th, 2008, 6:58 pm


Friend in America said:

The spread of nuclear capacity in the ME is the most serious nuclear proliferation issues in the world. We get ourselves into a dangerous rearmament trap when we give up on non proliferation as the answer.

Elsewhere in the world, here is some good news (from Global Security Newswire):

Russia Disables Plutonium Production Reactor

Russia yesterday shut down one of its three remaining nuclear energy reactors that produce weapon-grade plutonium, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 20).

The reactor was one of two built at Seversk in the 1960s to produce material for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Russia stopped purchasing plutonium from the facility in 1993, but it continued running the plants due to the lack of a replacement power source for the surrounding area.

Russia plans to decommission the second Seversk reactor in June and its final reactor — located at Zheleznogorsk in Siberia — by the end of 2009, ITAR-Tass reported.

April 27th, 2008, 7:04 pm


T said:


Thanks for correction.


Ritter is usually quite saavy. I dont agree with him on the nuclear site though. And is there any way to prove that these buildings- as missile assembly plant or whatever it is, was even taken in Syria and not on some Hollywood sayanim’s back lot?

Believing anything out of the CIA, and especially Mossad is just sheer stupidity.

from juancole posts:
An informed reader writes:

What little information provided in the CIA videotape concerning the destruction of the purported Syrian reactor only provokes more questions.

The alleged reactor is described, because of its dimensions and shape, as a duplicate of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon. The reactor at Yongbyon is a rough copy of an old British design. It is graphite-moderated and cooled with gaseous carbon dioxide. Its core is composed of a large number of highly-purified graphite blocks. For example, each of the first two Magnox reactors at Windscale in the UK used 2,000 tons of graphite. Even if this purported Syrian reactor vessel were half the size of one of the original UK reactors, it would require roughly 1,000 tons of graphite. That’s 14,400 cubic feet of highly-purified graphite. Would all official entities fail to notice the production and transfer of that amount of highly-refined graphite to Syria?

The voice-over on the CIA videotape asserts that the reactor in Syria was “nearly completed.” If the plant were “nearly completed,” those graphite blocks would have been substantially in place. Bombing and fire would have spread bits of carbon all over the site, or scattered whole blocks of graphite around the site. The “after” photos didn’t seem to indicate that this happened.

If the reactor were substantially complete, neutron-absorbing boron-10 carbide (or possibly cadmium alloy) control rods would have been installed. Had those been burned or exploded in the bombing, those, too, would have left a chemical signature on the hills surrounding the site and in the prevailing winds. As far as I know, this hasn’t been discussed.

Then, too, there is the matter of fuel rods. Syria is reported not to have uranium yellowcake stocks in appreciable quantities. (One particularly large phosphorite field, the Charkiet formation, is known to contain uranium, but the phosphate fertilizer plant built to process that ore was done by a Swedish company which would certainly alert the IAEA if there were non-compliant diversion. Moreover, Syria has cooperated with the IAEA in the past to develop its commercial uranium extraction processes, but those have not progressed, according to SIPRI.) There’s no evidence presented that Syria has built fuel processing and fuel rod assembly facilities. That would suggest production elsewhere, and such production can be tracked. So, if it was almost complete, where are the fuel rods?

The primary weapons benefit of such a reactor is its ability to be refueled on the fly, so to speak (it’s necessary to get the fuel rods out of the reactor before the optimum quantity of plutonium-239 is degraded by neutron capture to less suitable isotopes), so, why does U.S. intelligence say they have “low confidence” that the plutonium that might be produced is for nuclear weapons? It must be that Syria does not have the necessary fuel processing, fuel rod assembly and spent fuel reprocessing plants, and there’s no evidence of bomb-manufacturing facilities (all this infrastructure should ideally go forward concurrent with fuel production to produce a bomb in the shortest period of time); does this suggest that the purpose of the facility might not be nuclear in nature, or that it was nuclear, but would have had a non-weapons purpose? If there’s no evidence for the existence of the rest of a weapons-making complex, how credible is the claim of “near completion” of a reactor which is well-suited for producing plutonium?

So far, the government’s primary evidence seems to be a photo of a North Korean who is reputed to be NK nuclear scientist Chon Chibu, standing next to someone “believed to be his Syrian counterpart” (quote from the London Times). That photo, as well as others, likely was provided by the Mossad, so its provenance is in question. Given that the Israelis bombed the site, one can’t evade the reality that they’re an interested party in the matter.

What is shocking in this assertion is the lack of physical evidence available for independent inspection, and the apparent complete failure of U.S. authorities to seek international inspection via the IAEA before the Israelis bombed the site in question, despite the fact that the U.S. was apparently aware of Israeli intentions well ahead of time. Syria has been a ratified signatory of the NPT since 1969, making it obligated to accept inspections. If, as the CIA asserts, the Syrian facility has been under construction since 2001, there was more than ample time to inform the IAEA of a signatory’s possible failure to abide by the treaty. Repeated unannounced overflights of Syrian territory by Israeli jets in recent years indicates long-term planning of this mission.

Possibilities? The Bush administration might prefer to use this event to imply nuclear weapons production on Iran’s part, because it is an ally of Syria, or the claims of North Korean assistance might provide cover for eventually abandoning the six-nation talks involving North Korea and provoking them in some way. Suggestions that the Israelis wanted to use the bombing raid to penetrate and compromise Syria’s Russian-built air defenses preparatory to a future attack on Iran are not wholly out of the realm of possibility.

It’s possible that the Syrians were building a bomb-fuel reactor with North Korean assistance, and imagined, wrongly, that they could escape detection. Certainly, North Korea’s economy is so awful that they would be desperate for revenues. But, there’s no physical evidence of such activity which has been independently verified, and the Bush administration’s record on this sort of thing is, well, dubious, at best. Nor can one discount Syria’s previous cooperation with the IAEA, and the necessary evidence would have come from an IAEA inspection. It’s also possible that the Syrians were building something military in nature that they wanted kept secret, and which had nothing to do with a nuclear program, but which alarmed the Israelis, anyway, such as an early warning facility, ground-based laser, something along those lines.

The CIA video depends heavily upon computer models, and those models add substantial pieces of equipment not shown in the photos of the “nearly completed” facility. Remember that Colin Powell depended upon artists’ renderings of “mobile bioweapons labs” instead of physical evidence, and that Rumsfeld used cartoonish illustrations to show lavish al-Qaeda complexes, replete with living quarters, office space, truck parking and ventilating systems, like the Islamist equivalent of Cheyenne Mountain, buried inside Tora Bora. Those, too, were never found.

