The Missed opportunity in Lebanon

The following interview with Paul Salem, (copied below), will bring tears to your eyes. Whether the tears are from laughter or despair will depend on where you stand, but for most readers of SC, it will likely produce a combination of both. (Thanks Q.N.)

The likelihood that George W. Bush's freedom agenda would actually bear fruit in the Middle East was practically zero from the beginning. Not only were its neocon architects largely ignorant of Middle East realities, but the hypocrisy and brutal cynicism with which they pursued it doomed it from the beginning. Freedom became a thinly veiled word for imposing US interests on the region. Democracy was used as a weapon to punish enemies and reward friends of Washington.

The notion that Lebanon could be pried away from Syria without offering Damascus either security or the return of the Golan was a mirage. Some allowed themselves to dream that regime-change in Syria would bring Lebanon's release and rebirth, but the error of this speculation was revealed as soon as things began to go wrong in Iraq, which was almost immediately. Regime change turned out to be the wrong way to bring progress to the region. No one was going to risk it again in Syria.

It is clear that the Levant's future hinges on establishing a spirit of compromise. This is the lesson of the failure of force in Iraq. Compromise means satisfying the minimal terms demanded by Syria and the Lebanese opposition. Refusing to do so will have grave consequences for Lebanon, its neighbors and the United States. Some Lebanese seem to believe that if Syria fails they will be okay, but this was nonsense to begin with. Several prominent Americans gave occasional endorsement to this dream, further convincing Lebanese that it could become reality. But the neocon project was ill conceived. The Syrian regime turned out to have a better grasp of the "new Middle Eastern realities" than most in Washington.

Washington is still ignoring the lessons of Iraq. It believes that Syria will give up control of Lebanon and its alliance with Hizbullah in order to get back to ground zero or where it was in 2003 before Washington invaded Iraq. In other words, Damascus will accept France's and Washington's dictates in order to have the Hariri investigation halted, have economic sanctions lifted, and have the West welcome it back into its warm embrace, as was done to Libya.

This is silly. It makes no sense for Syria to accept this bargain now. Diplomatic isolation has failed. Economic sanctions have failed. The Hariri investigation has failed. Yes, both France and the US are pretending that they can reheat it, but only a few wishful thinking Lebanese seem to believe this. The investigation could provide no proof of Syrian involvement when it was led by an investigator who was salavating to nail Syria. We are now well into the tenure of our third investigator and we have heard not a peep from him. Did Syria dodge a bullet? Was there no bullet to dodge? We are likely not to know.

At any rate, the wishful thinking in Lebanon persists. Hizbullah is not going away. It endures for a reason. The reasons for Syria's enmity toward Israel and willingness to invest in organizations that harm it still exist. The reason why Syria will not abandon control over Lebanon's destiny many and compelling.

Saudi Arabia is dumping another billion dollars into Lebanon's central bank. Moody's has downgraded Lebanese debt and Lebanese banks follow state into sinkhole of lower credit rating. Michael Young explains why he is peeved with French dimplomacy that failed to liberate his country. Randa Takieddine gives her take on why French diplomacy failed.  

Worthwhile interview with Paul Salem:

NOW Lebanon: How do Sunday’s events change the political situation?

Paul Salem: Well, I think it didn’t come alone. In the last two weeks, there’s been a bombing of an embassy car, the assassination on Friday [of ISF Officer Wissam Eid] and then the events on Sunday. Previously, François al-Hajj. One pattern that seems to be emerging is that since Michel Sleiman became a serious candidate for the presidency, somebody’s been out to get the army and security forces. One aspect of what happened Sunday was making strong statements against the army, which also seemed a bit surprising to me, and seemed to indicate a kind of agenda.

NOW: What changed about Sleiman that made the two sides change their minds about him?

Salem: I’ve been trying to figure it out. Part of the analysis might be that after Nahr al-Bared, he started taking himself more seriously, him and his team. It was the first sustained, long battle the Lebanese army has fought, really. [It received] total support in Lebanon, total support in the Arab world, total support in every single capital around the world. The army hung together, fought well, without much equipment, technology or training, but they hung together; good esprit de corps and good leadership is the most important thing. Beirut airport, receiving US military planes? Under Syria’s watch? This is big stuff. And then for the Pentagon to say, basically, “We’re okay with this guy,” and for the Russian’s to say, “We’re okay with this guy,” he began to feel he is quite a guy…

This is not the first time. The killing of Hajj was partly to say, “Even if you become president, don’t think you’re going to do anything,” to make it clear that Emile Lahoud is the model, not Napoleon.

NOW: Is Sleiman still a viable consensus candidate?

Salem: I think he is. In terms of public discourse, he is the candidate. I don’t think anybody will come out soon and say he’s not. On the other hand, it’s quite obvious that he’s not really the candidate that March 8 wants. But I think he will remain the name in the game, because part of the game is postponing. …

NOW: Do you think the crisis will last that long?

Salem: Yes. The crisis really started in 2006, the paralysis. The presidential vacuum was just one element of a general vacuum. It just completed the picture. If you look at the basic facts, the strategic political situation, since November of 2006, has been no go, no deal; “You either give us what we want or we’ll wait until 2009.” And that’s actually what Nasrallah said in 2006. He said, “We’ll wait.” That’s what Aoun has said many times, because in 2009, the term of parliament will be over, so there’s no longer the majority. Because there’s no parliament, and Bush would no longer be around, they would hope that whoever is in the White House would not care that much about Lebanon, and they could just go about and do what they want.

NOW: Syria was originally on board with the Arab initiative, at least on paper. What happened?

Salem: This is an old game. Syria has been the black sheep of the family and has played that role at least since the late 1970s [when it was] allied with Iran against Iraq, and the whole world supported Iraq. The Saudis got pissed off at the Syrians and Egypt got pissed off at the Syrians. That’s the way it’s been, but as long as Syria has Lebanon, is allied with Iran and has influence with the Palestinians, that’s fine. It keeps Egypt and Saudi Arabia at bay.

Nor is it bad for Iran, because Iran is very worried that Syria will make friends with Egypt and Saudi Arabia one day, join the Arab fold, make peace with Israel and be the darling of the United States like Sadat did, like King Hussein did, like all the Arabs do. He’s the last guy they have. Well, now they have Iraq.

They don’t want them to be too happy with the Arabs, either. So they say, “Forget the Arabs, we’ll help you out. If you get too close to the Arabs, we’ll be pretty pissed off.”

NOW: Then why would the Arab leaders go through the motions if Syria was going to back out anyway?

Salem: Well, look what happened before. The plan was for March 14 to use the half-plus-one to elect a March 14 guy. That was the plan, and they backed down from that. Then they backed down from all of their own candidates, then they started discussing other candidates, which was already a big climb down for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the US, Jordan, etc. Then they finally said, “What the hell, we’ll take your candidate. That’s got to work,” because they all want to coax Syria away from Iran. “So we’ll take your candidate, but help us out and well be friends.”

And then the Syrians said, “No, you’re being so compromising and nice that the threat must be over. If you’re offering us this much now, then you’ll offer us much more six months from now, or a year from now.” This has been their bargaining style for decades, this is how they operate. It’s like bargaining in a bazaar… And they know that the Americans are going to come back to them and that the Saudis are going to come back to them, because there’s nowhere else to go. They hold enough of the cards to be indispensible. So the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Americans will walk away from the store, but they’re coming back. So we’ve ended the confrontation, and we’ve now begun bargaining.

The US approach to bargaining is, “Hi, I’m Bob. Let’s shake on it and make a deal, and we’re done.” That’s not the Syrian or Iranian style. You want to make a deal, okay, we’ll start bargaining; we’ll have coffee and talk. We’ll go and come back for a long time. And Bush and Sarkozy get all upset, but this is normal. They’re bargaining. They’re just not getting what they want, so they’ll wait.

[Read the rest]

Comments (160)

Alex said:

And according to Randa Takieddine Saudi Arabia is working on the Europeans and “moderate Arabs” to motivate them to show Damascus some strength.

Remember how General De Gaulle reacted when he felt furious at the Brits who were trying to take Syria away from France’s influence behind his back? … he made it a personal issue and he did all he could to punish the British (including supporting Israel for a decade at least).

Similarly … President Bush and some of the Saudi leaders have been stuck in a revenge mode in their dealing with Bashar Assad… and the Middle East has been paying for their actions for the past few years.

After all .. they are not wiser that Charles De Gaulle.

February 9th, 2008, 10:22 pm


GG said:

The dubious Paul Salem discusses Lebanon with the even more dubious NOW Lebanon. Interesting! Isn’t this a case of mutual masturbation? Was there anything balanced in this interview? Two points:

1) NOW Lebanon asks: Some Change and Reform bloc members have implied that they could accept a non-Aoun president. What are the chances of March 14 reaching a separate peace with them?

Salem replies: The party that calls the shots is not the FPM, but the Shia. It’s Berri and Hezbollah… They say it’s Aoun, as the Christian leader, but it’s not. When Sleiman was first proposed, Hezbollah and Amal agreed, but Aoun went berserk. Then his group panicked… they figured parliament was going to elect a president and form a government, and they were going to be stuck outside with this guy because he wants to be president, and we’re not going to get anything. At that point the Murr bloc made it clear [to March 14] that if you guys are going, we’ll go with you, because at least we’ll be part of a new presidency. As did some of the other Change and Reform members. … Either give us a new president and we’ll let [Aoun] drop, or we have to stick with him, we can’t be stuck in the middle.

There is no such scenario as the Change and Reform bloc people providing the quorum and electing the president themselves, because Nabih Berri controls parliament. He will not call a session if he knows the Christians and Sunnis against the Shia would elect a president themselves.

I presume the Murr bloc and these “some other Change and Reform members” made it crystal clear to March 14 that they had a partner if they wanted to go it alone. The big question then is why didn’t they go it alone, after all that’s all Jumblatt and Geagea threaten?

2) NOW Lebanon asks: Are there people on the opposition side who are sincere about the issues that get raised the electoral law, corruption, balanced development – that the government could work with?

And the dummy Salem replies: Yes, of course there are lots of people there. But how to work with them? The government is not recognized, parliament doesn’t meet, there’s no president, you can’t address anything at this point, other than get through the day. Certainly, in this big crisis if you sit down and say okay, we can’t agree on the big issues but let’s talk about an anti-corruption drive, yeah that might have a nice little impact on the news maybe for a while but it’s totally not what it’s about. Like Iraq, it’s a big battleground.

Since when has the so-called Lebanese government been sincere about the electoral law, corruption, etc that it so desperately desires a partner with whom to work? Even the USA, the Lebanese government’s viagra, thinks so little of M14’s characters and track record when it comes to corruption that its chief puppet master Jeffrey Feltman (a.k.a. Geppeddo) conspicuously said in an interview with Newsweek, “I suspect our views on reform and transparency coincide with Aoun’s views…. Some of the people we are working most closely with on promoting an international tribunal to try those accused of Rafik Hariri’s murder may not be comfortable with these other reforms. I’m probably making too many headlines, though.” (

I undestand that after the interview Paul Salem declared, “I am the King of Spain”, and NOW Lebanon was requesting an interview with Samir Geagea on the topic: ‘1986 to 1990 War Crimes in Lebanon: Should the Nuremberg Trials be resurrected?’

February 10th, 2008, 12:31 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I’d like to ask you (and others) to elaborate on some of the points you make above, in your very suggestive introduction to the Paul Salem interview. (You don’t get off that easily!)

It is clear that the Levant’s future hinges on establishing a spirit of compromise. This is the lesson of the failure of force in Iraq. Compromise means satisfying the minimal terms demanded by Syria and the Lebanese opposition. Refusing to do so will have grave consequences for Lebanon, its neighbors and the United States.

What exactly is the nature of this compromise? What are these “minimal terms”? We hear different things, from Berri, from FPM/Hizbullah, and from Syria. Michel Suleiman was supposed to be a “compromise” candidate. When M14 accepted him, the Syrians dropped him. The Arab initiative 10-10-10 formula was supposed to be a “compromise”. The opposition rejected it. What exactly does this “spirit of compromise” entail? (I mean in terms of an actual proposal, with names, dates, guarantees.) We haven’t seen it.

[Washington] believes that Syria will give up control of Lebanon and its alliance with Hizbullah in order to get back to ground zero or where it was in 2003 before Washington invaded Iraq. In other words, Damascus will accept France’s and Washington’s dictates in order to have the Hariri investigation halted, have economic sanctions lifted, and have the West welcome it back into its warm embrace, as was done to Libya.

This is silly. It makes no sense for Syria to accept this bargain now.

What bargain should Syria accept? And I ask this question assuming that your reasoning will take into account the best interests of the region and not just the regime. Since we are talking about “the Levant’s future”, then what is the endgame scenario?

Hizbullah is not going away. It endures for a reason. The reasons for Syria’s enmity toward Israel and willingness to invest in organizations that harm it still exist. The reason why Syria will not abandon control over Lebanon’s destiny many and compelling.

Hizbullah doesn’t have to go away. In fact, Lebanon needs it desperately to not go away, if we are to see any shred of accountability in government, and political representation for the Shi`a. However, Hizbullah qua armed resistance independent of the Lebanese army has, to my mind, no purpose in Lebanon anymore besides acting as Syria’s thorn in the side of Israel. Do you honestly believe anything different? If the Lebanese were ever to achieve a true compromise, whereby Hizbullah would be fully enfranchised in the political system in exchange for disarming (as Aoun had proposed prior to his return), do you think the Syrians would allow this to go forward before they had gotten back the Golan?

I’m all for working together, Syrians and Lebanese (or Greater Syrians 😉 ) to pressure the Israelis to submit to a just solution. But I have yet to see evidence of a viable plan.

February 10th, 2008, 1:50 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Oh, and I almost forgot:

What was the opportunity in Lebanon, and who missed it?

February 10th, 2008, 2:05 am


Enlightened said:


you raise some interesting points, let me tell you what the opportunity was, “There was none” The two protagonists in Lebanon are diametrically opposed to each other for any serious compromise to be reached. There will be no compromise, until FULL parliamentary elections are scheduled, whether under the current electoral law, or if a new one is implemented(which is unlikely).

So just sit this out till, this happens, you will see electioneering on a grand scale with money thrown around in the parliamentary elections and will be the most bitterly contested since Lebanon’s independence. Only after this event will you see who holds the upper hand and whether there is any real support for Aoun amongst the Christians. I suspect he battle will conclude only after this event.

Your thoughts?

February 10th, 2008, 2:22 am


Qifa Nabki said:


You may be right, and this bodes ill for Lebanon’s economy and its hopes for paying off its crippling debt.

With respect to the upper hand, I have ceased thinking about this issue in terms of Christians/Muslims. The Christians are divided, which, to me, is a good thing. It means that people are finally starting to think about politics in a non-confessional way, whether they realize it or not. Unfortunately, they are now thinking about politics in a purely cult-of-personality way, but if this is a step towards thinking about politics in terms of policy and rational decision-making then I can swallow it.

I was hoping that Moussa would have been able to broker some kind of acceptable deal this time around, so that the M14 leaders would have something positive to announce at the upcoming rally on Feb 14, which will probably be massive. I was hoping, in fact, that it would be an opportunity to express national unity. But it seems that we will only get more posturing and triumphalism, which will be repeated, of course, when the opposition stages its counter rally.

And I take it, from the relative calm on these pages, that other people actually have a life, and are enjoying themselves on a Saturday night.

Basita. 😉

February 10th, 2008, 2:40 am


Enlightened said:

LOL Nabki;

ITS SUNDAY in Sydney, 2.07 in afternoon a nice sunny day and we are having a break from the incessant rain, that has broken a seven year drought, planning to take wife and sun for a trip to the northern beaches to spend the afternoon!

You are right some are thinking about politics in a non confessional way, ( I too have ceased thinking about this as a muslim/christian divide a long time ago) but the majority still think in a confessional way, but let me just highlight some point that i think is quite surreal in this scenario, there are a lot of people crossing their sectarian divide in their support across the factions we are witnessing this in our family, and even within our family friends across religious divides (which i think is great in a way because, this is how you will break confessionalism), however I don’t know fully the situation on the ground in Lebanon? Maybe you can give us some insights?

IT does not bode well for Lebanon, but it is better than Civil war!
Maybe there will be enough sane heads to prevent this?

February 10th, 2008, 3:18 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

The reality of failure isn’t accepted easily the neocons and their allies. On the one hand, we have Saad Hariri thundering how he won’t accept the “blackmail” of compromise and on the other Haaretz trumpeting some joint Iranian-Syrian missile development program.

February 10th, 2008, 5:24 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


The facts about Hizballah losses in the war:

Though Hezbollah says only 250 of its members were killed in the fighting, Israeli intelligence estimates that some 600 died and another 1,000 were wounded.

“It’s true that Hezbollah is raising its flag along the border,” an IDF official said. “But in a year and a half not one of our soldiers on the border has sustained even a scratch. During the entire period only two rockets have been launched by an extremist group unaffiliated to Hezbollah,” the official added.

This is from your favorite newspaper that doesn’t challenge these estimates and is always skeptical of IDF claims:

February 10th, 2008, 5:44 am


Alex said:


I won’t tell you about the Lebanese portion of the problem, that one you know. I will answer your question through the regional challenges.

When Syria Helped the Saudis with the Mecca agreement … and even let the Saudis claim credit for the “success” which was immediately portrayed as a clear sign that we are living in the Saudi era of (wise) Arab leadership (read Asharq Alawsat that week)

What did Syria get in return?

An invitation to the Arab summit.

Syria does not value invitations to summits and meetings… as soon as those summits are over, things change again.

