The Syrian Public Sector, Corruption, Taxation, and Government Services” by Ehsani

The Syrian Public Sector, Corruption, Taxation, and Government Services”
By Ehsani
Syria Comment, August 21, 2009

I have made it a habit to write about my observations following every summer trip to Syria. As usual, I spent most of my time in the city of Aleppo. It is always hard to write something new or informative about a country that most of us seem to love and follow very closely.

I will again spare the readers any mention of geopolitics. I will instead focus on the issue of the size of the public sector, corruption, bribery, taxation and the provision of basic government services. As I will detail below, I think that the above set of issues are highly interrelated.

Bribery is a way of life in Syria.

Though Syria is no exception, one cannot but be struck by how widespread bribery is at every facet of life in the country. Bribery is used to get ahead in securing basic government services. It is used to gain a preferential treatment in the armed services. It is used to get government loans. It is used to lower import duties at customs. It is used to wave traffic violations. It is used at passport issuing offices. Indeed, one is hard pressed to think of a single place where it cannot be used.

That bribery is so widespread should not come as a surprise to anyone. Most visitors to Syria and other developing countries have experienced this phenomena first hand.

But why is bribery so widespread and why does the government seem powerless to stop it?

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, General Motors (GM) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) established a pattern of agreeing to ever-better wages and benefits. The auto company never imagined that these agreements will one day crush the company as the burden of paying for these benefits took an ever increasing share of the company’s revenues and profits. Its retiree health-care burden alone was equivalent to more than double its market capitalization by September 2007. Two years later, the company of course went bankrupt.

The Baath party commitments to its citizens since the mid 1960’s are not too dissimilar to those made by GM to its employees. What seemed like reasonable and honorable commitments some 40 years ago can grow into a monster that few could have predicted when those commitments were initially made.

As the Baath party embarked on supporting a policy of large public enterprises and expansive subsidies, few envisioned that the country’s population will double every 22 years. Few also wanted to admit that governments cannot run businesses profitably and that the public sector will suffer steady losses that will drain the state’s treasury for eternity.

The state is fully aware that it pays its employees inadequately and that even mother Theresa would accept a bribe were she a Syrian government functionary. Based on my own research, most public sector employees and civil servants make between SYP 7,000 and SYP 16,000 a month ($150-$345 range). The majority of these workers also happen to be less well educated and have large families. Having at least four children or more is common. A median salary of $250 per month therefore needs to support a total of six family members on average. Due to religious reasons and lack of both education and skills, most wives cannot support the family income. The majority of these people rent their homes for an average of $130 a month. This leaves $120 for six people to live on for a month. Even with the generous subsidies program in place, this is nearly impossible to do. Even if this family decides to live on falafel sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it will be broke before the month ends. The head of the household must look for other means to augment his miserly income. Most work second jobs. Most also accept bribes from private citizens.

Again based on my own estimate, a more appropriate salary level is close to three times the present levels. However, the government does not have the financial resources to increase salaries by 300%. Upon retirement, state employees earn 75% of their base salaries till they die. Such a proposed salary jump will cause a massive drain on budget for years to come.

While salaries have been increased steadily over the years, they remain far below the required levels given the recent jump in prices. Real purchasing power has fallen despite rising salaries.

The government cannot raise salaries more because the size of the public sector is too big.
There are reportedly close to 2 million people on government payrolls. Tripling the median salary of the average employee means that the state needs to find an extra $ 1 billion a month in revenues.

Instead of doing that, the government has implicitly decided to keep things the way they are and to let citizens pay state employees directly through a widespread bribery system to which it turns a blind eye in most cases.

While the state coffers save $1 billion a month by restricting salaries, they lose many more billions by turning a blind eye to corruption.

Lost revenues from import duties and real estate taxes:

For years, importers have avoided paying duties on their products. Government employees assigned to customs have made huge sums of money turning a blind eye to banned imports or to the true value of the worth or legal imports. Bill of lading documents are often forged. Containers are not inspected by customs officials for a price.

Most of this has taken place because some of the government’s import duties have been outrageously high. This has enticed large importers to agree to pay the severely underpaid custom officials vast sums to turn a blind eye. Most have happily obliged. The state coffers suffered. Government income is being diverted directly into the pockets of badly paid officials.

Another area where the state has suffered from a severe revenue shortage concerns real estate. This is due to the way in which the government values residential and commercial real estate for tax purposes.

A close friend of mine just bought an apartment for his son for SYP 11 million. When it came to paying taxes on it, the government valued the property at SYP 350,000. Given the massive rise in real estate values across the country for the past decade, think of the opportunity cost and the missed tax revenues that the state could have collected following the boom in real estate values. Instead, government employees see no problem assigning real estate values that would have existed in 1960 before they tax most properties.


When it comes to the above issue of real estate taxes, the immediate solution is for the government to outsource the valuation of real estate to a private company that would help it assign real market values to real estate so that they can be taxed appropriately. Information on how much taxes each household pays should be made public. Any citizen should be allowed to find out what his neighbor pays in taxes. This will eliminate any chance that the private assessors are being bribed themselves. This initiative is likely to have two major advantages. It will bring in an enormous amount of much needed revenues. It will also make it less advantageous for the public to park their money in real estate now that it will be taxed more appropriately. The freed up funds will be redirected to investments in more productive sectors that may help employment and so on. This recommended real-estate tax collection must be geared towards the wealthy and less towards the poor. House values below say SYP 2 million will be exempt from the new valuation system.

While on the issue of housing, it is critical that the municipalities accelerate their plans to make more land available for residential use. This is referred locally as land that is included in the “tanzeem”. Currently, large areas of land directly across from city parameters cannot be used by developers to create new housing units and alleviate the pressures on house prices. The government simply does not have the resources to bring the basic services of water and electricity to these new locations. This results in empty “agricultural” lots right outside key city centers. Faster development of such land and their inclusion in the “tanzeem” will likely ease the price pressures inside the city parameters and make housing more affordable to more citizens.

When it comes to import duties, the government must streamline the process and lower those duties to levels that make it less pressing for the importer to cheat. Some items are still taxed at 75% of their value. This is giving a license to the importer to use the power of bribery to avoid the abnormally high duties. Again state coffers end up as the loser.

As to the appropriate level of salaries that can check the widespread use of bribery, the government must start to shed state assets and embark on privatizing the none-essential industries first. Only when the size of the public sector is brought down to a more manageable level can the state afford to pay its employees an appropriate level of compensation. Also, only when state employees are paid close to triple their current salaries can the government credibly prosecute those that accept bribes after the new salary adjustment.


Like most people in developing countries, Syrians seem to smoke a lot. A pack of cigarettes sells for around $1. In contrast, they top $9 in places like New York. Taxing Syrian smokers more seems to make sense till you find out that most tobacco products in the country are smuggled (the duty free is available too). In order to cut down on smoking, a presidential decree was ordered that prohibits smoking in public buildings. Sadly, this law is not being followed. Not so much by the citizens but by the government employees themselves. During numerous visits to government buildings, I was struck by how many state employees were smoking while they had the note describing the Presidential decree right above their heads. For the record, a recent study in Iraq found that smoking kills an average of 55 citizens a day. The Iraqi government banned smoking in public buildings and announced that violators will face stiff fines of as much as $4300. Given that the price of a pack in Iraq is as little as 25 cents, the new fine will be the equivalent of paying for 17,200 packs of cigarettes. It will be interesting to monitor how this law gets implemented.


While the word has a dirty connotation in a socialist driven ideology, its economic merits are indisputable. The Syrian state has no business running a tire, beer or glass manufacturing business. Contrary to what most officials promise, most state industries will continue to lose money for ever. This red ink is putting a massive strain on the budget. Such monies could have gone to improving education, healthcare and infrastructure. Putting our heads in the sand and sticking to a losing economic order is no solution. The monster of corruption and failing state services was created by party officials who espoused socialism. They originally believed socialism would serve the poor. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. The wealthy and well connected got richer at the expense of the poor. Indeed, Syria’s so-called socialist system has benefited the wealthy and powerful far more than capitalism did.

Most that resist privatization do so because they worry about the millions of state workers who will suddenly become unemployed if the public sector is dismantled. But the price of maintaining the million or so superfluous government employees is the impoverishment of many more Syrians who receive inadequate government services, such as electricity, education, and healthcare. Defenders of socialism also seem to think that the economy is static, and those that may get laid off will not be hired by a private sector that is likely to fill the void once the state privatizes.

The only real solution for Syria’s failing state services is that the country’s leadership supports a deliberate, thoughtful and transparent approach to privatization. One industry must be chosen to serve as a pilot project. The state may even decide to ask the new buyers to keep the current employees on its books for say 10 years (the state will receive less price of course).

Why not start with beer? While the state makes both Al-shareq and Barada brands, I don’t recall anyone buying these products. Instead, imported Lebanese, Turkish and European brands seem to be the preferred choice. Why shouldn’t the state put up the beer making business for sale to the private sector after it creates a privatization commission that will be tasked with this pilot project? If successful, the initiative can spread to more industries. Perhaps biscuits and tires can be next.

A Final Word on Education:

During a private meeting with the head of one of the country’s new private banks, I asked if he was finding it difficult to recruit qualified employees. The bank manager replied with a sigh that it was indeed difficult. He explained what a struggle it was to find university economics graduates who know what a balance sheet or an income statement is. As a result, most banks have lowered their requirements, employing new people simply because they speak English proficiently. As it turns out, finding good English speakers is no small challenge. Syrian students in elementary school spend one hour a day learning a foreign language. This is in direct contrast to their Lebanese counterparts who end up speaking two foreign languages fluently by high school. Syrian students are at a major disadvantage when it comes to competing in today’s market place.

Reforming the Syrian education system must become a priority for the country’s leadership. Instilling strong Arab nationalistic sentiment and having an education system that teaches a number of subjects in English or French must not be seen as mutually exclusive. A sixth grader needs to spend more time learning English and French than memorizing the key figures who fought the battle of Qadisiya in 637. Syria must grasp the bull by the horns. The Syrian economy and government services have real ailments that will get worse as the country liberalizes. Big medicine is needed.

Comments (245)

jad said:

Thank you for this article its a nice change from the usual international issues, please be sure that what I’m going to write is nothing but a friendly conversation, here are my thoughts when I read your article:

Regarding the Bribery analysing, I Agreed.

Taxes on real estate I agree to some point, however, I think you missed the real sects that should pay the taxes and has more revenue than real estate which is the private Energy sector, Telecommunications and Financial institutions as well as the individual rich Syrians who doesn’t pay their taxes properly and everybody knows their names and how much money they are getting from the Mafioso’s they run, those are actually who need to be the tax subjects before the average Syrian.

Talking about housing, do you know that in Damascus you have more than 50k empty apts? The problem is not only finding new lots to build development on, because you have plenty of great development sites to invest inside the city itself but those sites are not properly looked at and without the need to destroy the green belt that is almost gone.
In our cities we miss quality of life, we miss the right density and the compact factors, continue with this strategy of building only 3-4 levels of apt building in a city of 5millions is a national crime, its worse than the American sprawls, add to that the low services, no proper roads, poor electricity network, and untreated sanitary and no clear recycling program for each neighbourhood, with no proper public transportation and without considering of having the basic services such as schools, hospitals, libraries and commercial services ready to built around and in supporting for those areas.
I’m not including the 45-55% of Damascus illegal neighbourhoods in that equation yet, so you can imagine how sad, backward and deteriorating the situation is and how much far we are from the standard line of basic living and accepted environment qualities in modern cities and cities that want to grow not to die. Unfortunately we already beyond any red line mentioned in every education book about planning and environment.
For solutions, we have to have a Regional Planning Code, Environmental Code, Development Code to set a standard of what we want, then start cleaning the sprawl areas in phases and build a new dense, compact, serviced neighbourhoods on top of the old ones and move toward updating our downtown areas and make them more suitable for the future while keep building new development outside the existing limits of our cities without forgetting to rebuild and revive the origin places of citizens who immigrate to the big cities after their environment being destroyed, we need to be smart about that because any solution for any part of Syria is beneficial for the whole country.
Roads, Parks and Parking are our best friends if we know how to use them and how to build a true neighbourhood around them instead of making them kill our communities.
Encourage building our community in the social sense of the word that each neighbourhood has his own true representative who at the end will have the best intention for its neighbourhood instead of getting people without any backgrounds to drive our neighbourhoods toward the disaster we are marching to right now.

About privatization, I’m with you on that but I’m afraid that in Syria we will do the Russian style where all public companies had been sold to the usual Mafiosos for pennies while their true values are in millions which as my usual negative vision that what will exactly happen soon.

Regarding education, knowing foreign languages is good however elevating the quality of education in our own language first is more important than that, improving the curriculum taught in our universities and make them up to date and current in our own language is a must and introducing the culture of putting any new employee for 6 months in an intensive course prepared and paid for by the employer to concentrate on the job he is going to do let it be a Bank, a Factory, a School, a Hospital or whatever must be implemented while we update our education system to the level.
Lebanese students don’t know better than any Syrian student but when some of them pay $4000 a year in private schools they should know more French and English than the one who pays nothing in a public Syrian school. For your comparison to be more accurate you need to compare the Lebanese public schools with our public school and u will see that they both are in similar level.

Thank you again Ehsani.

August 21st, 2009, 7:41 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Ehsani
Your posts are unique in the sense that you pose the problem and propose solutions to the problem. For that I not only raise my “imaginary” hat, but applaud the efforts you put in collecting observations, reflecting on them, and attempting to provide what seems to be logical, well thought, sober, and balanced proposal without hyperbole.

Regarding property value and taxation, I would like to bring up the example of the late 80s early 90s real estate boom in California. The state tried to implement a proposal similar to the one you have advocated, only to get many of the people who bought their homes much earlier in arms for they could in no way afford the new assessed taxes. I like your proposal, but I would add to it a measure that distinguishes between properties purchased long time ago by those who continue to occupy them. The lost revenue on these “grand-fathered” homes can be recovered, partially, by levying a special seller sales tax upon resale of such properties. I am sure you can identify analogous situations in retirement investment world.

While you have kindly decided to spare us the geopolitical talk, I will take the risk of not avoiding that issue. I have to say that for any proposal to succeed, it must have the primary required political ambiance. Whether the reform target is privatization, value assessment/taxation, education, or public sector and official integrity rehabilitation, the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled will at best hinder any implementation of reform plans, and at worst, and most likely, sabotage these plans and widen the gap between the poor and the rich/powerful. At heart of this disconnect, and it would be dishonest on my side to claim otherwise, is placing security mentality above the fundamental notion of service and accountability. Take for example, the Syrian minister of information who recently banned the airing of an interview with the chair of a parliamentary committee because of redlines and taboos. This is but a demonstration of the ubiquitous and cancerous spread of such hyper sensitive security mentality that has reached comic new heights with the Syrian press censoring even the president himself by refusing to accurately portray the comments he made during his recent visit to Iran. The entire Struthio-Camelus* specie would stand awed at the ability of the Syrian official press to censor the president himself and deny his own citizens the chance to read the comments he made in public.

On a separate, but related note, most studies i have read regarding the relationship between economic progress and political freedoms point to a strong correlation between per capita income and the level of political and personal freedoms in a country (with the exception of resource extraction economies such as the gulf). However, one must not confuse correlation with causation, unless one manages to study the temporal cross correlation between conditions on one side and the other. I recall reading a recent study (unfortunately, i could not find it now), which argues that economic prosperity is a pre-condition of political and civil freedoms. While I will not argue for one way or the other now, i do believe that the two must go lock and step because progress towards economic freedoms and prosperity such as those you have proposed can only be accomplished if a wide margin of transparency is guaranteed, which in turn, can only happen under a level of political, civil, and press freedoms the Syrian government demonstrate both unwillingness and inability to accomplish or even attempt or contemplate.

Some on this blog may be shocked at my apparent lack of self censorship. No, I have not gone opposition, nor do I intend to. But I am saddened and abhorred by the continuing decline of my country of origin. Syria’s relative position continues to decline on any subjective or objective index, and any absolute improvement seems to be simple inertia that is unrelated to any plan or action by the government. In fact, through both actions and inactions, the successive governments have arguably contributed to this decline. Syrians have learned over the years, whether justified or unjustified, to exercise an incredible level of self censorship. For me, I have reached a point where I have recognized that such censorship is inconsistent with my whole life story. I applaud the ability of the Syrian government to withstand the George Bush hurricane, but the hurricane is gone, and excuses for continuing oppression and childish self interest motivated control are gone with it. A free Syrian citizenry stand much better chance of confronting external and internal challenges and tangible steps toward delivering on promises we have been hearing for nine years must now be taken boldly. From what I hear, the president continues to enjoy a sizeable political and good will capitals, it is about time for him to use them. A first step would be a new government unencumbered by regressive status quo advocates or by alliances to power centers, a second step could be reforms where the legislative and judicial branches are rehabilitated as the two equal partners in governance, and where mayors are elected and not appointed (as Norman has argued for a while ago). Free press, and well protected and unmolested civil society institutions will go light years in getting such reforms accomplished, leading to the establishment of a truly plural political environment in 5, 10, or 15 years. I think that, and as usual I may be way off the mark, if a plan of conjunctive political and economic reforms is presented to the Syrian people not by the Baath party, but by the president himself, many would be willing to brave the temporary economic hardships that may ensue as they become partners and enablers of the greatest experiment in syria’s modern history. Heck, it could be his next election campaign platform.

I must indicate that I will not accuse individuals, tribes, and/or sects, and I outright reject any attempt to make a sectarian argument out of my comment for such will be intellectually bankrupt and dishonest. I point my accusing fingers at the massive inertia of a 1960 mentality and its shekels, its ability to put the breaks even on its own creativity and potentials, and at the obsession with control that seems to characterize many of us Syrians, be us rulers or ruled. There is no stronger demonstration of this neo-Syrian psych than getting overworked because few teenagers were having too much fun in a concert in Aleppo. When freedom advocating Syrians learn to live and let live, then I would have hopes.

Again, kudos as usual to you, I agree more than 80% with your proposals. And for me to agree 80% with such a strong capitalistic proposal is a huge thing.

* Struthio-Camelus: Ostrich

August 21st, 2009, 8:50 am


Off the Wall said:

Sorry for the misspelled word. I meant to say shackles not shekels

August 21st, 2009, 9:00 am


Off the Wall said:


A better demonstration of the neo-syrian psych is the lawyers guild kowtowing the security apparatus by dragging in shackles one of their colleagues, who is being jailed for leading a human right organization, legally established, into a hearing in an attempt to strip him of his license and to make a lesson out of him to other conscientious lawyers. When a lawyers guild go after one of their own for defending human rights and for adhering to one of the most fundamental tenets of his profession, one can say, you live and you see. How dare they?

No wonder the guild was silent during the personal status law fiasco. What a shame.

August 21st, 2009, 9:41 am


Shai said:


Thank you for giving also us Israelis an honest and in-depth look into one of Syria’s major problems, and for laying out a detailed proposal for possible solutions. When opponents of a withdrawal from the Golan irresponsibly use terms such as “corrupt regime”, it would be useful for them to first understand something about Syria’s real problems, including the ones you described.

I know that you are not terribly optimistic about Peace with Israel (and understandably so), but can you shed any light, or dispel any myths on the issue of fears in Syria from an “uncontrolled” opening of relations with Israel, given our so-called democratic and free economy, market and trade? Can our close economies work together one day, given some of the issues you discussed above?

In Israel corruption is also “celebrated”, as can be seen in court cases against some of our highest ranking politicians (including PM), but on a day-to-day basis, most businesspeople normally do not come across it as apparently one does in other developing countries. How does that effect economic relations after Peace is established?

August 21st, 2009, 12:10 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Jad,

Of course the rich needs to pay more taxes but how do you force them to do so given the low salaries of those in charge of collecting them?

The topic of illegal or informal housing is extremely important. Indeed, I was going to make that my main theme before I decided to make it bribery. “Informal settlements” refers to houses built outside the boundaries of urban planning regulations. By most estimates, 40 to 50 percent of urban growth is informal. This means that city authorities do not have control over the way urban growth happens in almost half of the cities. These areas suffer from a lack of services and most have been built so badly that they demand demolition. They lack open space, education, health and provision of space for social services. Since 2003, the government has taken a stricter stance towards certain informal housing areas by passing legislation which allows authorities to demolish houses built, or being built illegally. The city of Aleppo experienced this first hand in one neighborhood. The scene was not pretty. It is extremely difficult for the government to follow through on implementation. New alternative housing needs to be found to reallocate informal housing residents into. This is a very expensive endeavor for the government and city officials. More tax revenues are needed.

I realize that many will take issue with my real estate tax proposal. It is important to note that I am not advocating a “new” tax. The law is already in place. What I am advocating instead is that the law is fully implemented. Valuing real estate at current market values rather than an arbitrary 1960 equivalent price point is what I am proposing.

Please remember that any proposals regarding higher and new taxes will run into the problems of their collection mechanism. So long as the tax collector makes $250 a month, he is easy prey. The area of real estate only needs proper “takhmeen”.

Off the Wall,

You make a number of very relevant and important observations. The interrelationship between political freedoms and economic progress is indisputable. I also wish that the press enjoyed more freedom and that transparency was greater. The leadership must get more involved in key domestic issues and settle the apparent differences of opinion about the speed and extent of the reform process.


You are correct when you say that I am not terribly optimistic about peace with Israel, but what do I know? Frankly, average Syrians are too busy thinking about some of the issues I discussed rather than the peace process. There is no doubt that Syria’s economy will benefit dramatically from a peace deal. I totally disagree with the notion that Syria fears an uncontrolled opening with a democratic and free economy. The country has recently signed a free trade agreement with its Northern neighbor. It is already party to an Arab free trade agreement that include all G.C.C countries.

August 21st, 2009, 12:44 pm


yaser said:

Dear Ehsani,
I’d like to talk about one aspect of what you mentioned, which is the role of civil society.
as someone who have a close encounter with the obstacles and manipulation that prevent a viable and functioning civile society to flourish I can attest to many ills with our system.
but what stricks me the most is the complete disrespect for the citizens intelligence, which is demonstrated by their treatment of you.
they simply run a stupid game in which you don’t get sufficient information or help from the “official” authorities,when you go to them with good intent and a desire to do something for your country, only to have the security apparatuses knocking on your door the next day for having any real and meaningful activity.
it is really a sad situation… one that I am confident will change some time soon.

August 21st, 2009, 1:50 pm


yaser said:

…and the comment about the “neo-syrian psych” is sooo true:)

August 21st, 2009, 1:53 pm


jad said:

Dear Ehsani,
I agree with you that it is difficult to collect the tax from the rich and here we get to OTW right conclusion that politic corrections and transparency are the first brick to build more effective way for a better taxation, Trustquest also mentioned before that without planning there is no correct development and I totally agree with him.

“Some on this blog may be shocked at my apparent lack of self censorship. No, I have not gone opposition, nor do I intend to. But I am saddened and abhorred by the continuing decline of my country of origin.”
Welcome to the club!…It’s getting frustrating to see the government of your country taking the wrong decisions on the domestic important matters and running without a vision…for me, I am getting more agitated every time I read and see how they complicate things by the day for our country future on all levels.

August 21st, 2009, 3:06 pm


trustquest said:

OTW, Amen to all what you said, but tell you the truth I liked the joke about censoring the president himself; that was great one? Did he get upset? Did he complain or he does not know what is happening or is it a harmonious thing that been going on for decades? Anyway, you cover many aspects and thank you.

But, I liked your idea of brining the relation between political freedom and income, that is mean if no political reform is implemented it will be like a planned hold on income, isn’t? Notice also this call is against the system itself that can not progress this way because they have a lot to hide? You are putting them in difficult situation.

Preventing civil society from starting is one of the main obstacles in planning new direction, I would like to say where have you been all this tiem? You did not go opposition, sir you always has been, opposition mean any intelligent fellow who criticize the system and can be put in jail for doing so, example made before of Michele Kilo, even if he is smooth one like you when criticize each Ramadan.

You said: “I have reached a point where I have recognized that such censorship is inconsistent with my whole life story.” That is true for you and for most honest citizens, half a century is too long time, right?

Do you have now better understanding of your Syrian brothers who keep hammering the system: thank you for your wonderful comment because life is short to live it as a lie.
BTW, does the president know about that human right advocate or not, I think he does but you may think different.

Why you were hiding all this for long time? Thank you again and now I may send my daughter to your college, because I will be honored to have an honest supervisory person like you.

August 21st, 2009, 3:20 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Very well said and thought-out Ehasani! I too have just returned from a three-week, get-fat-quick visit to my beloved Syria. While I agree with Ehsani on the problem of the wide spread corruption and its solution, I differ with him only in separating it from, or not associating it with, the geopolitical facts of the region.

When it comes to corruption indexes, Syria is in the company of about 2/3 of the countries who are official members of the UN. On a scale from 0 of highly corrupt to 10 of highly clean, Syria bounces between 2 and 3 (with some reports putting it at 4). It is sad to say that Syria is only better than Iraq, Mangolia, Chad, and Cambodia for example.

But this is an artifact of a bad system gone worse. As Ehsani correctly points out, the Soviet-style policies of the Baath for the past 45 years have produced generations of government-dependent Syrians. Through massive subsidies, the majority of Syrians have nowhere to go but the government for jobs, education, healthcare, and basic human needs. And the government loves and cherishes this dependency for obvious reasons.

This was the grand design of the Baath: create a submissive majority whose survival is tied to the survival of the Baath. In an authoritarian system, no thoughts are ever entertained about taxation. Taxes would produce a demanding populous. Demands must be met with liberalization. Liberalization will produce a transparent, checks-and-balances system. A liberal system is the antithesis of the Baath ideology and herein lies the problem.

So, what I experienced in Syria this summer is exactly what Ehasani and every visitor to Syria will observe – a vibrant country that is struggling with half a century’s worth of evil, soviet-styled policies implemented and administered by incompetent, ignorant, and, most importantly, arrogant public servants. Combine ignorance and arrogance and witness a recipe for an impending disaster – politically, economically, and socially.

So, yes, Syria today has little or no taxation to speak of. Citizens, for the most part, have a hapless fee-for-service system. The fee does not go the government; it goes to the pockets of that ignorant and arrogant civil (or military) servant. The thought is that if one is to offer a service of some kind, a fee for that service is expected. The government salary that the public servant is deriving for providing such a service is simply out of scope and is irrelevant to that service.

The government knows it; the government likes this arrangement, and the government is the spiritual leader of en masse corruption.

Implementing a taxing system (aka raising money through taxes) to help pay equitable salaries of public servants is not the answer. People pay taxes when the level of confidence in their government reaches a certain threshold of transparency and accountability. No Syrian will be comfortable with taxes if the elite junta is running wild and laws are being written (to this day) to accommodate their needs.

The answer is a complete riddance of the Baath policies – nothing short of 100% elimination of anything and everything that the Baath has injected into the Syrian society – from urban planning to education. From national indoctrination to environmental protection. Somebody should tell all Baathists that while we thank them very much for their services (they really didn’t know any better), their time has just expired in running the internal and external affairs of Syria.

Cheers Ehsani for your insightful analysis. But darn it, the food was just awesome – especially in Aleppo. I gained 10 lbs.

August 21st, 2009, 3:28 pm


yaser said:

Ford Perfect,
while I agree with the sentiment that you shared with us, I have to disagree with your conclusion. I think to get rid of the Baath Party is not the solution, why? because simply there is no other viable alternative.
in my view the only way forward is to demand and encourge dialogue on all aspects relating to governance and accountability. it should be an open dialogue for all Syrians to be part of, no certain party or vision should be excluded and no ideology should prevail, I believe this is the mistake of many of the Syiran opposition outside the country, i.e they want to get rid from the current system only to replace it with another imposed set of ideologies, this simply will not achieve the goal and is counterproductive and will alienate the public on the long run. I think the Syrian people are more than capable of turning this mess around if they come together and unite to serve their country.
Accept my warm regards.

August 21st, 2009, 4:11 pm


trustquest said:

Let people first say what in their hearts first, let them speak their minds for once on this comment section. There are a lot more to learn about the despicable sitution in Syria.
Second: the discussion of the what to get rid off and when come later and please do not frame the opposition in the same way the regime does, they are not one type who want to get rid of the government, that is not Michele Kilo was for or the Damascus Springs was for. They are colorful like rainbow and that is the good part which they trash it once as they don’t have one opinion and once as they are traitors because they are against the system. Start venting the needs to get rid of the system not the people in the system is a fare first step.
Open dialogue can not happen without free press and free speech and that is what the opposition is for. Trying to indict or criminalize the oppositions is crime against the country that can not run without opposition-check and balances be in place.
The Syrian people is not capable of getting rid of this system if the leadership did not start the first move and first move does not come from begging and smooth talking it comes from criticizing and uncovering this rotten system.

August 21st, 2009, 4:50 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear Yaser,
I might have confused the issue with my writing. I did not intend to say that getting rid of Baath is the solution. I was saying that we will need to eradicate (get rid of ) their policies that were implemented over that past half of century: all of their political, social, or economical ones should be sipped up and triaged. These policies have aged and caused considerable damage to the Syrian society.

One can correctly argue about the benefits the Baath has brought to the Syrian national identity and how the Baath has harmonized the society into a secular, pan-Arabic one. But that argument would be immediately undermined by the severe damage anyone can observe in today’s Syria. Sure we are on the right path today towards liberalization,but we lost 40 years in the process.

But the Baath as a political actor is part of the Syrian geopolitical fabric and will remain so. I am in full support of the Baath presence, its collective intellect, and its contribution to a transparent and liberal society. Not a thought of mine can be found to eliminate them.

I fully agree with you that the Syrian opposition is and remains unipolar and fails to understand that freedom and democracy is incompatible with their thinking process against the Baath or its proponents.

Many thanks for pointing this important difference out and kindest regards.

August 21st, 2009, 5:00 pm


Innocent Criminal said:


The challenge is monumental and so is your proposed solution. The government would be able to pay employees adequately from the new taxes and that in turn would bring the need for bribery down.
But what would you propose to do to block land owners from bribing the tax collectors to undervalue their home prices? And what would you expect a tax law like that would do to the real estate prices? It’s a vicious cycle that will not break easily.

Funny enough I believe the new speed cameras that were introduced on the Damascus streets can provide interesting lessons for the subject at hand. First, it’s been so effective in curbing the speeding nuisance that it has created a new annoying phenomena; people are driving well below the speed limit (60KM). But it has enraged traffic policemen who have lost a source of income from these cameras, so it would be interesting to see how they will be affected in the long run. Some are discussing whether the policemen should make commission on traffic violation tickets so that they can continue to have an extra income while making sure the government coffers receive money it wouldnt have if the policeman was bribed.

August 21st, 2009, 5:16 pm


EHSANI2 said:


As I described in my note, my proposal is for a private third party to value real estate prices (takhmeen). Once that is done, the government can apply the tax rate that is already in place. Real estate prices will indeed decline. Accelerating the tanzeem will also cause them to lose value or I should say become more affordable.

