Syria’s Response to the Russian-Georgian Conflict

For Syria, Russian Revenge Can Taste – Oh So Sweet
By Tarek Barakat
For Syria Comment, 20 Aug 2008

While the full ramifications of the Russian-Georgian war might be months or years away before they are fully identified.  We can take one very key and undeniable fact from it already. Russia is back!!!

Moscow has utilized a foolish gamble by Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to its advantage by moving quickly and unequivocally in protecting its strategic assets in the Caucuses.  Sending a strong message to the US and EU to keep NATO off its backyard or else.  Washington and Brussels were unwilling to risk angering Russia over a disposable non-NATO member, especially when considering that Russia is Europe’s primary oil and gas supplier.

This essay is not about the Missile Shield or the strategic struggle between the US and Russia, it is about how Russia’s invasion of Georgia may change the power balance in the region, in particular for Israel, Iran and Syria. Israel is risking Russian revenge over its alleged support of the Georgian army and Syria may gain from rising Russian international influence and will to punish those who opposed it.

Yesterday, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Military, accused Israel of arming Georgian troops with “eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for the clearing minefields."  More technicl details on some of the equipment can be found here.

General Nogavistyn comments come a day before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's visit to Moscow, which starts today. While Moscow’s peace conference planned in October is a key agenda point, you can rest assured that Mr. Assad is keen on leveraging Russian anger at Israel to pave the way for Syria to acquire modern Russian arms. Although some Russians may want to punish Israel by arming Syria, we shouldn’t expect a dramatic shift in regional power any time soon. Just as the US & EU know where the red lines are drawn, Russia too understands that it can only go so far in assisting Iran & Syria before enraging the US & Israel. Syria too has much to lose if it puts all of its eggs in the Russian basket. Syria's main foreign policy goal over the last several months has been to re-engratiate itself with Europe and to prepare the way for mending its relationship with the US once the new administration occupies the White House.

In order not to anger the West, Syria is likely to restricted its Russian purchases to defensive weapons systems, as it has done for some time. Russia might also use its grudge against Israel to pressure the latter not to torpedo the Moscow Peace Conference (which is yet to be confirmed).  But overall, Syria will most certainly benefit from Russia’s new assertiveness. Only Damascus’s next moves will show how it decides to exploit the new US – Russian struggle.


Nur al-Cubicle sends this quote on Assad's support for Russia's invasion of Georgia:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the “attempts” on the part of Western countries to “isolate Russia”. “We completely support Russia. Georgia sparked the crisis yet the West accuses Russia”, said Assad in an interview with the Russian daily, Kommersant. “The war initiated by Georgia was a extreme attempt to encircle and isolate Russia […] as the Americans continue their Cold War policies.”

Via La Repubblica


Assad, whose army is largely equipped with Russian-designed military hardware, said Israel’s role would only encourage countries like Syria — a U.S. foe and ally of Iran — to step up cooperation with Russia.

“I think that in Russia and in the world everyone is now aware of Israel’s role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis,” Assad told Kommersant.

“And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way.”

Syria-Russia deal threatens Mid East 'Cold War'
The Times (GB)

A New Cold War Would Threaten Israel's Security By: Frida Ghitis | World Politics Review
The new global strategic landscape reflected by the Russia-Georgia conflict could mean a more challenging environment for Israeli security.

Russia weighs increasing military aid to Arab world

Syrian President Bashar Assad is scheduled to leave for Russia on Thursday for a two-day visit that has been described by analysts as important at a time when Moscow may be considering closer ties with the Arab world.

Syrian media have described Assad’s visit to Moscow as “a working visit” to discuss closer ties in a variety of unspecified areas.

A number of reports in recent months have mentioned large arms deals between Russia and Syria, including advanced anti-aircraft missile systems.

Russian and Syrian analysts have said that Israel’s military assistance to Georgia has paved the way for a particularly successful visit for the Syrian president, whose country has taken a clear stance on the side of Moscow in the recent conflict in the Caucasus.

“The significant military assistance provided by Israel to Georgia in its war against Russia will affect in the future – and probably in the near future – ties between Russia and Israel, and Russia’s attitude toward Arab states,” a Russian analyst said in an interview to Syrian television. “Russia will re-examine its ties with Israel, and it is not unlikely that Moscow will now decide to increase its military assistance to Arab countries in conflict with Israel, including Syria.”

Russia has held up the transfer of certain weapons systems to Syria and Iran as a result of U.S. and Israeli pressure, but now there is hope in Damascus that the situation will change in their favor, and Russia will authorize the arms sales.

What Did We Expect? By: Thomas L. Friedman | The New York Times
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia gave Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin an excuse to exercise his iron fist.

Russia Never Wanted a War By: Mikhail Gorbachev | The New York Times
The planners of the crisis in Georgia clearly wanted to make sure that Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation.

Another Boost for Syria The Economist

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been on a diplomatic roll since his triumphant appearance in Paris on Bastille Day. He has had further opportunities to display his statesmanship this month with visits to Iran and Turkey, and a visit by Lebanon's new president, Michel Suleiman, on August 13th and 14th was crowned with the announcement of a widely applauded agreement to establish diplomatic relations.

Comments (121)

norman said:

Fear of new Mid East ‘Cold War’ as Syria strengthens military alliance with Russia
(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be keeping his options open

James Hider, Middle East Correspondent
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed to Moscow today to discuss an expansion of his pariah state’s military cooperation with Russia.

The trip is raising fears that the new Cold War that has erupted in the Caucasus will spill over into the Middle East, long a battleground between East and West, and crush tentative hopes for peace.

“Of course military and technical cooperation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important,” said Mr Assad. “I think we should speed it up. Moreover, the West and Israel continue to put pressure on Russia.”

Israel, like its main sponsor America, has developed close military ties with Georgia in recent years, with defence contractors supplying training and equipment to the small, US-backed state.

Times Archive, 1957: Syria’s use of Russia in game of power politics
Related Links
Russia to back region’s breakaway
US and Poland sign missile deal in Warsaw
Hope rises despite Lebanon bombing
As Syria renews its Soviet-era close ties with Moscow, many here fear that the Middle East could once again become a theatre for the two great powers to exert their spheres of influence, militarily and politically, in the volatile region.

And with Israel and the US providing military backing to Georgia, Russia appears set to respond in kind by supporting Syria.

Already, Israeli observers worry that the chaos in the Caucasus may disrupt gas supplies to Europe and Turkey from the Caspian Sea region, creating a greater energy reliance on Iran and its vast reserves. The crisis could in turn allow Tehran to exploit splits in the international community and use Russia as a powerful backer to advance its controversial nuclear programme.

In a sign of warming ties, Mr al-Assad – a wily political operator keen to play regional powers off against each other – said he fully backed Russia’s pursuit of its “legal interests” in its fight with Georgia.

“On this issue we fully support Russia… Georgia started this crisis, but the West is blaming Russia,” said the Syrian leader, who will meet with Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president, during his two-day visit.

Syria and Israel recently confirmed they had been holding indirect talks to reach a peace deal after decades of hostility. Part of Syria’s motivation was to break the international isolation it has suffered for its strategic alliance with Tehran, and which has wrought serious damage on its economy. A closer alliance with a resurgent Russia, flush with petro-dollars, could afford Mr al-Assad a way out of any binding commitment. Some Israeli analysts even fear it could encourage Syria to try to take back the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, by force.

Moscow is expected to propose a revival of its Cold War era naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean, with some Russian reports even saying Moscow is already deepening it to accommodate a fleet of war ships. Russia may have similar ambitions for the port of Latakia, using Syria – which is in need of a powerful global backer – as a bridgehead for extending its regional influence.

The conflict in Georgia already sparked a mocking speech by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, over the performance of Israeli-trained Georgian forces. One of the main Israeli military advisers there was reserve Brigadier General Gal Hirsch, who commanded a division in Israel’s inconclusive war with Hezbollah in 2006, and who resigned his commission afterwards

“The entire front line of the army’s brass stepped down because of the war. Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia and they too lost because of him,” taunted the Shia leader. “Relying on Israeli experts and weapons, Georgia learned why the Israeli generals failed … what happened in Georgia is a message to all those the Americans are seeking to entangle in dangerous adventures.”

That Cold War rhetoric was echoed by Mr al-Assad, who also used the Georgian crisis as a stick to beat Israel. “I think that in Russia and in the world everyone is now aware of Israel’s role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis,” he told the Russian newspaper Kommersant. “And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way.”

Have your say

If the US was not puting its technology and weapon systems into the near Russia boarders would this situation not be arising ? its proven that the only threat to USA has been terrorism not anybody else.

Dave, Essex,


NATO: “If you do not do as we say, nobody will play with you.”
Russia: “You will not dare.”
NATO: *does not talk to Russia anymore*
70% of the world that is against the USA and Israel:
“Russia, let’s play!”

Yes, this is extremely simplified and somehow sad/dangerous.


August 20th, 2008, 2:26 pm


ausamaa said:

When it rains, it pours!

August 20th, 2008, 2:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Russia sends aircraft carrier to Syria


The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area.
The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, reports.

President Assad in meetings in Moscow this week expressed support to Russia’s intervention in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defence facilities on his land.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov” also last year headed a navy mission to the Mediterranean. Then, on the way from the Kola Peninsula and south, it stopped in the North Sea where it conducted a navy training exercise in the immediate vicinity of Norwegian offshore installations.

August 20th, 2008, 2:57 pm


idaf said:

and here’s another ship story for you QN:

From Tartus to Carthage
As the sun sets on Arwad Island, off Syria’s second port of Tartus, old men sit smoking narghile and nibbling sunflower seeds in front of the coffee shops lining the marina. Behind them is an ancient castle with honey-coloured stone walls, and a maze of narrow, scruffy lanes that wind between houses with peeling paint and green wooden shutters. All of a sudden, a murmur of admiration and approval ripples through the crowd as an elegant, high-sided wooden vessel with a large purple-and-white striped sail and a prow in the shape of a horse’s head glides elegantly into the harbour and parks itself among the squat fishing boats. After eight months of construction, the Phoenicia, a replica of a Mediterranean trading vessel as used by the Phoenicians around 600BC, is ready to launch.

August 20th, 2008, 3:05 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Brilliant move by Bashar to capitalize on the Georgia situation.


Love this sailing story. Had I finished taking my sailing classes in time, I would have loved to have joined this trip. On a second thought, may be I will give it a miss.

August 20th, 2008, 3:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I would pay serious money to see you sail into your local yacht club in The Phoenicia. I daresay there would be more than one gin and tonic spilled on the grass…

Bashar continues to play his cards in smart ways. Actually, he’s doing better than that… he is creating cards where none existed. I think I know how my friend Alex would read all of this friendly petting with the Russians: Syria is sending a strong signal to the West, namely:

“Look at me, a beautiful dark-lashed Levantine lass, surrounded by all manner of handsome and powerful strangers who are wooing me with expensive gifts and flattery. If you are too late, I may just have to join them…”

Or something like that…

August 20th, 2008, 3:39 pm


EHSANI2 said:


That was very funny. The local yacht club needs a jolt and something exciting. I cannot think of anything that would top this Phoenicia as it shows up.

August 20th, 2008, 3:44 pm


norman said:


The balance of power is shifting in the Mideast , Israel should move fast to clinch a deal with Syria, Lebanon , the Palestinians and the Iranians before it is too late . and Yes a comprehensive peace or non at all .

August 20th, 2008, 3:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I cannot think of anything that would top this Phoenicia as it shows up.

Not even a Russian aircraft carrier? 😉

August 20th, 2008, 4:05 pm


Alex said:

QN, Ehsani … it seems the Phoenicia and the Russian aircraft carrier made you forget last week’s other Tartus boat story … the one with the yacht and the skilled sniper.

As for Bashar playing his cards right, by playing international and regional powers against each other, he knows his limits too. And Mr. Putin knows that Syria ultimately wants best relations with the United States.

Syria / Russia “cooperation” is only for the next few months … by next year if Israel and the United States are serious about a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East then there will be no going back to the cold war mentality in the Middle East.

But of course if Israel refuses to settle with Syria Lebanon and Palestinians (based on UN resolution 242), everything is possible … Russia will still be interested in a pragmatic (not ideological) cooperation with Syria … they both will still need each other next year.

August 20th, 2008, 5:44 pm


EHSANI2 said:


“People in the know” or think they are in the know claim that there was no yacht used by the sniper. The latest is that the killing took place while inside the chalet itself.

August 20th, 2008, 6:03 pm


Alex said:


of course no one can shoot from a yacht… there was no yacht.

But there is no one who knows what happened that talked or will talk. Probably all the stories we will hear will be misleading or misled.

August 20th, 2008, 6:15 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Nice freudian slip Alex, but as a reminder Putin is no longer the russian president. The name is Dmitri Medvedev 😉

i also want to clarify one thing the last paragraph of my above essay. I dont think Syria is restricting itself when purchasing arms, on the contrary i believe they want to buy a lot more, its the Russians that are holding back to avoid angering the US & Israel.

August 20th, 2008, 6:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am glad to see Syria moving into the Russian camp. That only makes Israel more valuable to the US and Europe.

How many times can Syria repeat the same mistake and bank on Russia? Apparently they don’t learn. There is nothing better for Israel than an arms race with Syria. The Israeli economy can support it. Can the Syrian one?