One more final consideration: the Yongbyon reactor, from the descriptions by inspectors in 1994, is a real hunk of junk, by contemporary standards. The inspectors could tell from the condition of the spent fuel rods that there were many operating problems and shutdowns because of problems. Nuclear safety at the site was marginal to non-existent. The bomb test using plutonium from it was very likely a fizzle yield. If the Syrians got a duplicate copy of the Yongbyon reactor, as the CIA claims, they were very likely wasting their money

The most incriminating “evidence” of guilt is that Syria didnt loudly protest the attack and bulldozed the “evidence” shortly after in cover-up fashion. Really, no evidence at all. (Though demolition-PR wise- was a very bad move and highly suspicious).

Still, not physical proof.

I am surprised Mossad didnt claim Iran nuke material had been transferred there or some such thing. Could have been a neat casus belli to finish off PNAC plan for Greater M.E. ?!

April 27th, 2008, 7:06 pm


Shai said:


But here’s a hypothetical question. Why is Nasrallah not going on national TV, saying that if Israel thinks it can continue to butcher the Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere, and that Hezbollah will not react, they’re wrong! I.e. to use the deterrence of all those thousands of rockets also in defense of the Palestinians? Are all those rockets truly meant purely to protect Lebanon? After all, long before acquiring long-distance missile capabilities, HA had thousands of Katyusha rockets, and used them on occasion, when Israel would conduct some operation against the Palestinians (Gaza or the West Bank). So now that HA has far greater deterrence, and has proven it can survive and cause much damage (especially moral) upon its enemy, why not link it again to the Palestinians? Won’t Hezbollah score far greater points in Lebanon, if it did show this kind of support?

April 27th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Shai said:


I completely agree with you about nonproliferation. But the problem is, that while you have some states that adhere to the NPT, and others in the ME that do not, there’s a real problem on the ground, and many feel they cannot play according to the “nice” rules. What good will it do Syria to have a nuclear Shia nation on its east, a nuclear Jewish nation on its south, and two other nations (Jordan, Turkey) opting for nuclear technology as well… And Syria’s the only one out, because of some NPT? I don’t think so.


What was your stance regarding CIA’s recent national intelligence estimation that Iran stopped its military nuclear program some 4-5 years ago? Were you as disbelieving then as you are now? 😉

April 27th, 2008, 7:15 pm


T said:


Iran quit nuke weapons production in 03? No I dont believe CIA on that either. But then, I think if the rest of the world can have nuke weapons- so can Iran.

The rights and limits on countries apply to all- not just those we dont like or cant subjugate.

April 27th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The days when Hizbullah fired Katyushas at Israel were the days when Israel still occupied south Lebanon. So, they could always put their actions under the rubric of liberating Lebanese land, even if they were meant to be in solidarity with the Palestinians.

I think that some people in Lebanon would love to see Nasrallah muscle up and use the missiles as a deterrence factor against Israeli incursions in Gaza. But this would be a major misstep by Hizbullah, and Nasrallah knows it.

Hizbullah’s military wing is allowed to function and flourish in Lebanon under a special agreement with the Lebanese government, which states that as long as Lebanese land is still occupied by Israel and Lebanon remains under a threat of attack, the resistance will be allowed to persist. Nasrallah has stated publicly on many occasions that the resistance will disarm when asked to do so by the Lebanese government. As yet, no such request has come.

The reason for this is because of a few unspoken “red lines”, as we like to call them. Hizbullah cannot engage in full-out offensive tactics against Israel because Israel would then be justified (at least according to the court of public opinion) in treating such action as an act of war against Lebanon itself. This is why the 2006 war was so polarizing, both in Lebanon as well as on the international scene. It tested the fragile understanding that Hizbullah has with the Lebanese government.

I think the 2006 war made the red lines clear again to everybody involved, but this doesn’t mean that Hizbullah will not get sucked into a full out war, if Israel wants one. The Mughniyyeh assassination may have been a piece of bait. Who knows if they will bite next time?

April 27th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Shai said:


I agree 100%. This is why I don’t understand Syria’s defensive stance. Why not adopt Israeli ambiguity (ya’ani), and say flat out “This facility may or may not have had something to do with nuclear technology…” What moral right do any of the parties have to finger-point at Syria? Take the “wind out of the sail” by being ambiguous, and pointing at your rivals’ own “deserted bases”…

And in case you’re wondering, I’m not suddenly becoming a Syria-advocate. But I think it would be wiser for Syria to come to the table with us, when it “may or may not” be developing a nuclear program, than when it’s “clearly not”. You understand what I mean.

April 27th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Zenobia said:

hi there! back.
your enthusiasm is pleasing. I am burned out lately on SC, frankly. And these past weeks of listening to some very negative voices on this blog, made me more cynical about anything good happening.
but, I am glad to hear that things are in a spin out there and that you are optimistic.

On the subject of HA. My opinion (which is not so weighty) is that they are not suicidal – and not interested to martyr themselves for the Pals. yes, if it turns regional – then this is another thing. But they are not going to initiate a showdown over a Gaza assault. Nasrallah has always stated that their goals are regarding Lebanon, and I believe that. In a regional showdown, this includes Lebanon, but nobody in the area directly sticks their neck out for the Pals- in terms of letting their own country be attacked. This has never been so, except maybe in the far past with Egypt and Syria. Those days are no longer.
Even that is why I think it ridiculous when the spinners bring up Iran just spontaneously attacking Israel. It doesn’t matter what their leaders say… they like to drum up the peons with bluster and inflammatory rhetoric. But in reality, what possible reason should they have to attack anyone including Israel? NONE. It would be a disaster. And there is very little to be gained and everything to potentially lose. This wouldn’t happen. The only one who is potentially going on the offense is Israel/US. And time is running out on that.
HA is not stupid. They are in a very strong position politically speaking. I mean a stalemate is strong for them. So, why would they destroy that advantage by bringing a war on Lebanon. They wouldn’t.

what happened in 2006 was a mistep and miscalculation that I doubt Nasrallah will repeat.
as usual, Qifa Nabki says it better regarding the internal Lebanese governing issues that determine the limits of what will happen.

April 27th, 2008, 7:36 pm


Shai said:


Good response. But I keep fearing that at the end of the day, resistance movements that don’t morph into purely political parties have no choice but to continue to… resist. And if there isn’t an easy case domestically, you go find one abroad. I’m not sure I want my leaders to view things as you do… it might encourage them to fear another ground operation in Gaza even less. Deterrence is useful when it is either exercised (like in 2006), or insinuated. But if neither one, then at least with regards to the Palestinians, HA’s force is meaningless… I doubt that’s how Hamas views it.

April 27th, 2008, 7:40 pm


T said:


You and I both know there is no possible “ambiguity” for Syria relating to anything Syrian of such a sensitive nature. Any stab at ‘ambiguity’ would be immediately labeled as a defacto ‘admission of guilt’ by Syria. Which they’ve been labeled with anyway.

