Three Camps on Gemayel Murder and Syria

Jordan's King Abdullah, who is about to meet President Bush and PM Maliki, insists that the US open a dialogue with Syria. According to the Washington Post, King Abdullah said that "The United States needs to look at the "total picture" and be ready to talk with all parties in the area — including Syria and Iran — about a wide range of issues." He warns that the region faces three civil wars. (see article copied below) Not surprisingly, Jordan believes the insipient Palestinian civil war deserves attention first. Not coincidentally, the cease-fire in Gaza announced by Israel came on the eve of Bush and Cheney's visits to the region, demonstrating how much influence the US still has over that conflict, perhaps the only dispute in the region where US authority is still strong.

In declaring the cease-fire, Israel and the US are hoping to shore up support from their friends in order to better avoid negotiating with their enemies: Syria and Iran. Thus it is significant that both Jordan and Egypt are insisting on wider negotiations, despite Washington's efforts to draft them into a Shiite-Sunni war.

Husni Mubarak says it is too early to say who was behind the assassinations in Lebanon, in an attempt to encourage engagement.  مبارك: "من السابق لأوانه تحديد هوية مرتكبي الاغتيالات" في لبنان

We don't know what Saudi Arabia has asked Cheney for yet, but if Jordan and Egypt are asking for regional talks, it is a good bet that Saudi cannot be far behind, despite its struggle with Damascus for primacy in Lebanon. Michael Slackman of the NYTimes writes today that Saudi officials in Lebanon have met with Hezbollah’s general secretary, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, hoping to orchestrate a compromise. There should be room for both Saudi and Syrian influence in Lebanon as there was during the 1990s. It is not optimal from a Saudi point of view, but at this point there is no victory for Saudi in Lebanon, which is headed for eventual economic crisis  if the two powers cannot come to agreement and force the Lebanese to some power-sharing arrangement that gives the Shiites a larger share of the pie and undercuts the Hariri investigation, which Damascus regards as a declaration of war against it.

Three opinions on the Gemayel murder 

At issue in the engage-Syria-debate is the question of who killed Gemayel. Three camps seem to be emerging.

1. The first is from the "I want regime change in Syria crowd." They see the Gemayel murder as Syria fulfilling a scorched earth campaign in Lebanon. They argue that Syria is a third rate power that can be swatted away with one hand if only Washington has the will and is not duped by the realists. They do not advocate a Lebanese solution to the assassinations other than to develop militias and fight. Walid Phares is a main proponent of this school of thought. He argues that the US must take action against Syria to defend the March 14 revolution in Lebanon and keep its promises. Otherwise, Syria will build a Tehran on the Mediterranean. In his latest op-ed he argues:

The answer is clear. The United States and the new Congress must be implacable in resisting the onslaught of terror and fascism in the Middle East. When cynical politicians, interest groups and apologist academics call for the appeasement of Iran and Syria, resist them. When a population is endangered and its leadership is being eliminated, assist them. Will the new Washington rise to the occasion?

The Wall Street Journal is pushing this argument. Today it published an editorial, " The New Middle East: The Bush administration, Syria and Lebanon," decrying the lack of resolve by the President. Here are the choice quotes:

The mistakes [of the Bush administration] include a decision not to respond to Hariri's murder by seeking regime change in Syria, as none other than the French were urging at the time… Predator strikes against terrorist bases in Syria were ruled out… The [summer] war was incompetently prosecuted by the Israelis, but a few more weeks of fighting might have destroyed the Shiite group as a military organization and thus spared Lebanon its current predicament.

The Administration has also failed to lend any meaningful support to the National Salvation Front, the leading Syrian opposition group, apparently because it includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as former regime elements. But as Ammar Abdulhamid, a leading member of the NSF who is also a secular democrat, points out, "controversial figures will always be involved in opposition work. You can't look at [the NSF] as a change to the most wonderful democratic system in the world. But you do need to break the stalemate and introduce a new dynamic."

According to one Washington insider, non-Syrian Arab diplomats in Washington believe Syria is on the march: 

A lot of arab diplomats here (non syrian) think syria is sending a message to the US on Iraq: we will help you in Iraq but give us back Lebanon; that the Golan is secondary in their interests to the cash cow of Lebanon.   

2. The second opinion holds that if Damascus arranged the assassination, it may be premature to characterize the action as stupid.The question here is what Syria's priorities are — to open a dialogue with the US, or to achieve national security objectives of facilitating the return of suzerainty in Lebanon and blocking the international tribunal.The assassination of Gemayel could have been aimed as a warning to the March 14th Movement that it is pointless to resist the Syrian counterattack – that all of the Movement's leaders are vulnerable and that neither the US nor the UK can do anything to resist the incoming tide of restored Syrian suzerainty. 

If Syria is willing to jeopardize its Washington opening in order to take Lebanon back, it may also have calculated that President Bush was not serious about dialogue with Syria in the first place. Why else would Washington encourage the opening of the National Salvation Front in Washington or have Bolton continue to lead the charge to place the Syrian regime in the international dock, even before the publication of the final UN investigative report? Only the President can make foreign policy and he remains confident of victory in Iraq as does his vice President. The odds are that they are merely letting the squabbling functionaries in Washington jaw, jaw, jaw while the real men continue their war, war, war.

Damascus seems to have a very different view than Washington about who is winning in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. 

Damascus would undoubtedly like to see the Bush administration take “regime change” off the table once and for all, but one must wonder just how badly the regime leaders are worried about it or pining for engagement with the US. They may have reached the conclusion that the US is in deep trouble in Iraq, is unable or unwilling to press Israel for enough concessions to effectively wave smelling salts under the nose of the Fahad Plan, reviving it from its deep swoon.

They may also have concluded that Washington has shot its wad in Lebanon. It tried the multilateral French approach, but no amount of American good behavior and legal maneuvering could seduce Europe and the international community into placing sanctions on Syria. Syria didn't buckle under pressure and produce a Musharraf-type coup. And when diplomacy didn't work, Washington called out its big gun and unleashed Israel on Hizbullah and the namby-pamby Lebanese government. But Hizbullah could not be defeated and the Lebanese government could not be given a backbone, so what is left for Washington? It can encourage the Hariris and Geageas to play Geronimo and go down fighting, but to what end? It would be as if King Solomon decided to cut the baby in half. In short, Bashar and company may be thinking that perhaps the Americans need diplomatic engagement with them at least as much as they need it with Washington. 

Many pro-American Lebanese suggest that they are already resigned to losing this round. President Bush's expression of support for Siniora, while being politely received, is also being discounted. The things the US said and things it failed to do during the July-August war left fewer and fewer Lebanese looking to the US for substantive help. As one US diplomat recently concluded, "Perhaps it's best that Lebanese really aren't counting on us for anything."

The test of Damascus' wager will be whether it accomplishes its national security goals of regaining suzerainty and scuttling the establishment of an international court. 

If Syria’s top national security objective is the opening of a dialogue with the USG, then it probably did not kill Gemayel.

3. The third argument is that Syria was not behind the murder at all. 

Ian Mather, writing in the Scotsman, quotes Ha'aretz's Zvi Barel to suggest that Syria may not have been behind the Gemayel assassination.  

Others, even in Israel, are not so sure that the Syrian government itself was involved, finding it hard to see how Syria could possibly benefit from the killing. Zvi Barel, Arab affairs analyst of the daily newspaper, Ha'aretz, said that Syria was in the midst of chalking up significant diplomatic points that could only be harmed if it were shown to be involved in another political assassination.

Damascus had just renewed full diplomatic relations with Iraq and was on its way to achieving a semi-official stamp of approval from Washington as a positive influence in Iraq. It was also on the verge of seeing the fall of Siniora's anti-Syrian government in Lebanon.

"With three such achievements," Barel wrote, "the last thing Damascus needed was a new accusation of political murder in Lebanon." He suggested it might have been a rogue action carried out by one of Syria's intelligence arms. "If that is true, it puts President Assad in an embarrassing position, with elements of his regime working behind his back."

Yet the most significant reaction was that of Bush, who stopped short of accusing Damascus of killing Gemayel. The inside word from Washington is that Assad is at last enjoying the resumption of what Syrian embassy spokesman Ahmed Salkini calls "unofficial contacts" with the US administration.

Patrick Seale in his November 25, Gemayel, Syria, Israel and the War in Iraq , gives the most powerful expression to the "It's not Syria" argument. He writes: 

There are two main theories about who killed Pierre Gemayel in Beirut on Tuesday – one points the finger of blame at Syria, the other at Syria's enemies.

Both theories are plausible. But, such is the murky nature of Lebanon's politics and the murderous intrigues of foreign powers that it would be exceedingly rash, in the absence of firm evidence, to plumb for one or the other.

As may be seen, Lebanon's unfortunate fate is to be a battleground between Syria and Israel for dominance in the Levant.

This past summer Israel, encouraged by the United States (and with the tolerance of Britain), mounted an all-out assault against Lebanon in an attempt to destroy Hezbollah and bring Lebanon into the Israeli-Western camp. The attempt failed.