August 21st, 2009, 5:30 pm


yaser said:

Ford Perfect,Trustquest,
the good thing is that we are having a dialogue right here and now, this is in itself a positive indication.
about the need for a free press, you can take a look around you and see what has been left of Syrian media, it is eaither:
1- government mouthpieces.
2- private investment as a sole way to collect money and do business.
3- elitist nonsense (sorry for the expression).
so how we are to have a source of information that is credible and able to criticize the government.. heck, I am sure the comment above about the president being censored is true (I gave up following the news coming out or relating to Syria lately)
so the question is : where do we start… and let me tell you, contrary to the official propaganda that want to tell us that there is no point in trying, I think we can start somewhere and that is from an open and free dialogue.

August 21st, 2009, 5:44 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for the confidence vote. Sadly enough it is not a joke. It is true

تصريحات الأسد في طهران: اختلاف في ما نقلته وكالات العالم وما نقلته سانا – السورية!

كلنا شركاء
20/ 08/ 2009
نقلت وكالات الأنباء العالمية والعربية تصريحات للرئيس السوري أطلقها أثناء زيارته القصيرة إلى إيران يوم أمس، إلا أن وكالة الأنباء السورية الرسمية – سانا لم تتطرق إليها لا من قريب ولا من بعيد! ورغم أن التصريحات والمواقف التي أطلقت كانت شبه متطابقة في جميع وكالات الأنباء إلا أنه يكفي المقارنة بما نقلته الوكالتين الوطنيتين الرسميتين في كل من سورية وإيران ليظهر فارق كبير في التغطية خصوصاً لجهة نقل تصريحات الرئيسين ومواقفهما.

وكالة الانباء السورية سانا اكتفت بالاشارة إلى بعض المواقف عبر بضع عبارات مثل:
– عبر الرئيسان عن ارتياحهما للمستوى الذي وصلت إليه العلاقات الثنائية
– شدد الجانبان على ضرورة تحقيق المصالحة الوطنية الفلسطينية
– أكدا أهمية تضافر جميع الجهود لرفع الحصار الإسرائيلي على قطاع غزة وفتح المعابر
– أكدا دعم جهود حكومة الوحدة الوطنية لإنجاح العملية السياسية الجارية في العراق

فيما نقلت وكالة الأنباء الإيرانية الرسمية اقتباسات وتصريحات عديدة للرئيسين لم تأت سانا على ذكرها فقد نقلت عن الاسد مثلاً:
– إنه ندد بتدخل الدول الاجنبية في الشؤون الداخلية لايران.
– قوله ان السبب الرئيسي لتدخل الغرب هو وقف ما وصفه بانتصارات سوريا وايران.
– قوله انه على ثقة من ان إعادة انتخاب الرئيس أحمدي نجاد كان حدثا كبيرا ودرسا عظيما للأجانب وأن هذا الحدث يؤكد ضرورة أن تواصل ايران وسوريا سياساتهما السابقة في المنطقة.
– قوله إنه على ثقة من أن أبواب المجتمع الدولي ستكون منفتحة أكثر أمام سوريا وايران عما كانت عليه في السابق.

كما نقلت الوكالة الإيرانية عن لقاء آخر أجراه الأسد مع مرشد الثورة علي خامنئي أن الأخير رحب باقتراح الأسد تكوين تحالف بين الدولتين يضم أيضاً العراق وتركيا… هذا الاقتراح الذي لم تتطرق له وكالة سانا أيضاً لا من قريب ولا من بعيد.

هذا كله فضلاً عن عشرات التصريحات التي نقلها عن الأسد، مراسلو وسائل إعلام عالمية، كإشارته إلى أن اللقاءات الثنائية التي تعقد بين رئيسي جمهورية البلدين هي “من اجل إيصال رسالة الى البلدان البعيدة وبلدان المنطقة لان ذاكرتهم ضعيفة وهم ينسون الدروس التي تلقوها سابقا” وبأن الأجانب “يشعرون بسخط كبير حيال ما حدث في إيران”. وأن “الوحدة بين العراق وتركيا وسورية وإيران ستكون مفيدة جداً”.

وأمام هذا الكم الكبير من التصريحات والمواقف التي انتشرت في وسائل عالمية يبقى التساؤل مشروعاً عن التغطية التي تقوم بها وكالتنا الوطنية! ومدى فاعليتها في معركة الإعلام وقدرتها عن تقديم صورة إعلامية عن سورية تستطيع الصمود أمام الإغراق الإعلامي العالمي.. إلا إذا كانت تؤدي فعلاً دورا أريد لها وحينها تكون قد تغافلت عن تصريحات السيد الرئيس، لا غفلت عنها!!

August 21st, 2009, 6:46 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Thank you Ehsani, for this great reading.

August 21st, 2009, 8:26 pm


trustquest said:

Ehsani, great article, I applaud you for being frank this time and it is time to say it as it is. This country is going downhill and new direction is badly needed to save malnourished population and to avoid human disasters. Civil society is badly needed and contribution of all Syrian should not be obstructed. An article like yours should be published in a private press not only showing to couple of hundreds readers on SC.

Back to your proposals, your first proposal of property tax and new evaluations for properties I don’t think this will work and populace can not attain more taxes at this moment. A political decisions and rule of law should be instated first before coming up with any big move like this.
Smoking tax is a good idea but not a solution for a country like Syria where smuggling is the mainstream profession adopted by army officers and custom personnel in cooperation with the big Mafioso who are strong part of the System. Syria lived 40 years now on tobacco smuggling and if they tax tobacco on the boarder the smuggler will be happy to provide the alternatives and there are no power now can stop them. The real alternative for taxing imported tobacco is when they turn over to the sale tax system and when they instate advanced tech system for sale and for reporting which requires thus overall of tax collection system which should move from man operated system to an automated system, and random checking system. It is necessary reduce the bureaucratic masses choking the country and requires as you said the sale of the failed institutions and start doing the privatization. It also requires the undo the police state and the reduction of the secret service system and the changes of many of them to a civil servant and police stations.

August 22nd, 2009, 12:56 am


why-discuss said:

Jad, Alex

I agree with Alex’s analysis but I worry that any fast move from the rigid system in place now could destroy the social fabric and the style of life of syrians.

Lebanon is a good example of an incontrolled building boom: Most 4 stories building are being destroyed and replaced by high luxury 25 floors towers. Old houses are gradually eliminated and the city ressembles more and more to Hong kong: loss of the historical sites, traffic jams, pollutions and proliferation of cars.
In addition, electricity is rationned and is cut 3 to 4 hours every day in Beirut and more in the suburbs. In Syria, electricity cuts are much less. Lebanon has a chronic problem of water, many rich tourists in the mountain summer resorts complained bitterly about the lack of basic services.
In all Beirut there are only 2 small gardens ( closing at 6 p.m) and there were discussions that a part of the Sanayeh garden will be turned into a car park.
There are no place for a low or average income family to relax except the ‘corniche’.
Poor people are not part of the real estate boom either. It benefits only the rich expatriates and gulf investors who take advantage of the generous tax system for real estate that is not much better than in Syria. Most gulf money is going in real estate and almost nothing in industries. Many of these luxurious flats are empty.
As everything is very expensive, if bribery is not as obvious as in Syria , it is still there.
Yes, Lebanese are better educated but in the absence of industry, research centers they end up by living and working in the Gulf states or North America.
Syria has huge economical problems but you can’t find the hysteria of consumerism that plagues Lebanon, and the gap between the poor and the rich, while existing, is less obvious. Syrians, contrary to Lebanese, do not expose arrogantly the signs of their financial success. The result is strange, when you take a taxi in Beirut, the driver will complain on and on about the lack of money to send his children in private schools, while the syrian taxi driver ( working during day time as a civil servant) will joke and appears less anxious than the lebanese counterpart.
Most poor lebanese families survive only from the money sent by the family members working in the Gulf. Social security and hospital access is not given to the non-working population ( Like in the US) and many families have to count on family members when they need to have an operation as they cant afford an insurance. In Syria the social security is universal, isnt’it?
My own impression is that, while many syrians have a tougher economical life they seem to be much less anxious and seem to enjoy their life better than the equivalent Lebanese.
I have not been in Jordan, Egypt ( supposedly under a less socialized system) but what I hear they are similar and worse than Lebanon for the poor people.

These are my observations after staying in both countries for a few months.

August 22nd, 2009, 1:04 am


norman said:


I have an idea, why don’t they legalize bribery and call it service tax , so instead of the government collecting taxes that we hope it will use to raise the salaries of these civil servants , the people who are using these services pay directly to these employees what we should call a service tax , and the good thing about it is that poor will pay as much as he can and the rich will pay more as these civil servant know who is who,

About real estate tax , i agree people should pay taxes but i believe that we want people to be able to own houses so what i suggest is to exempt the first house ( Primary residence ))but charge taxes on all other properties tax dependent on the sale price of the house so let the market decide the value of the properties , That will decrease the practice of parking money in real estate , as long as we are alert to the fact that many Syrians put the houses in their children’s names so transfer of money from parents to children should be taxed after an exemption of certain amount .

My Friend ford prefect ,

I do not think that the Baath party started with a plan to produce dependent society , as you said they are not that knowledgeable , they started by wanting to help the poor but as always the more you do or the government does for people the less they do for themselves , it is human nature , they did not take that in their calculation ,

Ehsani ,

I agree about privatization , but is there a law against Syrians operating a beer factory and if the is not why doesn’t the private sector do that ,instead of selling the one that government operate , some of the problems in Syria is that big projects require large ca[ital and that is not available in the private sector , so the Syrian government will need to be there to support the private sector in capital so the can expand.

Jad , Ehsani,

The value of a second language is not just to know a second language it’s value is that is a way to learn , and unfortunately there are not enough books written in Arabic or translated into Arabic , in science , and technology , so English or French and i prefer English so Syrian can learn from other people.

And that is my take.

August 22nd, 2009, 2:12 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

“…A report by Strategic Foresight Group, has calculated the opportunity cost of conflict for the Middle East from 1991-2010 at a whopping $12 trillion (12,000,000,000). Syria’s share in this is over a $150 billion. In other words had there been peace since 1991, every Syrian citizen would be earning $2,896 instead of the $1,664 he or she will earn in 2010. The government also spends almost 7% of their GDP on the military, compared to the 2% that they spend on health care”.

August 22nd, 2009, 3:18 am


Yossi said:


Old news. Alex wrote about it in February:

August 22nd, 2009, 5:43 am


jad said:

Cities are like human, they have souls like us, there cultures are their souls while heritage buildings are their accessories needed to allure us and make us feel in love with them, however the real engine for our cities is the development and the progress you need to see around you to know that the city is still alive and still young, otherwise cities become no more than corps elaborated with old and antic jewelleries.
Our Syrian cities are corps right now elaborated with the most beautiful yet deteriorating old sites and when we brag about renovating them we are actually replacing diamonds with glass and use them as restaurant and boutique hotels that have nothing of their originals except their souls that we are killing out of our greed, ignorance and dirty money.
In the same dark image I’m drawing for you about today I’m also thinking about tomorrow because it is still a clean page and for that clean page of our city to be live and breathing I’m asking for the compact and mixed development, for that clean page I’m screaming that we must be environmentally aware of where we are and where we are going, we need to do the right things for our cities otherwise we are sabotaging our children’s homes and they are doomed to live in a more dead cities than where we do right now.
I’m not looking for a swift and immediate results, I am simply asking to set the ground for that clean future page for a vibrant Syrian cities, but with government full of useless, shameful and unprofessional ministers as we got and with a security officer running the show for them and with 14 mayors and their teams in all municipalities the least can be said about them is arrogant ignorant and with no vision (I’m using some of your words Ford Perfect) along a whole team of employers who are willing to take the bribe and look the other way when a concrete building is planted like a dagger in the heart of our old cities, or building a hotel in the backyard of someone properties, or removing a park to build another unprofitable crappy architecture commercial 3 floors building knowing very well that they are destroying the neighbourhood, I’m not going to forget the “Tour Eiffel” like as described by his architect of an over designed, over estimated and 4 years later still under construction plaza like Alabaseen, or the big failure of Yalbougha that costs a huge environmental lost as well as business lost in the middle of the commercial district of Damascus and toke 30 years and still under construction, for all of that I conclude that we already sent our city to the graveyard without any hope of resurrection.

I went through your comment again and I think you just landed in the same dark field I’m in for the last 6 months now, and to be honest I already lost any hope from my country to improve and as they say (saal mjareb wa la tsal hakeem) it is going to feel worse by the day when you read the news coming out of Syria, I just read about another cancelation of another issue of some local magazine, that is ridiculous and unacceptable anymore.

Knowing foreign languages is good but is not the main issue, I know from experience that lots of cultures get advanced, industrial, rich and developed their societies and culture without knowing any other language than theirs they just WORKED hard and upgrade their education system to the finest.

August 22nd, 2009, 7:37 am


norman said:


The problem is that there are more books translated into Greek and they are only only 15 million than translated into Arabic and we are 360 millions , if our students learn English and with Satellite and the Internet that is not difficult we can bypass the translation ,

August 22nd, 2009, 2:13 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The private sector is not allowed to compete with the government. Since the state is in the beer making business, you and I cannot start manufacturing it. Many have tried to but its impossible since the government owns both barada and al-shareq. The losers are both Syrian employees and entrepreneurs. The winners are foreign label manufacturers. All very sad but true.

August 22nd, 2009, 4:45 pm


norman said:

Ehsani ,

Thank you , That is something they should do immediately then get out of being in business and be happy with 15% tax without having to take any risk or headache, what do you think?.

August 22nd, 2009, 7:53 pm


Alex said:

Ehsani my friend,

I’m not surprised that your excellent post again generated another calm, interesting and intelligent discussion.

I did not read all the comments yet so I hope what I will write is not repetitive.

1) The Baath is not behind all the mess. It started during the years of the Union with Egypt … 1958 to 1961. It was Egypt’s Nasser who started the process that continued to kill the private sector and worse … to push some of the most talented Syrians and some of the richest Syrians to leave the country. Most never came back.

For example, Lebanon’s success in banking in the 60’s was due to a large extent to the work of all those who deserted Aleppo to live in Beirut when Nasser took over Syria’s leadership.

Imagine if they stayed n Aleppo and were allowed to do what they later did in Beirut, in Aleppo.

2) I agree with most of your suggestions but expect less dramatic scales of change if they were implemented.

For example, as you know, even in the United States, most of the corporations do not pay taxes … the rich will always find a way to not pay taxes.

Next, most Syrians employed by the state are not currently accepting brides … only those who are in customer service or in customs have the “opportunity” to be bribed. The six thousand Syrians working for he government’s TV and Radio association can not be bribed, others working for the information ministry can not be bribed … etc. Therefore, tripling their salaries will not affect corruption much, at least not to the degree you would expect.

Also, current corruption is not all tied to the need to increase one’s income through accepting brides. Your passport can often be done in a day without you having to pay anything to anyone … it is often because of who you are or who you know.

Why is that important? .. because even with proper increase in salaries (threefold) of government employees who work at the customs office, you will still have the influential businessman managing to pay less customs duties on what he imports, because of his name, or the name of his silent partner …

3) Education is the key … I would immediately borrow from Qatar or Abu Dhabi a billion dollars and spend it all on mandatory intensive courses that teach those who graduated the past ten years from Syrian universities in addition to others who are employed by the state, useful basic skills .. computer courses (Microsoft word and excel) … Languages (English or French) … computerized accounting, and financial accounting (for business graduates)… even arts student and artists can benefit from courses in photo editing and other graphics and 3D animation software, many working in Syrian TV should learn professional computer based video editing …

Before you get them fired (when you start actively privatizing in two years), make sure they are employable by the private sector.

4) To be able to seriously make a difference in reforming a mess like the one in Syria, it takes … an Attaturk.

Saddam Hussein used to scare Iraqis enough that there was almost no corruption at the lower levels, only Saddam and his family dared to steal.

This changed starting with the sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 90’s … poor Iraqis became poorer and Saddam had to allow them to become corrupt. Today (thanks to US and international sanctions), we have a situation in Iraq were everyone learned to be corrupt, and not only the country’s leaders.

This reminds me of another point

5) The mess in Syria is largely the responsibility of successive governments and ideologies that made endless mistakes. True.

But I can’t, for the sake of NOT sounding like a regime supporter, be honest if I don’t insist that the United States and Saudi Arabia (and Saddam in the old days) had a lot to do with Syria’s mess … Hafez and Bashar Assad relentlessly pursued regional policies that resisted external attempts to weaken and marginalize Syria. The United States and its allies in the Middle East frequently (not always) did their best to destroy or at least to slow down Syria’s economy …

Check what Andrew Tabler is proposing now that he is in old Washington:

“opportunities” to weaken Syria through “smart sanctions”

Basically .. Nasser, the Baath, and the very democratic but highly dangerous United States are all to blame.

August 22nd, 2009, 8:06 pm


Alex said:


“a couple hundreds readers” of Syria Comment?

Thousands per day.

2.4 million so far.


Thanks for the credit but when you wrote your note I did not write a thing yet 🙂


Thanks… I forgot when and where I wrote it, I was looking for it.


Did you check in that same report the cost of the conflict to Israel too?

We all want peace, you want to wait until there is democracy in Syria … another trillion added to the cost of the conflict by then.

August 22nd, 2009, 8:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Alex’s Proposal for Syrian Renewal, part 2

Education is the key … I would immediately borrow from Qatar or Abu Dhabi a billion dollars and spend it all on mandatory intensive courses…


Excellent post. I like your recommendations.

Perhaps you should run for president. Or maybe the best thing to do is to get on the Assad payroll…

Bon Chance.

But I can’t, for the sake of NOT sounding like a regime supporter, be honest if I don’t insist that the United States and Saudi Arabia (and Saddam in the old days) had a lot to do with Syria’s mess …


At least now you know you are “sounding like a regime supporter”. Your posts here on Syria Comment should make quite a thick resume that Mr. Assad would be proud of.

Anyway, I’m sure Assad feels better knowing Syria’s “mess” was someone else’s doing. He’d be in a lot of trouble if it wasn’t. I think.

August 22nd, 2009, 8:45 pm


Alex said:

But Akbar, …did you notice that this current post on Syria Comment by Ehsani is actually very critical of Syria?

How is that compatible with your absolute conviction that Syria Comment is a regime propaganda outlet?

Also, did you notice in my comment above that I actually suggested that it is not enough what Ehsani was proposing … We need a decision from the President to be willing to punish those who continue to be corrupt, no matter how rich or powerful they are.

Since the President did not take that decision yet, am I really saying that Syria’s mess is strictly “someone else’s doing”?

But I am not shying away from also blaming the United States’ misguided policies towards Syria … Israel’s friends (like Think tankers and advisers calling for smart sanctions) are to blame… they are ensuring that the United States continues to mess up the lives of those living in countries that refuse to become Israel’s puppet-neighbors.

August 22nd, 2009, 9:17 pm


norman said:

No comments,

Arabic and friendship studies in Syria

The Syrian capital, Damascus, is becoming a popular destination for foreigners who want to learn Arabic. The BBC’s Paul Moss, who spent time there earlier this year, was inspired to study hard by his encounters with the city’s people.

Alex sent a text message to say he had been bitten by a snake. Perhaps I was unfair, but I reckoned he was making it up.

Among the great pantheon of excuses people have made for missing an exam, “attack by snake” must rate as one of the more implausible.

But Alex had sent the text message to several of my classmates, asking them to inform the authorities at Damascus University.

He would be absent, he said, from the final test for “Arabic level one” as he was still recovering from the venomous injury.

I doubt whether Alex’s story will put many people off coming here.

Studying Arabic in Damascus is increasingly popular.

For anyone wanting to learn the language the city has become a Mecca, if you will pardon a somewhat inappropriate metaphor.

I had come because I often report from the Middle East for the BBC and thought it would be useful to be able to phone someone’s office, for example, and ask for an interview.

Failing that, I hoped I might at least be able to stop at a cafe en route for the interview and use my linguistic skills to order a falafel.

Furrowed brows

The need to speak Arabic for work was what had driven several of the people on my course to come here.

The class at Damascus University included two social workers, from Italy and Sweden, who both had responsibilities relating to Arab immigrants.

Then there was the teacher who had Arab children among her pupils back home.

But there were also devout Muslims, one from South Africa, and several from Yorkshire, England, all intent on being able to read the Koran in its original form.

As for Alex, I was never sure exactly why he was studying Arabic. But the intervention of the snake had, in any case, removed him from the equation.

Whatever their different motivations, the influx of all these would-be orientalists is changing the face of Damascus.

The city now teems with foreigners – mostly young, and living on a budget – yet shunning the laid-back idleness of your average backpacker.

“ This is a language where there is a grammatical rule to explain most things – unlike in English – but the rules are often desperately hard to grasp, let alone to memorise ”

There are no beaches for these diligent students, no yoga retreats, or opportunities to experiment with drugs.

Instead, they wander the streets of Damascus’ Old City, their brows furrowed, as they mutter strange incantations under their breath.

In fact, this is the quiet chanting of irregular verbs or reciting of lists of nouns and their plurals.

The study is hard.

This is a language where there is a grammatical rule to explain most things – unlike in English – but the rules are often desperately hard to grasp.

Everyone goes through bad-tempered moments of wanting to give up altogether.

I myself had a particularly intense tantrum when confronted with the Arabic word for “there are”, as applied to three or more non-human objects.

Reading from the original script, the word looked as though it was something like “Ha-aloo-ooh-ha-alloowi”, though, as my textbook helpfully explained, the pronunciation is irregular.

Western hostility

But however modest our achievements, the presence of foreign students does seem to please the Damascenes.

“Tadrusus el lawra Arabiya – hunna?” they ask delightedly – “You’re studying Arabic – here?”

There is a serious side to this incredulity. Syrians tend to feel that their country is the object of Western hostility.

And it is true that although Syria did not quite make it on to George Bush’s “axis of evil”, it is usually seen as a close runner-up.

So the fact that Westerners choose to come here, and to study their language, is frequently a source of surprise and delight.

“You know Paul,” my local barman assured me, “we don’t hate American people, only the American government.”

“ I was in the vanguard of a new cross-cultural movement, one that would transcend old enmities ”

I reminded him I was not actually American, but this minor detail was not sufficient to stem his flow.

“You Americans, you learn some Arabic, we learn a little English. We can all be friends.”

It had been a particularly tough day, the verbs and the vocabulary taking their toll.

But somehow this image spurred me on.

No longer was I merely studying a language. I was in the vanguard of a new cross-cultural movement, that would transcend old enmities.

I returned to my rented room that night with renewed enthusiasm, and I studied hard.

In fact my whole class studied hard, and in the end, we all passed our beginner’s Arabic exam.

Except Alex of course. It turned out the snake-bite story was true. He had the wound and the hospital stay to prove it.

But the experience had not been all that bad, he said. The hygiene on the ward was first-class and the nurses, he thought, were rather cute.

He had missed the exam. But last thing I heard, Alex had signed up with a private tutor, determined to nail that grammar once and for all.

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Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/08/22 11:15:12 GMT


August 22nd, 2009, 10:04 pm


norman said:

Hi Alex,

Syria does not have to borrow money to educate Syrians on computers , as you know many Syrians spend tremendous amount of money on tutoring and summer courses and if these computer schools are open for business and these companies make it clear that computer knowledge is a way to get a good job , I expect that many people will pay their own way.

August 22nd, 2009, 10:38 pm


Alex said:


Thanks for that BBC article : )

Syria needs to make those courses mandatory. Otherwise a majority of those who need them will not afford them or will be too lazy to go back to school.

They will need to understand that the state will privatize many industries and that those who do not get their skills updated risk being unemployed by the new private owners.

August 22nd, 2009, 11:14 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Dear Alex,

First, unlike you, I was very surprised to read Ehsani’s post.
And of course the “calm, interesting and intelligent discussion” that
followed it.
Not that I thought that people here aren’t critical (I’m not that
stupid), but when reading SC regularly, you get the sense that, every thing
concerning Syria is just fine, no changes are needed, and the only problems
of Syria are it’s enemies ( US Israel and the West…).

I also learned alot from this post and the comments, So thank you
Ehsani, and the commentators.

I agree with you Alex. Israel suffers too. Big time. Not just in terms
of the economy, but much more: militarized society, rise of religion
and the religious, constant sense of siege and insecurity etc..

Ramadan Mubarak to all of you !!

August 22nd, 2009, 11:35 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Amir.

If you read Arabic, here is today’s opinion piece by the head of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabia station and senior columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat. “uncharacteristically positive Arab mood”

He is saying that the Arabs had enough of conflicts. They did not allow the Lebanese elections to escalate into a conflict, they did not allow Palestinian Fatah conference or any other Palestinian confrontation to morph into a serious conflict.

He is saying that if a just peace agreement is on the table (including the full return of the Golan, and East Jerusalem) , “the Arab street” will not oppose the Syrian President if he goes ahead with it.

مزاج عربي إيجابي على غير العادة

يبدو أن الأزمات لم تفلح في تبديل المزاج العام في المنطقة العربية، الرغبة في السلام ونبذ العنف.

ومن أين لي أن أقرر ذلك؟

كل الأحداث الدامية التي مرت، والخلافات الظرفية التي بنيت عليها أيضا لم تفلح في استمالة أي تيار شعبي، ولهذا لم تدم طويلا. فالانتخابات اللبنانية مرت وانتهت في مناخ أفضل حتى من توقعات المتفائلين. ومؤتمر حركة فتح الفلسطينية عقد في الضفة الغربية بعد أن ظن باستحالة التئامه، ونجح في أهدافه، رغم كثرة العراقيل، وزحام المشاركين، واختلافات الرؤى. فالنزاع الفلسطيني أصبح لا يجد مؤيدين له في المنطقة سياسيا وإعلاميا. وتفجيرات بغداد، رغم نجاحها وبشاعتها، لم يصدر بيان واحد يتجرأ على تبنيها أو الدفاع عنها.

في نفس الوقت استمر المبعوثون في رحلاتهم ببطء السلحفاة لكنهم على الأقل يسيرون إلى الأمام.

كل المعارك والأزمات تمثل مجموعة أحداث تميزت عن مثيلاتها في الأزمنة الماضية بأنها مرت على المنطقة وخرجت منها بسلام، وبأقل قدر من الأضرار. وها نحن ننهي الصيف على غير عادة بلا حروب، أو معارك، أو كوارث. والسبب في رأيي أنه ليس هناك نقص في الأزمات بل ظهور شعور إيجابي عام ينحو باتجاه الأمل بالسلام، وهذه مشاعر متفائلة جديدة رغم كل الصعوبات السياسية والاقتصادية التي يمر بها الناس هنا.

ولا يمكن أن نهون من قيمة الشعور الشعبي حيال أي شأن عام، الذي ربما لا يبدي الكثير من الحماس اليوم لروايات المفاوضات ووعود السلام بسبب السراب الأزلي، إنما يعمه أولا شعوره بالاشمئزاز من كل محاولة فتح معركة جديدة وفي نفس الوقت يريد أن يعطي السلام فرصته. لهذا لم يطل شجار حماس ضد فتح، ولم يرغب أحد في متابعة معركة حماس مع الحركة السلفية الجهادية في غزة، ولم يلق أحد باله للعنف في العراق رغم تزايده في الآونة الأخيرة. وباستثناء أحداث إيران المتواصلة، التي لم تنسكب على الجانب العربي بعد، فإننا نكون قد عشنا أياما هادئة وصيفا ساكنا على غير المعتاد.

ولو استطاع المفاوضون استثمار المزاج العربي الواضح ضد جبهات الرفض التقليدية وطرح مشروعهم الصعب للسلام الفلسطيني ـ الإسرائيلي، والسوري ـ اللبناني ـ الإسرائيلي، لربما حملت الرياح الجميع نحو وجهة جديدة. فالقيادات السياسية العربية دائما تعاني من فوبيا الشارع العربي، والخوف الدائم من الرفض، وتبعات ذلك على قدراته القيادية الداخلية والخارجية. إن أحدا لا يستطيع أن ينكر على الرئيس الفلسطيني، كما أنكر على الرئيس الراحل ياسر عرفات عندما فاوض في طابا وما سبقها. ولا أحد سينكر على الرئيس السوري لو توصل إلى اتفاق سلام بشأن الجولان، كما كان ينكر على الرئيس المصري الراحل أنور السادات عندما فاوض على سيناء. بالفعل تغير العالم العربي نحو القبول بفكرة السلام دون أن يعني هذا أنه سيقبل بسلام ناقص. فسورية لا تستطيع أن توقع سلاما بدون كل الجولان. ولا يستطيع الفلسطينيون أن يذهبوا باتجاه حل بدون القدس الشرقية. ما عدا هذه المسائل الأساسية فإن بقية القضايا قابلة للنقاش.

August 23rd, 2009, 1:02 am


norman said:

Alex , Ehsani

Fighting corruption at the high levels is difficult and was not successful before at Hafez Assad time , with (( men ayna laka haza )), to fight corruption at the highest level i feel it would be better to forget the past where corruption was attached to commission government officials demanded for giving contracts and start from now by making it difficult to get corrupted , so all bids should be close bids , opened in a comity with at least 13 member , the more there are the more difficult for members to give contracts to unworthy companies , and to make things clear , the winners should be announced in the newspaper and the amount of the contract price declared which will give a chance to the other companies to object ,

what i am trying to say is that prevention of corruption is much easier than fighting after the fact , there should be still prosecution of the corrupts some times if they managed to cheat .

August 23rd, 2009, 3:46 am


Shai said:


Though I’m still a bit puzzled at your comment a few days ago (where you explained what “type” of virus Peace Now might be, in Ya’alon’s statement), I nonetheless am glad to hear your criticism of Israeli society. For most here, it is not obvious at all to hear it from an Israeli. Unfortunately, those American Jews that frequent this site have been quite unable and unwilling to do the same.


What a troublemaker you are. You finally hear some criticism of Syria by Syrians (not that it hasn’t been given before), and what do you do? You taunt the person who brings it to you.

You’ve always claimed this was a regime-supporting, propaganda tool. If it is, why are you here? Surely your voice is a drop in a bucket of propaganda. Is it worth your effort?

August 23rd, 2009, 4:30 am


majedkhaldoun said:

We also need to give power to judges,and free journalists.
Ehsani : it is good article,I enjoyed reading it.

August 23rd, 2009, 5:15 am


EHSANI2 said:

Alex my very good friend,

1- You are correct that Nasser started the mess.

2- Please note that in the U.S., the top 5 % of earners pay well over half of all the income taxes collected. As for corporate taxes, the US tax code is so complicated that corporations have always found ways to avoid paying. The culprit is an insane tax code. Of course tripling salaries will not stop bribery per se. It does however put the government in a more credible position before it can prosecute those that do get bribed. Today, even mother Theresa can justify the act. I don’t agree with you that your name can get you ahead in a passport office. Your money does. Of course if a so-called influential businessman walk in, he can manage to jump ahead the line but his influence only comes from the power of his $$. You cannot lower your import duty bill because of your name. It is the size of your kickbacks that will determine the outcome.

