Syria plays hardball with the Saudis, by Sami Moubayed

Posted by Alex

Syria plays hardball with the Saudis
By Sami Moubayed / Asia Times

DAMASCUS – In a further sign of just how low Syrian-Saudi Arabian relations have sunk, Syrian authorities have banned the distribution of al-Hayat, the Saudi-owned mass circulation Arab daily.

The step came nearly two years after al-Sharq al-Awsat, another Saudi daily, was banned from Syria for running articles that were considered critical of the Syrian government during the Israeli war in Lebanon in 2006.

Subsequently, the Syrians hailed Hezbollah in Lebanon as a resistance organization while the Saudis criticized it because of its links to Iran, claiming that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was an “adventurer”.

President Assad Greeted by Saudi guard at the 2007 Arab summit

President Assad Greeted by Saudi guard at the 2007 Arab summit

President Bashar al-Assad snapped back in a speech that those who had conspired against Hezbollah in the Arab world (in clear reference to Saudi Arabia) were “half-men”.

The cold war between Damascus and Riyadh continued between 2006-2008, over a variety of issues related to influence in Lebanon, Iraq and to a lesser extent, Palestine. The Syrians challenged Saudi Arabia by cementing their relationship with Iran, arguing that while the Iranians were supporting Syria’s positions with regard to its standoff with the United States, the Saudis were only adding insult to injury by applying pressure on Washington to keep the heat on Damascus and engaging in dirty intelligence tricks with the aim of destabilizing Syria.

Syria challenged the Saudis in Beirut – and won a military confrontation between Hezbollah and the Saudis’ Hariri bloc last May. Meanwhile, the Saudis started playing the dangerous game of turning a blind eye to jihadis wanting to wage war on Syria. While Saudi Arabia’s official policy remained critical of Syria, a certain branch in the Saudi royal family still harbored ambitions to topple the Syrian government altogether and replace it with pro-Saudi opposition figures like former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam.

Tension was further elevated when terror struck in the heart of Damascus on September 27. A suicide bomber loaded with 200 kilograms of explosives killed 17 Syrians and injured between 15 to 40 civilians. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the Arab world that refused to condemn the attack, although it was harshly criticized by France, Russia and even the US.

The Saudi press continued to write negatively about Syria, explaining why the Syrians decided to ban the distribution of al-Hayat, the only surviving Saudi daily on Syrian newsstands. Coinciding with Syria’s decision came the resignation of Ibrahim Hamidi, the newspaper’s bureau chief and senior correspondent in Syria.

Hamidi, who had served as al-Hayat’s man in Damascus since the early 1990s, was quoted saying, “I couldn’t take it anymore. I terminated my work with al-Hayat because I cannot be a part of a newspaper that is engaged in a systematic campaign against Syria.”

Although it became clear to everybody – France being first on the list – that the Saudis were not getting the upper hand in Beirut politics, Lebanon remained closely allied to Riyadh, due to the personal and financial bond between Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, and the House of Saud.

One of the first to realize that the Syrians are overpowering the Saudis in Lebanon was Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a strongman of the March 14 Coalition. He realized that the US-imposed isolation of Syria has crumbled, after Bashar Al Assad’s visit to Paris in July 2008. The Turks and the Qataris are firmly behind Syria in its indirect peace talks with Israel, a strong counterbalance to the Saudis, which might result in a peace treaty as of mid-2009. If that happens, the Hariri Tribunal (on which the Saudis had placed high hopes) will be consigned to history.

The US administration, wrapped in controversy in Iraq, is clearly uninterested in regime change in Syria, as was the case several years ago. Their ally, Abdul-Halim Khaddam, has by all accounts ruined himself by betting on the wrong horse in 2005. What’s worse, the Saudi-trained and funded March 14 forces were defeated on the streets of Beirut in May, when they tried to confront Hezbollah.

Within hours, Hezbollah rounded up all militiamen on the payroll of Saudi Arabia and forced the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora to back down on legislation taken earlier against Hezbollah. It was clear: the US and Saudi Arabia lost the war for Beirut, and Syria and Iran won.

When fighting shifted to the Druze villages on Mount Lebanon, Hezbollah fighters encircled Jumblatt’s home – despite all the backing he had from the Saudis – but did not invade it. He got on the telephone with speaker Nabih Berri (who is pro-Syrian and strongly allied to Iran) and said, “Tell Sayed Hassan Nasrallah I lost the battle and he wins. So let’s sit and talk to reach a compromise.”

Last month, Jumblatt went further, accusing Hariri in the Beirut daily al-Akhbar of building a militia and allying himself with Islamic hardliners. Speaking about the arms of the Hariri team, Jumblatt said, “To form a militia today? To face whom? Hezbollah? This is crazy.”

More recently, what worried both the Saudis and Jumblatt was the semi-rapprochement that started developing between Syria and the US. Last month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at her request, and discussed a variety of issues related to the Middle East.

That was the second meeting between both ministers since May 2007. According to the Syrian minister, Rice showed willingness to support Syrian-Israeli peace, a u-turn in the American position, which until now, has been uninterested in the indirect talks taking place in Turkey.

This week, the Doha-based al-Jazeera news agency quoted American “sources” saying that they were reconsidering their policies towards Syria during what remains of the George W Bush administration. A “senior US official” was quoted repeating exactly that on Israeli radio, adding that this would lead to the lifting of sanctions imposed on Syria by the Bush administration since 2003.

The Syrians believe, although they have not said it bluntly, that the Saudis are furious at Syria’s repeated diplomatic successes. Eager for vengeance, they are now financing Islamic fundamentalism in Lebanon to strike at both Hezbollah and Syria and have not yet digested the outcomes of May 2008.

Assad said that the sectarian violence taking place in northern Lebanon was dangerous to Syria. Many believe that the suicide bomber who detonated a bomb in Damascus was a product of a fanatical group trained and created in Lebanon. That might explain why the Syrians amassed thousands of troops on their border with Lebanon, to prevent the influx of jihadi fighters to Syria.

If Saudi Arabia was not guilty of the September 27 attack, it certainly looked and acted guilty by refusing to say anything about it.

Meanwhile, the Saudis, frantic to save their positions in Lebanon, had already started pumping money to build a Sunni armed movement to confront Hezbollah if matters escalated once again. Earlier in May 2007, veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh claimed that they had co-created Fatah al-Islam, a fundamentalist group to fight the Shi’ites in Lebanon.

It grew out of control, just as the case with al-Qaeda (which was created with the aim of fighting the Soviets) and turned its arms against the Lebanese state, resulting in grinding battles in the Naher al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

Earlier last year, the UN prosecutor in the Hariri affair, Serge Brammertz, noted that the suicide bomber who killed Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005 was neither Lebanese, nor Syrian. Rather, he came from a “hot district” which was believed by many to be a clear reference to one of the Gulf countries, possibly Saudi Arabia.

The bomber, according to Brammertz, had spent only about four months of his life in Lebanon and nearly 10 years in a “rural area”, possibly the mountains of Afghanistan. After all, hundreds of Saudis lived there when working with the United States to combat the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. That shed light once more on Saudi jihadis in Lebanon.

The Syrians realize just how dangerous it is for the Saudis to be flirting with radical fundamentalists, because this can set the entire region ablaze. After all, it has already been revealed (by a US source in the Los Angeles Times) that 45% of all foreign fighters in Iraq were coming from Saudi Arabia, 50% of them arriving in Baghdad, “ready-to-explode”.

Sami Askari, a senior advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, confirmed the accusations, saying, “The fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia has strong intelligence resources, and it would be hard to think that they are not aware of what is going on [in Iraq].”

Saudi journalist Faris bin Khuzam, writing for the Saudi daily al-Riyadh, put the number of Saudi jihadis in Lebanon operating from Naher al-Bared at 300. He claims they were “lured” into a battlefield “other than the one they wanted”, saying that they had plans to fight the Americans in Iraq, and ended up in Tripoli.

The reason, he explained, is tight security on the Syrian border (in addition to the Saudi border) preventing them from making a breakthrough into war-torn Iraq. Instead, they found their way into Lebanon and stayed for what initially seemed to be a temporary transit period. “Gradually the pendulum shifted,” Khuzam wrote, adding that “they were told that the road to Jerusalem runs through here [Naher al-Bared]”. He concluded, “They chose the Saudi dream that Osama bin Laden could not fulfill.”