Hezbollah and its allies – who include General Michel Aoun, a Christian leader who broke ranks with his community – have been pressing for the replacement of the Siniora government by a government of national unity, in which they would have what they consider their rightful place.

Their case is that only such a government can unify the country, heal the sectarian divide and rebuild Lebanon after Israel's devastating assault.

Syria's enemies argue vociferously that the killing of Pierre Gemayel, ahead of the publication of the Brammerz report, was a pre-emptive move by Damascus to derail the formation of a special international tribunal to bring Rafik Hariri's killers to justice.

Plans for the tribunal were finalised by the UN earlier this week but still need to be approved by the Lebanese government and indeed by the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. Bringing down the Siniora government would clearly doom the tribunal futility.

This is the prime argument of the anti-Syrian camp which includes Sunni Muslims led by Sa'ad Al Hariri, bent on avenging his father; Walid Junblatt, leader of the Druze community, who has come out stridently against Syria's President Bashar Al Assad; and Gemayel's own Phalanges libanaises – partners in the "March 14 movement".

Denouncing Syrian and Iranian interference in Lebanon's affairs, they have no doubt that Pierre Gemayel's killers were acting on orders from Damascus.

Alternative Theory

There is an alternative theory, which is equally plausible, in which the more likely culprits are Israel and its local agents. Those who advance it ask who benefits from the crime. Certainly not Syria and its Hezbollah allies who, to their great embarrassment, now find themselves denounced once again as criminals before world public opinion.

This accusation of a new heinous murder comes just at a time when Syria was on the point of re-engaging with Europe and the United States and when Hezbollah was hoping to reap political rewards.

The murder of Pierre Gemayel has had the immediate effect of paralysing Hezbollah and throwing it on the defensive: it can no longer consider bringing its supporters out on the street in peaceful demonstrations, as it had planned and announced, to press its demand for a national unity government.

Similarly, the murder is a grave setback for Syrian diplomacy. It occurred when Syria's foreign minister, Walid Al Muallem, was in Baghdad where he announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between Syria and Iraq, after a breach of a quarter of a century.

At the same time, Iran called for a tripartite summit of Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian presidents to help end the appalling violence in Iraq.

By these moves Syria and Iran were signalling that Iraq's neighbours could not be excluded from an eventual settlement in Iraq; that they were able and ready to play a constructive role; and that they were, in fact, key players with whom the United States needed to engage if it was to find an honourable exit from the Iraqi quagmire.

Damascus and Tehran are also seeking to convey the message that peace in Iraq will necessarily require a withdrawal of US troops; that the Iraqi problem cannot be separated from other conflicts in the region; and that a global settlement will involve resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

To the alarm of hardliners in Israel and in the United States, these ideas were beginning to make their way in American and European opinion. Calls for a global settlement were coming from many quarters, including last week from the leaders of Spain, France and Italy.

Even Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has seemed to distance himself from Washington in stressing the need for a "whole Middle East strategy", with priority given to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

In these circumstances, it seems hardly likely that Syria – eagerly seeking dialogue with the West, emerging from isolation, and pressing hard for the US to re-launch the Middle East process – would put all this in jeopardy by ordering a squalid murder of a relatively unimportant Lebanese politician.

On the other hand, Syria's enemies – Israel and its Lebanese agents first among them – would have every motive to seek to check Syria's return to international respectability and to prevent the restoration of Syrian influence in Lebanon, even in a milder form than before.

These then are the rival theories. Both Israel and Syria have in the past resorted to murdering their political opponents. Israel continues to do so routinely in the Palestinian territories.

Which of the two is guilty this time? Hard evidence either way will not be easy to find. But until it is found, it would be wise to suspend judgment.

Leo Brincat, the Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta and the Council of Europe Rapporteur for Lebanon, expresses an opinion typical of a growing European consensus that holds that even if Syria were involved in the murder, the US must engage Damascus because Washington has no stick big enough to stop the growing Syrian influence in Lebanon. Only a brokered deal between the two countries can limit potential chaos or civil war. He believes Washington must try to lock in the most favorable deal for Lebanon it can using diplomacy and carrots. Only this will protect the increased independence from Syria that Lebanon has gained over the last two years. He describes Syria as a strong regional power and not a weak one, as the neocons do. He writes:

I think that although the Lebanese hate the Syrians and would not want to turn the clock back they are going to have to make some compromise.

Unless it falls apart, Lebanon has got to find a modus vivendi with Syria…

The lesson from this messy scenario is that powerful states, even if perceived as or described as rogues, cannot simply be ignored, particularly if they have sharp claws. Simply ignoring these states is not an option.

Finally here are the thoughts of Kind Abdullah:
Jordan's King Abdullah Says Three Civil Wars Face Middle East
By Nadine Elsibai

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) — Jordan's King Abdullah warned that the Middle East is facing a crisis, with the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq at the brink of civil wars.

“We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands,'' Abdullah said on ABC's “This Week'' program today. “It is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis.''

President George W. Bush will wrestle with the increasing sectarian violence in Iraq when he meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan Nov. 29-30 for talks held under Abdullah's auspices. Militant Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to withdraw from the Shiite parliamentary coalition and the government if Maliki, a fellow Shiite, meets with Bush.

Abdullah said restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is his top priority because the “emotional impact'' of the problem “can be translated to the insecurity and frustrations throughout the Middle East and the Arab world.''

Palestinians fired rockets today at Israel after a cease- fire agreement between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went into effect, raising doubts about how long the truce can hold.

Palestinian `Core'

Abdullah said he hopes to address the “core issues'' of creating a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians in addition to offering help to the Iraqi people during his meetings with Bush. Abdullah also noted that Americans must look at the Middle East “in the total picture'' because “it's not just one issue by itself.''

“I keep saying Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what's going on in Iraq. It is linked to what's going on in Lebanon. It is linked to the issues that we find ourselves with the Syrians,'' Abdullah said. “There needs to be a plan that brings all the parties together, and bring them today and not tomorrow.''

Lebanon faces a revival of sectarian conflict that may involve neighboring Sunni-dominated Syria, and Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a militant Shiite group that the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization. The Nov. 21 assassination of cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, a Christian politician who had been critical of Syria, further added to tensions.

Cracking Down

Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who will be No. 2 Republican leader in the Senate beginning in January, said Bush should “be very aggressive and specific'' in telling Maliki to crack down on Iraqi militias such as Sadr's during the meeting in Jordan.

“We're reaching a critical point,'' Lott said on the “Fox News Sunday'' program. Bush should consider withdrawing U.S. troops if Maliki doesn't take strong action, he said.

Lott also questioned whether Maliki's government can survive in the face of the mounting violence. Maliki's leadership has “not been encouraging, to say the least,'' Lott said.

The Bush administration is seeking partners in the Middle East to help stabilize the region. A panel created by Congress and headed by former Secretary of State James Baker III is pulling together recommendations for a possible shift in U.S. policy in Iraq, to be made public next month.

Senator-elect Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican, said on CBS's “Face the Nation'' that Bush should talk directly to Syria and Iraq in an attempt to resolve the Iraq war.

“We have to talk with all the players in the region,' Corker said, noting that, while Syria may have played a role in last week's assassination of Gemayel in Lebanon, and “they are our enemy in many regards, we have to engage people in the region.''

Siniora insists Cabinet approval of tribunal 'was not a provocation'

Comments (54)

MSK said:

Dear Josh,

here is theory #4:

a) Since the assassins seemed to have known that on that specific day Pierre Gemayel had decided to not travel in a convoy, there seemed to have ben involvement by members of the Lebanese security apparatus.

b) As it happens, there are quite a few members of the Syrian mukhabaraat (yes, plural) as well as a number of their Lebanese buddies of the pre-Spring 2005 era who are mighty pissed at the March 14 movement.

c) Nobody knows just how much control the Syrian leadership (Bashar, Asef, etc.) have over every part of their security apparatus. It is quite conceivable that a fair number of the “old Lebanon hands” and their buddies are thinking of Bashar’s decision to pull out of Lebanon as “weak” and don’t respect him & his ruling group overly much.

HENCE, it would not be out of the ordinary or “abnormal” that a group of “renegade” mukhabaraat officers together with some of their old buddies in the Lebanese security apparatus (who may be fearing that, if March 14 wins outright, there might be inquiries into collaboration of Lebanese security services with the Syrian occupation, beyond Jamil al-Sayyid …) organized the hit on Pierre Gemayel as part of their personal vendetta against what they perceive as the “anti-Syrian” group. Such a group, such people … wouldn’t think in terms of “what are Syria’s strategic interests?” and such. Actually, if they are ideological hardliner old-skool guys (usually few gals among such groups, Buthaina Sha’baan being quite an exception), then they might actually WELCOME the derailment of a thaw in Syria-US relations.

Josh, I am by no means claiming that this scenario is what happened, or that it is even MORE plausible than some of the other ones. But it is also not less plausible.


November 28th, 2006, 9:41 am


t_desco said:

Bush Asking Arab Friends for Iraq Help

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — As President Bush and his top diplomats try to halt the downward spiral in Iraq and Lebanon, they seem intent on their strategy of talking only to Arab friends, despite increasing calls inside and outside the administration for them to reach out to Iran and Syria as well.

Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are traveling to Jordan this week for talks that are to include Iraq’s prime minister and a number of Sunni Arab leaders but exclude the Iranians and Syrians, despite the influence they wield in Iraq and Lebanon.

Meanwhile, one of Ms. Rice’s most trusted aides, Philip D. Zelikow, announced Monday that he was resigning his post as State Department counselor. Mr. Zelikow, widely viewed as a voice of candor in the administration on the Iraq crisis, said in his resignation letter that he would return to teaching at the University of Virginia. He cited a “truly riveting obligation to college bursars” for his children’s tuition.

An administration official said Mr. Zelikow had been frustrated with administration policy on the Middle East, including Iraq, and North Korea.

There have been signs of strain within the administration, particularly at the State Department, where career Foreign Service officials have argued for increased dialogue with Iran and Syria to try to stem the violence in Iraq and Lebanon. “We’ve got a mess on our hands,” said a senior State Department official, who, like others discussing the subject, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.

(my emphasis)

“Clark told The Herald he doubted the Bush administration would make serious diplomatic gestures toward Iran and Syria because “powerful forces in the White House want forceful regime change” in those countries. In his speech, he suggested that Vice President Dick Cheney is such a force.”
Brown Daily Herald

Syrian gunman killed on Lebanon-Syria border

BEIRUT, Nov 28 (Reuters) – A Syrian gunman was killed on Tuesday when his own grenade exploded during a clash with Syrian police on the crossing point into Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said.

The source said Syrian police had stopped a car leaving Syria and when they tried to search a suitcase in the vehicle, the driver brandished a pistol and fired at police. As he ran from the car a grenade he was holding exploded, killing him.

Grenade attack at Syria-Lebanon border

BEIRUT, Lebanon – An assailant carried out a gun and grenade attack on the Syrian side of a crossing on the Lebanese border on Tuesday, Lebanese television stations reported.

Lebanese security officials reported the attacker wounded at least two people.

State television, LBC and New TV, two private stations, reported that a suicide attacker struck at the Jdeidet Yabous border post.

The crossing is about a seven-minute drive from the Lebanese border post of Masnaa on the highway linking Beirut with Syria’s capital, Damascus.

November 28th, 2006, 2:44 pm


t_desco said:

BEIRUT, Lebanon – A Syrian leader of an Islamic militant group blew himself up at a border post with Lebanon after a gunbattle with Syrian security forces Tuesday, the Syrian government said. Two security forces were wounded.

Omar Abdullah, the 28-year-old leader of the Islamic militant group Tawheed and Jihad, was trying to enter Lebanon at the Jdeidet Yabous border post with fake documents, a Syrian Interior Ministry statement said.

The statement said he opened fire on security forces and tried to escape.

After a chase, Abdullah detonated an explosive belt, killing himself and wounding the two Syrian security officers.

Takfiri Terrorist Blows Himself up Across Border with Lebanon

November 28th, 2006, 3:38 pm


ivanka said:

For once I have to agree with King Abdulla the second. He is right that Iraq and Palestine face civil war, possibly. Especially if he sends in militias from Jordan with the task of starting a civil war in Palestine.

As for Lebanon, not yet. There are many alarming signs but not yet. But with the facist Lebanese forces rearming everything is possible.

Regime change in Syria : If the Americans come to invade Syria, I am going to blow myself up like that Takfiri dude, me and many others.

That was a personal note. What would the US achieve by dismanteling Syria like Iraq? I mean sure the people who for some reason or another hate the Syrian regime or even Syrians will be vindicated, but then what. What did they achieve in Iraq?

What is the next accusation against Syria. Who is the next person we will be accused of killing collectively, making us all good targets for bombs.

It is a very stupid thing to think that Syria assasinated Gemayel. Very very stupid. But hey hate makes you stupid. Also fear makes you stupid. Some people are afraid to disagree with people who shout, so they become stupid.

I really liked the passage “a few more weaks of fighting might have destroyed the shiite group”. Dude the war stopped becuase the Israelis were UNABLE to continue. A few more weaks and Hezbolla would have liberated part of northern Palestine.

Thank God I am not American. Tfoh.

The Wall Street Journal article shows you how deluded some Americans are. They do not know anything about the positions of Europe or China and Russia. They still think the US is powerful. And can do “predator” strikes. Well everything that breaths in South Lebanon was bombed and they didn’t win. And how ridiculous to call it predator really. I mean like what like a cat, a cat is a predator, some insects are predators by the way. What’s so great about being a predator.

November 28th, 2006, 5:54 pm


ausamaa said:

How nice, now people are getting choices:

14 February

So far….

And where exactly does the CIA, other brotherly intel agencies, money-matters (since Amin Jemayyel and Al Kattaeb are well versed in the dark side of extra-curriculum entrepreneurship),Jemmayel intrafamily fueds, and the things that you and I do not know about fit in the above theories?

However, I still like McDonalds motto: KISS
(Keep It Simple Stupid)!

1-Who benefits most? In the SHORT TERM (because predicting what is going to happen next week seems a bit confusing as even the actors seem, or are trying to make themselves seem as lost as every one else)?
2- Who has a proven conviction record and capabilities in Black Ops?
3- Who has the guts (and the self-precived insulation) to contemplate such an act in such turbulent times?

So, this time, we are moving up a step in our exploration and analysis of things which is a good move. Out of our “wisdome” ofcourse!!???

November 28th, 2006, 5:59 pm


Tom Harb said:

Dr Landis imputed to Professor Walid Phares things he hasn’t said or wrote.

1) Landis wrote that “Phares is a main proponent of a school of thought he defined as “I want regime change in Syria crowd.” There are no statements in Phares articles and the one Landis posted that quotes Phares on this. Landis invented it.

2) Landis wrote: “They argue that Syria is a third rate power that can be swatted away with one hand if only Washington has the will and is not duped by the realists.”Phares never used these words in any of his articles that we’ve read. The terminology used by Landis seems to be his not the ones of the scholar he criticizes.

3) The most erroneous imputed quote is the following: “They do not advocate a Lebanese solution to the assassinations other than to develop militias and fight.” I read and re-read the article posted and other articles and again, found nothing of the sort. Landis is simply inventing sentences and words. Phares never mentioned militias anywhere. He has been one of the main architectsof UNSCR 1559 and the call to send multinational troops to disarm the militias not to create ones.

Unfortunately Dr Landis went on a non-academic pro-Syrian advocacy track as he invented words in imputed them to other scholars. If you listen to Radio Damascus and al Manar TV commentaries you’d find the same types of comments.

Tom Harb
Secretary General of the Committee for UN 1559

November 28th, 2006, 6:20 pm


ivanka said:

Did you read this article. Maybe Josh should read it to.

Aussama really that is brilliant. This time it is not the Syrian devil that killed the hero. People now say, it is the Syrian devil but let’s not rush into accusations.

November 28th, 2006, 6:21 pm


why-discuss said:


Disrupting Syria is on the agenda of Israel. A united arab-iranian front with Syria as a broker is lethal for Israel. Israel will use all its pernicious influences to manipulate the religious, heinous forces in the area to prevent this from happening. Imagine a united iraqi-iranian front against Israel! The sionist regime has no chance of surviving long. With their US neo cons allies they are also preventing the emergence of a united Iraq and would love to see this country and Syria in permanent turmoil. Lebanon is a fertile ground and a public show room to exacerbate the regional dissensions.
Thank God the savvy syrian regime is holding on, despite its excesses on civil rights. Anyway I dont think the syrian abuses are so much greater than that of Egypt’s discreet jailings of opponents and the financial dictatorship and corruption of Mobarak and company, but Egypt is a
‘ally’ of the US so the abuses are lauded….After Bush and Cheney are gone, Bashar will still be here.

November 28th, 2006, 6:21 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

it is good that in this world there are naive people, we should take advantage of them.

November 28th, 2006, 6:35 pm


Pierres Service » Blog Archive » Three Camps on Gemayel Murder and Syria said:

[…] … perhaps the only dispute in the region where US authority is still strong. … exceedingly rash, in the absence of firm evidence, to plumb for one or the other. … and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went into effect, …Read more: here […]

November 28th, 2006, 7:59 pm


Alex said:


The Syrian Mukhabarat understood the advantage of pulling out of Lebanon promptly. If Syria did not withdraw, we would have been hearing reminders on a daily basis from presidents Bush and Chirac (personally) that Syria did not fully implement UN resolution 1559 since it failed to disarm Hizballah

Everything is possible, including your theory, but I give it a rather insignificant probability.

What’s at stake here is a fight for control over Lebanon. Last year the Saudis coordinated with the Americans and the French and the Israelis to take over Syria’s position as the ultimate authority in Lebanon. Previous agreement between King Fahd and Hafez al-Assad, which was in effect since the eighties, was scrapped.

Lebanese popular anger that followed the killing of Hariri provided the unique opportunity for the Saudis (and Americans) to take over the administration of Lebanon.