3- Education at a later age means a loss of income while you are reeducating yourself. Most don’t have this luxury. Studies show that students who learn a foreign language starting nursery till 6th grade are unlikely to lose this knowledge for the rest of their lives. The trick is to start early.

4- You mentioned the need for an Ataturk. If you look at Turkey’s modern history, you will find that it was Turgut Ozal that really helped turn Turkey’s economic fortunes around. He championed shifting from state-domination to privatization. He helped streamline taxes and duties. He was the single most important person that made Turkey what it is today.

Syria must find its own Turgut Ozal if she wants to turn this ship around.

August 23rd, 2009, 12:46 pm


norman said:


I think that Dardari is trying to do that within the bureaucracy of Syria,but he is moving , he reformed the tax code , prosecutors are assigned to counties and those hopefully will do something to stem corruption ,

I agree with you about English early in school.

August 23rd, 2009, 1:24 pm


Alex said:

Dear Ehsani

I agree that an Ataturk is not necessarily needed for changing the population’s entrenched habits and attitudes, but it helps to have a bit of that determination and authoritarianism.

I was not referring to updating tax laws and to deciding to sell the beer company. I was more referring to changing people’s attitudes.

As for education alternatives. There is no substitute for what you propose but i feel also that there is no easy way to privatize without sending human resources specialists into each of those corporations that the state plans to sell in the future, meet with those employees and design training programs to help them become eligible for proper employment elsewhere, or at the same place but under the more demanding private management.

I spoke yesterday to a friend of mine who told me a story: A poor woman asked him if he can help find her a job a state owned company in Homs. Her husband died and she needed to feed her family. My friend (being “well connected”) managed to do better … he found her a job at a private large company that would earn her 13000 per month instead of 7000 Syrian pounds that she would have earned at the state owned company.

When my friend called her to give her the good news … she said “I don’t want more than 7000. I would like to work for the state .. I have children and I can’t afford to go to work for more than an hour or two per day”

It is this attitude that we need to deal with in a serious, determined and well planned way. There are human resources specialists who know how to deal with change and who can design training programs customized for each sector and for each type of employee that address his/her specific lack in necessary skills. Other Arab countries hired European human resources consultants to manage the transition period before privatizing their state owned corporations.

The twenty million Syrians out there are not only school children … we need to reeducate and to train the adults too.

Another story:

The father of a friend of mine was a well known person in Syria. When my friend called one of the Syrian embassies to ask for help stamp a university paper). He was transfered to the ambassador himself … the ambassador asked him to say hello to his father and assured him that his request will be done the same day.

He did not pay a penny.

And one last thing. I will make use a part of the article you sent me by email yesterday which examined the effect of drop of average wealth for the ultra rich in the United States:

As Harvard economist Lawrence Katz said: “But a significant amount also stemmed from the wealthy’s newfound ability to win favorable government contracts, low tax rates and weak financial regulation”.

Similarly in Syria, I imagine that major losses of income to the state come from laws and regulations (and insider information) that benefit the ultra rich and powerful and connected to the top. This is probably as damaging to the state’s income as all the small time corruption cases combined.

August 23rd, 2009, 6:05 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I don’t see anything wrong with what the woman you cited said to your friend. She is a rational economic actor. If there is an employer willing to give you a job for life with a salary of SYP 7,000 a month and an income of 75% of salary till you die all while you work 2-3 hours a day, I would also opt for that job. It is not the lady’s attitude that I question. It is the State’s policies as an employer. On a risk adjusted basis her 7000 for life (plus retirement) is a much better deal that that the private sector offered her.

Here is my favorite story from the summer:

The same bank manager I talked about in the main post described how he tried to lure away a long-term employee from the commercial bank of Syria (government owned). After he found out that she makes SYP 17,000, he was sure that she would jump at his offer by offering to raise her monthly salary to SYP 100,000. She thanked me and declined the offer. When he insisted to know how she would refuse such a salary jump , she explained that she actually makes a lot more where she is and works much less. A number of industrialists explained to me how loan officers at state banks skim off as much of 25% of the total loan approved. You apply for SYP 50 million. You get approved but you only receive SYP 40 million with the remaining SYP 10 million going to the pockets of the state bank employees who made sure that you are the lucky one who actually qualified for the loans.

August 23rd, 2009, 6:35 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Another example of how liberal naivete is self-defeating and encourages terrorism.

But Akbar, …did you notice that this current post on Syria Comment by Ehsani is actually very critical of Syria?


Yes I did. It was refreshing, but it wasn’t YOUR post.

How is that compatible with your absolute conviction that Syria Comment is a regime propaganda outlet?

90% of the posts are pro-regime. 10% are critical (my numbers). It is either very rare to read posts that are critical or they offer excuses somewhere within the post, like it was some other regimes fault for Syria’s “mess”.

Also, did you notice in my comment above that I actually suggested that it is not enough what Ehsani was proposing … We need a decision from the President to be willing to punish those who continue to be corrupt, no matter how rich or powerful they are.

Please, don’t bore us.

August 23rd, 2009, 6:36 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Ehsanie

Dealing with the woman who took 25% cut from the bank lawn needs an Ataturk (or Ataturk light) : )


Your 90/10 numbers are close… But that refers only to the main posts. actually it might be more like this:

20% posts that are more compatible with Syria’s views
10% Posts that are critical
70% News roundup (neutral) .. these include anything that was written about Syria that was worth sharing wit our readers.

But it is obvious that most of the energy on this blog is in the comments section … and everyone is welcome here, including you being one of the most permanent and dependable commentators.

Most comments are by Israelis, not Syrians. Not bad for a supposedly Syrian regime propaganda outlet.

Try as hard as you want to tarnish the image of SC, but Syria Comment will remain one of the most successful Middle East blogs. You have been trying for few years now Akbar, stop being a robot. It is not working, try another negative strategy. Ask your friends the robots for advice.

And please accept my apologies for boring you personally. But can you tell me on whose behalf you were speaking when you asked me to “Please, don’t bore us.”?

August 23rd, 2009, 7:03 pm


norman said:

Hi Alex,

i know that your intentions are noble , but can you imagine a government that can not write a good marriage law would be able to manage a retraining program , it will cost too much and will add to the corruption ,
what the government needs to do is let people open their own beer factory without having to sell the public sector one , i think will see then that these workers in public sector migrating to the private one for getting paid more , they will be more productive and the private company will train them as we do in the US , we train our employees , i do not expect the government to train my employees on my computer program that i use ,

About the woman , that is exactly what Ehsani always said , these people are getting handout and should be less of them and that is why the Syrian government should stop hiring people until the people that work there put 8 h/d every day , or get rid of them , Syria will have money for the civil servants 3 or 4 times the usual salary ,

About you friend with connected father ,
let me tell my story ,

I was applying for privileges at a hospital in the US and they wanted the papers signed by the Dean of the medical schools at Damascus university , I did not know what to do as i said i am not connected and my Dad does not ask anybody , actually at that time my dad had passed away , I called the Embassy in Washington DC and explained , they asked me to ask the Hospital to send the papers to them and they would take care of them and that was what happen , as the papers had to go from the hospital to the university , actually i could not have done that myself as i graduated long time a go and do not know people anymore in Syria ,
So our embassy helped even though i did not know anybody , they were helping a Syrian doctor in the US ,
I will never forget that .

August 23rd, 2009, 7:33 pm


norman said:


are sure about the bank loan , i think they just take the interest before the principle and at the beginning of the loan ,at least that was my understanding , how can anybody borrowing money accept paying back more than he gets .any body can add to this , it is outrageous if true

August 23rd, 2009, 7:47 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Sadly, I am sure. Those borrowing the funds know that they will default on them in the future.

August 23rd, 2009, 7:54 pm


Alex said:


That is why I suggested that the government hire a large human resources American or European company to mange training, compensation packages, employee and management motivation strategies, and change in general. Our government is not qualified and that is understandable. The point is that proper human resource management should be taken seriously, it is not optional.”

August 23rd, 2009, 8:22 pm


norman said:

The daily star can not be fair to Syria,with lower infant mortality and longer life expectancy in Syria , they still say that the quality of health care is lower in Syria, thank God the numbers say different story,

Look at this ,

Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star

Monday, August 24, 2009
Middle East health care in context

By Josie Ensor and Richard Hall
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Stacked up against global powers, it’s tough for Lebanon to compete, but for a country of its size it boasts some of the most advanced technological resources in the region and a great record for the quality physicians that come out of its world-class teaching hospitals. However, the country’s health care scheme is not without its problems.

In the context of the Middle East, Lebanon is both winner and loser of the health game. Health is higher on the national agenda than neighboring Syria and Jordan, but the results don’t always match up.

A look at primary health indicators, such as doctor-to-patient ratio, shows that Jordan rates very high: for every 10,000 Jordanians there are 28 doctors and 10 nurses.

In Syria, the rate is 10.9 physicians and 21.2 nurses while in Lebanon there are reportedly only 6.5 physicians for every 10,000 people, according to 2008 World Health Organization figures.

The 2009 Arab Human Development report, meanwhile, shows despite its high government health expenditure at 12 percent per capita, Lebanon scores in the bottom half for infant mortality and life expectancy at birth. These health indicators for primary health care show some discrepancies between the amount spent on care and the quality received. According to the report, the country’s infant mortality rate is 27 of every 10,000 live births, while Jordan’s is 22, Syria’s 13, and Bahrain’s just a third of Lebanon’s, at 9.

The main health care provider in Jordan is the public sector, which is complemented by private health care and international organizations such as UNRWA. The developing country’s health care service has dramatically improved over the last two decades, which has placed it among the top ten countries in reducing infant mortality. Sixty-nine percent of Jordanians receive free health care, due to their status as public sector employees or their dependants. In comparison, the figure currently signed up with the NSSF in Lebanon has reached just 23.4 percent this year.

Salam Homoud, a Jordanian citizen and a regular visitor to Lebanon, has had experience of the Jordanian health care system since his mother fell ill three years ago.

“We are privately insured and the hospital we use is spectacular. It’s clean, modern and the doctors are great. Some people say the government hospitals are not as good, but I think they are.”

Jordan attracts health tourists from around the world to undergo routine operations at a cheaper price than in their home country, with many visitors from northern Africa in particular.

Lebanon’s neighbor Syria, whose government health expenditure rests at just 6.8 percent of GDP, enjoys a slightly higher life expectancy and a lower rate of infant mortality than Lebanon, whose output is greater. The country’s ruling Baath Party has previously placed an emphasis on health care, but funding levels haven’t kept up with demand or maintained quality, leaving its overall health care rating low compared to the region.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Health recently won a battle with pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of medicine: where companies were once making a 75 percent profit government intercession means it is now as low as 45 percent. Medication above the $10 bracket, as stipulated by new legislation, can now be purchased in the country at a cost-cutting price.

However, some say the current price of pharmaceuticals, particularly psychiatric medicine, is still too costly. Dr Jamal Hafez, Head of Psychiatry at Dar al-Ajaza al-Islamia Hospital, says people are often forced to buy their medicine from neighboring Syria. “ [If] a box of medication here costs close to $200, in Syria it is closer to $50,” Hafez says, meaning people have little alternative.

Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star

August 23rd, 2009, 10:48 pm


Shami said:

Bro Alex and Bro Ehsani,

Both Ozal and Erdogan are conservative muslims and liberals in economy and politic.
This is what Syria needs and will have.
The only obstacle is the alawite minority family regime which only aims is to survive against the higher interest of the whole nation.For this reason ,most of Alawite intellectuals are anti Asad regime and the syrian prisons were always full of them.
Other thing bro Alex ,Ozal was very close to Saudi Arabia as Erodgan is today.Syria and Saudi Arabia ,we like or not the Saudi Regime ,they are one land and more and more one people.(a percentage of rich saudis are of syrian origin).
Syria’s future is clear for me and i’m patient.

August 23rd, 2009, 11:30 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

If it’s possible in Ireland, South Africa and the Balkans then…

Former Yugoslavia patches itself together
Entering the Yugosphere
Aug 20th 2009 | BELGRADE
From The Economist print edition

Almost 20 years after political bonds were severed by war, day-to-day links between companies, professions and individuals are quietly being restored

“…that soldiers who were fighting one another not long ago now train together, or that firemen co-operate on a routine basis or that everyone from vets to central bankers meets with almost dreary regularity which constitutes the good news. That Regional Co-operation Council in Sarajevo has been patiently ploughing through a mass of dull, necessary work. It is a process, not an event.

The Yugosphere has its roots in shared experience, in trade and in business. Most former Yugoslavs—Bosnians, Serbs, Montenegrins and Croats—speak the same language with minor variations. Many Macedonians and Slovenes still speak or understand what used to be called Serbo-Croat as a second language. Within most of the region, people can travel freely using just their identity cards.

They like the same music and the same food. Political, religious and ethnic differences persist of course. But every summer thousands of young people come together at the Exit music festival in Novi Sad in Serbia, and big stars from across the region have no trouble packing in audiences wherever they perform. Much to the irritation of Croatian music executives, the mobile phones of many young Croats hum with the latest Serbian tunes. Pan-Balkan opinion polls show a certain commonality of outlook: people have similar fears, worries and hopes. Gallup’s Balkan Monitor, for example, released a survey in June that showed a drop in those wanting to emigrate in every state in the west Balkans….”

August 24th, 2009, 4:28 am


Shai said:


… it’s possible in California? 🙂

August 24th, 2009, 5:56 am


Shai said:

“… the idea that anywhere that you have Palestinians there can’t be any Jews, that some areas have to be Jew-free, is a racist idea…”

This so-called “Pro-Israel” American lobby has no shame. It’s as if the Polish proxy government called Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto “Racist”, because they wouldn’t allow non-Jews to live there with them…

Akbar, how about a condemnation here? Do you support, or condemn, this lobby’s agenda? (They’re calling it “Ethnic cleansing of Jews”…)

August 24th, 2009, 7:21 am


Akbar Palace said:

This so-called “Pro-Israel” American lobby has no shame. It’s as if the Polish proxy government called Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto “Racist”, because they wouldn’t allow non-Jews to live there with them…

Akbar, how about a condemnation here? Do you support, or condemn, this lobby’s agenda? (They’re calling it “Ethnic cleansing of Jews”…)


Nope, no condemnation from me. I think it IS racist when the PA requires all Jews to move back to Israel on land handed back to them. That the PA cannot accept a Jewish population or guarantee their safety is clearly racist. Israel, guarantees the safety of her 1.5 million Arab citizens, so that does not seem racist to me.

It seems like another double-standard to me.

August 24th, 2009, 12:21 pm


hans said:

“But why is bribery so widespread and why does the government seem powerless to stop it?”. Look at your own country (I am presuming it is the USA) then comment about others!

August 24th, 2009, 2:06 pm


Alex said:


There is some merit to what you are saying, but there are two difference

1) You already took most of the land which was their’s and you will keep it .. over 80% of Palestine will be yours. they are keeping about 20% … it is 5 times more difficult for them to share that tiny space with your lovely peace loving settlers.

2) Want a reminder what those charming angels who want to continue to populate the West Bank look like and think like?

August 24th, 2009, 7:48 pm


Alex said:

Dear Shami,

I look forward to the day Saudi Arabia can be one of the closest countries to Syria … but only as equals … we do not interfere in their country and they do not interfere in ours.

There are many Syrians in Saudi Arabia, there are many Syrians who have many Lebanese relatives, there are many Syrians who have Iraqi or Turkish relatives … the region should eventually be open to all … it is only natural.

August 24th, 2009, 9:03 pm


Ghat Albird said:



Nope, no condemnation from me. I think it IS racist when the PA requires all Jews to move back to Israel on land handed back to them. That the PA cannot accept a Jewish population or guarantee their safety is clearly racist. Israel, guarantees the safety of her 1.5 million Arab citizens, so that does not seem racist to me.

Professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University claims that Israel is an APARTHEID STATE. Read full commentary in:

August 24th, 2009, 9:06 pm


Jad said:

When are you going to drop your sectarian full of hate language??
I’m sick of the repeated stupid propaganda of yours that only Alawites are the bad guys forgetting that our government instituations are run by Sunnis and not by Alawites, the economy is in the hands of Sunnis not Alawites so is every ministery and professional assosiation are by the hands of Sunnis so you either super dumb or super blind not to see that and blame every mistake in the country of Syria on Alawites, I had enough of your sectarian comments, I dare you to find in all comments before yours any hint of sectarism.
I told u before, you start with hating the Alawite you end up hating and discriminating against your own brother because he might be a shafie not hanafi.
Wake up!!!!!

August 24th, 2009, 10:09 pm


Alex said:

تركيا:على الدبلوماسيين السعوديين الحصول على تأشيرة
طباعة أرسل لصديق
يو بي آي
24/ 08/ 2009
اشترطت السلطات التركية حصول القادمين إليها من المواطنين السعوديين حاملي جوازات السفر الدبلوماسية والخاصة على تأشيرة دخول لها من سفارتها في الرياض أو القنصلية العامة في جدة.
وأكدت المديرية العامة للجوازات السعودية في بيان لها اليوم الاحد” على حاملي جوازات السفر الدبلوماسية والخاصة عدا أصحاب الجوازات العادية الذين يمكنهم الحصول على التأشيرة من منافذ الحدود التركية، التأكد من الحصول على تأشيرة الدخول عند الرغبة في الذهاب إلى تركيا حتى لا يتعرضوا لطلب العودة مرة أخرى إلى البلاد”.
ولم يسبق أن اتخذت السعودية قراراً مشابهاً في حق المواطنين والدبلوماسيين الاتراك.

August 24th, 2009, 10:10 pm


Shami said:

Jad ,they are a necessity for them without them they could not rule and i hate those more than i hate their masters,but be careful i’m not attacking the alawites ,i said the minority within a minority ,which is in fact a family regime that radicalize and paranoize the alawites against the other syrians(for what reason this small minority own the military power alone ? and what is the aim of these alawite militias full of weapons inside my country ,in Damascus and not in Golan ?)
As people(those who are good and not corrupts),i love the alawites,as part of myself,believe me.

August 24th, 2009, 11:26 pm


Jad said:

What Alawite militia you are talking about? Is Syria your country and not theirs?
Aren’t those weapons in the hands of syrian men? Dont we call them Syrian Army? have you no shame of writing what you wrote about the Army?
Nothing bothers me more than ignorance and comments that derail any interesting debate off its tracks and on here it was only you and AP, Enjoy the company!

August 25th, 2009, 12:15 am


Shami said:

Jad dont play the ignorant.It’s not only about the Syrian army whose important and influent officers are all Nusayris.No it’s not about the syrian army ,there are militias in Syria whose only aim is to protect the regime.They did the massacre of Hama for example.Today it’s worse ,al saraya has become more figurative,there are several other armed groups under the order of the asads and makhloufs.
Jad open your eyes and be honest.
Such masquarade can not last anymore,Syria is not the private house of bashar and his corrupt family.
And the free hand given to the rafidi iranian regime inside Syria is an act of treachery and collaboration of its worst kind.
Jad ,Syria has its people ,it has its history…

August 25th, 2009, 12:20 am


Shami said:

No Jad ,i dont hate the shias ,the alawites ,the christians,the jews,the atheists … and avoid replaying such false claims.

August 25th, 2009, 12:27 am


EHSANI2 said:


The massacre of Hama you referred was the culmination of an armed uprising against the state which had been in power for less than 10 years at the time.

The rest is history as they say.

What did you expect the Syrian leadership to do after they came mighty close to losing power?

Had you been in their place and were you faced with the sectarian risk that they faced (and still do), you would have probably acted exactly the same. Syria’s leadership is aware that it has a very low margin for error. This is what most of her critics don’t seem to fully appreciate or understand.

August 25th, 2009, 1:16 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


So you’re saying that any regime has carte blanche to protect itself mercilessly against uprising?

Let me play this back at you, just for fun…

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 you referred was the culmination of an armed uprising against the state which had been in power for less than 1 year at the time.

The rest is history as they say.

What did you expect the Israeli leadership to do after they came mighty close to losing power?

Had you been in their place and were you faced with the sectarian risk that they faced (and still do), you would have probably acted exactly the same. Israel’s leadership is aware that it has a very low margin for error. This is what most of her critics don’t seem to fully appreciate or understand.

August 25th, 2009, 1:40 am


Shami said:

It’s also valid in your field, your economic concerns are also related to this sectarian alawite paranoia,no one asked them to do what they did,now if they fear the consequences ,it’s not my or your problems.Only people full of hatred can do what happened in Hama and so big was the hatred of the asads and alike toward Hama,Aleppo,Damascus….
They are not obliged to fight against the logic of history ,if they persist they will pay the price in blood ,for this reason they already own foreigner western citizenships,Bashar and close relatives included.
Syria can not be ruled as it was,and cosmetic changes here and there will not break the ice in which Syria is prisoner since 1963.
We must be realistic .

August 25th, 2009, 2:08 am


norman said:

Syria seen as key for Mideast stability

Experts see improvement in US-Syria relations vital for stability but reconciliation remains slow.

DAMASCUS – Syria has embarked on a delicate diplomatic offensive aimed at shedding its long-standing image as Middle East pariah while at the same time maintaining firm ties with its closest ally Iran, analysts say.
“Syria has emerged from political isolation and is now implementing some kind of roadmap to improve its ties with the West,” Riad Qahwaji of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis said.

Since coming to office in January, US President Barack Obama has moved cautiously to improve Washington’s relations with Damascus, which were deeply strained under his predecessor George W. Bush.

In a report on “Engaging Syria? US Constraints and Opportunities,” issued barely a month after Obama’s inauguration, the International Crisis Group said the new president would discover “that the past is not easily overcome.”

“It will be critical to reassure Damascus that the US is interested in improving relations and resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict, not in regime change,” the ICG said.

In a nod to Syrian regional influence, Obama later dispatched top political and military emissaries to Damascus to tap its willingness to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and also stabilise Iraq.

Last October for the first time Syria established diplomatic ties with its tiny neighbour Lebanon, winning international praise and setting the stage for overtures with the United States.

“Experience shows that Syria plays a key role and everyone needs it,” said Elias Mourad, president of the Syrian journalists’ association.

Syrian ties to Iran “serve regional peace” despite efforts by the West to sever this relationship, said the former chief editor of Al-Baath, the ruling Baath party newspaper.

In July 2008 President Bashar al-Assad made a high-profile visit to Paris at the invitation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, breaking Syria’s international political isolation.

Paris turned to Damascus when Tehran put on trial French researcher Clotilde Reiss and an Iranian employee of the French embassy for their alleged role in deadly street riots after Iran’s disputed presidential election in June.

Syria used its diplomatic leverage with Iran to secure Reiss’s release on bail last Sunday.

Three days later Assad flew to Tehran to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election as president, and was praised by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for Syria’s “steadfastness and resistance.”

“America’s blade has become blunter in the region,” Khamenei said. “The unity between Iran and Syria is the embodiment of resistance in the region.”

However, the key to full Syrian relations with Washington remains firmly in US hands.

“Syria hopes to obtain a lot of things from the United States,” said Qahwaji, including the return of its Golan Heights from Israel as part of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were revived in November 2007 after a seven-year hiatus, but ground to a halt last December when Israel launched its 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip, killing 1,400 Palestinians, mainly civilians.

Two American military delegations have visited Damascus over the past two months, with Major General Michael Moeller of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) heading the most recent one on August 12.

The top American general in Iraq, Ray Odierno, told reporters in Baghdad on Monday that the “bilateral discussions with them (Syria) are important.”

“We have a lot of reasons to begin discussions… with Syria, and I think this is just the beginning of those discussions, and it’s not just Iraq that they’re dealing with.”

Odierno complained that fighters were still entering Iraq from Syria, although he acknowledged that the “flow of foreign fighters in Iraq has decreased significantly.”

Obama last month expressed continued concern over Syria.

“There are aspects of Syrian behaviour that trouble us and we think that there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of these issues,” he said in a television interview.

US Middle East special envoy George Mitchell has been in Syria twice recently for talks with Assad, and Washington has announced plans to send an ambassador back to Damascus to replace the envoy recalled in 2005.

Its ambassador was recalled after the assassination in February that year in Beirut of Lebanon’s former premier Rafiq Hariri, a killing widely blamed on Syria which denied involvement.

Washington has eased some trade sanctions on the export of aircraft and other equipment to Syria, but other sanctions imposed by Bush in 2004 remain.

“Significant obstacles to healthy, mutually beneficial relations remain, along with a legacy of estrangement and distrust,” the ICG said in February.

“They dictate the need for a prudent approach that seeks first to rebuild ties and restore confidence.”

August 25th, 2009, 2:25 am


EHSANI2 said:

I don’t recall myself saying that “any regime has carte blanche to protect itself mercilessly against uprising?”

In the Middle East, you don’t walk in the sunset when you lose power. You lose your life and in many cases the lives of many in your sect especially if you happen to come from a minority.

Naturally, your margin of error is indeed very small. You err on the side of being extra cautious and at times more ruthless than you need be to maintain power.

If Israeli citizens and leaders happen to fit their modern history into what I am describing then it explains their own perceived or real small margin of error too.

August 25th, 2009, 2:47 am


norman said:


The MB at that time were trying to do what Al Qaeda did in Iraq , to start a civil war , what happened in Hama saved Syria and yes there was killings but i did not hear of rape from my family who lived there and still live there and yes mosques and churches were destroyed but all that saved Syria ,


What happened in Syria was not to save the regime as you and others like to call Syria’s government to entice division but it was to save Syria from a civil war , it was the Syrian civil war as there was an American civil war , saving Syria is a priority ,

Israel was established illegally and over the rights of the indigent population that were illegally expelled from their homes
That does not mean that the Jewish people do not have the right to return and live as equals , they just do not have the right to expel the people who have been living the for centuries ,

Israel was expelling the Palestinians and they were fighting for their rights , the Syrian government was not trying to expel the Syrian from Hama .
And that is a major difference.

August 25th, 2009, 2:55 am


Shami said:

Norman,i like you so i forgive you even for your unlimited supportive stance toward the regime .
I say let Syria as nation to judge Asad and MBs.

Ehsani ,no one obliged them to put themselves in front the rifle,they were free and strong when they decided to kill and rape.
And Syria ,must not pay the price of their mistakes and crimes,if they are not well in Syria ,so they should look for other place in which they will have security.Sooner or later they will have to face the consequences of their acts.

August 25th, 2009, 3:19 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


I agree, but note that this explanation doesn’t assign any moral quality to the protagonists and their actions, it just explains the rationale for their (re)actions. I thought you were trying to justify the massacre.


The most concise response I have is what Fat Bastard said in Austin Powers: everybody likes the smell of their own stuff. One man’s preventive action is the another’s bloody massacre, one man’s sectarian civil war is the other’s war of liberation (and that would include the American civil war that you cite. Would you prefer if it was prevented at the cost of continuing the practice of slavery?)

My point in the comparison was that if survival justifies extreme measures, then the Jews in 47-48 were justified in their actions, because they did face annihilation. Not just the regime, but the people too.

August 25th, 2009, 3:41 am


jad said:

You forgot to write about the Buddhist, Sikh, Hindus and Shinto!
I don’t need to remind you of your hate toward anything Shia and Alawi, it’s all written by you all over SC, I think your discrimination against anything not Sunni is inherited not by believe and that is your weak point you need to work on to go out of someone’s shadow and have your own ‘liberal’ views as you keep bragging about and calling yourself LIBERAL which is in my opinion some kind of self-delusion.

The other point you need to work on really hard to become of a value is to share your professional knowledge and show the good side of you which should be your expertises not your AlawitOphobia because your comments on SC are all the same repeated one that won’t get the dead back nor the virginity of those who’ve been raped according to your story or build a country nor trust.

I’m sure Norman is glad that you FORGIVE him; he always asks for Al Wali and Al Khalifa forgiveness, otherwise he can’t sleep.

August 25th, 2009, 5:25 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

YOSSI, I’m absolutely with you on that.
EHSANI and Norman just exposed their double standards.

massacre is a massacre is a massacre.

Ahh.. and the Nazis saved Germany, and the Janjaweed saved Sudan,
And the Hutu saved Rwanda.

August 25th, 2009, 8:40 am


EHSANI2 said:

But who said there was no massacre? The attempt was to explain the events that led to it. Please explain the way you would have reacted had you faced the same exact circumstances.

August 25th, 2009, 10:31 am


EHSANI2 said:

“massacre is a massacre is a massacre.”

No need to tell that to the Palestinians. It is funny how passing morality judgments is at times so selective.

August 25th, 2009, 10:58 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I would put a ballot-box, then ask the people to establish parties,
then give (let’s say) 3 months to the new created parties to campaign,
then let the people to decide about what party convinced them the most,
then count the ballot-boxes, then declare a government, intended to
resolve the issues in a peaceful manner, EHSANI2.

August 25th, 2009, 11:05 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Yes. I was expecting the unavoidable “No need to tell that to the Palestinians” .. thing.

Israelis never massacred Israelis. That what counts to me.

The total casualties in the Palestinian-Jewish conflict, in the last
130 years, is less than the victims of 1 week in Hamma.

Check my numbers. They are accurate.

August 25th, 2009, 11:18 am


norman said:


Hafez Assad is dead , look at the future and how to make it better ,


When people fight for their freedom from a foreign occupier , that is a fight for liberty , when people fight their neighbours in the name of religion or ethnicity , that is civil war , the civil war in the US was not to end slavery it was to save the union , the south was trying to split from the USA ,

August 25th, 2009, 11:45 am


Akbar Palace said:

No need to tell that to the Palestinians. It is funny how passing morality judgments is at times so selective…“massacre is a massacre is a massacre.”.


Speaking of “morality judgments”, how many GRADs, Qassams, and mortars did the residents of Hama fire into Syrian population centers over, say, a 7 year period?

I wasn’t there, so perhaps you can outline this for me.

August 25th, 2009, 12:26 pm


Shai said:

Ehsani said: “Naturally, your margin of error is indeed very small. You err on the side of being extra cautious and at times more ruthless than you need be to maintain power.”

There’s no doubt Israel has and is continuing to exercise this sin. Yossi, I don’t buy the argument all of us have been raised on, that claims the Palestinians were trying to annihilate us in 1947-48, and therefore our acts were justified. First, most Palestinians certainly did not raise arms against Jews. The ones that did could, perhaps, be considered “fighters”, in some fashion similar to the soldiers of the Arab armies that attacked Israel. Indeed, when Israel’s very existence was threatened, the Israeli army had a right to defend itself and its citizens, by fighting other armies (and other fighters).

But, Israel never had the right to force Palestinians out of their homes. Nor did it have a right NOT to receive back the hundreds of thousands that ran away (for whatever reason whatsoever). Sure, it would have changed dramatically the makeup of the newly established State of Israel, as there would have been probably 50% Jews and 50% non-Jews. But when we were fighting (diplomatically) to create our state, we knew these were the numbers. Ben-Gurion feared this situation, but could do nothing about it. Nothing, that is, unless an “excuse” could be created. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Arab nations around us made this happen. But they never took into account what could happen to the Palestinian people, living in Palestine.