In the end, what Syria needs is Western techonlogy and know how and to be able to trade with the West. Without these things, it will never exit the economic downward spiral it is in. Bashar is just repeating the mistakes of his father and supporting the wrong horse.

Israel will of course capitalize on this. How much easier is AIPAC’s job when Syria and Russia are close? Even Walt and Mearsheimer admit that Israel was very important to the US during the Cold War.

The bottom line is that in supporting the Russians Bashar has lowered the chances of getting rid of sanctions or of getting the Golan back. But, he has significantly raised the value of Israel for the realist faction in Washington thus strengthening Israel even more. Thank you Bashar.

August 20th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Shai said:


I believe (as Innocent Criminal suggested above) that Russia will be very careful in its dealings with Syria, as it is with Iran. Russia needs the U.S. and Europe no less than they need her. Russia cannot afford to create a new axis right now, certainly not with players like Syria, that on the one hand are still viewed in negative light by most in Washington, and on the other, can’t really provide Russia with much. And last thing Russia wants to do is contribute to a further destabilization in our region, or to give anyone (Israel, U.S.) the opportunity to present it as such. Imagine selling Syria or Iran offensive capabilities. Israel could, in theory, preempt a strike based solely on these “newly acquired” strategic capabilities (I’m not suggesting it would be legitimate, only that it could happen). Russia knows this, and will play the game very very gently. Hence, no great shift in the balance of power. Not so quickly, in any case.

And from Syria’s point of view, I completely agree with Alex, it too wants to traverse the near future carefully, certainly placing a preference on the U.S. and Europe, over Russia. If Syria seems a bit overly “eager” to side with Russia, against the U.S. or Europe, it will find itself isolated perhaps even more than it has been up until now. Certainly France would change its new favorable attitude towards Damascus.

That’s why, personally, I believe Assad made a mistake by publicly announcing the following (as provided by Nur above): “We completely support Russia. Georgia sparked the crisis yet the West accuses Russia […] as the Americans continue their Cold War policies.” Even Obama will have a hard time swallowing this one. In this case, I’m not sure the benefit was worth the cost… But we shall see.


Welcome back. Where have you been??? Felt awfully lonely being the only Israeli here… 🙂

August 20th, 2008, 6:37 pm


SimoHurtta said:

AIG and Shai Finns are really anti-Israelis. Soccer match in Tampere Finland – Israel 2 – 0.

I am glad to see Syria moving into the Russian camp. That only makes Israel more valuable to the US and Europe.

Come-on AIG. Israel has basically no value for Europe (if it has name it). Israel is for historic reasons a “moral burden” for Europe, nothing else. Israel can’t provide any solutions for Europe. Not militarily or economically. Supporting Israel only makes things “complicated” for Europe.

Russia on the contrary like Arab countries have their hands around Europe’s balls. Energy you know AIG. 🙂

The real problem for Europe AIG is that USA and Israel can’t any more deliver long term energy etc solutions which in the end are the core of our present life style. The word “democracy” doesn’t make cars run and keep houses warm. 🙂

August 20th, 2008, 6:56 pm


Shai said:


Welcome back as well… and I’m sorry to hear that Finns are “really anti-Israelis”…

Maybe I’m reading this incorrectly, but from it doesn’t sound like “Israel has basically no value for Europe…”, as you suggested.

But from the bottom of my heart, I truly am sorry that Israel remains a “moral burden” for Europe, and nothing else. Is that particularly the case with Finland, or is that your personal opinion?

Here’s a little something I found from two months ago, when clicking “israel finland project” in Google:

“Announcement: Finland – Israel Call for Proposals for Joint R&D Projects Submission by June 30, 2008 Scope Finland and Israel are jointly announcing the fifth Call for Proposals – FIT5 – for joint R&D projects, focusing on developing innovative products and applications in different technology areas. This call is announced within the framework of the MoU signed between the two countries for cooperation in the field of industrial research and development. The main objective of this Call is to launch projects with joint participation from the two countries and provide R&D funding to qualifying participants through the national programs managed by respective: the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in Israel and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation in Finland. The FIT program is managed in cooperation and in line with the Eureka-Eurostars innovation platform (”

Oh and, just to add to the trivia-game, it so happens that Israel’s first Arab-Israeli ambassador, Mr. Ali Yahya, served as Israel’s ambassador to Finland between 1995 and 1999.

August 20th, 2008, 7:11 pm


Observer said:

Syria is small potatoes to Russia. The days where the old Soviet Union gave arms to Syria without direct payement are long gone.
If I were Syria I would not purchase any weapon system unless it truly is superior to what the opponents have, or a true deterrent missile system. The money is better spent on education and improving the economy.

The right wing think tanks in the US are salivating and blabbering non sense but are euphoric with the prospect of a revival of the cold war. The US economy is significantly based on the militarization of the society and the posture of seeing threats everywhere. Therefore this will play well into the neocon agenda of insuring a world wide supremacy of US military power; with or without Israel. Whether there is a cold war or not, Israel will be for the forseable future a cornerstone of the US foreign policy. Whether this is feasible or even desirable is another story indeed.

Russia does not want a cold war but wants stability at its borders
and you have to remember two things the incredibel humiliation in the 90’s and the brutal invasion in 41. To give you some perspective, the Russians mounted a defense of the northern front to defend Leningrad between Dec 21/41 and Mar 7/42 in which a staggering 900 000 casualties were suffered by them. They never want to be in a situation where their borders are a source of anxiety.

Now the GDP of Russia is a fraction of what it used to be and until a few years ago was equivalent to that of Holland, yes Holland. So the idea that they are a threat is nonsense.

The master coup of Putin is that he chose to do Georgia now for he has a clear sense of timing. He can try to negotiate with the US first and the EU second from a position of relative strength. The US is overextended right now. Europeans as I said before will not fight any longer, even with NATO in Kabul being deployed ( since when does a French President think that he has to fly to the troops after 10 are killed ). This clearly shows that the Europeans do not want anything to do with the US confrontational policy. Russia will drive this wedge deeper by the day and already Srako le premier conceded as much by selling Georgia to Putin with the cease fire. The price is Ukraine and not Syria or a punishment of Israel.

Now in my opinion, the US has may offer a big carrot to Russia in the Ukraine and perhaps even with the missile shield in Poland in return for a firm policy change on Iran. That is, we will allow you your spehre of influence in Eastern Europe for a return of allowing us to hit Iran with your blessing.

If I were Teheran I would be very worried indeed. Likewise for Syria and for all those who think that Russia will come to the rescue anytime soon. Russia wants to be an equal partner of the global players and neither Iran nor Syria nor any of the other small fries are of importance at this time. If Russia can cement an alliance with Paris and Berlin which is what I believe they are aiming for replacing the US as the guarantor of stability in the Eurasian landmass then they would have clearly won the day.

I do believe that the latest political posturing by the US and the signing of the pact with Poland will further isolate Washington at the expense of Moscow. The Europeans do not want war or militarization of the continent ever again. They are deathly afraid of their demographic time bomb and more so of the southern mediterranean female womb that is producing 6.2 chidlren per life bearing cycle.

August 20th, 2008, 8:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Observer said

They are deathly afraid of their demographic time bomb and more so of the southern mediterranean female womb that is producing 6.2 chidlren per life bearing cycle.

The southern mediterranean female womb is indeed a terrifying thing. 🙂

Observer, you say that Russia is looking to be on the best of terms with the global players (U.S., Europe, etc.) Alex says the same about Syria. My question is, is there anyone who is not interested in good relations with these players? Where did all that good anti-Americanism go? 🙂

Simo said:

“…Arab countries have their hands around Europe’s balls.

When you put it this way, it makes it sound much more sinister and lascivious than the more common expression “they’ve got ’em by the balls.” Those dirty Arabs… always getting their hands around other people’s balls.

Welcome back.

AIG, you too.

August 20th, 2008, 8:21 pm


Observer said:


It is anti Bush mainly and anti neo con secondarily. It is everywhere in Europe and in the East and in the ME.

People in the rest of the world are a lot more sophistacted politically than the average red neck US citizen, and believe me there are a lot of them even in the so called spheres of influence.

I firmly believe that both Europe and Russia as well as many smart leaders in the ME starting with Erdogan are working on building regional stability WITHOUT the US.

This country’s stubborn confrontational style is driving it into irrelevance. The drive would be a lot faster were not for the incredibel huge debt driven style of living and the ability to print paper money not backed by gold standard as it keeps the US economy central to many other players in the world.

But this is slowly changing.

August 20th, 2008, 8:41 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The U.S. prints money without a gold standard. Isn’t that what everyone else does?

August 20th, 2008, 9:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Thanks Observer.

In other news, the border between Lebanon and Israel is extremely tense. Here is the latest news on a covert IDF operative who tried to infiltrate Lebanon. Luckily, he was taken out before he could do much damage.

Israeli Bull Goes Wild in South Lebanon

A bull which had infiltrated Lebanese territory from Israel has attacked Spanish peacekeepers and headbutted their vehicles before being shot dead, An Nahar daily reported Wednesday.
It said the UNIFIL troops were erecting an electric barbed wire to prevent Israeli cows from entering Lebanese territory at the Baathaeel pond when Israeli soldiers unleashed the wild bull on the peacekeepers.

A Spanish soldier shot the bull dead after it ran towards the U.N. troops and began headbutting their vehicles, the newspaper said.

The peacekeepers then buried the bull and continued their work to erect the wire, which according to An Nahar, it has stopped the infiltration of Israeli cows to the pond area.

Beirut, 20 Aug 08, 11:15

I guess we should give the IDF credit for having a sense of humor. After all, they were Spanish peacekeepers. “Torro, torro!”

August 20th, 2008, 9:30 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Qifa Nabki from where is Europe’s gas and oil supposed to be coming if not from Russia, Caspian region and Arab countries + Iran? From USA and Israel? Europe has no options. It takes decades to change our oil dependency of those “undemocratic” oil producers. Actually it is difficult in the world to find democratic oil producer. Especially when the North Sea oil begins to end.

To give you some perspective, the Russians mounted a defense of the northern front to defend Leningrad between Dec 21/41 and Mar 7/42 in which a staggering 900 000 casualties were suffered by them. They never want to be in a situation where their borders are a source of anxiety

St Peterborough (Leningrad) was founded on an area inhabitated by Ingrian Finns (Finns transferred there during the time the area belonged to Sweden).

Before 1939 the Finnish-Russian (well Soviet Union) was at Terijoki on Carnelian Peninsular. About 30 kilometres from Leningrad. At that time (and also now) the Leningrad region was the industrial centre of Russia. The main reason for our Winter war was the Russian desire to shift the border further away from Leningrad. Finns were not very willing to approve the border shifts Soviet Union suggested before the war. Well difficult to know how honest was Stalin in those negotiations.

Maybe the reason which saved us as an independent country in the 1944 peace was that Finland did not participate in attacks against Leningrad despite of German wishes / commands.

Here’s a little something I found from two months ago, when clicking “israel finland project” in Google:

Shai Finland has numerous such agreements technology agreements with different countries. Surely Finland is not depending from Israeli know how, neither is Israel from Finnish.

Finland exported to the MENA region (North Africa and Middle East) in 2006 goods worth of 3.2 billion €. The import was 216 million €. Over halve our trade surplus comes from “your” area. The biggest export partners are UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran. Well israel is the biggest importer (2007 87 million €, Finland’s export to Israel was 173 million €).

I suppose for most European countries the trade statistics show equal figures. Well not “good” as for Finland with a huge trade surplus, because they buy much of their oil from the region. Finland imports most of the oil and gas from our old historic enemy country.

Seriously speaking Shai in what way is Israel a “necessity” to Europe? Basically nothing that can not developed or produced in already in Europe. Let’s hope we do not need your experience in controlling minorities.

August 20th, 2008, 10:15 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

anyone else having a problem loading the SC website?

August 21st, 2008, 12:14 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I have no problem with your point. I’m sure you’re right. I simply found your expression about the Arabs’ hands and Europe’s balls … funny.

August 21st, 2008, 12:48 am


ugarit said:

“When you start a war for the wrong reasons, you are responsible for all that follows, even the other side’s atrocities. ” —

August 21st, 2008, 1:20 am


SimoHurtta said:

I have no problem with your point. I’m sure you’re right. I simply found your expression about the Arabs’ hands and Europe’s balls … funny.

Well English is not my native language neither have I lived USA/Canada for decades as most of you SC Israelis and Arabs seem to have. So my English is far from “Oxford English”. I admit that.

August 21st, 2008, 2:18 am


Alex said:


Don’t worry … Syria will not give you reasons to celebrate.


Same here … Even though I lived in Montreal for over two decades.

And did you notice Norman? … Also over two decades in North America.
: )

August 21st, 2008, 2:37 am


norman said:

OK Alex, Make fun of my English , I am bad in Arabic too , most the marks i lost in the High school test in Syria were in Arabic and Religion.

August 21st, 2008, 3:12 am


norman said:


I think Israel won the bronze in sailing , Congratulation.

August 21st, 2008, 3:14 am


Majhool said:

Did any one read this?