When the battle of Naher al-Bared ended in 2007, it was revealed that 43 Saudi jihadis had been rounded up from Fatah al-Islam in Tripoli, while others could be found in the Ain al-Hilweh camp near Sidon. According to Hersh, “The idea [is] that the Saudis promised they could control the jihadis, so we [US] spent a lot of money and time … using and supporting the jihadis to help us beat the Russians in Afghanistan, and they turned on us. And we have the same pattern, not as if there’s any lessons learned. The same pattern, using the Saudis again to support jihadis.”

The Saudis, Hersh said, were telling the Americans, “It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs, it’s who they throw them at – Hezbollah, [Iraqi Shi’ite cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr and the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.” In a famous CNN interview, Hersh added, “The enemy of our enemy is our friend, just as the jihadi groups in Lebanon were also there to go after [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. We’re in the business of creating in some places, Lebanon in particular, sectarian violence.”

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online


Lebanese Qifa Nabki masses 10,000 troops at Moubayed’s Syrian border!

Our own Qifa Nabki wrote a new blog post to express his disappointment in what he perceived as a departure from Sami’s usually moderate and balanced opinion pieces.

Here is it:

Sami Moubayed has a piece in Asia Times this week (“Syria plays hardball with the Saudis”), in which he compares the litany of victories registered by Syria to the string of Saudi defeats.

I usually like Sami Moubayed’s analyses, and I found much of what he said in this article to be true, apart from his account of the events of May 2008. He says:

…the Saudi-trained and funded March 14 forces were defeated on the streets of Beirut in May, when they tried to confront Hezbollah. Within hours, Hezbollah rounded up all militiamen on the payroll of Saudi Arabia and forced the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora to back down on legislation taken earlier against Hezbollah. It was clear: the US and Saudi Arabia lost the war for Beirut, and Syria and Iran won.

I find it dismaying that someone who is generally good about dispensing with jingoism and delivering nuanced analysis is so incapable of doing so when it comes to the issue of Syria and Saudi Arabia’s struggle over Lebanon.

What happened in May 2008 was nothing so neat and tidy as a “war for Beirut”, fought between two sides, with a winner and a loser. Bandar may have had some wacko salafists on the payroll in Tripoli but this does not mean that March 14th was building up a huge militia with the goal of confronting Hizbullah in the streets of Beirut in a fight to the death. This is what propagandists would like people to believe. Journalists should be far more skeptical of such outlandish notions.

The propagandists want to be able to say: “March 14th wanted a war, but Hizbullah didn’t. However, when we couldn’t hold them off anymore, we gave it to them. We gave it to them, and we were victorious. But we were magnanimous in victory. We didn’t storm the Serail and assassinate Saniora. Others might have done that, you know.”

(Cue feelings of gratitude.)

It is not clear to me how historians will explain the events of May 7, 2008. However, they will certainly describe the backdrop: a country brought to an eighteen-month halt, economic paralysis, no president, a string of political assassinations, and immense social and sectarian tensions. They will talk about the labor strikes co-opted by Hizbullah in order to force the government into revoking its ill-fated decisions to dismantle the Hizb’s telephone network and to fire Wafiq Shouqeir. They will describe how the “peaceful demonstration” quickly got out of hand — as everyone knew it would – thereby providing an ideal pretext to take Beirut in a show of force and all but necessitate an international invention that would bring about the Doha Accord.

Did al-Mustaqbal have gun-wielding shabab on its payroll? Undoubtedly. Did they fight in the streets of Beirut? Yes. But was this a scene of Saudi-funded and Jordanian-trained commandoes leaping out from behind overturned cars to surprise the Hizbullah fighters who had so stupidly walked into their ambush? Hardly. More like a scene of glorified security guards with fancy toys being caught off guard by a disciplined, highly-coordinated, Iranian-trained, elite corps of battle-hardened soldiers who knew exactly what they were doing.

Syria “won” in Lebanon because it was willing to push the envelope as far as necessary. It was willing to play dirtier than the Saudis, the Americans, the French, and March 14th.  Now, according to Moubayed, the Saudis are playing dirty with Syria. As usual, he doesn’t explain why this is ok in Syria’s case but not in Saudi Arabia’s. Furthermore, why is it acceptable for one radical fundamentalist regime (Iran) to sponsor a militia on Lebanese soil but it’s not acceptable for another radical fundamentalist regime (KSA) to do so, even though al-Mustaqbal’s shabab hardly constituted a full-blown militia, much less an army? Why is it that Moubayed protests when the Saudis inflame Sunni-Shiite tensions through their support for takfiri salafists, but it’s acceptable for Syria and Iran to build up a Shiite militia whose leader has on several occasions ridiculed various companions of the Prophet, thereby inflaming the Sunni street?

I am of the school who wants to forget about May 2008 as quickly as possible, and leave it to the historians to decide “what really happened.” In the meantime, however, let’s at least try to put the propagandists out of business.

Comments (90)

qunfuz said:

can’t agree with most of what QN says, although much of it is a question of emphasis. But I really want to know where Nasrallah insulted companions of the Prophet. I’m not disputing he did, I really want to know – if you could oblige, QN.

October 9th, 2008, 4:27 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

Are you sure Syria was willing to play dirtier than the Saudis were prepared to?

Are you saying that the Saudis are not prepared to play dirty too?

How do you explain that assumption?

Syria (the poor Syria) allowed 1.5 million Iraqi refugees to live in Damascus while the extremely rich Saudi Arabia is building a wall, costing tens of billions of dollars, only to block Iraqi refugees from entering their kingdom.

Let them die in the desert instead.

So … does this sound like a country that refrained from escalating things because its leaders were worried that escalation can cause human suffering.

Lets be clear … the Saudis (Saad hariri) decided to not fight too much (they did fight) because they knew they will lose in a day or two, max.

And when they actively (fiercely) lobby Europe and the United States trying to convince them to continue boycotting Syria and to continue their sanctions on Syria, they are playing very dirty.

And .. if it is true (IF) that a Saudi was the suicide bomber of the Damascus attack last month, then …

Syria was very patient with the Saudis …. Bashar offered to visit the king of Saudi Arabia but his offer was rejected.

And one thing that you should keep in mind Mr. Qifa : ) …. Lebanon is Syria’s neighbor … not Saudi Arabia’s

If you want to compare apples to apples …. imagine Syria doing what the Saudis are doing in Lebanon, but in Yemen or in Oman.

October 9th, 2008, 4:52 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

More on the “missing” reporters.

“The two, Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, had not been heard from since Oct. 1. The Sana report said that the two were detained Thursday morning for crossing the border “illegally with the help of a smuggler.” [NYT]

The article says they work for the Jordan Times in Amman.

October 9th, 2008, 4:55 pm


Alex said:

Jordan based American journalists going inside Syria illegally.


Ya3ni it did not cross their minds that Syrian Moukhabarat will suspect that they are moukhabarat amerkiyeh ??!!!

: )

Here is a good piece (finally!) by Michael Young

Lebanon’s smell of victory, next time
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, October 09, 2008

So, Israel’s strategy the next time it enters into a war with Hizbullah is to destroy much more of Lebanon than it destroyed in 2006. The plan is deeply cynical, its justification thoroughly dishonest, but Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s secretary general, will not be able to reply that he didn’t expect what happened, before apologizing to us afterward.

In an interview with the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot last week, the head of Israel’s Northern Command, Major General Gadi Eisenkot, had this to say: “What happened in the [southern suburbs] of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on.” What Eisenkot meant was that if Hizbullah fired off its rockets from villages, instead of trying to prevent the launches Israel would simply flatten these villages. This strategy of “disproportionate” force could well be accompanied by a widening of the scope of Israeli retaliation against Lebanon, targeting the country’s infrastructure. A former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, has argued in favor of this, and wrote recently: “A legitimate government runs Lebanon, supported by the West, but it is in fact entirely subordinate to the will of the Shiite organization.”

It poses problems to argue that Eiland doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that Hizbullah, while powerful, must contend with a majority in Lebanon that deeply mistrusts it, therefore that the Lebanese government is not “entirely subordinated” to Hizbullah’s will. Why? This might imply that Israel is free to ravage Hizbullah and the Shiite community at will, but should not extend this to other Lebanese. That is, of course, not what a rebuttal of Eiland necessarily implies. However, beyond the humanitarian argument, indiscriminate Israeli retaliation against both Hizbullah and its enemies could unite the Lebanese momentarily against Israel, or more worryingly, and more likely, could spark a new civil war. This, Israel would not particularly mind, as it would occupy Hizbullah in a bestial internal conflict that could ultimately grind the party down, as the previous Lebanese Civil War did the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Eiland made his case in the context of a domestic Israeli debate, so his ideas might or might not be implemented by the government in case of any new confrontation. Much would depend on what the United States says and does. But Eisenkot’s massive retaliation plan – and he underlined it was a plan, not a proposal – is belated recognition that Israel’s only effective weapon against Hizbullah is to poison the well of Shiite support for the party. By imposing a balance of terror in their favor, the Israelis calculate they will be able to deter Hizbullah, but also justify before the international community harsh reprisals if the party fires first.