If their blunt, outright denials can’t get their point across- certainly anything less would be even less likely to do so. The ambiguity strategy works best for those in power, not the weaker side who are being targeted.

April 27th, 2008, 7:41 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

How people want to see things, tends to affect what they think about them. The qualities of objectivity and open-mindedness are hard to attain.

April 27th, 2008, 7:44 pm


Shai said:


That’s also what QN is saying. In’shalla, you’re both right. But read what I wrote QN… I’m not sure which view I prefer my leaders take, when it comes to HA.

April 27th, 2008, 7:44 pm


Shai said:


But that’s precisely my point. You accept it as “guilt”, I don’t. Why should Syria feel “guilty” for being “caught” (assuming it was)? If secret documents are leaked out of Iran, Israel, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Libya, you name it, which suggest an active (military) nuclear program, would any of these feel “guilty”? Should any of them feel guilty? That’s my point. Syria can, and perhaps should, take a much more upright stance here, declaring that it is not seeking any capability not already sought or acquired by others in the region. T, you and I both know that Syria IS strong. It has strategic capabilities that can bring every citizen of Israel down into our underground shelters for a month or two, far more than HA was able to do in Summer 2006. And Syria is quite likely continuing their chemical and biological program as well (like other nations in the region). So why suddenly, around the issue of nuclear reactors, become so defensive? The weak party must act weak? Perhaps the opposite? If Israel knows the facility was not nuclear, certainly Syria could have benefitted PR-wise from that. And if Israel (and Syria) know that it was a reactor, why must Syria deny it? I still vote for ambiguity. Better for Syria, better for Israel, better for peace…

April 27th, 2008, 7:53 pm


Zenobia said:

well i did read it.

and if we are talking about what is best for the Israelis to think…so they don’t get more punitive and aggressive in Gaza , then yes – i guess it would be better if they saw HA as part of the deterrence. But this is not good for HA or Lebanon. Not in my opinion anyway. I would prefer that HA become a Lebanese political entity foremost and with clarity.

If Hamas sees it otherwise, Hamas would be wrong.

As for the Pals and the Gazans as a whole, sigh……. Israel is the decider.

I nearly choked when i read a week or two ago on the blog that linked piece by Giora Eiland….came from some other news source… when you follow the link.. and then there were talkbacks from Israelis from all over the place. It was so disturbing. They are still talking about a “Jordanian Option”….(!?) isn’t this like thirty years old?
Has it occurred to these people that Jordan is not going take all the rest of the millions of Palestinians out of the territories for them….to make it very convenient for Israel to keep up the creeping annex of this land??? what fantasy are they in… that makes anybody…for even thirty seconds think that Jordan or the Jordanians would agree to that…or can even economically sustain such an idea? and what view of the people of Palestine have they…to imagine the people being ‘transfered’ and loaded up and sent down the road. Are they cattle?
I don’t understand… yes…it happened before. But now we are in 2008? this was still actually a discussion. I am overwhelmed by it.
I was also disturbed in the talkbacks to see some Israelis in the Golan… listing their location as: town name, Golan Heights, Israel.

wow. they think they are in Israel.
Somebody needs to explain this to me. Who are these people…has no one in Israel explained to them that they are in Syria?

but i am glad you are still optimistic.

April 27th, 2008, 8:02 pm


T said:

Syria neednt justify anything. It was arbitrarily attacked without provoaction by the region’s worst rogue state. Syria did NOT attack Israel. Israel needs to come clean- and suffer full prosecution. I never accepted Syria as being ‘guilty’ of anything- nor did I say such a thing because I dont think so. That building was no nuclear reactor and intel knows it.

But world media has been running with the ‘guilty’ verdict fed to it by western governments(wonder why??). So Syria has been convicted in the court of public opinion.

As usual you have your ‘victims’ confused. Israel should be the one who is on trial to justify their repeated crimes against intl law. If there was justice in the intl system- which we know there is not- ISRAEL would be answering all of these questions and be put in the dock for their illegal violations. But using their financial clout- and Holocaust blackmail- that wont happen any time soon.

As I said before- very, very manipulative Shai. I prefer the blunt thug approach of the AIG/AP duo myself. Less slippery.

April 27th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Zenobia said:

I think you are paranoid. Shai and his manipulative ways… yeah… that makes sense… all those moderate stances are just a trick to suck you in to his cognitive sway.
I think you are having trouble comprehending a word he says because you are busy trying to read something sinister into it.
This warped interaction is what i making me ill of this blog.

April 27th, 2008, 8:22 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai (now you really must be getting to bed)

You said:

But I keep fearing that at the end of the day, resistance movements that don’t morph into purely political parties have no choice but to continue to… resist.

I have a good deal of optimism regarding Hizbullah’s future as a political party, provided that certain leaders in the movement remain alive, and that the relationship with the FPM proves to be an enduring one.

To give you an example of what I mean, after the Hariri assassination, the international media was glowing with coverage on the so-called “Cedar Revolution”, and its gorgeous almond-eyed minxes with their red tanktops on the covers of the NYT, WashPost, etc. It was truly a made-for-TV revolution (which doesn’t detract from the sincerity of its million-plus participants, in my opinion… it’s not our fault if Lebanese women are good looking).

But to me, what is far more interesting was Hizbullah’s response. The pro-Syria rallies were, at first, decidedly lo-fi in the way of marketing. The banners and publicity materials harkened back to the martyrdom poster school of self-branding (referred to in the article you posted). However, since 2005, Hizbullah has ramped up its publicity wing to the point that it seriously rivals that of March 14. Their materials now are much sharper, smarter, and embody a real nationalist flavor. To me, it seems clear that the ship has been pointed towards a new horizon.

But they can’t just drop their guns and run. They need political guarantees, security guarantees… it’s going to be a long transition period, and of course everything depends on the regional security situation.

April 27th, 2008, 8:28 pm


norman said:

The only way for the Mideast to have peace is for every body to have nuclear weapons , never a war started between two nuclear powers and mutual destruction is a strong motivation to seek a settlement.

Hezbollah will become a politecal party and put down it’s arms only when there is a well balanced government in Lebanon that represent all the people and after having a fair election law ,

Then and only then Hezbollah will become like the GOLANY Brigade in Israel as a mobilized well armed force , part of the Lebanese army , and the rest of Hezbollah as part of the national guard that Lebanon should have to protect itself.