But events over the past year show that three things changed, although most people still do not want to acknowledge them:

1) Syria’s ally, Hizballah, scored a strategic victory over Israel. Israel destroyed the country and killed 1400 civilians … thus making Syria look not that “evil” at all in comparison … when the Syrian army was in Lebanon it was an eyesore perhaps, but it was not bombing civilians day and night.

2) Hariri’s investigation under Mehlis and his assistant Lehman (somehow the same team that investigated the Berlin bombing and managed to falsely implicate Libya) was basically a total scam, just like the WMD case was made.

Brammertz dropped all the cooked evidence that Mehlis relied on to try to implicate Asef and Maher. There is nothing dramatic coming out of the investigation. The report might be delayed again, or it might come out with nothing incriminating.

3) Lebanon was not a free country last year.

The Syrian moukhabarat left Lebanon and in their place the Lebanese had to live with the American, israeli, French, Saudi, Egyptian, German, Indian, Somali and Pakistani moukhabarat.

Syria’s departure merely meant that Lebanon now is under the “guidance” of the United States and Saudi Arabia. The US Ambassador who publicly gives orders and who threatens the different Lebanese opposition leaders is much less refined in his leadership than the late Syrian unofficial envoy to Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan who by the nineties became friendly with ALL the Lebanese leaders and never threatened any of them, at least not publicly. The Saudis with their money purchased loyalties and assigned prime ministers to their liking. and they gave Lebanon the gift of the gifted Saad Hariri .. the great visionary and charismatic political leader who can mashallah lead Lebanon in these difficult times.

So, it is time for a paradigm shift. We have to admit that Syria does not have a monopoly on acting “evil” in the Middle East.

With all that dirt, it is a shame that many Lebanese still want to squeeze new theories to try to again look ONLY at Syrian suspects.

By the way, even though Israel killed 1400 innocent Lebanese civilians this summer, and even though the killing seriously derailed SYria’s plans and benefited Syria’s enemies, don’t you even dare to rely on logical analysis in this case and hint that the Israelis could have had a hand in this killing of ONE Lebanese POLITICIAN … they are not THAT evil. Only the Syrians are that evil. Why? that’s what we we were told throughout the past two years, and we are not yet ready to admit we were fools to not realize that most of the others are also “evil”.

November 28th, 2006, 8:19 pm


Alex said:

And, since we are discussing who is stupid:

Aljazeerah’s typo (last paragraph) says …

الأكثرية بلبنان تعرض على المعارضة مبادرة للخروج من الأزمة

عرض قادة في الأكثرية البرلمانية اللبنانية مبادرة على المعارضة تهدف إلى تهدئة الأوضاع وبحث سبل الخروج من الأزمة السياسية الراهنة.

وقد التقى الرئيس اللبناني الأسبق أمين الجميل برئيس البرلمان نبيه بري واقترح عليه أن تؤجل المعارضة تحركاتها ونزولها إلى الشارع بضعة أيام يتم خلالها اتفاق السلطة والمعارضة على رئيس جديد للجمهورية.

كما اقترح الجميل على بري في ذلك اللقاء أن تشكل الأغبية والمعارضة خلال تلك الفترة لجنة مشتركة تناقش ملف المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي الخاصة بقضية اغتيال رئيس الوزراء الأسبق رفيق الحريري.

This is actually interesting news. Gemayel proposed to the opposition to discuss the international court with them.

I don’t think it will work though. There are much bigger issues.

November 28th, 2006, 8:29 pm


Alex said:

No point for Israel to talk to a Syria that supports terror

There is no point for Israel to hold negotiations with Syria as long as the latter continues to support and facilitate terrorism, United States National Security Adviser Steven Hadley said on Tuesday.

“Here is Syria, which is clearly putting pressure on the Lebanese democracy, is a supporter of terror, is both provisioning and supporting Hezbollah and facilitating Iran in its efforts to support Hezbollah, is supporting the activities of Hamas,” Hadley said, in Riga alongside President George W. Bush for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.

“This is not a Syria that is on an agenda to bring peace and stability to the region, and I think Prime Minister Olmert said, under those circumstances, with that kind of Syrian policy, how can you talk about negotiating on the Golan Heights? Seems to me that’s a sensible position.”

November 28th, 2006, 8:58 pm


Tom Harb said:

Dr Landis imputed to Professor Walid Phares things he hasn’t said or wrote.

1) Landis wrote that “Phares is a main proponent of a school of thought he defined as “I want regime change in Syria crowd.” There are no statements in Phares articles and the one Landis posted that quotes Phares on this. Landis invented it.

2) Landis wrote: “They argue that Syria is a third rate power that can be swatted away with one hand if only Washington has the will and is not duped by the realists.”Phares never used these words in any of his articles that we’ve read. The terminology used by Landis seems to be his not the ones of the scholar he criticizes.

3) The most erroneous imputed quote is the following: “They do not advocate a Lebanese solution to the assassinations other than to develop militias and fight.” I read and e-read the article posted and other articles and again, found nothing of the sort. Landis is simply inventing sentences and words. Phares never mentioned militias anywhere. He has been one of the main architectsof UNSCR 1559 and the call to send multinational troops to disarm the militias not to create ones.

Unfortunately Dr Landis went on a non-academic pro-Syrian advocacy track as he invented words in imputed them to other scholars. If you listen to Radio Damascus and al Manar TV commentaries you’d find the same types of comments.

Tom Harb
Secretary General of the Committee for UN 1559

November 28th, 2006, 9:09 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Tom Harb –

Nice job! Hey, don’t listen to Radio Damascus and al Manar too long, you may suddenly find yourself in a rage and building your own homemade “martyrdom” belt.

Why-Discuss states matter-of-factly:

“Disrupting Syria is on the agenda of Israel.”

How about disrupting missile shipments from Syria? Do you think that’s possible? What exactly does Israel want to “disrupt”? Has Israel claimed that it wants to “rid the world” of Baathism?

“A united arab-iranian front with Syria as a broker is lethal for Israel.”

Hey, this reminds me of the UAR. Sweet memories. But why waste you hard-earned energy? Why not take this “united front” and create jobs? Create freedom. Build some fancy mosques or schools.

I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.

“Israel will use all its pernicious influences to manipulate the religious, heinous forces in the area to prevent this from happening.”

Those Israeli Joos, yeah they sure are “pernicious” aren’t they? Those Joos have always been known to manipulate the religious, look how many Joos are knocking on doors to convert the infidels to Judaism!

“The sionist regime has no chance of surviving long.”

Inshallah! You are undoubtedly a big fan of the Iranian theocracy. We can only hope and pray.

“With their US neo cons allies they are also preventing the emergence of a united Iraq and would love to see this country and Syria in permanent turmoil.”

You forgot their democrat allies, their Christian allies, their European allies, their German allies, and their Muslim/Arab allies (who have already made their peace with her).

Take a lesson: Israel would love to see a peaceful Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, et al.

“Thank God the savvy syrian regime is holding on, despite its excesses on civil rights.”

Spoken like a true Zionist.

“Anyway I dont think the syrian abuses are so much greater than that of Egypt’s discreet jailings of opponents and the financial dictatorship and corruption of Mobarak and company…”

I agree. The only abuses in the Middle East are caused by the Zionist Shaytan.

November 29th, 2006, 2:33 am


norman said:

Alex, it is so refreshing to see your writing . Logical and to the point .

November 29th, 2006, 2:40 am


norman said:

President Bush keeps making the same mistakes talking to people who can not help because they lack credibelity in the Arab wourld (Mubarak , Kink Abdalla and King Abdalla) while ignoring the people who (Asad ,Ahmadinizhat,Mashal,and Hizballa)Even American state department members recognize that

Bush’s Iraq mission excludes Syria, Iran
Nov. 28, 2006 at 8:50AM
The Bush administration is ignoring internal advice to include Iran and Syria in its bid to stem sectarian fighting in Iraq, the New York Times reports.
The administration is focused on other Arabic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, to help with quieting the tensions in Iraq and Lebanon, sources who asked not to identified told the Times.
The resolve to maintain silence with Iran and Syria was repeated by Bush Tuesday morning in Talinn, Estonia, where he said Iraqi leaders could talk to whomever they liked as “a sovereign nation which is conducting is own foreign policy.”
President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travel to Jordan this week for talks with Iraq’s prime minister and several Sunni Arab leaders to drum up regional resolve in quelling the violence and bolstering the governments of Iraq and Lebanon.
However, signs of frustration within the State Department over foreign policy are becoming evident, as Philip Zelikow, one of Rice’s most trusted advisers, announced his resignation Monday to return to teaching, the newspaper said.

November 29th, 2006, 3:10 am


Akbar Palace said:

Norman –

When Baker and Christopher were running to Syria every other weekend and when Albright was hosting Arafat at the White House in similar frequency, what exactly did the US get in return?

FYI, the “glorious 19” were training in the US during while Madge and Bill where talking to the terror enablers you have been referring to.

November 29th, 2006, 3:52 am


norman said:

Israel Gave nothing for the US to get anything , when Israel is ready to live in peace and give the Palestinians their human rights and Syria the Golan then and only then Israel will live in peace for a generation to come and the US will enjoy the markets of the midleast and it’s oil ,think about it, peace now is for the benifit of Israel ,while war and destruction will only embold the islamic fundimentalist that will destroy Israel and other minorities in the midleast.