Saudi foreign minister Saud alfaisal was supposed to visit Damascus right after the Arab summit. He did not, because the Saudis were still not convinced that they needed to reconsider their post 2001 regional strategy … they were still not convinced that they need to share the “Arab leadership” role with Syria.

After all … even EGYPT accepted to step aside in favor of the Saudis.

Then we had the new summit … Annapolis.

It was a very pleasant meeting … but few weeks later, it was clear that Annapolis was worth nothing.

So … the understanding with Syria was also scrapped.

President Bush became allergic to the Syrians again. He rediscovered his genuine feelings for Syria’s political prisoners. And he reaffirmed his support for the Seniora government. Eliot Abrams came to Lebanon and the M14 “leaders” got energized again.

You see .. summits are bad for the Middle East … they create artificial ups and downs in expectations that mask the reality on the ground.

I will tell you when we can be optimistic that there will be a good chance we will start seeing solutions. Remember when the King of Jordan visited Damascus last month? … he is not the one who needs to visit Damascus. Another King needs to discover the road to Damascus.

Back to Lebanon and Syria: If the M14 “leaders” genuinely wanted to reach an understanding with Aoun and HA (and Syria) … they should have told Washington that Eliot Abrams was not welcome in Beirut.

As long as the Neocons have friends in Lebanon or in the “moderate Arab world” … forget about any deals or agreements and understandings.

The Neocons are vindictive … and they hate Syria with passion… they would love to destroy Syria if they can… they have been trying for 5 years now. You think they turned into saints and decided to forgive the Syrians and love them?

Syria is not being too difficult … You meet with Neocons, you guarantee Syria will not trust you and will ask for a million guarantees before allowing any agreement with you.

No deals for now.

February 10th, 2008, 7:57 am


majedkhaldoun said:

No compromise,it is war
Amr Moussa must stop going to Lebanon,he can not achieve anything, his trips actually are delaying the process of electing president in lebanon, the parties in lebanon,are not willing to compromise, Seniora is the PM , he can not quit either, there is one way out, it is an absolute defeat to one side and 100% victory to the other side, it is war, I know it is very pessimistic view, the alternative is keep things as it is now.

February 10th, 2008, 12:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I think you are right. This is the only logical conclusion that I have come to, based on my observations. This is very sad, and it will continue as long as maniacs like Jumblatt continue to wield the microphones. It seemed they had muzzled him for a couple of weeks, but then the neo-cons got to him again, as Alex pointed out.


I think you’re pinning too much blame on the neo-cons. Long before the neo-cons had their little fad in Washington, the U.S. was al-shaytan al-akbar in the Arab street. No matter what agreement had been carved out between Hafez and the Americans, the latter have always been used as a convenient scapegoat for the absence of equitable dealings between the Syrians and Lebanese. I have been hearing the “when you stop cozying up to the U.S./France/KSA/Etc., we’ll start cooperating” line for many years. This is nothing new.

I would be the first person to welcome Syria back into Lebanon (as a priveleged number 1 ally) provided that this is brought about through a transparent process. But this is not what we are seeing, unfortunately. It’s gotten to the point where we need confidence building measures between the Syrians and the Lebanese!! This is what is truly despicable and unfortunate, and the fault does not lie solely with M14 and the neo-cons.

I believe that Syria has made a major mistake in Lebanon by enforcing this standoff between HA and M14. It has postponed the political integration of HA (what you called its “moderation”) by several years. I know that things were very difficult for Syria in 2005-06 when Washington wanted Bashar’s head. But the standoff has been very damaging for future Lebanon-Syrian relations. These bad feelings will persist long after the neo-cons have retired to the junk heap of history.

February 10th, 2008, 1:49 pm


Jason said:

“It is clear that the Levant’s future hinges on establishing a spirit of compromise. This is the lesson of the failure of force in Iraq. Compromise means satisfying the minimal terms demanded by Syria and the Lebanese opposition. Refusing to do so will have grave consequences for Lebanon”.

Compromise, capitulate, have rational policies. These are all terms that March 14, the US, and the Arab League need to learn. As Landis states, compromising on the “minimal terms” being demanded by March 8 and Syria. I think all would agree that compromising and giving March 8 a blocking third in Suleiman’s new cabinet will be a radical change, but what are the alternatives? Civil war? Regional conflict? Even more al Qaeda influence moving into Lebanon? The US will need Hezbollah in a few years when al-Qaeda’s ideology moves across the Middle East and North Africa, which is already happening.

The US has compromised in Iraq and the occupied territories. The US has granted amnesty for the Sunni and Shia insurgents, who have killed US troops, in order to fight al-Qaeda. Israeli-US amnesty was given to Fatah, which the US now trains in Jordan, to combat Hamas. Why not compromise with March 8’s “minimal terms” for one third in the next cabinet. No doubt a radical change, but what are the alternatives. Hezbollah has too much legitimacy to go away. Nashrallah is too smart of a leader. It’s not likely he will make a mistake that the US-March 14 can capitalize on. Hezbollah can arguably carry out a democratic revolution in Lebanon. If we want to be serious about democracy in Lebanon we have to address March 8 demands. Anything less will be un-democratic.

Lebanon’s future does hinge on compromise. Hezbollah will get the blocking third either way. The US can either push them farther away or work with them. The US has “worked” with worse in the past.

February 10th, 2008, 2:47 pm


idaf said:

Informative analysis on Sunni Islamist movements in Lebanon (relations with Hariri movement, with Syria, Saudi.. etc.)

Lebanon’s Sunni Islamists: A Growing Force
Carnegie Endowment
Full Article here:

The growing influence of Sunni Islamists in Lebanon is fueled by rising anti-?American and sectarian sentiments resulting from the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Lebanon’s ongoing political stalemate, the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, and the summer 2006 war in which Israel devastated large parts of Lebanon. While mainstream Islamist groups continue to dominate the political and social environment in Lebanon, radical elements within the Islamist movements are further bolstered by the worsening political and security situation in the country, argues a new paper by the Carnegie Middle East Center.

In Lebanon’s Sunni-Islamists—A Growing Force, the Carnegie Middle East Center’s Omayma Abdel-Latif identifies leading traditional Islamist and Salafist movements in Lebanon, key leaders, and their relationships with each other and external actors, including the United States, Hizbollah, Syria, and Iran. Sunni Islamist movements include those sociopolitical movements that embrace Islam as the only framework for social and political change and mobilization.

Key points:
• Radical groups are attempting to capitalize on the deep divisions among Lebanon’s Sunni Islamist movements. The movements are divided between those in alliance with the Mustaqbal, the party founded by the late Rafiq al-Hariri and the dominant political movements in the Sunni neighborhood, and those against it. The groups are further divided by differing relations with actors such as Hizbollah and Syria.

• Although Mustaqbal presents itself as a modern movement with a moderate view of Islam, it has aligned itself with forces holding extremist views. Rather than addressing the need for a clear political or ideological vision, the party leadership resorts to polarizing sectarian rhetoric to secure public support.

• While Lebanon’s pro-Hariri police forces maintain a close relationship with Sunni Islamist movements, particularly Salafists, the army has confronted militant Islamist movements in violent encounters and the intelligence services have been clamping down on them. There is a growing sense among some Islamist groups that Mustaqbal’s leader, Saad Hariri, is not doing enough to protect his Islamist allies against perceived hostility from the security apparatus. This perception has been fueled by Hariri’s silence following multiple arrests of Islamist protestors allied with Mustaqbal. By engaging with mainstream Sunni Islamist movements, the security forces could counter these perceptions of hostility, which fuel militant movements.

• Rising unemployment, a lack of basic government services, and economic austerity are spurring the radicalization of Sunni youth, particularly among Salafist groups. Security campaigns targeting and arresting Sunni youth have further exacerbated tensions and increased a sense of victimization, while a weak religious establishment has failed to control the incitement of hatred and sectarianism.

“Unless the Lebanese state changes its strategy towards Islamists, begins to deliver its electoral promises in poverty-stricken areas, the danger of seeing al-Qaeda-inspired militancy remains a real one,” concludes Abdel-Latif.

February 10th, 2008, 2:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Hizbollah will have to accept the March 14 and American terms eventually because any Lebanese civil war will quickly become a regional war and that is something Asad and Nasrallah cannot afford.

Also, the tribunal will issue indictments in June. Let’s wait and see what effect those will have on the Syrian regime and its international support.

In the mean time, the powers of the Lebanese presdient are with Saniora. Not a bad situation after all.

February 10th, 2008, 3:37 pm


ausamaa said:

I becoming more suspicious that it is primarily the Saudies (and not the Bush Admin) who are encouraging the Feb 14 side to block a settelment. Do we think that the someone who had once managed to get Fateh and Hamas to meet in Mecca -against the better advice of Bush-, can not tell Saado boy to agree to the Arab League initiative?

The Bush Admin “thinks” in terms of what it can gain and what it can lose and then acts accordingly. And it knows that it can not win in Lebanon against the Opposition (and Israel is no hurry to risk another probable Lebanon humilation), so it cuts its losses and accepts a compromise although it is not to its liking, and awaits a more suitable day. The Saudies -who are incapable of doing much anywhere beyond pulling their financial strings-, think more in terms of loosing-face and winning-face. And they still refuse to accept what the Bush Admin has already accepted and internalized; the Lebanon battle has been lost, so let us focus on the bigger objectives of Iraq and perhaps occupied Palestine. The Saudies meanwhile, still think differently. If Lebanon blows up, the US and Israel might suffer. Saudi Arabia wont. So instead of trying to restrain Eliot Abrams in Lebanon, they are fueling the situation there further through continuous doeses of Spinach to the Popeye’s of Feb 14.

But can the Saudies succeed where the Bush neo-cons and Israel failed?

And how would they and thier surrogates fare come the new Parlimentary Elections in Lebanon a year or two later? Is Lebanon’s demography going to change, or is Israel going to wage and win a war against Hizbullah and maybe Syria. Or are they still waiting for the “regime” to collapse??!!

And what if someone somehow responds in kind to the Saudi foul play in Lebanon? Are the “moderate” underwriters of the current Lebanese stalemate willing to accept such a risk or do they think that they are immune from such things?

Smart chaps in Riyadh…advised by Egypt, watched by Amman, and cheered by Olmert and Bush, and all are placing their bets on Saado, Junblat and Ja’ja. A coalition of the ……hopeless????

February 10th, 2008, 4:09 pm


Alex said:


I did not mean to blame it all on relations with Neocons. I started with the other problem between Syria and the “Moderate Arabs”

Let’s look at trust issues … “the Syrian regime” started being a passionate believer in Arab nationalism. But Hafez got one stab in the back after another from his Arab brothers

1) When Hafez agreed to unite with Iraq in 1978 and to give the Iraqi president the presidency of both countries, Saddam (VP at the time) removed his president and declared himself the new leader. He then arranged for a televised thing where he announced that he was able to catch a ring of Syria collaborators who were trying to destabilize Iraq and overthrow its regime. Saddam therefore scrapped the Unity agreement with Hafez and he started the endless negativity between the two countries.

Then they wondered why did Hafez not side with his Arab brother Saddam when he went to war against Iran two years later.

2) In 1973 Hafez trusted Sadat and planned his strategy for the 1973 according to his agreement with the Egyptians. It turns out that Sadat had two plans … one to show Hafez when he visits to discuss war plans, and the real map in which Sadat had his own ideas which where not going to please Hafez.

Egypt stopped fighting and left Syria alone to face Israel for few more months. Another stab in the back for Hafez.

3) in 1977 Sadat shows up in Damascus airport to tell Hafez that he agreed with the Americans to go to Jerusalem … Sadat asked Hafez “do you want to come with me in my plane?”

Another stab in the back from another Arab brother.

4) In 1979 the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood started an armed resistance campaign trying to overthrow the Syrian regime. They were supported by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Saddam, and other Arabs. They tried to assassinate Hafez in 1980 … almost succeeded.

King Hussein eventually visited Damascus to apologize to Hafez from trying to kill him! … no problem. He is an Arab brother.

5) Yasser Arafat lied to the Syrians a thousand times … Assad did not trust him from day1 (1970).

6) Then you have the different Lebanese who switched alliances from Syria to Israel to the United States to Saudi Arabia …etc.

Syria, on the other hand, sticks by its trustworthy allies. Do you notice how the past 5 years everyone explored many possible new alliances (like Prince Bandar tried to make a deal with IRan against Syria in Lebanon) .. But Syria refuses to get the Golan back and tons of economic incentives if only it will flip against its allies.

I will tell you a story that Jihad Elkhazen told me:

He was asked by the Turkish prime minister in the late 90’s to go to Damascus and give the Syrians a deal they can not refuse … they can have all the water they need from turkey if they deliver Damascus based Kurdish leader Occalan.

Jihad went to Damascus and asked to Meet with President Assad.

The president did not meet him. Khaddam met him and told him that “Syria does not stab its friends in the back”

So … one way to understand the enduring Syria Iran Hamas Hizbollah alliance is “The alliance of those who can not be bought or seduced through invitations to the White House”

Otherwise it is really a colection of Sunnies / Shias … Secular / religious … Arab / Persian …

The Saudi campaign of lies tried so hard to damage this trust between the allies … all kinds of “news” in Assyassa newspaper (Close to the Saudi king according to Michel Young) about Assad making a deal in Washington against Iran … or Iran agreeing with Prince Bandar to dump the Syrians … or Syria selling Hizbollah …

But they still trust each other.

Now .. compare that to how the Syrians should feel when Jumblatt send them messages through Amr Moussa that he is willing to make a deal with them… what would you do if you were offered this Jumblatt offer?

you would wonder if Jumblatt will change his mind a week later. NAd you will wonder if Jumblatt is stabbing his neocon friends in the back and switching to Syria’s side? … Did he change him mind from the three statements of his the past two years

1) telling David Ignatius that America must invade Syria and remove Assad by force

2) Giving a speech in Washington (neocon think tank) in which he said “we need to find a way to send the car bombs to Damascus”

3) Promising to kill Bashar one day … a son of the mountain will do it one day.

QN …. there is no deal with Jumblatt and Geagea.

I don’t think Syria is being unreasonable by asking for difficult guarantees … a deal with a group that has zero credibility requires all kinds of guarantees.

In the 90’s, Syria had its army in Lebanon .. that was a good guarantee that Jumblatt and others will not work against the Syrians. But without a Syrian army today … you would be crazy to trust these people.

Syria trusts Aoun, Nasrallah, Frangieh, Hoss, Karami.

Thats it.

February 10th, 2008, 4:45 pm


idaf said:


I would add, that Syria would have trusted Hariri senior if he was still alive.

Btw, Good analysis and thanks for Jihad el-Khazen’s story.

February 10th, 2008, 5:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Very very good analysis. I need a week to respond to it, so until then, sallimli 3al ahl. 🙂

(In the meantime, can we make a deal that you agree to give up your faith in Syria’s noble feelings of Arab brotherly love if the Tribunal implicates the regime in Hariri’s murder?)

February 10th, 2008, 5:18 pm


Observer said:

The balance of power has changed in Lebanon both demographically and politically, it also changed militarily as the HA emerged as the most potent force by far.
The Marsh 14 group knows that there will be a loser in this redrawing of the political map of Lebanon, and the question is which group is going to be sacrified for the sake of the compromise: the Shia community ,in exchange for leaving the distribution of posts according to confessional groups, will have a veto power on the goverment. Now, the Chrisitan community is totally split and the Patriarch is no longer capable of unifying them as we saw with Aoun and the hostility of Franjieh. The big question is wheter the Sunni community will splinter with one group remaining loyal to the Zaim system of patronage exemplified by Hariri Saudi group, and the other going the way of the Salafis. If the economic situation deteriorates then the ranks of the Salafis will grow substantially. There is panic in Lebanon about people keeping their money in bank accounts as they fear a collapse of the system coupled with the incredible shrinking dollar.
As I said before, the solution will be after the current administration departs in 2009 and new elections are held in Lebanon.
Now Jumblatt has started shouting and menacing again, and therefore, he must have been told that something is going to happen to Syria/Iran or he is the most stupid person on the face of the earth.
As for the neocons, they are staging a comeback. If Obama is the nominee then I believe they will not hesitate to create a situation in the ME to scare the public into voting for McCain. GWB and DBC will be very happy to create an incident with either Iran or Pakistan to insure that their agenda is carried out through the next presidency.

February 10th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Alex said:

QN : ) … it is not all about being noble … Hafez believed that establishing credibility is an investment that pays dividends in the future. He was like Nasrallah … very difficult to deal with but when he agrees to something you can trust him.

I intentionally left Hariri out of either group. He was not the Jumblatt type, and he was not the Nasrallah type.

It’s a long story.

I liked him. I was very unhappy when he was assassinated.

I hope it was not the Syrians who requested his assassination.

QN .. nothing will come out of the tribunal… only the process of trying to keep the Syrians busy and humiliated for a year.

It’s ok… everyone is ready for all scenarios.

February 10th, 2008, 6:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


It took 9 years to bring convictions against the Libyans in the 86 Berlin disco bombings. It hasn’t even been 3 yrs since this Tribunal began, and as AIG said the indictments will come out in June.

Things have proceeded very slowly and deliberately. You and Joshua think the tribunal is dead… I would not be so hasty. Somebody killed Hariri for political reasons, and millions of people want to know who it was. I am glad that no one has “nailed” Syria yet; I would be suspicious if they jumped the gun. Let’s wait and see, and be satisfied with the outcome once all the rocks have been turned over…

JPost: Feb 10, 2008 20:24
Report: Syria has built 3 facilities at site of IAF strike

Three more installations near the location bombed by IAF planes in Syria have been built, Channel 2 reported on Sunday evening.

It was unclear what purpose the facilities were to serve but satellite images taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company in Longmont, Colorado, clearly showed three new compounds circling an installation which was built in place of the old one, destroyed by Israel in September 2007.