April 27th, 2008, 8:34 pm


Shai said:


Many of these “talkback” people are simple people, who don’t care to understand anything other than their own view of life. They’ve probably never even met an Arab, so how could they think anything different other than what they’ve been “fed” all those years? It has always been the case that few have led the many, and here too, we’re looking to bring out enough of the “peaceful few”, to bring sanity back to our country, and our region. Not that long ago, during Rabin’s years, a clear majority in Israel wanted peace, was ready to make painful sacrifices, and understood that Jews and Arabs must live with one another. Soon, after peace talks restart, our task will be to “rudely awake” those 20-30% of either switched camps out of pessimism, or de-numb the ones that have become apathetic to the reality around them.

To respond to your previous comment, about my enthusiasm. Well, it certainly isn’t always easy. I too have felt a bit tired of hearing certain things here as of recent. If I could have a nickel for every negative comment I heard, i’d have… why, $25 at least! 🙂 (I haven’t been here that long…) But, what choice do we have? We have to keep our chins up, and not let things get to us, or get us down. The world is always more full of pessimists than optimists. It’s easier to be the first than the latter. And for those who choose to ride the emotional roller-coaster of the Middle East, there are indeed ups and downs. But, for me, I prefer to hop out of the violent river every so often, and look carefully at where we’re going, and try to navigate my way in the direction I’m interested in going, not where the river goes. In 30 or 40 years, when my daughters’ daughters will ask me “Saba, what did you do during those terrible and tumultuous years?”, I want to be able to say “I tried to make friends, and peace…” I prefer that, over saying “I tried to show people how wrong they were…” That’s also the easy way out. Bridging gaps, and bringing people together, is always tougher…

April 27th, 2008, 8:38 pm


T said:


Why not go to an Israeli blog? We dont want you to fall ill. It will be more comfortable certainly, and have much less confrontation/protest than you would find here from the small minority of us at SC that dont trust US-Israeli governments (the “negative thinkers” here, as you say).


If you are honest- why have your posts on this subject not been filled with demands for Israel to be brought to court for the latest violation of intl law ? Why not take the offensive and go in that direction instead of advising how Syria should position itself from Israel’s latest attack? Shouldnt we be advocating that the abuser stop their violations? Esp after they allegedly bombed several sites in south Lebanon just a few days ago?

Why not start a campaign to demand Israel be taken to the ICJ etc? (And not that Lebanon adopt some position of ambiguity).

April 27th, 2008, 8:46 pm


Shai said:


Even when I agree with you (100%, I believe I said), you still find me “very, very manipulative…” So if you prefer the “blunt thug approach”, as you called it, t’fadal, have it and enjoy it! But if you think you can make peace with such an approach, you’re sadly mistaken. By the way, if you’re still talking about justice, and bringing Israel to international court, etc., you really have to stop sniffing that good stuff… (joke). Justice is not going to happen for a long time, as we discussed all too often on SC. Now’s not the time to be right. Now’s the time to be smart. I believe Bashar Assad is demonstrating this far better than most people here sometimes understand, or want to accept. There’s a reason he’s offering Israel an opportunity to make peace, and it’s not out of capitulation. It’s out of wisdom, and a vision for the future of your and my children.

April 27th, 2008, 8:50 pm


Zenobia said:

yes. it scares me here and there that the few lead the many, everywhere.

but you are right about all else too. I try to remind myself that no matter what …things keep changing, and it is not possible for all our debate and theorizing, that none of us can predict what will happen. there are too many variables for our little brains. And human nature is indeterminable… especially when we get to the realm of the social body interacting with the world. Anything is possible I think.

i have other questions but they can wait.
It is almost midnight, and QNabki keeps telling you to go to sleep. : )

he is obviously trying to look out for your well being.

April 27th, 2008, 8:51 pm


Shai said:

Zenobia, QN, and yes, even T,

Lyla Tov (Good Night, in Hebrew).

April 27th, 2008, 8:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Zenobia said:

Even that is why I think it ridiculous when the spinners bring up Iran just spontaneously attacking Israel. It doesn’t matter what their leaders say… they like to drum up the peons with bluster and inflammatory rhetoric. But in reality, what possible reason should they have to attack anyone including Israel? NONE. It would be a disaster. And there is very little to be gained and everything to potentially lose. This wouldn’t happen.


You may be right. Perhaps Iran is just blowing hot air.

“Disaster”? Yes, but since when did “disaster” ever stop a dictator or a theocracy in the Middle East? Did “disaster” stop Saddam? Did “disaster” ever stop the Assads? Did “disaster” ever stop Hamas, Hezbollah or Fatah?

Disaster only affects the “martyrs” aka “the people”, aka “the Arab street”. And the people and the street love their self-appointed taskmasters and their self-appointed taskmasters love them. It is a marriage made in heaven.

I see no reason why Iran will stop arming the Iraqi insurgency, and their jihadist patrons in Lebanon and Palestine. And if none of these work, there is no reason to doubt that they could lob missiles into Israel just like Saddam Hussein did.

The only one who is potentially going on the offense is Israel/US.

It’s about time Israel went on the offense. After years of being on the defense (withdrawing from Lebanon and Gaza), the threat has only become stronger and more lethal as we have seen.

HA is not stupid. They are in a very strong position politically speaking. I mean a stalemate is strong for them. So, why would they destroy that advantage by bringing a war on Lebanon. They wouldn’t.

They do what they want, because they have nothing to lose.

what happened in 2006 was a mistep and miscalculation that I doubt Nasrallah will repeat.

I hope you’re right. But I have no doubt they will repeat their same “mis-step”.


.. and then there were talkbacks from Israelis from all over the place. It was so disturbing. They are still talking about a “Jordanian Option”….(!?) isn’t this like thirty years old?

Let’s see 2008 – 1967 is just over 40 years old.

Has it occurred to these people that Jordan is not going take all the rest of the millions of Palestinians out of the territories for them….to make it very convenient for Israel to keep up the creeping annex of this land??? what fantasy are they in… that makes anybody…for even thirty seconds think that Jordan or the Jordanians would agree to that…or can even economically sustain such an idea? and what view of the people of Palestine have they…to imagine the people being ‘transfered’ and loaded up and sent down the road. Are they cattle?
I don’t understand… yes…it happened before. But now we are in 2008? this was still actually a discussion. I am overwhelmed by it.

No “cattle”, no “transfer”, just a one Palestinian-majority country (Jordan) taking control of another Palestinian terrortory that is having a difficult time governing. Jordan claimed the West Bank before, and I know Israel would prefer if Jordanian control like it did before ’67.

I was also disturbed in the talkbacks to see some Israelis in the Golan… listing their location as: town name, Golan Heights, Israel.

wow. they think they are in Israel. Somebody needs to explain this to me.

Israel annexed the Golan and it is now considered Israel. You may not like it, but I’m just explaining how, after a full generation, this land is thought of.

Who are these people…has no one in Israel explained to them that they are in Syria?