Still, Eisenkot’s statements left several things vague. What happens if Hizbullah fires longer-range missiles at Tel Aviv and beyond? In whose favor would the balance of terror be then? What would the Israelis destroy in response? An effective policy of deterrence implies leaving oneself a range of escalating options, so that for example if Israel were to react with massive destruction of Lebanon early on in a war, it might risk leaving itself with few viable options to hit even harder at later stages if Hizbullah itself decided to escalate. And since the party’s longer-range missiles are in every way Iranian missiles, and would probably be fired far from the front lines in the South, meaning near the Syrian border, would that mean that Israel transforms the conflict into a regional one?

And what about Syria in Israel’s plan? In their fervor to hold the Lebanese government responsible for whatever Hizbullah does, many Israelis never mention that the party in the past two years has been able to rearm thanks to weapons transiting through Syria. They never mention, in justifying their negotiations with Syria, that Hizbullah became a powerful military force during the years when Syria controlled Lebanon. They never mention that President Bashar Assad has time and again made it clear that he has no intention of breaking with Iran over Hizbullah (or anything else), and that such a step would be inexplicable anyway as it would deny Syria the military leverage the party provides it over Israel.

As Israel’s armed forces destroy Lebanon’s towns and villages, as well as quite possibly its electricity, road, and water infrastructure, what will they do against a regime in Damascus far more responsible for allowing Hizbullah to be what it is than the Lebanese state, which Eiland implicitly points out is too weak to contain the party? If the answer is “nothing,” and Syria is to be left alone, then we get the message: For the umpteenth time Lebanese blood will serve as currency in Syrian-Israeli bargaining.

News reports on Wednesday suggested that Hizbullah is still very much eager to avenge the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, and that Nasrallah had said as much at a party meeting, before this was leaked to the daily Al-Akhbar. The news item came only days after the Hizbullah commander in the South, Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, called Israel “a cardboard state that will be destroyed by the resistance fighters.” Earlier, Qaouq had promised to liberate the Shebaa Farms by force, because diplomacy had failed. That this coincided with signs that diplomacy appeared to be on the verge of liberating occupied Ghajar was hardly fortuitous.

Even hundreds of tons of Israeli cardboard landing on Lebanese heads could cause quite a bit of damage, so Qaouq’s bravado smelled like hubris. Neither Israel nor Hizbullah must relish a new round of fighting just yet, which is perhaps why the rhetoric on each side has escalated. But allow a doubt. In the destruction game Israel is capable of much more than the brash Hizbullah, and this time far more capable of confirming that whatever victory the party might subsequently declare, it would look vain indeed while we all stand in the midst of a smoldering wasteland.

October 9th, 2008, 5:07 pm


Observer said:

I agree with Moubayed’s analysis. The head of the national security councit is Bandar the same one that worked with George Casey to plant a bomb aimed at killing the head of HA and ended up killing 80 people in the heart of the southern suburb of Beirut.

It is truly a mark of desperation that the Family is trying to bring Karzai and the Taleban, supporting Salafis in Tripoli, doing their utmost with Egypt to strangle Gaza.

I predict that the recent events on the financial markets will limit in a big way the ability of the Western powers to go about dictating terms.

The SOFA agreement is not near in Iraq and Nuri knows what happened to that other Nuri in Iraq when he sold the country’s sovereignity.

My question is will Lebanon go bankrupt like Iceland? I am not talking about the banks which seem to be doing OK but about the goverment debt and will the creditors now come asking for their money as they try to shore up their own banks and institutions.

If that were to happen, expect the Saudis to foot the bill.

Watch Jumblatt, his nose despite being smeared with his own mudd now by HA can still smell where the wind is blowing from.

October 9th, 2008, 5:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Habibi Alex

I don’t know how dirty the Saudis were planning to get, but I have a feeling that they were not willing to go down the garden path as far as Syria. I’m not saying Syria is dirty! I’m saying that it was willing to play dirty, and eventually its adversaries backed down when they realized that they could not pressure Syria in this way without getting burned. Why is this? Because, exactly as you say, Lebanon is Syria’s neighbor, not KSA’s.

I understand perfectly well why Syria would act the way it did. But at the end of the day it was acting in a certain way. I just want Sami to recognize this too, instead of just blaming the Saudis.

As for Saudi actions, you are right about sanctions etc. But this is exactly my point. For the most part March 14 and Saudi Arabia were not fighting a military war with Syria/Hizbullah, as Sami makes it seem. They were fighting a different kind of war, a war waged in the media, in international institutions, etc. Claims of enormous militias and civil wars are overblown PRECISELY because, as you say, the Saudis and Hariri knew that they couldn’t beat Hizbullah down in that way. So that’s why I’m saying we should not pretend that it was as simple as a war and Hizbullah won.

Anyway, why are we talking about this on Joshua’s blog? I have a blog too you know! 🙂

PS: I like how Lebanese cities (like Tripoli) are now appearing in the spam window. That’s very nice.

October 9th, 2008, 5:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’d rather not spread fitna, 🙂 but your question deserves an answer and so I would only suggest cryptically that YouTube and online Sunni forums are a goldmine, in this respect.

(If you’d like more details, leave a comment at my site and I’ll fish your email address out and send you a couple links.)

My point, by the way, is not to insult Sayyed Hasan, but simply to suggest that the “spreading fitna” street runs two ways.

October 9th, 2008, 5:29 pm


Alex said:

Only Tripoli .. for now : )

Depending how things go, I might remove it from the list.

October 9th, 2008, 5:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Our friend Abbas would be happy if you kept it on the list, and added a few more areas, like Qoreitem, Mukhtara, Meerab, and Saifi.


October 9th, 2008, 5:39 pm


jad said:

“Anyway, why are we talking about this on Joshua’s blog? I have a blog too you know!”

Is that commenting an advertising of your blog QN? For me, it sounds like it therefore I think you should pay something for Dr. Joshua, it’s just fair 🙂

October 9th, 2008, 6:12 pm


Alex said:

I am glad they picked the right “Syria” table this time

: )

And they are in a good mood too.

October 9th, 2008, 6:49 pm


sam said:

Furthermore, why is it acceptable for one radical fundamentalist regime (Iran) to sponsor a militia on Lebanese soil but it’s not acceptable for another radical fundamentalist regime (KSA) to do so, even though al-Mustaqbal’s shabab hardly constituted a full-blown militia, much less an army?

Big Difference to consider
Hizb is grass roots with Lebanese born members

Those Salifist are imported from abroad. With no love lost for Lebanon

October 9th, 2008, 7:13 pm


Apollodorus said:

I agree with QifaN ,as iranian propaganda tool in the Sunni world ,Hezbollah will lose all esteem if it hurts the beliefs of the Sunnis in a direct way,it will be suicidal for him,for this reason if we forget the lebanese,iranian and iraqi Sunnis ,most of the Sunnis in the world ignore the content of Hezbollah beliefs.Qunfuz you can find on youtube ,a video in which Nasrallah attacked the sahaba in the most takfiri way but it was recorded from an iranian channel.

October 9th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Alex said:

The Emir of Qatar was in Palmyra with President Assad this week.

Here are some of the multi-billion dollar Qatari projects announced:

October 9th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


If you must know, Dr. Landis gets 5 barrels of olive oil and 3 bags of zaatar every time he mentions my blog. And if he says something nice about me, I send him a goat and three sheep.

Don’t worry, he is well taken care of.


October 9th, 2008, 8:19 pm


Jad said:

LOL, I didn’t know that Dr. Joshua is a Syrian army officer…

Alex, when are we going to stop designing that ugly old Style architecture…..

October 9th, 2008, 8:21 pm


offended said:

: )

I came back to SC after long absence to be greeted with an enthusiastic critique by our friend QN of one of our other friend’s articles (namely Sami). And here’s the conclusion I came up with:

I usually like Qifa Nabki’s analyses, and I found much of what he said in his analysis to be true, apart from his account of the events of May 2008…..