Foreign media reports, some quoting unidentified US officials, have said the strike hit a nuclear installation linked to North Korea. Damascus denies it has an undeclared atomic program, and North Korea has said it was not involved in any such project.


Maybe the strike was against a hummus factory that produced such spectacular hummus, the Israelis were worried that the rest of the world would begin to question the myth that hummus is an Israeli food.

February 10th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:


Eliot does not want to wait 9 years … Jumblatt does not have 9 years to wait … King Abdullah does not want to wait 9 years… the only thing in it for them is the process over the next year.

And … I don’t think handing over two intelligence agents after 9 years is the kind of punishment everyone wants Assad to suffer from.

They have four things they can use against Syria

1) Israeli or American invasion
2) More serious sanctions (Europe)
3) More daily bad publicity .. which started already with the escalation of language.
4) bomb more hummos factories.

We’ll see.

Did you hear?

Text of report by Qatari government-funded, pan-Arab news channel Al-
Jazeera satellite TV on 10 February

[Presenter] Walid Junblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party,
has threatened that the 14 March Forces may have to burn everything if
the vacuum in Lebanon continues. Junblatt made this statement at a
party conference during which he strongly attacked Hezbollah and
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, stressing that he is ready for all
the possibilities.

[Junblatt speaking, addressing a conference] If you think that we will
stand idly by, this is pure imagination. We may have to burn
everything. Our existence, dignity, survival, and Lebanon are more
important than anything else. If you want chaos, we welcome chaos. If
you want war, we welcome war. We have no problem with weapons. [word
indistinct]. We have no problem with weapons and rockets. We will take
them away from you effortlessly.

Originally published by Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1400 10 Feb 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Middle East. Provided by ProQuest Information
and Learning. All rights Reserved.
SubDES: YBX21851
SubId: YBX21851

February 10th, 2008, 7:40 pm


T said:

I agree. Red lines converging: at least 5 internet/communications lines cut all over M.E.; Iran’s communications system cut. 8 cell towers burned to the ground in the last few days in N. Iraq and now China communications cables cut too. Such black outs needed before an attack. And US anti-missile ship just landed in Haifa…
Dont you read the news?

We NEED to attack everyone to protect our way of life and our democracy. WHY wont all those conspiracy nuts get with the program to fight our worldwide Islamofascist terrorist threat? All those crazy Muslims out there in caves with noookular bombs ???????? They’re just jealous of us because of our freedom and comforts, so we have to kill them first.
(Or, as troops on viagra say- “get their gas and kick their ass”).

Bottom line is: ME and Syria policy will not change until the US government is run by and for America FIRST, not to benefit Israel. And the policy coup has been effected using our own tax dollars.

Article Source: MONDOWEISS Feb 2, 2008
The quote pretty much says it all…

A few years back I did a report on AIPAC for “60 Minutes” with Mike Wallace. One after another, all the congressional offices I contacted confirmed the tremendous influence that AIPAC wielded, and the fear that could be inspired by an AIPAC threat to target a particular candidate. We were, however, unable to convince a single sitting House member, senator or staff person to talk on the record. Not that they disagreed with the premise. They were just terrified of talking about AIPAC.
Let’s just call AIPAC what it is. A foreign agency working to subvert the interests of America in favor of a foreign state.
Followup for the doubting–

EXCLUSIVE! Pelosi & AIPAC put the Squeeze on KUCINICH!
Submitted by impeachthem on Sun, 2008-02-03

— 3 February 2008 — Exclusive to New Jersey Impeach Groups – — We received a phone call today from a source in the Kucinich for President campaign, telling us there’s more to the story of Rep. Kucinich’s withdrawal than is publicly known. The source gave us permission to publish this, but without attribution. We can say the source is high up in the campaign. Most progressives are aware there’s been a large flood of money feeding a campaign by a democrat who seeks to win the primary for Dennis Kucinich’s seat in Ohio’s 10th congressional district, where Dennis has served the interests of working people for 6 consecutive terms — since 1996. Here’s the rest of the story, untold ‘til now. — Click the KUCINICH BANNER to read the rest —

Before the Nevada primary, Dennis was visited by representatives of Nancy Pelosi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC. They told Dennis that if he would drop his campaigns to impeach Cheney and Bush, they would guarantee his re-election to the House of Representatives.

Kucinich threw them out of his office.

Dennis now faces the toughest election campaign of his entire tenure in congress, with huge amounts of money being spent to turn his constituents against him due to “his neglect of his district while he ran for president.”

So yes, Virginia, it is exactly as you suspected. This man the mainstream media say is not relevant, poses such a threat to the powers that be that they are hellbent to destroy him, and remove that troublemaker from congress.

February 10th, 2008, 7:56 pm


Joshua said:

Dear QN,

I have the greatest respect for Paul Salem. I think his interview in NOW is perhaps the most honest depiction of what has happened from a March 14 point of view that I have read. I thank you for bringing it to our attention some days back.

You pointed out some days ago following the publication of Patrick Seale’s article, laying out Syria’s interests in Lebanon, that Lebanon has become a hostage to Syria. A hostage that Syria is using to promote its strategic interesting in the region. Seale spelled out Syria’s interests as follows:

What does Syria want in Lebanon? This question is being asked in every local and foreign capital. It is best to begin by attempting to define what it does not want. It does not want to send its own army back into Lebanon, where it was for 29 years from 1976 to 2005. But nor can it tolerate a hostile, provocative government in Beirut, which would poison Syria’s life on a daily basis.

Syria wants a guarantee that whatever ruling establishment emerges in Lebanon, whatever President is elected and government formed, will recognize and respect Syria’s vital interests — be they political, economic or strategic. That is the bottom line for Syria’s consent to a Lebanese settlement.

Syria seems to have three immediate preoccupations. The first concerns the international tribunal set up to try the men who killed Rafiq al-Hariri, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, on 14 February 2005. The killers have not yet been identified, and indeed may never be, such is the complexity of the case.

Syria is, in fact, less concerned about the possible verdict of the tribunal than about its proceedings over the coming months and years. The tribunal will have the right to call dozens, perhaps hundreds, of witnesses. Its proceedings will be long-drawn out and will inevitably be politicised. They are likely to be used by Syria’s enemies as a means to attack, and even destabilise, it.

Syria suspects that the Tribunal will turn out to be a sort of ‘Sword of Damocles’ suspended over its head by a single horsehair — as in the legend — paralyzing all movement by the fear that it might fall.

A second Syrian preoccupation is that a hostile regime in Lebanon might, with international support, seek to disarm Hizbullah, the Shi’ite party and militia allied to both Iran and Syria, which fought Israel to a standstill in the summer war of 2006. In Syrian eyes, the Tehran-Damascus-Hizbullah axis is the only force able to hold in check Israeli and American pressures and aggressions.

A third major Syrian preoccupation is of an even more radical shift in the regional balance. Its fear is that if the anti-Syrian 14 March coalition consolidates its position in Lebanon, it may be tempted, or pressured, into concluding a separate peace with Israel, on the model of the American-brokered 17 May 1983 accord, which was concluded after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

That separate peace threatened to draw Lebanon into Israel’s orbit — a mortal danger, from Syria’s point of view — which was only avoided when the late President Hafiz al-Asad managed to destroy the 17 May accord.

Syria’s enduring obsession is that Israeli influence will enter Lebanon, one way or another, if its own influence in Lebanon is eliminated or reduced. With Damascus a mere stone’s throw from the Lebanese border, that would be a lethal threat.

Syria is therefore demanding that Syria and its Lebanese neighbour be joined together, not in any formal political sense, but in a single geo-strategic space, able to confront external enemies.

This is one of the fundamentals of Syria’s external policy. But it carries a heavy price-tag. It has prevented an entente with France, and with its impatient President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has devoted enormous efforts in recent months to achieving a Lebanese settlement. His Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has traveled to Beirut no fewer than six times. But since France sees itself as a champion of Lebanon’s independence, Syria interprets its efforts as a threat to its own vital interests.

There is also a heavy domestic price to pay for Syria’s security obsession. All opposition is crushed — including the so-called ‘patriotic opposition’ of intellectuals, civil rights activists, leftists and moderate Islamists. Such repression deals a heavy blow to Syria’s image and reputation in the West. Freeing these well-meaning patriots from jail and engaging them in dialogue should be a Syrian priority.

You responded to this by asking how Syria hope’s to win in its struggle against the US, Israel and March 14. This is a very important question. Most realistic gambling types want to know what the probabilities of success are before they pick sides. Your point was that Syria’s probabilities of success do not look good. Why in the world would a reasonable Lebanese back opposition demands or think that Syria offered anything but endless and futile warfare?

This is the sadness of the whole affair. Syria’s prospects of winning or regaining the Golan do not seem good, which suggests that we are in for endless turmoil. In particular, Lebanon will likely get the brunt of the bad news because it is the weakest power in the region. As in the 1980s, it is likely to be used as the battleground for regional disputes. At the same time, March 14th’s prospects of winning are not good either. This is bad news.

The missed opportunity is that Washington did not push for a regional compromise at the end of 2005, when its power in Syria was at a maximum. Instead, at the time, it looked for a Qaddafi-style reversal from Syria, while offering nothing in exchange except to cease its threats of regime-change. As Seale wrote: “Only a lessening of regional tensions and real progress with Arab-Israeli peace making might allow the ‘Damascus Spring’, such a welcome feature of President Bashar al-Asad first months in power, to flower again. ”

I am not particularly optimistic about a Damascus Spring in Damascus, but I do believe that Damascus is prepared to enter into serious negotiations about changing regional dynamics if Israel and Washington are serious.

Some of the more hawkish Israelis writing on this forum argue that Israel can win against Damascus in the long run because Israel did win the 2006 summer war. (Hizb no longer dares to kill Israelis.) Syria will either suffocate economically when its oil supplies run out or tire of resistance and confrontation when it gets serious about globalization and growing the economy. I don’t believe they are correct. I think Syria will pursue both economic development and resistance at the same time. It will be difficult, but that is what it is doing right now.

Syria is exploring all avenues to increase its military might and missile technology so that it can pose a more serious danger to Israel. So far Israel has been successful in thwarting Syria. It has attacked Hizbullah (at a great price, but nevertheless with some success.) It has bombed Syrian military sites. It has surrounded Hamas in Gaza and successfully, at least for a time, tamed the PLO and the West Bank. I thought for a moment that Egypt would not be able to contain Hamas in Gaza and rebuild the wall separating Gaza from Sinai, thereby in a sense, being forced to absorb Gaza. This would have been a great victory for Israel, but Egypt stuffed the Palestinians back into Gaza, effectively making them Israel’s problem again. The Palestinian problem is not going to go away.

In many respects, I believe the Palestinian cause is lost. It is hard to see how an independent Palestinian state will be created. In all likelihood, Israel will continue to acquire land in the West Bank and push Palestinians aside. It will try to give what land and people cannot be absorbed to Jordan. Jordan may have a very hard time saying no to this if the humanitarian problem becomes dire. Similarly, Egypt may be forced to absorb the Gazans yet. That seems to be the direction things are headed in.

If this is true, it means the Fahad Peace plan is a pipe dream, and so are Syrian hopes that they can get the Golan back as part of a wider peace deal that includes the Palestinians. Writing on Syria Comment, both Shai and Alon Liel effectively proposed that Syria unlink its demands from those of the Palestinians in order to seek a separate peace with Israel. They argued that if Syria waits for a broader peace, it will miss any chance of winning the return of the Golan – and even then, “the return” of the Golan may have to be in the form of a “Peace Park” or some other less than satisfactory formula. Israel should a the very least present Syria with the choice of choosing a separate peace. Syrians would be torn, but they might take it if it meant getting back the Golan.

It is clear that Syria and Israel are far apart in their demands. Israel continues to believe that Syria is asking for too much and is too weak. Syria continues to believe that time is on its side, that Muslims and Arabs will not give up on the “cause” and insist on normalizing with the Jewish state without first gaining some satisfaction on the the land issue. Syria believes that old slogans such as “Arab rights” still have considerable purchase on the hearts of Middle Easterners. At any rate, Damascus sees no other road forward but to resist. As Seale wrote:

Syria’s concern with regime survival is understandable: The US has smashed Iraq; it threatens Iran; it turns a blind eye to Israeli slaughter of Palestinians; it apparently gave its approval to Israel’s air strike last September against a mysterious military installation in north-east Syria. Moreover, Washington continues to impose unilateral sanctions on Syria and refuses to put Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in1967, on its agenda

In short, I do not see the possibility of a happy compromise for Lebanon without larger regional interests being addressed. This is what Syrian authorities keep insisting. I think we have to believe them. A powerful Hizbullah is Syria’s only real leverage with Israel. It is not going to do anything to compromise this assest without progress on the Golan.


February 10th, 2008, 7:58 pm


ausamaa said:

BTW, who is Paul Salem???

February 10th, 2008, 8:10 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Paul Salem,is elected to the lebanese prliament, I know Dr. George Salem, I think he is his brother, I met him several times, and had a lot of discussions with him, he used to be strongly against Syria, but lately,he defends Syria.George is oncologist.he is active politically too.

February 10th, 2008, 9:19 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I wonder why Syrian believe time is on their side?

February 10th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Alex said:

Things are really bad in Lebanon!

I don’t feel like typing much but today there were many clashes … a few shot

Jumblatt said he has suicidal people if needed .. he has lots of weapons and he is ready for war.

And he said Saudi Arabia will pay all the expenses for the international tribunal and that punishment for the killers is coming soon. He was in Saudi Arabia last week.

And Saad Hariri went to the North to motivate the Sunnies there to come to Beirut to demonstrate … he donated 52 millions to Tripoli as a personal gift from him!

A Pro Syria opposition Druze politician (forgot his name) said the opposition can wrap up a violent conflict with the M14 in few days max.

That’s the kind of day it has been.

February 10th, 2008, 11:17 pm


norman said:

The choices for the Arabs are clear , surrender to Israel’s and US demands and live from their generosity that if they believe that they have any toward defeated Arabs or take the opposite direction with a long term view that Israel and the US can not occupy and and maintain a hostile Mideast with intention to push foreigners of their land , Israel has been there only sixty years , the Crusades stayed there for 200 years then left and that is what will happen if Syria continue to follow a track for economic development and another track for improving it’s military power , Iran is Syria’s depth and with the help of Iran weapons Syria will be a disaster for Israel and the US and at that time Iraq will reignite to punish the US , Things are not going in the right direction , The only way for the US to succeed in the Mideast is to join Syria and Iran to stabilize the Area , in the same time secure the oil supply for the west which needs to be sold anyway ,

For Israel to survive ,which i said before , it has to move full speed for a solution that will guarantee it’s existence , otherwise the extremist and the people who reject any kind of compromise will push for a total war , at that time Israel should not ask for a compromise , it will not be coming.

February 10th, 2008, 11:23 pm


norman said:

Alex ,

I think that is Wahab.

February 10th, 2008, 11:26 pm


ugarit said:

“It took 9 years to bring convictions against the Libyans in the 86 Berlin disco bombings.”

and now some of those convictions are being considered for reversal.

February 11th, 2008, 12:08 am


reader said:

Mr. Landis, I am not sure what is worse: Your vain attempt at academic relevance by championing the importance of a region you have made your field of study, the mediocre level of your insight in Lebanese/Syrian politics (for example you do not even realize that the interview you are reproducing is indicting the regime whose scribe you have decided to become), or the obvious spite you hold towards Lebanese because one day a Lebanese business man deceived your father: You do not think that a Syrian could have done the same? If not, if the Lebanese are so different, then we are right: We have nothing to do with Syria.

February 11th, 2008, 12:10 am


T said:


Are you in Beirut now?

February 11th, 2008, 12:11 am


norman said:

Obama is on Sixty minute now .

February 11th, 2008, 12:15 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Thank you for your very thoughtful response. I thought I was pessimistic. Alex, could you please cheer me up?

I will mull, and respond.

Ausamaa, Paul Salem is the director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Beirut. It’s a political think tank, research institute. He’s a very smart man, not an idealogue. I know a few members of his family, who are connected with March 14.

February 11th, 2008, 12:22 am


norman said:

That is a conservative think tank isn’t it?.

February 11th, 2008, 12:31 am


Alex said:


No … I watched Arabic Satellite news at a friend’s house.

And I also watched today’s final … Egypt won 1-0 against Cameron .. they are Africa’s Soccer Champions for 2008 !!

But seriously … Lebanon’s news was very serious…. I can’t see what can happen next other than violence.

February 11th, 2008, 12:39 am


Qifa Nabki said:


No, you may be thinking of the Heritage foundation or the Washington Institute for Near East Policy…

Carnegie is a very respected think tank, with analysts from across the political spectrum. For example, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who has written very intelligently about Hizbullah (and is very close to the Lebanese opposition) is a visiting fellow there at the moment, at the Beirut offices.

February 11th, 2008, 12:40 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Finally, March 14 are calling the Syrian bluff in Lebanon. No need to worry, there will not be a civil war. Hizballah is bluffing and so is Syria. They will have to back off. Hizballah and Syria will not survive a Lebanese civil war that will turn into a regional war and they know it.

The civil war if it happens will be Druze and Sunni against Shia. Bye bye popular support in the Arab world for Hizballah and Syria. And without that, there is nothing going for Syria and Hizballah. They will surely lose the regional confrontation that will ensue.

QN, the light at the end of the tunnel can finally be seen. There is a long way to go but at last March 14 have grown balls.

February 11th, 2008, 1:05 am


T said:


You neednt be so smug. We put you where you are now, and we can take you back down too.


That’s terrible. Total domestic blackout here in US on what is happening in Lebanon. No media coverage.