I don’t find any justification in Ehsani’s explanation of what led to the events at Hama. But I also find no justification in any of the massacres that Israel has led over the past 62 years.

Amir, I’m not a big fan of “counting bodies”, but regardless of how terrible the Hama massacre was or wasn’t, surely you can’t feel overly proud in knowing that the response your nation chose for the terrifying Qassams launched against Israel over a period of 7 years, killing some 30 Israelis in the process, was a devastating punishment that, in 22 days alone, killed over 1,300 Palestinians. Nor can we feel very proud in the 2006 Lebanon war’s results, where 1,500 Lebanese were killed.

I think what Ehsani was trying to tell us (Israelis) is that with our own ongoing record, passing moral judgement may be seen as a bit “funny”…

Akbar, and that’s why context is so often important. If Peace Now (the “virus”, according to our Vice Prime Minister) called some proposed Palestinian plan to have a Jew-free Palestine Racism, I could more easily accept it. But when an organization that supports the continuation of our Occupation, with its consequent suffocation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, says the same, I find it a bit “funny”. Actually, the word Chutzpah comes to mind first, don’t you think?

August 25th, 2009, 1:05 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Let us assume for a moment that the Hama uprising was going to lead to the takeover of power by a group of zealous fundamentalists with close ties to al Qaeda. Let us also assume that the new leaders of the Syrian state made threatening remarks against Israel and started to make Syria and safe haven for jihadists.

Would the response of the Syrian government at the time have made more sense to Israelis? Would that massacre be more justified?

I bet the ballot box proponents went into hiding when Hamas won the elections they seem to preach today.

The Hama massacre was not the first committed by human kind. It is unlikely to be the last.

Suppose a group of neo-Nazi infiltrated Israeli society and started to assassinate Jews, would you condone their massacre or would you instead walk the high moral ground, call for elections and see whether there are enough of them in society to win a free democratic election?

August 25th, 2009, 2:15 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Leftist Ostrich Syndrome

Yossi, I don’t buy the argument all of us have been raised on, that claims the Palestinians were trying to annihilate us in 1947-48, and therefore our acts were justified.


cc: Shai

I also don’t buy that Iran has a nuclear program.

He [the Grand Mufti] spent the second half of WWII in Germany making radio broadcasts exhorting Muslims to ally with the Nazis in war against their common enemies. In one of these broadcasts, he said, “Arabs, arise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.”[53][54]

Nevertheless, some speeches were more aggressive. Azzam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary, declared on Cairo radio: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”[93]

August 25th, 2009, 2:29 pm


jad said:

Amir, AP, and Yossi,
Hama was one incident in the history of Syria, the government didn’t go for 60 years on Hama citizens killing 1-10 of them everyday, throw them out of their homes, make them immigrant in their own lands, destroying their orchards and polluting their lands, air and water and drive them by thousands out of their villages to give it to Homs citizens, nor did kill them because they are from HAMA, so for you two Amir and AP to come here after Yossi’s comments which I think wasn’t in the same direction you tow derail it to and show your morality which is as low and racist as we all know it is indeed funny, laughable and pathetic.
I leave you with a lovely clip of the killing of an unarmed protester with the name of Basem Abu Rahme just to read your explanation and your desperate tries to justify the killing when it comes to the occupation of Palestine by the tribe of Israel and your full of thugs government..enjoy

August 25th, 2009, 2:31 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Suppose a group of neo-Nazi infiltrated Israeli society and started to assassinate Jews…


And let’s suppose those “neo-nazis” were terrorists with belt-bombs or Hamas militia firing rockets and mortars?

FURTHER, suppose Israel quelled this violence by killing a couple orders of magnitude LESS than what the Syrian army perpetrated in Hama??

Now perhaps you may understand Israel’s frustration with Arab “liberals”, and the lack thereof.

Scream bloody murder why don’t you?

Afterward, military and internal security personnel were dispatched to comb through the rubble for surviving Brothers and their sympathizers.[4] Then followed several weeks of torture and mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers, killing many thousands, known as the Hama Massacre. Estimates of casualties vary from an estimated 7,000 to 35,000 people killed, including about 1000 soldiers. [5] Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, estimated fatalities as high as 10,000.[6] [7] According to Thomas Friedman[8] Rifaat later boasted of killing 38,000 people. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimates 30,000 to 40,000 were killed. Most of the old city was completely destroyed, including its palaces, mosques, ancient ruins and the famous Azem Palace mansion.

August 25th, 2009, 2:41 pm


EHSANI2 said:

It is so very touching to read how Israelis are so upset and distraught about the killing and massacre of Syrians in general.

August 25th, 2009, 2:56 pm


Shami said:

Jad ,i’m a conservative muslim but anti theocracy so liberal in politic more than in economy ,in economy i’m social democrat.(the german model)
How would you define Erdogan ,Ozal and before them Maaruf al Dawalibi ,former prime minister of Syria ,all of those were liberal and conservative muslims.So it’s not a new thing on the arena.

August 25th, 2009, 3:04 pm


Milli Schmidt said:

Iraq links Syria to Baghdad bombs
Iraq withdraws ambassador from Damascus

I’ve been waiting for this…after withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities, Iraq’s government needs to start blaming outsiders for continuing violence (time honoured tradition after all).

This could be the beginning of yet another negative spiral in Iraq-Syria relations…with the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria thrown in as an interesting wild card.

August 25th, 2009, 3:36 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Erdogan and Ozal may well be conservatives Moslems. But, they have been overhelmed by a strong secular constitution and a ruthless army that is hell bent on protecting that constitutiton.

Were Syria and other Arab countries to adhere to the same secular principals both through their constitutions and armies, the risk that conservatives Moslems bring will be tempered.

August 25th, 2009, 3:50 pm


Shami said:

Ehsani ,the leaders of the MBS are moderates educated ,and gentlemen ,Hamas for example is by far more extreme than their Syrian brothers.They were not like Qaida like.

THOSE ARE THEIR LEADERS:Ali al Tantawi ,Sheikh Abu Ghodda,M Al Sibai,Isam Attar….

those who were active on the ground ,were angry young people who fought for their dignity and as well yours.

August 25th, 2009, 3:53 pm


Shami said:

And of course the friend of Jad ,SaiD Hawwa ,who was not as extremist than Jad believe he is.

August 25th, 2009, 4:00 pm


Shami said:

Ehsani ,our army as i know from Jad ,Norman and Alex ,is very very secular.
We can not hide the problem ,it’s the alawite minority regime disease.
And Ehsani bey as you are family related to Turkey ,you know how much the political influence of the turkish army has been reduced by Erdogan.

August 25th, 2009, 4:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I respectfully disagree. the Turkish army is still by far the most powerful single entity in the country. Erdogan may have won few tacticial skirmishes but when it comes to the broader strategic underpinnings of the Turkish stste, it the army that is very much in command.

August 25th, 2009, 4:14 pm


jad said:

“those who were active on the ground ,were angry young people who fought for their dignity and as well yours.”

Kareem Pasha!
They didn’t fight for my dignity, they fought to get to power and to be your leaders as a conservative Muslim as you called yourself and not mine as a SYRIAN or any civil society.
Altalee3a are for me similar to Alquaeda they had your friend Hawwa as their spiritual leader who is equal to Bin Laden and they are to be partially blamed to lead us to the situation we are in right now.

I agree that Hamas is more radical and extreme than their Syrian brothers and the result is a failed Imara, lost of dignity, lost of human lives and above all lost of Palestine, you can see what they are doing in the society in Gaza, they are getting more crazy than before and because of their stupidity they are giving the reasons for ‘their people’ to be doomed in this endless ugly occupation.

“the alawite minority regime disease” PLEASE…stop writing words that doesnt belong to any liberal or Democrat it belongs to Bin Laden and his gang not here and not between Syrians, keep it to yourself.

HOWEVER; what I really need to know is the clever point you have under Ehsani article and how is that related in anyway to the corruption, taxation, education and government services, you and other commentators who squeezed Israel, Radicals and Sectarism in the middle of something doesn’t belong to them and they obviously don’t even understand or trying to help with?
Instead of showing us your hate and discriminations toward anybody who is different than you under a technical discussion why don’t you try to discuss the solutions you think might work in such situation, how should we the Syrian fight corruption, how can we force a fair taxation system that could generate money for development, better education and better use of natural resources with cleaner environment, how the tribe of Israel dealing with its own corruption and taxation system ya Amir? What are the measures taken for water management Yossi and does you country generate electricity using some new technology and researches? What is the US doing to improve its environment AP? How can our Muslim society become true liberal and educated to know the religion in more enlighten way than it is at the moment Kareem? and how to build a society not a sectarian cantons?
Those are the true issues that unite us and make us more of a value to our society not an outsiders as you are doing? that is the core of Ehsani articles that I understand and that what matters, everything else I read from you guys is nothing but a meaningless comments that doesn’t do anything other than derailing the soul of this discussion, thank you for that!

August 25th, 2009, 4:42 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The facts in Turkey indicate the army generals are weaker,
1) the army can not end the Kurds rebelion
2) the generals could not prevent Erdogan victory,
3) In the army now,there are large number of soldiers and officers who are listening to Erdogan,and considered pro Erdogan.
4) there is evidence that the generals has been involved in corruption

August 25th, 2009, 4:44 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


I recommend Benny Morris’s 1948 as a good source on that bloody war. The summary is that neither side had much option but to do what they did. By 1947, the snowball was already rolling down hill. The biggest failure was of the international community—they should have stayed longer.


Sorry for taking interest in Hama while being Israeli. I’m sure you are also moved when you hear of a bloody massacre anywhere in the world.


The question is, perhaps Hama was ruthless enough to ebb any future resistance? Martin van Creveld thinks this was a masterpiece of counter insurgency…

In my opinion, Syrians will have to revisit this incident to reconcile. This issue is obviously not dead.

August 25th, 2009, 4:53 pm


Shai said:


Note that I don’t accuse the Israeli Army of fighting back the Arab armies that attacked us, or even the Palestinians that took up arms to do the same. If we hadn’t done it, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be typing this comment right now, as I wouldn’t have existed. Or if I had, I’d be speaking Arabic right now… 🙂

But on a serious note, we cannot escape the fact that the WAY Israel handled the non-fighting Palestinians (which was most of them), both during the conflict, and after the ceasefire was established with the various parties, was completely illegal. Even if you take the side that says we had no choice – we had to act in this way, we had to ethnically cleanse entire areas, to erase hundreds of villages, etc. – I still claim that AFTERWARDS, when the fighting ended, Israel should have allowed the Palestinian refugees to return. If not 3 months later, then 3 years later. But it is WE, the Israeli people, that have created a situation by which the Palestinians are the last remaining group of refugees that are still stateless. And it was always in our hands to change that reality. At a price, of course, but it was still our choice.

You and I both know that no real peace will ever exist between Jew and Arab in our region, unless most of us one day come to accept our responsibility for the Nakba. The Arab side will have to accept its part too (especially the Arab nations that urged the Palestinians to fight, and then to leave). But like a psychologist friend of mine once told Tzipi Livni, after she foolishly said during the primaries: “Once you (the Palestinians) achieve your State, you will have to remove the Nakba from your Lexicon”, he said: “Israel will become a State, only when it finally ADOPTS the Nakba into OUR Lexicon.”

August 25th, 2009, 7:16 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


You of course know that I agree that Israel should take responsibility for the dispossession and expulsion of the civilian Palestinian refugees. However, I’m pretty sure that had this been attempted 3 months, or 3 years after 48, it would have resulted in another civil war, as nothing really changed in the ideology of annihilation from the Arab side, at that time. Over time, these conditions changed (e.g., we have peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan) and now it’s definitely high time to address these issues, as part of comprehensive peace.

August 25th, 2009, 7:33 pm


Alex said:

You are right Yossi, Syrians do need to calmly revisit Hama … it was indeed a tragic, savage bloody massacre that involved at times indiscriminate killing of local civilians, and it was also probably … necessary and wise in the sense that it saved Syria and the region a probable bloody future that was not limited to Syria.

It is also amazing how twenty seven years later, Hama still can bring out all that hypocrisy from so many different types of Middle Easterners with strong desires to empowering of different religious states in the region (Jewish and Sunni states)… and that reminds me of what led to Hama in the first place and who pushed for the conflict that led to Hama as its bloody closing chapter. Everyone is to blame for Hama … “the Syrian regime” at the time … Saudi Arabia, Saddam, King Hussein of Jordan, Israel, and the United States … and definitely the lunatics who wanted to establish through their three year violent attacks on Syrian civilians, a religious emirate in Syria.

Take this paragraph from one Wikipedia page:

The Massacre

Calls for vengeance grew within the brotherhood, and bomb attacks increased in frequency. Events culminated with a general insurrection in the conservative Sunni town of Hama in February 1982. Islamists and other opposition activists proclaimed Hama a “liberated city” and urged Syrians to rise up against the “infidel”. Brotherhood fighters swept the city of Ba’athists, breaking into the homes of government employees and suspected supporters of the regime, killing about 50.

The army was mobilized, and Hafez sent Rifaat’s special forces and Mukhabarat agents to the city. Before the attack, the Syrian government called for the city’s surrender and warned that anyone remaining in the city would be considered as a rebel. Robert Fisk in his book Pity the Nation described how civilians were fleeing Hama while tanks and troops were moving towards the city’s outskirts to start the siege. He cites reports of mass death and shortages of food and water from fleeing civilians and from soldiers.[3]

According to Amnesty International, the Syrian military bombed the old streets of the city from the air to facilitate the introduction of military forces and tanks through the narrow streets, where homes were crushed by tanks during the first four days of fighting. They also claim that the Syrian military pumped poison gas into buildings where insurgents were said to be hiding. After encountering fierce resistance, Rifaat’s forces ringed the city with artillery and shelled it for three weeks. The Syrian army assaulted the town of 350,000 people on February 2 with extensive shelling.

Afterward, military and internal security personnel were dispatched to comb through the rubble for surviving Brothers and their sympathizers.[4] Then followed several weeks of torture and mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers, killing many thousands, known as the Hama Massacre. Estimates of casualties vary from an estimated 7,000 to 35,000 people killed, including about 1000 soldiers. [5] Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, estimated fatalities as high as 10,000.[6] [7] According to Thomas Friedman[8] Rifaat later boasted of killing 38,000 people. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimates 30,000 to 40,000 were killed. Most of the old city was completely destroyed, including its palaces, mosques, ancient ruins and the famous Azem Palace mansion.

Here is what I would like to highlight from the Wikipedia page on Hama:

1) Numbers vary widely:

Population of 350,000? … it was more like 150,000 at the time. Even Thomas Friedman on page 77 of “From Beirut to Jerusalem” said that the city had 180,000 inhabitants.

Inflating the population of Hama is a common practice .. it makes it more credible to claim that 40,000 people were killed there… this 40,000 number assumes that about one quarter the population of Hama at the time (assume 160,000) was murdered … which is total nonsense. First of all, the army did ask the civilians to leave the city and large numbers did leave before the assault took place. If 80,000 were left (could not leave or wanted to fight the army …) then half the city would have required total destruction to kill those 40,000.

Friedman quotes Amnesty in estimating that 10,000 to 25,000 died. Yet the numbers of those estimates kept growing with time to reach the 40,000 that we hear today … you know when this creative exapnsion took place? during the Bush administration and its many propaganda tactics against “evil” countries. Relying on quotes from what they called “Syrian opposition leaders” and on quotes from Saudi journalists and the many friends of Likud in the media and in “freedom” promoting thinktanks …

According to a number of different sources who took part in the army’s assault on Hama, a combined number of about 12,000 people died in Hama + in Tedmor prison after Hama.

That’s a huge number of casualties indeed … but it is not the 20, 30 or 40k that the pro Israel and pro Saudi propagandists are promoting today.

2) Who continues to mention Hama the past few years?:

– Neocon propagandists
– Saudi friends
– Lebanese M14 friends (including their blood warlords)
– Likud and other Israeli journalists and propagandists

Each of them caused, directly or indirectly, one way or the other more bloodshed than Hama.

Iraq’s sanction and Iraq’s war caused an estimated 2 million deaths among the Iraqi people since 1991 (due to war, terror, hunger, chaos, and medical supplies shortages) … Saddam, the neocons (Americans and Israelis) as well as religious fundamentalists (pro Iran or Saudi Arabia) are to blame for the majority of those who died in Iraq .. the largest “massacre” in the past few decades.

For those who refuse the Syrian regime’s reasons for killing 12,000 in Hama while advocating the sanctions and war on Iraq (millions dead) … you are hypocrites. Hama took place once … back in 1982. The Iraq war’s death toll continues to climb every week.

Here is what Israel caused, directly or indirectly, during the 70’s 80’s, 90’s and the past 9 years:

– Israel was largely behind the start of the Lebanese civil war that eventually led to the killing of 150,000 Lebanese people. Israel armed, trained and guided the Lebanese phalangist fighters (and “Lebanese forces”) and supported them in their fight against Israel’s enemy in Lebanon at the time, the PLO.

Of course during that war (that Israel planned) all parties did the killing. But the war would not have started and lasted had it not been for Israel.

By the way, the Lebanon war was also started so that Syria would be kept busy there after Egypt’s Sadat indicated he is ready to sign a separate peace treaty with Israel that was to be the last time Israel had to give back Arab lands it captured in 1967 (Egypt’s Sinai) .. Syria’s Golan was annexed in 1981 while Syria was busy controlling the Lebanese civil war.

– Those who think they are “Israel’s friends” in the Untied states (Christian zionists, Neocons, and Israel lobbyists, Likud agents and other Israelis who wanted to get rid of Saddam hussein and weaken Iraq) promoted the Iraq war … we know how many died there.

– In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to help its allies finish off the PLO and send them to Tunis … almost 18,000 people died in that war.

– in 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon again killing 1500 and destroying large parts o the country… this took place after two israel soldiers were killed by Hizbollah.

– in 2008/2009 Israel killed 1300 Palestinians in Gaza committing many war crimes and violating international law in many ways.

– .. not to mention the ongoing killing and pain inflicted on of Palestinians over the past few decades.

As for the Saudis … their indirect casualties are massive … they financed and provided religious guidance to most of the lunatics around the planet, including the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood fighters that pushed the Syrian regime to do Hama after three years of their terror campaign in Syria.

3) Was Hama the right thing to do?

Sadly … yes.

Look at the alternative. Algeria did not do a Hama massacre but instead continued to battle its brotherhood throughout the 90’s .. according to most estimates, 200,000 people died there.

Which reminds me that about 500,000 to 1,000,000 Algerians died fighting the French occupiers in the early 60’s …

12,000 died in Hama in 82

Another thing … about 1,000 soldiers and 50 government officials were also killed by the brotherhood in Hama that week.

Israel started the 2006 Lebanon war after two of its soldiers were killed by Hizbollah … the Brotherhood killed about 50 different employees of the state the days before Hama, and over a thousand Syrian civilians between 1979 to 1981.

Enough withe crocodile tears and enough using the memory of those who died in Hama for propaganda.

If you are really sad for those killed in 1982, be sad for those that continue to be killed this decade, and … support the ending of the war in Iraq and peace in the Middle East today.

August 25th, 2009, 7:37 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


Hama was and still is primarily an internal Syrian matter, beyond the way it’s leveraged against Syria in the international arena. My observation was that you will need to open this issue to public discussion within your society at some point. (Your 5 to 7 years till democracy countdown watch is still ticking Alex… I believed you first said that in 2007) You seem to agree with that but then discuss 10 different things. I doubt that your comparisons will provide any therapy to the innocents that were killed on either side. The same is true of Israelis and Palestinians because our lives are intertwined. The same is true for the sects in Lebanon. These groups are all going to need their “truth and reconciliation” committees. That is, unless we do things differently in the Middle East (e.g., by bearing a grudge for 1000 of years. Maybe there is a “conservation of hatred” law in the Middle East). It holds less when there is war between countries, such as US v. Germany or Israel vs. Lebanon. It’s much more important to close such chapters when they are internal to a particular society, otherwise that society will continue to be fractured.

August 25th, 2009, 8:30 pm


Alex said:

relations between the current Iraqi government and Syria are deteriorating. Prime minister Maliki was upset that the Americans were consulting with the Syrians in Damascus on ways to improve security in Iraq without inviting Iraqi officers. during his visit to Damascus he wanted to meet with Damascus based Iraqi tribal leaders but they refused to meet him, and he is being left out of new political coalitions in Iraq.

Iraq recalled its ambassador to Damascus for consultations, Syria did the same and denied Iraqi government allegations that Syria was behind the latest attacks in Iraq.

صدر رسمي: سورية ترفض ما ورد على لسان الناطق باسم الحكومة العراقية ويؤسفها أن تصبح العلاقات بينها وبين العراق رهناً لخلافات داخلية وربما أجندات خارجية

25 آب , 2009


تعرض العراق الشقيق والجار وما زال لتفجيرات إرهابية كان أكثرها دموية يوم الأربعاء الماضي تلك التفجيرات التي طالت وزارتي الخارجية والمالية تبنتها اليوم دولة العراق الإسلامية الفرع العراقي لتنظيم القاعدة في بيان نشر على الانترنت ونقلته وكالات الأنباء العالمية.

التفجيرات آلمت سورية وأدانتها في حينه بشدة واصفة تلك التفجيرات بالإرهابية المؤلمة مجددة التأكيد على الدعم السوري لكل ما من شأنه الحفاظ على أمن العراق وسلامته واستقراره ووحدته أرضا وشعبا.

لكن المؤسف هو تسرع الحكومة العراقية في إلقاء التهم جزافاً الأمر الذي يرده المتابعون إلى خلافات داخلية سياسية وربما خارجية أيضا.

وأعاد المعلقون على التصرف المتسرع إلى الأذهان تصريحات رئيس الوزراء نوري المالكي على تفجيرات الأربعاء التي أكد فيها أن التمحور والاختلاف السياسي كان سبباً في هذه التفجيرات.

وهنا تتأكد الحاجة الماسة أكثر من أي وقت مضى لتحقيق المصالحة الوطنية كي يتمكن العراقيون من الوقوف صفاً واحداً متراصاً في وجه الإرهاب وفي وجه كل ما يسيء لأمن العراق واستقراره وسلامة شعبه ووحدة أرضه.

سورية التي أدانت هذا العمل الإرهابي ترفض رفضاً قاطعاً ما ورد على لسان الناطق باسم الحكومة العراقية على خلفية تفجيرات بغداد الدامية التي أودت بحياة عدد من أبناء الشعب العراقي.

وقال مصدر رسمي سوري إنه سبق لسورية أن أدانت بشدة هذا العمل الإرهابي وأبلغت الجانب العراقي استعدادها لاستقبال وفد عراقي للاطلاع منه على الأدلة التي تتوافر لديه عن منفذي التفجيرات وإلا فإنها تعتبر أن ما يجري بثه في وسائل الإعلام العراقية أدلة مفبركة لأهداف سياسية داخلية.

وأشار المصدر إلى أن تضارب تصريحات المسؤولين العراقيين حول هذا الموضوع وتناقضها دليل يؤكد ذلك وأنه بناء على ما تقدم ورداً على استدعاء الحكومة العراقية للسفير العراقي في دمشق للتشاور قررت سورية استدعاء سفيرها في بغداد.

وأضاف المصدر أن سورية التي أكدت مراراً وتؤكد حرصها على وحدة العراق واستقلاله وأمنه واستقراره يؤسفها أن تصبح العلاقات بينها وبين العراق رهناً لخلافات داخلية وربما أجندات خارجية.

August 25th, 2009, 8:38 pm


Alex said:


I totally agree. Believe me I proposed the same thing for Syria .. both sides need to recognize their wrongs.

“You seem to agree with that but then discuss 10 different things. I doubt that your comparisons will provide any therapy to the innocents that were killed on either side.”

I agree, but on this forum, my comment was mostly intended to offset the continued use of Hama which never repeated since 1982, to justify somehow Israel’s pattern of ongoing “massacres”.

As for “democracy” in Syria … I still stick to my 5-7 years … at that time, I hope for real elections for electing a powerful prime minister. The President and the army would stay the same for few more years at least. We’ll see how that goes… hopefully.

August 25th, 2009, 9:09 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


I know it’s difficult to be impartial when under constant attack. Anyway, I hope that what you envision will come true.

Debka, being the useful news source that it is, also has this story about the deterioration between Syria and Iraq.

Another interesting story today:

Salam Fayyad says Palestinian Authority intends to bypass failing peace talks and establish its own state within two years

August 25th, 2009, 10:26 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


(cc ALEX, “Was Hama the right thing to do? ..Sadly … yes”.)

What bothers me, is that justifying past massacre, invites the next
And EHSANI, you’re right. It’s not because I did become a supporter
of the MB, all of a sudden.

Israel (in 2006, in 2007-8) and Syria (1982). Different cases, same mistakes.

The aim of those brutalities, was to scare and deter.
And indeed, the Syrian MB, Hamas and HZB are quite deterred (so far).
But this is a short sighted way of dealing with the problems.

For the long run, a just and political solution is needed:
Peace agreement between Arabs and Jews, and free and fair and democratic
resolution to the Syrian sectarian conflict.

August 25th, 2009, 11:16 pm


Shami said:

Habibi Jad,could you explain to me why Bin Laden and Dr al Zawahiri did never attack the syrian regime even verbally?
And do you believe that all these iraqi claims that al Qaida in Iraq are infiltrated by the syrian security apparatuses(and iranian) are false?
How could you explain ,the case of Abu al Qaaqa in Aleppo for example,would he existed without syrian regime approval?

And what’s your opinon about the Malaysian and Turkish model ,both led by Muslim liberal parties.?
Would you be happy to live in such liberal Syria following these models ?
You have to be realistic and not only idealistic.
In my opinion ,it’s the only feasible solution to gain back our christians (and jews)to Syria ,and of course the syrian elite that left for Lebanon and the west.Liberal democracy.

August 26th, 2009, 1:15 am


Shami said:

ALEX, “Was Hama the right thing to do? ..Sadly … yes”

Alex ,i forgive you too.

When the regime will be over ,we will have an another kind of discussion and your opinion would be other on these incredible unjustifiable crimes of asad.

August 26th, 2009, 1:21 am


norman said:

You are going to be surprised from my answer about why Ben Laden and Alzawaheri did not attack Syria even verbally ,

It is for the same reason that the new MB suspended their attack on the Syrian government , it is because they all see that Syria is the only Arab country ( State ) that is standing for Arab rights , They are more Arab Nationalist than people give them credit for ,

You should also set up priorities in your fights , Syria is still the shining star on the hill.

There is time to settle conflict with your wife , but you should never let the naibours of even the family know or interfere , between you and your wife , that is if you want to save your marriage .

August 26th, 2009, 2:09 am


Shami said:

Qaida and such groups are a burden for us ,they are infiltrated and used by several foreigner countries.
Islam is synonym of prestige and civilization ,those are the opposite of my islamic ideal.Al Qaida is a deviant group not better than the rawafedh shias or neo crusaders .
And Normal,not everyone who insult the USA and Israel we should follow him ,we are not sheeps.
The symbols of Islam are these bimarestans ,andalus ,mustansirya,al azhar ,zaytuna,fes universities,the medresses of aleppo and damascus,the umayyad mosques of Cordoba and Damascus.
Al qaida are the modern khawaridj.

August 26th, 2009, 2:16 am


Shami said:

Norman ,we dont share the same views but ,i like you because you are an honest patriot ,unlike those we had after Nasser.

August 26th, 2009, 2:23 am


norman said:


We agree on the most important goal and that is the good future for Syria, we might disagree on how to achieve that , but we and others want good future for Syria,

August 26th, 2009, 2:39 am


jad said:

I’m impressed by your excellent analyses on two main subjects in the last couple days,
You analyse about the players in the Palestinian issue and today about Hama incident, I’m very very impressed and I think that what you wrote should actually be a main article on here and defiantly not in the comments section

You never learn, you have nothing interesting or technical or even new ideas to add to this discussion or any discussion out of the past that you only see it as one colour ‘white’ other than that you have your fantasia of old days that you live in, well, you stay there, I wont.

August 26th, 2009, 3:07 am


Alex said:

Syria: a good European neighbour?

Chris Phillips: Britain wants to bring the country in from the cold. The EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy first needs an overhaul
Tuesday, 25 August 2009

As Syria’s international rehabilitation continues, Britain has called for “a new beginning” with the previously isolated Ba’athist regime. This would include bringing Syria into the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The move is part of a wider western strategy to tempt Syria away from Iran and continue its co-operation in Iraq and Lebanon, but are we witnessing another example of human rights and democracy being sacrificed for political expediency?
Article Continues

The ENP aims to build relationships with Europe’s neighbours based “upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development)”.

Ostensibly, Syria has not made any such commitment since talks about joining the ENP were frozen in 2005. Human rights violations continue and the ruling regime has shown no serious moves towards democratisation. Similarly, there has been no renunciation of chemical weapons – a demand that Britain had previously made during negotiations in 2004 and has now dropped.

Those in favour of a Syrian association agreement argue that the long term political benefits for the EU outweigh this oversight of principle. Syria expert Joshua Landis argues that US sanctions and international isolation have not worked, so a new approach should be tried. The proposed EU agreement, he suggests, would tie Syria into the global economy and discourage it from siding with those that undermine the global order, notably Iran. Similarly, the economic benefits of such a pact would help develop a larger Syrian middle class who would, in turn, promote greater international co-operation, as has happened in China.

Some supporters go further and argue that there is no compromise of principle as this pact could aid internal liberalisation. Syrian reformers suggest that economic openness could prompt greater social liberalism, as seen in the Asian tiger economies. This view is clearly shared by Britain and France, who claim a clause in the treaty will facilitate greater dialogue on issues such as human rights.

Yet both proposals fall short on closer inspection. The human rights argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when considering the other members of the ENP. Several of Syria’s neighbours – Jordan, Israel and Egypt – signed EU association agreements between 2000 and 2006, yet numerous human rights abuses continue. Similarly, while some Asian tiger economies have liberalised internally in the wake of economic opening-up, China has provided Arab states with a model in which western investment need not coincide with moves towards human rights or democratisation.

Similarly, Landis’s analysis implies that by joining the ENP, Syria will automatically see widespread positive economic development. Yet the country is still subject to crippling public and private monopolies that economists admit will need to be reformed for the economy to truly flourish, with or without the ENP. Furthermore, though Syria’s economy is currently growing, it is already showing the same signs of disproportionate wealth distribution seen in Egypt where development has remained lopsided since it joined the ENP. The gap between rich and poor has continued to grow in Egypt, spurring greater instability from the urban poor, who do not perceive any benefit from the ENP. In Syria, with the rich-poor gap also growing, the ENP could further exacerbate the situation rather than promoting the middle class stability that Landis predicts.

