The Regional Lebanon Deal: What Does it Mean?

A Lebanon agreement seems to be emerging that would give the Maronite president more power than he has had since the Taif Agreement of 1989 empowered the Sunni Prime Minister at the expense of the Maronites.

Arab ministers meeting in Cairo yesterday announced that they had arrived at an agreement, which would involve two important steps.

1. The first step is the immediate passage of a constitutional amendment to allow Michel Suleiman to become President.

2. The second step is to be the formation of nation unity government.

As we know, the nature of such a national unity government has been contested over the last year and has been the major point of contention between the opposition and parliamentary majority. Hizbullah and Aoun have demanded a blocking third of the cabinet, which has been unacceptable for the March 14 bloc.

Most news stories are still not including details of the proposed national unity government. Naharnet is an example: Suleiman For 'Empowered' President by Unanimous Arab Backing.

This al-Nahar article in Arabic spells out the deal as follows:

 – يعقد الاجتماع التالي في 27 الجاري لتقييم نتائج التحرك واتخاذ المواقف اللازمة بشأنه.‏
وكانت قد رجحت مصادر مطلعة نهار امس ان يكون البند المتعلق بحكومة الوحدة الوطنية ‏يتضمن حكومة من 30 وزيراً يكون فيها 10 للموالاة و10 للمعارضة و10 لرئيس الجمهورية.‏

Of the thirty minister cabinet, 10 ministers will be appointed by the majority; 10 will be appointed by the opposition, and ten will be appointed by the president. This formula is a major innovation that gives the president important new power.

Thus, no side will be able to impose a decision or block a decision. (i.e. the ruling part will not have enough votes to impose a two-thirds majority decision, but the opposition will also not have the one-third vote to block decisions.

The president will have the power to break a cabinet vote that divides down parties lines.

This restores power to the Maronite president that was taken away at Taif and given to the Sunni Prime Minister. It does not give Hizbullah the power it demanded and seems to be a real concession on its part. Ultimately, it takes power away from the Muslims and places it into the hands of the Maronites.

One reading of the tea leaves suggests that Farouq al-Sharaa's visit to the Pope roughly two months ago was to reassure him that Syria favored a greater role for the Maronite presidency. Sfeir has been insisting for some time that a Suleiman presidency requiring a constitutional amendment would be better than a March 14 decision imposed by a simple majority in contravention of the constitution and in contravention of the spirit of the Lebanese tradition of consensus among the sects. Sfeir has been sensitive to Maronite anxieties that Hariri and the Sunnis have taken too much power from the Maronites. He has been leery of a Maronite backlash against a purely March 14 solution to Lebanon's impasse.

The length of a Suleiman presidency was also in dispute. It seems to have been resolved by the acceptance of a shorter term of 2 years, which would allow Suleiman to preside over parliamentary elections due to take place in 2009 and the drawing up of a new election law to precede the parliamentary elections. General Aoun had demanded that it not extend beyond 2-3 years. He hopes to become president following Suleiman's term.

Who benefits? 

Pro March 14 news outlets suggest that the deal only came about due to severe pressure on Syria. They suggest that it is a win for Saudi Arabia and the March 14 allies of the US and France.

Naharnet writes:

News reports said Muallem backed the Arab plan on Lebanon after his Saudi counterpart threatened that the Saudi Monarch would boycott the forthcoming Arab Summit to be held in Damascus in March if Syria continued to block the presidential elections in Lebanon.

Nickolas Blanford in Time explains that Syria faced greater isolation and a reinvigorated UN investigation because it had not disciplined Lebanon's opposition. Both France and the US were fed up with Lebanese opposition insistence on a blocking third. Bush had gone on record to say he was "fed up with Syria," and Blanford writes:

Sarkozy's efforts to engage Syria appear to have foundered, and, in a calculated swipe at the Syrian regime, he immediately followed his announcement of severed contacts with a promise to release funds for the international tribunal being established in the Netherlands to judge the accused killers of Hariri.

This is how Nasrallah responded to such threats in his televised speech: (Quote thanks to

"Indeed the recent statement of President Sarkozy in which he pointed to the issue of the international tribunal means that there is a sort of enticement and intimidation policy, which means that he might have informed Syria that if it extends some help on the Lebanese issue, they will suspend the international court. But in my capacity as a Lebanese oppositionist, I want to submit testimony for history. Syria indeed has an interest in resuming good French-Syrian relations and good Arab relations. Syria indeed has an interest in resuming good European-Syrian relations. It definitely has an interest in distracting the phantom of the international court. But if Syria was only considering its own interests, it would have came to the opposition and pressured it and embarrassed it.

"Eventually Syria is capable of applying pressures, but whether the opposition responds or not is another issue. What happened is that Syria came and talked to the opposition, not all the opposition indeed because there are no contacts for example between Syria and General Aoun. They came and asked us: You as an opposition, what do you accept and what do you refuse?

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora

called the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Sunday, as well as other Arab officials, to thank them for helping find a solution to the crisis, his office said in a statement.

Saniora also called pro-government Lebanese officials and urged them to back the Arab initiative, calling it "a major development on the road to solving the crisis in Lebanon."

But Syrian and Iranian officials have also been underlining their positive role.

Larijani, Iran's foreign minister, who was visiting the Syrian capital of Damascus, said Iran supports any push to create consensus among the Lebanese people. "We wish success for Amr Moussa's efforts" said Larijani, referring to the head of the Arab League, who is scheduled to visit Lebanon in the coming days.

Speaking from Cairo,

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told Hezbollah's Al-Manar television that his country has repeatedly said it is ready to help end Lebanon's political crisis but "cannot put pressure on anyone in Lebanon because the solution should be Lebanese."

Speaking about his meeting Saturday with Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal, al-Moallem said, "Syria has its friends in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia has its friends in Lebanon and we have agreed to cooperate."

Al-Moallem was apparently referring to Hariri, who holds Saudi citizenship and has close relations with the royal family in the oil-rich nation.

Syrian Commentators writing on this site also argue that Syria comes out a winner.

Alex writes:

Basically, the president wins much more power … he has a number of ministers (appointed by him) who will make sure that

1) the majority (Seniora) does not have 2/3 as they wanted and

2) the opposition does not have the 1/3 they wanted

Not what Hizbollah wanted, and not what Hariri wanted … they both do not have enough power to force their agenda on the other side … only the President has that new power which is … a modification to Taif ! Hizbollah will be barely able to accept it .. but I hope they will.

The Christians win. The Shiites (Hizbollah) should be able to live with it even though they are not overly empowered through this arrangement (which makes them less perceived as a threat to the M14 group) and Syria gets its favorite man as President (General Sleiman) without worrying about a Seniora government that can be a threat to Syria. (In Arabic the full resolution)

And Syria wins. They got their man (Sleiman) to be the most powerful man in Lebanon … they did not disappoint Aoun (they did not sell him easily) and they weakened and constrained the Saudi (Sunni) power in Lebanon … without allowing Hizbollah to grow too powerful.

Isn’t that exactly what Syria wanted in the first place?

On top of that it looks like Syria was flexible.

EHSANI2 said:

Alex, Your analysis is on the mark. This is effectively the virtual undoing of the Taif accord. The power swings back to the Christian President.

Damascus played this chess game superbly. It agreed on the deal without seemingly being pressured by France or the U.S. It showed that it is only its leadership that can swing the vote. Its foreign minister stated that it supports a President for Lebanon “fawran…immediately”.

The U.S. has redefined victory in Lebanon in the election of a President there. It can now claim it won.

France has spent so much energy but won little publicly for this final resolution. Damascus upstaged it and won the publicity game as well.

Saudi seems to have agreed to yield more powers to the President’s office. Hariri does not have much to show for his efforts. Like Bush, his victory has been redefined as pushing for the election of Michele Suleiman. I guess he too can claim he won.