People like Shai and other Israeli peace activists may have tried to explain this to other Israelis. There is free speech in Israel to do this. But most Israelis feel that the Golan is theirs and that, perhaps, under the right conditions, they could return all or part of it for peace. Until then, they go on living on the land just like they go on living in Jerusalem’s Old Cidy or Hebron.

April 27th, 2008, 8:58 pm


Zenobia said:

you make my case. Since it really doesn’t matter whether something is an “Israeli” blog or anything else. SC is about Syria and Syrian issues but it isn’t an “Arab” blog. And it is irrelevant anyhow how you want to characterize it.

I shouldn’t have to forfeit this blog to the likes of you. YOU are the ‘thug’ actually. And I should be less ill if you would go to your own wacko…blog and be the stereotyped antagonist that you obviously like to be.

April 27th, 2008, 8:59 pm


Friend in America said:

Your reply clearly defines the world’s nuclear proliferation dillemma. The dillemma is like, which is the worst choice?
Non proliferation allows the current instability throughout the ME to continue while the ME undergoes the tremendous changes we are witnessing. Israel has nuclear capability its neighbors have learned to live. Over the years they have engaged in hostilities without genuine fear of being nuked (as a footnote, several here have expressed Syria’s deep fear for its national security. Whether real or imagined (many will say real), it needs to be properly addressed).
The other choice is nuclear proliferation in a time of strife both within the middle east and on the ME’s edges. I can envision some ruler (yet to be known) desperate enough (or perverted enough) to believe that incinerating his neighbor’s children is fulfillment of God’s command.

April 27th, 2008, 9:05 pm


Zenobia said:


Re: Iran. I think Iran is not a Hamas. They are not equivalent to militia with very little to lose from disaster. They are in a nice comfy position right now. And yes, they have no intention of leaving Iraq alone. So why forfeit it for a disaster. Same goes for HA.

I think HA would have a lot to lose if they started a conflict and got clobbered. No, they are more interested in this showdown in Liban and their strategy to gain power in the government. This would move in the wrong direction if more damage would be inflicted on Lebanon because of HA aggression. I think they got out of the last one… somewhat unscathed and took their power to bear on these internal interests. That is where their energy is no directed. And they would lose some of this pressure if they got preoccupied and potentially wounded by external conflict.

ok but i am confused. Maybe 40 years ago the Jordanian option meant pre-67 when Jordan was in control of the West Bank. But I said thirty because my understanding was that post 67 war there was the idea that the territories could be settled and more Pals moved out of it.
But in this article i am talking about, they weren’t referring to this scenario of Jordan taking over the West Bank. I understood the dialogue or comments to be about moving Palestinians out of the West Bank into Jordan proper, getting rid of the people problem basically. This is of course preposterous not to mention immoral. Just pragmatically speaking, Jordan would not allow this. Why should they. They barely can sustain economically the people they have already.

April 27th, 2008, 9:11 pm


T said:


Hon, you need to stick with policies and not get into personal attacks. I didnt call you some ugly personal things that I certainly could have done. I dont know you personally and am not interested in attacking you personally.

There are many here who post things unrelated to Syria- I am far from the only one.

But maybe you dont like the anti-Israeli/anti-US stuff I post?
Too bad. Then live with it and dont read my posts. (As I sometimes skip others’).

For example- I didnt see any response to Israel’s recent attack on south Lebanon from folks here at SC?

Shai- can you comment on that? Can you lead the charge for accountability?

April 27th, 2008, 9:13 pm


sam said:

Silence is golden….Syria had to clam up about the site. The problem that probably occured was, Syria was so caught off guard by the attack, that by shear embarrassment, time lapsed, for the Isrealies to intentionally reveal what happend before the Syrians can. Letting them tell their side before Syrias. The worst feeling in life is not knowing for sure of something. If by keeping quiet for the past and present, future revelations can vindicate Syria. That the facility was not nuclear. Than the PR comes to play!

April 27th, 2008, 9:19 pm


sam said:

Who knows, maybe this is all planned by all the parties involved, including Syria, ie the way Lybia got caught. Bringing Syria out of the Iranian orbit we have been hearing so much about.

April 27th, 2008, 9:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

“It will be more comfortable certainly, and have much less confrontation/protest than you would find here from the small minority of us at SC that dont trust US-Israeli governments…”


Seriously, spare us your self-righteousness. You and Bondo are a courageous duo, aren’t you, fighting crime and leaping from tall buildings… exposing the evils of America for what they really are, for the ‘majority’ of us here at SC who have blinders on.

Since you prefer the thug approach, why not take your own advice to Zenobia and spend some more time on Israel blogs?

Contrary to what you might think, you’re needed there far more than you are here, especially if you think we need educating.

April 27th, 2008, 9:35 pm


T said:


Here is what I find manipulative- the underlying foundation of your argument (even supposedly to help Syria) assumes that Syria should reshuffle its defense in the media vis a vis the Israeli attack.

The subtext here is that Syria was the initial aggressor. It wasn’t. One would think it was Syria that attacked an Israeli site and not vice versa.

Then the passage about Syria being on par w/ Israel and a real military threat:
you said:

“T, you and I both know that Syria IS strong. It has strategic capabilities that can bring every citizen of Israel down into our underground shelters for a month or two, far more than HA was able to do in Summer 2006. And Syria is quite likely continuing their chemical and biological program as well (like other nations in the region). So why suddenly, around the issue of nuclear reactors, become so defensive? The weak party must act weak?

Perhaps the opposite? If Israel knows the facility was not nuclear, certainly Syria could have benefitted PR-wise from that. And if Israel (and Syria) know that it was a reactor, why must Syria deny it? I still vote for ambiguity. Better for Syria, better for Israel, better for peace… ”

Israel, the overwhelming military power in the region launching an unprovoked attack on another nation(whose economy is in tatters and whose military is not much better, and which has none of Israel’s global PR capacity)- whether for alleged nukes or not- is in total violation of intl law. Instead you advocate the continuation of the entire charade by suggesting Syria adapt and lend credence to this manipulation by responding ‘ambiguously’. Which still leaves the tacit ‘agreement’ of Syria having been the initial law-breaker here, intact. That I do find manipulative. Or maybe less offensively put- er, subtle.

I suggest Syria should do a full-frontal counter attack and start demands for an accounting from Israel for its first strike. Stop letting the other side author the narrative that needs to be responded to. Whether it was nuclear or chemical or biological or whatever.

Now if that means you and I are actually saying the same thing on this issue-great- then we do agree!