That said, Landis is right to highlight how limited the west’s policy of isolation has been in affecting Syria’s behaviour in the past four years. Moreover, the reasons to exclude Syria are tenuous. Past precedents for inviting countries into the ENP suggest political and economic rather than conscientious motives. Ever since the policy’s foundation, Brussels’ criteria for accession have been riddled with inconsistencies. Syria was denied entry in 2004 for not renouncing its WMD, while Israel acceded in 2000 with no mention of its undeclared nuclear arsenal. Likewise, Egypt continues to receive huge sums of development money from the ENP despite failing to live up to its commitments on human rights, good governance and democracy.

A Syrian-EU treaty would therefore be consistent with the ENP’s past subordination of its founding principles to the political priorities of the day. European attempts to woo Syria from Iran and minimise its influence in Lebanon are the primary motives for this treaty, not promoting good governance, human rights or democracy. Rather than making Syria an example of how the EU can promote its lofty principles, leaders should take this opportunity to reflect on the failings of the ENP in its current guise. Despite being the major trade partner with Middle Eastern states, the EU has been unable to promote the kind of domestic liberal political reforms so swiftly adopted in eastern Europe after 1989. It’s time to work out a better way to turn that economic clout into leverage. © Guardian News and Media 2009

August 26th, 2009, 3:21 am


Shami said:

Jad,i’m not manichean or only backward looking,when for example i praise the Ottomans ,i praise their pax Ottomana(as i prase the Pax Romana) in which they succeeded to make live together cultures ,ethnicities and religions in a very succesful manner.But if you want i can write a lot about the corruption of the ottoman bureaucracy that followed the 16th century ,the end of the speculative thaught during this era,which made the muslim people to live in a state of ignorance for centuries …and many other things…
But in general ,the paranoma deserves praise.
As for the importance of the islamic culture ,the europeans themselves recognize its impact on medieval Europe that permitted their renaissance later.The most used books in these universities(Sorbonne in which Saint Thomas was teacher)were written by Muslims.
We have to resume this glorious past and build on it ,our modernity.

August 26th, 2009, 3:35 am


Shami said:

And you avoided to answer about the succesful models of Malaysia and Turkey.Syria can easily be like them.
Or you persist to believe in your homogeneous Social Nationalist nation.?

August 26th, 2009, 3:44 am


Alex said:

Thanks Jad. happy to hear that .. It toook two hours I think to write that last comment : )

Shami my friend, I realized when I wrote that sentence will upset you. It is very controversial, I agree … if I watched what happened there I’m sure I would have been traumatized for years. But I am talking from the comfort of the far place I am in now, twenty seven years after Hama took place and doing cold calculations, I conclude that the ugliness in Hama was better than the alternative.

Remember that the brotherhood were calling for removing “the infidels” from power … that tells you that a civil war was the alternative if they took power.

August 26th, 2009, 3:48 am


Shami said:

Habibi Alex ,i’m not convinced at all by your justification.

No ,the alternative would have been better,because worse than we have is not possible.(according to Syria’s reality).

Also ,the leaders of the brotherhood were against such slogans and against violence…these words are the result of anger and it’s understandable under this pretext,put yourself in their places,it was Asad who jailed people and erased freedom.

August 26th, 2009, 4:15 am


Majhool said:

In general, Syrians who write in this forum, and despite their apparent selfless and somewhat technical arguments, are plagued with fully defined notions of what’s good and what’s bad for Syria and Syrians. Everything else is tailored to support their preconceived notions with little attention to other relevant details, that if considered their pre-conceived end-results will not be served.

These intelligent contributors are motivated not by socio-economic theories and ideologies; instead it’s the” Syrian way-of-life” that dictates their thought process.

This is very common in Syria. Take a trip to the mountain-coastal region and mingle a little with the locals, you will find that that social customs such as drinking Arak (alcoholic drink) or attending mixed-gender parties are elevated- with exaggerated pride- to some sort of cultural identity that distinguish them “favorably”- they assume- from the more conservative city dwellers.

This and many other attributes are made into a “life style”. Many Syrians feel that this life style is under threat by a majority that has conservative leanings.

The attempt to maintain this “life-style” is fictitiously called “Secular Syria”, I say fictitiously, since technically secularism is separation of state and religion and is different from defining the cultural leanings of society.

On the other hand, economic superiority as well as an overblown sense of religious righteousness, defines the end-results for those come from more conservative leanings. Life-Style does not define them, nor does “being Syrian” in the national sense. They are universal just like Islam is (in their view) or Arab (to a lesser extent)

Of course, some here are motivated by socio-economic theories/injustices, tribal, and/or narrow secular impulses, but they are few (Norman comes to mind)

Some here engaged in a lengthy discussion about who started the economic mess in Syria and weather it was Nasser or Baath. Little attention was given to the fact that Asssad Sr. sustained, manipulated, and augmented the Baath party to support his survival in power for 30 years. The two brief years of the union of Egypt are now the source of all evils in Syria!

Also, notice the separation between the Baath and the president when they advocated that the president and his appointed bureaucrats should eradicate Baath policies, This ignores one simple fact: The president is the secretary general of that same doomed party.

This goes even worse, when new-con style arguments about good and evil are used to justify a massacre that destroyed much of a very beautiful city and killed many of its innocent civilians.

Nazi/fascist -style argument such as “the massacre saved Syria” “it happened once and the rest is history” serve to delegitimize their sympathy for all oppressed people around the world. What if Israel was to kill Palestinians all at once? This way the conflict would not drag decades”!!!

Isn’t that the same argument Turkey used when they massacred the Armenians? You know, for the greater good of Turkey?

In short, this all serve to legitimize the dictator, whom without the “life style” is in danger.

August 26th, 2009, 5:02 am


why-discuss said:

what is Hama massacre or the armenian massacre in front of what the early american settlers did to create this ‘glorious’ country who dominates the world? Who remembers that there were people living there that were almost eradicated? history is full of criminal excesses, the winner is the one who survives, crushes the others and do all he can to have the crimes forgotten and buried.
In the 19th century, Israel would have killed all the palestinians. Nowadays it has to use more subtle ways. Too many people are watching.

August 26th, 2009, 5:44 am


jad said:

Hi Majhool,
I actually agree with what you wrote, criticizing is cool and necessary when it is correct and to the point like what you wrote, (not the part you point out Dr. Norman only. I personally think hat wasn’t necessary) but regardless of that, I agree, we all have the weird ‘Syrian gene’ and the weird Syrian way of thinking, so for us to pretend being what we are not wont be authentic of us..
I also understand your critics and I’m for sure part of the bunch of Syrians you are talking about and I think we need to read that in an open mind and open heart because we run out in the wrong direction sometimes and forget who we really are and what the reality of Syria is.

The good thing I can see out of this great experience of idea exchanging we are having here is that most of us live/lived in a true democratic society that opened our eyes to the positive and brilliant future we might be at if we adopt such principals and it should make us stronger society not to forget that having a true elected government will make our country more resistance to the trouble we face or will face, therefore, what we write on SC as technical solutions or long boring comments or ideas are our only way to let our ideas be heard and read since we don’t have this luxury in our own country, so let it be with or against any idea on here that is a good start, it may not be the best but at least we are trying, Right?

August 26th, 2009, 5:59 am


Majhool said:

Why Discuss,

I fully agree with you. All said, nothing bothers me like when some use moral or intellectual twists in order to augment the truth.

Power is power that I understand. Intellectual dishonesty I detest.

Mr. Jad,

I appreciate your comment, I was not sure that my comment would resonate, you know since it’s not based on a fictitious Zougby survey (smile).

But seriously, I found few or no “Syria experts” when it comes to explaining the conflicting “core-genes” of Syrians.

August 26th, 2009, 6:44 am


Alex said:

Majhool said:

This goes even worse, when new-con style arguments about good and evil are used to justify a massacre that destroyed much of a very beautiful city and killed many of its innocent civilians.

Nazi/fascist -style argument such as “the massacre saved Syria” “it happened once and the rest is history” serve to delegitimize their sympathy for all oppressed people around the world. What if Israel was to kill Palestinians all at once? This way the conflict would not drag decades”!!!

Isn’t that the same argument Turkey used when they massacred the Armenians? You know, for the greater good of Turkey?

So, apparently I am the one implied here.

Is this going back to the old habit of distorting my comments to turn them into an easy target for you to help you act again like some champion of the oppressed, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and other generic I-am-more-moral-than-you causes?

You know for the past four years Walid Jumblatt was being very good at doing the same thing you are doing.

I don’t need to know your assessment of the legitimacy of my “sympathy for all oppressed people” and I won’t spend time to explain to you why you are wrong. I did that in the past and you always came back distorting my comments again.

We’ve been through this in the past, I suggest you stick to the issues and to stay away from trying directly, or in your favorite sneaky way, to delegitimize me, and I will continue to do the same … as we agreed last year.

August 26th, 2009, 7:57 am


trustquest said:

#72,#81, Norman, everything you were saying about avoiding civil war are good and admirable, but the facts we are reading now, as media control no more from the regime, about that dark era in the 80s does not support your view at all. The number of people, most highly educated, killed while they are in prison is mind boggling, what is going on, those people were in government possession and eliminated them thousands after thousands, at least don’t be more savage than what you claim of your enemy not to mention the duty of the government in power as a keeper. People now reading the history and can not digest what happened especially the good which should prevail from this never showed up.

Since I read the story of the Syrian Christian who graduated as film director from France and came back home to spend 17 years in prison for just making a joke of the dictator he casually said in a party in Paris, and who then documented what happened in prisons in the 80s in his story, (Alquaqaha, recording day by day what happened in Tadmor prison, it is freighting chapter of Syria life and sadly it seems not going away, each side is feeding the hate to next generation looking for vengeance. I would completely agree with you if those people who saved the country from civil war, did not loot it after that, this is where they lost there morality and fell into the abyss, and then you see after that how and why the society outcast himself in search for another morality and kept watching the savages eating his flesh and praying for new down. The problem is those Syrian people who are not from both sides, they are loosing while standing watching others waiting for revenge, here you wonder if the regime in that deep trouble why he is not reaching for intellectuals and civil society to mend the atmosphere, for me I know the answer they CANNOT, too much theft to hide.

At the same talking, I might agree with killing at once or let’s say defeating the other to stop the killing and start over, like the American bomb on Hiroshima, but the American rebuilt the country and gave the people their country to run, they did not loot the country for ever. That is what is happening now in Syria.

Yossi, thank you for brining that up because the massacre is related to the subject of corruption directly and what we are witnessing in the Syrian society are moves some to take their shares and others to stop the looting. From here I understand the courage of Ehsani to not brush the subject like a trivial matter. The massacre is the turning point in Syrian economic history.

The connection between Hama massacre and the looting, which some want to call it corruption, is undeniable. One guy from the family since the massacre in the 80s till 2005 collected more than half the coffer of Syria, while he is government employee is beyond outrageous. Hama massacre was the initiation of new era of corruption, corruption was there all the times like any country in the world, but after the 80s Syria is opened for looting to the family that they collected outside the country (not to mention the inside of the country who may have invested some of it), many folds of the Syria coffer. This is not only not normal this is beyond any mind can comprehend, and current president is there to protect this status- quo, nothing more, that what the last 9 years proves till now. I know this is might come a disappointing fact to Alex and Joshua, since they gamble on this horse but thing is not going to be better.

August 26th, 2009, 12:14 pm


norman said:

Trustquest ,

what happened happened and opening these wounds will stir divide and hatred , we should look at where to go from here , i think the MB now have the same views , rekindling the past will not help,
it is not a christian or a Muslim problem , it is a Syrian problem and what Alex said about a strong elected Prime minster and government could very good start ,

I want to add that what happened did not only happen in 1982 , it did happen in 1965 with Amin Al Hafez as president ,and he is Shia,

August 26th, 2009, 12:22 pm


norman said:

I meant he is NOT Shia

August 26th, 2009, 12:39 pm


norman said:

Thank you Alex for exposing yossi , who keep trying to justify the ethnic cleansing and the killing that Israel does to the Palestinians and the Lebanese , and Majhool for who he is

August 26th, 2009, 2:46 pm


EHSANI2 said:

This may offend many readers but the fact is that you don’t spend 40 years in power in the Middle East if you aren’t prepared to confront Hama type scenarios.

August 26th, 2009, 3:00 pm


Majhool said:

Dear Alex,

Junblat all at once?! I am flattered.

I wish you had taken my criticism like Jad did, as an invitation to be true to ourselves, in a way that consolidates and manages the inherent differences among us Syrians. All said, I believe you are a man of good intentions. I will leave it to that.

I choose to avoid the swamp of details, in order to clarify my point, i.e. we Syrians are inherently diverse and don’t fit the mold of one “Syrian-way-of life”

Not to drown in details, the issue of Syria, in my mind, could be split into 3 topics

1) a power issue 2) empowerment issue 3) and Management issue

On the power issue, put simply, a group of officers consolidated power and created an authoritarian state. This new power eradicated all other forms of competing powers. The group shrank into an even smaller group of officers, and that in turn shrunk into a family.
Peripheral power centers do exist, but are kept in chec and are not meant to compete.

On the Empowerment issue, the new power paradigm provided segments of the Syrian society a sense of empowerment. It also deprived it from others. It’s important to note that this sense of empowerment is not necessary tangible. This lead to intangible source of conflict between the two groups which is expressed in many different ways. This led the empowered to view the authoritarian state to be the protector of its “way-of-life”

On the Management issue, which is the simplest, as a result of one and two, proper management of the country’s resources (human and physical) was sacrificed.

In my view, we need to tackle some of these core issues before it’s too late. In broad terms, I personally believe that we need to start with a new paradigm. A formula capable of managing conflict instead of eradicating it

If you recall a discussion we had few years ago. I was dismayed that the president did not give a road map nor made any promises as to the reform we all are waiting for. I still believe I was right in my criticism.


I am so thrilled for you, you know since i am exposed now. The Saudi payrol, the wahabi idiology, etc…

Snake Kebob?

August 26th, 2009, 3:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Today’s “Factoid” of the Day

This may offend many readers but the fact is that you don’t spend 40 years in power in the Middle East if you aren’t prepared to confront Hama type scenarios.


What are you saying? Are you saying that you endorse a Arab leader’s hold on power for 40 years, and moreover, his committing “collective punishment” or “disproportional” retaliation in order to do so (where have we heard these terms before)?

If that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. Just make sure you give Israel at least an equal opportunity to emulate your leaders’ skills in selfishness, crime, and violence.

August 26th, 2009, 3:28 pm


norman said:


i assume you consider yourself the snake , I agree

August 26th, 2009, 3:32 pm


Alex said:


Don’t dream you can use what happened ONCE and happened back in 1982 to justify Israel’s ongoing violent actions.

Read here if you really want an answer to your question to Ehsani:

August 26th, 2009, 4:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I said:

“This may offend many readers but the fact is that you don’t spend 40 years in power in the Middle East if you aren’t prepared to confront Hama type scenarios.”

Where did I “endorse” an Arab leader’s hold on power for 40 years?

Where did I “endorse” his committing collective punishment or disproportional retaliation?

Stating a fact is not “endorsing” it.

Israel’s tactics and strategy for survival are very much based on the same principals:

Make sure that you convince your adverseries that you will do whatever it takes to hold on. Daily mini Hamas and if need be a big Hama to the power of 10 can and will be used to ensure survival.

Cut out the moral high ground and lecturing please.

August 26th, 2009, 4:39 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Stressing the word “CALMLY” here on SYRIA Comment

From Alex’s link:

You are right Yossi, Syrians do need to calmly revisit Hama … it was indeed a tragic, savage bloody massacre that involved at times indiscriminate killing of local civilians, and it was also probably … necessary and wise in the sense that it saved Syria and the region a probable bloody future that was not limited to Syria.


OK, thanks. All we evil Zionists have to do then is:

– delete the 3 refs to Syria(ns) and replace with Israel(is)
– delete Hama and replace with Gaza and Lebanon (which are FOREIGN countries in our case)

And now we have our beautiful “moral equivalency” powerful enough to shut up the most Leftist of Lefties;)


Thank you for stating facts without endorsing them.

Are you as vocal about Arab violence against Arabs as Israel is?

I doubt it.
Daily mini Hamas and if need be a big Hama to the power of 10 can and will be used to ensure survival.

Which “big Hama to the power of 10” are you talking about?

August 26th, 2009, 4:48 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Faced with her own Hama (an incident that may offer Palestinians an opportunity to topple the state….unlikely as it is thanks to systematically destroying even a small chance of that), the state of Israel will deliver a (Hama)^10 when needed.

August 26th, 2009, 5:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Moral High Ground Con’t

Cut out the moral high ground and lecturing please.


I’ll wait for the owners here to tell me what to “cut out”. Thanks.

Here are some more facts for you to consider:

Fact 1.) Terms like “Disproportionality”, “collective punishment”, and “racism” cannot be possibily used by an Arab to describe anything an Arab government does in the Middle East.

2.) Arab grievances against Israel are constant and quite vocal in the government-controlled Arab media and almost nil when turned toward other locations in the Middle East.

3.) Arab government violence against their own people is always “necessary”. Israeli violence against a FOREIGN aggressor is never necessary and always criminal in the Middle East.

Thanks for the “Hama to the power of 10” answer. I understand this phenomenon is hypothetical, never occurred, and you just made it up. Makes sense…

August 26th, 2009, 5:14 pm


norman said:


do you think that Syria is better off controling it pound rate to the dollar or floating it,?

August 26th, 2009, 5:49 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The pound trades in the black market very close to the official rate. The central bank has defended its value very closely. If they let it weaken, it will be perceived as weakness even though it may help exporters and the state paying salaries in local currencies. Given the negative effects a weaker pound may have on inflation and purchasing power (already weak), it is doubtful the Central bank would opt to let the pound get weaker.

August 26th, 2009, 6:16 pm


Majhool said:


A quick follow-up:

Now I am able to comprehend your outrage. I had not read your previous comments. I had skimmed through few comments and it was Norman that I was quoting. Nonetheless, we continue to disagree.

Hama, is not an isolated incident. Sympathizers, orphans, mothers, relatives, and widows continued to suffer another 20 years.

Mistreatment and the disappearance of prisoners lingered for years, many of whom are at innocent. Harassment of MB relatives was sadistic. Exile still lingers today.

What’s needed is not for both parties to acknowledge their mistakes. MB is not accountable to Syrian people, the government only is.

I am not advocating dramatic trials and prosecutions. Here are some examples

1) Symbolic acknowledgment of death of many innocents. Erect a memorial in Hama with the names of innocent killed
2) Provide the families information concerning their killed or loved ones.
3) Monetary compensation for families.
4) A commitment to reform the judicial system, so that incidents like this don’t happen again.

The alternative to Hama would not have been bloodier as you think

1) Asssad forces could have been more careful not to kill so many in such a short time. It could have taken a month to end up with the same results and less causalities.
2) Even if the MB won, Syria is not Iraq, its 75% sunnis, if you know what I mean.

It’s all hypothetical after all.


August 26th, 2009, 6:24 pm


Alex said:

Akbar, you are a hopeless case. The Palestinians are “FOREIGN” when you make peace with them and allow them to have a proper country that you recognize … not by Prime minister Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from small part of their territories Gaza followed by Israel choking the inhabitants of that narrow piece of land then bombarding them and killing 1300 .. in year 2009, not in 1982.

You took their land then you call them FOREIGN and therefore it is moral enough to kill them … Perhaps because God (you believe in God I assume) does not mind mass killing FOREIGNERS at all, right?

You think god recognizes the difference when you kill someone inside the borders of the state of Israel and killing those in its occupied territories, right?

If you need to go back to 1982 to prove a point (That Israel is not more savage than Syria) then you are intentionally blind… why not go back to 2000 BC? .. I’m sure some Syrian king did something similar then.

finally regarding your non proportional response and comparing it to Hama:

in 2006 in Lebanon you lost two soldiers and you responded by killing 1500 Lebanese …. that’s 750 to 1

Hama came after over a thousand civilians were killed (not to mention declaring an Islamic emirate out of Syria!) .. the ratio was 12 to 1 .. still way less savage than Israel’s.

And Israel is not the only criminal these days, you are right .. the Arabs do not pay attention to those killed in Sudan for example, but at least the Sudanese killers are not hypocritically being treated by the west like decent human beings the way Israeli government officials are even after they retaliated over Lebanon by murdering thousands of people with a 750 to 1 ratio for their two dead soldiers.

August 26th, 2009, 7:05 pm


Alex said:


I have no doubt that had the Brotherhood won, they would have continued to kill el-kuffar (non sunnis) like they were killing them randomly on the streets of Damascus and Aleppo for three years before Hama … they blew up busses, consumer markets and killed university professors and distinguished physitians who were Kuffar (infidels)

Empowering them would have translated to a disaster. One other sure thing was that they would have integrated with the process of building al-Qaeda that took place in the 80’s when the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia worked with Pakistan to build a fighting force that was to take on the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Syria’s Brotherhood if they were in power would have certainly volunteered the country’s young men to fight the Russian infidels. If Saudi Arabia and Egypt took part, Syria’s brotherhood would definitely do their religious duties… after taking on the Alawite infidels, the next bigger achievement to look for would have been to defeat the communists.

To go back to the point you made about authenticity of my caring about casualties everywhere, i do care about those who died in Hama even if they were “guilty” .. those young Brotherhood fighters who killed other people in the name of God… I realize they did not do it for money, they were brainwashed by wahabi teachings and by hate. But if I care, then I would rather 12,000 killed (and 1000 young soldiers, don’t forget) than a much larger number killed later from each side… trust me, the Alawites were not going to stop fighting until the end.

If you follow what I write about my objection to casualties in Iraq or in Gaza or Lebanon … those were all non necessary wars. Hama sadly was necessary.

Having said that … I agree that it could have been done with a significantly lower number of casualties. But the intention was to “shock and awe” .. just like the United States did when it bombed Baghdad mercilessly… to deter those who might think they have a chance to fight back.

Finally, I agree with much of what you proposed for having closure to the ugly Hama chapter. But I have to tell you that from both sides I heard disappointing feedback (I did propose those things as ideas) … Some officials believe that Hama is best left to time to help heal any old wounds (not willing to apologize to them) .. they feel that most people forgot it and there is no need to risk debating it again, while some of the relatives of Islamist fighters still hate the Alawites with passion and will never recognize their fight was wrong.

Not all of course … I know a brother of a fighter who can not go back to Syria even though he is a secular engineer who did not approve of his late brother’s violent approach.

There are many sad stories that continue to exist until today, I understand.

August 26th, 2009, 7:30 pm


Yossi said:

Norman @130,

Thanks for exposing the propagandist that you are Norman, who would take the things that people he doesn’t agree with write, and completely distort them.

What I DID write is that both the Palestinians and the Jews in 47-48 thought they were fighting a battle for life or death. Neither side took prisoners or had the ability to do so. The residents of Jewish settlements that were taken over by Palestinians were murdered. The residents of many villages that the Jews took over were either expelled or murdered. I also wrote that given this reality, it was suicidal for Israel to recreate this same situation by admitting the refugees back into Israel while there was no declared or demonstrated intent from the Arab side to live in peace with the Jews. I also wrote that I believe now these conditions have changed and the refugees problem could be addressed with a lower risk for the Jewish population. I didn’t justify, nor do I want to justify, what happened in the subsequent wars or in the ongoing occupation of the West bank of Gaza. I was only talking about 47-48.

I also said that it is more important for Lebanese, Syrians and the society within Israel and Palestine (as a single community) to resolve internal differences than addressing international issues. The resolution to international issues can be satisfactorily formal-only whereas the resolution of internal issues must be at the emotional level, as well as the formal level.

So you took everything that I said, which Alex totally agreed with, and came to the following conclusion:

>>> Thank you Alex for exposing yossi , who keep trying to justify the ethnic cleansing and the killing that Israel does to the Palestinians and the Lebanese

What’s your excuse for the distortion Norman? You didn’t understand what I wrote? You disagree with the presentation of the historic facts? You disagree with the conclusions? What?

August 26th, 2009, 8:05 pm


Shai said:


The ratio for Operation Cast Lead is, unfortunately, closer to 5,000-to-1. 7 years of Qassams with 30 Israeli dead, versus 22 days of Gaza 2008/9 with 1,300 dead.

But I don’t expect Akbar to understand this. He could never admit to a disproportionate response on part of Israel. Plus, he’s not quite sure if 1,299 of the 1,300 weren’t Hamas fighters…

August 26th, 2009, 8:53 pm


norman said:

yossi ,
this is what i think you used to justify the treatment of the palestinians

((The ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 you referred was the culmination of an armed uprising against the state which had been in power for less than 1 year at the time.

The rest is history as they say.

What did you expect the Israeli leadership to do after they came mighty close to losing power?

Had you been in their place and were you faced with the sectarian risk that they faced (and still do), you would have probably acted exactly the same. Israel’s leadership is aware that it has a very low margin for error. This is what most of her critics don’t seem to fully appreciate or understand.))

August 26th, 2009, 9:27 pm


Majhool said:

I disagree Alex. I happen to know many MB relatives. For the most part the “Taliban” & Iraqi Jihadis image don’t really apply. Please remember that most MBs did not carry arms. There were many highly educated engineers and physicians in their ranks and many came from well to do families that were part of the constitutional period in the 40s and 50s. Heck, I could argue that as a talent pool they were more sophisticated than the incompetent bureaucracy that was ruling the country at the time and still does.

All said, I tend to see that Hama today is less of an issue. However, I still firmly belief that justifying it, for history sake, is a dangerous thing. Especially, since there is no consensus behind your position. Unlike the Armenian issue in Turkey for example.

But let me ask a broad question, at what point violence becomes, in your view, justified when trying to take over power from a government that is not democratically elected? And back the issues that I raised about power and empowerment. What if Assad refuse to share power say with a powerful PM in 3-4 years? Give him an automatic extension?

August 26th, 2009, 9:39 pm


Off the Wall said:

You said:

What’s needed is not for both parties to acknowledge their mistakes. MB is not accountable to Syrian people, the government only is.

Vehemently disagree, this is one the most tortured logic I read in a while. Any one who advocates and uses violence is accountable. Murdering professionals, officers, and civilians is by all means a cause for accountability in open court:

While I am open to all parties, i would argue that the MB is one of most deceitful political parties the Arab and Islamic world have ever known. Their leadership profess tolerance, argue for the ballot box, while at the same time, they train their base for violence and hate using the most tortured interpretation of the concept of Jihad and freedom. Their notion of freedom is to gain the right to force their sharia laws on everyone else. And to add insult to injury, their charitable entities are used as a recruiting ground for violent radicals, who are shipped with knowledge of the leadership, to militant groups under the guise of having split from the organization. These charities, despite of their good work, have caused other, non-political Islamic charities a great deal of harm and anguish.

It is dishonest for the MB to argue that Alqaida is a splinter group, and yet continue to provide the fundamental theological underpinning for much of what Alqiada does and stands for.

Alex’s arguments may be cold hearted and may reflect a realist approach to a well known and much discussed Just War “Jus ad bellum” concept. What he wrote represents one school of thought that has been appropriately used on very few occasions in our modern history, but at the same time, very frequently abused as we saw during the Bush regime. Affinity to one side or another will always result in subjective interpretation of war ethics even by a luminary ethicist and moralist such as Michael Walzer (in his misguided intellectual torture of the concept of proprtionality to support Israel’s Gaza Massacre and to absolve it of its immoral actions both in Gaza and Lebanon ).

It may be helpful for any debate to list what the most traditional definition of Jus ad bellum, please keep in mind that these Roman-turned-Catholic concepts, continue to be debated over and over again.

1. Last Resort: A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

2. Legitimate authority: A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.

3. Just Cause A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4).

4. Right Intention: A just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

5. Probability of Success: A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

6. The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
7. Proportionality: The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

8. Discrimination (this one may be more related to Jus in bello/ or battle ethics, and it can open cans of worms) The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

I am sure if the above points were to be discussed herein, our individual affinities and political backgrounds will easily demonstrate the type of difficult questions ethicists and moralists (i.e. those who study morality not those who are moral) have to face in confronting the most evil of our human characters. Being as biased against the MB, I recuse myself from attempting to apply the above rules to what happened in Hama. Those who can guarantee independent thinking on this issue, please take a shot at it.

The one thing I should add is that what happens post-conflict resolution (post bellum), in this case winning or losing a war) is as complex issue to address as what happens before (ad bellum), during (in bello). I think TQ comment touches very well on that. Post bellum actions by the victor may to a large extent influence, correctly or incorrectly, our judgment of whether a war was just or not.

Alex’s last comment also touches on that, for ones expectations (true or false) of the potential post-war actions of the adversary if the adversary was to be the victor influence even fighting a lost cause. Take for example the western notion of complete surrender of the enemy, which could also be presented to populace as a pre-cursor for annihilation of the nation. This continued to cause unnecessary suffering. In fact, demanding complete and unconditional surrender has been argued by many ethicists as immoral in most cases except very few (Germany). Curiously enough, some scholars argue that Heroshima and Nagazaki were immoral and unjust because the Allies (primarily, the US) requested conditions to accept the surrender of japan that the Japanese could not accept, which led to the prolonging of the battle in the pacific and subsequent dropping of the first A-bomb. They even argue that the time given to Japan after that before the second was dropped to be insufficient for a state to decide and as such, dropping the second bomb is even more unethical and problematic than the first.

I am providing the above example mainly to argue that in addition to the contradictory position of the militarist, realist, absolutist, and pacifist schools of thought on military conflict (external or internal) there are contraditions even within a single school.

Sorry TQ, i had to be smooth 🙂

August 26th, 2009, 9:50 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

the comment number 131
in this comment you imply that the Hama massacre is justifiable, but later you said stating a fact does not mean endorsing.
I do not believe in your heart that Hama massacre is justifiable,it is not,and this kind of behaviour will continue till it is punished ,Palmyra massacre is another example,and 15000 prisoners,whose fate is not known and the assasination of Hariri and so many lebanese,and syrians,I believe in freedom and democracy,that is why I am against them.

“Are you as vocal about Arab violence against Arabs as Israel is? ”
this is a lie,Isreal is criminal state,worse than Nazi germany,and most evil in the arab states is due to the zionist Israel

August 26th, 2009, 10:24 pm


Yossi said:


I see what got you confused. I used what Ehsani wrote and changed the actors from Assad and the MB to Israel and the Palestinians. I did that to illustrate that this argument, while functionally explaining why these actors acted the way they did, does not take them off the hook for the consequences. They are still responsible (at least partially) for bringing reconciliation and compensating and apologizing for the innocent that were hurt along the way.


The massacre of Hama you referred was the culmination of an armed uprising against the state which had been in power for less than 10 years at the time.
The rest is history as they say.
What did you expect the Syrian leadership to do after they came mighty close to losing power?
Had you been in their place and were you faced with the sectarian risk that they faced (and still do), you would have probably acted exactly the same. Syria’s leadership is aware that it has a very low margin for error. This is what most of her critics don’t seem to fully appreciate or understand.