The Christians of Lebanon can thank Bashar but they will not of course. Events were moving beyond their direct control or understanding of the bigger picture encircling the region.

Regardless of who won or lost though, this is a major victory and breakthrough for the region.

Honest Patriot, a Lebanese, concludes:

Regardless of how the developments are spun by this or that as their victory, I just pray that deflation does indeed happen. All’s well that ends well and, speaking for myself, I really don’t care who gets the credit. [And judging by your prediction, it sounds like everyone will claim success]. The majority of Lebanese just want to be able to go to their jobs, work hard at advancing their status. I hope they will soon be given the chance to do this more effectively than the current conditions permit.

Nasrallah said in his recent speech that no one can pressure Hizbullah, not even Syria. But he added that as a friend, Syria can ask a lot and Hizbullah will consider it. Perhaps he was preparing his people for a climb down?

In conclusion, here is a final roundup by Alex:

This was not simply a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab league. A serious deal was reached, at the regional and at the Lebanese levels. Here is what happened:

1) Prime minister of Qatar visited Bashar in Damascus the day before

2) Foreign ministers of KSA, Egypt, Qatar and Syria met in Moussa's house. That's where the final agreement was reached. At first Saud al-faisal told Mouallem that Syria's allies are asking for the undoable and that Saudi Arabia (and Egypt) are not going to be attending the Arab Summit if Syria does not help convince her allies to reduce their demands (Which implies that KSA and Egypt WILL attend the Arab summit in Damascus now). Then, Moussa suggested a compromise .. which I suspect he knew already from the Qatari prime minister who was in Damascus earlier, that Syria will accept.

3) They called Seniora to inform him of the deal they reached (to inform him) and and he replied "I completely welcome" the agreement.

4) Hizbollah people were contacted and they expressed a similar opinion. But I have not heard a clear statement from Nasrallah yet.

As I said earlier, I expect that Hizbollah will require some clarification behind the scene when Mouallem comes back … this agreement is borderline acceptable to them. Although I tend to think that wen the Iranian envoy was in Damascus that day and gave his blessing to "Syria's efforts to settle the conflict in Lebanon" that Hizbollah took part in the decision to go along with the eventual Arab League formula.

5) Saad Hariri called this agreement "Noble and Historic" .. that's good enough I assume.

6) Nothing yet from Junblatt and Geagea. They also will need to hear some details from Tareq Mitri when he comes back to Beirut.

Before the Arab league meeting, M14 figures asked Arab ambassadors (Egypt etc) to take firm actions to punish Syria. Similar escalation came from the opposition side. Lebanese Information Minister held a news conference in which he compared the tense situation in Lebanon to that which preceded the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and expressed his worries that similar bloodshed might be ahead for Lebanon if an agreement is not reached.

Most likely we will see many new difficulties. But whatever the extent of the influence of outsiders (Syria and KSA at a direct level, then the United States and Iran behind them) an agreement was reached on the outside after consulting with their allies on the inside. We will now find out if the Lebanese themselves are to blame for their own problems or not.

It remains unclear how this deal will alter the Saudi-Syria competition in the region.

Syria is counting on its backing of Lebanon's Maronites to pay off in the future. It believes that Lebanon's Maronites are more naturally allies of Syria than they are of Saudi Arabia. If Syria can cement the growing alliance between Lebanon's Shiites and Maronites in order to separate them from the Sunni community, which has become ardently anti-Syrian and pro-Saudi, Damascus may be able to cultivate a friendly Lebanon well into the future. Syria is trying to position itself as the protector and benefactor of the region's Christians, not only by coming to their aid in Lebanon, but also by giving Iraqi Christians refuge as they are driven out of Iraq and by supporting secularism. As Washington allies itself with strictly Sunni Saudi Arabia, Syria is positioning itself as an ally – not just of Shiites, but of all minorities. This Syrian stand as the champion of all minorities and secular Arabs may actually convince Israel – the Jewish state – to take a second look at making peace with Syria.

Comments (60)

G said:

but also by giving Iraqi Christians refuge as they are driven out of Iraq and by supporting secularism.

You mean by sponsoring, harboring and supporting Jihadi Islamists and sending them to Iraq to murder Iraqis, including Iraqi Christians. Yes, I seem to recall that. Your hallucinatory statement, on the other hand, I cannot recall.

January 6th, 2008, 10:02 pm


Honest Patriot said:

My friend G,

I agree with a lot of your ideas and positions, but please spare Josh your chastisement in this case. His analysis is clearly presenting how Syria is trying to position itself, without indicating his agreement or disagreement with it. I’m pretty sure this is how Syria will spin its role ( and spin is pretty much fair game in politics everywhere ). There were instances in the past where I disagreed with this or that of Josh’s opinion but this summing up above is an excellent netting out of facts, press reports, excerpts of bloggers’ comments (hey, I’m proud I made it in there 🙂 ), and his own analysis of what each party is working towards.

I say the above in the spirit of leaving room for criticism of and complaining about one or the other of Joshua’s statements or opinions when it is a fair target.

For example, let’s say I want to represent how M14 will be interpreting what happened. I’m going to do so below – and I sure hope none of my co-bloggers who usually argue for M8 and Syria’s positions end up unleashing their wrath on me! I’ll be representing how M14 will be positioning itself below just like Josh described how Syria will do for itself.

Here we go:

M14 will say: Finally, we have our Arab brothers helping us to effect what we have been calling for in the first place, i.e., full respect for the Lebanese constitution, the correct sequence of first electing Suleiman without preconditions and through the parliament, and then opening the door to any and all national dialogue to revisit and change anything and everything – as long as it is done through the lawful mechanisms respecting everyone’s rights and respecting the process of law and order of our Lebanese nation. Gone are (or hopefully will be) the threats of M8 and the looney General Aoun of causing trouble on the streets and risking the stability of our nation. Finally! The world (including the US and France) has scucceeded, by way of the Arab League, to placate those with evil intentions for Lebanon (subconscious message here: HA, Syria, Iran). We have finally won, and all Lebanese and the world will now see that only the rule of law can prevail in Lebanon. We have arrived. Long live democracy. With that, we are, as we always have said, opening our arms to our Lebanese borthers for fair dialogue and progress.

Voilà! I think you’ll like that report of how M14 sees the events, G. And I bet Alex disagrees with M14’s opinion as presented. And I bet Nour and GG and Ausama hate it. I sure hope none of them starts attacking yours truly (the Honorable HP) for interpreting this M14 position. And I trust they won’t (or at least hope they won’t, although they may, legitimately, give a similar version from the point of view of M8, HA, Syria, etc.).

Hey,… as the saying goes,… “can’t we all just get along” 😉

In the end, what matters most (to me at least and probably to the silent majority) is that political jousting in Lebanon moves to the purely political arena: re-open downtown, ensure reconstruction funds and other funds flow into the country to help with compensating all the displaced and those whose homes were damaged or destroyed, ensure peace and stability to give the Lebanese the opportunity to compete on even keel in the world economy, etc., you get my point.


January 6th, 2008, 11:09 pm


Ghassan said:

I am wondering about how the Syrian regime is protecting ITS own minorities: the Kurds! Also, how it is dealing with its people who are demanding more freedom of speech.

The priority of March 14 (Sunni and Christians) is an independent, free, sovereign Lebanon regardless who are their allies!

January 6th, 2008, 11:33 pm


norman said:

Syria did for the Christians in Lebanon , Iraq and Syria , actually I agree Syria did more for the minorities in shape of protection and freedom of religion more than the US , France and all the west combine , The US and France sold out the Christians in Lebanon to the Sunni to buy their friendship , who said Terror does not work , 17 of the 19 Hijackers are Saudis and the US tries to advance their agenda in Lebanon and the middle east , Shame on the US .