April 27th, 2008, 9:39 pm


Zenobia said:

I think calling someone manipulative (in a context of implying that they are disingenuous in their purpose for engaging) is obnoxious and quite personal.
so, you stick to the rules, and i will too… otherwise i will give it back to you… when you ruin the discussion by being personally aggressive to a rather mild mannered and valuable participant (Shai).

and frankly, this was after days and days of hearing your not very helpful comments… prior to this. It has nothing to do whether they are critical of Israel or the US. I could care less about that. You are the one who directed your remarks at the people making the comments in disagreement with yours.

and btw, don’t call me “hon”. I am not your honey. I might be a hon to some others here, but not you.

April 27th, 2008, 9:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Test Hamas’ offer of a 10-year truce
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, April 26, 2008

Is Hamas’ offer of a 10-year truce with Israel sincere? Is it a plausible gesture that should be carefully studied as a possible prelude to a comprehensive peace?

Hamas clearly is sending strong signals that it is prepared to play the diplomatic game – but not at any price, as Fatah and Yasser Arafat did for years. Hamas’ offer of a long-term truce with Israel is neither permanent peace nor recognition of Israel. Those might follow from future negotiations, but only if Palestinians enjoy their equal national rights simultaneously, and this requires rules of the diplomatic game that are more even-handed.

Two pertinent issues are involved here. The first is whether Islamist movements like Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood can be trusted and taken at their word when they speak of accepting democratic pluralism or negotiating with Israel. Many in Israel, the West and parts of the Arab world view these groups as insincere opportunists and deceitful tricksters who will speak the language of democracy and peace while actually planning to grab power and turn the region into one large Islamic theocracy or Iranian puppet theater.

[read the rest]

April 27th, 2008, 9:50 pm


norman said:

Can you all stop fighting , for stupid things , I might say.

you do not have to agree with each other.

can you please stop insulting each other and discuss the issues.

April 27th, 2008, 9:52 pm


T said:

Zenobia and QN,

I’ll skip your unsubstantive ramblings and you can skip my offensive, obnoxious rants. That should make us all happy.


Since you are on the blog now- have you heard anything about the latest bombing in south Lebanon by IDF? I have brought this up several times here but no one seems to know.
I read one account, but cant find anything else. Shouldnt UNIFIL be investigating this? It seems another case of Iraeli unprovoked first strike. And again that weird media silence.

Maybe like Syria, Lebanon should justify to the world why they should NOT have been attacked (the underlying PR motif of the Deir Ez Zor hit)? Here we go again.

April 27th, 2008, 10:18 pm


norman said:


I heard something like that but was never confirmed by the Lebanese or Hezbollah,

I do not think that anybody wants to fight , an announcement of an attack by Israel if true will increase the pressure for retaliation , I think Syria , Hezbollah , and Iran are waiting the present US administration out and do not want an escalation , that also explain the denial of Iran of an American attack on their boats. and Syria’s position on the attack last September .

April 27th, 2008, 11:23 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Thanks, your opinion on Iran and Hezbollah seem to make sense to me. However, a lot happens in the ME that doesn’t make sense at all.

But in this article i am talking about, they weren’t referring to this scenario of Jordan taking over the West Bank. I understood the dialogue or comments to be about moving Palestinians out of the West Bank into Jordan proper, getting rid of the people problem basically.

You may have tuned into a group of very right-wing Israelis with a wild imagination. Forget about it. No one is getting rid of any Palestinians. Sorry you had to read such crap.

This is of course preposterous not to mention immoral.

It IS preposterous and immoral. (Except when it comes to throwing Jews out of Arab controlled territories;)

Just pragmatically speaking, Jordan would not allow this. Why should they. They barely can sustain economically the people they have already.

We can dream, can’t we? Jews and Israelis tend to trust the Jordanian monarchy more than another Arab leadership. But maybe I should just speak for myself. I was very touched when the late King went to Israel to visit the wounded Israelis who were shot by a Jordanian soldier.



April 28th, 2008, 3:01 am


norman said:


You should be touched more that Syria’s Assad did not have to go and visit the wounded Israelis because no Israelis were wounded by a Syrian soldier.

April 28th, 2008, 3:18 am


Shai said:


Either I’m not explaining myself correctly, or you’re refusing to understand me. You said: “The subtext here is that Syria was the initial aggressor…” I never claimed or insinuated this. The opposite!!! I know Israel was the (initial and only) aggressor here. You think that responding ambiguously, Syria “… still leaves the tacit ‘agreement’ of Syria having been the initial law-breaker here, intact…” I think you’re wrong. If Syria saw itself as a player amongst law-breakers, it too could legitimize (to itself first and foremost, then to others) much if not all of its activities. My point is that Syria owes NOTHING to anyone! It doesn’t owe a denial to the international court of public opinion, it certainly owes even less to Israel, the U.S., or The Hague.

By going on the defensive, Syria loses all those battles. Look at Imad Moustapha’s brilliant statement in some of his lectures (can be seen on YouTube), where he says “I’m the only ambassador in the U.S. from the Axis of Evil). He’s not implying a “tacit agreement”, he’s not suggesting Syria is a “law-breaker”, or a terrorist state. He’s ridiculing an entire policy trying to isolate Syria and claim it is a criminal. You think I’m shifting the focus from Israel to Syria. The opposite! I’m suggesting Syria point its finger back at Israel and others, and say “… that it is not seeking any capability not already sought or acquired by others in the region” (my words in an earlier comment to you).

To be honest with you, T, I think you’re too high up the “Shai’s manipulations are not going to work” tree, and you won’t let yourself get down. You’ll take every word I say, and try to make it fit your preconception. Fair enough, but that’s not trying to understand what I’m saying, that’s trying to “prove” to me that I mean what YOU think I mean. By the way, many of my comments are indeed very pro-Syria, even often in defense of Syria. While that may seem strange to you (and manipulative), I’ve tried on numerous occasions to explain it. By making Syria stronger, I’m enabling my own nation to face a stronger adversary in the much anticipated peace talks. When Syria shows up with its chin way up high, not its tail between its legs (so-to-speak), we’ll have a better chance to reach peace. If the first thing our “negotiator” says to yours is “But look, you have a well-developed nuclear program, and you’re building reactors… in blatant violation of International rules… so how can we trust you?”, the Syria response should NOT be what it is today “Oh no, that’s not a reactor, that’s a deserted military base…”, but instead “You, Israel, should be talking…?” That’s my point, T, stop being on the defensive. Yes, we’re the aggressor, but you can still choose your words, can’t you? Or did we take that ability from you as well?