So you’re saying that any regime has carte blanche to protect itself mercilessly against uprising?
Let me play this back at you, just for fun…
The ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 you referred was the culmination of an armed uprising against the state which had been in power for less than 1 year at the time.
The rest is history as they say.
What did you expect the Israeli leadership to do after they came mighty close to losing power?
Had you been in their place and were you faced with the sectarian risk that they faced (and still do), you would have probably acted exactly the same. Israel’s leadership is aware that it has a very low margin for error. This is what most of her critics don’t seem to fully appreciate or understand.

August 26th, 2009, 11:32 pm


Shami said:

Majhool,believe me that even Alex is not convinced by his own attempt to exonerate the regime of bashar,as i said we will have other kind of discussion with him after this regime’s death.
He knew that the brotherhood members are among the best syrians,most educated ,many from the best liberal familes and families of syrian heroes.
He knew perfectly the exemplary behavior of the brotherhood in the democratic era.
When he tries to mix talibans ,qaida and syrian brothers …it sounds bad in his own ear.
BTW ,Majhool even those in government today have brotherhood relatives,these ministers hate the regime too ,but they work with it for the time being as a temporal necessity.And btw through his mariage with Asma khanom ,bashar became brotherhood people ‘s relative.

August 27th, 2009, 12:56 am


Alex said:

Off the Wall,

Excellent comment, thanks. I’ll use some of your points below.


What happened in Hama was excessive … I am not totally justifying it … I think it should have been carried out on a smaller scale. I believe that part of the killing was due to anger, panic, need to take revenge .. those officers and soldiers “did their job” but they also took revenge… for three years prior to Hama, the Brotherhood’s fighters were successful in sustaining their violence and by then the army (soldiers and its commanders) were probably not in a very peaceful mood.

They probably justified the excessive killing like most winning armies justify the bonus bloodshed they go for at the end … think of the Japanese and German cities that were burned or destroyed for no clear reason in WWII:

Or the way the United States burned thousands (probably TENS of thousands) of Iraqi soldiers (and Iraqi civilians) while they were on their way back to Iraq after the Iraqi army surrendered in 1991:

Or the way Israel “by mistake” always hits civilian buildings in Lebanon and Gaza …

The “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad … the “Boss has gone mad strategy of Israel” … the “let’s teach them a lesson they will not forget for years” of many other wars.

This is where leaders justify their actions through the following reasoning: If we teach them a good lesson, they will stop fighting earlier and their brothers and cousins and allies, and children will not dare to think they can fight us in the future and therefore even if we intentionally kill an X number of additional enemy civilians and combatants today, we will save the lives of X+ number in the future… so let’s go ahead and do it.

How can you measure the morality of these calculations?


As for Hama, I think one cold way to evaluate the decision to “do it” is to look at the following:

If (number of people killed in Hama)


(Estimated number of lives saved) times (probability that they were going to die if Hama was not carried out)

Is less than zero

Then it was the right thing to do.

How do you estimate the number of those who were going to die if the Hama attack was carried out? I have no idea, I guess army officers had a rough idea.

And to estimate the number of those who were going to die if Hama was NOT carried out?

In Algeria 200,000 died when the secular government and army continued to confront the Islamists during the 90’s

During Lebanon’s cicil war 150,000 people died (Syria is 5 times larger)

How do you estimate the probability that if the Brotherhood were allowed to keep their Islamic emirate in Hama and to try to expand it, then Algeria style or Lebanon style violence was expected in Syria?

I don’t think one would be biased when one estimates those probabilities or the numbers of potential casualties of either a civil war (Lebanon scenario) or of a decade of conflict (Algeria scenario) to be all quite high.

Hama was probably necessary, and it was probably excessive.

One final note … Hama and Tedmore prison, where those 12,000 Brotherhood and other people were killed, were attacked by forces that were mostly led by Riffat Assad … he is now forbidden from entering Syria, but he is a good friend of the King of Saudi Arabia .. the country that provided inspiration and support to the Brotherhood in the first place.

August 27th, 2009, 1:26 am


Shami said:


King Faysal was in good term with the brotherhood and he was a great reformer and smart politician ,his advicer was Dr Maaruf Dawalibi former prime minister of Syria ,french educated.He also had middle eastern christian advicers and had good ties with the eastern churches leaders.
But after his death ,the Saudi regime became the main helper of the syrian regime.(with 10’s of billions of us dollars of donation of all kinds ,especially during the events)
We hope too that we will have an other King Faysal in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of the best relations between the two countries,who share with us religious,family,historical and geographical ties.(of course with the respect of our specifities).

I’m not obliged to hate the Saudis ,for the only reason that we have some paranoid minorities who fear saudi islam.

August 27th, 2009, 1:38 am


Alex said:


And I also hope that Saudi Arabia gets another King Faisal type of leader and that no one assassinates him, and that relations between Syria and the Kingdom go back to their glory days, but as I said before .. only when the saudis are genuinely ready to treat Syria as an equal.

August 27th, 2009, 1:52 am


Shami said:

Alex ,today bashar is servant of the rafida interests in our region,they are not less bad than the’s not good at all for Syria,Syria has become an exporter of rafidi gangs trained by the iranian pasdaran insid Syria to Yemen ,Morroco,egypt,algeria,Bahrain and even black Africa…we have nothing to win by giving the iranian rafidi regime a free hand inside Syria.
Go see in Raqqa what they are trying to do,even if they failed but such policy will product more qaida like people in reaction.

August 27th, 2009, 1:58 am


trustquest said:

#131“ This may offend many readers but the fact is that you don’t spend 40 years in power in the Middle East if you aren’t prepared to confront Hama type scenarios.”

This is very dangerous statement, and I thought of it from different angle. If this is true, that means any long lasting government in the Middle East will bring kind of catastrophe or civil war if they do not share and do power rotation and I think that is true. From here comes the very need for reconciliation, decentralization, separation of powers, referendum on many issues, revisionism and political redistribution of power on all levels which I believe you implicitly pushing for.

The danger part of your statement reflects on the current regime and they should act quickly to prevent a disaster. Accepting the regime as it is seems very dangerous position it is like accepting the disaster to come. I think your description of the 25% skimming from top of the loans provided by government own institutions can not withstand another 40 years. Maybe thanks to a very active Syrians around the world who keep the economy from collapsing and what ever peg they choose to use for their currency it is not going to help. It seems in the 80 the family Mafiosi grabbed the big chunk of the money and what honest citizens, at least, should ask for the investment of this money in the country, and now the second tier and the loyal Bathists want to grab their part. The responsibility of State to serve the interest of its citizens does not exists in their minds, this is how you read the government and its employees behaviors and actions and may be they are right because we are not living in their shoes. From here I think dramatic action is needed from upper level to prevent the collapsing of the economy.
I believe you agree but you usually articulate it in different way :))

Here is a story fresh from the oven, my wife was in Damascus this summer, we suppose to pay on a house provided by our Syndicate which started 30 years ago and now finished without of course the interior finish (if you think of the Turtle story make sure Turtle is faster than construction project is Syria). So, she went to the syndicate to pay the last payment, the clerk did not find our previous payment and ask us to get prove of it. If you did not laugh yet you may have to know that when he got a call from the guy who paid it 6 months ago, he admitted that they received the payment. What my wife found that the population lost feeling their low despicable situation; they are busy doing business each in his, what’s ever, position. To find out to you if you paid your dues you have to pay him. Government lower ranks employees getting bolder by the day. Everything runs on small piece of paper, there is no receipts no documentations, everything is arbitrary and everyone wants to make business from other citizens and especially from the expatriates.

August 27th, 2009, 2:13 am


norman said:

looking at the exchange , I am very pessimistic about the Arabs and Muslims getting their rights , we still talk and argue about the past while Israel is advancing in all feilds and continue to annex Arab lands ,

Shame on us ,

August 27th, 2009, 2:26 am


EHSANI2 said:


Which governments in the Middle East share and do power rotation?

What do you mean by power rotation?

The Syrian leadership hands power to a another group voluntarily for a while and kind of agrees to take it back at some point in the future?

In this region, losing power only occurs through natural causes or through violence (the ugly type ). Power sharing/rotation does not make the cut.

August 27th, 2009, 2:42 am


Shami said:

Norman ,we should revive this Ummah(christians,jews and muslims,turks,persians and arabs) and after this happens the small zionists would no more dare to attack our people ,they will end themselves by themselves ,or they live among us in peace or they leave .
And from Morroco to Indonesia,100 of millions,are dreaming for it.

August 27th, 2009, 3:06 am


trustquest said:

Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Mauritania before the coup. Even if there is no one in the area I would love it for Syria. Syria was first to get rid of colonial power and first to have a republic. Syria I think has great potential and civil society is not dreaming and if they are it is a great dream.

August 27th, 2009, 3:12 am


Shami said:

Trustquest, ,if there were no minority asad paranoid regime ,all these massacres would not have happened in Syria.The main culprit is Asad ,we know the respectable past of the brotherhoods in Syria(unlike those in Egypt).
Bashar could repeat it ,if any inside force threaten his regime and then i’m sure that the same devil’s advocates would try to find justifications in indonesia and east timor,in the known context in Syria in 1970 ,islamist radicalism was marginal,it’s by reaction against the sectarian policy of Asad that such extremism exists ,and thanks God it remains marginal.In fact Bashar does not fear Qaida like people,they have no ground and rejected in syrian society what ,he fears to lose power,because he knew the bad and the evil that this regime did,they are guilty of the worse crimes against innocent and disarmed civilians ,that’s all .
The zionists are for sure less hateful in their crimes than the Asads are.
So Alex,Norman and my other brothers here ,the story is not finished yet ,there are still 18 000 missing people(from all communities ) in Syrian jails and many of those were kidnapped after the events ,during the 80’s ,90’s and till these days and hours.
Am i wrong if i say ,Asad is the first sectarian ruler in Syria’s history.

August 27th, 2009, 3:54 am


jad said:

Dear Norman,
I second your point, SHAME ON US indeed not only for loosing our lands but for loosing our minds, for not getting educated enough to know the different between being religious and being radical, for not treating our women right as half of our society, for the failure we prove to master on many levels…Shame on us all…

Dear Majhoul,
In your very first comment you criticized all Syrian society spectrum from liberals to conservatives as I understood, then you did the opposite of what you wrote that all Syrians are guilty, by totally sided yourself with the MB.
I think your argument went off since you destroyed the principles you wrote about which make you no different than any one of the typical Syrians (all of us) you criticize in your comment. To be fair though, I liked the steps you outlined to go over Hama but it must be from both sides and as OTW wrote to you, everybody should be accountable we can’t take sides when we are asking for justice can we?
BTW and out of your suggestion, have you or anybody of the Syrian on here been to AL Azbakiyeh memorial with the names of the men and women killed by the ‘good family’ ‘smart’ ‘educated’ and ‘religiously brainwashed’ ‘young’ guys that some are praising for being murderers? What do you think of the memorial condition today? I personally felt ashamed of how bad, neglected and dirty it became and I blame the government for not respecting the names written in stone there.

Dearest OTW, Alex and Ehasani
Again and as usual EXCELLENT analyzing, very realistic without any unnecessary emotion to it, I admire your ways of looking at things without taking the sectarian road some people take

August 27th, 2009, 5:58 am


Shami said:

Jad ,who told you that ekhwan did al azbakiya ?what are the evidences ?why not bombing al qardahiyeh instead ?

here is the kind of paranoid people that we will have to endure but tolerate lol.

August 27th, 2009, 6:28 am


Shami said:

Jad,it’s simple ,who avoid to expose the sectarian nature of the syrian regime is himself a sectarian,it’s a duty to do it.
Because highly unhealthy for the future and especially for the alawite community.You know what i say make sense ,stay on ground and be realistic.History does not forgive these mistakes better that they correct them by themselves now that’s possible,i’m not very optimistic but who knows,i really hope that Alex would be right and me wrong.

August 27th, 2009, 6:37 am


Shai said:


Yossi does not support or justify ethnic cleansing of any type, you know that. He understands the need for a Right of Return perhaps better than anyone I know.

August 27th, 2009, 6:46 am


jad said:

You wrote: “why not bombing al qardahiyeh instead ?”
Indeed, why they didn’t?
My quick answer will be this:
They didn’t have a ‘good family’ ‘educated’ ‘Sunni’ ‘genius’ and great teacher like you to tell them where to attack and who to kill, instead of those idiots randomly bomb people in the middle of Damascus or people traveling in buses and trains or maybe ask a Sunni army officer to kill his own student just because they were Alawites, but I guess according to what you shamelessly suggested they could’ve killed as many Alawite as possible in Quardaha and made your life and your world much better place to live in, right?
Why only Quardaha, they could’ve go and massacre all the Alawite wherever they see them and when they finish all the Syrian Alawites they could’ve continue to Turkey and do the rest of this holy war.
I guess those who did the bombing and the killing weren’t smart, educated and from good family as you portray them, they were more like gangster who let their hate to take over their souls.

One question though, WHY? Why do they need to kill? Why couldn’t they live with other different sects and religious? Why all minorities in your and the MB Umma can’t live equally to Sunnis? Why to point out Alawites as if they are the reason of all Syrian problems? Is your Sunni Allah different or higher than the Alawite Allah or the Shia Allah or the Jewish Allah or the Christian Allah or the Druz Allah? Does your Allah order you to kill? Does hi/she gave you the permission personally to do the killing of Alawites? Didn’t Allah tell us not to kill? How come Allah suddenly changes his/her mind and asked your friend to kill anybody not Sunni? I better stop before you wave your sword on me too.
Thank you for asking!

August 27th, 2009, 7:18 am


Majhool said:

Dear OTW,

I believe there was a misunderstanding. There was no need to jump the gun and get all worked out.

Let me explain: Of course we are all accountable for our actions. That’s a given.

I was talking about something else, and let me explain it through this example, say a bunch of criminals storm a bank and take the people present in it as hostages. The police arrive for the rescue but due to lack of coordination the police force end up killing many of the hostages. The criminal are indeed accountable and will rot in Jail. But it’s the police that the public would demand an apology from for their mismanagement of the rescue.

MB was a rebel group. The people expect their government to act responsibly not the rebels. See my point!!


I hope I was able to clarify above.

I am going to be completely honest with you. I believe in managing conflict instead of eradicating it. My ideal Syria is one where different segments of the society are competing among each other as apposed to conceding to each other.

Also, and to be more precise, at this point power has to be shared in Syria. According to Ehsani, and I happen to agree with him, the regime is not willing. Hence I believe it’s appropriate to undermine the regime (in the most accountable ways of course)

Following the same principle, the fight for power in the 80s does not concern many Syrians. Rifaat Assad and the army fought for some Syrians and not all. There was no national consensus supporting their actions. So realistically don’t expect people to be concerned about azbakiya.

To be clear, I was not saying that a Hama memorial should be for MB fighters, instead it should be for the innocents.

I have nothing in common with MB. But I just happen to know that they are not like what Alex is describing.

In my ideal Syria, you will find me along your side advocating for a secular Syria and competing with conservatives over the hearts and minds of Syrians.


Your religious references scare the shit out of people. Take notice of that, and try to see that not everyone talks your language.

August 27th, 2009, 7:32 am


jad said:

Shami, Listen to what Al Bouti telling you and take his recommendation, be good!

في رده على سؤال حول حكم الانتماء الى الاحزاب الدينية السياسية قال البوطي بتحريم الانتماء اليها (ضِمنا) بقوله إن حكمها يستتبع نتيجتها وغالبا نتائج الانتماء الى الاحزاب الدينية وخيمة والدخول في معترك الأحزاب السياسية الدينية هو معترك خاسر وباطل!!!

P.S. Mabrouk on your engagement, I hope that she can change you for better instead of you changing her the other way.

August 27th, 2009, 7:32 am


jad said:

Dear Majhoul
Thank you for clarifying your point more.

I honestly didn’t take your comments in any negative way, the opposite, I appreciate what you wrote because it helps cover more angles and make things multi dimensional.

When I read your memorial suggestion, I didn’t even think that you meant MB, I know that was meant to be for every Syrian.

I have no doubt that you are promoting a secular Syria, I to think that we agree on lots of things even when we disagree and that the Syrian ‘weird’ gene is not the only one we have in common.

August 27th, 2009, 7:56 am


Shami said:

Majhool ,you are free to choose the diplomatic way.

Jad ,i’m sceptical about this killing ,what are motives ? nobody kill his own people you have to be as sceptical than me ,as the armernian community in aleppo was when they did not swallow the regime version after a priest murder during these events.
Look for example at the lie of the islamophobic and paranoid wafa sultan when she says that a professor was killed in front of her ,and it’s known that he was killed by night .
But 1979 was the real turning point of our lives. It was the year I witnessed the murder of a professor of mine. While shooting him, the killers were screaming “Allahu Akbar [God is great]!”

I was in a state of shock. The sound of the bullets became associated in my mind with Allah.

JP: Why was your professor targeted?

For no reason other than belonging to the Allawi sect of Islam – that of the president – while the majority in Syria were Sunnis. And at that time, there was a bloody conflict between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. But I knew for a fact that he was not involved in politics. I was devastated, and began to question what kind of Allah this is.


how such paranoid people could live with us ?
I’m not in love with al Buti and i’m also against pro theocracy parties,i’m a rationalist muslim unlike al buti who refute for example the theory of evolution of species and darwinism in block.

Jad,You would like me a lot if you had the occasion to meet me.
And thanks for your congratulation,there is no better things than love.

August 27th, 2009, 8:08 am


jad said:

Dear Kareem,
‘You would like me a lot if you had the occasion to meet me’
I may disagree with some idea you write but I have no hard feeling toward you or anybody on here.
Kareem, we are SYRIANS we share the same bad and good characters, we have one country and one destiny to go toward and there is no other way to do things right without doing it together.

Please don’t ever think this way, I do like you as you are and I do appreciate your extremely great knowledge of history, your understating of many languages and your ‘older’ sense of humor.
SC wont be the same without you, I will have nobody to make my blood pressure go to the roof if you are not around 🙂

August 27th, 2009, 8:23 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Majhool
MB was a rebel group. The people expect their government to act responsibly not the rebels. See my point!!

Yes, in panorama, and Technicolors, oops, that was the old ways, How about in HD, thanks for the explanation.

I am going to be completely honest with you. I believe in managing conflict instead of eradicating it, My ideal Syria is one where different segments of the society are competing among each other as apposed to conceding to each other.

Amen to that. I could not agree more. Eradicating conflicts can only be accomplished by full conformity, and god forbids, who wants that. Well, may be some, but not on this forum, from what I read. But I would also argue for compromise, politics, my friend, is the art of the possible.

Dearest Jad
I am humbled by your kind words. I wanted to reply to you earlier, but being very busy, and the fact that this current, much needed, and highly intelligent conversation was moving very fast made me respond to later posts sooner than to earlier ones.

I really do not think that you and I are in despair. Despair my brother means that we stop arguing, we stop writing, and we stop debating with our brothers and agitating as we did during the personal status law fiasco. Despair means that we isolate our selves. Disllusionment, may be, or perhaps feeling let down. But if i recall correctly (and we can check it thanks to Alex’s wonderful new search tool), more than a year ago both you and I, along with everyone else have identified the key element that will enable Syria to get out of the rut. It is and as TQ has been hammering, Civil Society. I have, and continue to argue that before viable political parties can emerge, Syria is in need of civil society and civil rights advocacy groups. These groups, such as nesaa syria, along with free press, will play the key role in framing the national discourse in manners that keeps watchful eyes on all partisan and nonpartisan powerhouses.

Alex said in one of the comments that he believes Syria will have a powerful elected prime minister within the next 5 to 7 years. That fits within the time I was hoping for. But until I see more tangible steps towards protecting civil society and press freedom, and towards stopping the nonsense of inditing true patriots with the artificial crime of “damaging the reputation of the state” or “weakening the national sentiment” for speaking up their minds out of their love to their country, i will have not a cautious optimism, but an anticipatory pessimism. Pessimism because of the recent roll back, and anticipatory because it seems that many Syrians are slowly, yet surely, pushing the envelop of speech and action, learning albeit slowly and at great personal sacrifices the working of modern non-violent political pressure, and expanding the circle of permissibility one small step at a time. The only possible way is forward and the inevitability is undeniable. However, my conviction of inevitability does not mean content. In one way, We are all political, not politicians, in another, we may be partisans, or independent. But in both, we all strive for a better Syria and I believe that no matter what our view of the past is, we all agree that violence, on either side, is now unacceptable. I find solace in that for i know in all of our diversity, we do represent only a very small subset of the varying shades of Syrian political and intellectual currents.

Some may want to hammer the point, others may want to cajole, and other may want to encourage. But while I am no fan of conformity, it seems that by the nature of things we are all converging on the ultimate desire, which is simply put, we want voices like ours to have the same chance we have here. We want Syrians to be proud once more, not by slogans declaring that they have to be proud, but by the facts of their freedom, intelligence, industry, and their ability to follow up on their dreams of being whomever they want.

Dear Trustquest
You also humble me by comparing me, even remotely, to an unyielding patriot such as Michel Kilo. Allow me to explain how I see myself. By my conflict averse personality, i am not an advocate or an arbitrator, I am more of a natural ombudsman. I am also a very curious person. You can rest assured that I will follow any link put on this site no matter how long and unpleasant the article is. But as I said long time ago, I can be very oppionionated.

BY the way, did you mean Algeria, Tunisia has only the second “dear leader” since independence.

Like all my students, your precious daughter will be mine as well. How soon will she be in college?

Dear Shami
What in heavens’ name are you doing on these pages, you should be with your fiancées 24/7. With your recent engagement, i propose that until after your honeymoon, not a day later, you should be forgiven any logical lapse. Jad, can we shake hands on that 🙂

I tend to agree that the late King Faisal was a true Arab nationalist. A non demagogue who presented a stark contrast to Nasser’s demagogic nationalism.

And I share Jad’s sentiment about you.

Heartfelt congratulations.

Dear Alex
You rock. Thanks for the provocative thoughts, and thanks for getting us all together and keeping this forum as free and open as it is at great personal cost.

Dear Yossi and Shai
Internal Syrian matters have been occupying me lately, but please rest assured that I have been reading each and every one of your posts. You add tremendous value to this site, and my life has been richer by reading your comment and talking to you on this forum.

August 27th, 2009, 9:52 am


norman said:


I hope that you are right about yossi,

August 27th, 2009, 12:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Some advise on how to defeat Israel for those interested:

Hamas Official: We Should Learn Lessons – Not Delude Ourselves That We Won the War

“Victory over Israel will be won first of all by means of strong national unity that is cohesive and sincere (rather than contrived), and by means of a national vision of liberation and a clear plan (that combines resistance and political activity), in which everyone participates. It will be won by building the citizen and the society based on coexistence and tolerance, and on rejecting violence, hatred, partisan fanaticism, and incitement in the media – or else we will be spinning our wheels. We will spend the rest of our lives in illusion…

August 27th, 2009, 12:05 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Going back to the spirit of the main post, the Syrian Prime Minister said that one of the country’s main challenges is to do with population growth. Based on current growth rates, he sees the country’s population reaching 45 million by 2023 and 90 million by 2055. You heard it right……….90 million in as little as 40 years.

August 27th, 2009, 2:13 pm


jad said:

السيد العطري يكتشف الاعلام المعادي والمصاب بالفصام ..!!!

خولة غازي – كلنا شركاء
25/ 08/ 2009
لم يكن ما قاله السيد ناجي عطري رئيس الوزراء فيما خص زيادة الرواتب بالامر الجديد ابداً، لإن الموظف في حكومته عرف أسوء أيام الفقر والتعتير ، لذا لم يكن مستغرباً قوله : أنه لا توجد زيادة على الاجور ، ولماذا الزيادة ..؟؟ زمام الامور ممسكومة بعناية شديدة ،و ما عليه أدامه الله إلا توزيع أحزمة لشد الجوع تصل حدودها إلى مرحلة المجاعة ، و طالما لم تصل الغالبية إليها مازال أمامه الوقت الطويل والعمر المديد للقضاء على أخر بطن (شبعان) بين عامة الشعب .

وطالما أنه يتحدث على المستوى المنظور فإن أمامه على الاقل عشر سنوات ، ( على حسب تنفيذه لخطة التجويع ) فهو وحسن ادائه ، فإن نفذها في سنتين كان بها ، وان لم يستطع أمامه وقت طويل على مبدأ الخطط الخمسية والعشرية وهكذا ، وطالما أن القطاع العام خاسر ،و سوف تستجر له الشركات ( الفرنجية ) لنهضته ، مازال معهم وقت للتجريب وخاصة بعد أن فشلوا في الاقتداء بالتجربة الماليزية ، وحقاً كان أحلى إقتداء ( المطار الدولي ) الذي نفذته شركة ماليزية وما تخلل التنفيذ من فساد غير مشهود ، أنهم الآن قادمين على الاقتداء بالطريقة البريطانية ، والخوف أن يقتدوا بالتجربة الدانماركية على طريقة عادل إمام .
طبعا لاوجود لأزمات في سوريا بل مشكلات قابلة للحل حسب قوله ، مؤكداً بأن سوريا لم تتأثر بالازمة العالمية ، لا أدري إلى الآن كيف تتأثر بالازمة العالمية طالما أن بنية الاقتصاد مازالت تعيش في القرن الماضي ، فالمتأثرين بها يسبقوننا بعشرات السنين ، رغم أن الاقتصاديين يرون أن الازمة سوف ترخي بظلالها على سوريا حتماً كحال أي دولة تعيش في كوكب الارض .
و الطريف فيما قاله السيد العطري لصحفيي جريدة البعث حول تصنيفه الاعلاميين والذين هم برأيه « ينقسمون إلى ثلاثة أقسام: إعلاميين ملتزمين وأوفياء لقضايا الوطن ومصلحته، وإعلاميين غير ملتزمين إلا لمصلحتهم الشخصية ويتنقلون بين القطاع العام والخاص ويكتبون بطريقة متناقضة» الأمر الذي يفرض ضرورة تخييرهم بين الانتماء إلى القطاع العام أو الخاص والانتهاء من حالة الانفصام التي يعيشونها، إضافة إلى الإعلام المعادي الذي لا يوجد أي أمل منه ”
طبعا قال هذا الكلام بحضور وزير الاعلام الذي كان يكتب محضر الاجتماع على اعتبار أنه في حضرة جريدة ( البعث ) لذا استعاد أيام الصبا بحضوره الاجتماعات الحزبية ، فخلال الشريط التلفزيوني الذي تم بثه لم يرفع وزير الاعلام عينه عن المحضر ، ولكن الخشية أن يكون المحضر باللغة الاسبانية كونه كان يكتب من اليسار الى اليمين .لا ندري ربما كان يكتب قصيدة شعرية باللغة الاسبانيولية .
المهم أن السيد رئيس مجلس الوزراء وضع أمام رؤساء التحرير تصنيفات ثلاثة للعاملين في مؤسساتهم : صحفي وطني سليم معافي ، وصحفي مصاب بالفصام ، وصحفي معاد ويستحق أقصى العقوبة .
تذكرنا تصنيفات السيد العطري بتصنيفات الداخلين للجنة والنار، لا نعرف الآن من هم الموعودين بالجنة ومن هم الموعودين بالنار ، بلا شك أننا مقبلون على إعلام ( غير شكل ) ، وطالما أن السلطة التنفيذية تشهد هذا الاختلاط بالأوراق لماذا لا يتم إلغاء وزارة الإعلام ، ويتم العمل مع المؤسسات الاعلامية على أساس تصنيف العطري … ؟؟
بالتأكيد كل من يكتب عن حكومة العطري بات معادياً على مبدأ ( بوش ) من ليس معنا فهو ضدنا ، وهكذا سوف نشهد حرباً ضروساً ضد إرهاب الاعلاميين المعاديين . أما المصابين بالفصام فسوف يتم تحويلهم إلى مشفى ابن سينا لتبيان حالتهم النفسية و أخذ شهادة صحية تبين سلامتهم من الامراض النفسية وخاصة الفصام .

August 27th, 2009, 2:52 pm


jad said:

I have an observation that it might be very interesting:

In the last couple weeks Mr. President Asad and the first lady did lots of social visits and meeting with different Syrian societies ranging from an assaulted victim, orphans, students and the poor cleaning personel, while the first lady concentrate on making an unannounced visites to the children hospital in damascus and today another hospital in Deir Azzur.
I personally praise and thankful for those visits and at the same time I believe that it is a great steps to get to know the average Syrians problems first hand, but what is the goal of micro management? I mean what is the point of the presidency to get involved in all those first level problems and where is the Outri’s Government that supposed to be doing the job? Isn’t that a sign of a government failure that needs the interfere of the presidency itself to get in a better situation? How is that going to affect the process as a whole? if we need the top person to be there on every problem our society face why we have a government?
Again, I prais the visits and I think it is a great deal in the eyes of Syrians and make a great human gesture by the presidency but it is not a solution, instead a stronger government is needed to do the right work.
Any thoughts?
and many more..

August 27th, 2009, 3:12 pm


EHSANI2 said:


When did Syria have a so-called strong government? Every prime minsiter over the past 40 years has been a joke. The country from the top down ought to be hitting the panic button knowing that the country will have to attend to the needs of 45 million by 2023 and 90 million by 2055.

August 27th, 2009, 3:33 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks OTW for asking, my daughter is going now into eleven-grade and she started looking for college, but I doubt and hope she will leave our lovely State we have great institutions here in North Carolina.

I’m not happy when someone looks for priori in any post, forget about the whole post and concentrate on charade or discrepancy, I did mean Tunisia, since they have election not selection and since the leader is really popular not by Zogby polls, not to mention their leadership in civil laws.

I’m glad to hear you talking about Michel Kilo and acknowledging him in the open for the fist time as a great patriot suffer under this regime; his suffering is a reflection of across the board suffering of human’s voice oppression in Syria. Can you imagine to shut-up whole population for 40 years doing nothing other than looting them, no VALUE ADDED during all this period? If we don’t shout loud in support of those wonderful people of civil society who spoken from under the dark ages of oppression who will do that, our kids who born here and everywhere outside Syria will not care about this called Syria in the future. I was amazed about the amount of propagandas the regime do on his people, people, relatives and friends only listen to you if you are complementing their country and their way of life, then you are outsider, even enemy if you criticize their situation, they are way complaisance. I think the regime won the propaganda war and Bush unintentionally helped them tremendously but now it is going to hurt people more if we keep defending the regime as during Bush time, criticism is the way to support Syria now not complements. The other guys like Bunni and Labwani they have been accused of spreading lies while they were in prison, what kind of low thickhead moron comes up with these accusations and printed on paper and claim he is in power to protect people and country. He must be my friend the opportunist who defended the thieves in their looting the previous minister of Justice who I’m ashamed of. I think freedom loving people need encouragement and support from their brothers in the Diaspora. Jad friend Basam Kadi celebrated this month his 17th years of his banning from leaving the country, the same goes for the best brains in Syria like Yssin HajSaleh, Razan Zaitoneh and other who are banned because they do thinking. Those wonderful people like Aref Dalila who got out of prison and did not lose his voice and still calling for civil rights while the regime keep deaf ears they need support.

The recent Amnesty international report on Syria is a shame, the report on Muhannad Al hassani on their site broke my heart. He is facing prosecution for defending humans rights, is this shameful enough to any society.