January 7th, 2008, 2:48 am


Now about Syrias WMDs... said:

And the American media’s reports?

The London Sunday Times January 6, 2008
For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets
A WHISTLEBLOWER has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.

Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.

She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.

The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims.

However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”

She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.

“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials,” she said.

Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.

The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.

Edmonds, a fluent speaker of Turkish and Farsi, was recruited by the FBI in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Her previous claims about incompetence inside the FBI have been well documented in America.

She has given evidence to closed sessions of Congress and the 9/11 commission, but many of the key points of her testimony have remained secret. She has now decided to divulge some of that information after becoming disillusioned with the US authorities’ failure to act.

One of Edmonds’s main roles in the FBI was to translate thousands of hours of conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political targets that had been covertly recorded by the agency.

A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997, which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. Before she left the FBI in 2002 she heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.

“What I found was damning,” she said. “While the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding what was going on.”

The Turks and Israelis had planted “moles” in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. “The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,” she said.

They were helped, she says, by the high-ranking State Department official who provided some of their moles – mainly PhD students – with security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities. These included the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent.

In one conversation Edmonds heard the official arranging to pick up a $15,000 cash bribe. The package was to be dropped off at an agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who was working for the network.

The Turks, she says, often acted as a conduit for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, because they were less likely to attract suspicion. Venues such as the American Turkish Council in Washington were used to drop off the cash, which was picked up by the official.

Edmonds said: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.”

The Pakistani operation was led by General Mahmoud Ahmad, then the ISI chief.

Intercepted communications showed Ahmad and his colleagues stationed in Washington were in constant contact with attachés in the Turkish embassy.

Intelligence analysts say that members of the ISI were close to Al-Qaeda before and after 9/11. Indeed, Ahmad was accused of sanctioning a $100,000 wire payment to Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, immediately before the attacks.

The results of the espionage were almost certainly passed to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist.

Khan was close to Ahmad and the ISI. While running Pakistan’s nuclear programme, he became a millionaire by selling atomic secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. He also used a network of companies in America and Britain to obtain components for a nuclear programme.

Khan caused an alert among western intelligence agencies when his aides met Osama Bin Laden. “We were aware of contact between A Q Khan’s people and Al-Qaeda,” a former CIA officer said last week. “There was absolute panic when we initially discovered this, but it kind of panned out in the end.”

It is likely that the nuclear secrets stolen from the United States would have been sold to a number of rogue states by Khan.

Edmonds was later to see the scope of the Pakistani connections when it was revealed that one of her fellow translators at the FBI was the daughter of a Pakistani embassy official who worked for Ahmad. The translator was given top secret clearance despite protests from FBI investigators.

Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

Following 9/11, a number of the foreign operatives were taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or somehow aided the attacks.

Edmonds said the State Department official once again proved useful. “A primary target would call the official and point to names on the list and say, ‘We need to get them out of the US because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans’,” she said. “The official said that he would ‘take care of it’.”

The four suspects on the list were released from interrogation and extradited.

Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.

“The people provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information,” she said.

“The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points’, which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.”

One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat.

“He was one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001,” she said.

Once acquired, the nuclear secrets could have gone anywhere. The FBI monitored Turkish diplomats who were selling copies of the information to the highest bidder.

Edmonds said: “Certain greedy Turkish operators would make copies of the material and look around for buyers. They had agents who would find potential buyers.”

In summer 2000, Edmonds says the FBI monitored one of the agents as he met two Saudi Arabian businessmen in Detroit to sell nuclear information that had been stolen from an air force base in Alabama. She overheard the agent saying: “We have a package and we’re going to sell it for $250,000.”

Edmonds’s employment with the FBI lasted for just six months. In March 2002 she was dismissed after accusing a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving Turkish nationals.

She has always claimed that she was victimised for being outspoken and was vindicated by an Office of the Inspector General review of her case three years later. It found that one of the contributory reasons for her sacking was that she had made valid complaints.

The US attorney-general has imposed a state secrets privilege order on her, which prevents her revealing more details of the FBI’s methods and current investigations.

Her allegations were heard in a closed session of Congress, but no action has been taken and she continues to campaign for a public hearing.

She was able to discuss the case with The Sunday Times because, by the end of January 2002, the justice department had shut down the programme.

The senior official in the State Department no longer works there. Last week he denied all of Edmonds’s allegations: “If you are calling me to say somebody said that I took money, that’s outrageous . . . I do not have anything to say about such stupid ridiculous things as this.”

In researching this article, The Sunday Times has talked to two FBI officers (one serving, one former) and two former CIA sources who worked on nuclear proliferation. While none was aware of specific allegations against officials she names, they did provide overlapping corroboration of Edmonds’s story.

One of the CIA sources confirmed that the Turks had acquired nuclear secrets from the United States and shared the information with Pakistan and Israel. “We have no indication that Turkey has its own nuclear ambitions. But the Turks are traders. To my knowledge they became big players in the late 1990s,” the source said.

Marc Grossman
Richard Perle
Douglas Feith and possibly Paul Wolfowitz. Less familiar names include Eric Edelman, Feith’s replacement at the Pentagon, and former Democratic Congressman Stephen Solarz.
Larry Franklin
Brent Scowcroft
Alan Makovsky
David Makovsky
Eric Edelman
Dennis Hastert
Tom Lantos
Dan Burton
Dan Livingston
Roy Blount

January 7th, 2008, 6:27 am


Enid Houston said:

Great interpretation of events in the Byzantine circus of that part of the Levant now termed Lebanon…I wonder if “Porky” had as much luck in his conference in Norman, Oklahma, on a third party among other topics discussed this week-end? American politics is so much simpler in structure, but is still as unpredictable as the wind…and a “Face in the Crowd.”

January 7th, 2008, 8:28 am


offended said:

I wonder if this subject was visited here before: what would be General Sulieman’s stance towards Hizbullah’s arms?

January 7th, 2008, 8:49 am


offended said:

Amr Mousa’s giant mission now is to deliver the food that has been cooked in Cairo. Michel Aoun said that Arab foreign ministers have given a priority for the format at the expense of some of the content. (One would wonder what is this ‘some’ that he doesn’t like).

January 7th, 2008, 9:20 am


offended said:

On a side note: did anyone watch the New Hampshire democratic debate on ABC?

January 7th, 2008, 9:46 am


Michael Young said:

Alex writes that “This Syrian stand as the champion of all minorities and secular Arabs may actually convince Israel – the Jewish state – to take a second look at making peace with Syria.”

So let me get this straight. According to what you imply in the quoted sentence, Syria’s destiny is to be a partner of Israel, since Jews are a minority in the Middle East, as are Shiites, Maronites, Alawites, etc. Or at least the Israelis must understand it that way and make peace with Syria accordingly.

That’s quite remarkable news. Has is occurred to you that that’s precisely the line the Assad regime, ever keen to bolster its Arab nationalist credentials, has spent the last 38 years furiously trying to dispel in order to survive in a mostly Sunni Arab world?

If this is the regime’s new policy; if peace with Israel is what the Syrian regime needs to break out of its isolation, then we are in for some truly amusing times ahead.

I wonder if the regime shares your fervor. I expect they know better, and would not particularly applaud so bold an appeal for Israeli approval and friendship.

January 7th, 2008, 10:43 am


ausamaa said:

That is all way off the mark I think!

Why do all have to (perhaps??!!) wait until 27 Jan for Amer Mousa to review the results of his efforts before an Arab League meeting? It was made to sound as a done deal in Cairo. Right? Syria and Saudi both agreed and HA and Harriri -as if anyone really thought of him then-, and Siniora were telephoned by the “meeting of Four” in Mousa’s house, and all gave their blessings!