الأسد مستعد لنشر منظومة صواريخ روسية في سوريا رداً على نصـب الدرع الصاروخي الأميركي في أوروبا

Translation: “He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defence facilities on his land”

Ok, if he is serious then I believe Peace can no loger be acheived (Shai what do you think)

Peace talks only became an option to the Syrians when the USSR broke down. If we get to another cold war between Syria and Israel instead of current “resistance” tactics, then it’s going to be a long peace-less decade(s)

August 21st, 2008, 3:45 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Syria already has already given Israel reasons to celebrate. The moment it took the Russian side it helped Israel. The value of Israel as a Western bastion in the middle east has gone up significantly because Russia is threatning and Syria has taken its side. Also, if Syria continues to bet on Russian knowhow and technology instead of Western ones, it will continue to grow weaker relative to Israel. Furthermore, Syria will never get its economy in shape if it sides with the Russians as it has. It needs Western trade and technology.

So, why should not Israel be happy that Bashar is repeating the same mistake Hafez made by betting on the wrong horse? Let’s see if Syria can solve any of its many problems by siding with Russia and being antagonistic to the US and Europe.

August 21st, 2008, 4:32 am


Alex said:


Given that Syria already has thousands of long-range missiles, and given that it is widely believed that Syria has advanced chemical weapons capabilities, then given that Israel probably has 200 to 300 nuclear bombs … how will Syria’s newly acquired Russian surface to air missiles make Shai decide to jump to AIG’s side?

Can you explain why you are suggesting that Shai will not make peace with Syria in that case?

Here is how “missile defense” sounds like in Warsaw:

“Missile defense, of course, is aimed at no one,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who signed the agreement in Warsaw with her Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. “It is in our defense that we do this.”


Just wait few months. Syria will (not?) disappoint you … Bashar and Imad Moustapha have ten times more contacts with Americans than they do with Russians. You are trying too hard to make it a dramatic cold war-like story. I noticed the same tone coming from Murdoch owned media.

You can try, … but it won’t sell.

August 21st, 2008, 4:43 am


Alex said:

Innocent Criminal,

Maybe I was affected by what I read in the New York Times today?

West Baffled by 2 Heads for Russian Government

WASHINGTON — When Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, rushed to Moscow earlier this month to mediate the crisis over Georgia, he found the new Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, to be calm, even sanguine about prospects for a solution.

But the tone was wildly different when Mr. Sarkozy heard from Vladimir V. Putin, the president-turned-prime minister. According to a private report that Mr. Sarkozy later delivered to President Bush, Mr. Putin was virulent in denouncing Georgian actions as atrocities, and he expressed such deep antipathy toward Georgian leaders that it made the war seem personal.

Mr. Sarkozy’s report, made in a telephone call to President Bush on Aug. 13, has added to a sense of bewilderment in Washington about how to deal with what is now a two-headed government in Moscow — with Mr. Putin, still the dominant partner, occupying what is technically the subservient role.

American and European officials say there is no doubt that it is Mr. Putin who maintains the real power.

August 21st, 2008, 4:53 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are hoping that Bashar has learned his lesson and will not become a Russian follower. But all the indications, including the clear quotes from Bashar, show that he has decided to support Russian in the Georgia conflict. There is no need to wait and see. Syria has already delivered the goods for Israel. Bashar has taken a clear position with Russia against the US and Europe. So what won’t sell? That Syria is a Russian ally? If Bashar says it with his own mouth, why won’t it sell? It is the truth. I am sure AIPAC is going to find Bashar’s statements very useful.

August 21st, 2008, 5:15 am


Alex said:


Good luck!

August 21st, 2008, 5:17 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is not about luck, it is about choosing correctly the right ally that is most beneficial long term and Syria is repeating the mistakes of the past. Israel will not need luck to convince the US and Europe that it is their staunch ally. Syria on the other hand will need a lot of luck to convince the US and Europe to stop the sanctions.

August 21st, 2008, 5:22 am


Alex said:


Watch Sarkozy in Syria in a couple of weeks, then we’ll discuss it.

August 21st, 2008, 5:24 am


Alex said:

On eve of Assad visit to Moscow, Israel and Russia discuss security

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke on the phone Wednesday evening, and discussed the situation in the Middle East and the Caucasus.

Olmert gave Medvedev an overview of Israel’s current diplomatic position with the Palestinians and Syria, and the two also discussed the crisis between Russia and Georgia.

The discussion came one day before Syrian president Bashar Assad is scheduled to arrive in Moscow for a two-day visit, which has been described by analysts as important at a time when Moscow may be considering closer ties with the Arab world.

Assad told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday that he would use his visit to expand military ties with Moscow, whose arms sales to the Middle Eastern state have angered Israel and the United States.

He said that Russia’s conflict with Georgia, in which Moscow says Georgia used Israeli-supplied equipment, underlined the need for Russia and Syria to tighten their defense cooperation.

A diplomatic source in Moscow told Interfax news agency that Russia and Syria were preparing a number of deals involving anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems.

“Damascus is Moscow’s long-standing partner in military cooperation and we are expecting to reach an agreement in principle on new weapons deals,” said the source.

Syria is also interested in Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 Air Defense Missile systems, BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft and other hardware, the source said.

August 21st, 2008, 5:55 am


Majhool said:


Please don’t put words in my mouth, I am just interested in Shai’s take on it( since he is interested in peace) I did not suggest that he should move to AIG’s side (Israeli Majority) . regarding your point, it’s one thing to own weapons purchased from Russia, N. Korea, and Iran and a completely another to install weapons on behalf of the Russians. Such a move will triger completely different dynamics ( I think) that’s why I am interested in what Shai’s has to say about it.

August 21st, 2008, 6:12 am


Zenobia said:

I am not sure why anyone is surprised or shocked by what is happening.

this is not a new cold war. this is the same oil war.

where do those pipelines run?

and what is between Georgia and the border of Iran? a little hop skip and not even a jump through Azarbayjan…

I think if Russia decided to start arming and funneling money into Cuba again, or Mexico, for that matter… the USA would pretty much go ballistic.
So, why is it fine that the US can do the same with Russia’s neighbors? (or for that matter, Iran’s neighbors)

And why would Syria not go with the Russian sphere since the bear too is protecting Iranian power from being dismantled by the forceful aggression of the United States and Israel.

What is America offering Syria at this point to change its alliances? Nothing. A big nothing.

Again, all one has to do is look at a map to see that this is not about the significance of little Georgia in and of itself.

August 21st, 2008, 6:30 am


Shai said:


Despite the “I’m back, here are some more anti-Israeli thoughts for you…” style, I still welcome you back!

I don’t think Israel is a “necessity” to anyone, just as Finland isn’t. The world could get by just fine without Israel, and it could get by just fine without Finland. I don’t see what the purpose of the “necessity” argument is about. I don’t care if Europe ranks Israel 9th or 97th on its order of “necessity”. I care that we have good relations with Europe, and I believe we do. I also believe that once we finally end the Israeli-Arab conflict (including of course the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), then certain European citizens (like you) would like us more, and that is understandable. But to argue endlessly how insignificant Israel is, probably starts to sound like AIG’s endless Democracy-arguments, don’t you think?

And no, Israel doesn’t need to help Europe handle its minorities. You guys do a plenty good job yourselves… 🙂

August 21st, 2008, 6:34 am


Alex said:


But I did not say that you said that Shai SHOULD … I said “will” … you are expecting, not advising.
… since you said specifically:

“Ok, if he is serious then I believe Peace can no loger be acheived”

I have another question for you. You also said:

“If we get to another cold war between Syria and Israel instead of current “resistance” tactics, then it’s going to be a long peace-less decade(s)”

Are you suggesting that

1) Syria should still make peace with Israel even though Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads, yet Israel will (or should) not accept to make peace with Syria anymore if Syria got those Russian anti aircraft missiles?

2) or is it that Syria will not be interested in peace anymore if Russia is now interested in playing cold war games again and picking the Syrians as their favorite Mideast puppet?

August 21st, 2008, 6:50 am


Majhool said:


I am not suggesting anything, Again, I believe installing Missles on behalf of the russians will changes the dynamics. Assad Sr. didn’t go to peace talks until the USSSR collapesd.

August 21st, 2008, 7:05 am


Shai said:

Norman, thanks. Yes, our 22 year-old (soldier) got bronze in windsurfing. Better than in shooting, I guess, right? 🙂


Having a Russian base on Syrian soil would certainly constitute a new “balance” in the region. But having a Russian aircraft carrier in Tartous or Lattakia probably won’t be seen as such. I seriously doubt Russia will take a chance at pissing off the Americans that badly by setting a permanent base in Syria, because it will be clear what the purpose is (anti-Israel). I think the U.S. is also taking it too far in Poland, without having some sort of cooperation with Russia over the missile systems there. It should, for instance, have joint American-Russian command and control.

If Russia does set up a base in Syria, America will undoubtedly reciprocate by setting up its own in Israel (i.e. American troops, planes, ships, weapon systems, the whole lot). And then it does start to “smell” a bit like the old cold war (which, by the way, was called “anything but cold” by Robert McNamara). This is why I doubt it will happen. Believe me, Russia and the U.S. care more about each other, than they do the entire world put together. They know, that only they can destroy one another, and still have that capability very much in existence. There is a reason why Bashar can’t call the Russian president in the middle of the night, but the American president can. The two superpowers have, for over 60 years now, played this little dance game back and forth, but over other little nations’ soil. But with the exception of Cuba in 1962, they never really go too far. And I doubt they will with Syria.

Having said all this, I do agree with Alex that EVEN if Russia does set up some camp in Syria, and behind the scene calms Israel by telling us that it’s a reciprocation to America’s missiles in Poland, Israel will not end its talks with Syria. It may withdraw temporarily, it may play its own “Syria is showing its true intentions” game, but after a short while, it’ll be ready to talk to Syria anytime anywhere. One last point, regarding AIG. While AIG’s reluctance to make peace with Syria right now is indeed representative of 70% of Israelis (at the moment), the reasons are very different. AIG also will not make peace with Syria if it dumped Iran and HA tomorrow morning. He won’t, until Syria becomes a Democracy, and until he is “sure” that the majority of Syrians truly are interested in peace with Israel. But this is certainly NOT the demand of neither 70% of Israelis, nor 7%, nor 0.7% of Israelis. In fact, not a single Prime Minister, including all PM’s from the Likud (Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu, Sharon, Olmert) have ever stated this as precondition to peace. So personally I’m not too worried that AIG’s concerns are shared by most Israelis – they’re not. Just as the majority of Israelis supported the peace treaty with Sadat, and with the late King Hussein, so will they do the same with Assad. No Israeli will demand to see Democracy first… (sorry).

August 21st, 2008, 7:14 am


Majhool said:

Thank you Shai, basically you think the chances for peace will remain the same if the syrians install missles on behalf of the russians. i tend to disagree, i hope i am wrong

August 21st, 2008, 7:27 am


Shai said:


I hope Russia will not build a permanent base in Syria. That could complicate matters, especially if Bibi is looking to blame the Syrians for something else… But in the end, no base, or missile systems, will stop peace. All Bashar has to say is “Guys, until you show that you’re serious about peace, what do you expect from Syria? To sit idly by, and hope for the best?”

August 21st, 2008, 7:31 am


Innocent Criminal said:


The ironic thing is that more arms to Syria could possibly encourage Israel to strike a peace deal with Damascus. Its a way of nuterlizing a rising threat. But as long as Syria does not pose a serious threat to Israel why should the latter bother? that has been an argument for many Israelis who oppose a peace deal now.

August 21st, 2008, 8:04 am


Shai said:


Unfortunate, but very true!

August 21st, 2008, 8:23 am


Naji said:

Thanks QN for the Saghieh article… especially his closing warning… فالحروب الأهليّة الباردة غالباً ما تكون أشدّ حقارةً.

I also like Zeno’s characterization above: “[T]his is not a new cold war. [T]his is the same [old] oil war.”

Observer, as usual, has his fingers “around the balls” of the issue: “I firmly believe that both Europe and Russia as well as many smart leaders in the ME starting with Erdogan are working on building regional stability WITHOUT the US.

This country’s stubborn confrontational style is driving it into irrelevance. The drive would be a lot faster were not for the incredibel huge debt driven style of living and the ability to print paper money not backed by gold standard as it keeps the US economy central to many other players in the world.

But this is slowly changing.” …and, ironically, the oil-boom has a great deal to do with that…!

I am so glad that our SimoHero is back, but what a painful jab he suffered at the hands of the Shaister, right off the bat… :
“And no, Israel doesn’t need to help Europe handle its minorities. You guys do a plenty good job yourselves… 🙂 “

Here is another sobering perspective from today’s NYT by the erudite cosmopolitan bon vivant, Roger Cohen, who is always worth a read:

News Good Enough to Bury
NYT Op-Ed Columnist
August 21, 2008
I got an e-mail the other day from a friend at the New America Foundation, a Washington public policy institute, inviting me to participate in a panel on “whether the media can handle good news — whether it’s on Iraq” or whatever.

I accepted, although there’s not much to discuss: the news media are lousy at good news (a virtual oxymoron).

In my lifetime, conditions have grown immeasurably better, freer and more prosperous for a majority of humanity, yet hand-wringing about the miserable remains the reflex mode for most coverage of planet earth.

Nowhere more so than in Africa, from which I’d just returned when the e-mail landed. During a short stay in Ghana, which will hold free elections in December, Vodafone had bought a majority stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million (entering a fiercely competitive mobile-phone market) and I’d heard much about 6 percent annual growth, spreading broadband and new high-end cacao ventures.