Please read the link I posted earlier:
to know what we did not know when we left the country, there are a lot to learn of our mistakes of keeping silence. I’m inline with the call of civil society to take hold to add some check and balance by getting their free press and interaction of society, I would love to see the regime pushed and cornered to do the right things and to let justice take its course peacefully, Syria has no other choice. The head of the regime is hiding behind his foreign policy to say that he is above these small things such as running the country while the mess keep piling, he needs to be confronted and trashed for bad results and know that he is responsible for all this mess as any leader in the world.

August 27th, 2009, 3:37 pm


jad said:

I agree, we never had a strong government or a strong (smart) (professional) prime minister not even a ONE strong (smart) (professional) minister since the 60s and I believe that Syria won’t get out of its miserable domestic until we get a strong government knows how to deal with our problem from the root and not a taree3.
Most if not all of our problems are solvable if we took the right decisions, I agree with OTW and Trustquest that a CIVIL SOCIETY is the first and most important piece we ought to have in order to go in the right direction, all the names of Syrian men and women Trustquest mentioned must be freed and out not because it is the right thing to do but because it is the ONLY thing that must be done to make us move forward. It is shameful to see that intellectuals are still in jail or banned from traveling for writing and being advocate of prosperities or the professional body of lawyers to get together against one of their own to please the system? How can anybody of those lawyers justify their acts or even face their kids in the future being part of this charade?
For Syrian population to get to 90millions is indeed a scary fact on a country with limited natural resources, have no resources management plan and with no clear vision, yet they are doing nothing to deal with the issue, they are letting the situation to go as GOD wish without even trying to study it and help GOD taking us somewhere better than the dark hole we are leading ourselves to.
Birth control plan must be put in place to slowdown the disaster and gain us all some time to do the needed changes in every aspect of the Syrian development.
A government should not be appointed by the president without a clear outline of what they are planning to do in tackling the issues ALL OF THE ISSUES and not only one or two before it is to be formed and by the parliament the SMART members and not the uneducated corrupted Mafioso ones.
Every city, town and village must have development plan that fits into the overall regional development plan of Syria as a whole.
No more excuses, we had enough empty and false promises from everybody in the government, no work has been done not even a road map for solutions.
They spend time having meetings, symposiums and gathering everywhere without one white paper with manual of the steps should be taken as solutions in any ministry or municipality and even when they have suggestions nobody do the job and nobody check on the steps been done after the meetings.
Just take the Proposed Law fiasco as an example, they did continue doing what they did before and nobody asks about it anymore, where it goes, what happen to it and what are the steps taken for that important piece? They even sacked the best people because they opposed the law, how low is low for them?
Sorry for the rant over and over but it is soooo annoying to see corrupted people being paid by our money and being in positions they don’t deserve to be in the first place while they are damaging our future it’s WRONG.

August 27th, 2009, 4:46 pm


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for all the links. As I said, i follow links, and I did in the past as well as now!. Mr Al-Hassani is the human rights lawyer I mentined earlier who was dragged also in front of the lawyer’s guild for “Jalsa Taadibiya”

I’m not happy when someone looks for priori in any post, forget about the whole post and concentrate on charade or discrepancy

I really was not looking for discrepancy or charade, I was honestly curious because power arrived to the current leader of Tunisia through the passing of his predecessor, and I do not recall any press article about really contested election in Tunisia except that the president won by the usual 90%+.

Here is Wikipedia’s short article about election in Tunisia, again, please understand that I am not trying to make our own look better by making others look worse. Like you, I am in search for all viable models, especially those from culturally similar Arab countries

and here is the page about Ben Ali

And here is an article about Tunisia’s own version of reform leaders his name is Tarek Mekki

Tunisia’s leadership in Civil Laws is uncontested, but I urge to also follow development Morocco closely. Things are moving to the better in that country.

August 27th, 2009, 5:38 pm


Alex said:

An upbeat look at Syria’s economy and its potential for growth

Forget BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)… These Emerging Economies Hold the New Keys to Growth

Put Your Money Where China Puts Theirs

… The ancient city of Aleppo, for instance, was a key stop along the old Silk Road. Even today, it still has the longest covered market in the Middle East – a souk seven miles long. There you can find goods that take you back in history – soap made from olive oil or silk scarves and keffiyehs of a variety of colors. Head down an alleyway and find gold jewelry and stands of fresh pistachios and sacks of spices and more. Then there are the backstreets of hawkers with lamb – always plenty of lamb – and you smell the scent of lime, garlic and mint.

But much has changed, as Ben Simpfendorfer relates in The New Silk Road. Today, for the first time in 22 years, banks in Syria can set their own interest rates on loans and deposits. Today, you can change money on the street without the threat of a ball and chain winding up around your ankles. A stock market even opened for business in March.

The largest investor in the country is Haier, a Chinese company. It makes 50,000 washing machines and 50,000 microwave ovens in Syria every year. Another Chinese company, Sichuan Machinery Import & Export, recently completed a $180 million hydroelectric plant here. There are big real estate projects, including a new $300 million resort on the Syrian Mediterranean coast. There are some 40,000 new hotel beds coming online in the next three years – up from 48,000 currently. Tourism is already 13% of the economy.

Syria is basically following the “China model” of maintaining a closed political order but carving out free zones and allowing trade.

Of course, this isn’t some Big Rock Candy Mountain fantasy where the sun shines every day on the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees. There are all kinds of problems in Syria, and elsewhere, but I find the changes taking place so far absolutely remarkable.

August 27th, 2009, 5:40 pm


trustquest said:

I second you Jad on the poor choices of selecting government reps, and I do say that the echelons are happy with that so they keep showing themselves as superiors. You can see example of that when you watch the media minister who supposes to be above the rest because he is from the back bone of the echelons and the protector of the keeper who speak for him, you can see how he steps over his constitutional authority and prevent parliamentary in the foreign relation from airing his interview, it is a chaos.

Looks at their statements from the prime minister to any minister all they do is to describe the problem no solution, procedures, decisions or actions taken to solve the problem. It is a disgrace to all of you Syrians. Read this statement for prime minister:
He is calling of the development of a mechanism for the scientific research, you wonder what is his job, is he on the opposition side calling the prime minister to do this thingy. The list goes on and on every day you read to minister after minister since 1970 calling for something, like he does not know what his job is. We did not see one impeachment in a country full of corruption and you wonder when the law and constitution will be reinstated, but we saw couple of suicides may be that good too.

Today, Ehsani is happy because they heard his concern finally, they finally discovered that population will be 90 millions by the year of 2055. But Ehsani, should not be happy because even they got the message they only talking about it in descriptive terms, it is as in the previous quotes he listed for the prime minister, descriptive. They have no ability to produce a laws depriving family over 4 children from state benefits because they are thick and we know the other reason because they are sterile. Or may be because they believe in God and God has his will, so Ehsani they are no difference from the Saudis. They have no clue that it is in their hands to reduce population growth. They should announce a plan and start a campaign to educate populace of the danger of the over crowdedness and the limited resources of water, food, electricity and education that their country have. They should inform people how less children give better life and better chance to find job and live a quality life. The whole population including president, his wife, the Army Generals, big shot ministers and the Echelons forgot completely about this word QULITY, it does not exist in their brain. They still running after quantity of more things, Quality you people what matters have a brain for god sake.

It was 1968 when I entered the engineering University in Damascus, and the dean was the last civilized person left there after waves and waves of exodus because the Baathist are here by now and when the dean came out of his office and picked the trash from the hall, they laughed at him. You wonder when Syria will have a president like Shukri Quatli who drove his own car or Nazem Kudsi who never had a Guard. So, if you are despaired Jad, you are too late sir, but it is OK join the Convey. By 1970 with the arrival of the good old boys, the whole system crumpled and the old system of standing in line for buying your bread violated and cease and so the State and Quality.

OTW, I’m familiar with Morocco change from the inside where their reforms are way superior and attracting investment and not short as the Syrian’s ones and from Moroccoina friends. I also recommend to read and to see the prince Hicham who is Princeton U grad and vocal about the way to change monarchy in Morocco. He brings fresh idea for change some apply for all Arab States.
Listen to him on YouTube:

August 27th, 2009, 6:46 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Reforming Syria the Hard Way

Truthquest said:

…I would love to see the regime pushed and cornered to do the right things*…

*except from a non-Arab country, especially the USA

August 27th, 2009, 6:53 pm


trustquest said:

BTW, Prince Hicham talks about Assad and king of Jordan and those called young leaders. Alex you may post the video because he unveils the truth about the youth leaders.

August 27th, 2009, 6:57 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

You’re such a drama queen Dr. Norman, and so full of pathos..!!
You want to fight? come and fight.
And what “annexation” .. and what “ethnic cleansing” .. ?
For me, there’s only the past forced Islamisation on the Jews, and
your holy Jihads in Holy-Land (aka ethnic cleansing).

As Golda Meir said: they will start another useless war, and we will
again win.

And don’t count on Yossi and Shai, and their imaginary “right of return”.
The numbers of Israelis who think like those 2, is sharply dwindling.

This kind of attitude never brought you any good, nor will it in the

August 27th, 2009, 8:26 pm


jad said:

Nor your attitude did/will bring you, your family or your beloved one peace neither, so why you are patronizing Dr. Norman while we are all in the same s*** including Golda Meir down in her grave?

August 27th, 2009, 10:38 pm


Shami said:

Many thanks to all and especially to our professor OTW.

I dream the day i would be able to invite all syria comment friends to my wedding,our israeli friends included.

Salam ,Shalom.


August 27th, 2009, 11:55 pm


Shami said:

trustquest ,btw,the grandmother of prince hisham of morroco is aleppine.(the wife of riad bey al solh)
he has syrian blood.

August 28th, 2009, 12:00 am


Shami said:

Dear OTW,i sent you my thanks and the anti spam system of alex did remove it.
Many thanks to you dear prof OTW for your nice congratulation.

August 28th, 2009, 12:06 am


norman said:


It is interesting that even when they dream they dream of the Arabs as savages that kill their friends ,

What saddens me the most is that Israel ,it’s people and leaders fail to see that the survival of Israel comes from treating others the way they like to be treated and that to make people like you , you have to show them that you like them and care about them , everything Israel did and does and continue to do is going to bring hatred on the Jewish people and facilitate the rise of extremism that might not be possible to contain if they continue their arrogant policies ,

The way i see it is that they have shown very short sightedness , their short term gratification will jeopardise the very goal that they wanted , a safe and prosperous home land ,

Israel should take clues from the US in Iraq , in spite of all the destruction , the US did not intentionally kill civilians and did not destroy UN buildings and when they did they came back and offered help and that is why in Iraq there are still many people who wants the US to stay and like the American people , the US killed the terrorist while helping the people to withdraw support from these terrorists , Israel is punishing the Palestinians people with destruction and economic blockade and in the process they are consolidating support for the very people who want the destruction of Israel and over the last 40 years it does seem to be able to even have support from some of the population .
There is something wrong with their polices and we should make them aware that what they have been doing is not saving Israel.

I believe that Israel has to be saved from itself and that can be done either with economic sanctions , political ones ,legal ones , military ones or the combination of all .

they lost their way in seeing ahead .

August 28th, 2009, 2:39 am


norman said:

To all Syrians ans Soccer lovers

Syria beat Lebanon, makes India’s life easy

IANS/New Delhi
Syria beat Lebanon 1-0 in the Nehru Cup football yesterday and virtually took India with them to the final.
Though mathematically Sri Lanka have a chance of spoiling defending champions India’s party, but only if they run up a tennis score against Kyrgyzstan Friday. India have six points from three matches while Sri Lanka have tallied three points. The hosts have a better goal difference of plus two while Sri Lanka have minus five.
The round-robin match Thursday between traditional rivals Syria and Lebanon was marred by frayed tempers. But last year’s finalist Syria was the better of the two teams at the floodlit Ambedkar Stadium.
Syria scored through Mohammed Alzino in the 23rd minute. For Lebanon this was a disappointing first Nehru Cup.
It was a do-or-die match for Lebanon, who started the tournament on a positive note with a 1-0 win over India, but they played out a rough game.
Syria, however, had a better control of the match.
The only time the Syrians looked a little rattled was in the first five minutes when Lebanese striker Akram Moghrabi made threatening inroads.
Soon, Syria unleashed a flurry of attack with Alzino taking the first shot at the goal only to be stopped by a diving goalkeeper Larry Mehana.
The combination of Alzino, Abdul Fatah Aalaga and Wael Ayan broke through the Lebanese defence at regular intervals.
The only goal came as an unmarked Alzino latched onto Alaga’s header and raced into to boot home.
In the second half, Lebanon showed more intent in getting the equaliser and tempers ran high after their medio Hassan Maatouk was brought down in the box by Syrian goalie Mosab Balhous.
Indian referee Arumugham Rowan turned down Lebanon’s appeal for a penalty and was manhandled by the players. Linesmen Kamil Mohammed and Fernandes Francisco rushed to save their compatriot and to the utter shock Rowan didn’t penalize the player for pushing him.
In the last 10 minutes, Syria tried to double the lead but Lebanon defended well.
Send Article Print Article

August 28th, 2009, 2:43 am


Shai said:


You are so right. We are our own worst enemy. And until we realize it, we will continue to bring much pain and suffering upon others, and upon ourselves. As long as weak and impotent politicians keep listening to hot-headed arrogant and paranoid people, our future will be dictated more by emotion than by sense.

But Norman, if a policy of isolation (economic, diplomatic, etc.) doesn’t work with “confident” regimes and governments, why would it work with Israel? On the other hand, whereas in North Korea it would be completely useless attempting to speak to “the people”, in Israel it is still possible. Don’t you think it could be a far more efficient way of changing public opinion in Israel? Put aside justice for just a while, and let’s think of effectiveness. Farouk a-Sharaa said to Ehud Barak in their first of two meetings “So, your Stock Exchange reacted positively to our meeting…”, and he knew exactly what he was talking about.

The Arab nations have not even begun to use their “real” strength – the one that can effect change amongst the Israeli public, not its leadership. Unfortunately in Israel, our leaders are led by the people, not the other way around…

August 28th, 2009, 11:47 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

In Hebrew we say: “do not intimidate a whore with a penis” (Sorry for the language).

So, don’t threaten Israel with wars. After each war, we are much
better (in all aspects), while you’re much worse.

August 28th, 2009, 12:20 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

And Shai, when you say “we”, whom exactly do you mean?

Unlike our neighbors, we tell our leaders what to do, and not vice versa.
During the nineties, Israelis gave peace a chance and rose the left
to do peace. After the disillusionment of 2000, Israelis don’t want
this kind of peace any more, and they vote accordingly.

Israelis (We) know best what is good for them.

August 28th, 2009, 12:33 pm


Shai said:


“Israelis (We) know best what is good for them.”

And God knows how well we’ve achieved that thing, “which is good for (us).”

After each war we are much better? In all aspects? Can you name a few such “aspects” in reference to, say, the Six-Days War? Besides a 42 year long Occupation, subjugation and suffocation of some 4 million non-Israelis, what other good have we achieved?

August 28th, 2009, 1:08 pm


why-discuss said:

Amir in Tel Aviv

Despite the fact that you claim to be a democracy, you have a country led by a combination of fear and sense of empowerment. Your leaders are easily manipulating the public opinion by bringing all the time the ‘antisemitism’ and the remembrance of the holocaust as well as the strength of the Israel military and diplomatic power. Of course they fail to mention that arabs never participated in these crimes and that arabs are only reacting to the injustice of their lands being grabbed by violence and not to antisemitic feelings.
It is very easy to manipulate people in doing extreme, injust and immoral actions when fear and vulnerability is infused in them and they are made to believe they are powerful enough to eliminate the threat. Hiroshima, Guantanamo, Irak, Lebanon and Gaza and even the Holocaust horrors are some examples where a democracy can be polluted by fear and people manipulated to accept and encourage their country to perform horrible acts.

August 28th, 2009, 1:08 pm


Nafdik said:


Thank you for a refreshing change of topic.

While I agree with most of your points, I think your proposals are made as if you are making them to a free democracy. You misunderstand the basic dynamic of a family-run dictatorship.

Corruption is not the result of misguided social policies of the 50s, it is an essential foundation of state power.

The state (ie the few families at the top) need to finance their occupation of the country. They do that through paying different collaborators different rates.

At the lowest level of the collaboration pyramid is the government employee. He is given his position through a patronage system that reinforces loyalty to higher links in the pyramid. The corruption then has three roles:

– Cuts are provided to mid-pyramid positions thus paying for their loyalty
– Patronage of high return posts become a way to create loyalty
– Low pyramid positions are paid by the bribes

In short, corruption is a trickle up economic system that finances the dictatorship.

In addition having all citizen are engaged in some corruption or another creates outlaws of all Syrians, thus allowing for swift and legal punishment for any person thus increasing the power of the state as a protection racket

As an economist I am sure you appreciate that even dictatorships are in the final analysis an economic system in which all participants are engaged in economic exchanges.

Would you agree that when prescribing solutions we should consider those actors and their motivations rather than prescribing as if the government is run by selfless technocrats?

August 28th, 2009, 2:33 pm


jad said:

مدير بورصة دمشق ينهي إضراب موظفيها بتهديدهم بالامن السياسي

موقع نداء سوريا
28/ 08/ 2009
نقل شهود عيان أنّ إضراباً عن العمل نفّذه موظفو بورصة دمشق الأسبوع الماضي انتهى بأساليب التهديد والوعيد.

وذكرت المصادر ذاتها أنّ جذور المشكلة تعود إلى قرار أصدره المدير التنفيذي للسوق د.محمد جليلاتي يمنع فيه موظفي السوق من قبول عروض المؤسسات المالية كالمصارف وشركات التأمين للعمل لديها.

ويأتي هذا القرار بعد تلقي أحد موظفي السوق عرضاً مغرياً من أحد المصارف الخاصة للعمل لديه، مما دفع الموظف إلى تقديم طلب استقالة إلى المدير التنفيذي للسوق، إلا أن الأخير رفض الاستقالة لدى سماعه معلومات عن العرض المقدم للموظف المذكور، وأتبع ذلك بإصدار القرار السابق.

وتقول المصادر أنّ موظفي السوق اجتمعوا بعد إصدار القرار لدراسة أضراره عليهم، وقرروا تنفيذ إضراب مفتوح عن العمل إلى حين إلغاء القرار.

وبالفعل نفذ الموظفون الإضراب فوراً وتجمعوا خارج المبنى، وهو ما سبب إرباكاً كبيراً لإدارة السوق، فما كان من المدير التنفيذي إلا التوجه إلى جموع المضربين طالباً منهم متابعة العمل مع وعد بدراسة مطلبهم. بيد أنّ الموظفين رفضوا العودة عن قرارهم، الأمر الذي استدعى تصرفاً خارجاً عن المألوف من جليلاتي، حيث تغيرت معالم وجهه فجأة وبادرهم بتهديد يتلخص في منحهم مدة 10 دقائق للعودة إلى مكاتبهم وإلا سيتم إبلاغ الأمن السياسي لاستجوابهم بتهمة الإضرار بأمن الدولة من خلال المساس بجهاز حساس مثل البورصة.

وبحسب الشهود امتثل موظفو السوق بمرارة لتهديد مديرهم، ولعل الأسوأ أنهم باتوا يخشون من مناقشة أي أمر يخص شؤونهم الوظيفية مع المدير خشية تلويحه بهراوة الأمن السياسي.

August 28th, 2009, 4:55 pm


Alex said:


As usual you make good points, but your tendency to blame it ALL on “the dictator” is not healthy.

The system is not all dependent on corruption as you claim. A large percentage of Syrians never get bribed and never accept to be part of any corruption related decision. I know of so many cases.

Most employees still live without the “opportunity” to be bribed by anyone. Think of employees in foreign ministry, factory workers, truck drivers …

Same applies to many business leaders, activists, military commanders, and scientists and educators … they are motivated enough to work without being corrupted by “the dictator”.

I wish we realize that just as it is wrong for the state media to tell us that everything is white, it is wrong for critics to tell us everything is black.

August 28th, 2009, 5:22 pm


Ford Prefect said:

What you stated above has some relevance to Syria, but I am afraid it misses the point of the root causes of corruption.

Your hypothesis insinuates that there exists some grand master plan to carry out such a sinister plot of power and corruption. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If any regime is smart enough to carry out such a plot for 40 years, they would have known that there are many easier ways to hang on to power.

Corruption exists in all of sorts of societies and governments – even Italy is plagued with corruption that is atypical for that part of the world. The discussion of root causes of corruption is very complicated and empirical evidence shows that corruption is not meticulously designed and carried out by some evil doers. It is a manifestation of severe failures, inept policies, and reactive responses to rapid growth.

Then you mention that such a system of corruption creates “outlaws of all Syrians” thereby allowing for “swift legal actions.” But legal actions are characteristics of a liberal society functioning under the rule of the law. This is in direct conflict of your argument of a “family-run dictatorship.” Dictatorships rarely follow “swift legal actions” to remain in control.

August 28th, 2009, 5:42 pm


Alex said:

196. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

And Shai, when you say “we”, whom exactly do you mean?

Unlike our neighbors, we tell our leaders what to do, and not vice versa.
During the nineties, Israelis gave peace a chance and rose the left
to do peace. After the disillusionment of 2000, Israelis don’t want
this kind of peace any more, and they vote accordingly.


I will accept that what you suggested is true for some Israelis.

I also do believe that 9/11 and the reliance on violence in the second intifada (compared to the rock throwing protests of the first) also contributed to fears of Arabs and Muslims in general that moved Israeli voters to the right.

But many others moved to the right after being influenced by 8 years of Bush administration and Neocon think tank brainwashing.

Dealing with enemies by force became acceptable … using your power in the media to justify and cover your wars became a standard operating procedure… killing thousands of civilians became acceptable if the are part of “the enemy”.

And … if Saddam fell and Baghdad fell in weeks .. then why can’t Israel settle its conflicts with the Arabs the same way .. the same easy way.

You said it yourself … “So, don’t threaten Israel with wars. After each war, we are much better (in all aspects), while you’re much worse.”

Since you are not a charity … and since war is so good for you .. and since you feel that the outcome of wars is guaranteed to be utterly in your favor … why would you bother compromise?

And the fact is … 94% of Israelis supported the savage attack on Gaza, 20% support the return of the Golan Heights to Syria no matter what Syria does in return.

The major change in Israeli society Amir is arrogance … Most Israelis think the same way imperial powers thought in the beginning of the twentieth century … that their massive power can allow them to keep the lands they took by force.

You still need to learn the lesson that they all learned … France gave back Algeria, GB gave back India … and Israel will give back the occupied territories when you in Israel mature enough like the French and British matured few decades ago.

we’ll have to wait for you to be there.

August 28th, 2009, 6:00 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

You don’t have to go so far as Italy. Syria’s neighbor to the Southwest, Israel, currently has 2 ex-ministers (including Finance Minister) on their way to jail, one ex-Prime Minister, and one current Foreign Minister, about to be indicted, all over super-serious charges of corruption.

And as far as I know, we Israelis do not consider our system to be dictatorial in nature…

August 28th, 2009, 6:00 pm


Shai said:


“… we’ll have to wait for you to be there.”

No, you won’t have to wait. For a nation that registers the 2nd most patents in the U.S each and every year, I think Israel will find the wisdom to also realize what you said. We just need a smart and courageous leader to remove the emotional filters that have clouded our vision for so long.

August 28th, 2009, 6:36 pm


Alex said:

I hope so Shai.

And us Syrians will have to be more creative in communicating with the Israeli people and trying to influence them positively.

We can, if the United States is on our side, not working against us like the case between 2000 and 2008

Going back to the other discussion (even though I was happy it is over), I will still link to this relevant story about how religious parties in Morocco are an obstacle that is slowing down democratic reforms:

August 28th, 2009, 7:27 pm


Shami said:

Al Hamraa (alhambra palace)in Al Andalus ,Granada 14th century.

Jad what do you think of this architecture for a more than 6 hundred years old medieval building

August 28th, 2009, 8:08 pm


Majhool said:

I believe the points that Nafdik made are excellent, and feel that the responses to his post missed the point he was trying to make (Nafdik, please correct me if I am wrong)

I don’t think that he was arguing that the “family-run-Dictatorship” is solely the root cause of corruption, instead he meant that the regime, structured the way it is, benefits from and supports corruption. Fighting, reducing, etc corruption requires checks and balances and a great degree of accountability and decentralizing of power that goes against the needs for family-run-dictatorship monopoly on power.

So, I agree with Nafdik, that the most solution presented are technical and their adoption requires good well and selfless professionalism that is largely non-existent. Instead the cry for change should target the structure of the system.

I challenge regime supporters here to provide me with evidence/signs that Syria is heading towards the goal of a powerful Government in the next 5-7 years. I don’t believe it’s even on their agenda.

August 28th, 2009, 10:51 pm


SimoHurtta said:

… For a nation that registers the 2nd most patents in the U.S each and every year,…

Is it really true Shai or do you speak about some other country? Like about Japan or Germany.

Israel is not the nation that registers the 2nd most patents

not in USA

Number of Patents Granted as Distributed by Year of Patent Grant

not in Europe

European patent applications 1998 – 2007 per country of residence

August 28th, 2009, 11:49 pm


netsp said:

Of all those proposals, privatisation seems the most promising.

Improving intentions, pay conditions, etc. is great but extremely difficult. The beauty of privatising is that they need not have good intentions. Desire to succeed is enough. Government control over something is generally an outlet for corruption.

In fact, I am leaning towards thinking that places with corruption over a certain level should adopt extreme small government policies in order to minimise the potential for corruption. Crudely put: fewer officials, less corruption. While it’s hard to remove customs from government hands, it is easy to remove beer production. I am not sure applicable this is to Syria where ideology is a meaningful term. In some African countries though, I think it could work.

*You seem to draw a direct correlation between underpaid officials & corruption. While a connection certainly exists, I don’t think it is not a simple one. Once corruption forms as an institutional habit, it is hard to break.

August 29th, 2009, 12:32 am


jad said:

Another episode of Outri’s government endless soapopera of showing how failure his government is:
After They quietly managed to get rid of the best 5 consultants any government can get because they dare to openly opposed the government proposed law, now they want to destroy Mr. Alquadi of Nesa Syria reputation by morally attacking his motives and work of the women observation that he successfully build from scratch by his hard work and without any support.
Isn’t there any ONE professional man/woman with the least level of conscious work with the government any more? Is it possible that all of them are nothing but ghosts with no brains or conscious even the religiously radical ones of them? What they are doing is the opposite of building a workable and advance society.

Just read both the attack and the reply:

August 29th, 2009, 12:41 am


Michael Gazelle said:

Thanks for the lesson. Keep us informed.

August 29th, 2009, 1:46 am


norman said:

Hi Shai,

Contrary to others , i believe that Israel has democracy to it’s people and it’s leaders take into account the opinion of their voters ,

So Israel is more like south Africa than it is like Iran or North Korea , Iran and north Korea are dictatorships and accountability to the voters are not that important ,

If we look at the recent disagreement between the Us and Israel about the settlements , we can see that political pressure gave cover for Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction , at least some of them , his supporters seems to understand that fighting the US is not in Israel’s best interest ,

Martin Luther king went to president Johnson and asked for a voting act just after they got the civil right act , Johnson answered, you have to make me , so i can do that soon after the civil right act , MR King got his people in the streets and that was what President Johnson needed to convince his people to move of the voting act to save the country ,

So are the Israeli leaders need an excuse to move on giving back the land that is not theirs , Barack responded to the voters and got out of Lebanon , even Sharon listened to the voters and got out of Gaza ,

We can see that Israel is resistant to the return of the Golan in spite of all the peaceful moves that Syria did , only to have Israel attacking Syria on many occasions ,

The Israeli leaders have to be forced into giving the occupied back to justify their moves to their voters or their voters have to suffer as they did in Lebanon and Gaza to force their leaders to move on the peace process .

August 29th, 2009, 3:23 am


Majhool said:


What do you think of this article by Andrew Tabler?,1&%24Version=0&%24Path=/&,%20%24Version%3D0


you may want to read it. It touches on the sectarian issue you always touch on.

August 29th, 2009, 4:37 am


Shai said:


You’re right. Maybe the figure was per-capita (though that doesn’t seem true either). I believe that Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation does, has more startups p.c., more biotech startups p.c., etc.

But my point wasn’t really to place Israel 2nd or 5th, but rather to suggest that in a nation with so-called “achievements”, I would expect wisdom to be applied not only in Science and Technology, but also in Politics. Unfortunately, most scientists don’t go into this field, and the few that do… usually end up leaving (like Prof./Gen. Isaac Ben-Israel).


I think you’re overestimating the abilities of Israeli politicians, and giving them far too much credit. Sharon did not “listen to the voters” before withdrawing from Gaza. He listened to one persistent friend Sociologist from Haifa University, who brought over a demographic map of Israel+Occupied Territories, and showed to Sharon how right around 2008/9, there will be a majority non-Jewish population under Israeli control. This is what caused Sharon to publicly announce that “Israel cannot rule over another people forever…” He convinced the people, not the other way around. And in the elections, he won by a wide margin, and could go about withdrawing. He wasn’t elected to withdraw from Gaza, he was elected to withdraw from ALL the territories, including the WB. If he had been PM a full term, we may have already had a State of Palestine…

The people closest to Netanyahu certainly do not agree with any settlement freeze whatsoever. The opposite – they’re trying to receive public support to convince the PM to reject America’s demands. Other ministers in the government are threatening to break up the coalition, should Netanyahu really support the creation of a Palestinian state. As long as the PM takes his orders from those closest to him, or fears public opinion precisely as he did in 1998, and as Barak did in 2000, no positive breakthroughs are to be expected.

Today, Barak’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 seems to most a huge mistake. So does Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. But the public learned the wrong “lesson”. Rather than understanding that withdrawals should have been agreed upon / negotiated by both sides, most simply deduce that the Arabs can’t be trusted…

August 29th, 2009, 10:54 am


Shami said:

Majhool ,it’s the main problem ,the mini minority sectarianism and the last thing they find is to play the export of crazy people to iraq and lebanon.

Rafic Jad ,as you are very concerned by women issues in Syria.
What do you think about the general cultural level of the Syrian girls and women ?and i especially mean here the middle and rich class ,forget the poor or rural people.

In my case i have chosen and got engaged to a non syrian arab girl after my disapoitment of the low culture that prevail among the syrian people and especialy the feminine part of the syrian society,what i hate the most is the high number of argileh addicts among them.