November 29th, 2006, 4:07 am


Alex said:

Thanks Norman, good to “see you” here again.

November 29th, 2006, 5:01 am


majedkhaldoun said:

is Baker report is going to be public?

November 29th, 2006, 5:08 am


why-discuss said:

Akbar Palace

what a joke: “Take a lesson: Israel would love to see a peaceful Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, et al.”
Yes, this is why they have bombed Lebanon and destroyed their infrastructure, this is why they are threatening to bomb Iran, this is why they are practising APARTHEID with the palestinian as Jimmy Carter is putting it in his latest book, this is why they are holding on Lebanon’s Shabaa farms, this is why they still occupy Syria’s Golan and palestinian lands against all security resolutions.. Yes you bet, Israel loves the arab world!!!!! And there are zionist agents trying desperatly to convince us….

November 29th, 2006, 5:22 am


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

For Syriacomment readers: as per the Beirut ‘Daily Star’, a Syrian, Islamist militant, blew himself up, attempting to cross into Syria from the Lebanon, on Tuesday the 28th. The man by the name of Omar Hamra, was the military commander of a group calling itself, ‘Al-Tawheed Wal Jihad’. The explosion, which injured two Syrian border guards, took place about one kilometer from the Jdaidet Yabous crossing. For the full story see:

Also in the Daily Star is an interview with Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora, who claims that he has to remain in office in order to prevent a possible civil war erupting in the country.

As per the issue of future American policy in the Near East, an pertinent issue which emerged on Tuesday, was the resignation of Secretary of State Rice’s ‘Counselor’, Mr. Philip Zelikow. Zelikow who was brought into the department about 19 months ago, was by common consent, the ‘brains’ of the same, and responsible for what little ideas and flexibility American policy showed in dealing with the region in recent months. His decision to retire, which anonymous sources claim was due to personal frustration with the inertia and rigidity of Bush Administration policy in general, and towards the Near East in particular, raises the question, whether any rapid change, or in fact change at all, is possible, the Baker ISG findings notwithstanding. For more see the article on my on site which discusses this further.

November 29th, 2006, 6:59 am


majedkhaldoun said:

it is necessary to connect the dots, Olmert meeting with Bush, then Bush go to NATO meeting then to Amman,soon after cheney was in Saudia Arabia, I do not think the subject is Iraq, even that he is meeing Maliki, I think there is major decision regarding IRAN.

November 29th, 2006, 7:40 am


abu omar said:

Politcial Comment from Hizb-ut-tahrir

Assassination of Pierre Gemayel

The assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel in Beirut yesterday is a manifestation of the struggle currently taking place within the Bush administration and within the Republican Party.

The assassination took place against the backdrop of the Iraq Study Group’s expected recommendation for the Bush administration to promote diplomatic relations with Syria and Iran in a policy of re-engagement and co-operation. It took place on the same day that Syria reached agreement with Iraq on the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two countries. This was announced in Baghdad in a meeting between Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem.

The visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem would not have been possible without the diplomatic, security, and logistical support of U.S. military officials at Baghdad International Airport and in the Green Zone. Moallem previously met with James Baker (Chair of ISG) in New York and other members of the Iraq Study Group have met with Syrian ambassador to the United States Imad Mustafa.

It is also worth noting that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he will lead a delegation to Iran next week for a visit upon an invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This again is in line with the expected recommendations of the ISG.

The proposed restoration of diplomatic relations between Iraq and Syria has taken place as a result of George Bush’s desire to see Syria more closely involved in solving the disaster in Iraq. This forms one aspect of George Bush’s strategic reversal of American foreign policy as discussed in the last document.

This desire is not shared by others within the administration who want to continue with a hard line and aggressive policy towards Syria and Iran and a continuation of American policy in Iraq. The assassination of Gemayel will give more credibility to the policy of wanting to see Syria continue to be labelled as a terrorist state unworthy of being involved in a partnership with America for the purpose of reaching a situation of peace or stability in Iraq. It will damage the attempts currently being made to rehabilitate Syria in the eyes of the world as a viable partner for peace.

The killing of Gemayal appears designed to strengthen the hands of those in the administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who oppose negotiations with Syria and Iran over Iraq and would like to see Lebanon destabilised and Syria blamed for this destabilisation. John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, is also considered to be from the so called ‘neocon’ faction, and commented yesterday that “The White House warned about two weeks ago that Syria and Iran, acting through Hizbullah, might be on the verge of an attempted coup d’etat in Lebanon. One has to wonder whether this despicable assassination is not the first shot”.

George Bush’s own response has been more measured, refusing to accuse Syria or Iran of being directly implicated in the assassination. This is in contrast to his response to the assassination of Rafik Hariri in last year, after which he withdrew the US Ambassador to Syria and the White House called it “a terrible reminder that the Lebanese people must be able to pursue their aspirations – free from violence, and intimidation and free from Syrian occupation”


November 29th, 2006, 9:31 am


t_desco said:

Syria said to have planned to kill 36 senior Lebanese officials (Al-Mustaqbal)

A Beirut newspaper reported Wednesday that Lebanese authorities have seized two Syrian agents who planned to assassinate 36 senior Lebanese officials.

The Al Mustakbal newspaper said that Syria has sent some 200 pro-Damascus militants to the Palestinian refugee camps Al-Badwaii and Borge Al-Baragna (Burj Al-Barajna) in Lebanon. The militants were prepared to carry out instructions sent them from Syria, the report continued.

Two of the terrorists, carrying Syrian passports, were arrested recently and admitted working under orders of Syrian intelligence. According to the report, the two said they were working for Abu Khaled El Amalah, the number two man in Fatah Intifada, a pro-Syrian Palestinian armed group.

This is the first time an official report has announced the capture of a Syrian group working in Lebanon. If correct, it confirms UN accounts that Syria has remained active in Lebanon despite its troop withdrawal, using members of terror organizations loyal to it, and continual smuggling of weaponry.

According to the same report, the Syrians were receiving from a Syrian agent in Lebanon, identified as Mahmud Kolagasi.

The arrests came after news emerged this week of a rift in the radical Fatah al-Intifadah organization, also known as the Abu Musa Faction.

According to reports, members have formed a new branch called Fatah al-Islam, and are currently active in the refugee camps in Lebanon.

Fatah al-Intifidah announced Tuesday that it is disassociating itself from the new branch, calling it is a break-away wing belonging to the worldwide Al Qaida movement.

“The plot was revealed following the arrest of a Syrian and a Saudi, who admitted to belonging to a group of some 200 operatives sent from Damascus into Lebanon to carry out the plan, the paper reported.”
Media Line

“Local daily An-Nahar reported Tuesday that pro-Syrian Fatah-al-Intifada posts at Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp in the North had been taken over Monday by a group calling itself Fatah al-Islam. An-Nahar said the previously unknown faction was “considered by many as Al-Qaeda’s branch in Lebanon.”
The Daily Star

Report: Assad Sent Group to Assassinate 36 Lebanese Figures

Syrian President Bashar Assad was reported on Wednesday to have sent about 200 terrorists to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to assassinate 36 Lebanese figures.

The anti-Syrian daily Al-Mustaqbal said Assad’s “terrorist plot” was part of a propaganda prepared by the Syrian president and his Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

It said Assad authorized the terrorist group, which was part of Fatah-Uprising, the Syrian-backed faction which broke away from Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah group, to carry out the assassinations.

Al Mustaqbal said the Assad plot was revealed four days ago when two men, arrested on charges of killing two Palestinian activists in the Beddawi refugee camp in north Lebanon, acknowledged to the Lebanese Intelligence Service that they belonged to Fatah-Uprising, which is led by Abou Moussa.

The arrested men said the Syrian intelligence has asked them to coordinate with the faction’s second-in-command, Abou Khaled al-Emleh.

It identified the men as Syrian Hussam Mohammed Siyam and Mohammed Saleh, a Saudi, adding that they hold legitimate Syrian passports issued by authorities in Damascus.

Al Mustaqbal said the two men confirmed that they were part of the 200-strong terrorist group that came to Lebanon from Damascus. The detainees admitted that 150 of them were deployed at what they called “Samed” position in Beddawi, and another 50 at the “Samed” position in Beirut’s Borj al-Barajneh refugee camp.

It said the investigation also showed that terrorist group was “suddenly renamed Fatah Islam Movement,” which is led by Mahmoud Kolaghassi, a prominent Syrian intelligent agent.

It said Fatah-Uprising was quick to launch a campaign saying its posts have been “taken up” and that al-Emleh had nothing to do with them anymore.

November 29th, 2006, 12:23 pm


idaf said:

Another balanced academic..
Playing with death in Lebanon
By Mark LeVine

In the wake of the latest political assassination to rock Lebanon – last week’s shooting of Pierre Gemayel, a scion of one of the foremost Christian Maronite political families – suspicion fell on the Syrians, and perhaps Hezbollah, as the most likely culprits.

There is some logic to this view, given Syria’s likely involvement in the assassination in February 2005 of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Gemayal’s is the fifth assassination since Hariri’s; most every victim was critical of the Syrians, and to a lesser extent Hezbollah.