October 9th, 2008, 8:29 pm


why-discuss said:

I agree fully with Mobayed’s article including his account of the the May 2008 Hezbollah Beirut’s take over. Remember it was after repeated provocations from the 14 March and their Saudi-US allies who were counting on Hezbollah’s reluctance to use their military strenght to protect the prerogatives of the resistance internally. Not responding to this aggressive attempts to derail the resistance by paralyzing its communication system and neutralize Hezbollah would have been the end of the resistance, hoped for by Israel and its Lebanes-Saudi-US allies. Seyyed Nasrallah had a dilemma but he preferred to give the priority to protecting the resistance at the price of been taxed of “using the weapons against lebanese”, a song played ad nausea by the humiliated 14 Mars.
Saudi Arabia is in social, moral and political decomposition. Smells are spreading on the arab world. It produce terrorists like cockroaches and uses its oil money to encourage hatred and violence against the ‘heretics’ Shia and Alawites. Money has got them high, they are lossing their influence and they nowwork only on revenge and hatred. Terrifying and repulsive.

October 9th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Hilarious. 🙂

October 9th, 2008, 8:54 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

QN & Alex,

Here are my two cents on your exchange.

QN is right that Syria played a “dirtier” game but he has also ignored the fact that is Saudi could have offereded to play dirtied they would have. Its just that they do not have such a strong military asset in Lebanon as Syria does.

As for May 2008, well we can call it what we want but at the end of the day we have to agree that HA was pushed into a corner and with the support of its allies utilized the situation to its benefit. If Wafiq Shouqeir was not fired and the telephone network not targeted, it would have been very likely that the Qatar accord would have never been born and that the situation prior to May 2008 would have continued until now. I see it as simple miscaclulation on the March 14 side, and they naturally paid the price for it

October 9th, 2008, 9:06 pm


Alex said:


One can also see it this way:

1) Jumblat’s two suicidal ideas (suicidal for the M14 coalition) were too obviously suicidal.

2) His fighters did not really put a serious fight … they could have.

It is possible that Junblatt’s two proposals to his M14 partners were his exit strategy from the failed M14 movement … he gave a gift to Hizbollah and to the Syrians … he gave them an excuse to go on the offensive (in a relatively gentle way) … and he helped them win.

In exchange, they will let him retire peacefully in Lebanon for now, and maybe even come back next year.

October 9th, 2008, 9:12 pm


Jad/2 said:

A sustainer recently asked Noam the below question on the ZNet chat board, where Noam hosts a forum:

Sustainer: Professor Chomsky,

If you were Nasrallah would you give up Hizbollah’s weapons? Do you think they ought to? Barsamian asked you…what you think of him and you responded that he is a very pragmatic man. Could you possibly elaborate? Does he seem like an honest, compassionate man?

Noam Chomsky: My impression is about the same as others who have met him: for example, Edward Peck, White House official responsible for terrorism in the Reagan administration, who described Nasrallah, after an interview, as having given “a logical, reasonable presentation…just an educated intelligent man talking about serious issues that he perceived.” On Hizbollah’s weapons, his position, as I understand it, is pretty simple. The first question is whether Lebanon has a right to have a deterrent against US-backed Israeli aggression. If the answer is “No,” then Hezbollah has no right to weapons. But it’s a strange answer after five such invasions, each murderous and destructive, one of which killed some 15-20,000 people and destroyed much of the country, all of them without credible pretext. Suppose, then, that the answer is “Yes.” Then what would the deterrent be? One answer would be a credible US guarantee, but that’s not in the cards (to our shame). Could it be the Lebanese army? No one believes that. We’re left with one deterrent: Hezbollah. When I was in Lebanon in 2006, before the latest Israeli invasion, I spent a fair amount of time with some of the strongest opponents of Hezbollah, and continually raised this question. No one had an answer.

I’d like to see a credible international guarantee against further US-backed Israeli aggression. Short of that, it’s hard to see what the argument would be for Hezbollah to give up its weapons, though no doubt it is highly undesirable for a state to harbor an internal non-state military force.

The outstanding Lebanese journalist Rami Khouri, writing in the major English language Lebanese newspaper, captured the basic point rather well: “Hamas and Hizbullah are among the most effective and legitimate political movements in the Arab world: They have forced unilateral Israeli retreats that no Arab army could induce; won elections democratically without resorting to the gerrymandering or ballot box stuffing that most American-supported Arab regimes live by; provided efficient service delivery and local governance to their constituents; and sustained resistance to Israeli occupation that appeals to the desire of ordinary Arabs to restore dignity to their battered lives and to their shattered, hollow political systems.”

That’s exactly why they are hated and feared by the US and Israel.

October 9th, 2008, 9:28 pm


why-discuss said:


This is a very interesting idea. I just can’t believe that Jumblatt really thought Hezbollah would stay put after the provocations. Did he gamble? Did he think he was on the side of the winner in both cases ?
Time will judge that.

October 9th, 2008, 9:31 pm


Jad said:

Alex, I didn’t post the Chomsky part above?????????

October 9th, 2008, 9:32 pm


Alex said:

Perfect! .. at least in theory.

A recently issued presidential decree permits customs authorities to forcibly buy consignments of finished goods from importers if it appears that the prices declared on the shipping manifests are lower than they ought to be. The goods are to be purchased at the declared price, and will then be sold by auction or through negotiated deals. The importers will have the option to re-export the goods, but if they do this, they will be subject to a fine. The finance minister, Mohammed al-Hussein, said that the measure, effective from October 1st, is aimed at protecting local industries from unfair competition and at stopping importers from evading customs dues by falsifying their price quotations. Customs officers have been instructed to base their judgments on the normal price of the goods in the country from which they have been exported. The measure has attracted criticism from importers on the grounds that customs officers lack the training to make these judgments and could use their new powers in a corrupt way. Some critics have also suggested that the measure is likely to prompt a revival in smuggling of goods into Syria via Lebanon.

Several thousand extra Syrian troops have been deployed along the border, ostensibly to curb smuggling.

October 9th, 2008, 9:47 pm


ToddGMoney said:

Al-Jazeera English is reporting that there were clashes in the Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus between security forces and militants with at least three people killed.

I used to take Arabic lessons in Yarmuk and didn’t find it too different than other Damascene neighborhoods and nothing like the impoverished Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. But if this is true, it may point to that Syria has a homegrown extremist problem on its hands.

October 9th, 2008, 11:07 pm


jad said:

Apparently, Syria is not in the last 10…

October 9th, 2008, 11:46 pm


Mick said:

Ya Qifa Nabki,

Syrian plans on Lebanon vs. Saudi plans on Lebanon.

In the year of Lord 2008 (not 1998).

Some basic points of reference…

Syria can not re-enter Lebanon militarily. It doesn’t have the money, resources, or political cover to do so. Nor does Bashar Al Asad have even the faintest desire to deal with the children leading Lebanon. Samir Ga’ga’ is actually considered a ‘leader’ in Lebanon.

Justify that.

Saudi owns a shitload of media. Various Saudis fund all sorts of entertaining enterprises throughout the Middle East to include extremists from Pakistan to the U.S.

I listen to Al Arabiyah whine on for hours on end on how Syria is massing troops to invade Lebanon. The President, Prime Minister, and Defense Minister of Lebanon all refute this. Doesn’t matter. Sa’d Hariri spews it. They went running to the French, who told them they were crazy. They then went running to the Americans. The Americans come and echo it. Facts mean nothing. Saudi influence trumps facts.

Maybe Michael Hussayn Young can get off his lazy ass and drive up to the border and take a picture of the massive forces getting ready to invade Lebanon. (Or more likely, he will sit on his ass and write fairy tails about the deep thoughts going on Bashar Al Asad’s mind..)

Maybe someone in March 14th, anyone, will mention Salafism in the Arab the world. Amazing how Nir Rosen can document how these idiots think marching into Iraq to kill Shi’ites shows they are more manly in fighting Israel than Hizballah. Sick people. Sa’d Hariri supporters. Idiots.

Or maybe you are having to pay higher prices for goods because the black market is finally being shut down. And you are pissed.

But you sure haven’t made a case using all the political forces in Lebanon.

You think Sa’d Hariri is only ‘backed’ by Saudi Arabia? He’s a deep political thinker that can guide the Sunni community? (Maybe you have some insightful proposals Hariri has to unite the country?)

You think Hassan Nasrallah doesn’t control his own political destiny and is a puppet of Iran? (Which Iran? Please detail)

Last I’ve seen, Nasrallah has done quite well for the people he supports. Kind of has a strong backing. Hariri gives people money, but has no serious political agenda, and wonders why he isn’t the Prime Minister yet (He has money!! What else does one need?)