Or, are the Arab Ministers afraid of the reaction of a Spolier who was not present at the meeting? Has he been the real Spoiler and instigator since day one? Are they “hoping” to try to sell him the deal when he visits the area soon? Like telling him: come on, forget the 1559 and 1701 stuff, that is all we could get you right now, dont be too greedy! Those resolutions were the real issues, not Aoun, Sulieman or the Sunni or Maronite positions, or the 10 or 6 or 14 ministers after all. Were they not?

Let us wait and see…

January 7th, 2008, 11:39 am


offended said:

On a side note guys: did anyone watch the democratic debate in New Hampshire?

January 7th, 2008, 12:06 pm


ausamaa said:

Of course. Saad Al Harriri did!

January 7th, 2008, 1:00 pm


offended said:

Hmmm, this is probably why he sounds like Hillary Clinton (with all due respect to her of course!)

Now seriously, what was kind of surprising to me in this debate is that only Richardson was advocating re-engaging Syria and Iran diplomatically in the region (with regards to the question of Iraq)

And I thought that all democrats were Pelosi like?!

January 7th, 2008, 1:52 pm


T said:

So where is the honorable Mr John Bolton with his NPT ‘expertise’ in light of the London Times charges? Seems he missed the for-profit proliferators under his own nose. Or was he one of them? That is the squawk on the street as they say…. Maybe thats why he knew so much about Syria’s “nukes”? More revelations forthcoming.

Or will they cover it all up via an Iran “incident”? And nicely timed w/ Bush’s trip to the region. Just like a Grisham novel, or another Jerusalem Post piece. AIG are you out there??? Would love your comments, if nothing else than to take this saga into the SNL sphere- we’re going to need a touch of levity soon, I fear.

January 7th, 2008, 2:18 pm


John said:

The funny thing is that everyone is commenting as if the deal was signed sealed and delivered. For those who know better, my apologies for repeating what you already know, for the rest of you who do not pay much attention to politics in Lebanon and the ME keep in mind that nothing is done until it is done, in Lebanon in particular!
I am a cynic and I firmly believe that our administration (the US one of course) has been a dishonest broker throughout this whole process. It has gone out of its way to push a “NO DEAL” approach and has further divided an already fragile Lebanon…For what purpose you may ask? I do not have an answer, but I am willing to guess that it is all about a neat little package Middle East peace deal that has yet to be opened, but don’t hold your breath…President Bush – the man who is going to the ME soon – has doused any hopes the region may have had by airing his all-knowing analysis and commenting that a comprehensive (or for that matter teeny weeny one) peace deal is not likely to see the light of day! Welcome to the middle east Mr. President !
I can only say one thing…The US needs to take back the lead in setting its own policy in the ME, start acting as an honest broker instead of a biased one and you will see faster results than banking on the wrong alleged democrats in Beirut, Ramallah or elsewhere in the Arab world if they exist…

January 7th, 2008, 2:45 pm


ausamaa said:

Until the dust settles around the Cairo plan or agreement, this is an informative piece from the CSIS on the coming Bush trip to the area:,com_csis_events/task,view/id,1464/

January 7th, 2008, 3:00 pm


ausamaa said:


Things are moving from the Possibles to the Probables on the US election scene; a time of traditional rise in the pro-Israel, anti-Arab talk as experience has tought us. The ever-watchfull eye, and the dangerous claws of AIPAC are too much for a “probable” to engage and antagonize at this point. Once someone gets elected, the tone usually changes. What really matters right now is for the candidates to take the American people away from the hate/confrontation corner the neo-cons have jailed the American street in back to sanity and realism.

Nice words towards (and better relations with) Syria can wait and will come in due course. They are a product and a tool of sane political reasoning and geo-political necessities; things elections campagins are not geared up to tackle.

January 7th, 2008, 3:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As usual you are ready to latch onto any evidence no matter how light if it bolsters your case and ignore all other. When the London Times provides information about the Syrian nuclear program you don’t believe but now you suddenly find them reliable.

So T, is the Times a reliable source or not?

January 7th, 2008, 3:19 pm


ausamaa said:

We guess that it depends to a large degree on wether the London Times considers Israeli actions in the area during the past decades as Criminal acts or as some sort of a manifistation of “Democracy”.

January 7th, 2008, 3:24 pm


T said:

A bit of projection AIG- or a Freudian slip? My God, here it is- right on cue: Well it is the “theater” of war for a reason I suppose. Unreal. Is this a sequel to last year’s Siwftboat Brits fiasco? Maybe SNL & Monty Python should effect a merger??

Iranian ships ‘harass’ U.S. Navy, officials say
Story Highlights CNN
Five Iranian boats made threatening maneuvers toward U.S. ships, officials say

Incident occurred Saturday night in international waters — the Strait of Hormuz

Iranian radio transmission said “I am coming at you,” U.S. military officials say

From Barbara Starr
(CNN) — The U.S. military reported Monday on a “significant” confrontation involving five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats that “harrassed and provoked” three U.S. naval ships in international waters over the weekend.

U.S. military officials said the incident occurred Saturday night in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow shipping channel leading in and out of the Persian Gulf.

The five Iranian ships made “threatening” moves — in one case coming within 200 yards of a U.S. ship, the U.S. officials said.

In one radio transmission, the Iranians told the U.S. Navy: “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” the U.S. military officials told CNN.

When the U.S. ships heard that radio transmission, they manned their gun positions and officers were “in the process” of giving the order to fire when the Iranians abruptly turned away, the U.S. officials said. Watch what U.S. officials are saying about the incident »

No shots were fired and no one was injured in the confrontation.

One of the Iranian ships had been dropping white boxes into the water in front of the U.S. ships, the officials told CNN.

No additional details were immediately available. See a map of the Strait of Hormuz »

In November, the U.S. military reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps had taken command of that country’s naval operations in the Persian Gulf.

Find this article at:

January 7th, 2008, 3:34 pm


Alex said:

Michael Young said: Edit

Alex writes that “This Syrian stand as the champion of all minorities and secular Arabs may actually convince Israel – the Jewish state – to take a second look at making peace with Syria.”

So let me get this straight. According to what you imply in the quoted sentence, Syria’s destiny is to be a partner of Israel, since Jews are a minority in the Middle East, as are Shiites, Maronites, Alawites, etc. Or at least the Israelis must understand it that way and make peace with Syria accordingly.

That’s quite remarkable news. Has is occurred to you that that’s precisely the line the Assad regime, ever keen to bolster its Arab nationalist credentials, has spent the last 38 years furiously trying to dispel in order to survive in a mostly Sunni Arab world?

If this is the regime’s new policy; if peace with Israel is what the Syrian regime needs to break out of its isolation, then we are in for some truly amusing times ahead.

I wonder if the regime shares your fervor. I expect they know better, and would not particularly applaud so bold an appeal for Israeli approval and friendship.

Actually that paragraph was after the part that Joshua quoted me on. Those were his words, not mine. But I will answer it anyway.

Syrians have been saying that peace with Israel is a “strategic decision” since 1991. They never changed their opinion on that. They would often say “Israel is not interested in peace” but Syria is always seeking peace.

So, there is no reversal of any kind. Definitely not to “break out of isolation”. I hope you understand that Syria has not been willing to to compromise on anything significant in order to “break out of isolation”. The Syrians have been on and off “in isolation” since they started opposing the Camp David accords in 1978. Oddly enough, it was the friendly Jimmy Carter administration who first thought of using isolation as a tool against Syria… hoping to get a change of policies (or “change in behavior”).

Carter by now learned that it is a mistake to try to isolate Syria, but the people in the white house still believe they are on the right track, few months before THEY leave office.