But even if we grant that Syria was behind Hariri’s assassination, and there is very good evidence to support this assessment, it is hard to see what Syria or Hezbollah gains from Gemayel’s killing. Syria is in a stronger regional position than it has been in years. The administration of US President George W Bush has been forced to eat crow and contemplate negotiations with Damascus to gain its help in easing the insurgency in Iraq. Syria’s main sponsor, Iran, is similarly in its strongest geostrategic position in decades, and its ally Hezbollah emerged as the political winner of this summer’s war with Israel.

So why would Syria risk upsetting this favorable balance by killing a Maronite politician when Hezbollah had already bolted the government and was threatening massive demonstrations to bring down the post-Cedar Revolution political arrangement in favor of one that would better reflect its – and thus Syria’s – increasing power? The same question can be asked of those who would link Hezbollah to the Gemayel assassination, which sapped the energy out of its latest political machinations.

Of course, even if neither Syria nor Hezbollah had much to gain from Gemayel’s assassination, it’s not hard to imagine Bashar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah miscalculating the impact of such an act, as the Syrian president might well have done if he in fact ordered Hariri’s assassination, and the Hezbollah leadership admitted doing when they kidnapped two Israeli soldiers this past July on the assumption that Israel’s response would be in keeping with the rules of the game then in place.

But before we look to who might have miscalculated in ordering the hit on Gemayel it’s worth asking who actually benefits from his assassination. And from this perspective the one party that clearly benefits from Gemayel’s murder is the Israeli government.
Israel was the main loser in the summer war, at least politically and strategically. The country’s leaders began threatening a new round of fighting even before they began pulling troops out of the south of Lebanon. Hezbollah’s postwar ascendence was the most visible and troubling sign of Israel’s seemingly unprecedented military weakness and strategic blundering.

Pulling off an assassination like this, which is by no means beyond Israel’s ability, would serve several goals. First, it would turn the chaos that Hezbollah was trying to create in the Lebanese political system against it. Instead of Hezbollah managing the postwar chaos to strengthen its position, the movement is now forced on to the defensive and must react to a new dynamic in which Christians (with the exception of the breakaway Michel Aoun faction) and Sunnis are more united than ever in their desire to block Hezbollah’s takeover of the system.

Second, if Lebanon descends into civil war, which is a frightening if still distant possibility, Hezbollah would in effect be neutralized, and Israel could rely on Maronites and perhaps Sunnis to attack Hezbollah without Israel facing the international condemnation it received during the war.

Third, suspicion against Syria – and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has publicly accused Damascus of being behind the assassination – has already stopped the momentum towards normalization with the Assad regime by Europe and the United States in order to bring it on board in Iraq. As important, if the crisis deepens, it will foreclose the possibility that the Bush administration (now under the tutelage of the only American diplomat to stand up to Israel since Dwight Eisenhower, James Baker) would force Israel to negotiate a deal for the Golan Heights in the near future.

It is true that the Gemayel family and Maronite community more broadly was once aligned to Israel; but that was a generation ago. The Maronites proved unable to maintain power in Lebanon or serve Israel’s interests. Pierre Gemayel’s uncle, Bachir, was assassinated days before he was to assume the country’s presidency in 1982, and his father, Amine, was unable to cement a peace treaty with Israel because of Syrian pressure. The unofficial alliance was abandoned once it was clear that Israel’s days in Lebanon were numbered.

Participating, or otherwise benefiting from the killing of an old ally at a moment when the blame would be placed on one’s enemies may seem far-fetched, but at least as far back as the great Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu “to mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy” has been one of the most well-regarded axioms of warfare. The death of Pierre Gemayel could well push Lebanon to the brink of civil war and lead to further alienation of Syria and Hezbollah from the international community. This might well be the unintended consequence of actions taken by either party; but if the question is to be asked “Who benefits from Pierre Gemayel’s assassination?”, it is hard not to include the Israeli government among the parties which have the most to gain from the scenario now unfolding in Beirut.

Mark LeVine, PhD, is a professor in the department of history, University of California-Irvine.

November 29th, 2006, 1:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“… when Israel is ready to live in peace and give the Palestinians their human rights and Syria the Golan then and only then Israel will live in peace for a generation to come and the US will enjoy the markets of the midleast and it’s oil ,think about it, peace now is for the benifit of Israel ,while war and destruction will only embold the islamic fundimentalist that will destroy Israel and other minorities in the midleast”

Norman –

Spoken like a true brainwashed Arabist. However, I’m still scratching my head as to what the problem was before 1967 when Israel wasn’t in the Golan, wasn’t in the West Bank, or wasn’t in Gaza.

Perhaps you and Josh can come up with another excuse;)

So while you’re thinking, most Americans who have yet to be brainwashed (about 200 million?) remember Camp David 2000 and Arafat’s bluff, the famous PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah charters, Syrian and Iranian meddling in Lebanon, Hezbollah fascination with abducting Joos across the Lebanese border, Hamas’s fascination with model rocketry and pyrotechnics and then they scratch their heads and understand why Israel does what she does.

November 29th, 2006, 1:27 pm


Ehsani2 said:


Interesting choice of “balanced academics” to follow on your part.

Your balanced academic writes:

“but even if we grant that syria was behind Hariri’s assassination, and THERE IS VERY GOOD EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS ASSESMENT”.

Are we to infer from this that you now agree with this view? Or, are we to assume that you agree with your balanced academic’s view on the Gemayel murder only but dissagree with his Hariri comment?

November 29th, 2006, 1:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Looks like the nice “tolerant” Hezzis are going to start another Lebanese civil war. Isn’t that cute? Well, we’ll just have to blame Israel when the fundies start slitting throats again…

November 29th, 2006, 1:42 pm


t_desco said:

Lebanon’s opposition to hold anti-govt protest

BEIRUT, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies will stage a large protest in Beirut within the next 48 hours to demand the resignation of Lebanon’s Western-backed government, a senior political source said on Wednesday. …

“The decision to take to the streets has been taken and there will be a large demonstration in Beirut within 48 hours,” the source, who is close to the opposition, said. “There will be an announcement with the details later.”

The source said the decision had been agreed by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri — both Shi’ite Muslims — and Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun.

France, U.S. agree useless to talk to Syria: Chirac

RIGA (Reuters) – France and the United States agree there is no point in talking to Syria because the conditions for an honest dialogue do not exist, President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday.

November 29th, 2006, 2:17 pm


idaf said:

Ehsani.. I think that you need to check the definition of “balanced”. I don’t agree with everything any author writes, but this does not mean that they are not balanced in my view. For example, I certainly don’t agree with everything Professor Landis writes, but I think that he is one the most “balanced” writers on Syria.
As for the quote from the article: “but even if we grant that Syria was behind Hariri’s assassination, and THERE IS VERY GOOD EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS ASSESMENT”. I agree with this statement and I think that it is factual. There’s in fact good evidence that support it (not the Mehlis reports though), but I also think that THERE IS EVEN BETTER EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT the assessment that other parties (Israel, Jeajea..etc) killed Harriri. There’s a balanced statement for you.

On a separate note, while really sad, the following has to be one of the most realistic readings of Lebanese politics and history. I hope Iraq is not being “Lebanonized” as well..

‘Kill Them! Kill Everyone! All of Them!’ – A primer on Lebanese politics

by Uri Avnery

During the first Lebanon war, I visited Jounieh, a town some 20 km north of Beirut. At the time, it served as a port for the Christian forces. It was an exciting evening.

In spite of the war raging in nearby Beirut, Jounieh was full of life. The Christian elite spent the day in the sun-drenched marina, the women lounging in bikinis, the men slugging whisky. The three of us (myself and two young women from my editorial staff – a correspondent and a photographer) were the only Israelis in town, and so we were feted. Everybody invited us onto their yachts, and one rich couple insisted that we come to their home as guests of a family celebration.

It was indeed something special. The dozens of family members belonged to the cream of the elite – rich merchants, a well-known painter, several university professors. The drinks flowed like water, the conversation flowed in several languages.

Around midnight, everybody was slightly drunk. The men got me into a “political” conversation. They knew that I was an Israeli, but had no idea about my views.

“Why don’t you go into West Beirut?” one portly gentleman asked me. West Beirut was held by Arafat’s PLO forces, who were defending hundreds of thousands of Sunni inhabitants.

“Why? What for?” I queried.

“What do you mean? To kill them! To kill everybody!”

“Everybody? Women and children, too?”

“Of course! All of them!”

For a moment, I thought that he was joking. But the faces of the men around him told me that he was deadly serious and that everybody agreed with him.

At that moment I grasped that this beautiful country, rich in history, blessed with all the pleasure of life, is sick. Very, very sick.

The next day I indeed went into West Beirut, but for another purpose altogether. I crossed the lines to meet with Yasser Arafat. (By the way, at the end of the party in Jounieh my hosts gave me a parting present: a big packet of hashish. On the morrow, on my way back to Israel, after Arafat had made our meeting public, I heard over the radio that four ministers were demanding that I should be put on trial for treason. I remembered the hashish and it went sailing out of the car window.)