October 10th, 2008, 3:47 am


Qifa Nabki said:



Michael Young did not need to go up to the border to check on the thousands of troops because al-Akhbar did it for him, and concluded that there were in fact thousands. Al-Akhbar is not on the Saudi payroll. How do you explain such a glaring error, on the paper’s front page?

But who cares? Did I say anything about Syria coming back to Lebanon militarily? I’m talking about the events in May.

As for puppets and sponsors, I personally do not believe that any politician in Lebanon is fully in control of their political destiny. The regional pressure and stakes are too high. This doesn’t mean that Nasrallah is a dog for Iran. (Again, that’s what the propogandists want people to believe.)

Sa`d Hariri should certainly go away. He will be happier, and we will be happier. Tell me what you think a different Sunni politician should do to unite the country?

October 10th, 2008, 6:34 am


ausama said:

Qifa Nabki, you have a blog site to run do you not?? Why dont you just do that? Why dont you “educate” Sami Mobayyed and “make him realise bla, bla, bla..there insted of here. Save the Pearls of Widom for your neo-born site!! Simple Marketing…!!

And I really “respect” your refusal to provide an answer to Qunfuz qauestion under the pretext that you really care about not spreading a “fitna”!!!

BTW, dont worry; Fitna is under conrol except in few sick minds, and KSA should be counting its blessings that Syria has not decided to really play “dirty” with it (as KSA has been doing for years). But it appears that Syria’s “neglect” of Saudi is more irritating to the Saudi than a Syrian response of the Kind that Saudi and its “subsidaries” would like to draw from Syria.

How so naievelly transparent can some self-designated well-intentioned experts be??

October 10th, 2008, 8:48 am


Apollodorus said:

SYRIA: Livelihoods at risk as UN appeals for US$20 million

October 10th, 2008, 8:55 am


Qifa Nabki said:

PS: Mick, if you are in Lebanon, let’s get a drink.

October 10th, 2008, 9:17 am


Nour said:


My parents just came back from Syria to Lebanon on Wednesday after a four day trip, and they could not see any Syrian troops on the border. I believe Al-Akhbar’s rendition is a bit exaggerated. There are probably some outposts that have been set up, but the notion that there are thousands of troops massed along the border is more myth than reality.

October 10th, 2008, 11:47 am


Nour said:

Here’s an official statement by the Syrian government clarifying that a few hundred troops have been deployed at the border in order to control smuggling at the border and stop the flow of terrorists.

دمشق: التعزيزات العسكرية على الحدود اللبنانية هدفها فقط ضبط الحدود

أكدت سورية أن الانتشار العسكري على الحدود السورية اللبنانية يستهدف منع تسلل المخربين عبر الحدود ومنع التهريب، مشيرة إلى أن التشدد الأمني على هذه الحدود الذي تمثل بتعزيزات عسكرية لا يعني وجود نيات أخرى لهذا الانتشار. وأبدى مصدر سوري استغرابه مما يشاع ويقال في وسائل الإعلام عن حشود سورية بالآلاف، مؤكداً في الوقت ذاته أن سورية عززت بالفعل من إجراءاتها الأمنية ببضع مئات من الجنود، وأشارت إلى أنه من الطبيعي (في هذه الحالة) أن أقمار التجسس تعرف هذا الواقع وأضاف: إن هدف هذه التعزيزات ضبط الحدود ومنع التهريب وكذلك منع المخربين من التحرك عبر هذه الحدود وذلك في إشارة إلى عمليات التسلل التي تجري عبر الحدود بين البلدين، ولاسيما لعناصر سلفية، في المناطق المحاذية للشمال اللبناني، والتي سبق أن شهدت مواجهات بين قوات مكافحة الإرهاب وعناصر مجموعات أصولية تسللت عبر المعابر الشمالية مع لبنان. وفي هذا السياق يوضح المصدر أن هذا الإجراء ينسجم مع الحاجة لضبط هذه الحدود الأمر الذي تم بحثه خلال زيارة الرئيس اللبناني ميشيل سليمان إلى دمشق منذ شهرين. ويختم المصدر أن إجراءاتنا هادفة لضبط الحدود عبر الأراضي السورية وليس لدينا نيات أخرى وذلك في إشارة إلى حالة الهلع في أوساط بعض اللبنانيين من أن يكون هدف التعزيزات عودة الجيش السوري إلى لبنان، وهو ما تنفيه سورية بشدة.

ا ف ب

October 10th, 2008, 11:51 am


Qifa Nabki said:


First of all, I don’t think that the troops are so visible. The Akhbar report made it seem like they are dispersed a few kilometres away from the border.

But anyway, who cares? 🙂

I have no problem with the troops, whether there are hundreds or thousands. It’s not Saad’s business where Bashar parks his troops. Even if there were 100,000 troops standing 10 metres from the fence, smoking cigarettes and blowing the smoke menacingly towards Tripoli while they slowly polished their machine guns, I would not care. I doubt Syria is planning an invasion. Seems awfully… what’s the word … pointless?

I think what Syria IS doing is sending a signal to many different parties (as the Akhbar journalist suggested).

October 10th, 2008, 1:18 pm


why-discuss said:


Now that it is clear you are not sharing the panic of the 14 Mars laders about the syrian troops, could you please clarify what signals Syria is sending to different parties? and to which parties?

October 10th, 2008, 2:23 pm


Nour said:


I completely agree with you in that it doesn’t matter how many troops Syria decides to deploy along its side of the border, but I was just stating my observations for the sake of clarification. I still don’t believe that there are 10,000 troops there, as I think that the pictures we saw would clearly have shown a larger number of soldiers.

As for Syria’s intent, I agree that it’s partially to send a message, but I also believe that they do want to prevent smuggling and stop terrorists from crossing the border.

October 10th, 2008, 2:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with Nour that the operation is probably mostly about securing the border, in light of the recent violence. However, I also think that Syria is sending the following messages to the following parties:

1. Tripoli salafists: “We are here and we will deal swiftly with anyone trying to smuggle themselves into Syria with ulterior motives.”

2. KSA: “We are watching Tripoli very carefully.”

3. Michel Suleiman: “We are prepared to coordinate on intelligence sharing, to solve the salafist problem once and for all, if the conditions are right.”

October 10th, 2008, 2:49 pm


why-discuss said:

I think they are also trying to protect their economy by discouraging smugglers of gazoline, food and other goods priced higher in Lebanon and subsidized in Syria.
For the average lebanese, there is some price to pay for requesting formal and strict relationship with Syria.

October 10th, 2008, 3:41 pm


Off the Wall said:


When I was back in Syria (last Century), smuggling was going in the other direction.

But it seems that now it is bi-directional with material going from Syria and Salafies coming in? is this the picture in a nutshell?

October 10th, 2008, 3:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree.

Good fences make good neighbors.

October 10th, 2008, 3:49 pm


Alex said:

Montreal, Oklahoma city, Sarah Palin .. this clip is for SC

October 10th, 2008, 4:21 pm


Nour said:

Interesting news

مشروع قانون في مجلس الشعب يسمح للأم السورية بإعطاء الجنسية لأبنائها الاخبار المحلية

علمت سيريانيوز أن أعضاءً في مجلس الشعب تقدموا بمشروع قانون يقضي بمنح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية.

وقال عضو مجلس الشعب محمد حبش في تصريح لـسيريانيوز إن “10 من أعضاء المجلس بينهم أنا تقدمنا بمشروع قانون يوم الثلاثاء يتضمن منح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية”, واصفا المشروع بأنه “هام جدا”.

ويعطي القانون السوري الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أب سوري فيما يحرم من يولدون من أم سورية حيازة الجنسية, وذلك على عكس ما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم.

وأضاف حبش أن ” مشروع القانون سجل في ديوان مجلس الشعب وأحيل إلى الحكومة”, مشيرا إلى أن “الحكومة ستدرسه على مدى 30 يوما وهي المدة الدستورية لإعطاء الجواب النهائي حوله قبل أن تبدأ مناقشته في مجلس الشعب”.

وتعتبر قضية حق الأم السورية في منح أبنائها الجنسية مثار جدل بين العديد من الحقوقيين والاجتماعيين وعدد لا يستهان به من أصحاب هذه المعاناة, حيث يعتبر أبناء السورية التي تتزوج من غير سوري أجانبا ولا يتمتعون بأي حقوق يتمتع بها المواطن السوري.

وعن نسبة التأييد لمشروع القانون هذا داخل المجلس, قال حبش “لم تظهر أصوات معارضة لمشروع القانون عندما قدم كمشروع إلا أنه لم يناقش بعد”.