EU wants Billary, backed by the establishment Dems. As I mentioned before, AIPAC/Lobby deems Obama the weakest on Israel (they prefer Billary) and have even accused Obama of ‘links to terror’. Obama favors diplomacy with Iran and Syria. I post the following piece because assassination is being mentioned more and more regarding him. What began as evocative hints and associations is now being said outright. It is quite disturbing. (Can you imagine if this kind of surmise had circulated about Joe Lieberman when her ran in 2000?)

AFP: Feb 9, 2008
Nobel Winner Lessing: Obama will be Assassinated if he Wins

If Barack Obama becomes the next U.S. president he will surely be assassinated, British Nobel literature laureate Doris Lessing predicted in a newspaper interview published here Saturday.
Obama, who is vying to become the first black president in U.S. history, would certainly not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would murder him,” Lessing, 88, told the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Lessing, who won the 2007 Nobel Literature Prize, said it might be better if Obama’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton were to succeed in her bid to become the first woman president of the United States.

“The best thing would be if they (Clinton and Obama) were to run together. Hillary is a very sharp lady. It might be calmer if she were to win, and not Obama,” she said. (AFP)

February 11th, 2008, 1:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Who is the “we” in “We put you where you are now, and we can take you back down too”?

Sounds like you are part of some secret organization I know nothing about.

February 11th, 2008, 1:52 am


norman said:

This is what is happening in Lebanon today,


Druze leader warns of anarchy and war in Lebanon
By Tom Perry | February 10, 2008

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A leading member of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian governing coalition on Sunday warned of anarchy and raised the specter of war in the country, which is suffering its worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt urged powerful opposition group Hezbollah to break its alliance with Syria, which supports the Shi’ite Muslim group and its allies in their political campaign against the U.S.-backed governing coalition.

Assassinations, the arming of militias and a continued vacuum in the presidency would “drag all to anarchy,” Jumblatt said in a televised address, singling out Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for criticism.

“If you think that we will stand with our hands tied, this is pure imagination,” said Jumblatt, an influential figure in the governing coalition whose war of words with the opposition has recently escalated.

“You want anarchy? (We) welcome anarchy. you want war? (We) welcome war,” Jumblatt said, to the cheers of supporters. “There is no problem with weapons …,” added Jumblatt.

The crisis has exacerbated tensions between followers of rival sectarian leaders and led to the worst street violence since the civil war. The crisis has also paralyzed government and left Lebanon without a president since November, when the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expired.

Jumblatt called supporters to attend a rally on Thursday to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, whose killing the governing coalition blames on Syria.

Damascus denies involvement in the February 14, 2005 Beirut truck bombing that killed the former prime minister and the assassinations of other anti-Syrian figures since then.

Saad al-Hariri, the former prime minister’s son and political heir, last week said Lebanon was in direct confrontation with Syria and Iran, another sponsor of Hezbollah.


“If our fate is confrontation, then we are for it,” said Hariri, who leads the governing coalition and took his father’s place as Lebanon’s most powerful Sunni Muslim leader.

Led by Hezbollah, the opposition alliance commands the support of most Lebanese Shi’ites, but also includes Christian leader Michel Aoun, leader of the largest Christian bloc in parliament.

Commanding a well-trained guerrilla army, Hezbollah is considered the strongest faction in Lebanon. But the group says its weapons are only for use against Israel.

“The opposition cannot be dragged into internal strife,” Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad said on Saturday. “Do they want to confront the opposition’s public? Do they want to cause internal strife? They say: ‘We are for confrontation and ready for it’. We say to them, Lebanon’s fate is concord,” Raad said.

The rival sides have agreed on army chief General Michel Suleiman as the next president, but his election by parliament has been held up by a dispute over the make-up of a new government. The election was postponed on Saturday for the 14th time from Monday to February 26.

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

February 11th, 2008, 2:01 am


norman said:


I think some people are trying to scare the American public from electing Obama who would great for the US around the world,It is time for an American president who looks like therest of the world.

February 11th, 2008, 2:07 am


norman said:


I see you very happy with Egypt win although Egypt is not in greater Syria , I guess you are like us proud of Arab success.

February 11th, 2008, 2:11 am


Alex said:


I said earlier:

To most Syrians “the Arab world is Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt” : )

And I told Ausamaa that if Warda al-jazaeria did not sing in Egyptian accent she would not have been that popular in Syria.

I’m consistent !

Besides … I lived in Egypt for 5 years and their national team’s coach today (Hassan Shahata) was my favorite player at the time… I used to wear his T-shirt.

Hassan Shahata ya m3allem .. khalli el-shabaka tetkallem

: )

February 11th, 2008, 2:21 am


norman said:

Cool down , yes you are very consistent and i remember what you said , I just wanted to disturb your feather .

Alex , I like french songs but i do not know French, Syrians might like Warda Aljazarea, and probably learn her accent if she sings in Algerian accent , I met some employees at the Moroccan site at Disney world , Nizar Kabani was their favorite poet.

February 11th, 2008, 2:29 am


Alex said:

Wala yehemmak … I agree : )


If your M14 heros were so powerful and confident … why did Saad Hariri need to go north and give them 52 Millions as a personal gift?

February 11th, 2008, 2:57 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Hariris have been doing that for years, using their personal fortune to gain patronage and influence. What is so special about this case?

March 14 are not powerful, but with Western and Arab support they are more than a match for the Hizballah led opposition. FPM will never arm or have a militia. Therefore a Lebanese civil war will be mainly a Sunni-Shia battle. Good luck get support for that in the Arab street if you are Syria or Hizballah. I am not even sure how the 80% of Syrians that are Sunni will feel about it.

Therefore, what the Syrian regime and Hizballah can do internally in Lebanon is very limited. And with the indictments from the tribunal coming soon, Syria’ has very limited international options. Don’t get me wrong, the road ahead is long and complicated but the Syrians eventually will back down.

Next important thing to see: How big is the Feb 14 demonstration?

February 11th, 2008, 3:15 am


Alex said:

And … what if whatever takes place next only lasts few days?

Who knows .. maybe General Sleiman might decide to take over and appoint an emergency government … one that does not have any M14 or opposition members.

That’s one possibility. There are others.

February 11th, 2008, 3:19 am


Enlightened said:


You know that is not going to happen!( Suleiman doing the coup thing) The Demonstration might not prove to be that big, you will find that most people will be wary of traveling outside the districts from Beirut, and given the violence of the last two weeks it just might be a FIZZER! I would be very surprised if they get 500,000 to attend.

More alarming are the reports attributed to Harriri Junior and Jumblatt upping the ante in the confrontation stakes earlier today. Walid must be confident that he has secured enough arms and backing now to make these statements? Or is this frustration? My hunch is that something is brewing. And this will spill over into Street violence, whether its 14th commemration or the opposition counter rally.

Earlier while communicating with Nabki I indicated that the only way this is to be solved will be through full parliamentary elections, it is the only way to see who has more popular support.
Its like a cock fight at the moment both roosters puffing their chests? Wagers anyone on the outcome?

February 11th, 2008, 4:19 am


MNA said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:
The civil war if it happens will be Druze and Sunni against Shia. Bye bye popular support in the Arab world for Hizballah and Syria. And without that, there is nothing going for Syria and Hizballah. They will surely lose the regional confrontation that will ensue.:

I hope no war will take place regionally or localy in lebanon, but I’m wondering why would eveybody else survive it but Syria, Iran and Hezbollah?
A regional war and a possible demise or humiliation of Hezbollah would be a red line for both Syria and Iran and the only way this could be achieved if you destroy both. I can see that in the case of Syria, no body wants this to happen even its worst enemies including Israel. If you destroy Syria and weaken the government there, what would be the alternative?? Israel does not want another, but probably more violent and better armed Iraq at its borders. Jordan would be sandwiched between unstability from all sides; Iraq, Syria and Paletine. Lebanon certainly will be wiped out in the process. Iran would unleash its hell on the gulf and it goes on and on and on. To all of you who are counting on such a senario, it will not happen. Whether you like it or not, Syria and its regime are here to stay for long time to come.

February 11th, 2008, 4:29 am


Alex said:

Enlightened .. you are sure General Sleiman will not do it?

Even Ghassan Toueini asked him to do that … he told him: “it is you mistake … you should have taken advantage of the fact you are very popular to do a coup d’etat … the people would have supported you .. they are all fed up of their leaders”

February 11th, 2008, 4:35 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course the Syrian regime will be around for a while if it does not cause a civil war in Lebanon. If there is a regional war, all bets are off. It will just be weakened by what happens in Lebanon and by isolation in the Arab world.

February 11th, 2008, 4:37 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

A coup for the Lebanese army is out of the question.
First, it will not have international support and Sleiman will not even have enough money to pay the soldiers’ salaries. The Lebanon economy will literally collapse without western or Saudi support.
Second, the ISF is practically the FM militia by now that it will mean the army will fragment.

February 11th, 2008, 4:44 am


MNA said:

Syria survived such an Arab and international isolation in the past during the Iraqi Iranian war and came out triumphant. Some arab governments might try to isolate Syria for few months, but they will not succeed, just look at the recent history. Syria is too important of a player to be isolated. It holds too many valuable cards; Iraq, Palestine (Hamas), Lebanon, its alliances with Iran, Turkey and Russia etc…

February 11th, 2008, 4:51 am


Enlightened said:

Alex NO! He will not do it , if he does it will be similar to that Coup attempt during the civil war when some army official announced an army coup that proved to be hollow!

Unless you know something that we dont and you condone this behaviour?

February 11th, 2008, 4:55 am


Ziad said:

It’s clear as syrian people our real friends in Lebanon are amongst 14 march.Most of 14 march leaders are of syrian origin or have syrian wives.Aoun and Hezb Iran are united because of their hatred of the palestinians and the syrians(people)in Lebanon and the masses who support today Nasrallah most of them worked with the israelis from the begining of the 70’s until 1982,so they can not be a serious danger for the israelis,their resistance is a political chess game with aims of political gains for the sake of the sectarian agenda of the iranian regime and it’s not dogmatic resistance…the iranian khomainist regime has itself an history of secret dealing with the israelis…and today they are the objective allies of the americans in iraq.I dont believe that Israel does like to see Hezb Iran destroyed,it’s also the least bad choice for them.
The syrian regime believe that Israel would protect him for ever because it’s the least bad regime that they can have as neighbors…bashar and his mafia are ready to sell all in exchange of their survival and this is the kind of regime that the israelis like to deal with and dont like to deal with an elected regime in syria…if the international communiry was serious against bashar regime ,bashar and his mukhabarat officers would commit suicide or be put on trial….and it’s simple ,open the Hama massacre file.Democracy in Syria and Egypt ,is the real danger for Israel.

February 11th, 2008, 6:57 am


Alex said:


When you are comparing the situation in Switzerland to the army coup possibility, then you can use those arguments .. but Lebanon today is facing Challenges for civil war from Jumblatt … and a complete paralysis for the past year and more (thanks to the opposition mainly) … you are right that a coup is bad .. but it might be better than the civil war scenario.

Most options are bad … we will find out which one will materialize.

February 11th, 2008, 7:01 am


Alex said:

Dear Ziad,

Our readers here are a bit too slow for your exceptional analytical skills and qualities.

I suggest you don’t waste your time with us … go back to your favorite “opposition” solidarity forum where a group of you can support each other with similar sectarian logic.

Let me suggest to you the last few links of this post:

You have sooooo many good choices really .. you will learn a lot there.

February 11th, 2008, 7:08 am


offended said:

Ziad said;
It’s clear as syrian people our genuine friends in Lebanon are amongst 14 march. Most of 14 march leaders are of syrian origin or have syrian wives. Aoun and Hezb Iran are united because of their hatred of the palestinians and the syrians(people)in Lebanon

okay, my only question given that: what kind of dope are you on?

February 11th, 2008, 7:13 am


Ziad said:

Alex ,it’s your problem if you believe that all the world since 1970 is preoccupied to topple asad ,makhlouf,shaleesh and their moukhabarats.
You know Alex that without the israeli hidden protection and international and arab cover ,the regime would not survive so long.

February 11th, 2008, 7:14 am


Alex said:

Of course Ziad, I know that … I actually read it in many of the highly reliable “democratic opposition” links I suggested you read.

Here is another thing they wrote (last year):

وأكدت المصادر المقربة وشديدة الخصوصية ل »السياسة« إن عروض النظام السوري مازالت معلقة في الهواء، فالاميركيون غير مقتنعين بها، وقالوا إن تجاربهم مع هذا النظام (السوري) علمتهم عدم الثقة به، ويتوقعون أن هذا النظام المتهالك سيواجه مشكلات كبيرة في الاشهر القليلة المقبلة قد تؤدي الى انهياره وزواله.
وكان رئيس النظام بشار أسد نقل أول من أمس على عجل الى المستشفى، دون ان يذكر السبب، او المرض الذي ألم به. لكن المصادر تقول ان أسد مصاب منذ أمد طويل بالارق وقلة النوم وتوتر الاعصاب، ويعاني من عدم التركيز الذهني والرغبة في تناول الطعام، ومن ضغوط كثيرة تمارس عليه من قبل وسطه العائلي الذي يبدو انه غير مقتنع برئاسته التي يتولاها عنه فعليا زوج أخته آصف شوكت. وتوقعت المصادر ان تضافر هذه الظروف السيئة عليه ادى الى اصابته بانهيار عصبي ادى الى ضرورة ادخاله الى المستشفى لتلقي الاسعافات السريرية الفورية اللازم

February 11th, 2008, 7:25 am


why-discuss said:

Joumblatt sounds like Ben Laden giving green light for violent confrontations and the elimination of the ‘pro-syrian’ race.
I wonder why the press and the foreign diplomats give him such importance as he is just representing the druze, a 400,000 minority in Lebanon. Is it because he is a hysterical extremist and because he calls for blood and that the thirst for blood and revenge is part of the Lebanese psyche? I hope Lebanese will be able to reject this
evil pingouin and come back to a more mature political dialog.

February 11th, 2008, 8:34 am


why-discuss said:


Iran has been successful in all its fronts since they toppled the american puppet, the shah, and got rid of the hundreds of CIA agents in the American Embassy Fortress in Tehran.
Some of their foreign political and military successes: By using US proxy, they got rid of Saddam, they got rid of the Taliban, they weaken Pakistan. They are now selling gaz all over the region. Whether you agree with the regime or not, you must admit they have outsmarted the US and Europe and make most arab countries including KSA as weak.
Their presence in Lebanon through their allies have also brought fruits: The “loyalist” group heavily and overtly supported by US and Europe is in a dead end. They failed to elect a president of their choice and now they will fail to have Saad Hariri as a prime minister.
Lebanon may soon be another success for Iran to reduce US influence in the region to its advantages. Until now, the proof being the desperate and hysterical screaming of Jumblatt and Hariri, they are seem to succeed.

February 11th, 2008, 8:52 am


T said:


You’re paranoid. (Not to mention a ‘conspiracy nut’ as you refer to ‘secret organizations’ etc).


Why do the Arabs agree to kill each other to further US-Israel/Western designs? Jumblatt and the others will be dumped the minute their usefulness is finished. But what good is power and money anyway if you’re dead? Could you please give a short comment on this? (I realize this is a colonial issue, not even an “arab” one but we are dealing with the current ME context afterall).
Thank you for any insights.

February 11th, 2008, 11:09 am


ausamaa said:

Is it because the interests of some Arab rulers, or surrogates, converge tightly with those of Israel and the US. Especially if they are so-called moderates and have no popular, political, or ideological basis to justify their being the rulers of the countries they rule. And, maybe, just maybe, because they were created, or imposed on their people, supported and protected by the West of course.

Why else ya3ni??

The US support Israel, those certain Arab Governments and Persons support, or follow, the US. What conclusions can one draw from such a simple equation?

February 11th, 2008, 1:03 pm


T said:


Yes that is true- but consider Saudi for example. The plan has always been to eventually Balkanize the region and one by one each of the larger states is being dismantled in accordance with this scheme. The last state on the list is Saudi- but it IS on the list- no doubt. By helping the US eliminate their rivals, they also eliminate potential allies, fellow arabs/muslims. Arent they conspiring in their own ultimate demise?

Or do they really think once all the others are neutralized that they will be left intact because they are “friends of the Americans?” This is what I dont understand. Or maybe they just want to stay in power as long as possbile and not worry about the ugly stuff down the road? It defies logic. (I realize we are projecting events a generation ahead here).

February 11th, 2008, 1:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You mentiond the “we can take you down”. You cannot blame me for being paranoid, since you won’t tell me who these “we” are.
How will I sleep at night?

My smuggness goes to especially high levels when you ask questions that the obvious answer to is that democracy is required in the Arab world. Not the US kind or the Israeli kind but maybe the Indian kind or any kind you would like. It is needed in Egypt and Syria and in Lebanon and all over the Arab world. Because when people have true liberal democracy in which minority rights are respected, they solve their problems using courts and ballots and not violence.

And then I relish the irony of the situation and my smuggness rises to stratospheric levels. You know what the answer to the Arab world’s problems is. I am not telling you anything new. But you can’t bring yourself to adopt it or support it because it means surrendering to American and Israeli “hegemony”. You have intellectualy backed yourself into a corner that you aren’t able to get out of. You can’t do the right thing because in your mind it would be the wrong thing. But not doing anything perpetuates the dismal condition of the Arab world.

So my suggestion to you is simple. Instead of thinking how to “take me down” why don’t you figure out how to take yourself up?

February 11th, 2008, 2:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Joshua,

Thank you again for your excellent follow-up to my queries. As usual, I have more questions than answers, but perhaps they are better questions than the ones I had before.

Why in the world would a reasonable Lebanese back opposition demands or think that Syria offered anything but endless and futile warfare?