Back to your comment about minorities vs. Sunnis:

It is not an either/or choice. Syria (like Lebanon and Iraq) is a place where Sunnis live with many minorities. Plus, Syria has a Sunni majority … the regime understands, I hope you agree, what it takes to manage to survive in power. They will not make a mistake.

Please note that Syria’s closest ally is not Iran, but Turkey. And this seems to be the direction one can expect in the future as well.

But the point that Joshua mentioned is valid, and it has been valid ever since Hafez Assad intervened in 1976 to save Lebanon’s Christians at the expense of Syria’s relations with the Saudis, with Saddam, with the PLO, and King Hussein… all of them later supported the violent campaign on the Brotherhood to remove Hafez from power.

Even on the symbolic level, when Bashar received a delegation of eleven leaders of Syrian Jews from NJ three years ago. When they left the meeting they told him: “Now you have 12 ambassadors in the United States”.

And he enjoys the support of the vast majority of Syria’s Christians I’m sure.

January 7th, 2008, 4:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naturally you would spin Asad’s anti-democracy moves as protecting minorities. But the opposite is true. By delaying democracy Asad is actually endangering the minorities. When the Sunnis reach power in Syria as they will whether it takes 5, 10 or 20 years, they will either do so through democratic means or by war. Since Asad is delaying democracy, it will probably be by war and then the fate of the minorities will be problematic. The only way to save them is to build a democratic society in which minority rights are respected. What Asad is doing and you are are supporting is exteremly short sighted. It is just false that you can protect minority rights by denying the majority its rights not to mention the fact that lack of democracy is an economic disaster for all, the majority and minority.

January 7th, 2008, 5:17 pm


T said:

AIG- Isnt The Times owned by an established advocate for Israel, Murdoch? Why is he allowing the above article to run? Your assessment?

January 7th, 2008, 5:20 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Because your antisemtic view that Jews and and their supporters control the media and influence it for their purposes is just plain wrong.

Jews and Israelis predominantly support a free and open media as all the criticism found of Israel in the press plainly shows. No society can advance without a free press and that is why Syria and most if not all of the Arab countries are so behind.

But then, you would rather attack Israel and the US than better your own society. This is what is mind boggling. Do you really think what you are doing helps Syria rather then if you would work for real freedom of press there? What would help more overcome corruption in Syria, a free press, or attempting to score an irrelevant point against the US and Israel?

Why do you support Asad who represses freedom of speech and the media??????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Why do you accept in Syria the things you detest in the US and Israel?????????????????????????????????????????????????????

January 7th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Alex said:


I would have told you “maybe” to some of your suggestions, but I surely am not close to the extreme terms you use: “economic disaster”, “it will probably be war”, “The ONLY way to save them”, “Extremely short sighted”.

January 7th, 2008, 5:50 pm


Michael Young said:

So the question is addressed to Joshua, not Alex.

Is Syria now, according to you, peddling a minority policy in the Middle East that somehow should put it on the same wavelength as Israel–which, in turn, should induce Israel to make peace with Syria? Is it time to kiss Baathism goodbye, as you have? Should we assume that Hafiz Assad’s strategy was wrong, since he religiously strayed away from any mention of minority politics, let alone their defense?

Dying to know.

January 7th, 2008, 5:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Economic disaster – yes lack of democracy has resulted in Syria being very poor. Compare it to other countries that have chosen democracy in the last 60 years and see what a disaster it is.

If there are no democratic reforms in Syria, the Sunnis will ascend to power through violence. What is the other option? Only democratic reforms will save the minorities from the consequences of this.

January 7th, 2008, 5:56 pm


T said:

I was just waiting for the anti-semitic slur and all the usual stigmatizing smears. But they are wearing thin, sir. Next you’ll accuse me of Holocaust denial or something equally odious and preposterous.
Do the demographics- when I see a Palestinian anchor replacing former AIPAC/Jerusalem Post spokesman Wolf Blitzer at CNN for example, I’ll retract. FYI- Murdoch’s pro-Israel quotes are from his own mouth- not mine. So back to the question. Why is he allowing this piece to go forward- esp if it is not credible as you suggest?

January 7th, 2008, 5:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why are you trying to over intellectualize the strategy of the Asad regime? As long as there are people who would rather lose a hand to see the US and Israel lose a finger nail and people that think that Assad is the best of the worst, there will always be apologists for the Asad regime.

Each person will find the aspect they like in it and Asad knows it:
1) The secular pan-arabists will emphasize the Batth aspects and ignore any evidence to the contrary
2) The islamists will emphasize the support of the Hamas and the insurgents in Iraq as well as the internal move towards religion and conveniently ignore the baathist aspects
3) The minorites will emphasize Asad’s position in protecting them against the sunni tsunami and ignore his other actions (this is basically the Josh and Alex position, an alawite christian coalition of the “scared of any change in the status quo that might bring the feared Muslim Brohterhood into power”).

Asad need not worry about contradictions in his strategy. There will always be enough apolgists willing to ignore them and sing his praise.

Frankly, Josh and Alex’s position is the only somewhat rational one. Of course, it is extremely short sighted and too conservative. The minorities in Syria must initiate the democratic reforms or else will suffer when the Asad regime collapses through violence.

January 7th, 2008, 6:11 pm


offended said:

AIG, take it from a Syrian Sunni (I am saying that only for the sake of illustration, I am not a sectarian person): the regime may not be superbly democratic, but it’s certainly not sectarian.
In fact, the regime has managed to bring different communities (I don’t like to use the word minorities) together and establish some sort of understanding between them. The exception with some of the Kurds is because they are separatists, they simply want out of the state that is called Syria. So I guess nothing can be done to pacify that, not even a democratic state like Spain was able to pacify separatists. It goes against the core principle of a sovereign state.

I am not sure why Michael Young would put up such a redundant comment; it’s obvious to everyone out there that the regime in Syria has always been accommodating for different sects and communities. Is he trying to learn something new? Well then good for him…

And by the way AIG, I couldn’t care less what you think, I am saying what I saying so that people who are reading this blog would have both sides of the argument on the table.

January 7th, 2008, 6:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Your prejudices are stopping you from seeing the obvious answer which is clearly found in my previous post:
The London Times reports all the news it deems worthy even if is against Israel.

And again I would like to know, why what the London Times publishes interests you more than the issue of freedom of press in Syria?

January 7th, 2008, 6:15 pm


T said:

The issue of freedom of press in Palestine (and the USA). Truth had to be outsourced to non-AIPAC territory. That is why we had to get a story of this magnitude, censored in America, from overseas. Edmonds tried for years to get the MSM to investigate her claims. They still wont. What is the American MSM afraid of?
Your comments evoking US-Israel concern for human rights, free press, democracy etc put the discussion right back into that surreal SNL comedic realm.
..How about a Hollywood soft-power version? “Best Little Whorehouse of Texaco?” (that may be reaching too far back into the Reagan years to be understood by present generation. any theater buffs out there who can originate something more contemporary?)

January 7th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Alex said:


The way it works is as follows:

– A Likudist rich man buys a respected newspaper
– It continues to say things that are anti Israel sometimes when there are obvious things to say (like Israeli soldiers killing some Palestinian children that day)
– they hire a few people who are close to Likud/Israel/AIPAC … those people are happy to write opinion pieces, and news stories which are deliberately inline with specific objectives.

And this is not anti-semitic thinking. The Saudis do the same. I had a friendly discussion with one of the editors of Asharq al-Awsat. His newspaper in known to be “notoriously anti-Syrian” according to Seth Wikas (and according to me of course). Yet the editor says he wasy surprised I found his newspaper’s Syria coverage to be biased at all. He also used your example: “look we published many times Syria friendly opinion pieces” … they even have Syria’s Buthaina Shaaban as one of the columnists.