وتطالب سوريات ممن يعانين من هذا الأمر بحقهن في نقل الجنسية السورية إلى أولادهن أسوة بما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم، وخاصة في الغرب، حيث يتزوج بعض العرب من أجنبيات بغية نيل الجنسية لهم ولأولادهم من بعدهم.

لوركا خيزران-سيريانيوز

October 10th, 2008, 6:26 pm


ugarit said:

“If two Syrian reporters were caught sneaking illegally into the US, I am sure that they would be immediately released with no questions asked.” — Source

October 10th, 2008, 6:29 pm


Alex said:


Am I write in assuming that most Syrian women married to non Syrians are married to Saudis?

October 10th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Jad said:

QN won’t be that happy to see As’ad Abukhalil link on here…have you read any of his many articles about the Lebanese complex? His articles are kind of tough yet true, not diplomatic at all…

October 10th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Love you Alex said:

Dear qifa Nabki:

While all of them are rooted in Islamic ideology, there is a great difference between Hezbollah (Shiaa), Hamass (Sunni)on one hand and the Saudi funded salafite on the other. Hams and HizbAllah are disciplined with well organized hierarchical structure that is responsive to international and local geopolitical influences.

They are potentially a part of the solution for the Middle East conflict, since they have the forces on the ground and the popular support to enforce the peace. They also have shown willingness to work with other religious groups to form political alliances.

On the Other hand the Saudi inspired and funded salafite groups are not hierarchical, work in small independent cells and arguably Saudi Arabia can not even control them. Their mode of operation seems to involve blowing up civilians and themselves and do not have the political structure to affect policy change or participate in a broader solution. They also have not been able to work with other groups secular or religious.

Syria’s support for Hams and Hezbollah is routed in the hope that Syria can work with them toward the resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict.

October 10th, 2008, 7:04 pm


ugarit said:


As`ad Abu-Khalil is the therapist that most need and especially the Lebanese 😉 Verbal “diplomacy” is overrated.

October 10th, 2008, 7:09 pm


ugarit said:


Here’s the link to the article:

October 10th, 2008, 7:19 pm


Alex said:

From As’ad’s blog:

“Friday, October 10, 2008
EDB (a Western reporter in the Middle East) sent me this (I cite with her permission): “What’s funny about the American journalists who were “missing” is that Americans can not get visas at the border to enter Syria. So, there is no way the were planning on doing that “legally.” Since at least 2006, Americans need to get a visa at a Syrian embassy, which is why Americans in Lebanon cannot simply cross over to Syria anymore. Very strange story. I buy the version that they wanted to see how porous the border with Syria is more. And about Taylor Luck: I don’t know him but his facebook profile includes favored activities such as: public urination. He has a photo album entitled, “Ancient Thebes and other things I pissed on. As you said, imagine if Syrian journalists snuck into the US. They would disappear for 3 years and end up in Guantanamo for a further 4.”

October 10th, 2008, 8:14 pm


Nour said:


I have no idea what the nationality is of most non-Syrian husbands of Syrian women.

October 10th, 2008, 8:29 pm


jad said:

I agree that Dr. Abukhalil is ‘the therapist’ but does the Lebanese see it this way?
Most of the Lebanese are still thinking that they are the centre of the world and everything evolved around them, even when the issue doesn’t even matter to them, so the therapy is not going to work at all.. 😉

October 10th, 2008, 8:43 pm


ugarit said:


“I agree that Dr. Abukhalil is ‘the therapist’ but does the Lebanese see it this way?”

I’m sure some do and it’s about time.

Now we have to admire the Lebanese. Dr. Abukhalil openly writes about what he thinks ails Lebanese society and yet no one harasses him when goes back to Lebanon. How many Syrians would dare do that?

October 10th, 2008, 8:51 pm


Jad said:

NONE, no one Syrian write rationally about the many problems our Syrian society have and how to deal with it. Most of the latest writing are out of revenge or hate. And if you find somebody who writes what he really think he will be harassed as a traitor.

October 10th, 2008, 8:59 pm


ToddGMoney said:

At least the last time I checked (March 2008) you certainly can get a Syrian visa at the border as an American, although you may have to wait a bit. The first time I tried this in June 2007 on the way from Gaziantep, Turkey to Aleppo it seemed somewhat dicey, and I was basically saved by the good graces of a Syrian officer who called Damascus and got permission for me to enter. (I already had a residency in Syria but no return visa). Incidentally, this officer chalked up the differences between Syria and and the US to our (Americans) tolerance of bestiality (which he had found depictions of on the internet), but I digress. But the next time I entered from Jordan this March the process seemed fairly routine and streamlined, and I and several other Americans got through within 2 hours without a hitch. From what I’ve heard, the ease of this process seems to depend on the border, correlating with the amount of traffic at a particular entry point. Not to say that these journalists’ story doesn’t sound fishy, but it is plausible… (at least in terms of their intent to get a visa at the border).

October 10th, 2008, 9:02 pm


Jad said:

What ToddGMoney wrote is right, I went to Damascus last month for a week with three Canadian colleagues and they didn’t have visa on their passport so at Damascus airport the custom officer asked them if they have a hotel reservation and they say yes, show it to him, then they fill up some forms and they got an immediate visas, I’m not sure about Americans though.

October 10th, 2008, 9:18 pm


Jad/2 said:

“Si un éditorialiste analyse: «Rrrassan Nasrallah du Rrrizbollah aime le Rrroumous», maintenant vous le savez: c’est un thuriféraire du sionisme.”

October 10th, 2008, 9:44 pm


Zenobia said:


that “bit” that one has to wait- in order to secure a visa at the Lebanese land border can be at least six hours or more… while they send a man on horseback to damascus… and he has to eat dinner first before he returns with a reply… that might be ‘yes’ or might be ‘no’… depending on how the guy at the embassy is feeling that day. Meanwhile, your taxi ride is long gone… taking your money with him, so you can pay a second time.

and Canadians are definitely NOT americans as far as the Syrians are concerned.

October 10th, 2008, 10:20 pm


Jad said:

Hi Zenobia,
I didn’t know that they treat Canadians differently than Americans at the border in Syria? Good to know, Thanx

October 10th, 2008, 10:42 pm


ToddGMoney said:


I mean its definitely a pain to wait for the visa, but the important thing is that it can be done. And more than that, at least at the Jordanian border, the matter seemed very routine as if they call Damascus a few times a day to clear incoming visa-less Americans. Of course, I did lose my taxi, but this was a minor inconvenience compared to having to go to the Syrian embassy in Jordan or mail my passport to the Syrian Embassy in Washington. At least Syria is not North Korea.

It is true though that all the Europeans I knew never had a problem at the borders (I’m not sure about Canadians).

October 10th, 2008, 11:17 pm


Enlightened said:

Syria playing Dirty? KSA playing Dirty?


So Moubayed thinks that the Syrians are responding to the KSA dirty tricks?

I think we need a moment of clarity here. Lets get through the clutter first. The Syrians are responding to the KSA’s challenge for their backyard, or even their house. Imagine if you had invited guests over and they started to play dirty, in your backyard or even in your own home? ( a few bombs in the Tripoli back yard, a few bombs in the Damascus home). What would your response be?

Lets see if we can get dirtier? A Saudi sword dance and Syrian dirty dancing?

This is not one of Moubayeds better articles and more in line with any of Michael Youngs constant rants. For objectivity it rates a big fat zero.

Lets see, the Syrian government( and leadership) are masters of underhanded tactics and strategy, and masters of patience, the sane analyst with no political affiliation would have read the current situation this way.

The Syrian leadership have already sent a strong message to the Saudis and the West that our surrogates and allies in Beirut have achieved our objectives. The Saudis have responded by aiding and abetting the Salafis and are now targeting the Syrian interior.

The Syrians are now getting blow back for their part in the transfer of the Jihadis to Iraq. The deployment of the troops along the Lebanon border is to halt these infiltrations into Syria proper, the Salafi war in Iraq is lost, so onto the next objective! The Syrian interior.

Whats definitely not lost to any serious watcher of Middle Eastern politics and Moubayed glosses over is that a proxy war is being fought here and when it comes to dirty tactics and superior strategies on the ground the Saudis are no match for the Syrians here. The Syrians have the runs on the board when it comes to this type of dirty fight.