This is the sadness of the whole affair. Syria’s prospects of winning or regaining the Golan do not seem good, which suggests that we are in for endless turmoil. In particular, Lebanon will likely get the brunt of the bad news because it is the weakest power in the region. As in the 1980s, it is likely to be used as the battleground for regional disputes. At the same time, March 14th’s prospects of winning are not good either. This is bad news.

A while back, I wrote a post entitled “The Day After Tomorrow,” in which I argued that the day following the resolution of the Lebanese crisis would be perhaps more important than the actual resolution itself. As the rhetoric and violence escalate in Lebanon today, I am even more convinced of this.

As you have said, it looks very much like there will be no real winner or loser, in Lebanon. Some kind of compromise will be worked out in order to stop the bloodshed, and unfortunately it seems that it will take a good deal more bloodshed to convince our leaders that they must take one collective step back. On that day, I believe that everyone will be lined up in front of the Parliament and given straitjackets, to be worn for the next several months: M14 will be forced to keep their hands off the issue of 1559; Hizb will be prevented from engaging in any more theatrics with Israel in the near term. There will be no sudden moves: we will enter an underwater slow-motion zone of legislative paralysis, in which nothing is done …. until the parliamentary elections of 2009.

This is my reading of the near term. As for the medium-term, however, that will depend almost entirely upon Syria. Given the way that the opposition has behaved in the past few months, though, I am not optimistic. The various leaks about the high-level negotiations have revealed what many suspected from the beginning: the opposition’s strategy is essentially to prolong the paralysis for as long as possible. Paul Salem expressed this succinctly. The strategy is to … wait. And wait. And wait. Of course, it’s important to appear to loosen a demand here or there every now and then, but these accommodations have proved to be, time and time again, mirages.

I like to imagine that I am a reasonable person, balance in my views of the situation, reserving criticism for both sides. In terms of actual characters with leadership qualities, I prefer the opposition; in terms of politics, I think M14 started out with the right idea but have steadily mangled it because they don’t have a great compromiser like the late Hariri, running the show. It was too much idealism, too soon.

But even I have come to be completely fed up with the opposition’s farce of a “consensual” negotiation process. They have pushed it too far. It’s not sustainable. And this has been almost certainly due to Syrian decree, consequently delaying any real nation-building in Lebanon for several more years. Perhaps this was Syria’s goal all along — to re-synchronize the Lebanese “clock” with that of Damascus.

This is why I have pointedly asked you and others here, in responding to my questions, to separate the interests of the regime from those of the region. Sometimes those interests coincide: the Syrians have a far better grasp of Middle Eastern realities than, probably, anybody at the moment. However, they do not always coincide… and the most obvious example of this, to my mind, is Lebanon.

February 11th, 2008, 2:53 pm


T said:


WW1, WW2 and most of the conflicts in between were initiated by or between liberal democracies, though democracy was not the issue. Those battles- like today- were ultimately resource wars. Period. (Though all sides harass us w/ their agitprop- Islamism, zionism, patriotism etc.)

When you agitate to bring your “democracy” to Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the same vehemence as you do via Syria- then we’ll discuss intellectual integrity and consistency in your crusade to bring democracy to the Arab World. You aim democracy as a weapon to be wielded for regime change against non-compliant opponents you cant subjugate. The other dictatorships (Egypt, Saudi, Jordan,Bahrain etc) are ‘moderates’ you can work with (maneuver/manage/manipulate). Your smugness reminds me of the Christians who came to “civilize (democratize) the savages”.

This just leads back to the endless issue you reiterate like a broken record. But your arguments are flat, one-dimensional and insincere (to put it politely). Maybe you could get Norway or some such non-colonial state with credibility to front for your cause. You are not the ones to do it. Your nation is perceived increasingly as a gang of arrogant @#$$$ that beat up old women and kill little kids to steal their land. Well-financed hoodlums.

That is the Zeitgeist sir, I suggest you catch it, instead of blaming those who have the balls (without resorting to Cialis) to say what most already think.

February 11th, 2008, 2:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


In both WW1 and WW2 Germany was not a liberal democracy. Get your history straight.

Again you miss the point. What do I care if there is democracy in Egypt or Syria or Jordan? The lack of democracy is what makes the Arabs weak, so why should I mind? It is YOUR business to bring democracy. I am not agitating for anything. I am only pointing out that the solution is clear but you are unwilling to adopt it because you think it would do me good. And I feel quite smug about this intellectual connudrum you are in: You want to make the Arabs stronger but you can’t because you believe (wrongly) that the process will make Israel and the US stronger. How delightful!

February 11th, 2008, 3:42 pm


T said:


You have spent months on this blog agitating for democracy in Syria. Now you say you didnt? We have your own words in writing (and Alex’s numerous scoldings to you for doing this). If you dont like an argument? You just lie, then call it a day. Whatever. Your cognitive functions are conflicting and irrational. Its a waste of time. And boring. You need the kind of help this blog- or pills- cant provide. Maybe intense therapy would help. Or exorcism.

February 11th, 2008, 3:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Alex scolds me for pointing out that there is no democracy in Syria and that is where its main weakness lies. But check what I write. I wrote many times that Syrians have to be the agents of their own democracy and that I am not for any use of force in this regard.

You seem to think that I am trying to force democracy on you. Of course not. What you do is up to you. You prefer to live in a democratic country while accepting a dictatorship in Syria. I find that inconsistent but to each his own.

In this specific case I am pointing out something to you that you fail to understand. You admit that democracy is the way for the Arab world. Not the US or Israeli kind but some better kind. Saudi has to change. Egypt has to change. Jordan has to change. Syria has to change. Yet, you are not willing to go down this path because you believe democratizing the Arab world will make Israel and the US stronger.

And here I explain again why I am smug:
1) If the Arab world remains as it is, it will remain weak and only grow weaker.
2) You are willing to pay this price because you (wrongly) believe that reform will make Israel and the US stronger.

February 11th, 2008, 4:20 pm


Akbar Palace said:

In many respects, I believe the Palestinian cause is lost. It is hard to see how an independent Palestinian state will be created.

Joshua –

I agree. It is hard to see how an independent Palestinian state will be created if it doesn’t change its priorities from resistance and the eradication of Israel to peace, billions in aid, and a thriving economy.

But this is out of our control. We don’t set the priorities in Palestine. The PA does.

February 11th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Alex said:


In the case of Jumbblatt … he went too far three years ago when his calculations allowed him enough confidence to go that far in opposing the Syrians and siding with the Saudis and Americans.

In 2005 it looked very much like the Syrian regime was about to follow Saddam one way or another (US Invasion, popular uprising in Syria, Assad family fighting, weak Bashar leadership …). But what Jumblatt did not realize was that most of the news he read or heard about Syria’s prospects at the time were fabricated, misguided, overly optimistic (for those who are not fans of the Assads) or repetitive of originally fabricated “news” and rumors.

By now, Damascus made it clear to him that there is no going back this time… after he promised to kill Bashar and after he called for a US invasion of Syria.

So, he continues betting on the only option he can bet on becasue he has no other option … but he is a very smart man and he knows that the odds are against him.

Of course the right thing to do in this case is for him to step aside and allow a less confrontational leader to replace him … but he won’t… Power is addictive.

The other thing I noticed is that the last time I criticized Jumblatt in a conversation with one of my good Druze friends … he cried! … he made it clear to me that Walid is beyond criticism. I hope Jumblatt did not recently elevate his status to a religious leader among his community. They certainly have wiser candidates for that title.

February 11th, 2008, 5:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Jumblatt threatens Damascus with car bombs and assassinations. Damascus does not send threats. It sends car bombs and assassinations! Yes, yes, we’ll have to wait for the official word. But even if we simply take the pre-2005 record, it’s not a pretty one.

Let’s spread the censure around a bit more equitably.

February 11th, 2008, 6:04 pm


T said:


So many of the obstacles we’re seeing are really not political but psychological then? So I stand by my recommendation of therapy for AIG (and for the Druzer who actually cried over Jumblatt not being infallible)?!


Maybe I can reach you allegorically since you seem a bit off in the reality realm… See enclosed.
I had humbly hoped the blog would reread Animal Farm, but no one listened- AIG especially.

February 11th, 2008, 6:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

For all of you who like to moan about how The Daily Star is a mouthpiece of March 14, please read the editorial below.

And, for the record, the newspaper also covered Jumblatt’s destructive comments under the headline, “Jumblatt welcomes ‘return to war and chaos’ in Lebanon.” Hardly a vote of confidence for the guy.

Threats and the politicians who make them are imperiling all Lebanese
By The Daily Star

Monday, February 11, 2008

The past few days have made Lebanon’s political crisis even worse. Irresponsible politicians have taken their reckless rhetoric to new depths of irresponsibility, issuing overt challenges to engage in civil war. Most Lebanese are frightened by this new escalation, and those who are not should think long and hard about what good could possibly come from bloodshed. Ordinary Lebanese are exasperated with the entire situation and the political elites who have caused it. Rancor and threats might satisfy the urges of a few egomaniacs, but they can only convince additional numbers of Lebanese that whatever they invest in their country – effort, money, time, etc. – can only be wasted by “leaders” bent on confrontation.

Only by agreeing to a formula that institutionalizes the practice of governance can the ruling March 14 regime and the March 8 opposition break the dangerous cycle of accusation, insult and threat that now grips the country. Unless they rule out the gun as a means of resolving domestic political issues, violence and the prospect thereof will continue to poison the atmosphere. Several of the issues that divide them are relatively minor, but some are nothing short of existential: Such questions cannot satisfactorily be answered unless and until the very possibility of armed conflict is taken off the table.

Calming the situation has to be a top priority, especially since Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s latest visit was squandered by the parties he has been seeking to reconcile. Until he or someone else can do this, those who utter provocative statements are only imperiling the entire country. Many people would be blamed if the situation were to degenerate, but those who openly call for war would have no defense. Bringing an end to the crisis demands that both sides begin to rebuild some degree of trust, something they cannot do by hurling insults and threats.

As many have opined, the crisis must have a Lebanese solution. Granted, outside mediation can help, but it is the people of this country who have to live here, and therefore it is their representatives who must agree to the necessary terms. Sadly, we are still waiting for the politicians to accept these and other responsibilities, let alone act on them. Only a drastic change of course can save Lebanon from its most petty and most powerful people. No one else can save a country from itself, especially one that has tried the international community’s patience on so many levels. Calls to arms are just the most obvious obstacle to the maintenance of civil peace: Others include a lack of professionalism especially when it comes to policy ideas, the absence of which has allowed the realm of politics to be governed solely by thuggish tactics. Keeping Lebanon from being drawn once again into this maelstrom of destruction is the responsibility of all political figures in the country. Ending the war of words is the only to way they can do so.

February 11th, 2008, 6:11 pm


Nour said:


The fact that the Daily Star writes one editorial expressing an ostensible position of neutrality does not mean that it is not slanted toward March 14. If you look at the overall product, you cannot but conclude that the Daily Star has an obvious March 14 bias.

As for your comment regarding Jumblatt and Damascus, I think Jumblatt knows perfectly well that Syria has nothing to do with the latest waves of bombings and assassinations. His rhetoric never had anything to do with right and wrong. But rather it had everything to do with his narrow sectarian and invidual interests.

February 11th, 2008, 6:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Nour said:

If you look at the overall product, you cannot but conclude that the Daily Star has an obvious March 14 bias.

Nour, we’ll simply have to agree to disagree, as usual. The editorial line of the Daily Star (with the exception of Michael Young’s pieces) has been quite equitable about dishing out the blame on both sides.

Interestingly enough, I don’t think I have ever read a piece of journalism in any of the pro-opposition papers that are critical of Aoun or Nasrallah. Nor have I ever heard anything out of you or other pro-opposition types that is critical of a single move by your beloved leaders. Why is this? I will happily point you in the direction of my own criticisms of M14.

I think Jumblatt knows perfectly well that Syria has nothing to do with the latest waves of bombings and assassinations.

It sounds like you and Jumblatt know something that Mehlis, Brammertz, and all of the assassinated politicians and soldiers don’t know. Please, do tell!

February 11th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Jad said:

SYRIA: Wealth gap widening as inflation hits poor.

February 11th, 2008, 7:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I admire your effort. But you see, examining the totality of the evidence and having an opinon that is not totally favorable of Asad is “too much criticism” and it “just plays into the hands of the Zionists and Neocons”. It is better to lie to yourself and wish your problems away.

And please don’t think the tribunal and its results are going to change anyone’s mind. It is “clear” that the tribunal was/is influenced by the US, Israel, the Jews or that it was bought by Hariri. After all, if the Jews can cause 9/11 and make people believe it was the Muslims, couldn’t they influence the tribunal?

There are only two options. Either you and I are very sick and as T says need psychiatric help or there is some deep sickness among our interlocutors. The upside if you are an optimist, is that there are some that agree with us but think lying is better than endorsing anything that may put the Syrian regime in danger. They are at least rational.

February 11th, 2008, 7:57 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

If you do not want us to be hostage to “the truth” which will probably take years to show up (if it ever does), then we wil have to rely on probabilities

I believe that there is a 25% probability that Syria ordered Hariri’s assassination. Other suspects include: Al-Qaeda types, Western or Israeli intelligence, Rifaat Assad, Geagea, Jumblatt … or a combination of the above.

Are you not happy with these probabilities?

If you are not, then why? … and can you please list for me how you will break down the 100% probability pie among the different suspects.

If you are, then … why do you feel that there is symmetry between Jumblatt’s 100% certain threat to kill Assad, and his 100% certain frequent lobbying in Washington to invade Syria … to Syria’s 25% chance that it killed Hariri.

The other murders in Lebanon … I give them an even lower probability for being ALL made in Damascus. We know for a fact that Hawi’s people later blamed Israel for killing him.

In 2005 the Syrians were really in a difficult situation. They were definitely not in the mood to get in more trouble by killing Hawi or Toueini … always in the worst possible time (before UNSC discussions on Lebanon)

And I fnd it really hard to believe that Syria would kill someone like El-Hajj… it is one thing to accept the possibility that the Syrians “had no choice” but ot get rid of Hariri because they knew he was planning things against them, or if some revengeful moukhabarat type could not stand Gebran Toueini anymore and he absolutely wanted to get rid of him … but El-Hajj?!

To believe M14 charges that Syria would kill El-Hajj is to believe that Bashar is a murderous Madrasa graduate type. If he was that type, then all teh western journalists who interviewed him are really gullible … all of them, without exception.

So, if those car bombs were not ALL gifts from Damascus .. then Jumblatt’s “focus” on Syria is not good … he is partnering with others who are behind some of the other car bombs while going totally hysterical over anything related to Syria.

While in Syria they stopped even mentioning Lebanon in public unless they are asked.

I don’t think there is much to compare Jumblatt to Syria.

AIG … you are not sick, but you are too influenced by Netanyahu’s tactics in arguing with the Arabs.

You still repeat the “you chose to live in the democratic west but you don’t allow Syrians to the same rights” … I answered you many times that it is about the risks involved in dramatic change, not “democracy” itself that I fear.

And you still fail to read any criticism we have for Syria … if we don’t criticize the things YOU would like us to criticize then we are too blind in our support to Syria.

And QN is definitely not sick, he is one of the smartest people I know… I probably agree with at least 80% of what he says.

Try to think using probabilities instead of being stuck with dichotomous, certainty type of options all the time.

February 11th, 2008, 8:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The upside if you are an optimist, is that there are some that agree with us but think lying is better than endorsing anything that may put the Syrian regime in danger. They are at least rational.

AIG, who are you thinking of?

February 11th, 2008, 8:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Let’s say hypothetically you know that Asad is a thug but think that Syria is not ready for democracy and that the alternative to Asad is the Muslim Brotherhood and that then the fate of minorities (of which you are one or related to one) in Syria may be very bad. So you hold your nose and support Asad and defend him against the “Neocons” to make sure Asad stays in power. Then, your position is rational because you are acting in your own best interests. I suspect there are a few comments from such people.

February 11th, 2008, 8:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


QN asked you a good question that you ignored. If the tribunal finds that Syria is guilty in the Hariri assasination to what percentage would your conviction rise? It is currently 25%, to what will it rise?

For example I think the tribunal is imparital and if the tribunal concludes that the Jumballatt or the Mossad murdered Hariri I will accept it.

February 11th, 2008, 8:45 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I believe that there is a 25% probability that Syria ordered Hariri’s assassination. Other suspects include: Al-Qaeda types, Western or Israeli intelligence, Rifaat Assad, Geagea, Jumblatt … or a combination of the above.

Are you not happy with these probabilities?

If you are not, then why? … and can you please list for me how you will break down the 100% probability pie among the different suspects.

Alex, I’ll take your 25% and raise you another 25%, at the minimum. To me, there is more than a 50% likelihood that Syria was behind the Hariri assassination. Of the other parties that you mention, few of them would have had the technical and insider ability to carry out the crime, and of the ones that could (U.S./Israel) it simply does not make sense to me. Nobody in their right mind would have imagined the fallout of the assassination to become what it did, and so taking out Rafiq al-Hariri with the sole objective of bringing down the Syrian regime seems to me to be a particularly ingenious piece of foreign manipulation, and a completely implausible one. So I say over 50% chance the Syrians did it. But who knows? We’ll have to see what the U.S./Zionist/Hariri/KSA funded tribunal says.


As for breaking down the rest of the pie… I really don’t know. Probably “al-Qaeda elements”. T_Desco has documented the case for jihadi involvement in various assassinations, and I think this is persuasive.

If you are, then … why do you feel that there is symmetry between Jumblatt’s 100% certain threat to kill Assad, and his 100% certain frequent lobbying in Washington to invade Syria … to Syria’s 25% chance that it killed Hariri.