Of course CNN, the Times, and the WSJ will not be 100% Likud propaganda tools, but they are tools when needed.

January 7th, 2008, 6:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are hallucinating about CNN the NY Times and WSJ.
They publish things that sometimes pro and sometimes against Israel but mostly they just report the facts on the ground in an objective manner.

If you think it is so simple to influence the major US and UK media, why didn’t the Arab do this all along? They have enough money.

Is there ANY major news outlet in the US or the UK that you find objective, or are all owned and controlled by Likudnicks?

January 7th, 2008, 7:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You epitomize what is wrong with Arab society. You do not mind repression of freedom of press and speech in your home country but take on a mission to change the western press which is already 100 times more free than the Syrian one.

I just don’t get it. What makes you pursue such a counterproductive strategy? In general I would like to know why so many Arabs are so self-destructive. Why are there so many Arabs like T that would rather criticize the West than improve their own countries??????????????????????????

January 7th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Alex said:


CSM is objective. BBC is mostly objective. NYTimes is much better thatn anything owned by Murdoch.

“Arabs” means Saudi Arabia (not Syria)… why don’t they buy CNN and turn into a pro-Arab network? … i’ll leave the answer to this question to you.

Just remember that we had this conversation before that you started by telling m that I am hallucinating, and ended up by refusing to watch a documentary on how Israel’s freinds systematically try to manpulate the media to the best of their ability … the documentary was done by Israelis and Jewish intellectuals if you recall.

January 7th, 2008, 7:25 pm


Alex said:

Interesting ideas from Asharq al-awsat’s Mamoun Fandi today.

Something similar to my hoax this week … Mamoun is proposing a meeting called for by the head of one of the Arab states … a meeting between President Bashar Assad, Prime minister Olmert, and President Bush during his tour of the Middle East this month.

. ليس خافيا أن ملفي العراق وفلسطين يمران عبر إيران وسورية، فإذا كان الرئيس بوش يريد عزل إيران، فالمفتاح العربي لهذا العزل هو بفك اللحمة السورية ـ الإيرانية، بعودة سورية إلى الصف العربي، هذا يعني إدخال سورية في المعادلة والبحث عن الحل. خصوصا أن الحل على المسار السوري ـ الإسرائيلي معروفة ملامحه تماما. المهم في هذا كله، وحسب الإشارات الإسرائيلية الأخيرة، أن الحل ممكن وسهل بين سورية وإسرائيل. فماذا لو افترضنا أن زعيما عربيا ما أو أكثر ممن سيلتقيهم الرئيس الأميركي جورج بوش في جولته القادمة إلى المنطقة، قاموا الآن بترتيب سريع لدعوة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد ورئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية ايهود أولمرت إلى اجتماع معهم بحضور الرئيس بوش، وليكن الاجتماع في مصر أو أبو ظبي مثلا. هذه هي الدراما التي قد تغير الرأي العام في الغرب والولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل حول جدية العرب في السلام، وقد تغير الحوار برمته. ففي الولايات المتحدة الأميركية انتخابات رئاسية تشكل الوعي الأميركي، وحدث كهذا سيقحم نفسه على كل المناظرات الرئاسية مما يقنع الشعب الأميركي بجدية الطرح العربي. نفس الشيء قد يحدث في إسرائيل مما يشجع ايهود باراك وزير الدفاع الحالي الذي دعا أصلا إلى انتخابات مبكرة. وهذا ما عنيته بأن تسعة وتسعين في المائة من أوراق اللعبة في يد العرب. فالديموقراطيات تخضع لمثل هذه المبادرات السياسية لأنها تحدث ضغطا شعبيا في بلادها،

الحقيقة التي يقولها العالمون بخفايا زيارة بوش للمنطقة، هي أن الغاية الأساسية لجولته هي زيارة المملكة العربية السعودية، لما لها من ثقل في العالمين العربي والإسلامي، ولما لها أيضا من وزن عالمي، في وقت وصل فيه سعر برميل النفط إلى ما يقرب المائة دولار، إضافة إلى العلاقة الخاصة بين الرئيس بوش والملك عبد الله. حيث لا يتردد الرئيس بوش في أي من أحاديثه بالإشادة بشخصية الملك عبد الله كرجل يحترم كلمته وكزعيم ذي مصداقية عالية. إذا كان الأمر كذلك، فلماذا لا يستغل العرب تلك العلاقة القائمة على الثقة المتبادلة بين الملك عبد الله والرئيس بوش لتعظيم مصالحهم؟ المطلوب إذن هو تنسيق عربي مع السعودية، بما في ذلك سورية، واستغلال هذا اللقاء ليكون هو الأصل في القضايا العربية العالقة، ثم تبقى زيارات بوش للدول العربية الأخرى مرتبطة بالعلاقات الثنائية بين الولايات المتحدة وهذه الدول.

أما على المسار السوري، فلا حرج في هذا الظرف التاريخي أن يرتب لذهاب الرئيس الأسد إلى السعودية أو مصر أو الإمارات، للتنسيق حول الجولان ولبنان والعراق. ربما نفهم لقاء وزير الخارجية السعودي بنظيره السوري في القاهرة أخيرا في ضوء هذا التنسيق.. قد تكون هناك صفقة القبول بعمق استراتيجي سوري في لبنان مقابل الجولان، ومقابل فك ارتباط سورية عن إيران مما يؤدي إلى استقرار كل من العراق ولبنان.. هذا في ما يخص العرب.

January 7th, 2008, 7:29 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I saw the documentary and you are hallucinating.

You even admit that there are major western media that are objective. Why then all the complaining and whining from you and other Arabs? The West has an opportunity to get an objective picture and make up its mind. All this “if the west only knew” is BS.

January 7th, 2008, 7:40 pm


GG said:

HP, my “middle aged” sparring partner,

“And I bet Nour and GG and Ausama hate it. I sure hope none of them starts attacking yours truly (the Honorable HP) for interpreting this M14 position. And I trust they won’t (or at least hope they won’t, although they may, legitimately, give a similar version from the point of view of M8, HA, Syria, etc.).”

Read what the plan entails; I think Josh has summerised it well. Now tell me if you think I really care what M14 or its groupies think or claim! The plan speaks for itself! Also tell me, really, do I need to shine the spotlight on the cretinism of M14 or its groupies, when they do such a good job? Smile and the whole world smiles with you; cry and you must be a relative of Sanioura

January 7th, 2008, 7:48 pm


T said:

AIG you’ve cluster-bombed me with cliches and bored me to death. Is that the strategy? It works. Bombard em w/ nonsense till they’re dying of boredom? It is a deterrent of sorts.
The West Bank and Gaza indict you. I dont have to. Until then, high and mighty pretentions of Israeli torturers being better than the other torturers in the region are just that-pretense. I have been to those areas and seen IDF kick a kid’s head in and it aint pretty. Lets see THAT on America’s evening news.
But you may see it on Israeli news.

BTW, I and others have often noted how Israel has better media than Americas’. Allow me to quote from Rawstory on the London Times material–
I have tried getting someone in broadcast and print media to run this story. My sources did not include Edmonds, but because of the sensitive nature of the information, I was concerned that she would go to jail anyway, unless I proved she was not a source – which would require me to reveal my sources.

I thought if I approached a big enough news outlet, the pressure generated by the public response would spare Edmonds jail time and I would not be pressured to reveal sources – something I would not have done anyway. Even a former high ranking CIA officer offered to byline the article with me if that would help sell a broadcaster/publication on running the story. No one was interested.
The media’s response has indeed been infuriating. No American publication has touched the story. You can’t even get the internet publications to talk about this stuff — not Salon, not Slate, not TPM, not the larger bloggers.

Yet the story has been covered by Haaretz in Israel, by the Times of India, by The Australian, and even by Pakistan’s Daily Times.