Accra, the capital, is buzzing. Russian hedge funds are investing. New construction abounds. Technology enables people in the capital to text money transfers via mobile phone to poor relatives in the bush.

I don’t think that picture is exceptional these days for Africa, where growth averaged close to 6 percent last year and I sense a fundamental change in attitudes to governance, trade, the private sector and political accountability.

Sure, corruption is still rampant; Omar Bongo has been ruling Gabon for 41 years; Robert Mugabe wants to emulate Bongo; and a commodity boom has helped the numbers. But if averages meant anything, Africa would be a good-news story these days.

Not least, because Africans care about democracy. They know tyranny too well to be tempted by the so-called new authoritarianism.

We’ve heard much — what with the Russian incursion into Georgia and China’s Olympics — of authoritarianism resurgent. It sure doesn’t look that way from Africa.

In fact, I don’t buy the new authoritarianism, any more than I buy a new cold war. Technology-driven opening, interconnection and sociability are the fundamental currents of our age.

But a new cold war has a ring, as does agonizing Africa. So the Africa debate is stuck with Darfur, AIDS, hunger, disease, violence. An alternative view would be that Africa is going to be the big success story of the next half-century. Just watch its agriculture, which is about to boom.

As it happened, the e-mail was followed by one from Dexter Filkins, my New York Times colleague whose brilliant book on Iraq, “The Forever War,” will be published next month. Filkins had just arrived back in Baghdad after a long break.

“It’s extraordinary,” Filkins wrote, “a changed world. Not recognizable. I just went for a run in the park in front of the house, the dead, dying place that you probably remember. At sundown, there were no less than 3,000 Iraqis walking around.”

I must have been distracted because I’ve not clocked that startling image of hope in all the words devoted to whether a “surge” in American troops and shift in their strategy brought decisive change over the past year.

But then the American Iraq debate has never really been about Iraqis. Most people with a strong opinion about the place never bothered to take a look at it.

After all, seeing Iraq might raise too many questions or even provoke the thought that velvet ends to murderous despotism are the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, I remember that park. On my first Iraq visit in 2003, a kid smiled at me. By 2006, all smiles had vanished. In between, I’d watched the United States military spend a lot of money landscaping the park. Only for it to become a “dead, dying place” that was a monument, like much else in Iraq, to the bungled American effort.

Now, it seems, the tide has turned, at least enough for Iraqi families to meander down the Tigris. That’s cause for — unequivocal — celebration.

While I was in Ghana, I read a paper called The Daily Graphic. One day, it had two ads on successive pages, the first about broadband Internet becoming available in the central city of Sunyani from a company called Care 4U, the second about the “high incidence of open defecation in Ghana.”

“Most affordable! Feel the speed!” said the first ad. The second, from a Ghana sanitation monitoring agency, estimated that “more than four million people in Ghana defecate in the bush, open drains, water bodies, or fields” and suggested means to stop the practice.

Two images of an African nation — modernizing or primitive: I know which comforts the continent’s stubborn stereotypes. Africa Ascendant is not yet a slogan that sells. It will be.

And, oh, by the way, the cold war’s over, dead, buried and unlamented. Europe is free, and Georgia will be part of it.


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

August 21st, 2008, 8:42 am


Naji said:

Alex, please try to fish my last comment out from the spam bin… I did not save a copy before submitting…!

August 21st, 2008, 8:47 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Here you go Mr. Naji 😉

August 21st, 2008, 10:24 am


Nour said:


I don’t understand why you’re arguing with AIG. He is repeating his same tired old line; as if they US came and offered Syria the world and Syria stubbornly refused in order to align itself with Russia. The US has been waging a war on Syria for decades. It has been ensuring the supremacy and dominance of the world’s foremost criminal entity due to the hijacking of America’s foreign policy by certain groups. What is Syria expected to do in this case? It can either surrender and submit to US and Israeli demands in order to gain US approval and become another Jordan or Egypt, or it can try to obtain weapons elsewhere to defend itself. We’ve seen how wonderful Jordan and Egypt have turned out as a result of their alliance with the US. And this is what AIG wishes for Syria which is why he appears visibly irritated at Syria’s steadfast position.

August 21st, 2008, 11:06 am


idaf said:

Thank goodness that Syria Comment and Creative Syria are not registered as hosted from Syria. Otherwise they would have been taken offline by the US hosting companies.. IC said: ” anyone else having a problem loading the SC website? “, I had problems accessing domain name for a couple of weeks (I used instead). Maybe the following is the reason?!

Syria News is reporting that US web hosting companies sending alerts to Syrian website owners to change their home country on records or get their websites blocked (in compliance with US laws). Note to the Syrian Computer Society: About time to have your own web hosting farm. Syrians with websites here with no other nationality should switch hosts to European or Asian hosting companies immediately.

Alex any information on this?

August 21st, 2008, 11:29 am


ugarit said:

IDAF: is a very good German domain registrar.’s contact info is all in the USA so that can’t be the issue.

August 21st, 2008, 11:49 am


norman said:

I guess censorship is not only a Syrian cuisine , The US can do that and still call itself a democracy .

August 21st, 2008, 11:51 am


norman said:

Poll shows Livni and Netanyahu tie in Israel election

Thursday, August 21, 2008
JERUSALEM: Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, favourite to replace Ehud Olmert as Kadima party chief, would tie with rightist Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu should snap elections be called, a poll showed on Thursday.

With Livni at the helm, centrist Kadima and Netanyahu’s Likud would each garner 28 seats in Israel’s 120-strong parliament, while Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s Labour Party would get 12, a poll published in the Haaretz daily showed.

Likud would beat Kadima by 30 seats to 22, and Labour would win 13 seats, if the ruling party were led by Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, Livni’s closest rival in the race to replace scandal-hit Olmert in a September 17 leadership contest.

Olmert threw Israel into political turmoil that could hamstring Middle East peacemaking by announcing last month that he would step down as premier after Kadima picks his successor.

Olmert is under investigation over allegations he took bribes from a Jewish American businessman and made duplicate claims for travel expenses when he was trade minister and mayor of Jerusalem. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Even after he resigns, Olmert will remain caretaker prime minister until his successor builds a new coalition government, a process that could take months.

That will give him some time to continue peace talks with the Palestinians and indirect negotiations with Syria, but politicians and analysts said he would lack the mandate to make commitments that his successor would be bound to honour.

August 21st, 2008, 11:55 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I think your English is excellent. I wish I spoke Finnish like you speak English. Finnish, as I’m sure you know, is a linguistic curiosity, much admired by structural linguists for the number of its cases.

August 21st, 2008, 11:58 am


EHSANI2 said:

Do any of the readers recall a project that started few years ago where the Government set up a job center to help the unemployed?

August 21st, 2008, 12:11 pm


norman said:

Ehsani ,

Do they have wanted adds in the newspapers in Syria?.

August 21st, 2008, 12:23 pm


Shai said:


Don’t get excited… Livni is very far from becoming our next PM. It will take Netanyahu less than 60 seconds to demonstrate her lack of leadership, experience, and her problematic stance during the war in 2006. Typically, like Barak, Netanyahu has been his own worst enemy. But if he doesn’t make any fatal mistakes now, and just keeps low, Likud will take the next elections hands down. I do hope, however, that Labor will suffer a devastating blow (and lose much of their seats to Kadima). Not because I like Kadima or Likud better, but because I believe many of the old dinosaur politicians in Labor have to go, including their current leader Barak, and this seems to be the only way to force that. The party may have to come close to dying, to be reborn…

I’ve had some interesting discussions lately, with people close to Livni and Barak, and my impressions are that Livni is just not ready to be our PM right now. She does, however, want to head Kadima that is much stronger, because it has picked up a bunch of Labor seats from disappointed voters. She figures if most Israelis will choose Bibi, it will not be with a huge majority, and it will still leave her the undisputed head of the Opposition, which is always good especially if the Likud brings us into another war, or “adventure” in the region. If, by some miracle, most Israelis do vote for her, then of course she becomes the legitimate PM, and not by merely winning her party primaries alone. As for Barak… it’s not even worth the bits of memory I’m using to type these words… Labor is going down the drain.

August 21st, 2008, 12:50 pm


Naji said:

Thanks IC…! I guess you are not as innocent as you pretend… 😉

August 21st, 2008, 12:52 pm


norman said:


But she is pretty and we need that in the Mideast .

August 21st, 2008, 12:59 pm


Shai said:


See my (revised) comment up above. And why do you guys keep finding her pretty? I just don’t see it… 🙂 Bashar’s wife, on the other hand… now that’s pretty.

Here’s something our Interior Minister said today, against an attack on Iran:

August 21st, 2008, 1:01 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


She might not be smokin’ hot. but i’ll take her any day over Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher 😉

August 21st, 2008, 1:28 pm


Off the Wall said:

So would they also take all Syrians gmail and hotmail and yahoo accounts as the next step. What an utter stupidity our US administration has sunk to.


I am dismayed at the lack of younger generation of leaders in the main Israeli parties. Even when Kadima was established, it was a party of Dinosaurs. I believe that many here who want to see Livni take the helm are motivated by the fact that she is young and she is a woman. In both cases, She represents a change from the entrenched boys club that has dominated Israeli politics for a generation now. My favorite would be Yuli Tamir, she is courageous, very well educated, and she seems to have no problem angering the religious right. I do not know her chances in the next election, but I hope that she would take Barak’s place as a labor leader after their losses in election.

August 21st, 2008, 2:55 pm


norman said:

It is apparent that Israel wants to negotiate only with weak Syria , Syria should be careful , I do not think that Israel has good intentions,

‘Israel must freeze talks with Syria’

Aug. 21, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
“A scenario in which S-300 or Iskander type missiles reach Syria is a dangerous scenario,” Likud MK Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio on Thursday.

Steinitz was commenting on reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad proposed to Russia to host batteries of the short-range Iskander, as a response to the United States’ signing an agreement with Poland to place a missile defense system on its soil, a move that Russia opposes.

“We have brought Syria to this situation,” Steinitz said, referring to the renewed standing of Syria on the international scene since the announcement several months ago by both Jerusalem and Damascus that Israel and Syria would resume peace talks.

“We must freeze talks with Syria until it stops calling on Moscow to arm Israel’s enemies, and until [Damascus itself] stops transferring arms to Hizbullah.

Syria’s Assad was scheduled to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Thursday.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Meretz chairman Avshalom Vilan suggested that Israel should take advantage of the relative warming up of relations with Syria in order to “cut the Gordian knot between Syria, Iran and Hizbullah.”

“It is hard, but possible,” to separate Assad from Iran’s grasp, Vilan said, adding that “[Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is doing the right thing by pushing peace talks with Syria.”

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1219218604983&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post –

August 21st, 2008, 2:58 pm


Shai said:

Innocent Criminal,

When you put it that way, I have no choice… but to agree! Livni’s a babe…


You’re absolutely right. Israeli parties are lacking young leadership (and even membership, for that matter). The problem, believe it or not, is not with young people opting to get in. But rather, with the damned dinosaurs not letting them have a chance. After all, if the top 10-15 seats in Labor go to dinos, and another 5 automatically to Women/Arab-Israelis/Ethiopians, other minorities, etc., then what chances does a young man have? Next to nothing. My new hope, for Labor at least, is that it will come crashing down so badly in the next election, that the leadership (Barak included), will have no choice but to leave. That the resulting outcry, by the 30,000-some members of Labor, will demand a complete overhaul and rebuilding of the party. And they will realize why it failed – the leadership was impotent, old, uncreative, exhausted, done for. Sometimes you have to nip at the bud, to rejuvenate, right?

Specifically as for Yuli Tamir, from a meeting I had this week with a very close contact to Labor, apparently she is not expected to make it in the top 10-15, which probably means she’s out. Polls show (and this is my feeling for a number of months now), that Labor will get about 12-13 seats tops (what Likud has now… funny enough). Likud will achieve 28-30, or more, depending on what Kadima will take. My hope, as you’ve heard it before, is that Likud will get its chance. Livni can continue as Bibi’s FM. God-knows who will be our next Defense Minister… But almost anyone, or anything, can be better than Barak (the exception is Mofaz, who in my mind is far worse).


It’s a game of words. Don’t worry, the new U.S. administration will dictate the terms, and put us on the right path to peace. That is, unless McCain wins. In which case, rocket manufacturers will be getting quadruple the orders in 2010 (after stockpiles are emptied throughout the region in 2009)… 😉 Oh and by the way, never take Yuval Steinitz too seriously. I’ve heard him talk once. He’s a certifiable buffoon. Probably has pictures of Reagan over his dining room, and “Evil Empire” stickers on his daughter’s car…

August 21st, 2008, 3:45 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Kuznetsov Deploying to Syria?

Via ID, it appears that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is deploying from Murmansk to the Mediterranean. The expectation seems to be that she will operate (at least for a short period) out of the Syrian port of Tartus, which has been the focal point of negotiations between Russia and Syria for quite some time. Ironically enough, Admiral Kuznetsov was originally named Tblisi….