As for symmetries, to my mind there is a very clear asymmetry between words and actions. I don’t like Jumblatt, but he can complain and make threats and goad the Americans all he likes. That comes with the territory in a country that does not punish free (but inconvenient) speech. It is one thing to make threats (which make you look silly and pathetic), and another thing to commit murder in the service of politics. By the logic that you present, any member of the Syrian opposition is more reprehensible than his jailer. I don’t buy this argument.

And by the way, I also don’t believe that Syria killed El-Hajj, and I am a little tired of M14 rushing to blame Syria every time something happens. We can agree on that much (and more of course!)

The other murders in Lebanon … I give them an even lower probability for being ALL made in Damascus. We know for a fact that Hawi’s people later blamed Israel for killing him.

In 2005 the Syrians were really in a difficult situation. They were definitely not in the mood to get in more trouble by killing Hawi or Toueini … always in the worst possible time (before UNSC discussions on Lebanon)

This is probably true. Lebanon is a dangerous country, and there could be several different groups operating. I’ve said as much in the past. But I would not discount Syrian involvement in at least some of these cases, even when they later seemed to be inopportune. Remember, it takes a while for a regime to realize that a certain strategy is not working. Look at the Americans in Iraq. They still haven’t figured it out. Look at the Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank. Clueless. Why do you think that the Syrians are any better, with respect to Lebanon?

You’ve said yourself that you believe Syria made mistakes in Lebanon during the last few years it was there. Corruption, forcing the parliament to submit to its authority vis-a-vis Lahoud’s extension, and many other examples of heavy-handed occupation politics. It takes a while to change the direction of a juggernaut.

Also, it seems so academic to sit at our computers and rule out the chances of Syrian involvement, based on the less than ideal timing prior to UNSC resolutions. Do you have any idea of what an assassination does to the psyche of an ordinary citizen, let alone to the psyche of a potential target?? Let me tell you: it paralyzes you… you begin to think about your children, your spouse, your parents, and what would become of them if you happened to be in the car behind the one that blew up. You begin to wonder whether this is all really worth it. More than anything else, you just want it to stop, and you’ll do almost anything to suspend the constant fear and paranoia.

And this is all in the mind of an ordinary person, not a potential target! This is why you carry out assassinations: it’s because they are usually far more effective in making a political point than they are inconvenient in terms of UNSC resolutions.

So, is there anti-Syria hysteria? Sure, and I’m very tired of it, as it has made an already murky situation much worse. But does this mean that Syria should not be watched very carefully, even as it continues to contribute to the paralysis in Lebanon? Not in my opinion. As Joshua said earlier, Syria will not compromise on the power of Hizbullah, at any cost besides the Golan. So, we’ll have to wait … and watch.

February 11th, 2008, 9:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I personally agree with 81% of what Alex says. The other 19% can be split up as follows:

5% = pure Baathist rhetoric

5% = typical Arab rejectionism

5% = insufferable Syrian superiority complex

4% = questionable taste


February 11th, 2008, 9:09 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

25….???????multiply by four

February 11th, 2008, 9:23 pm


ausamaa said:

Did anyone watch Aoun’s press confrence today. He came across a as very sober, straight-forward and sincere poilitician. CAn the mini Harriri and the Feb 14 crowd really stand up to to the Coalition of the reasonable and capable set up by the Lebanese Opposition?

Wht comes to mind when you see Nassrallah or Aoun or Frenjieh talking is the old Um Qalthuom’s song: واثق الخطوة يمشي ملكا

Can you seriously say that for Mini Harriri’s, Junblat’s and Ja’ja’s
lunatic statements. Until they tone thier speaches down at following interviews?

February 11th, 2008, 9:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


This is the beginning of an interview that Aoun (“a sober, straight-forward and sincere politician”) gave to Middle East Quarterly, in 1995.

Tell me again how sincere and trustworthy you think he is.


Middle East Quarterly: Is the civil war in Lebanon permanently over?

Michel Aoun: Personally, I never call the war in Lebanon a civil war. It was a war between the country to the east, Palestinians, and Lebanese. Syria favored the destabilization of Lebanon by helping Palestinian armed groups. The war started between Palestinians and Lebanese, then developed sectarian consequences.

The war in Lebanon will never restart if Syria is neutralized. In Syria, then, you see both the origin of this war and its end. Syria is playing the role of a pyromaniac firefighter.

MEQ: Might the fighting start up again if the Syrian troops withdraw?

Aoun: There will never be war again if Syria is neutralized internationally. There will not be war in Lebanon if Syria were to withdraw. The Syrians and some other Arab countries encouraged an uprising that caused this war of twenty years.

MEQ: Was it inevitable that Christians flee Lebanon, irrespective of the civil war? Is this not part of a larger exodus, under way for decades?

Aoun: Yes, and especially after the so-called Ta’if Accord, which I call the Ta’if Dictat. Several things started happening to Lebanon. First, it lost its political identity by giving up decision making to Syria. Secondly, it lost its cultural identity in the drive to Arabize. But Arabic is not scientifically a rich language so Arabizing reduces us to a cultural backwater. There are no scientific works in Arabic because the Lebanese have chosen to speak foreign languages and participate in a world culture.

Thirdly, there is a demographic invasion. This is not simply a matter of internal changes but a lack of control over borders. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners, especially Syrians, are entering Lebanon. In addition, many Lebanese, whose families have been rooted in Lebanon for centuries, have left. But those who have left Lebanon have not left for good, and they will return when the situation improves, foreign forces withdraw, and the rule of law is restored.

MEQ: Has the Syrian occupation brought any benefits?

Aoun: No, no, no. It is an occupation that never worked for the good of the people.


I would not be so confident in him, if I were you.

February 11th, 2008, 9:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


“5% = insufferable Syrian superiority complex”

This is not fair! I thought this was an Israeli problem. Can we have nothing of our own in the middle east?

We should have a discussion one day on Israel’s aims and successes and failures in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank at least, given its goals, Israel in my opinon is not doing a bad job. I would agree with you that Israel’s policy vis a vis Lebanon has always been bad but we would probably disagree on what the right things to do would be.

February 11th, 2008, 9:50 pm


Alex said:


I like your suggestion regarding the time it takes a regime to realize its strategy is not working … convincing… But

But you made Jumblatt sound like simply someone who is exercising his right to speak what’s on his mind since Lebanon is that wonderful place that allows free speech… the fact is … Jumblatt and most other M14 figures have made it their ultimate goal to take revenge from the Syrians .. and they have engaged on a daily basis in various activities (not only words) to try to convince the Americans to bomb Syria .. to convince the Saudis to boycott Syria .. to convince the French to not make a phone call to Damascus … and in the process they achieved nothing but an incredible amount of hate towards Syria in Lebanon .. if you want to respect Jumblatt’s right to speak, then you need to equally respect Syria’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty … you can’t have it both ways.

The huge mistake of the M14 group is that they went beyond what Aoun decided to be the right approach to Syria after its withdrawal from Lebanon … he decided that as long as Syrai is now out he is willing to have the normal good relations with Damascus .. but the M14 warlords wanted to play international politics .. they wanted to receive those phone calls from Dick Cheney’s office… and they wanted to take revenge from Syria … and in the process they are responsible more than anyone else for what is happening today in Lebanon.

Norman and Ausamaa will tell you that I always write to disagree with them when they say that Syria should continue to arm and to eventually fight Israel for the Golan…. we all need to know what is beyond our reach… if the Syrians made the mistake of responding to the last Israeli attack (taking revenge) by firing a few missiles on Israel (as was proposed by a few people I talked to) then I would have been very disappointed … even if Israel attacked Syria … Syria needs to calculate the different options, and if the military one is not the wisest, then it should be forgotten. And it was.

remember .. Israel’s attack on Syria has a 100% probability associated with it .. unlike El-Hajj’ and Hawi …etc.

And remember that Israel killed 1400 Lebanese (majority were innocent) … compared to Syria’s alleged (up to) 10 or 15 politicians.

But Jumblatt and Hariri and Seniora did not go to sleep and wake up everyday thinking how they can defend Lebanon from Israel or how can they take revenge from Israel … because that would have made them no receive that prestigeous phone call from Washington, or that nice chek from Riyadh.

They got addicted to playing international politics … they are selfish … it is all about their ego and power.

And one last comment … car bombs scare regular people, I agree and sympathize … I would have left Lebanon immediately (I’m a chicken sometimes)… But the warlords who ordered the killing of thousands of Ebanese during he civil war are not going to be scared from seeing one dead politician per 3 months… Syrians know that Geagea will not run away to France. So I don’t think your reasoning is valid there.

The Syrians have been in Lebanon since 1976 … that’s 32 years ago … While they did not have extensive experience with how Lebanon reacts after a popular prime minister like Hariri is killed and Syria is accused, but they leaned long time ago that war lords do not get scared from car bombs.

February 11th, 2008, 9:56 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

That was Aoun in the 90’s when he was in exile in France and when all the current Feb 14 independence stooges were scrambling to kiss Syria’s ass day in and day out. Today, after Syria is out of Lebanon, Aoun’s tone and objetive are changed. Unless you beleive in ever-lasting and purposeless blind hatered. In that case, and just for example, the Pope in the Vatican shuold keep fueling heatered and incitement against those who crussified Jesus Christ? And this has happened only 2000 years ago. Way after God “gave” Palestine to the Jews as they claim and as Hertzel remebered later in the twentieth century.

Cheers…and thanks for bringing the matter up!!

February 11th, 2008, 10:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Jumbalatt was scared to death by the murder of his father by the Syrians. I am quite sure Jumbalatt is still afraid for his life but has decided to die fighting instead of on his knees. Age will do that to you since you understand that you are going to die anyway.

I agree with you that any foreign policy based on revenge does not make sense. However, I don’t think this is the case with Jumbalatt and March 14. There is now as good a chance as ever to have a Lebanon free from Syria and Iran and aligned with the west and March 14 has decided to seize the opportunity. Will they succeed? I don’t know for sure but it is now or never. They won’t have a better chance and they are going for it. I respect Jumbalatt’s courage now because we both know that failure will be very costly for him personally and for the Druze sect (I don’t respect what he did during the civil war).

February 11th, 2008, 10:27 pm


ausamaa said:

“I don’t know for sure but it is now or never. They won’t have a better chance and they are going for it”

Keep counting and waiting for that chance….and one has to admit: Hope Springs Eternal. You guys gonna give them a hand to make things easier for them, or have you learnt an expensive lesson back in July 2006????

February 11th, 2008, 10:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is there to wait? We see it happening. It will either succeed or it won’t. And of course we will give them a hand if a civil war starts and they request it or if Hizballah fires at Israel. You think Hizballah can beat the other Lebanese forces when those are supported by the Israeli air force?

As Alex explained, be happy that Syria learned the lesson of the 2006 war and did not retaliate when Israel attacked it in September. You see, Syrians are fast learners.

February 11th, 2008, 11:09 pm


ausamaa said:

Now I get, the Israelies lost the July 2006 War because they were not supported by their presumed Lebanese allies. Now, and if those Lebanese ‘allies” assist Israel, then Victory would be in Israel’s sight..

Would Israel need any additional help from any other “friends” to win against Hizbullah??

The July 2006 war did really throw Israelies off balance and “off logic” as well. Didnt it?

Besaider AIG, this is normal in such cases of Post Trumatic Shock; despair, disorientation, and hallucinations I mean!!!

But again, count on the well-trained elite forces of Harriri and Junblat and Ja’ja, they might acheive what your Golani Brigade did not in 2006.

February 11th, 2008, 11:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The usual trash talk from people with 60 years of under achieving. Are you related to Nasser?

February 12th, 2008, 12:00 am


Qifa Nabki said:

if you want to respect Jumblatt’s right to speak, then you need to equally respect Syria’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty … you can’t have it both ways.

Alex, you and I both know the prospects of actually convicting Syria are very slim. Even if the Tribunal is fully funded by KSA, and even if they find the guys who did it, as you’ve said yourself, the final responsible party will be several iterations removed from the crime itself. It is going to be very difficult to actually pin this on Syria in a perfectly unambiguous way, and Jumblatt knows this. So, he’s going to do whatever he can to hurt the Syrians, and since he can’t send car bombs to Damascus, he’s going to make threats, and sow hatred, and try to convince the idiots in Washington to do it for him. I never condoned his behavior, if you will recall; I actually condemned his stupid comments about war and chaos and rushing to blame everything on Syria. At the same time, however, I’m not going to treat Syria as innocent til proven guilty. I’ll treat Syria as suspect until proven guilty, as a result of its history of meddlesome and deadly politics in Lebanon.

But the warlords who ordered the killing of thousands of Ebanese during he civil war are not going to be scared from seeing one dead politician per 3 months… Syrians know that Geagea will not run away to France. So I don’t think your reasoning is valid there.

I don’t imagine the Syrians were trying to scare the likes of Geagea and Jumblatt! Those guys sleep with guns under their pillows, and a Kalashnikov in their wives’ lingerie drawers. The guys who are easy to scare are the technocrats, academics, and businessmen, the Ghazi Aridis, Tarek Mitris, Michel Pharaouns. They are not cut out for ruthless bloodsport. It was a fair gamble on Asad’s (or whoever’s) part to try to scare them into either defecting or resigning. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have, under the circumstances.

February 12th, 2008, 12:26 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

AIG’s post above is offensive. How long are the powers that be going to put up with Another Arrogant and Rude Israeli Troll and his negative contribution to discussion?

February 12th, 2008, 12:26 am


Alex said:

Here is a part from Dr. Alon Ben-meir’s latest article which I like because of one specific word … because it is exactly what I was trying to say above about those who are destroying the Middle East while they focus on Syria…. this equally applies to Jumblatt and M14 group, or to this administration, or the Saudis …

And what of the administration’s obsession to marginalize and isolate Syria? It pushed Damascus steadily into Iran’s belly, a result that should have been obvious. Refusing to be ignored and threatened with regime change, Syria spared no effort to become the regional spoiler. It has allowed Hezbollah to arm to the teeth, provided political support and facilitated financial assistance to Hamas coming from Iran, while turning a blind eye to the infiltration of insurgents and weapons into Iraq. The 2006 summer war between Hezbollah and Israel was just another unhappy consequence of Mr. Bush shortsighted Syrian policy.

February 12th, 2008, 12:27 am


Enlightened said:


I remember reading that interview with Aoun a long time ago, what this highlights is his complete switch around to his former foes, with a veneer of pragmatism to achieve power. However he is not the only chameleon in Lebanese politics as we well know. The M14 group is made up of a few Syrian ass kissers as Ausamma eloquently put it earlier.

I note with interest the tone of some of the comments that most are fatalistically expecting a armed conflict. This might be a little premature by perhaps two months. My guess is that if the impasse is not settled by the time that the Arab League summit convenes in Damascus then the gloves will be off. And most of the regions players will be entering the conflict (by proxy as I dont see them getting involved with feet on the ground apart from the Iranian Republican guards).

However this can be all averted, if M14 will back down on the Tribunal. This is the red herring really all else is bunkum. Given their track record of backing down on other issues this still might be possible, if they feel that this is a fight they cannot win.

February 12th, 2008, 12:43 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Time to switch subjects… we’ve hit another one of our dead ends. 🙂

New post please, Joshua!

(Enlightened, just saw your post. I am currently in denial mode re war in Lebanon. It won’t happen, it won’t happen, it won’t happen… see? So, I don’t know what you’re talking about.) 😉

February 12th, 2008, 12:44 am


SimoHurtta said:

What is there to wait? We see it happening. It will either succeed or it won’t. And of course we will give them a hand if a civil war starts and they request it or if Hizballah fires at Israel. You think Hizballah can beat the other Lebanese forces when those are supported by the Israeli air force?

Hmmmm AIG doesn’t your “nation” including you blame Syria and Iran interfering in Lebanese politics and here you are promising (with what authority I do not know) to interfere in Lebanese “politics” using the normal (=only) Israeli foreign policy methods (bombs and indiscriminate killing). The Israeli/ AIG’s political and especially military support for Lebanese Christian and Sunni groups certainly doesn’t make them more popular.

I find it amusing that “the chosen people” whose whole “system” is based on extreme religious views, even some of them call themselves secular, are so against an other country’s religious based movement. Hizbollah has only been active in its own “land” against foreign invaders and naturally against other domestic groups but in the same way they have been against it. If an Hizbollah guerilla is shooting Israelis wandering around Lebanon it gives hardly an excuse to call them terrorists. Actually the ones who entered Lebanon without permission are the terrorists.

On the other hand the Lebanese army is completely incapable of protecting the country so Hizbollah performs much of the function of a real national army. Israel didn’t leave voluntarily South Lebanon. It left only when the price of the occupation grew to high. Without a force like Hizbollah the AIGs (living in Israel) would certainly return to the Litani water resources.

For an north European Lebanese politics is far to complex to understand. What I can’t understand why the deadlock is not solved starting from one man one vote basis and electing a new parliament if it is really the question of democracy as claimed. What is obvious that in the end the outsiders are not the main course of Lebanese long lasting instability. It is the “insane” division of political power to different religious based groups which do not any more reflect the facts on the ground.

PS AIG a funny news from Israel
Israeli town sues Google over claim it was built on Arab village

AIG Palestine was empty of people when the European Jews arrived. Wasn’t it? What if Palestinians would sue the modern Israeli right wing history claims for rather for the numerous fictive details?

By the way
“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu`a in the place of Tal al- Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab Population.”

Moshe Dayan, Address to the Technion, Haifa ( as quated in Ha`aretz, 4 April 1969)

Hmmmm …

February 12th, 2008, 12:52 am


Alex said:


I understand I sound like I am suggesting that the Syrians are saints. They are not.