I am reminded of that conversation in Jounieh every time something happens in Lebanon. This week, for example.

Much nonsense is being spoken and written about that country, as if it were a country like any other. George W. Bush talks about “Lebanese democracy” as if there were such a thing, others speak about the “parliamentary majority” and “minority factions”‘ about the need for “national unity” to uphold “national independence,” as if they were talking about the Netherlands or Finland. All these have no connection with Lebanese reality.

Geographically, Lebanon is a torn country, and there lies a part of the secret of its beauty. Snow-covered mountain chains, green valleys, picturesque villages, beautiful seashore. But Lebanon is also torn socially. The two schisms are interconnected: in the course of history, persecuted minorities from all over the region sought refuge between its mountains, where they could defend themselves.

The result: a large number of big and small communities, ready to spring to arms at any moment. At best, Lebanon is a loose federation of mutually suspicious communities, at worst a battlefield of feuding groups who hate each other’s guts. The annals of Lebanon are full of civil wars and horrible massacres. Many times, this or that community called in foreign enemies to assist it against its neighbors.

Between the communities, there are no permanent alliances. One day, communities A and B get together to fight community C. The next day, B and C fight against A. Moreover, there are sub-communities, which more than once have been known to make an alliance with an opposing community against their own.

Altogether, a fascinating mosaic, but also a very dangerous one – the more so since every community keeps a private army, equipped with the best of weapons. The official Lebanese army, composed of men from all communities, is unable to carry out any meaningful mission.

What is a Lebanese “community”? On the face of it, it’s all about religion. But not only religion. The community is also an ethnic tribe, with some national attributes. A Jew will easily understand this, since the Jews are also such a community, even if spread around the world. But for an ordinary European or American, it is difficult to understand this structure. It is easier to think about a “Lebanese nation” – a nation that exists only in the imagination or as a vision of the future.

The loyalty to the community comes before any other loyalty – and certainly before any loyalty to Lebanon. When the rights of a community or sub-community are menaced, its members rise up as one in order to destroy those who are threatening them.

The main communities are the Christian, the Sunni Muslim, the Shi’ite Muslim, and the Druze (who, as far as religion goes, are a kind of extreme Shi’ites.) The Christians are divided into several sub-communities, the most important of which are the Maronites (named after a saint who lived some 1,600 years ago.) The Sunnis were brought to Lebanon by the (Sunni) Ottoman rulers to strengthen their hold, and were mainly settled in the large port cities. The Druze came to find refuge in the mountains. The Shi’ites, whose importance has risen over the last few decades, were for many centuries a poor and downtrodden community, a doormat for all the others.

As in almost all Arab societies, the hamula (extended family) plays a vital role in all communities. Loyalty to the hamula precedes even loyalty to the community, according to the ancient Arab saying: “With my cousin against the foreigner, with my brother against my cousin.” Almost all Lebanese leaders are chiefs of the great families.

To give some idea of the Lebanese tangle, a few recent examples: in the civil war that broke out in 1975, Pierre Gemayel, the chief of a Maronite family, called upon the Syrians to invade Lebanon in order to help him against his Sunni neighbors, who were about to attack his territory. His grandson by the same name, who was murdered this week, was a member of a coalition whose aim is to liquidate Syrian influence in Lebanon. The Sunnis, who were fighting against the Syrians and the Christians, are now the allies of the Christians against the Syrians.

The Gemayel family was the main ally of Ariel Sharon, when he invaded Lebanon in 1982. The common aim was to drive out the (mainly Sunni) Palestinians. For that purpose, Gemayel’s men carried out the horrendous massacre of Sabra and Shatila, after the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the uncle of the man who was murdered this week. The massacre was overseen by Elie Hobeika from the roof of the headquarters of Israeli Gen. Amos Yaron. Afterwards, Hobeika became a minister under Syrian auspices. Another person responsible for the slaughter was Samir Geagea, the only one who was put on trial in a Lebanese court. He was condemned to several life prison terms and later pardoned. This week he was one of the main speakers at the funeral of Pierre Gemayel the grandson.

In 1982, the Shi’ites welcomed the invading Israeli army with flowers, rice, and candy. A few months later they started a guerilla war against them, which lasted for 18 years, in the course of which Hezbollah became a major force in Lebanon.

One of the leading Maronites in the fight against the Syrians was Gen. Michel Aoun, who was elected president by the Maronites and later driven out. Now he is an ally of Hezbollah, the main supporter of Syria.

All this resembles Italy at the time of the Renaissance or Germany during the 30-Years War. But in Lebanon this is the present and the foreseeable future.

In such a reality, using the term “democracy” is, of course, a joke. By agreement, the government of the country is divided between the communities. The president is always a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of the parliament a Shi’ite. The same applies to all positions in the country, at all levels: a member of a community cannot aspire to a position suited to his talents if it “belongs” to another community. Almost all citizens vote according to family affiliation. A Druze voter, for example, has no chance of overthrowing Walid Jumblatt, whose family has ruled the Druze community for 500 years at least (and whose father was murdered by the Syrians.) He doles out all the jobs “belonging” to his community.

The Lebanese parliament is a senate of community chiefs, who divide the spoils between them. The “democratic coalition” which was put in power by the Americans after the murder of the Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, is a temporary alliance of the Maronite, Sunni, and Druze chiefs. The “opposition,” which enjoys Syrian patronage, is composed of the Shi’ites and one Maronite faction. The wheel can turn at a moment’s notice, when other alliances are formed.

Hezbollah, which appears to Israelis as an extension of Iran and Syria, is first of all a Shi’ite movement that strives to obtain for its community a larger part of the Lebanese pie, as indeed is its due in accordance with its size. Hassan Nasrallah – who is also the scion of an important family – has his eyes on the government in Beirut, not on the mosques in Jerusalem.

What does all this say about the present situation?

For decades now, Israel has been stirring the Lebanese pot. In the past, it supported the Gemayel family but was bitterly disappointed: the family’s “Phalanges” (the name was taken from Fascist Spain, which was greatly admired by grandfather Pierre) were revealed in the 1982 war as a gang of thugs without military value. But the Israeli involvement in Lebanon continues to this day. The aim is to eliminate Hezbollah, remove the Syrians, and threaten nearby Damascus. All these tasks are hopeless.

Some history: in the ’30s, when the Maronites were the leading force in Lebanon, the Maronite Patriarch expressed open sympathy for the Zionist enterprise. At that time, many young people from Tel Aviv and Haifa studied at the American University of Beirut, and rich Jewish people from Palestine spent their holidays at Lebanese resorts. Once, before the founding of Israel, I crossed the Lebanese border by mistake and a Lebanese gendarme politely showed me the way back.

During the first years of Israel, the Lebanese border was our only peaceful one. Those days there was a saying: “Lebanon will be the second Arab country to make peace with Israel. It will not dare to be the first.” Only in 1970, when King Hussein drove the PLO from Jordan into Lebanon, with the active help of Israel, did this border heat up. Now even Fouad Siniora, the prime minister appointed by the Americans, feels compelled to declare that “Lebanon will be the last Arab state to make peace with Israel!”

All efforts to remove Syrian influence from Lebanon are bound to fail. In order to understand this, it is enough to look at the map. Historically, Lebanon is a part of the land of Syria (“Sham” in Arabic). The Syrians have never resigned themselves to the fact that the French colonial regime tore Lebanon from their land.

The conclusions: First, let’s not get stuck in the Lebanese mess again. As experience has shown, we shall always come out the losers. Second, in order to have peace on our northern border, all the potential enemies, and first of all Syria, must be involved.

Meaning: we must give back the Golan Heights.

The Bush administration forbids our government to talk with the Syrians. They want to talk with them themselves, when the time comes. Quite possibly, they will then sell them the Golan in return for Syrian help in Iraq. If so, should we not hurry and “sell” them the Golan (which belongs to them anyhow) for a better price for ourselves?

Lately, voices have been heard, even of senior army people, that hint at this possibility. It should be said loudly and clearly: Because of a few thousands of settlers and the politicians who do not dare to confront them, we are liable to be dragged into more superfluous wars and to endanger the population of Israel.

This is the third conclusion: There is only one way to win a war in Lebanon – and that is to avoid it.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.

November 29th, 2006, 2:53 pm


Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

The following is the the Beirut Daily Star, what strikes one is that there appears to be an attempt to mobolize the largest religious grouping in the country to push for the resignation of Lahoud, in order to abolish ‘Syrian hegemony over the post of President ought to be abolished’. And, further Lahoud is attacked for failing to refer the Gemayel murder to the Civil Judicial Council.
See below the article:

Qornet Shehwan Gathering reconvenes to discuss intra-Christian feud with Sfeir

By Maroun Khoury
Daily Star correspondent
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

BKIRKI: A meeting of leading Christian political figures is expected to be held soon in Bkirki, members of the newly revived Qornet Shehwan Gathering said Tuesday. A delegation from Qornet Shehwan visited Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir at Bkirki on Tuesday, one week after the assassination of one of its former members, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, to discuss solutions to divisions within the Christian sect.