Via Lawyers, Guns and Money

August 21st, 2008, 3:54 pm


Off the Wall said:

The Russians may have unintentionally claimed a big responsibility. What motivated their action in Georgia is by now irrelevant to many small nations who have been bullied by the US’s current administration beit at the UN, UNSC, or through the World bank and IMF. Whether the Russians like it or not, there are quite few countries who now look upon Russia’s awakening as the only available mean to reestablish a multi-polar world that would provide a reprieve from US pressure and hegemony, especially with respect to unpopular wars and economic policies. Many have looked at China, which seems disinterested in any offensive military posture and wants only to focus on defensive posture for the main land and economic approach as the mechanism to create a sphere of influence. Syria is not the only country wanting the Russian to assume the old Soviet Union chair, countries like Cuba, Venezuela, other Latin American countries and some African countries are tired of being demonized and of the US’s dominance in international politics. Europeans, who have in general cow-towed to US pressure and followed the line of sanctions, military interference, and sanctimonious hypocrisy are finding themselves doing what American middle class has been doing for a generation now, which is voting against their own interests. Can this flawed arrangement continue. It will depend on who our next emperor is.

It remains to be seen whether Russia is able or willing to take that responsibility. The meetings with Asad will be quite telling in that regards. Granted, no one in Russia wants cold-war II and Russia is also aware that some of these countries do not have much to offer except for moral support. But Russia is aware that in recent years it stood nearly idle in the UNSC and refrained from using its veto power when such veto would have disarmed any attempt to bestow legitimacy on the neocons empire project.

Economically, the US is not to be written off anytime soon. True we have major economic problems. Our lifestyle is now in jeopardy and one of our presidential candidates is now accepting the reinstatement of draft as a viable option to feed the war with no end. But we remain the world military super power even as stretched as we are now. Furthermore, Russia is not strong enough yet to be a counterweight to US hegemony. But it is being helped significantly by the emergence of regional power houses and alliances that can use a friend on the security council, and who can provide legitimacy and counterweight in solving regional crisis without the heavy handed, one sided condescending approach of the west.

The upcoming US election is the defining moment. While at this point in time both democrats and republicans are consumed by the knee jerk reaction to the US and Israel’s embarrassment in Georgia, and as such are taking the same hard line position, a McCain administration would be much more polarizing and would force Russia into seeking stronger alliances and into rebuilding its military infrastructure and extend its presence. Initially, it would not be a cold war as the ideological divide is no longer present. But you can count on the west to beat the drums of democratic vs non-democratic song and by that establish a new ideological divide. An Obama administration is likely to be wiser and more restrained and as such Russia will not be forced into a foe position.

Informal regional arrangement, in the meantime, will continue to form. Countries like Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa, will be threatened by their neighbors’ problems and smaller wars. These countries will continue to present themselves as viable mediators, and leaders independently of the currently bankrupt international institutions as long as the US continues to be preoccupied in Afghanistan and Iraq. If these countries can establish their own economic domains of influence through bilateral and multilateral agreements, the impacts of a unipolar dominance will be mitigated to some extent.

August 21st, 2008, 3:56 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Don’t worry, the new U.S. administration will dictate the terms, and put us on the right path to peace.

Sorry, Shai, but what a ridiculous fantasy. Israel is a rogue ally. The US can’t “dictate” the time of day to Israel.

August 21st, 2008, 3:56 pm


Joshua said:

“” is back!

Dear Idaf and others who alerted me to the fact that “” was no longer working as an alias for the blog. (to get to the blog, one only has to type into the address bar)

I fixed it. I changed credit card numbers, after losing my old one. The automatic renewal of my site alias didn’t go through as a result and I needed to update my card data with Yahoo, which is now done. is back. Thanks for the alerts.

Also thanks to Ehsani and Idaf for such interesting reports on their recent visits. I hope such reports will become an institution among readers who have an something to add to the conversation, here.

Many SC readers only get back to Syria once a year or less – some a lot less – so it is particularly interesting to get the smells and sounds of Syria described by others’ eyes.



August 21st, 2008, 4:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Even if Obama wins, he cannot dictate anything, just as Clinton could not dictate anything and could not get Hafez and Barack to make peace.

And whether McCain or Obama wins, there will not be war because it is not in anyone’s interest. Why would Syria risk going into a war that would put it back economically decades? What can Israel gain from a war? Nothing also. The status quo is good for Israel. It gets to keep the Golan and the northern borders of Israel are more quiet than they have ever been since 1948.

The fact of the matter is that the onus is on Syria to prove that it can develop economically and provide jobs for its people while being part of the “resistance” rhetoric. I think they can’t and that Syria will just continue getting weaker and weaker. But the future will tell.

August 21st, 2008, 4:04 pm


Off the Wall said:


I fully understand your position vis a vis the labor party. May be a crushing defeat will force the party into a real assessment of its leadership and will cause a major re-arrangement of the party. Does that mean that for the next election cycle, minorities, who are not necessarily interested in being isolated and by that are more inclined to join and/or vote labor as opposed to traditional minority parties will have to wait it out before they can get the main stream voice labor has given them for a while.

August 21st, 2008, 4:14 pm


Shai said:


What good is life, if not for fantasizing, no? 🙂

But seriously now, there have been U.S. administrations that certainly dictated things for Israel (recall Bush the father vs. Shamir). But the point isn’t to say “We’ll tell you when and how to make peace”, but rather to help secure the terms, and as a trusted broker. Remember, Assad himself claimed that only the U.S. can play that role. He didn’t mention Russia, last time I checked… But perhaps that too will change.

August 21st, 2008, 4:16 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Good reading, from David Remnick.

Boundary Issues
by David Remnick
The New Yorker
August 25, 2008

On a bright September day in 1993, not long before he ended his two decades in exile, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delivered a rare public address in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. Although Solzhenitsyn was energetic at the lectern, he was all but finished with his epic work as the chronicler of Soviet cruelty. With “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” “Cancer Ward,” “The First Circle,” and, above all, “The Gulag Archipelago,” Solzhenitsyn had not only exposed the secrets of Soviet oppression and ruin; he had also presaged the collapse of Communist ideology and Moscow’s empire.

But, in Vaduz, Solzhenitsyn, a principled conservative, could not join in the West’s euphoria. He was deeply aware that the costs of ideology, violence, and empire had not been paid in full. While American triumphalists were still indulging in clichés of how Ronald Reagan had won the Cold War, Solzhenitsyn anticipated the persistence of the old and unrepentant élites, the former Communist Party chiefs and K.G.B. officials who so easily transformed themselves into “democrats” and “businessmen”:

We were recently entertained by a naïve fable of the happy arrival at the “end of history,” of the overflowing triumph of an all-democratic bliss; the ultimate global arrangement had supposedly been attained. But we all see and sense that something very different is coming, something new, and perhaps quite stern. No, tranquility does not promise to descend on our planet, and will not be granted us so easily.

Solzhenitsyn died on August 3rd, and he was buried near Turgenev in the graveyard of the Donskoi Monastery. Vladimir Putin, the former K.G.B. operative and Russia’s de-facto President, unabashed by irony, paid tribute to Solzhenitsyn’s service to “the ideals of freedom, justice, and humanism.” Later that week, while attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Putin discussed with his seatmates and fellow heads of state a non-sporting matter: he had ordered his tanks and troop trucks into South Ossetia, in the Caucasus. His Army also attacked Georgia proper, most forcefully the city of Gori, the birthplace of Iosef Dzhugashvili—better known as Stalin, who in his day helped redraw the volatile mosaic of the Caucasus.

Part of the “naïve fable” was that the collapse of the Soviet Union would peaceably defy historical precedent. Empires, blinded by hauteur and ambition, don’t often stoop to understand the complexities of their human and territorial acquisitions, and care even less about the disfigurements and time bombs they eventually leave behind. The record is long: after the Ottoman decline came the slaughter of Armenians and the drawing of senseless boundaries in the Middle East; imperial Britain left in its wake the wars in Ireland, Palestine, Nigeria, and the Indian subcontinent; the French provided a legacy of imminent violence from Algeria to Indochina.

Nor was the Soviet breakup the result of precision engineering; its dangers, similarly, were only briefly concealed. In December, 1991, at a vodka-soaked confab in a hunting lodge near the Polish border, the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, and the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine dissolved the union formed by the Bolsheviks and their tsarist predecessors, instantly depriving Mikhail Gorbachev of employment. “I well remember how a sensation of freedom and lightness suddenly came over me,” Yeltsin wrote of the event. Putin, Yeltsin’s successor, who spent the perestroika years seething with resentment as an intelligence officer in East Germany, saw it differently. Burning secret documents as the Berlin Wall fell, Putin felt abandoned by the Party and by the empire he had been brought up to protect; he later called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century.”

Promises of a voluntary and effective commonwealth of liberated nations soon became a rueful memory. With the lonely exception of the Baltic states (particularly Estonia), democratic development came slowly and fitfully to the former republics, when it came at all. The Central Asian republics—the “stans”—ranged in political shape from a North Korean model in Turkmenistan to an oil autocracy in Kazakhstan run by a dynast from the Communist era. Belarus is run by a petty dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who informed a German newspaper that “not everything connected with that well-known figure, Adolf Hitler, was bad.” In Azerbaijan, the patriarch Heydar Aliyev, a K.G.B. general in his salad days, bequeathed the nation’s throne to his son, Ilham. And so on. The levels of autocracy, criminality, tin-pot cronyism, and resurgent nationalisms emerged on such a heroic and ruinous scale that the historian Stephen Kotkin has referred to the less fortunate republics of the former Soviet Union as “Trashcanistans.”

Moscow did not engage in large-scale violence in the post-Soviet realm until 1994, but, not surprisingly, when it did it centered on the Caucasus—for centuries a cauldron of ethnic emotion and battle. By levelling the Chechen capital, Grozny, Yeltsin reënacted the tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, a politician whose early liberal intentions were overwhelmed by his commitment to a senseless and unwinnable war. Vladimir Putin has none of Yeltsin’s democratic pretensions. His focus is Russian power and its reëstablishment. And, even as the world rightly condemns his ruthless invasion of Georgia, imagining the world as he sees it is a worthwhile exercise.

Taken individually, the West’s actions since the collapse of the Soviet Union—from the inclusion of the Baltic and the Central European states in NATO to the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state—can be rationalized on strategic and moral grounds. But taken together these actions were bound to engender deep-seated feelings of national resentment among Russians, especially as, through the nineteen-nineties, they suffered an unprecedentedly rapid downward spiral. Even ordinary Russians find it mightily trying to be lectured on questions of sovereignty and moral diplomacy by the West, particularly the United States, which, even before Iraq, had a long history of foreign intervention, overt and covert—politics by other means. After the exposure of the Bush Administration’s behavior prior to the invasion of Iraq and its unapologetic use of torture, why would any leader, much less Putin, respond to moral suasion from Washington? That is America’s tragedy, and the world’s.

There is little doubt that the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, provided Putin with his long-awaited casus belli when he ordered the shelling of South Ossetia, on August 7th. But Putin’s war, of course, is not about the splendors of South Ossetia, a duchy run by the Russian secret service and criminal gangs. It is a war of demonstration. Putin is demonstrating that he is willing to use force; that he is unwilling to let Georgia and Ukraine enter NATO without exacting a severe price; and that he views the United States as hypocritical, overextended, distracted, and reluctant to make good on its protective assurances to the likes of Georgia.

Inevitably, a number of neoconservative commentators, along with John McCain, have rushed in to analyze this conflict using familiar analogies: the Nazi threat in the late nineteen-thirties; the Soviet invasions of Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. But while Putin’s actions this past week have inspired genuine alarm in Kiev and beyond, such analogies can lead to heedless policy. As the English theologian Bishop Joseph Butler wrote, “Every thing is what it is, and not another thing.” Cartoonish rhetoric only contributes to the dangerous return of what some conservatives seem to crave—the other, the enemy, the us versus them of the Cold War.

Only one with a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the spectacle of the leaders of Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states standing by Saakashvili last week at a rally in Tbilisi. But Putin is not Hitler or Stalin; he is not even Leonid Brezhnev. He is what he is, and that is bad enough. In the 2008 election, he made a joke of democratic procedure and, in effect, engineered for himself an anti-constitutional third term. The press, the parliament, the judiciary, the business élite are all in his pocket—and there is no opposition. But Putin also knows that Russia cannot bear the cost of reconstituting empire or the gulag. It depends on the West as a market. One lesson of the Soviet experience is that isolation ends in poverty. Putin’s is a new and subtler game: he is the autocrat who calls on the widow of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. To deal with him will require statecraft of a kind that has proved well beyond the capacities of our current practitioners.

August 21st, 2008, 4:35 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Crushing defeats only strengthen the winning party. Labour is merely a tattered remnant of a former political force that is dying with Rabin’s generation. Any opposition to the raw ethnic and nationalist impulses embodied in Kadima/Likud must take a new form.

August 21st, 2008, 4:58 pm


Shai said:


What you say is right, but not necessarily the reality in Israel. Likud’s crushing defeat in the last election did not strengthen the winning party (Kadima) long term, and that is precisely because Likud did not participate in all the fiascos of the existing coalition. Hence, if Labor will be so weak in the next elections, they may be completely out of the newly formed government (this is what I’m hoping). And then, if the Netanyahu leadership will be wise enough to bring about peace, it will win the support of the majority of Israelis. If it won’t, then we may have war again, and it will be that much easier for Labor to reappear (hopefully rejuvenated), much as Likud is doing right now. How else can you explain Likud rising from 12 seats to 30, without having done a single thing in the past 9 years?