But they are not the thugs that the others tried hard to make them.

The Syrians are willing to use limited violence if they need to. But they don’t rush to start using it as a fundamental tool.

You know that Ghassan Toueini has been a strong critic of Damascus for decades … did they touch him? .. their army was in Lebanon until 2005 and Jubran and Ghassan Toueini were criticizing them non stop … if your theory was valid then it should have been applicable in the case of the two Toueinis … when the Syrian army and moukhabarat were in Lebanon.

They could have killed Arafat when he “betrayed” them like Hariri started to betray them in 2005… Arafat basically took the Palestinian card away from Damascus and gave it to the Egyptians and Jordanians… Hamas was nothing then.

They could have killed many others.

And they do not allow the need for revenge to steer their decisions like many other in the Middle East do (including Israelis often). Iraqi intelligence documents shows that Aoun tried in 1999 to convince Saddam to pay for a couple of missiles to allow him to shoot down Hafez Assad’s plane as he was passing near the French Swiss borders on his way to see President Clinton.

Bashar is not trying to take his revenge from Aoun the way Jumblatt wants to take revenge from Bashar …

Finally … I will tell you a story about Jumblatt and Syria:

A friend of mine (a journalist) Knows Walid personally. While my friend was in Damascus’s Sheraton Hotel he noticed Walid Jumblatt having a coffee there. He asked him “What are you doing in Damascus?” … Walid answered “last week I said things that Hafez surely did not like … so I thought that the safest place I can hide is … here in Damascus”

Then he laughed.

I am not sure if I have a moral to this story … I’ll think of one : )

February 12th, 2008, 12:56 am


Enlightened said:


( You are right lets stay in denial if we say it enough, then if the stars all align, and if Geagea and Jumblatt, realise they are really long lost brothers and go on a endless search to find their lost siblings, Saad and The Sayed get jobs as clowns in a circus, and Aoun finally admits that the riviera is better than Lebanon for his egomania and takes Berri with him, then we will be left with the real movers and shakers Amin Gemayel and Seniora and what better men than these two placid souls to be left to the vultures of Lebanon?)

PS: I just received a joke about a Lebanese and a Syrian at a checkpoint in the civil war, i fell out of my chair laughing!

Sim its good to see you back

February 12th, 2008, 1:06 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I like the Jumblatt story. Maybe he’ll book a suite at the Damascus Sheraton at the end of this whole ordeal, and retire there!

We could go back and forth on this subject for hours, and I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing us talk about insignificant little Lebanon, when there are far more important things happening in the region.

Besides, I often wonder what the politicians, warlords, and religious leaders think of all the millions of people who sit around in their living rooms, psychoanalyzing them, arguing about their deepest intentions and motivations. For all we know, a fat mukhabarat guy sitting in Tripoli one day in late 2004 got angry because Hariri didn’t pay him his customary bribe for quieting the olive oil workers union, and decided to call up some of his old buddies from the 80’s, and get a little revenge.

We may never know.

February 12th, 2008, 1:15 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Out with it!

February 12th, 2008, 1:16 am


Akbar Palace said:

Simohurtta said:

Hmmmm …

Sim –

It seems your madrassa conveniently cut out portions Dayan’s quote to benefit the Jew haters. The full quote goes as follows:

The quote is taken from an address Dayan gave to Technion University students on March 19, 1969. A transcript of the speech appeared in Ha’aretz on April 4, 1969.

In answer to a student’s question suggesting that Israel adopt a policy of punishing Arabs who commit crimes in the West Bank by deportation to Jordan, Dayan answers that he is vehemently opposed to this idea, insisting that the answer to the longstanding Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to live together with Arab neighbors. He goes on to say:

We came to a region of land that was inhabited by Arabs, and we set up a Jewish state. In a considerable number of places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages. You don’t even know the names [of the previous Arab villages] and I don’t blame you, because those geography books aren’t around anymore. Not only the books, the villages aren’t around. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, and Gvat was established in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Huneifis and Kfar Yehoshua in the place of Tel Shaman. There isn’t any place that was established in an area where there had not at one time been an Arab settlement.

Dayan’s conclusion was that the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to coexist with them.

In the misquote, the key phrase “we purchased the land from Arabs” is omitted, and thus Dayan’s meaning is reversed. Dayan was not saying that Arabs were dispossessed. On the contrary, he was indicating that though Arabs sold the land of their own free will, given their presence in the region, the Israeli goal is to live peacefully together with them.

Anyway Sim,

The next time you find a bad translation of the Palestinian media, just make sure you let me know.;)

February 12th, 2008, 1:27 am


Enlightened said:

QN; Its on my mobile, Il try and get my more smarter and articulate computer literate wife to transfer it to computer and il send it to you, it came from Lebanon you have probably heard it they were trying to outwit each other in smarts! the usual thing but with a funny twist.

February 12th, 2008, 1:42 am


majedkhaldoun said:

what will happen is verbal words, it is what we call,MARJALEH, a display of power,strong rhetoric, but will not reach a level of acctual gunfire, why/ because the leaders are wise,I mean Nasrallah,Jemayel,and Hariri, at the end of the day they will sit around the carpet play Bargysse,sip tea, and eat Tisqiyah,and Tabooleh.

February 12th, 2008, 2:04 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Small earthquake in Damascus, and Eimmar company ,which will build the eight Gate in Yaafoor, has just lost large amount of money, and its stock lost 6.6% today.

February 12th, 2008, 2:16 am


Enlightened said:

” Id prefer them to sit on the carpet sip tea, then slap themselves silly”

QN; ” I ve had an enlightened moment” I know how to solve this Lebanese problem! Do you remember that Film West Beirut?

The child in the Brothel complains that the war is raging outside to the Bordello madam, and that inside her establishment peace ensures. Why do not we round them up and send them to the same bordello and lock them in and entrust the key to Nabih Berri with strict instructions the are not to be let out until the reach an agreement?

February 12th, 2008, 2:17 am


Qifa Nabki said:


LOL. I don’t think Sayyid Hasan would approve, as much as the rest of them would be game.

February 12th, 2008, 2:23 am


T said:


Well our Israel First (American?) Senator Joe Lieberman advocated recently (oct , 07) that the Palestinian problem in Gaza be handled via population transfer- he called it “population exchange” with Egypt. Convenient isnt it, how the Gaza break then happened to come about…

February 12th, 2008, 2:43 am


Enlightened said:

QN; ” I thought that the Sayyid might have objections” but maybe we can provide him with a teleconference link? We must exhaust all possibilities, maybe he can send one of his subordinates?, then again if all else fails and we cant get quorum maybe Estaz Nabih might negotiate on his behalf?

February 12th, 2008, 2:59 am


norman said:


Your story about Jumblat is interesting as my brother keeps claiming that Jumblat spent his time hanging around the Damascus Sheraton for god know what reason.

I wonder if Lebanon will be better of divided into two states one for the Sunni and Druz and another for the Christians and Shia instead of going to war and after many killings end up with a stand still no winners or losers except the Lebanese people as most war lords stayed in power .any comments ?.

February 12th, 2008, 3:36 am


ausamaa said:

“I wonder if Lebanon will be better of divided into two states one for the Sunni and Druz and another for the Christians and Shia instead of going to war”

That would never, should never happen. Lebanon is one country and shouls stay one for all Lebanese regardless. Should some start seriously advocating that solution, then I will only pray that Syria, yes Syria, rolls back into Lebanon and keep it one come hell or high water. This is to serious to be left to dreamy-eyes Independence-seekers shirt-changing pitty politicians to toy with.

I know this sounds gross to many, even to myself, but this is not a popularity contest after all.

Lebanon is one and should remain one. Look at Iraq and see where things can go if it is totally abandond by all. If it takes a few more years for pitty politicians and their backers to understand this, fine, but it is their fault for toying up with the realeties of the area and for failing to rise to the task of governing their country when Syria pulled out.

I know this will not happen, same as I know that there will not be a repeat of the Civil War, not because of a sudden surge of Patriotisem in some of the Lebanese “Zuama” mentality, but because the balance real of power on the ground is on the side of the Opposition.

But, when Hafez al Assad went into Lebanon the first time, Syria was much weaker than it is today, and he did not risk doing that just for the sake of having a few more kilometers added to Syrian territory. He had more important reasons to do so, and most of them are more valid today than they were then.

But let us keep hoping that Feb 14 will acknowledge that they have failed in transforming Lebanon as they were hired to do, and such be saved the endless contemplation of the string of scenarios that may come to mind should they continue to “beleive” that they can “pull something off” for their masters and for themselves. Let us see what happens next Thursday, the Lebaneses people may say something different, although I doubt it after Junblat’s statements, Saudi “indefference”, and Harriri’s $52 million bribes.

February 12th, 2008, 8:04 am


why-discuss said:

Israel is obviously against the election of Michel Sleiman even though they keep quiet. A lebanese president who is not only considering Israel as the principal ennemy but who is also the chief of the army is not something Israel likes to see at its border. They will have to bear the military pressure of Hezbollah, the army and the lebanese State unless all are neutralized by a pro-US governement. This is why the opposition wants to see the whole team and not just a president who since Taef can be made impotent ( like Lahood)
I would not be surprised if Israel’s numerous agents in Lebanon are trying all they can to make the situation more complicated so either a neutral president is elected or a pro-US governement is chosen that would neutralize the president and the army.
Israel may be better with Aoun!

February 12th, 2008, 9:16 am


Akbar Palace said:

T said:

Well our Israel First (American?) Senator Joe Lieberman advocated recently (oct , 07) that the Palestinian problem in Gaza be handled via population transfer- he called it “population exchange” with Egypt. Convenient isnt it, how the Gaza break then happened to come about…


Without knowing what you’re talking about(feel free to attach a link), I can offer you the following:

The first mistake you made was assuming Joe Lieberman believes Israel comes “first”. As a US senator, I can assure you Joe Lieberman believes the USA comes first. That Americans like George Bush, Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Hillary Clinton are pro-Israel follows naturally due to their commitment to the ideal of democracy, rule-of-law, and the right of a sovereign UN member state to protect her borders.

The second mistake you made is “population exchange”. Before 1967, Gaza was internationally recognized as part of Eygpt. So if the poor Palestinians cannot learn to govern themselves, it may be in the best interest of everyone (including Gazans) to have Eygptian rule.

February 12th, 2008, 11:57 am


T said:


Are you in the IDF like AIG?

February 12th, 2008, 3:11 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Are you in the IDF like AIG


I didn’t know AIG was in the IDF. Did he tell you this?

BTW – Did you find the Joe Lieberman article (re: “population exchange”)? I’d sure like to see a link.

BTW2 – Are you in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade?

February 12th, 2008, 5:01 pm


norman said:

Print | Close this window

Barak visits Turkey to discuss Syria, arms sales
Tue Feb 12, 2008 4:11pm IST
By Dan Williams

ANKARA (Reuters) – Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak started a visit to Turkey on Tuesday and held out hope that Ankara, keen to renew the long-stalled Israeli-Syrian peace track, will have a “positive” influence on Damascus.

Muslim but secular Turkey is the Jewish state’s most important regional ally. But ties were tested last year by an Israeli air strike in neighbouring Syria, seen widely as a possible prelude to any future attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Ankara has offered to help reconcile Israel with Syria and wants to defuse a diplomatic deadlock with the Palestinians amid spiralling cross-border violence in the Gaza Strip.

“Because of the depth of their relationship with the Syrians, they (Turkey) have a definite potential to wield positive influence,” Barak told reporters en route to Ankara, though he declined to comment on any specific peace overtures.

Barak played down the role of Turkey on the Israeli-Palestinian track. “I’m not sure they have a role to play,” he said.

A former Israeli premier whose tenure ended in 2001 after botched peace negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, Barak sees the Syrian track as more promising than the Palestinian track, according to an Israeli political source.

The source said that puts Barak on “different wavelengths” than Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert has voiced interest in talking to Damascus since Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon but has balked at Syrian preconditions such as an Israeli commitment to return the occupied Golan Heights.


A senior Turkish diplomat said Ankara “has been playing the role of facilitator, not mediator, between Syria and Israel”.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan “might deliver a message from Damascus” to Barak, the diplomat added.

Barak confidants said he would also use his two-day visit to Turkey to promote the proposed sale of an Israeli spy satellite and other defence deals.

In talks with Turkey’s Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul and armed forces chief General Yasar Buyukanit, Barak will urge Ankara to buy state-run Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Ofek satellite for an estimated $300 million.

“This deal has been under discussion for years, but Barak’s visit may help clinch it,” an Israeli security source said.

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to have built and deployed its own satellites. The first in the Ofek (“Horizon”) series was launched in 1988. Ofek-7, billed as Israel’s eye on arch-foe Iran, went into orbit last year.

Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed that Ankara wants to advance intelligence-sharing projects including satellites.

Turkey is taking delivery of around 10 Heron surveillance drones purchased from IAI for $200 million, the Israeli security source said, and has voiced a “preliminary interest” in Israel’s Arrow II anti-missile system.

The sources also said Turkey would raise the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with Barak. Israel imposed a blockade on the impoverished Palestinian territory following cross-border rocket attacks by Islamist Hamas and other militant factions.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

February 12th, 2008, 5:31 pm


Observer said:

The Daily Star and Michael Young are by no means friends of Syria, but the articles and the editorials have clearly shown that there is a big problem in the current political class. Gemayel loses the election in the Mtn and he acts as if he won, Hariri thinks that he is a Saudi prince and that patronage with money can make him create controllable Sunni militia, Jumblatt sees that the game is up as his constituency is going to be sacrificied in deal making and he threatens civil war as if he is the King maker of the Presidency. In the meantime, the Lebanese banks are downgraded, and the Saudis injected 1 billion into the central bank to help the goverment pay salaries. While the descpicable politicians in Lebanon continue to squabble, the Shia opposition is beginning to build an alternative economy that bypasses the regular one we know of. Not only is the HA a state where no state existed before, but now the HA is moving to create a separate economic base to protect the Shia community from the cataclysm that is about to befall Lebanon.
Those that are threatening civil war have no clue of how weak and vulnerable they are.
In the meantime, Iraq is slowly and surely coming back to the fore as the attempt to put humpty dumpty back together are faltering. The Awakening counsils have nothing to show for collaboration with the US as services and jobs remain scarce and the prosepct of rehabiliation of the Sunnis is becoming remote. All are arming for the next round and that is why Gates asked for a Pause in troop reduction. How this is going to be possible in an election year marred by a recession for a modern military machine that is so dependent on technology is beyond me. Gates did say that recruitment to the armed forces will remain a problem as long as the deployement to Iraq is present.
Here is some reading

One final word:
It is not worthwhile to respond to the provocateurs on this blog for the aim is to do just that and therefore narrow the debate to one and only one issue where they believe they have the answer and argument for. It is actually typical of those that find their identity through the negative identification of the other as a threat and a menace, thereby justifying whatever superiority complex they have and maintian an inner coherence of victimhood that is numbing to their consciousness.

February 12th, 2008, 6:13 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


On the mark as always. What, in your opinion, is the way out of the crisis in Lebanon, once the immediate issues have been resolved? In other words, once a government is slapped together again, what do you see as the most important priorities to avoid state failure?

February 12th, 2008, 6:25 pm


Alex said:

Bush Urges Lebanese to Hold `Immediate’ Presidential Ballot
2008-02-12 12:46 (New York)

By Massoud A. Derhally
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush urged
Lebanon’s lawmakers to end a stalemate over the country’s
presidential election and resist attempts by Syria or Iran to
influence their choice for the post.

“I am deeply concerned about the efforts of some, including
Syria, Iran, and their allies, to undermine Lebanon’s democratic
institutions through violence and intimidation,” Bush wrote in a
letter to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. “The United States will
continue to call for the immediate and unconditional election of
a new president.”

February 12th, 2008, 6:32 pm


Alex said:

Jerusalem Post:

From Winograd to Damascus
2008-02-12 10:24 (New York)

By SHLOMO SLONIM The Winograd Report is long on generalities and short on specifics. We learn that in going into Lebanon there was never a concerted plan between the government and the IDF about the goals of the operation. Defeating Hizbullah for invading Israeli territory and attacking an IDF unit, with loss of life and the capture of two Israeli soldiers, was the broad aim. But the strategy that was to be pursued, and the tactics to be applied, were never articulated, so they were never formally approved.

The public part of the report does not enlighten us on certain aspects of the IDF campaign in Lebanon, but presumably these are described, and – where called for – harshly criticized, in the secret section of the report, reserved for the higher echelons in the IDF and the

WITHOUT inside information, one can only speculate. But in reviewing the public material, one is struck by the absence of any serious discussion of a critical item – the Syrian factor.

Yet no analysis of Israeli strategy in the Second Lebanon War can be undertaken without factoring in the Syrian quotient. It would appear, that in the eyes of the IDF command and the government officials involved, the war commenced as a search and destroy operation, without any intent of making it an extensive engagement. Once it was clear that advancing against the Hizbullah was not a simple matter, IDF chief of general staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz proposed bombing Hizbullah supply lines and bases in Beirut and elsewhere to induce them to capitulate.

Despite the considerable success of this strategy, it did not break
Hizbullah, and it was finally recognized that only a major ground
operation could do the job. Israeli strategy has always been to avoid frontal attacks, since these are costly in lives, and may not achieve the desired aims.

A FAVORITE tactic is a pincer operation in which the enemy falls into the lap of two converging forces. Given the entrenched nature of Hizbullah forces, this would have been a natural approach for the IDF. Had it been undertaken, the Hizbullah line would likely have been outmaneuvered and the Katyusha rocket launcher sites would have been within easy reach of IDF forces.