As for advocating bringing Israel (the aggressor) to the International Court of Justice. T, I know you’re a well-educated person, and a wise one too. But I have a feeling sometimes that I’m talking to one of my daughters, who still believes in “justice for all” (and good for her, as long as she can). Wake up already, and realize that justice CANNOT be had in our region right now. Our region is far worse than Chicago with mafia gangsters (Al Capone being Shai, as I’ve been labeled here before). If Israel had to appear at the ICJ for all its crimes, every single one of the 7 million citizens in Israel would have to put aside a year of their life to represent us in court. We’ve committed endless crimes (and are still committing), and so have some others in this region. Yes, we’re the “biggest” criminal, and No, there’s no justification for it. So what? You want justice for the raid on that facility? What about the 1 million cluster bombs in Lebanon? What about Gaza? What about the occupation? What about crimes committed by Syria against its own people in the past? What about Lebanon’s, or Iraq’s?

So you can choose to remain naive, and still believe that the only way to battle Israel is in court. That’s fine. But my own belief is that making peace with Israel will end our crimes far faster than the ICJ. I’m not suggesting that YOU have to pay the price for peace, the opposite, it’s us that have to withdraw to the 1967 lines and help solve the refugee problem. But I am suggesting that you have to put aside your dream of justice. That’ll come, hopefully, in 10-20 years from now, when people will live long enough in peace, and be able to face themselves in the mirror each and every morning. I know YOU can, but many here can’t yet…

About the raid in S. Lebanon, I haven’t heard much, but here’s a comment made by Israel recently: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/978382.html My guess is that both sides are acting in violation of 1701. Which side more, I have no idea. If I had to guess, I’d say Hezbollah, and for obvious reasons. In Gaza, Israel is clearly committing endless crimes against the Palestinians, far more than Hamas is against us (see, I can actually point at the true aggressor on occasion…)

Yalla, if you don’t get me by now, I guess you never will… Have a nice day nonetheless. 😉

April 28th, 2008, 5:00 am


annie said:

A little late in the game, but this link found at Rime Allaf’s refuting the reality of the phictures is worth a visit


April 28th, 2008, 6:02 am


wizart said:

Hi Annie,

Just curious about how you spent most of your time in Damascus last year and why you were told never to return? Did you attend political or religious discussions with students or do you suspect other reasons for your being banned from a country you seem to really care about?

Could it have anything to do with any diplomatic, media or official work you might have done there or in your native country in the past?

Thanks for sharing interesting links like the one to Rime’s blog and others.

April 28th, 2008, 7:24 am


Rowan Berkeley said:

I sometimes feel almost completely incapable of maintaining a civilised, non-foul-mouthed style of dealing with all this. If I may address a word to our host : do you think that the personal experience of being a university teacher, and having to cope with the enormous range of students, many of whom will be argumentative, gradually teaches you self-discipline in this respect? If so, I must say, that is one more reason I wish I had finished my undergraduate degree, back in the early 1970s, instead of dropping out like some sort of enragé! If only I had known, or rather, had had a father who would have hammered it home to me, that our opponents spend half their time deliberately trying to provoke us into outbursts they can then use to smear us with!

April 28th, 2008, 9:27 am


Akbar Palace said:

norman said:

You should be touched more that Syria’s Assad did not have to go and visit the wounded Israelis because no Israelis were wounded by a Syrian soldier.


I don’t see it that way. The way I see it, Jordan hasn’t funded and armed Lebanese terrorist organizations to do their bidding. Moreover, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel and they keep their border quiet (except for that rare tragedy).

Proof that Israel can live in peace with their neighbors.

April 28th, 2008, 11:21 am


Akbar Palace said:

i should have added above that the hotel/wedding slaughter in amman couple years back was a collaboration between usreal and jordan.


Why should be believe you and not the world news sources like “The Independent”, the BBC, and the New Yorl Times?

[deleted by admin … AP: please stop branding people conspiracy theorists].



April 28th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Akbar Palace said:

…their track record of lying is so immense, so long, so well documented…(blah, blah, blah)…

Bondo –

Great, so according to you these respected news sources lied.

So once again, I ask you (or anyone else here including the administrators;) to show some proof they are wrong and you are right (Zzzzzzz).

Who really bombed the Jordanian wedding in Amman?

April 28th, 2008, 10:39 pm


why-discuss said:

When Lebanese 14 march group realized that Bashar could make a separate peace with Israel, they panicked. If this happens Lebanon will have to negotiate independently ( with the useless help of the UN and US and the arab League) with Israel on the fate on the Palestinians refugees in Lebanon, Shebaa farms etc..
Suddenly Joumblat talks about compromises, Hariri accepts the dialog with Berri before the election of a president. They probably realized that they need Syria and they can’t dissociate themselves from it. They are secretly expressing hope that Bashar will not dump Lebanon… We may see a 360 degree shift in Lebanon-Syria relationship from the present lebanese governement. Hezbollah may become valuable now to link the two country for a possible peace of Syria with Israel.
See worried orient article on 29 april
“Interrogations inquiètes sur un éventuel accord séparé syro-israélien”
…Notre pays, poursuivent ces sources, a un problème particulier très lourd, les réfugiés palestiniens. Il ne peut amorcer un processus de paix, commun ou singulier, excluant ce dossier et permettant l’implantation, ouvertement ou indirectement, par omission. Il attend donc de la Syrie comme de ses autres partenaires arabes qu’ils exigent la concrétisation de la résolution onusienne numéro 194 ordonnant le retour des réfugiés palestiniens dans leur patrie.”

April 29th, 2008, 1:35 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Your logic doesn’t make sense. Israel has absolutely no reason to make peace with Syria if Syria itself cannot deliver a more or less simultaneous deal with Lebanon.

What does Israel stand to gain from returning the Golan? Ending the threat posed by Syria’s tanks? No, they’re ancient. Its nuclear arsenal? No, it doesn’t exist. The only reason to make peace with Syria is to gain leverage over Hizbullah (and maybe Hamas). In such a scenario, how does March 14 lose out? I would argue that, to the contrary, everybody wins.

What do you think?

April 29th, 2008, 1:48 am


Akbar Palace said:

ap, go enjoy some arabic coffee and some arabic food and some arabic music. then take a look at the miserable zionist world. makes you sick doesnt it. makes me sick.


Thanks. I’ve had plenty of Arabic kawa and food and music. And it’s all good (the music after a while starts to get on my nerves). Yet, I find the “miserable zionist world” to be one of the most free, opportunistic, and vibrant economies in the world. Israelis know how to enjoy themselves and they’re full of life. It doesn’t make me sick at all, it actually makes me very happy and very proud.

Perhaps if you thought about other things instead of Israel you would be less sick. Just a suggestion.

BTW – You didn’t show us any proof about the Amman wedding bombing. Did you try al-Jazeera?

April 29th, 2008, 10:50 am


why-discuss said:

“Your logic doesn’t make sense. Israel has absolutely no reason to make peace with Syria if Syria itself cannot deliver a more or less simultaneous deal with Lebanon.”