August 29th, 2009, 12:57 pm


jad said:

Haj Kareem,
Syrian women are struggling between three vicious powers:
1- Religion
2- Political System
3- Customs/Cultures
so every achievement done by any Syrian women is a national gain, the Syrian woman is well educated, polite, shy, supportive, energetic and her feminine side is undeniable comparing to any woman in the world.
In the ‘cast’ you are asking about you have a majority of excellent example of the thinker, the writer, the artist, the politician, the business woman and they didn’t get there sitting on the couch but because they worked three folds or maybe five folds more than you and I to get where they are yet they only represent a very very small number of the Syrian women, therefore empowering syrian women in any field and anywhere is not a choice is a necessity and a struggle that we all have to engaged in, can you imagine how the Syrian society would be if we could share the Syrian women power and work instead of crushing them between the three walls I outlined.
50% of the society (women) still not supported enough and not encouraged enough by law/religion/customs to engage in building the country the way it should be and more than 45% of the rest (men) either has no brain or no balls to support their woman in the public life and in the building process for many selfish reasons.

For you to tackle this extremely important subject by judging the woman who smoke arghile or cigarette as something taboo to do is too shallow yet dangerous because you are not using logic to your judgment but using your instinct and your own life style as a parameter without looking at the brain of the woman sitting in front of you.
For the rest Syrian women from less fortune background and financially challenged ‘cast’ as you portray it, the challenge is multiplied by 10 maybe 20 times harder and if we the so called educated Syrian men don’t do the least possible thing which is open our mouth and ask for their rights and point out the obstacle they face or support them in the justice system by changing any unfair law toward women or stand in the face of our clergy of any religion when they use the horrible language we hear and making them think of the mistake they are doing or force our political system to advance we are ‘MUTE DEVIL’ and we are a full participant in the crime taken place against our Syrian women.

August 29th, 2009, 3:49 pm


Shami said:

Dear Bro Jad,

I’m not yet Haji ,but the first recommendation of my future wife to me is to go to Umra and Haj with her after our marriage,this year before the next.

I agree that ill treatments and marginalization of the women in the Islamic societies is one of the most important causes of our backwardness and this issue is central but the problem here I’m not speaking about the poor class in which the women are less favoured ,like the conservative Muslims, I’m speaking about these free girls and free women who drive their last model European or Japanese cars , wear nice clothes and appear as grotesque copy of Hollywood actresses ,you understand me now.

August 29th, 2009, 5:28 pm


Shami said:

As for this mass ignorance in the syrian society also concerns the people who went to university during the last 2 decades.It was not the case before when the Syrian universities produced highly cultured people.(as the Lebanese,Egyptian and Iraqi ones)

August 29th, 2009, 5:38 pm


Alex said:

Dear Shami,

I took care of the changes you asked for. I also did spell checking, added a second “r” to marriage, made Hollywood, Muslims, European and Japanese start with Capital letters, changed Hollywoodian to Hollywood … etc.

It’s Saturday morning and I don’t have anything else to do basically. : )

August 29th, 2009, 6:21 pm


Shami said:

many thanks habibi Alex ,and i give you a free hand to correct my mistakes in english in my future comments ,of course ,in the case you are free.

August 29th, 2009, 6:49 pm


Shami said:

in case you are free

August 29th, 2009, 7:10 pm


norman said:

Hi shami,

on top of Google in their tool bar , there is a spell Check , DR Landis told me about it , and my spelling got better , now i have just to wait for Grammar button ,

question for you ,

do you think that women should be allowed to go to the Arms forces if they want .

August 29th, 2009, 7:14 pm


Shami said:

do you think that women should be allowed to go to the Arms forces if they want .

Yes of course ,the mother of believers Aisha did lead an army.

The muslims are ignorant of Islam.
That’s why i always say ,that the advanced western world is more close to the islamic ideal than we are.

August 29th, 2009, 7:18 pm


norman said:


Don’t you think that they could be corrupted there by empowering them and working with mostly men army , and can you tell why in KSA women are not allowed too drive even though they rode horses at the early time of Islam ,

August 29th, 2009, 7:24 pm


Shami said:

Norman,weak and badly educated people are corruptible.

It’s all based on education.
Such highly preventive societies would never evolve.

As for Saudi Arabia,it has nothing to do with Islam ,they have their own beduin traditions and it’s the problem with our muslim world ,customs and traditions prevailed on Islam.
But what is Sad is that relatively advanced countries in the 1900’s ,are now more backward than these countries that just had electricity in the 60’s.

August 29th, 2009, 7:32 pm


norman said:


what do you think we should do to educate the population to the real Islam with all of it’s advantages .?

August 29th, 2009, 7:34 pm


trustquest said:

Shami, I stand by Jad on the subject of women civil liberty and the duties of educated elites to push for equality and to gain more natural rights for them. I hate the argileh like you but I don’t attach it only to the upper or middle class women who are showing courage in making their own decisions. The argileh problem is a national one and the lack of responsible and intelligent administration to evaluate, educate, regulate and ban harmful substance is completely another issue. Let’s wish for a day, the Syrian public TV and the coming private TVs stations will be used to educate public and to organize campaigns for civil quality life instead of keep it a vehicle to show the dictator latest pose and his wife latest dresses.

August 29th, 2009, 7:39 pm


Shami said:

Norman,i’m for a dialectical approach ,let us open ourselves to democracy and liberalism ,then we will have a true debate around these crucial questions.I’m for giving freedom for criticism even against religion on an academic level of course and without badness(on the contrary of the rafida or zakaria butros),as conservative but modernist muslims we are ready to answer our critics,it’s such conflicts between civil societies of different trends that will improve the quality of Islam.(as culture and society)

August 29th, 2009, 7:45 pm


Shami said:

Dear trustquest ,i too ,do not disagree with our rafic jad on this matter.

August 29th, 2009, 7:52 pm


LeoLeoni said:

Ehasani, thanks for your article, it has stirred lots of interesting comments and an insightful discussion.

212. jad said:
“Another episode of Outri’s government endless soapopera of showing how failure his government is:
After They quietly managed to get rid of the best 5 consultants any government can get because they dare to openly opposed the government proposed law, now they want to destroy Mr. Alquadi of Nesa Syria reputation by morally attacking his motives and work of the women observation that he successfully build from scratch by his hard work and without any support.”

I totally agree with the above. I can not comprehend what Outri and his government are trying to do. It seems like they are trying to get back at the government consultants and the civil society organizations that stood against the backward sectarian marriage and personal status proposed law. As for Alex’s prediction that the powers of prime minister will increase in 5 or so years, I really hope that no extra powers are given to any particular office without the proper checks and balances put in place. Why hasn’t the president been involved in such a controversial and fatalistic case? All that is needed is a presidential statement or a small speech declaring that the only way to move forward while preserving the unity of the Syrians is to have a civil non-sectarian personal status law.
As for Bassam Al Qadi, I think he is doing a great job at Nisaa` Souriya fighting for Women and Children’s rights. These kinds of individuals should be given more freedom to work for the benefit of the country. Here is a link of a debate he had on Aljazeera with a Syrian conservative regarding the portray of women in the media and their roles in society.

August 29th, 2009, 8:56 pm


Alex said:


It is sad reading what Andrew wrote. By now his energy is dedicated to the same causes that interest the neocon Think tank that hired him.

My response to him is in the comments section on this page (comment number 2):

Here is what he wrote, and my response:


Andrew J. Tabler said…

Dear Jeb:

This article originated out of my disillusionment with Syria on this issue. These fighters have been crossing from Syria to Iraq for six years – that’s a fact. I used to believe what the Syrians say on this – that Al Qaeda and Jihadis are not based out of Syria and that Damascus can’t control the border. But then the Awakening and surge helped the US Army (specifically the CTC at West Point) uncover the scale of this activity. I hate to break it to you: this problem is no neocon plot. And saying Syria isn’t responsible in some way and laying the blame solely at Iran’s doorstep doesn’t square with recent history or reality. Cui bono arguments don’t really work here, because we know a lot more facts about this issue than the dark days of 2005-2006.

My point is this: We are seven months into the Obama administration: why hasn’t Syria cut these fighters off? They have been preparing for Obama’s engagement from last year – its not like they haven’t seen this coming. (That’s why so many people were so eager to get Track II discussions going, remember?) The USG and Odierno says the flow has gone down but still continues. If Syria can cut them off and they do, great. If they will not, or can’t, or whatever, fine. Either way the blasts are still happening, which is a problem for us and the Iraqis.

To restore integrity between the US and Syria, we need straight open talk on the issues. But we also need to be able to benchmark those issues so we know where we are and don’t get led down the garden path with Damascus – something that has happened for decades and is one of the main reasons the admin is taking such a cautious approach with Syria.

So I say lets move on to another issue to test if it is possible to restore integrity between Damascus and Washington. With peace negotiations unfolding slowly, and Palestinian reconciliation a work in progress, lets deal with an urgent issue: Lebanon.

My advice to you is be VERY wary of getting sucked into Syrian propaganda on this issue. You can end up with egg on your face, even years later. I got tired of wiping it off mine.

Oh – and this argument didn’t come from bias, but rather from being mugged by reality – to steal a phrase from the neocons.

11:14 AM

Alex said…


You said “Now we know more”?

No. Now we are brainwashed and brainwashers like the rest of them among the WINEP types.

Your analysis adds nothing … Before you, a thousand other Likud friends and Neocon analysts made the same two points:

1) Syria is weak (no need to waste time since they can’t really deliver)

2) Syria is not trustworthy .. for some reason Syria is only interested in cheating the United States and in backstabbing the leaders of any civilized country who are foolish enough to travel to Damascus.

In your last analysis you went out of your way to show that Syria is weak … You highlighted the fact that Syria’s allies were defeated in the latest Lebanese elections (even though you know that Syria’s allies in the opposition got a huge lead in popular vote over Syria’s critics in the March14 movement)… and you failed to mention that the winning coalition (M14) now lost one of its main leaders and his supporters … Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is now convinced that Lebanon’s best friend (and protector) is Syria.

Then you insinuated that Syria can not even influence Hamas (Hamas did not even allow Fatah members to travel to attend the meeting) …

And apparently Bashar Assad loves to kill Iraqi civilians… he would risk alienating all those in the Obama administration who are calling for close cooperation with Syria, in order to kill more Iraqi civilians.

And you are outraged that Syria seems to be conducting research at two nuclear facilities, that might or might not be true … and if true that research might or might not be for military purposes and if for military purposes it might or might not lead anywhere .. and if it one day led anywhere it might or might not be in our life time …

Which reminds me of your total silence about Israel’s existing 200-300 nuclear weapons.

Basically, you (like all the other tiring neocon voices before you) are energetically trying to tell everyone that Syria is not worth working with.

Tell me about Israel Andrew … can you tell me your opinion of the 1500 Israel killed in Lebanon in 2006? … since you love Lebanon so much and you have so many Lebanese friends, did you write any “analysis” about how Israel’s new right wing government is again threatening to invade and punish Lebanon? … does that bother you at all? … Does denis Ross allow you to write an analysis attacking Israel?

I can tell you that many of your Syrian friends do not want to hear anything from you again. Especially after your calling for “smart sanctions” against Syria.


August 29th, 2009, 9:57 pm


Majhool said:


This is really interesting, especially how fond you and Josh were with Andrew and his work .

As you probably know, I am less interested in regional power game, except for issues that impact the internal dynamic in Syria.

All said, I wish you did not use the morality paradigm to refute his argument. Also, I wish you did not use the “popular vote” argument, we both know that this is no more than a propagandistic tool that is flawed statistically and serve only to breach the Christian/Muslim partnership in power in Lebanon. Recent speech by Hasan Fadlallah attacking the head of the Christian Maronite church is proof to what I am saying.

In absolute terms, from a view point stripped from the calculations of power, I would prefer that Syria’s role in the region stems from its location, culture, army, and economy. a role that is based on Syria’s leverage over guerilla groups operating in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine is fundamentally flawed in my view.

This is not to say, that I would be pleased to see Syria weakened. It’s quite the opposite.


August 29th, 2009, 10:43 pm


Shami said:

I did not like basam qadi ,he remind me nizar nayyouf and has a limited culture,it was so big,when he repeated this false damascene popular story on sheikh al akbar Ibn Arabi ‘s death ,the other opposite to him ,as much ignorant than him, did not correct him.
I would like to see a woman activist instead of his face,like the egyptian Nawal al Saadawi or the Morrocan Fatima Mernissi.

Where are the Syrian women ?Even Sudan or Mauretania ,have Women Activists.

August 29th, 2009, 11:46 pm


jad said:

هل الإعتراف بالفشل يا استاذ عطري ، يُلغي الفشل؟

المهندس سعد الله جبري – كلنا شركاء
29/ 08/ 2009
ترددتُ كثيرا في الكتابة عن التصريحات الأخيرة للسيد العطري رئيس الحكومة، ولكن لما أطلعت على بعض التعليقات في هذا الموقع وغيره ( وجميعها ساخرة فحسب). حسمت أمري وقررت أن أتناول الموضوع بوضوح أكثر.

تُشكّل تصريحات العطري في إجمالها، نوع من الإعتراف الضمني بالفشل العام لحكومته في إدارة البلاد طيلة سني خدمتها “الرائعة” التي لم يذكر من فشلها إلا مواضيع قليلة جدا ومنها “مشكلة” الكهرباء ( وهذه ليست أزمة، وسبحان الله مشكلة تستمر عشر سنوات بدون علاج ولا يتبين في حلها الخيط الأبيض من الخيط الأسود، فهي ليست أزمة وإنما مجرد مشكلة!!!!)، كما لم يُبين الأسباب الحقيقية للتراجع الإقتصادي وإنخفاض قدرة الدولة وميزانتها عن رفع الأجور تعويضا عن التخفيض الفعلي الذي تسببت به الحكومة

سأتطوع أنا، وأذكر نتفاً من أفشال الحكومة وأسبابها المفتعلة من الفريق الإقتصادي خاصة، وسأتساءل مع المواطنين هل نسمّي كلٍّ منها مشكلة أو أزمة أو مصيبة؟

أولا: الأفشال الحكومية وأسبابها:

1. انتهاك الدستور في العديد من مواده، ومنها تغيير االنظام الإقتصادي للبلاد بشكل إرتجالي غير مدروس، وغير صادر بقانون أصولي وإنما بواسطة قرارات إرتجالية من شخص واحد هو الدردري! مما تسبب في تخريب إقتصادي ومالي ومعاشي للشعب، تعاني منه البلاد والأغلبية الساحقة من الشعب حالياً. ومنها أيضا ممارسة الإرهاب الأمني ضد الحريات الدستورية للفكر وتبادل الرأي للمواطنين!
2. أنتهاك الكثير من القوانين ، ومنها توقيع عقود بالتراضي خلافا للقانون من جهة، وغير داخلة في موازنة الدولة السنوية من جهة أخرى، وهذا ما أستنزف معظم الموازنات السنوية – ولا زالت – بديلا عن تنفيذ الأغراض الأساسية والتنموية المقررة في قانون الموازنة السنوية، وتسبب فعلا في العجز عن رفع الرواتب آليا مع إرتفاعات تكاليف المعيشة والأسعار التي تسببت بها الحكومة ذاتها. وهذا إمتد من عام 2004 وحتى تاريخه!
3. تبدبد مُعظم خزينة الدولة لثماني سنين متتالية من خلال مشاريع فساد شبه وهمية، بديلا عن بناء مشاريع التنمية والبنية التحتية، شاملة تجميد تطوير ودعم مشاريع السدود وشبكات نقل المياه والري والسقاية لزيادة المساحات المزروعة بالسقاية، مما أخر تطور البلاد سبع سنوات إلى الوراء!
4. تسليم رسم السياسة الإقتصادية لسورية للبنك الدولي الصهيوني، وهذا منتهى التنازل عن السيادة الوطنية، وإعطاء عدو مكشوف سلطة التخطيط الإقتصادي للدولة!
5. سرقة نصف مالية كل مواطن بوسيلة تخفيض سعر العملة السورية بدون مبرر علمي أو إضطراري!
6. سرقة نصف راتب كلّ موظف وعامل ومتقاعد بوسيلة تخفيض سعر العملة السورية بدون مبرر علمي أو إضطراري!
7. إلغاء الدعم الحكومي الذي ضاعف الغلاء، وتسبب بتدمير مواسم الزراعة القمحية برفع أسعار الوقود، كما تسبب بإغلاق وإفلاس أكثر من ألف مصنع سوري خلال السنة الأخيرة. وبالجملة فقد تسبب بإضعاف الزراعة والصناعة والتصدير جميعا بشكل شامل. وخلق الغلاء الفاحش وتخفيض معيشة أكثرية الشعب السوري الساحقة!
8. العمل على إنهاك القطاع العام وتحويله من رابح يُؤمن ثلث موازنة الدولة طيلة عقود ثلاثة سابقة، إلى خاسر يحتاج لمساعدة خزينة الدولة لدفع رواتب عُمّاله!
9. الإمتناع عن بناء أية مشاريع صناعية وتنموية للقطاع العام مما ساهم في تزايد البطالة!
10. الإمتناع عن دعم القطاع الخاص الوطني، وعدم إصدار تشريعات مشجعة لعودة الرساميل السورية للمساهمة في مشاريع البناء والتنمية وامتصاص بطالة اليد العاملة!
11. خلق نظام الإستثمار الأجنبي المُخرب للإقتصاد السوري ومعيشة الشعب، من خلال سلبيتين خطيرتين جدا، أولهما هي أستنزاف سنوي متزايد للثروة المالية السورية، بالسماح بإخراج جميع الأرباح والموارد والرساميل إلى الخارج دون قيد أو شرط وبالعملة الصعبة، مما سيوصل الدولة السورية قريبا إلى إفلاس شامل– بدأت الدولة وخزينتها بمعاناة تباشيره – وثانيهما عدم امتصاصه إلا نسب تافهة من العمالة السورية المتعطلة عن العمل، بسبب سماحه للمستثمر باستيراد اليد العاملة الرخيصة من أي مصدر دون قيد أو شرط.!
12. تحرير التجارة الخارجية دون قيد او شرط ، مما عكس الميزان التجاري السوري من رابح قبل عام 2008، إلى خاسر بنسبة 900% بدءا من عام 2008، ومما أنتج تضخمات مالية ومن ثم إضعاف متزايد لليرة السورية، وبالتالي سلسلة من الغلاءات المُنهكة التي لن تتوقف إلى الأبد طالما قرار تحرير التجارة الخارجية المخرّب بقي سارياً!
13. تصدير المخزون الإستراتيجي من القمح السوري الجيد بأرخص الأسعار (80 دولار للطن أقل من الأسعار العالمية للقمح)، والقيام باستيراد بدلا منه قمحا روسياً مخصصا للحيوانات، وذلك من شركة فساد مصرية وبأسعار أغلى من الأسعار الدولية للقمح الجيد.

ثانيا: نتائج الأفشال على الشعب والدولة

1. أزمة إنخفاض معيشة الشعب بشكل حاد تجاوز نسبة 50% وذلك نتيجة إنخفاض دخل جميع المواطنين نتيجة الإجراءات السلبية الخطيرة المذكورة في أولا، ونتيجة الغلاء الذي رافق الإجراءات المذكورة.
2. عجز الموازنة عن القيام بمشاريع التنمية والبنية التحتية، وتطوير الرواتب بما يتناسب مع انخفاض مستوى الدخل بشكل شامل.
إن هذا يعني أن الدولة قد دخلت في مرحلة شلل حقيقي على المستويين الحكومي والشعبي. ولن يُمكن معالجة هذه الوضع الخطير جدا، إلا بتغيير الحكومة ووزرائها وفريقها الإقتصادي، بمن يعتقدون بعقم السياسات ىالإقتصادية التي ارتكبتها الحكومة وأوصلت البلاد والشعب والموازنة إلى مآزق وأزمات حقيقية خطيرة جدّاً

August 30th, 2009, 2:35 am


Shai said:


What still surprises me is how tempting it is to conclude that people are almost taking things personally in their interpretation of reality. Why is it that certain people are intent on isolating regimes, in order to punish them (and the citizens of their nation), in order to force them to comply with whatever agendas they have in mind for the region. Has anyone a successful record of isolation? Has the world succeeded with Iran? With North Korea?

Entire nations, and even regimes, cannot be treated as little children. Even if their leaders do carry out sinister plans. Even if their leaders do think of themselves more than of their people. Because collective punishment is always counterproductive, and is always wrong. There is no alternative, but engagement, engagement, and further engagement. There’s no doubt whatsoever, that trust cannot be established overnight, and cannot be dictated from above. It is a process that takes place only through dialogue, through engagement, through mutual confidence building steps. Through lifting of sanctions, not through practicing them.

To be perfectly honest, when I consider Syria’s motivations in supporting certain bodies in our region, I try not to travel down the “personal” (or emotional) realms that are so tempting. I try to look beyond them, and to see if I find any rational reason for Syria to change its strategic outlook if and when it is no longer threatened, if and when it is no longer isolated, if and and when it receives back its land. And what I see, is a very clear interest in changing certain things. Some would argue that’s wishful-thinking on my part. That it originates from my more “liberal” outlook on life. My Make Love Not War daisies-in-our-hair dreamy attitude. I’m sure that’s what Akbar and a few others see, when they consider us “Leftists”.

But I actually try not to trust-blindly or distrust-blindly anything here. Instead, to look at other examples from History. What better way to estimate the result of something, than to look at previous examples, if we have any to consider. And in the case of Peace in our region, we do. From Israel’s point of view, we have already “been there” before. Egypt was Israel’s worst enemy by far, ever! There has never before or since been an enemy that has caused Israel as many losses and as much pain as has Egypt. No existing or non-existing terrorist, terrorist-group, terrorist-state, terrorist-space-ship, has killed as many Israelis, has fought as many wars, as has Egypt. Anwar Sadat was personally responsible for more dead Israelis than all other Arab leaders combined. And yet, we made peace and we gave back land that was not ours. And amazingly enough, Egypt did not continue fighting Israel. Not directly, and not indirectly. Egypt did not support anti-Israel organizations. It did not allow arms through its territory to Israel’s enemies. It abided by all the agreements and everything included in the Israel-Egypt Peace Accords.

It did so, not because someone forced it, not because someone isolated it, not because someone punished it, but because for the first time it had a real interest to do so. What it gained (Sinai back, American support, etc.) is did not wish to lose. And Israel too did not attack Egypt since. We too now had something to lose. And it will be exactly the same with Syria, and with Lebanon, and with the Palestinians (when they have a State, not a open-air prison), and with Kuwait, and Yemen, and Iran one day.

I had a commander in the army, a Lt. Colonel, who once told us “Become experts at how TO DO, not at how NOT TO DO!” And his words echo in my mind ever since. There are too many “experts” out there, pessimists and ya’ani “pragmatics”, who will give you every reason in the book why we SHOULDN’T trust Syria, and Lebanon, and this Palestinian leader, and that one. Why would SHOULDN’T give back land, why we must wait, why we’re really strong and not weak, why time is on our side, why we should NOT take the risks of Peace. In essence, why we should DO NOTHING!

To suggest that from the safe shores of New Jersey is one thing. The price for the mistake would be, at worst, slight moral inconvenience. The kind of thing you don’t boast about in your local cafe (“I was always AGAINST dialogue with Syria, until it succumbed…”) But to advise the same from within our region, is the greatest form of irresponsibility towards not only ourselves and our present, but indeed our children and their future. If isolating Iran causes her to harden, to develop nuclear weapons, and to God-forbid ever use them against Israel, I want to see the “experts” that had always encouraged the West to punish Iran look at their children in the eye, and say “It was the right thing to do…”

One mustn’t be an “Appeaser” to engage the enemy, to build trust and confidence that will lead to Peace. Those elements are necessary, if we truly do believe in a world full of nations and people that are equal, not in one where we force our will upon others.

August 30th, 2009, 7:37 am


jad said:

“Haj to be” Kareem:

عتب على مشايخ آل كابوني …. مشايخ الفضائيات

محمد الوشيحي : الجريدة
31/ 08/ 2009
أولاً مبارك عليكم الشهر….

ثانياً، يرحم الله والديكم يا ‘شيخ’ نبيل العوضي ويا دكتور طارق سويدان ويا بقية رجال الدين، أو رجال الأعمال، الذين تتزاحمون كتفاً بكتف على أبواب الفضائيات في الشهر الفضيل هذا، أرجوكم وأتوسل إليكم ألّا تدعوا هذا العام على النصارى بأن يبيدهم الله. معلش، سامحوهم هالمرة، على الأقل إلى أن يكملوا اكتشاف الخريطة الجينية التي ستساهم في علاج الأمراض بشتى أنواعها. فهم لايزالون في منتصف الطريق، وقد توصلوا إلى علاج أمراض كثيرة، منها السمنة.

ثم لو فرضنا جدلاً أن الله استجاب لدعائكم وأبادهم وفرقهم بدداً، عليّ النعمة حينئذ لن تستفيدوا من نفطكم مثقال ذرة، إلا في الحنّاء أو في علاج جرب الإبل. وطبعا أنتم منذ أن احتلت فلسطين عام 1948 تدعون على اليهود ونحن نؤمّن خلفكم كل يوم، واليهود يرزعوننا على قفانا كل يوم، حتى أصبح قفا الواحد منا كما إطار بريجستون مقاوماً للحرارة.

وبعدين يا شباب، لماذا الدعاء عليهم بالفناء؟ لماذا لا ندعو الله أن يصلح علاقاتنا معهم، وأن يساعدهم على اكتشاف علاج مرض السكري الذي أبادنا، ولاسيما أنهم قد شارفوا على الانتهاء من ذلك؟، ما هذه الغريزة الشريرة التي تتلبسكم ولا غريزة الرئيس الإفريقي عيدي أمين، آكل لحوم البشر؟… يقول: اللهم فرّق شملهم؟! طيب ليش وهُم الذين اخترعوا لنا الأدوية وآلات الزراعة وتنقية مياه البحر وكل ما يخطر على الذهن؟ أهذا رد الجميل أم هي النذالة؟ يعني تستيقظون من نومكم في أنصاص الليالي لتدعوا عليهم، ‘وين إذنك يا جحا’؟ لماذا لا تستيقظون من نومكم وتتجهون إلى المختبرات والمصانع؟ أم أن السالفة هي البحث عن الأسهل، ارفع يديك وبس.

لكن، لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله، إذا كنتم متعطشين للدماء والمقابر الجماعية، وإذا كان لابد من الدعاء على أحد بالإبادة فأرجو أن تحددوا الدولة المنكوبة. دونكم أميركا الوسطى وأميركا اللاتينية، السلفادور والهندوراس وكوستاريكا، الله الله فيهم، فهم مثلنا ‘بَجَم’ وعالة على الأرض، فاحرقوهم بالدعاء الله يلعنهم ويلعن ساعتهم، كي يتفرقوا بددا ويصيبهم ‘الرمدا’ و’الكمدا’ (المد بالألف لدواعي السجع)، عليكم بهم فاحشروهم بالدعاء سدد الله رميكم.

أنا لا أعترض على الدعاء، ولا على جدواه، اعتراضي فقط على طريقة استخدامنا له، إذ لم أسمع مرة إماماً يقول: ‘اللهم حبّبنا في المختبرات، اللهم واجعلنا نملأ الأرض بهجة وعمراناً، اللهم إنا أمضينا السنين في بحث حثيث عن علاج العقم فيسّر لنا اكتشاف الدواء بسرعة كي تنتفع البشرية…’. أدعيتهم في أغلبها أسلحة دمار شامل، الخالق الناطق، محرمة شرعاً ومجرّمة قانوناً. فأقل ما يدعون به على النصارى هو الشلل، هذا إذا كان لدى الإمام قليل من الذوق، بينما يؤكد النصارى والبوذيون أنهم سيقضون على الشلل قريباً، ليفرح المشلولون، من المسلمين والنصارى واليهود والهندوس والبوذيين وعبّاد النمل الأصفر.

لا أدري كيف حوّل بعض مشايخنا دين الاسلام المبني على التسامح إلى دين قصف عشوائي وحرب مدن، وكأنهم على خط النار لا على منابر المساجد، أو كأنهم ينتمون إلى مافيا آل كابوني أيام عزه في شيكاغو.

August 31st, 2009, 4:39 pm


Alex said:


I think that isolating those who criticize them is one way to reassure themselves that they are somehow the guardians of morality on this planet … that they are still on the side of goodness despite all the pain they continue to inflict on others.

It is also a punishment for any other countries that might entertain the thought of not complying in the future … you want to be independent like Cuba? you suffer like Cuba suffers from our never ending isolation… Want to champion Arab rights? … you remain on the list of “states supporting terrorism” like Syria has been for decades …

Syria and Cuba are used as examples to other countries.

And Iraq … what an example that was.

So I don’t think it is about using isolation as a tool for achieving anything good .. it is a punishment tool and it is a “we are better than those we punish” tool.

August 31st, 2009, 8:33 pm


سامية بارودي said:

بالنسبة لبسام القاضي من مرصد نساء سوريا فالكثير من التقولات تطرح في الآونة الاخيرة حول تجاوزاته الاخلاقية واستغلاله لموقعه لدوافع شخصية وشهوانية. هذه التقولات طرحت من قبل العديد من اللواتي عملن معه في الاطر النسائية والمهنية المختلفة. ويذكرن أن اسلوبه في استدراجهن لم يكن بالفظ او التقليدي إنما من خلال تسويق دعمه للنساء وإصغائه لمشاعرهن ومن ثم اصطيادهن لتحقيق شهوات ونزوات متعددة.

April 12th, 2010, 7:19 pm




This is no place for personal slander. Either back up your claims with evidence or do not trash talk. What you are saying is typical slander from the religious fanatics and conservatives who want to seek vengeance on Mr. Bassam Al Qadi because of his honorable efforts in fighting for equality between man and women and for his profound fight on ignorance!

April 12th, 2010, 11:15 pm


سامية said:

للمعلق freedon
يحق لك التشكيك في ” روايتي” لان أعداء كثيرون يتربصون للسيد القاضي كرجل معارضة وصاحب مواقف ثورية وتحررية “معلنة”. اتفق معك فيذلك. لكن عندما اطرح تجربتي وتجربة أخريات فإنني حتما اخلط العام والخاص، وحتما اسّلم الرجعيين والانتهازيين سلاحا يستخدمونه بمنهج الحق الذي يراد به باطل. لكن يا سيدي المحترم فالقاضي ليس فوق الانتقاد وهو إذ استخدم خطابه النسوي لمآرب شهوانيه ورديلة فعليه أن يحاسب ويفضح ، فكثيرات من المتزوجات والعزباوات قد تعلقن بحبال الهواء وأسيئ التلاعب في مشاعرهن واجسادهن من قبل ابسام القاضي الذي وضع نفسه في مكان الوصي على قضايا النساء.

April 13th, 2010, 5:26 pm


How it started « حيطان Walls said:

[…] on that day, Syria Comment most respected writer Ehsani wrote a  main post titled The Syrian Public Sector, Corruption, Taxation, and Government Services” by Ehsani Somehow, a little crack appeared in the wall, and all before that moment is now […]

August 31st, 2011, 6:36 pm


Syria Comment » Archives » Ehsani on Syria Comment over the Years said:

[…] An article on the public sector that inspired OFF THE WALL to start his blog was written in August 2009. “The Syrian economy and government services have real ailments that will get worse as the country liberalizes. Big medicine is needed.” […]

September 4th, 2011, 4:05 pm


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