Such a move, however, would have entailed mobilization of some of the reserves so as to increase the necessary manpower, and a vast addition of equipment and supporting services. This was certainly not beyond the scope of Israeli power, and had it been undertaken it would have taken a heavy toll of Hizbullah forces. But a campaign of such dimensions in Lebanon carried with it the threat of possible Syrian intervention in the conflict – and Israel was not prepared or interested to widen the battleground to this degree.

It was one thing to punish Hizbullah; it was another to become
entangled in a major war that was neither warranted nor essential for Israeli security.

It was only when the Security Council was on the verge of adopting a resolution instituting a cease-fire that Israel could attempt to
inflict punishment on Hizbullah and gain some tactical advantage from the new lines, confident that Syria would not intervene, in what was essentially, a limited operation on the eve of the war’s windup. This explains Israel’s belated move in the last 60 hours of the engagement – but it was done at frightful cost in IDF lives.

In sum, it is only by taking the Syrian factor into account that one can appreciate the reason for Israel’s failure to rout the Hizbullah, and to cleanse southern Lebanon of terrorist activity. The war demonstrated several vital conclusions:

That air-power, as essential as it may be, still cannot determine the final outcome of a conflict. A ground operation is absolutely

Secondly, that wars are like chess – one must figure out in advance, not only your own move, but the reactive move of the opposing party, the next step, and the step that follows this move, with all of the possible implications down the line. Perhaps our generals, and certainly our political leaders, should be first tested on their mastery of chess before we allow them to launch campaigns.

Originally published by SHLOMO SLONIM.

(c) 2008 The Jerusalem Post.

February 12th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

“Saudi Arabia has embarked upon its most ambitious project to date: the 10 x 10. Saudi Arabia has pledged to become one of the top ten most competitive economies in the world by 2010 and has set in motion the mechanisms necessary to reach this critical, and non-negotiable, target.”

If you click on the above link, stick around on the site long enough to see all the pictures that circulate on the banner. Most hilarious of all is the one of yachts idly drifting by the carefully manicured front lawns of what could only be ‘ordinary’ Saudis. It’s like Venice meets Montecarlo meets Westchester.

February 12th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Alex said:

Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus

Staff Reporter of the Sun
February 12, 2008

WASHINGTON — A foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama is scheduled to arrive in Syria today as the leader of a RAND Corp. delegation.

Zbigniew Brzezinski will travel to Damascus for meetings as part of a trip Syria’s official Cham News agency described as an “important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians.”

An assistant to Mr. Brzezinski, Trudy Werner, told The New York Sun yesterday: “He is leading a delegation for RAND and they will be in Damascus. It is a high-level delegation and they are meeting with some high-level people in the region. There is no shortage of issues in the Middle East to discuss as I’m sure you know.”

Mr. Brzezinski’s visit to Syria, a country President Bush has accused of arming terrorists and ordering political assassinations in Lebanon, is in many ways in keeping with a theme of the Obama campaign. The Illinois senator in August said during a Democratic debate that he would be willing to meet with foreign adversaries, earning a rebuke from Senator Clinton, a Democrat of New York, who said such an approach would be “naïve.”

On August 24, Mr. Brzezinski, a one-time national security adviser to President Carter, announced in an interview on Bloomberg’s satellite news channel that he was endorsing Mr. Obama, and he has been an adviser to the campaign since.

A spokesman for the senator’s presidential campaign, Tommy Vietor, said the campaign did not know Mr. Brzezinski was leading the delegation. “The first we heard of this trip was from you,” he said. He added: “Brzezinski is not a day-to-day adviser for the campaign, he is someone whose guidance Senator Obama seeks on Iraq.”

A supporter of Mrs. Clinton, Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said he found it hard to believe that one of the Illinois senator’s main advisers would not know that his visit to Syria would appear to have the tacit consent of the Obama campaign.

“People are going to say if you are advising Obama, you are representing Obama,” Mr. Engel said. “At this time when we are in the middle of an election, I can’t believe that for him to go to Syria at this moment would not appear he was going with at least some tacit approval of the candidate he is advising. I would think he would realize that,” Mr. Engel said.

Mr. Bush has had a bifurcated policy toward Syria in the past six months. On the one hand, his administration openly accuses the regime of rogue behavior, and he has not yet sent a full-ranked ambassador to man the American embassy in Syria.

At the same time, the secretary of state in November invited the Syrians to participate in a regional peace initiative with Israel at a conference in Annapolis, Md.

A spokesman for the State Department, David Foley, yesterday offered no comment on Mr. Brzezinski’s scheduled travel to Damascus. “In light of the ongoing Syrian interference in the presidential election process in Lebanon, the continued flow of foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria, the continued support for Palestinian terrorist groups and Hezbollah, we call on Damascus to cease its destructive tactics.”

A source familiar with Mr. Brzezinski’s travel to Damascus yesterday said the visit was not coordinated with America’s embassy there, but that embassy officials would be available for discussions if requested.

A press officer for the RAND Corp., Lisa Sodders, said the trip was organized by the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy. She offered scant details on the trip, which she said was not meant to be covered by the press. She said the delegation would be “meeting with several different people, community leaders and government officials throughout the Middle East.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Brzezinski met with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. Syrian press accounts said the delegation would visit Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad; vice president, Farouq al-Sharaa, and foreign minister, Walid Mouallem. Neither Ms. Sodders or Ms. Werner would confirm Mr. Brzezinski’s meeting partners in Damascus.

Mr. Engel yesterday said he was not a particular admirer of Mr. Brzezinski’s, though he praised his intelligence. He said the former Carter administration official addressed Democratic lawmakers last month at a retreat at Williamsburg, Va., on America’s policy toward Iran. “I remember thinking, ‘Why are we listening to him?’ He was the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter 30 years ago. He proceeded to talk to us about Iran, and I said, ‘Let me see, didn’t the ayatollahs come to power, didn’t we have this problem when you were in the White House?'”

February 12th, 2008, 6:47 pm


Alex said:

Kuwaiti, Syrian Companies Agree on Joint Venture, Al Watan Says
2008-02-12 01:43 (New York)

By Nadim Issa

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Cham Holding of Syria and three
Kuwaiti companies agreed to establish a $100 million joint
venture in Syria to build government-funded projects, Al Watan

Kuwait Privatization Projects Holding Co., Kharafi
National Group and Kuwaiti Syrian Holding Co. signed an
agreement with Cham to form the venture, Al Watan said today.

The new company will focus on infrastructure, energy,
electricity and waste-management and processing projects, the
newspaper said.

February 12th, 2008, 6:49 pm


Alex said:

[SYR] Qatar plans $250m project in Syria
2008-02-12 05:55 (New York)

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has announced that it will develop two real estate projects in Syria including a $250m mixed-use development near the country’s main sea port, Lattakia, reported Gulf Times. The Ibn Hani Bay resort will extend more than 244,000 square metres on the Mediterranean coast. The other project is a 550,000-square metre commercial and residential district in

February 12th, 2008, 6:50 pm


EHSANI2 said:


“It’s like Venice meets Montecarlo meets Westchester”?

Which Westchester are you referring to? NY?

February 12th, 2008, 7:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That’s the one. 😉

February 12th, 2008, 7:50 pm


Observer said:

The solution in Lebanon in my opinion is to be twofold:
For the short term, allow the election of a consensual president provided the opposition has a veto power over the formation of the next cabinet and set a date certain for the end of that cabinet in 18 to 24 months.
Reform the electoral law to allow one man one vote in the districts where people live or make all of Lebanon a single voting district. If Lebanon is to be divided into a multitude of districts then a neutral and complete census will need to be done by the UN then we will see what are the real numbers of the various constituents.
Now I am assuming that the confessional system will remain the basis of the political division of power. Otherwise, there will have to be a complete separation of confession and state which is not in the forseeable future.
Have a bicameral parliament where each district depending on its population elects a number of representatives and then have a senate where each community has the ability to elect two senators. This is similar to the American system and creates a balance.
In essence the solution is simple:
Two people one with an apple and the other with a knife want to share this fruit; the person with the apple tells the person with the knife, you may slice the apple but I have the privilige of chosing the first piece. This is in essence my solution.
Short term to get the country moving with a new cabinet and a new president and a long term one where the majority does not crush the minority and none is hostage to the other or to outside forces.

February 12th, 2008, 8:10 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Qifa Nabki,

Larchmont, westchester?

February 12th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Larchmont, Scarsdale, Chappaqua… they’re all the same. 😉

I’m actually in New England for the time being. You?

February 12th, 2008, 9:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:


February 12th, 2008, 9:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

How many minutes to the city? (With mild traffic?)

February 12th, 2008, 9:29 pm


Atassi said:

سمع منذ قليل دوي انفجار في تنظيم كفر سوسة بدمشق دون أن تتوفر معلومات بعد عن مصدر الصوت ونتائجه

February 12th, 2008, 9:49 pm


T said:


AIG said so himself. Maybe he can discuss military strategy/theory instead of demogogracy- he’s more suited and its alot more interesting. AIG- are you out there? Can you comment on military history, esp IDF campaign in the Golan in ’67?

February 12th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Alex said:

2008-02-12 17:21 (New York)

Cairo (dpa) – At least one person was killed in a car bombing in
the Syrian capital, Damascus, late Tuesday, Arabic media reported.
The bomb went off near an Iranian school ahead of a visit by
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki planned for Wednesday to
discuss the political crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.
Terrorist attacks are rare in Syria, but President Bashar
al-Assad’s government has blamed past violence that was never fully
explained on Islamic extremists. dpa abc aw

-0- Feb/12/2008 22:21 GMT

February 12th, 2008, 10:25 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

is that what Jumblat wants

February 12th, 2008, 10:46 pm


Alex said:

Strange how we were discussing it only last night.

But there is no shortage in the Middle East for lunatics … Jumblatt is only one of many… there is only a %33.33 chance it is him : )

Where is QN.

February 12th, 2008, 10:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Given the overt threat by Jumblatt, Alex, I don’t see how you only give him a 33.33% chance. I would say at least 50%.


Or, to use the logic of others, this must be the work of Assad himself, to garner sympathy before the upcoming Damascus summit!

In all seriousness, though, this is a very interesting and troubling development. Not to speculate prematurely, but if there is any Lebanese involvement, it means that Jumblatt’s threats were not idle, and Hariri has built up a more extensive jihadist network than previously imagined.

But then again, this is totally premature.

February 12th, 2008, 11:10 pm


EHSANI2 said:

None of these guys would dare take on Bashar in Damascus.

February 12th, 2008, 11:14 pm


Alex said:

XIN) 3rd LD: Car explodes in Damascus residential area
2008-02-12 18:00 (New York)

DAMASCUS, Feb 12, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — A car exploded on Tuesday night
in the residential Kafer Suseh district in Syria’s capital Damascus, witnesses
told Xinhua via phone.

Security personnel and police immediately imposed a blockade in the vicinity of
the explosion site after the incident, said the witnesses.

According to the independent Syria-news website, a silver Mitsubishi Pajero car
exploded in the neighborhood of an Iranian school in Kafer Suseh and damaged
five nearby cars and surrounding building.

At least one person was reportedly killed in the explosion, it added.

An Iranian diplomat here confirmed to Xinhua the explosion near the Iranian
school which teaches religion to Iranian students.

But the explosion did not targeted the Iranian school, said the diplomat.

The Syrian authorities gave no official confirmation.

Kafer Suseh is a large residential area in Damascus which houses dozens of
apartment buildings constructed in recent years, a big shopping mall and a main
Syrian intelligence office.

February 12th, 2008, 11:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Like most Israelis I was in the IDF but I am not know.

The campaign (an over statement for a couple of days of fighting) in the Golan in 67 was well studied. Without air support the Syrian ground forces mostly fled.

February 12th, 2008, 11:19 pm


Alex said:


You are too generous with your 50% + estimates of probabilities!

You know .. there is a particular Saudi Prince who hates the Syrian regime (ask Seymour Hersh)… there are Fatah people for hire in Damascus (some worked t=for the Israelis according to a WSJ article) … there are many who hate the Iranians in the Middle East and Syria allows all Arabs to enter Syria without a visa …

Having said that, I think I disagree with Ehsani .. Jumblatt has nothing to lose anymore … he could be involved in this kind of activity.

Here is what he said. Shmuel is the only one who reported it by the way . The other journalists knew that it was a terrible thing to say, so they covered for Jumblatt … instead of covering Jumblatt.

Jumblatt to Bush: Send car bombs to Damascus

Did he go too far? If he did, it didn’t seem to bother him.

In fact, Walid Jumblatt, the outgoing Lebanese leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, seemed quite amused by the reaction to his blatant suggestion for the Bush administration. He proposed the US “send car bombs” to Damascus as a way to prevent further Syrian interference with Lebanese politics.

It happened at the opening plenary of the conference. The video provided by the Institute does not capture this mini-drama, as it only includes the written, prepared, remarks he was making. But these are also harsh enough in nature.

The car bomb comment, maybe humorously, maybe not, came when he was asked to specify how America can contribute to the struggle of the Lebanese people against Syrian intervention and terror. “I was just joking,” he later said. But he probably knows better than anyone that counting on Bashar Assad’s sense of humor is not a safe policy.

February 12th, 2008, 11:25 pm


T said:


But you said you were a general. So what should Syria have done if they had had their military act together? Or if you dont want to discuss this- please recommend a good book on it?

February 13th, 2008, 1:18 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Where did I say I was a general?
The definitive book on the six day war is Oren’s:

You will be quite dissapointed to learn that the reason Israel won was because it was a democracy. This translated to better preparation, better technology and more motivated soldiers before the war and to better decision making during the war.

February 13th, 2008, 1:57 am


norman said:


I agree with your plans of districts with representatives depending on the number of people while each district as you said has two senators ,I advocated that previously , this plan will make people vote for people they know and trust not for a religious affiliation or ethnic background , I agree that an independent senses needs to be done , two more rules are needed to be enforced ,1- anti discrimination laws in housing and 2_ anti discrimination laws in employment ,

Lebanon should cancel any mention of religion on their ID cards .this plan can work in other Arab states .

Decentralization is essential for unity in the Arab nation.

February 13th, 2008, 2:10 am


Alex said:

Again .. The arrogant editor of Asharq Alawsat comes up with more threats to Syria … like he has been doing for two years now.

Lebanon: The Only Option Left is War
Tariq Alhomayed

The drums of war can be heard beating in Lebanon and all that remains is the actual war – it is clear that all indicators point towards an impending war. Since the murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the string of assassinations that followed, the country has been heading towards a state of suffocation in a surprisingly fast manner.

Hezbollah’s political dominance and the persistence of its adherents in accusing others of being informers, and the suspicion campaigns that are launched in the media at the expense of many Lebanese, in addition Hezbollah’s domination of the city’s public squares in Beirut – are all indicators that foreshadow war. The disruption of the state’s economy, forcing it to submit to foreign control also signals an inevitable war that even the election of Lebanese Army Chief General Michel Suleiman cannot prevent.

Walid Jumblatt’s statements about war and Hassan Nasrallah are not new, however his tone was different; it was the tone of someone who seeks to send a message across to the opposition saying: Stop playing with fire. Lebanon’s opposition has taken it too far and are rigid and difficult; the parliament has been suspended for too long and there is increased provocation against the majority of the Lebanese people, especially since it was this majority that was elected – not the missiles and the Syrian-Iranian support.

Another issue that supports the theory of the looming war in Lebanon is the international tribunal, which must be concluded – and that is the main point. Whoever wants Lebanon’s best interest and seeks its stability must publicly call for holding accountable those who are responsible for wreaking havoc on its stability, and that they pay a high price for that. This is an Arab effort that must not be delayed.

May God forgive what has passed, Arabism and nationalism does not mean spilling blood and the division of Arab states into smaller states and that the power hungry are left to play with our fate and future. Therefore, if Iran is not contained within its geographical borders and if Syria does not come back to its senses, then Lebanon’s security – and that of the whole Arab world – will not be restored.

It is not permissible for everyone to be held in suspicion, which can only drag Lebanon further down the war spiral, while the Arab Syrian front has not fired a single shot in the occupied Golan Heights at a time when Beirut is destroyed every 10 years. Likewise, it is unacceptable for Lebanon to be abducted by the brokers of wars and crises under weak pretenses that transform it into a card in the Iranian-Western negotiations, or an entry pass for Mr. Walid al Muallem to access Western state institutions.

In the past, a number of Arab states were enslaved by their own slogans, but today states are enslaved by the slogans of others. Lebanon is the perfect example of this Arab tampering and manipulation.

The state of escalation that foreshadows war, the marked decline in the political discourse and the long list of assassinations compels anyone who wants to save Lebanon to ensure that there will be a price to be paid by those who are manipulating the state and dragging it into a cycle of perpetual destruction, whether it is other states or individuals, or even groups. Mr. Amr Mousa’s visit and the statements he makes today, we all know, including Mousa himself, are to no avail. Resolving the Lebanese issue does not start in Lebanon – it starts elsewhere.

February 13th, 2008, 2:29 am


ausamaa said:

Junblat sending car bombs to Damascus???

Come on guys!!

And the bombed car in the garage was 5 Kilometers away from an Iranian school not near the Iranian school according to al-Akhbar newspaper. That is how many city blocks??

February 13th, 2008, 4:03 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The PBS series Alex recommends is indeed very good though I suspect you will say it sides with Israel.

February 13th, 2008, 5:45 am


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Explosion Kills 1 in Syria’s Capital said:

[…] According to the independent Syria-news website, a silver Mitsubishi Pajero car exploded in the neighborhood of an Iranian school in Kafer Suseh and damaged five nearby cars and surrounding building. An Iranian diplomat here confirmed to Xinhua the explosion near the Iranian school which teaches religion to Iranian students. […]

February 13th, 2008, 5:59 am


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