With 40 years in power and many dirty fights to respond to challenges, if I was a gambling man I know who I would bet on in this “dirty war”

October 11th, 2008, 1:29 am


Jihad said:

Qaradawi Nabki or Nakbeh?!
I read Qifa Nabkeh’s reply to Moubayed’s article and both are pieces of propaganda. One must not forget that Mr. Moubayed was recently in Washington in a small Syrian delegation and wanted badly to meet arch-Zionists in AIPAC to prove Syrian good-will! What a pitiful way of thinking and acting. As for Qifa Nabki’s piece, it reminds the reader of one Qaradawi who woke up one day to find himself as sectarian and as bigot as those Zionist-Wahhabis in Saudi-controlled media. And the comparisons Qifa Nabki’s make are hilarious. According to your logic, if left-wing parties were sometimes funded by the USSR, then it is ok for right-wing Nazis in the Lebanese Forces to be funded by the Zionists and the Wahhabis. It is better for Qifa Nabki to shed his so-called objectivity and join forces with Qaradawi Nabki or Nakbeh (i.e. disaster).

October 11th, 2008, 1:55 am


norman said:

The US should have invaded KSA after 9/11/2001 and divided the oil wealth on the rest of the Arabs , that would have gotten the US significant gratitude from all the Mideast , It is ashamed that the US missed this opportunity.

Syrians who let their daughters marry Saudis are crazy , They are simply selling their daughters.

October 11th, 2008, 2:29 am


norman said:

Hummos update,
Chickpea wars: Israelis up in arms at bid to stop them selling hummus
Threatened lawsuit would allow only Lebanese makers to use dish’s traditional name

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Saturday, 11 October 2008

Itzhak Rachmo had one word to describe a threatened Lebanese lawsuit against Israeli hummus sellers. “Bullshit”. As a long queue of hungry clients formed at the counter for their staple Friday lunch, he clutched his forearm and declared: “There is hummus flowing through these veins.”

This week the Association of Lebanese Industrialists said it was planning international court action to stop Israel marketing its version of what it claims are “Lebanese” foods like hummus and falafel.

“I don’t know what their basis is for saying this,” said Mr Rachmo, a 68-year-old Jew of Syrian descent whose packed restaurant in the Mahane Yehuda market district was founded by his uncles 55 years ago. “Because they can’t create planes and guns and atomic weapons, they are trying to latch on to something so stupid.”

Lebanese producers claim they lose “tens of millions of dollars” annually because of Israel marketing Middle Eastern foods – hugely popular among Jewish Israelis – as their own. They are citing the precedent of feta cheese and a 2002 European court ruling that the product was Greek and could not be marketed by that name in other countries.

While the chickpea and sesame-based hummus, and falafel fried patties, are clearly no Israeli invention, the producers may have a harder time proving that the prized foods are specifically Lebanese.

At Abu Shukri, the most famous Palestinian hummus and falafel restaurant in Jerusalem’s Old City – which has a long history of serving Jews as well as Arabs – the owner’s son, Fadi Abu Shukri, took a more scholarly view. The foods lay, he said, with the whole of “Bilad al Sham” – the old Arabic term for the Levant, or Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and historic Palestine combined. “Then hummus was spread by the Turkish occupation,” he added.

Hamed Badr, 58, the Palestinian owner of Uncle Moustache – also a celebrated falafel and hummus place off East Jerusalem’s Saladin Street – could not resist complaining that “as [the Israelis] steal our land they also steal our hummus”. He was especially critical of mass-produced hummus in Israeli supermarkets, saying that, unlike his own, it was not hand ground with the exact proportion of ingredients. He too ascribed the origins of hummus to the whole of Bilad al Sham.

Outside Pitani, the most popular Jewish fast-food restaurant of its kind in West Jerusalem, a large, mainly young male crowd were waiting for a prized plate of creamy home-made hummus and freshly baked pitta bread, gherkins and raw onion.

Asked if he thought of hummus as an Israeli dish, off-duty soldier Dov Shonkopf said: “I think of it as that, but I guess it isn’t. It comes from Arab lands but don’t forget there were many Jews in those countries.”

For Mr Shonkopf, the Lebanese move is a “scam” but Rami Levy took a more charitable view. “Everyone copies something from the other and then adds something of their own. It’s the same in food as in music. But let them fight about food. It’s a lot better than fighting about territory.”

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October 11th, 2008, 2:39 am


norman said:

Congratulation Joshua ,

Syrian citizenship to children of Syrian mothers.

Your children can have a Syrian citizenship , It is time to recognize how important mothers are ,

مشروع قانون في مجلس الشعب يسمح للأم السورية بإعطاء الجنسية لأبنائها الاخبار المحلية

علمت سيريانيوز أن أعضاءً في مجلس الشعب تقدموا بمشروع قانون يقضي بمنح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية.

وقال عضو مجلس الشعب محمد حبش في تصريح لـسيريانيوز إن “10 من أعضاء المجلس بينهم أنا تقدمنا بمشروع قانون يوم الثلاثاء يتضمن منح الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أم سورية”, واصفا المشروع بأنه “هام جدا”.

ويعطي القانون السوري الجنسية السورية للذين يولدون من أب سوري فيما يحرم من يولدون من أم سورية حيازة الجنسية, وذلك على عكس ما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم.

وأضاف حبش أن ” مشروع القانون سجل في ديوان مجلس الشعب وأحيل إلى الحكومة”, مشيرا إلى أن “الحكومة ستدرسه على مدى 30 يوما وهي المدة الدستورية لإعطاء الجواب النهائي حوله قبل أن تبدأ مناقشته في مجلس الشعب”.

وتعتبر قضية حق الأم السورية في منح أبنائها الجنسية مثار جدل بين العديد من الحقوقيين والاجتماعيين وعدد لا يستهان به من أصحاب هذه المعاناة, حيث يعتبر أبناء السورية التي تتزوج من غير سوري أجانبا ولا يتمتعون بأي حقوق يتمتع بها المواطن السوري.

وعن نسبة التأييد لمشروع القانون هذا داخل المجلس, قال حبش “لم تظهر أصوات معارضة لمشروع القانون عندما قدم كمشروع إلا أنه لم يناقش بعد”.

وتطالب سوريات ممن يعانين من هذا الأمر بحقهن في نقل الجنسية السورية إلى أولادهن أسوة بما هو قائم في العديد من دول العالم، وخاصة في الغرب، حيث يتزوج بعض العرب من أجنبيات بغية نيل الجنسية لهم ولأولادهم من بعدهم.

لوركا خيزران-سيريانيوز

October 11th, 2008, 2:47 am


why-discuss said:

ToddGmoney, Jad

I guess these two ‘innocent’ journalists did not want to be rejected at the border when asking for a visa. They are JOURNALISTs and any foreign journalists anywhere in the arab world go through much more scrunity and often refused entrance without high level clearance. One proof of that is that, according to the news, when they were “saved “from the hand of the alleged thief driver and thrown to jail, they hide that they were journalists.
They knew they could be in more trouble as journalists. Their aventurous plan was clearly to bypass the border and smuggle without visa in Syria. Then they could boast about it if they succeeded, showing the world that anyone can cross the syrian border and make a scoop. That story of the thief driver is ridiculous. He probably wanted more money and threatened them. He is the one who probably called the military when they refused. I think the Syrians have been very kind to send these idiots to the US embassy without much harm. Imagine if an arab journalist smuggled in the USA, he would probably have ended up in Guantanamo for 5 years after been “waterboarded”.

October 11th, 2008, 2:57 am


ToddGMoney said:

No offense to anyone Syrian here (أنا أحب سوريا) but how many Syrian women married to ijanib are clamoring to get Syrian citizenship for their children? The article mentions that such women do indeed exist, but it seems to me for the most part that Syrian women that marry foreigners marry rich sheiks from the Gulf or occasionally men from the West, but not usually guys from places like Yemen or Iraq where having Syrian citizenship might actually be a benefit. What do you get for your citizenship? The right to serve in the army and possibly become Israeli cannon fodder. Maybe its a sentimental thing for these Syrian mothers. I mean, this law is probably not a bad thing, but is this what they spend their time on all day in Parliament for the lack of anything better to do?

October 11th, 2008, 4:00 am


Jad said:

It’s not about who the syrian women are getting married to, it’s kind of the last right that syrian women doesn’t have yet. Syrian women are and can involve in any aspect of political/social life in syria as other women in the west, and with this piece of legislation the syrian women will have the same rights of the syrian men have. In the arab world it’s only Tunisia (I’m not sure about Lebanon, it might be) give that right.
This is why people here are kind of feeling good about. Women right not citizenship glory

October 11th, 2008, 5:26 am


Zenobia said:


“His temporary embrace of Mr. Obama came as Mr. McCain was repeatedly implored by voters at the town-hall-style meeting to “fight back” against Mr. Obama at the next presidential debate, on Wednesday, and to stop him from becoming president. But unlike at an earlier town-hall-style meeting this week in Wisconsin, where Mr. McCain sharply agreed with voters who urged him to punch back, this time he drew a line.