It is so obvious..
Israel will get in exchange for peace a lower support of Syria to Hezbollah and Hamas. Read what Shai writes and all new articles about that subject, Israel NEEDS to make peace with Syria to restart a dynamic of peace with other neighbours.
The trouble starts for Lebanon as the present lebanese governmemt policy is to deal with Syria as any other arab country and in the last years with resentment, insults and claims that Lebanon does not need Syria and that it can manage with the help of western countries and pro western arab countries. For the Lebanese “majority” Syria is just a nuisance.

Now if Syria makes a separate deal with Israel, it WILL includes ome sort of reining of Hezbollah and Hamas but WILL NOT include a solution to the palestinians refugees in Lebanon. It is now up to the 14 mars governemnt now to lure back Syria into helping secure the fate of the palestinian refugees and Shebaa Farm. These are much tougher problems to solve and I would expect Syria to just go ahead with a separate peace arrangement, leaving Lebaon in the cold.

April 29th, 2008, 1:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Thanks for your response. I still see things a little differently.

Take the Palestinian refugees issue. How would Syria help solve that issue, even if it wanted to? It’s a Lebanese problem, and the question of nationalization is absolutely off limits to the Christians and the Shi`a (unfortunately, in my opinion). I don’t see how Syria would have been able to solve this issue anyway, short of negotating a right of return agreement, which will never happen anyway.

As for Shebaa… this is hardly a problem. It’s a pretext. And I would guess that Israel would withdraw from Shebaa when/if it withdraws from the Golan.

In general, I guess I believe that Israel will only withdraw from the Golan if it has iron-clad guarantees. And that will inaugurate a completely new political order in Lebanon anyway, one in which Hizbullah is integrated into the army, transitions to full political party, and in which relations with Syria are normalized to some extent, over time.

April 29th, 2008, 2:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Why do you bother reading anything if you are so convinced of your own opinions? Why not just stick to the following mantra, and save yourself the trouble of buying a newspaper, reading a blog, talking to another person?

greed is greed
usrael is usrael
jews are jews
bondo is bondo
arabs are arabs

April 29th, 2008, 3:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I don’t skip your posts. I find them entertaining.

I’m just curious because you are maybe the most self-confident person I’ve ever met.

Sicilians make the Lebanese look positively insecure.


April 29th, 2008, 3:38 pm


wizart said:


I suppose we can all ask ourselves the same long question you just asked Bondo starting with yourself since you can understand your own question. Seriously, you can accept that others might have a different attitude that doesn’t fit with your own view can’t you?

It’s also ok to allow them to express their views without having to deal with your objections or ridicules isn’t? It seems to me you’re becoming a self-appointed thought police where everyone here has to adjust his argument to your liking. I think that was the main point of your disagreement with T who you finally managed to drive off.


Kifa Nabki is Kifa Nabki
(we’ll accept that too)

April 29th, 2008, 3:40 pm


Alex said:


I love to see “Greater Syria” … but we can’t force it on anyone.

April 29th, 2008, 5:29 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Arabs are great. They are the best. The US is the worst. So why are you living in the US instead of some Arab country? All the complainers never give me a good answer to this question which makes their arguments amusing.

April 29th, 2008, 5:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I disagree with plenty of people here, including Joshua, Alex, AIG, Nour, Idaf, Ausamaa, and others. I have no illusions about trying to make people’s opinions conform to my own. When I challenge people, it’s simply to get them to explain their argumentation.

My opinions have been changed by many on this blog, by the way. That’s why I stick around. I like being proven wrong.

(By the way, I tried responding to your comment to me about the Palestinians, but I think it was eaten by the spam filter. In short, I asked you to explain yourself and assured you that I wasn’t trying to be clever. What did I say that made you think I was disrespecting Palestinian rights?)

April 29th, 2008, 6:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Only irrational people stay in places that they think are very bad. Of course you are good. But why do you stay in such a bad place as the US instead of moving to the Arab countries that as you attest are great? You don’t like western garbage yet you live in the country that exmplifies western garbage, the US. You don’t like Zionists yet you insist in living in a community in which the majority are Zionist Jews. You are just not making any sense. Are you perhaps a masochist? Or do you actually admire Jews and Zionists and hate yourself for it and therefore punish yourself by living among them (which in the end is not punishment but what you really want)?

By the way, pick a point you want me to answer you on, I would be happy to do it.

April 30th, 2008, 2:24 am


Rowan Berkeley said:

USA – Love it or leave it – eh? Redneck goading.

April 30th, 2008, 3:49 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You really need to read more slowly because it may help you not to miss the point entirely.

Bondo hates the US and western values as he clearly states. He believes the Arab states are much better. The US exemplifies western values and fixing the US for most Americans means adhering MORE to western values, not less as Bondo wants. Yet he stays in the US. Is this rational? Of course not.

Why is it that given an option most Arabs would immigrate to the US but very few Americans would immigrate to Arab countries? Are Americans and Arabs stupid and do not see how great the Arab countries are and how bad the US is or perhaps Bondo and you are just plain wrong?

April 30th, 2008, 4:04 am


Rowan Berkeley said:

western values? do tell.

April 30th, 2008, 5:01 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What do you think, is lying a Jewish value? What is your opinon?
If you think I lied, just quote the passage where you think I am lying and let’s discuss it. This is called debate based on facts, something you don’t seem to like.

Evading the issues are you? Having been shown to be irrational and that your statements are contradictory you seem to have a problem to rebound. Take your time and try a little harder. Try to explain why even though Jews and Zionists are evil and the US is the worst you insist on living in a community that is mostly Jews and Zionists in the US. Now, is that the action of a rational person? I think not unless you are either a masochist or a secret Jews-Zionists admirer. I think the latter.

April 30th, 2008, 2:13 pm


Rowan Berkeley said:

that’s the “USA! USA! love it or leave it!” line again.

April 30th, 2008, 2:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Not at all, you again completely miss the point. Many people want to change the US for the better. Obama for example. BUT, he wants to do it in the framework of Western thought and values: a Judeo-Christian value system living in harmony with but fully separated from a Jeffersonian democracy. Bondo rejects this framework. He rejects western influence and thought. The US exemplifies western values. Bondo rejects these. He has nothing to build on or improve on. He is completely incompatible with the US and therefore it is a mystery why he lives there.

April 30th, 2008, 2:35 pm


Rowan Berkeley said:

obama is a write-off – check the news.

hey – make that a WRIGHT-off… hahaha

May 1st, 2008, 7:19 am


abraham said:

Scott Ritter is becoming increasingly incoherent. He’s also apparently losing his once sharp mind if he believes any of the garbage that was produced by the US as “evidence”.

Regardless, the last three paragraphs of his essay are right on.

May 2nd, 2008, 11:35 pm


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