I guess Americans aren’t supposed to know about treason committed by American officials.

January 7th, 2008, 8:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are hopeless. Getting freedom of press in Syria is “boring”. Criticizing the Western press is much more fun.

Whining about Israel as an excuse for not building better societies, priceless.

Why can’t you be against what Israel is doing in the West Bank and at the same time fight for freedom of press in Syria? What is this great Arab logic that makes this contradictory? Why are you so dedicated to leaving Arab societies under dictatorial rule? How does the Israeli treatment of people in the West Bank justify Syrian repression of speech and freedom of the press for SYRIANS?

I will not hold my breath waiting for a clear answer as muddled thinking is the order of the day.

January 7th, 2008, 8:54 pm


T said:

No justification here for oppression. Clean up your own act or as J Bolton says- put up or shut up. Because you are not for free press, democracy etc in Syria or anywhere else. You are out to get your objectives met. You use these buzzwords and talking points to further and justify your agenda. The hypocrisy is astounding. You quote intl law when it suits you and ignore it when it doesnt. Why dont you crusade about free speech in Jordan and Egypt with equal vigor? Because they’re already prostituted to your agenda- or should I say they are “moderates”- another of those priceless buzzwords.
In your arrogance, you really assume we are fooled. Free speech never bores me. Liars do.

January 7th, 2008, 9:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Right T,
The washington post which was not afraid of bringing Nixon down is afraid to publish what the London Times did. The much more reasonable assumption is that they believe it is false or they think there is not enough evidence to back it.
Keep hallucinating.

January 7th, 2008, 9:10 pm


T said:

And you keep lying. (WaPo wouldnt have touched Nixon no matter what crime he committed if he’d been head of the Knesset or chairman of the Likud).

January 7th, 2008, 9:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Since this is a Syrian blog, why would I advocate freedom of speech for Jordan or Egypt here?
But for the record, OF COURSE I think that the problem of freedom of press is just as pronounced in Jordan and Egypt.

Your arrogance and jumping to assumptions is astounding. Of course I am for free press EVERYWHERE. It is you who are against freedom of press in Syria as your support of Bashar confirms.

And how would freedom of press help my so called “objectives” in Syria? Most Israelis would prefer to see Syria ruled and repressed by Asad because it keeps Syria weak both economically and militarily. I want to see a thriving democracy in Syria and think the Israeli general view is wrong. Apparently you want to support dictators.

January 7th, 2008, 9:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is YOU who are lying. The article is talking about American “traitors”. The Washington Post or NY Times would have no problem at all going after these guys.

And what about the New Yorker? Are they afraid also? Of course not, yet they wouldn’t publish. It is just not credible enough.

And just to be clear, you believe that the Washington Post is afraid of Israeli politicians more than it is afraid of the US president? What are you, a clown?

January 7th, 2008, 9:18 pm


T said:

Clean up your own back yard. Then worry about others’. The WaPo, WSJ and NYT (who just hired OSP fan Bill Kristol, post Judy Miller) are facsimiles of these guys. Why would they rat on themselves? Quite right- they are not afraid. They are sold out and have nothing to fear as they assist the agenda, not oppose it.

Maybe I’ll post a full rundown of media demographics in the US and let the facts/names speak for themselves. A genealogy- From media CEOs of the top 10 companies down to those front and back of view, writers, producers, anchors, researchers etc. Lets see how diverse American media really is- if the stats are proportionate to the population of those who get the jobs. In cold black and white.

January 7th, 2008, 9:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You just agreed a few posts ago that there is good freedom of press in Israel. Most of the criticism of the Israeli army in the west bank comes from Israeli groups and is printed first in Israeli papers. What exactly do I have to clean?

You have to explain to me why you don’t demand 1/100th of the western freedom of press in Syria? Why do you pick on the western press and adore Bashar that represses freedom of press brutally in Syria? Why do you think you are helping Syria by your strange actions and why do you think your actions even make sense?

Why are you trying to make the west better instead of making Syria better?????????????????????????????????????????????

January 7th, 2008, 9:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The NY Times and the New Yorker support the Neo-Con agenda?????
Is that what you are saying? Why isn’t the New Yorker willing to publish the article? Got any good explanations?

January 7th, 2008, 9:42 pm


T said:

Well i called it right when I emphasized ‘theater’. I mean really, your histrionics are absurd- I have never said I “adored” Bashar, or even tolerated him. I havent addressed Bashar. I attempt to clean up my own back yard (US and Israel) before that of other countries because its my duty- I pay taxes to underwrite US-Israel behavior, not Syria’s. I dont pay to support Baath, nor do I pretend to care about democracy so that I can further a zionist agenda to overthrow Baath. And I certainly dont pay taxes to undemocratically overthrow governments that wont do what we want.

And what is it with all those ?????????????????? bullets in your posts? Subliminal smoking gun message? ADD or manic disorder? Or is it just grammatical bad manners. For God’s sake get hold of your punctuation. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior here- this is an educated, literate blog! Its not fair to those who DO adhere to grammatical rules. Again, please clean up your act- on all levels.

January 7th, 2008, 10:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you don’t care to discuss Syria, what are you doing on this blog? There are much better places to attack the US and Israel.

And if you do care about Syria, what is your position about Bashar? Should his rule be supported even though he denys basic rights to most Syrians? And if yes, why?

Those ?????????? are there to highlight the simple question that you can’t answer: Why you demand a better western press but ignore completely the lack of freedom of press in Syria? Why don’t you understand that freedom of press in Syria is what is holding Syria back and not how good the media in the US is????????????????????????
The solutions for Syria come from reforming Syria and not from reforming the NY Times. This is so obvious except to some Arabs like you. I cannot figure out your weird way of thinking.

Even if you assume I am only advocating democracy to push some other agenda (which?), how can you fail to understand that changing the NY Times will not help make the life of any Syrian better? It is only by changing the regime so that it treats Syrians as western democracies treat their own citizens that Syria will imporve.

January 7th, 2008, 10:38 pm


T said:

Ron Pauls offense? He advocates cutting aid to Israel- and all other foreign nations. And he demands no foreign interventions in Iran or Syria and the following resolution during Israel’s 2006 War on Lebanon got him branded antisemitic. This is why those media-control demographics matter.

December 26, 2007, 8:24 pm
Editors’ Note: The Ron Paul Vid-Lash
By The New York Times

A post in The Medium that appeared on Monday about the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his purported adoption by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups contained several errors. Stormfront, which describes itself as a “white nationalist” Internet community, did not give money to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign; according to Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul’s campaign, it was Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, who donated $500 to Paul. The original post also repeated a string of assertions by Bill White, the commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, including the allegation that Paul meets regularly “with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review and others” at a restaurant in Arlington, Va. Paul never attended these dinners, according to Benton, who also says that Paul has never knowingly met Bill White. Norman Singleton, a congressional aide in Paul’s office, says that he met Bill White at a dinner gathering of conservatives several years ago, after which Singleton expressed his indignation at the views espoused by White to the organizer of the dinner. The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul.
Comments (319) E-mail this
The Israel Resolution
by Ron Paul
Before the U.S. House of Representatives, July 20, 2006

I rise in opposition to this resolution, which I sincerely believe will do more harm than good.

I do agree with the resolution’s condemnation of violence. But I am convinced that when we get involved in foreign conflicts and send strong messages, such as this resolution will, it ends up expanding the war rather than diminishing the conflict, and that ultimately comes back to haunt us.

Mr. Speaker, I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts. It is very clear, reading this resolution objectively, that all the terrorists are on one side and all the victims and the innocents are on the other side. I find this unfair, particularly considering the significantly higher number of civilian casualties among Lebanese civilians. I would rather advocate neutrality rather than picking sides, which is what this resolution does.