August 21st, 2008, 5:06 pm


Alex said:


Israel needs to rediscover itself. You have world-class R & D facilities, a vibrant economy, and an occasionally impressive army. But something is missing. Why can’t you come up with a single leader who can get over 50% of votes? .. and why do you need to rotate the same old set of politicians?

Even your Arab enemies are tired of them! : )

Maybe that’ why Livni is popular here.

August 21st, 2008, 6:00 pm


Shami said:

Soon Inshallah ,there will be democracy in Syria what are your prediction ??our baathi brothers should be allowed to take part into the process.I’m not a soothsayer but I see 20%-30% islamic parties,10 % democratic left ,50% liberals pro economy pro west ,less than 5% baathists and 10% communists or ssnp.

August 21st, 2008, 6:14 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Hello Forum,

Back after a nice 2 week vacation in Europe.

I can’t say I fully understand the lastest conflict between Russia and Georgia. At this point, I have to disagree with Zenobia that this issue has something to do with oil. Russia has plenty of that.

I think this is Russia fearing the pro-American trend in Eastern Europe that includes defensive missile shields (Poland) and ex-USSR states joining NATO (including Georgia).

It seems to me this is an unfortunate opportunity to re-create the cold war, however, because the “Gennie is out of the Bag”, the USSR will never regain its former power.

Russia is making a poor gamble, and I’m surprised that Syria is siding with such a lost cause.

Recent years have shown (despite my amazement) that the international community CAN come together to face threats. Russia will eventually stand down.

August 21st, 2008, 7:05 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

How else can you explain Likud rising from 12 seats to 30, without having done a single thing in the past 9 years?

These fire-breathers have found support among immigrants.

August 21st, 2008, 7:18 pm


Alex said:

Hi Akbar

Good to see you here again.

I partially agree with you. This is about Russian fears.

But the United States and Russia will talk about it. If they want to reach a compromise, I can’t see why they can’t.

Usually one is left wondering what the Syrians REALLY mean when they make a typical statement.

Not this time. Bashar is intentionally being clear in stating his support of Russia. I would imagine that this is something planned and agreed upon well in advance of Bashar’s statements few days ago … Syria does not pay in advance.

August 21st, 2008, 7:18 pm


Alex said:

Syria to Russia: Put your missiles on our soil

Russian media on Thursday quoted Syrian President Bashar Assad as saying ahead of a two day visit to Moscow that Syria was ready to negotiate hosting Russian surface-to-surface Iskander missiles on its soil, which Moscow says are capable of penetrating any missile defense.

Syria is interested in purchasing Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 air defense missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft and other hardware, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

According to Russian media, Assad offered to host the Russian missiles as a response to a deal signed by Washington and Warsaw this week to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense system in Poland, which has aggravated Moscow’s relations with the West.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, asked by reporters about plans to sell Iskander missiles and other modern weapons to Syria, said: “We are ready to consider requests from the Syrian side on buying more arms.

“We are indeed prepared to sell only defensive weapons which are not breaking the regional balance of powers,” he said.

August 21st, 2008, 7:23 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Travelling to Syria seems to be risky nowadays also for “majority” Americans.

At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office

By Emily Feder, AlterNet. Posted August 18, 2008.

I was recently stopped by Homeland Security as I was returning from a trip to Syria. What I saw in the hours that followed shocked and disturbed me.


In the past five years I have worked for human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Serbia, Russia and Croatia, including the International Rescue Committee and USAID. I have traveled to many different places, some supposedly repressive, and have never seen people treated with the kind of animosity that Homeland Security showed that night. In Syria, border control officers were stern but polite. At other borders there have been bureaucracies to contend with — excruciating for both Americans and other foreign nationals. I’ve met Russian officials with dead, suspicious looks in their eyes and arms tired from stamping so many visas, but in America, the Homeland Security officials I encountered were very much alive — like vultures waiting to eat.

Continue reading

August 21st, 2008, 8:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

If we’re not going back to the military charity system of the Cold War, how is Syria going to pay for all these Russian missiles? Are the state coffers overflowing these days, or is there a serious demand for fistuq 7alabi in Moscow?

Or so I wondered, until I looked up the Pantsyr missile system on Wikipedia, and came across the following mention of Syria, in a list of Russia’s customers (who include the UAE and Algeria):

Syria – 36 to 50 on order; signed 2006 as part of arms package worth about US$ 1 billion; deliveries began in August of 2007; British Jane’s Defence Weekly reported in May 2007 that 50 systems are on order by Damascus and that at least ten of those Pantsirs would be handed over to Iran by the end of 2008. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, Iran is reported to be the main sponsor of the deal and is paying Syria for its services as intermediary. Deliveries to Iran are categorically denied by a range of top Russian officials including First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

There are speculations that Ivan Safronov, Russian journalist and columnist who covered military affairs for the daily newspaper Kommersant may have been killed for his critical reporting in Russia’s weapons selling activities to Syria and Iran.

Syria got delivery of the first dozen or so out of an order of up to 50 systems in Mid August 2007.

On 6 September 2007 an air raid – named “Operation Orchard” – was launched to northern Syria by the Israeli Air Force. According to news reports as many as eight aircraft from the 69th Squadron had taken part. A DEBKAfile article from 7 September 2007 suggesting that the Israeli aircraft were able to avoid or electronically jam Syria’s newly installed Pantsir-S1 air defence system. DEBKAfile concludes that Their success demonstrated to Damascus and Tehran that their expensive new Russian anti-air system leaves them vulnerable. But given the usual timeframe of at least several months to even reach an initial operational level with any complex weapon system it is most improbable that Pantsir-S1 systems were in combat. On December 2nd 2007, the head of the Pantsir-S1 development programme had confirmed during an interview with Russia Today TV channel that the system had not yet been made operational by Syria during the time of the air raid.

August 21st, 2008, 8:35 pm


Enlightened said:

On another note: Australia Hosts “Peace Team from Mid East:

Mideast AFL team in Australia

August 21, 2008 – 6:41PM

An unlikely AFL ‘Peace Team’ comprising Palestinians and Israelis is in Australia for an international amateur tournament.

Sixteen teams from Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Americas will contest the third Australian Football International Cup, which starts on August 27 and culminates in the grand final on September 6 at the MCG.

Games will be held in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool.

Members of the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace approached the AFL late last year and the code recently dispatched two of its best known ambassadors, Ron Barassi and Robert DiPierdomenico, to Israel to help prepare the Peace team for the upcoming tournament.

“Their journey has been amazing, some of these guys have got to travel four hours through three check points just to get to one hour’s training,” said DiPierdomenico, who will be the Peace team’s match day coach.

“The commitment has been amazing.”

He said the Peace team had beaten a group of Australian ex-patriots in one game, but that was on a soccer field and on Thursday at the SCG was the first time they had seen a ground with proper Australian Rules goal posts.

“We know that sports can overcome the barriers of religion, gender and also of conflicted areas such as ours,” said Gal Peles, the director of sport for the Peres Center of Peace.

“We are familiar with the AFL only for the last year or so. We learn this totally new game and we met totally new stars and celebrities such as `Dipper’.

“It’s a great honour for us to be here.”

The difficulty of training one team in two languages (Hebrew and Arabic) added to the overall challenge of creating a Palestinian-Israeli AFL team.

August 22nd, 2008, 12:19 am


Zenobia said:

Russia may have plenty of oil, but I am talking about Iran here, and the fact that the Russians are not supportive of American control of the oil in the ME- Iraqi or Iranian. The issue is not who has more of it, but who is in control of the ME. It is not because Europe and the USA cannot buy oil, they can. But rather it has always been about the price of oil (keeping it low) and the business interests of oil companies who want full rights to the contracts for exploiting these resources.

This has been true for a century.

So, you can look at the cold war anew, but what is the cold war? It is was about communism? But what was the threat of communism? but a threat against capitalism and the interests of capital.
It is the age old habit now, to mask this conflict under the false issue of democracy. Promoting democracy, against tyranny.
Its a bunch of crap, and lies. It is a slip of the mind to say “democracy”… Freedom to powerful americans is the freedom of capital to seeks its markets.

For Russia it is about power and markets too, ironically. But more about power balance. They aren’t wanting american power to extend across Europe all the way to the middle east, damn straight.

August 22nd, 2008, 2:18 am


Zenobia said:

Excellent last comment by OTW. and the David Remnick article QN posted is also right on.

norman said:

But she is pretty and we need that in the Mideast .

WHY? Why do “we need” this?

August 22nd, 2008, 2:47 am


Alex said:

U.S. to Syria: Do not meddle in Russia-Georgia conflict

Senior U.S. officials severely criticized Syria on Thursday after Syrian President Bashar Assad voiced his country’s support of Russia in its military conflict with Georgia, saying that Syria should keep out of issues that don’t pertain to them.

The officials suggested that Syria refrain from meddling in the affairs of other nations, “such as Georgia,” Channel 10 reported Thursday. They added that Syria should remain focused on its own problems in the Middle East and keep trying to achieve peace in the region.


I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it quite funny … “keep trying” : )

August 22nd, 2008, 3:14 am


Lysander said:

I hardly ever post here so I hope I’m not speaking out of turn. I did want to address some points by AIG et al regarding any new cold war being of benefit to Israel.

A true cold war scenario (if one were to actually happen) is of no benefit to Israel at all. Its influence over American politics has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years in the absence of any Russian threat and being able to say its ‘protecting’ the west from mighty Syria is unlikely to add to that.

By contrast, the realist camp will argue that to persuade Syria…and Iran…to leave the Russian camp concessions will have to be made. Such concessions are hardly necessary if Syria is alone. But in a global competition Syria has options. I would not dismiss this effect. I doubt Sadat could have possibly gotten the Camp David deal were it not for America’s desire to place Egypt firmly in the American camp. Does anyone disagree? Zbig Brzerzinski was NSA in Carter’s tie. He is Obama’s advisor now.

AIG is correct that Western tech and trade would be much better for Syria. Alas, that option doesn’t exist. Until recently, Syria had a large target sign on its head and can count itself lucky America was too distracted in Iraq. So Assad’s choices are Russian help or nothing. Russian tech is definitely better than nothing. Otherwise, nobody in Israel would care about Russian rearmament of Syria and yet they clearly do.

Outside of Syria, it presents new found leverage to America’s “moderate” allies (Egypt, Saudi Arabia)

Again I would add that cold war is hardly inevitable. The Russians would love to cooperate with the west. They have no wish to aquire a Syrian dependent. But with any push to get Georgia in NATO and insistence on the missile shield, Russia will find a way to retaliate.

P.S. I would add that the same is triply true for Iran.

August 22nd, 2008, 4:02 am


Lysander said:

Also wanted to add that Assad may very well have miscalculated, not by picking the wrong horse. But by discovering the horse wont let him ride. Russia may very well rebuff Syria’s request for closer relations, which means Assad will have annoyed the west but gotten nothing in return.

Still, no reward without risk and if the missile shield in Poland moves forward its not a bad risk.

August 22nd, 2008, 4:15 am


Innocent_Criminal said:


I dont think Assad would go out on limb here and publicly criticize the west without having something secured in the bag. otherwise it would be a big mistake.

I even think it would have been ideal to secure the arms deals without snubing the west too publicly to avoid burning any bridges.

August 22nd, 2008, 5:09 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Whatever you think of US intentions you have to agree that the Russians losing the cold war was a great boon for the people of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. Not to a small elite of rich people, but to most citizens of these countries. The Georgians by and large want to be part of the West. What right has Russia to deny them that? So what if that also helps US interests?

So keep mocking the hard earned democracy of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuainia, Estonia etc. To you this is all a joke. For the people of these countries the Ameican victory in the Cold War meant being set free and having the ability to build prosperous countries.

You are right that Sadat got the deal he got because of the Cold War. But Syria is not Egypt and it has missed its chance for a Sadat like deal.
The only serious voices against the US-Israeli alliance have come from Walt and Mearseheimer who basically claim that after the cold war, Israel is much less valuable to the US. Very well then. If the cold war could return or has returned, doesn’t that mean that W and M have to agree that the US-Israeli Alliance is still very important?

August 22nd, 2008, 5:10 am


Shai said:


I think in one way Bashar could not have miscalculated, and that is in the message itself. Namely, “We (Syria) want peace. We have and are showing it for a long time now. But if you (Israel, U.S.) aren’t moving in that direction, then don’t expect Syria to sit by and wait. We will continue to explore and exploit any and all means of strengthening ourselves, and creating future opportunities that are in line with our strategic goals (defense of our country, retrieval of the Golan). We are doing what anyone else in our shoes would do.”

If I was Bashar Assad, I’d pass a postcard with those words on it, to my negotiators in Istanbul, and to Imad Moustapha in DC, to hand to their respective counterparts. So that interpreting Syria’s moves would be made that much easier…

I do agree with Innocent Criminal, though. Bashar did not have to publicly snub the West as he did. He lost more points with Europe (especially France) and the U.S., than he gained with Moscow. He could have gotten the same, without pissing anyone off.

August 22nd, 2008, 5:12 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course the option to trade with the West and get Western technology is open for Syria. All Syria has to do is stop supporting terrorism. But since supporting terrorism is important for the regime in order to stay in power, it continues to do so at the expense of the Syrian people.

For some reasons Syrians never ask why the US is hostile to them and what Syria can do about it. They only expect the US and the West to change. As for Syria, no change is required. I really cannot understand this attitude.