When a man told him he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, Mr. McCain replied, “I want to be president of the United States and obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be, but I have to tell you — I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.” The crowd booed loudly at Mr. McCain’s response.

Later, a woman stood up at the meeting, held at Lakeville South High School in a far suburb of Minneapolis, and told Mr. McCain that she could not trust Mr. Obama because he was an “Arab.”

Mr. McCain replied: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.” At that, the crowd applauded.

Mr. McCain and his campaign have been harshly criticized this week by Mr. Obama, Democrats, some Republicans and a number of columnists, commentators and editorial writers for stoking angry crowds at rallies, particularly those in which Mr. McCain appears with his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Crowds in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have repeatedly booed Mr. Obama and yelled “off with his head,” and at a rally in Florida where Ms. Palin appeared without Mr. McCain, The Washington Post reported that a man yelled out “kill him.” At the same rally, a racial insult was hurled at an African-American television cameraman.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said Friday in an interview that he was surprised that neither Mr. McCain nor Ms. Palin had reacted, either by chastising audience members or discussing the events later. “It concerns me greatly when people come to the point where they take a political race, a race for president, and holler out words like ‘kill him,’ ” he said. “I just think our country is so much better than that.”

At the same time, Mr. McCain’s advisers sought to minimize the impact of those images of angry voters that have repeatedly been broadcast on television in the last two days.”

Zenobia says:

And I guess McCain’s reply implied by not challenging the obvious – that if Obama was an “Arab” … he wouldn’t be a decent family man and a citizen???

These people are unleashing the dark aggression of a lynch mob and nobody seems to be saying much about it.
I can’t imagine that McCain is sleeping to well at night with a conscience burdened with this trend in his campaign.

October 11th, 2008, 5:31 am


ToddGMoney said:

Good point Jad… there definitely is a very symbolic aspect to it. And it is fitting that Syria would lead the way in this regard considering how it has historically been much more progressive than most Arab governments in respect to women’s rights.

October 11th, 2008, 5:50 am


ToddGMoney said:

Well its not as if the Obama campaign hasn’t done anything to flan the flames. Rather than constantly responding to the claim that he is Muslim as slander he should say “And what if I was?” But I’m sure that wouldn’t play well with the US electorate.

October 11th, 2008, 6:00 am


Jad said:

LOL, without saying it he is going to loose can you imagine how the average american will react for such drama? I, Honestly, can’t even push my brain to imagine that…

October 11th, 2008, 6:11 am


ugarit said:


Isn’t Osama Bin Laden’s mother Syrian? Your point is well taken 🙂

October 11th, 2008, 1:56 pm


Ahsan said:

By being shamelessly submissive to US and Western World, the Saudi’s(specially the Royal family) are really loosing their ground both in Arab world as well as in Muslim world.

Their apparent apathy, indifference to the sufferings of Iraqi, Palestine and about the poor Muslims around the world and arrogance, excessive pride are making them extremely unpopular even hated all over the world.

October 11th, 2008, 3:50 pm


norman said:


I do not know but if it is , then blood is not as strong as the environment people grow in.

If this law was in effect then he would have learned about Islam in the Syrian schools , he would have gone to Damascus university He would have been a moderate and would have not committed 9/11.

October 11th, 2008, 4:58 pm


Alex said:

Syrian mother calling for that new law

Photo by Razan Ghazzawi

October 11th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Alex said:

Norman … he did go to school in Damascus I think : ) … but when he was very young… in the late 60’s maybe?

His character and values were formed later … in wahabi land.

October 11th, 2008, 5:52 pm


jad said:

GREAT picture Alex…it needs translation though for people on here who doesn’t read Arabic to understand.
Thank you.

October 11th, 2008, 6:28 pm


Shai said:


I haven’t had a chance to read up on all the comments yet – I just got back from a holiday in Turkey – but I did manage to read your article on the War of the Humus. Though I find it rather funny, I’m sure from the Lebanese point of view, it is quite serious, given what may apparently be a real loss to Israeli competition worldwide (Is that really true, with Arab consumers? I kind of doubt it… no?) But, I propose to test out the idea of payment for damage caused, by first having Israeli Humus producers pay a certain royalty fee (let’s say 2%) of all exported products to the Bilad al Sham producers. In fact, let’s put that as a major stipulation in any potential Israel-Syrian/Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement… 🙂 QN, what do you say, do the Lebanese even know about this international court battle taking place?

October 11th, 2008, 7:19 pm


norman said:


I have an idea,

Hummus unite the Greater Syria ( Bi lad AL Sham )( Syria , Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordon )

Make it one country and the Hummus will belong to all the people there , OK we can call it the Syrian Hummus so you and the Lebanese do not fight , we do not want wars any more.

On another note I am very optimestic , They are seeking legal course not military one , they might like the new way and solve the Israeli/ Palestinian problem this way , Wouldn’t that be great?.


Character develop at about age seven and at the university level , It is his university time that made radical.

October 11th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Rumyal said:


I’m looking for opportunities to work on my Arabic so let me try:

“We want our right to give citizenship the same way that it’s his right [sic?] to give citizenship”

October 11th, 2008, 9:53 pm


Alex said:


If you did not cheat (Arab friends?), then I am impressed.

Perfect translation : )

October 11th, 2008, 10:05 pm


norman said:


Rumyal said that his mother is Iraqi, I think .

October 12th, 2008, 1:10 am


Rumyal said:

Alex & Norman,

No cheating!

Yes my mother and all her family are from Iraq. I also learned Arabic at school for 6 years (3 mandatory + 3 elective). So I’m not a beginner, just a little bit rusty…

October 12th, 2008, 3:32 am


Alex said:


I don’t know if you were here when I linked this site

lots of photos from the time your parents were in Iraq. Authors are friends of mine (I met them once only though)

Also, you can check Baghdad’s mini site on my
(click on top bar links)

October 12th, 2008, 4:47 am


Shai said:


Make no mistake, Rumyal is NOT an Arab, he’s a decent family man… 🙂 But I am jealous of his Arabic.

October 12th, 2008, 4:55 am


shanfara said:

Sami Mubayed’s article is highly problematic. He gets facts wrong. Hezballah did not surround Jumblat’s palace. There are other issues, but clearly Mubayed does not really see the implications of terrible Syrian policy on its own people. Ok it is about foregin policy, but I think it is directly tied to the dire situation of inside of Syria. In fact, Syrian gov. apologists, purposely focus on success in foreign policy in order to avoid domestic… and don’t tell me there are cool cafes in Shaalan or Abu Rumaneh. Or you are so happy the banks are offering 80,000 lira jobs to Syrian nationals. Please stop with these illusions. Pl I am amazed on how many Syrians have become like Leb. ultra nationalist. It is as if Syria can do no wrong. It is as if all the friends they had in prison for no reason do not exist. Let us be clear, there is no victory for Syria as long as their people are occupied by both elite and baathist forces. Do we really believe the Syrians are superior to the Saudis in their dealings in Lebanon? Just because Bashshar went to Paris all of sudden means the Syria is vindicated from all the things that Sami is afraid to talk about it and so many Syrians. I plead all Syrian intellectuals to not become like the Phalangist with some pseudo nationalist patriotism to something that is just as constructed as Lebanon. The grins that some Syrian have because of Hezballah is so annoying these days. Why is that a victory? Hezballah is a militia and what it is a millitia and not some model of resistance. If you guys want resitance please go back to the 70s in Lebanon… of course they were shut out by Syrian, relgious forces and Saudi Arabia. Ok this is a tirade and excuse me.

October 12th, 2008, 4:02 pm


Rumyal said:

Hi Shai 🙂


Thanks for the links. Very interesting, I’ll definitely add “Memories of Eden” to my reading list. If anybody wants to read more about the topic of Iraq Jewry I highly recommend Sami Michael, especially “Victoria” and a “Storm Between the Palms”, but I’m not sure you can find them in English. But here’s what I found:


His most famous novel is “A Trumpet in the Wadi” which is set in Haifa in the early eighties, just before the Lebanon war, and discusses Jewish-Arabic relationships.

(And just for accuracy’s sake, my father’s family is from Poland and my mother is from Basra, not from Baghdad :-))

October 12th, 2008, 6:51 pm


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