Some would say that there is no room to talk about neutrality, as if neutrality were a crime. I would suggest there should be room for an open mind to consider another type of policy that may save American lives.

I was in Congress in the early 1980s when the US Marines were sent in to Lebanon, and I came to the Floor before they went, when they went, and before they were killed, arguing my case against getting involved in that conflict.

Ronald Reagan, when he sent the troops in, said he would never turn tail and run. Then, after the Marines were killed, he had a reassessment of the policy. When he wrote his autobiography a few years later after leaving the Presidency, he wrote this.

Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines’ safety that it should have.

In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believe the last thing that we should do was turn tail and leave. Yet the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there. If there would be some rethinking of policy before our men die, we would be a lot better off. If that policy had changed towards more of a neutral position and neutrality, those 241 marines would be alive today.

It is very easy to criticize the Government of Lebanon for not doing more about Hezbollah. I object to terrorism committed by Hezbollah because I am a strong opponent to all violence on all sides. But I also object to the unreasonable accusations that the Government of Lebanon has not done enough, when we realize that Israel occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years and was not able to neutralize Hezbollah.

Mr. Speaker, There is nothing wrong with considering the fact that we don’t have to be involved in every single fight. That was the conclusion that Ronald Reagan came to, and he was not an enemy of Israel. He was a friend of Israel. But he concluded that that is a mess over there. Let me just repeat those words that he used. He said, he came to the conclusion, “The irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there.” I believe these words are probably more valid now even than when they were written.

July 21, 2006

January 7th, 2008, 11:24 pm


Joshua said:

Michael Young writes:

So let me get this straight. According to what you imply in the quoted sentence, Syria’s destiny is to be a partner of Israel, since Jews are a minority in the Middle East, as are Shiites, Maronites, Alawites, etc. Or at least the Israelis must understand it that way and make peace with Syria accordingly.

That’s quite remarkable news. Has is occurred to you that that’s precisely the line the Assad regime, ever keen to bolster its Arab nationalist credentials, has spent the last 38 years furiously trying to dispel in order to survive in a mostly Sunni Arab world?

If this is the regime’s new policy; if peace with Israel is what the Syrian regime needs to break out of its isolation, then we are in for some truly amusing times ahead.

I wonder if the regime shares your fervor. I expect they know better, and would not particularly applaud so bold an appeal for Israeli approval and friendship.

The Syrian Baath Party has always pursued a two track policy on Arab nationalism.

It attracted a heavy minoritarian following during its early years as its ideologues, Zaki Arsuzi an Michel Aflaq, sought to define much of the traditional Sunni religious baggage out of Arab nationalism.

This focus on secularism left the party open to attacks that it was Godless and anti-Sunni. Jalal al-Sayyid, one of the founding Sunni fathers of the party, after leaving the party in the mid-1950s, wrote the first book laying out these accusations, which were later repeated more vociferously by the Muslim Brothers.

The Party’s founding members bent over backwards to deny this and to stress the that its values were identical with those of the “eternal message” of the Semitic religious tradition. Aflaq famously declared Muhammad the exemplar Arab nationalist, and the like. As you correctly state, the Asad regime spent the last 38 years furiously trying to dispel [the notion that it was a minoritiarian regime] in order to survive in a mostly Sunni Arab world?

The Baathists tried to combine the “secular,” minoritarian appeal of the Syrian nationalist party with the Arabism of the traditional Sunni nationalist parties, such as Quwatli’s Hizb al-Watani. It made Arabism minority friendly. It allied Syria’s minority communities with rural Sunnis.

The danger of Baathism, as a national-socialist party that stressed the Arab ethnic foundations of the nation, was that it would become fascist and virulently anti-minoritarian. This, I would argue, is what happened in Iraq under Saddam. He led racist campaigns against Jews, Kurds, and Shiites as non-Arabs who were treasonous. Many were killed or driven from the country.

Syria avoided this turn toward fascism, perhaps in part because the Assad family presided over the Party. It has made sectarian tolerance and stability the center of its policy.

But it has not shrunk from supporting regional minorities even in the face of Sunni criticism.

When Syria intervened in Lebanon, it was to support the Christians and preserve Lebanon’s religious balance. One can argue that this was done for purely cynical reasons of divide-and-rule, but this misses the larger picture. Syria promotes religious balance within Syria as well. It is the heart of regime strategy and national interest.

It is for this reason that Syrian Christians have stood beside the Baath party and Asad regime so resolutely.

When I call the Asad regime a “minority regime” in front of Sunni Syrian friends, I am frequently corrected. They point out to me that Sunnis are as responsible for the regime as Alawites. When push came to shove in 1982 at the time of the Hama revolt, the Damascene Sunni elite stepped forward to support Hafiz al-Asad. Ratib Shallah and other Sunni merchant leaders chose the regime over the Muslim Brothers. They determined that the secular Baath with all its shortcomings was better for the country and for them than Sunni radicals. They sided with the Baath and kept Damascus calm. They saved the regime. The Asads never forgot it and gave Sunni merchants the lion’s share in determining Syria’s economic path.(incomplete)

January 7th, 2008, 11:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

All this talk of different sectarian groups in Lebanon “winning” and “losing” as a result of this or that deal somehow does not ring true to me. Perhaps I have become a cynic as a result of this whole debacle, but I simply cannot see any deal sticking for long.

Lebanon has reached a point of no return.

The standoff between M14 and the Lebanese opposition has finally exposed the realities of a broken and corrupted system, which the Civil War might have done had it not been for the Ta’if Accord’s 17 year-long artificial resuscitation.

The cat is out of the bag, the milk has been spilled, the pink elephant has come out from behind the lampshade.

Not even Syria can make Lebanon “work” anymore, until the system is overhauled. No matter how much money Saad al-Hariri attracts from the Gulf, no matter how stentorian Michel Suleiman’s cheekbones make him look, no matter how secure the Maronites feel… the armistice will simply not hold.

Something’s gotta give.

January 8th, 2008, 1:27 am


Qifa Nabki said:

On a more mundane level, how can anyone still believe that we can refer unironically to such entities as “The Maronites” or “The Christians”… as though they were homogeneous communities that thought, breathed, and acted as one?

The Christians of Lebanon are a mockery of a political constituency… they are so divided, embittered, and (often) self-hating that they couldn’t be counted on to feel at ease with a political solution if you handed the entire country to them on a silver platter. Half of them would still be emigrating to Canada, and the other half would be painting LF and FPM slogans on each others walls.

It is the Christian zu`ama’ who are trying to sell the world the illusion of Christian unity. Nobody else (really) buys it.

January 8th, 2008, 1:34 am


norman said:



January 8th, 2008, 2:47 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

I agree but the options now are:

1) confrontations (inside and outside Lebanon)
2) This temp solution … until the next elections, and after they modify the elections law … and that modification will prove challenging I assume.

January 8th, 2008, 4:59 am


Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] In the Christian Science Monitor, Nicholas Blanford discusses the ongoing efforts of the Arab League to help resolve the political crisis in Lebanon.  Arab ministers agreed in Cairo on Saturday to the following two actions: the immediate passage of a constitutional amendment to allow Michel Suleiman to become President and the formation of national unity government.  On his blog, Joshua Landis describes the Arab League proposal as giving ”the Maronite president more power than he has had since the Taif Agreement of 1989 empowered the Sunni Prime Minister at the expense of the Maronites.”  While Landis highlights that Syria’s compromise will be utilized to cultivate a friendly relationship with the Lebanese Christian community, Mustapha at Beirut Spring urges caution on the deal, citing the external threat of Iran’s influence. […]

January 8th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Enid Houston said:

Michael Young has finally given the Assad’s their historical due….

January 9th, 2008, 8:52 am


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