August 22nd, 2008, 5:15 am


Shai said:


No country (existing leadership) thinks it should change. Only others should change…

Does Israel think it should do anything differently?

August 22nd, 2008, 5:19 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course Israel changes. When Bibi was ineffective, Israelis voted in Barack. Then Sharon. Now they will get rid of Olmert and most probably Kadima. Israel is constantly changing its leadership.

Long term, it does not matter what the leadership thinks, it matters what the people think. But the Syrians have so gotten used to the idea that the leadership cannot change that they have accepted the notion that the will of the people does not matter and that Syria will not change. Therefore, they have to hope that others will change to accomodate Syria because they believe they cannot do anything to change Syria.

August 22nd, 2008, 5:25 am


Lysander said:

AIG, Syrian ‘aid to terrorism’ has been a part of its policy since like forever. It invaded Lebanon with an American green light in 1976. It aided Hizbullah throughout the 80s and 90s. And yet, Syria and the U.S. have been on speaking terms until recently. It’s only been in recent years that for America it has become such an issue. Indeed, until a few years ago, Syria risked attack by the U.S. This despite almost every effort to ingratiate itself (as did Iran) with the west in the post 9/11 era.

As did Putin’s Russia, btw, during the initial invasion of Afghanistan. His reward was American withdrawal from the ABM treaty. If the U.S. isn’t ready to compromise with Russia, what kind of deal do you think Syria will get by not sending a few ancient rockets to Hizb?

August 22nd, 2008, 5:30 am


Shai said:


As in any dictatorship, the people know they cannot do much to change the system. They, therefore, depend on outside “intervention”, though normally they prefer it not to be a violent one (so that they don’t suffer). They want the world to press Israel to end its Occupation of Palestine and the Golan, so that Syria would have no more “excuses” for sloth-like reform. No more emergency-laws, no more endless funding for defense purposes, etc. I believe that makes some sense, doesn’t it?

August 22nd, 2008, 5:30 am


Alex said:


“The Georgians by and large want to be part of the West. What right has Russia to deny them that?”

What right does Israel have forcing the Palestinians to be part of Israel? … you are keeping them by force, more or less like Russia is relying on some force lately.

You were arguing few months ago here that international laws do not matter … it is force that matters.


Today i was thinking: Why is the United States not Syria’s friend?

1) AIPAC and its friends distorting Syria’s image.
2) Syrian refusal to be anyone’s puppets
3) Israel’s refusal to return the Golan Heights through peaceful means (Syria tried many times since 1991).. forcing Syria to support popular Arab resistance groups (which you call “terrorists”)
4) Saudi Arabia (and maybe Egypt) pressuring US administrations to not make serious deals with Syria … deals that will often be at the expense of Egyptian and Saudi roles in the Middle East.
5) Syria is too complicated to understand.
6) Syria is not a democracy … although this is not a real reason, but it provides AIPAC with a convincing anti-Syria argument sometimes… not many people notice that Egypt, Jordan, And Saudi Arabia are not democracies either.

August 22nd, 2008, 6:10 am


Zenobia said:

“So keep mocking the hard earned democracy of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuainia, Estonia etc. To you this is all a joke.”

I really don’t know where you come up with such crap. yeah… i was mocking eastern europe…???
I think my point was not that democracy and sovereignty were not positive developments. My point was that historically and currently the American spread of “democracy” is disingenuous in that, its goal is not democracy but the privilege of capital and the free movement and monopoly of markets open to american corporations.

And the reason I bring this up, is that most of the time this central goal is obscured by all kinds of lofty talk about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and standing up to tyranny, etc so on and so forth. However, it is 95% bullshit and blatantly hypocritical.

On the subject of Syria, I hate to break the news, but ninety percent of the population of Syria would likely fall into the category of ‘supporting terrorism’ in their sentiments and opinions according to your standard.
You just don’t want to get it through your thick head that these people do not consider the people you are calling terrorists (Hamas or HA) to be so. They are in the eyes of most of the ME legitimate entities of resistance.
So, you ask ridiculous questions about why Syrians could think that America should change but not themselves.
It is very simple. They are mystified as to how americans could not understand their perspective and how americans can be so very misinformed and uncomprehending of the realities in middle east from their vantage point, and why americans do not see the reasons for resistance by Palestinians or by Hezbollah.

They think you are stupid and blind.

and ironically, they think YOU are the one being duped by your government.

And because they view the situation the way they do and very differently than you, they see no reason to change their sentiments or object to the foreign policies of their government. And if that means losing the good opinion of the American gov’t or americans in general (which is not so true actually, as most people would have no opinion) then so be it.
At least they have integrity and are not double talking anyone or being hypocritical.

Now that we have that settled… let me say, you -AIG- are under some illusion that I am now interested in talking to you again. I am not. I have not given up the IGNORE AIG stance. And feel free to talk to those masochistic fans of yours who welcomed you back.
But leave me out of it.

August 22nd, 2008, 6:57 am


Karim said:

Bashar is playing with fire.

Syria: Wives of Islamist Suspects Detained, Whereabouts Unknown

(New York, August 18, 2008) – The Syrian government should immediately release three women detained by state authorities since July 31, 2008, unless they have evidence that these women have committed criminal offenses and intend to try them for these, Human Rights Watch said today.

The women live in al-`Otayba, a village approximately 20 km east of Damascus, and are the wives of men currently detained on charges of belonging to Islamist groups that were planning violent acts.

So far, the authorities have not said why the women were detained, whether or not they intend to bring any charges against them, or where they are being held. While in the past officials have questioned and harassed wives and relatives of suspected Islamists, this is the first instance documented by Human Rights Watch where wives of Islamists have been held for more than a day.

“Being married to an Islamist or to a criminal suspect is not a crime,” said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian authorities should immediately release these women unless they have evidence that they have committed crimes.”

On July 31, State Security, one of Syria’s numerous security agencies, seized Yusra al-Husayn at her house and took her into detention. She is the wife of Jihad Diab, a detainee at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. Four days later, State Security detained Raw`a al-Kilani from her house. Raw`a is married to Ziad al-Kilani, who was detained by Syrian Air Force Intelligence in April 2004 and is currently facing trial before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), a special court that is exempt from standard rules of criminal procedure and evidence, on charges of membership in an association “created to change the economic or social structure of the state” through terrorist acts. Ziad is currently detained in Sednaya prison.

Around the time Raw`a was arrested, State Security also detained Bayan, the wife of Ahmad Saleh `Ali, from her house. Security services arrested Ahmad in June 2005. Authorities are presently holding him in Sednaya prison, and he is currently on trial before the SSSC on charges of membership in an association “created to change the economic or social structure of the state” through terrorist acts and for “issuing calls that weaken national sentiment or awaken racial or sectarian tensions.”

Syrian security services regularly arrest men suspected of Islamist affiliation or sympathies. Officers often subject them to torture during interrogation before referring them to trial before the SSSC, where their coerced confessions are used against them.

A major prison riot broke out on July 5, 2008 in Sednaya prison, where two of the detained women’s husbands are being held, Military police responded by opening fire on the detainees, killing an undetermined number of them ( To date, the families of inmates in Sednaya have been unable to obtain any information about their relatives.

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Syria, please visit:

August 22nd, 2008, 12:03 pm


trustquest said:

Syria suggestion to have Russian missiles on its land and the enthusiastic reaction of its president to play into the international game is not only foolish but it is a sitting for the opposite scenario of the Georgian game. Which are in this case only two nations left, Russia and Venezuela!. Israel and US will be happy to play the opposite game and watch Russia not delivering or risk delivering in the midst of unsafe territories. If we imagine the Cuba crisis in Damascus as a scenario for the future, it is a dooms day dream for the US neocon. Russia now with Putin is wiser than Khrushchev, and the president remarks will be appreciated for his enthusiastic support, but no. This is 180 degrees from negotiation and from market economy which usually based on cooperation with neighbors and flow of capital from friendly nations.

Syrian president not only jumped the gun, but I think he does not fully comprehend the consequences of his announcement. Anyway, we can say good try and a smart message to the enemies and all we hope that the enemies are not going to it seriously and seek revenge in the future as they did to Saddam.
And as observer’s said, the money will be better spent on education and on economy. But, sadly we learnt from QN and Wikipedia that they have already spent 1 billion dollars on those missiles.

Wouldn’t he loose Turkey in this case? Wouldn’t the whole Arab world despise him for that? Wouldn’t the Saudi find a reason to trash him more? Wouldn’t the Gulf countries desert him and leave him without assistance. I think it is a dangerous suggestion. Also, this offer could benefit Russia the good friendship of Syria and loose all other Arab States.

I would add such a thought in the past, even during the father’s rule, used to be adopted after the party in power made a strategic decision regarding such change, what has happened to good old days? His dad used to meet with them and look at them in the eye, and dare them to speak up, but at least he checked with them.

I can see most comments here on SC, either ignoring it or not taking the president of Syria words seriously, it is considered double talk and at most it is considered wishful thinking or indirect message. I think a real supporter should tell him that this is too much too soon to jump the gun.

This volunteering to install missiles on Syria land curiously begs for a lot of unanswered questions: 1- did he signal the cut off relation with the west?. 2-is he doing this because he has nothing to loose?. 3- or is he taking revenge of the humiliation he subjected to in the past?.

But do not worry it was a jib jab,; the whole drama ended by the third day when the same State agency news who published the news came out and denied that Syria suggested. And in the language of confusion, the regime news did not use suggest but used denied acceptance. What a confusing world for me at least.
For me, thanks God, we still have choices:

August 22nd, 2008, 12:25 pm


norman said:


(( norman said:

But she is pretty and we need that in the Mideast .

WHY? Why do “we need” this? ))

Looking at a garden with flowers is better than looking at one with weeds ,

If you were there we do not need anybody els .

August 22nd, 2008, 12:40 pm


norman said:

Look at this , Trustquest ,

Syria denies accepting Russian missile deployment

Friday, August 22, 2008
DAMASCUS: Syria denied on Friday that it was considering hosting an advanced Russian missile system, a day after President Bashar al-Assad held talks with Russian officials about upgrading his country’s military.

Syria’s state news agency (SANA) said deployment of Iskander missiles, which Moscow says are capable of defying any missile defence, was not on the agenda of talks between Assad and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a Black Sea resort on Thursday.

“There is no truth to media reports that Syria had agreed to deploy Iskander missiles on its territory,” SANA said.

Russian media had quoted Assad as saying that Syria was ready to negotiate deployment of the surface-to-surface mid range missiles, which are also capable of reaching Israel.

Israel on Thursday said it opposes any Russian sale of long-range missiles to its arch-foe, Syria.

Syria, which has been largely isolated by the West, sees a potential for improved ties with Moscow as relations between Russia and the West worsen.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia was prepared to sell Syria “defensive weapons which are not breaking the regional balance of power”.

Lavrov was referring to Israel, which occupies the Golan Heights, has a superior military force and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Among hardware Syria is interested in are Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 air defence missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system and aircraft, the Russian agency Interfax quoted a diplomat as saying.

August 22nd, 2008, 12:43 pm


Akbar Palace said:

But more about power balance. They aren’t wanting american power to extend across Europe all the way to the middle east, damn straight.


With your comment above, I believe we are saying nearly the same thing. And yes, Amercian influence in the ME is a fact that irks not only the Russians, but also many in the ME.

Of course, I have to agree with AIG, that democracy and freedom “sells”, and it sold beautifully to the states that once made up the USSR. Of course, for those that are anti-American (and I am sensing from your comments Zenobia that you may have some of these sentiments), it can be difficult to “fault” the US with such an attractive “product line”: namely democracy and freedom.

This is bottom line: the US and the world bodies will support the people and the governments that promote freedom, democracy and peace. That is why Russia, Syria and Iran are fighting losing battles.

August 22nd, 2008, 12:44 pm


norman said:

With Syria obtaining new weapon system the Israeli government has a reason to fast track a deal with Syria ,

Israel to continue indirect talks with Syria

JERUSALEM, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) — Israel is determined to continue the indirect peace negotiations with Syria despite its possible arms deals with Russia, local news service Ynet on Friday quoted an Israeli official as saying.

“Israel will continue with the talks, and the fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to begin soon,” said an unnamed official, when commenting on the recent trip by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Russia.

Israeli media reported that Assad used this trip to explore the possibility of purchasing advanced weaponry from Russia and offered Moscow to deploy missiles on Syrian soil to counter Washington’s plan to place part of a missile defense system in Poland.

“We strongly oppose such a move, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmertmade this abundantly clear during his phone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday,” the official was quoted as saying, adding that Olmert told Medvedev that selling advanced weapons to Syria would disrupt the security balance in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, noting Syria’s request for weapons is nothing new, the official said that Israel believes that Syria has not changed its strategic outlook, and that Assad still stands behind his plan to see the peace process with Israel through.

The official added that Israel does not hold specific information on the type or number of weapons Assad is asking to acquire, yet stressed that Israel particularly objects to selling Damascus S-300 missiles, “a deal the PM was able to thwart during his meeting last October with then Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and some other officials have also expressed their concern over Russia ‘s possible arms deals with Syria, a neighbor Israel currently lists as an enemy state.

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the Israeli security establishment is analyzing the ramifications of Assad’s visit to Russia, with an emphasis on Damascus’ intentions to “purchase advanced weaponry and upgrade its army.”

August 22nd, 2008, 1:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Several interesting news items:

Andrew Tabler on the Russian aircraft carrier story

After Syria’s warm welcome in France at the Mediterranean Summit in July and its subsequent warm welcome to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on a landmark visit in August, Damascus has turned its cooperative efforts on Russia.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, where he is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. Talks are expected to revolve around strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.

The first step in this cooperation is perhaps Russia’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to dock in the Tartous port.

According to a report, the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, is “ready to head from Murmansk towards … a navy mission in the area.”

“The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area,” the report read.

The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, according to a report.

Against the backdrop formed by Syria’s long-time alliance with Iran and Turkey-mediated negotiations with Israel, in addition to Assad’s ostensibly healthy ties with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his outreach to President Michel Sleiman, NOW Lebanon talked to Andrew Tabler, a consulting editor for Syria Today magazine and former fellow at the Washington-based Institute of Current World Affairs, on what the expansion of Syrian relations – in seemingly opposite directions – means.

“There has been talk about establishing a Russian naval base in Tartous for some time, but this is the first tangible sign that that agreement could go through,” Tabler said.

While Syria’s multiple political maneuvers may be an attempt to keep all its options open, Tabler believes that the timing of Assad’s visit to Moscow– right after the Israeli military had expressed support for Georgia – was an indication that talks with Israel may go more slowly than initially anticipated.

“Even President Assad himself said that these talks could take up to two years or even more. So, in the meantime, I’m not surprised that Syria is keeping its options open.”

Yet, despite the decision to allow the aircraft carrier to dock right outside the city in which Syria’s top liaison was assassinated in August, Russia has not expressed any interest in selling ballistic missiles or establishing a Russian missile air defense base in Syria, which Assad has suggested.

The decision, however, “certainly sends messages to the US, who is not happy about what happened in Georgia,” Tabler said in reference to Russia’s attack on South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“At the same time, I think what’s interesting is how this all will play out in the US presidential campaign. Barak Obama has said that he would like to engage Syria and Iran directly, for example,” Tabler added, noting that the news of the Russian aircraft carrier, then, may only place Obama’s foreign policy credentials are under scrutiny.

Even if the Admiral Kuznetsov is no more than Syria flexing its muscles, the message Syria is sending out to the West may have repercussions on its decision to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon.

“Any kind of Syrian relations with Russia would make improvement in ties [with the West] more difficult. It would be another hurdle to overcome,” Tabler noted.

While it remains unclear where this Russian-Syrian collaboration may lead, Tabler noted that ties between the West and Syria have always run through France. “Lebanon is an important issue to France.” And if Syria intends on maintaining its relations with France, the international community has made it clear that it awaits diplomatic ties between the country and its smaller southern neighbor.

What happens after the Admiral Kuznetsov docks and how the docking will affect Syria’s relations with Israel, the US, Iran, Russia, France and Lebanon is as yet unclear, Tabler said. “Because everything is in the freezer until US elections… it’s better to stick to the facts.”

August 22nd, 2008, 1:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hizbullah to Israel: Expect Huge Surprises Soon

Hizbullah threatened “earth shattering” retaliation against Israel which the group accuses of killing its top commander Imad Mughniyeh in a car bombing in Damascus last February.
“Retaliation is coming soon,” Hizbullah official in south Lebanon Sheikh Ahmad Mrad said in remarks published by the daily Al Akhbar on Friday.

“Retaliation is going to be earth shattering and there will be huge surprises,” he vowed.

“Resistance weapons will stay in the hands of Hizbullah until Palestine is liberated,” Mrad pledged.

He declared that Hizbullah would go deep into Palestine and vowed that “Israel will no longer exist on the map.”

Beirut, 22 Aug 08, 10:09

August 22nd, 2008, 1:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

New Air Defense Systems Supplied to Hizbullah by Russia, Report

Hizbullah had struck a deal with Russia on new air defense systems and anti-tank missiles, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported Friday.
It said the deal was completed in July when three Hizbullah representatives headed to Russia with Iranian passports and visited the Sixth International Fair for selling weapons and ammunition.

Hizbullah representatives expressed great interest in buying Russian arms “which proved effective” in the latest war between the Shiite group and Lebanon, the paper added.

The Italian journalist, who carried the report, told the daily Israeli Maariv that Hizbullah representatives were “careful not to attract any attention.”

“This is why they (Hizbullah) signed deals to buy air defense systems and anti-tank missiles after the end of the fair July 12,” said the Italian journalist.

Beirut, 22 Aug 08, 12:00

August 22nd, 2008, 1:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I leave for a while and you are back to the “two wrongs make a right” routine. So what the Russians did is right because Israel still occupies the West Bank? Now I understand.

As for your list, you do not acknowledge even once that some of the blame lies with Syria. It seems to me you are in strong denial.

Let’s go over the list:

1) AIPAC and its friends distorting Syria’s image.
Really? So the US congress and media are dumb and can easily be manipulated by a bunch of lobbyists? Syria has been shown to be behind terrorism time and time again. From a British court ruling that the Syrians planned to blow up an El-Al flight to the fact that Mugniyeh a wanted terrorist in 120 countries was living in Syria under the blessing of the regime. And in between there were many other incidents including all the murders in Lebanon.

2) Syrian refusal to be anyone’s puppets
Are the Baltic states and Poland and Hungary etc. US puppets? Is Qatar a US puppet? Your definition of a puppet is very strange. And in any case, it seems Syria is willing to be a Russian puppet or an Iranian one.

3) Israel’s refusal to return the Golan Heights through peaceful means (Syria tried many times since 1991).. forcing Syria to support popular Arab resistance groups (which you call “terrorists”)

Right, Syria was “forced” to accept suicide bombing of civillians in Israel as a means to free the Golan. It was “forced” to destablize Lebanon in order to free the Golan. Syria was not forced to do any of those things. It choose to do so and in this way showed its true colors to the West. Syria had many other alternatives to get the Golan back. These alternatives were not compatible with the regime staying in power and were therefore not chosen.

4) Saudi Arabia (and maybe Egypt) pressuring US administrations to not make serious deals with Syria … deals that will often be at the expense of Egyptian and Saudi roles in the Middle East.

The Saudi’s were the first to propose and the support a comprehensive peace deal.

5) Syria is too complicated to understand.

How about: Syria does not explain itself well? What is so special about Syria that it can’t explain itself relative to other countries? Syria is simple to understand: An Alawite minority has been ruthlessly monopolizing power for over 40 years. The regime has nothing to offer but the ability to spoil for other countries and this is the policy it has been following since it got into power.

6) Syria is not a democracy … although this is not a real reason, but it provides AIPAC with a convincing anti-Syria argument sometimes… not many people notice that Egypt, Jordan, And Saudi Arabia are not democracies either.

Of course it is a real reason. Egypt and Jordan are not democracies but one of the main reasons Israel is a much better friend of the US than any Arab country is because these countries are not democracies.

August 22nd, 2008, 1:30 pm


Karim said:

* في ظروف غامضة
وفاة فلسطيني في سجن بسوريا بعد عام على اختفائه

صحيفة الجزيرة السعودية – الجمعة 22 آب/ أغسطس 2008

جنين – رندة أحمد:

أكدت عائلة فلسطينية تسكن في بلدة قباطية جنوب مدينة جنين نبأ وفاة أحد أفرادها في السجون السورية، قبل شهرين تقريباً، وذلك بعد أن اختفت آثاره منذ عام تقريباً.

وبحسب مصادر عائلة الحنايشة فإن آثار ابنهم جميل عبد الله أحمد حنايشة، قد اختفت قبل عام تقريباً وطال غيابه أكثر من المتوقع، وبدأوا بالبحث عنه منذ سنة تقريباً ليتم معرفة أنه معتقل في أحد السجون السورية، وأنه متوفى منذ شهرين تقريباً.. وهو من مواليد الكويت، واستقر في الأردن في عام 1990، مع عائلته، وبدأ في العمل في تجارة السيارات وكان يغيب خلال عمله، ما بين الشهر إلى الشهرين. وتقول مصادر في عائلة الحنايشة: (إن هناك تضارباً في المعلومات عن سبب الوفاة، فمنهم – من أقاربه في الأردن – قالوا، إنه توفي بسبب تماس كهربائي في السجن، وقيل إنه توفي بسبب الإضراب عن الطعام، خلال وجوده في السجن السوري، إلى الآن لم تعرف أسباب الوفاة).

أعلى الصفحة

August 22nd, 2008, 2:36 pm


Joshua said:

Lysander, I have copied your comment to the new post.

Thanks for the clear analysis and welcome aboard.


August 22nd, 2008, 3:34 pm


why-discuss said:

The Role of Israel in the Georgian War
August 17, 2008
by Brian Harring
Georgia became a huge source of income, and military advantage, for the Israeli government and Israeli arms dealers.. Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago, following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became weapons hustlers.
They contacted Israeli defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets, mostly American grants, and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons.
The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia’s defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation. “We are now in a fight against the great Russia,” he said, “and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because Georgia cannot survive on its own. “

Kezerashvili’s door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms systems made in Israel. Compared to countries in Eastern Europe, the deals in this country were conducted fast, mainly due to the pro-Israeli defense minister’s personal involvement.

The Jerusalem Post on August 12, 2008 reported: “Georgian Prime Minister Vladimer (Lado) Gurgenidze(Jewish) made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the Haredi community’s most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman.” The Prime Minister of Georgia, principally a nation of Orthodox Christians called Rabbi Steinman saying ‘I’ve heard he is a holy man. I want him to pray for us and our state.’

Among the Israelis who took advantage of the opportunity and began doing business in Georgia were former Minister Roni Milo and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of the Military Industries, Brigadier-General (Res.) Gal Hirsch and Major-General (Res.) Yisrael Ziv.
Roni Milo conducted business in Georgia for Elbit Systems and the Military Industries, and with his help Israel’s defense industries managed to sell to Georgia remote-piloted vehicles (RPVs), automatic turrets for armored vehicles, antiaircraft systems, communication systems, shells and rockets.
The Ministry of Defense of Israel had supplied the Georgian government their Hermes 450 UAV spy drones, made by Elbit Maarahot Systems Ltd, for use, under the strict control of Israeli intelligence units, to conduct intelligence-gathering flights over southern Russia and, most especially into a Iran, targeted for Israeli Air Force attacks in the near future……. see article

August 24th, 2008, 11:20 am


Charles Coutinho said:


Once every so often, against my better judgment, I take the time to post a comment on this site. The issue being while Joshua Landis’ journal itself, is a veritable storehouse of solid information about Syria, both the regime and society and people, the comment section has always had the ‘bloggers are nasty people’, aspect to it.

And, yet again, notwithstanding some welcoming responses by some of the regulars here, once more, an inevitable idiocy from another one of the same reared its ugly head. I refer specifically, to the comments by the fellow who goes by the name of ‘Alex’. I will not stoop so low as to respond to the stupidity of what he accused me of. All I will endeavor to say is that if and when he has climbed up the academic ladder, will he be in a position, to comment on his betters. Until then, he is just whistling Dixie…

Addio Amici.

August 24th, 2008, 11:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Charles

If I may say so, there is no need for haughtiness. Your original post made some nice points, as I said, but it did so in a rather supercillious fashion. As Alex pointed out, plenty of Syria Comment’s regulars have climbed up academic and other professional ladders and are deserving of respect. No one is whistling Dixie.

Join the debate. You’ll be glad you did.

August 25th, 2008, 12:13 am


Joshua said:

Dear Charles,

Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding? You argue that my article on SC and commentators argued that Russia wanted a new Cold War.

On the contrary, I argued that Syria’s search for more weapons was tactical. Its eyes remained firmly fixed on the peace process, i.e. rapprochement with the West and peace with Israel, not a return to Cold War conflict.

Most commentators shared this analysis. Lysander wrote at length about the fact that Russia would not sell offensive weapons to Syria for precisely the reasons you outline – Syria is not of great importance to Russia; it does not want a real fight with the West.

Perhaps your peek is misplaced? I don’t think we have a fight; rather, I would suggest that we are in accord that this is not the beginning of a new cold war if the provocations and heightened rhetoric are not misread by both sides.

It is always a pleasure getting your perspective and insite on Syria Comment.

Best, Joshua

August 25th, 2008, 1:29 am


Shai said:


Unlike others here, who are taking the diplomatic “Dear Charles” approach (which I condone), I would like to point out that, as someone that has neither read your comments here before nor knows anything about you, I was somewhat dismayed by your expressions. Indeed arrogance did seem to shine through your words, not to mention outright accusations. Being the Blog-underdog (Israeli) on SC, I can tell you that I’ve received my fair share of nasty comments. But one thing I’ve always tried doing, is to check myself first. Why is it that a particular commentator is reacting to me in such fashion? And sometimes I found the way to get off my “high horse”. When I did, I was even able to apologize.

Again, I do not know you. But it is clear to me that your delivery method was not received well by at least a few readers, if not many. I don’t need to tell you that so often it is not about the “what” as it is about the “how”. And I certainly hope you can accept that from someone a little less “up the academic ladder”…

And yet, that someone who calls himself “Alex”, creator of Creative Syria (, and moderator of Syria Comment, has invited you to remain on the site.


August 25th, 2008, 3:57 am


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