Following the talks, in which the delegation handed Sfeir a statement drafted during an earlier emergency meeting of the gathering, MP Butros Harb said the idea of holding a Christian summit had been discussed.

“Participants will try to forge a consensus about national stances in order to avoid any discord between the Christians that could lead to clashes or skirmishes, similar to the ones recently taking place,” he added.

Hundreds of supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, two of the leading Christian parties in Lebanon, clashed in the Beirut neighborhood of Achrafieh Monday night.

Many leading figures attended the meeting in Bkirki, including MPs Samir Franjieh and Antoine Zahra; former MPs Nassib Lahoud, Fares Soueid, Mansour Bone, Gabriel Murr and Kamil Ziadeh; National Liberal Party president Dory Chamoun and National Bloc president Carlos Edde. A notable addition was the presence of Michel Mukataff, son-in-law of former President Amin Gemayel. This is the first time Mukataff has entered the political sphere.

Following the meeting, Harb read a Qornet Shehwan statement to reporters, saying the main divisive issue among Christians was the continued presence of President Emile Lahoud in his post.

“For Christians to reach full partnership, and to be able to actually partake in decision-making, Syrian hegemony over the post of president ought to be abolished,” Harb said.

Harb added that Lahoud’s refusal to refer Gemayel’s assassination to the Civil Judicial Council, which if continued could prevent any sentence being issued in the killing, “motivates the assassins, whoever these are, to pursue their plan of murdering all the figures of the ‘Independence Intifada.'”

The gathering considers Gemayel’s murder to be an attempt to jeopardize the establishment of an international tribunal to try those involved in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

“In addition, our colleague’s murder aims at shoving the country back to the position it was in previous to the ‘Independence Intifada,’ which was crafted by the hands of both Christians and Muslims,” the statement said.

The gathering welcomed last week’s decision by the UN Security Council to include the latest killing in the investigation of the Hariri slaying, saying continued attacks on Christian figures were meant to undo a “Christian-Muslim bond that was shaped during the 2005 [movement for] independence.”

However, Harb said any statements made by the gathering were not binding on Sfeir, “so this does not mean that our demands of deposing the president are endorsed by the patriarch, since he can better communicate his opinions and views.”

Harb added that the reconvening of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering did not mean the group had been reborn, “since we meet on a regular basis, and whenever our national duty calls us to do so.”

The Qornet Shehwan Gathering is a coalition of Christian politicians, businessmen, and intellectuals formed in 2000 following a hard-hitting statement by the Council of Maronite Bishops, which lashed out at the Syrian occupation of Lebanon at the time.

Harb said opposition calls for the restructuring of the government were “a strictly democratic right,” but added that “resorting to the streets might not be a very good idea, especially in the context of the delicate situation we find ourselves in.”

November 29th, 2006, 3:11 pm


t_desco said:

For the record:

Un groupuscule d’el-Qaëda au camp de Bared ?

La tension est toujours de mise à l’intérieur du camp de réfugiés palestiniens de Nahr el-Bared depuis qu’un groupuscule a proclamé sa dissidence du mouvement Fateh-intifida pour se faire appeler Fateh al-Islam. Le nouveau groupuscule a essayé de prendre possession des locaux de Fateh-intifida. Ce qui a engendré une mobilisation des miliciens du camp.
C’est un certain Chaker al-Abassi, ancien officier de la milice de Fateh-intifida, qui aurait commencé, depuis des mois et avec le soutien de Damas, à rassembler des individus venant de Syrie, de Jordanie, de Palestine, ainsi que de certains États du Golfe et d’Afrique. Selon des informations de source palestinienne sûre, Abassi jouissait de la confiance d’Abou-Khaled al-Amali, qui supervisait le transfert des miliciens vers le Liban. Et quoique Amali ait rompu avec Abassi, les soupçons pèsent toujours sur le premier. Dans quel but Amali a-t-il fait venir des miliciens de plusieurs pays de la région jusqu’aux camps palestiniens du Liban ? Aucune enquête judiciaire n’a été menée en ce sens.
Dans un entretien accordé à l’agence al-Markaziya, le secrétaire général du Fateh au Liban, Sultan Aboul-Aïnayn, a affirmé que le nouveau groupuscule « est dangereux et n’a pas raison d’être au Liban ». M. Aboul-Aïnayn a précisé que plusieurs responsables palestiniens œuvraient à évacuer les membres de ce groupuscule à l’extérieur du Liban, tout en précisant qu’il s’agit bien d’une branche d’el-Qaëda.
L’Orient-Le Jour

“Buried in the morning news broadcast on New TV was a news item that Sami Gemayyel (Pierre Gemayyel’s brother) is being investigated for possible involvement in the assassination of Pierre. It said that the investigation stemmed from cellphone records. He was interviewed yesterday by judge Sa`id Mirza–the judge in charge of the investigation.”
As’ad AbuKhalil

November 29th, 2006, 3:45 pm


Atassi said:

Assad: Syria to Challenge U.S. Efforts
Associated Press Writer
29 November 2006
Associated Press Newswires
(c) 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday his country will continue to challenge U.S. efforts to exert control over the Middle East, sounding a defiant tone ahead of President Bush’s arrival in the region for talks on Iraq.

“Colonialism has not ended. In the past they used to call it colonialism, today it is called liberation of people. … Names differ but the essence is the same. As colonialism continues, revolution and resistance continue,” Syrian official media quoted Assad as saying.

Bush was expected to arrive later Wednesday in Jordan for a summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a fresh attempt to put an end to violence in Iraq.

Washington is debating whether the Bush administration should engage Syria and also Iran — two countries it regards as pariah states that work to destabilize the entire Middle East. Some claim Syria could use its control over Iraq’s most porous border to alleviate insurrection against the U.S. occupation, and ongoing civil conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also suggested that Iran and Syria should work with the United States and the international community to resolve the conflict in Iraq.

But it remains unclear if Bush will agree to any such plan. He has spoken out harshly against both Syria and Iran in recent days, accusing them of meddling in both Iraq and Lebanon.

“The Iranians and the Syrians should help — not destabilize — this young democracy,” he said on Tuesday, referring to Iraq.

Syria has expressed interest in talks with Washington, but has made it clear it will not make concessions on key issues such as Iraq, Lebanon or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Assad has not publicly mentioned the recent reports that some in Washington are pushing for outreach to Syria. On Tuesday, he sounded even more resistant in a speech in the southern city of Sweida, although he did not refer directly to Bush.

“We send a message to everyone that Arabs are no longer a herd that can be sold, bought and taken to the slaughterhouse,” he said, according to official media.

Syrian commentators also have been disdainful of any possible U.S. outreach effort.

“They always come back to knock at the door of Damascus,” Mahdi Dakhlallah wrote in the government newspaper Tishrin on Wednesday.

“Nobody will thank them if they knock at Damascus’ doors. They should thank this great people who support its leadership,” the former information minister wrote.

Earlier this month, Syria restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq after a break of more than 20 years, boosting hopes of a regional deal to help U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq.

However, both Baghdad and Washington have accused Damascus of not doing enough to stop the flow of foreign Arab fighters over the border. They also say Syria is supporting the insurgency in Iraq by allowing loyalists of former dictator Saddam Hussein to take refuge in the country to organize financing and arms shipments.

Syrian officials have repeatedly denied the accusations and blame the spiraling violence on the nearly four-year U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Syria has never made a secret of its opposition to the Americans in Iraq and the government they have installed in Baghdad. The government-run Syrian media lavishly praise the insurgents, calling them resistance fighters.

November 29th, 2006, 4:40 pm


ausamaa said:


Reading all the above and watching the news, it is becoming sort of more apparent to me that all that was said by some about Bashar Al Assad is begining to prove untrue. The gentelman seems to be as shrewed as his father was in navigating his course in this four year long confrontation.(Of course, it is not only Bashar. What gets out of Syria in the end in a “joint” product where the Presidency, Foreign Affairs -how many US Administrations has V.P. Al Shara’ came across so far?-, the Military, the Intelligence, the Party and the major political and economic elite). I know many will disagree, but I do not believe major decisions are taken before deep analysis and consultation.

I see the recent statements you mentioned above, coming as Bashar’s “response” to those on the other side of the fence who began to slyly claim that Bush policy is heading towards engaging Syria and Iran, BUT Syria and Iran must “demonstrate” what they will do in return to a US rapproachment. So, before Bush starts preparing a new “wish list” from Syria, Bashar is reversing the role by saying: “We” have no trust in your intentions, we are still against your plan and, please do not think that we are over-eager to accommodate you, so, What are You Mr. Bush willing to offer if we “decide” to come in and accept to help take the heat -you created- off you and your local crowd?

I know some will hate this comment and can shower us with their long list of FAILURES of Syria’s Foreign Policy. But a look around shows us differently.

Things are yet to come to a full head on, but that above was just a small remark.

November 29th, 2006, 5:56 pm


Ehsani2 said:

How about Syria’s performance in economic policy?

The article below could have been better presented and written. Nonethless, its general thrust is indisputable.

الاقتصاد السوري أزمة.. أم انهيار اقتصادي

ما سنستعرضه في هذه الورقة. لا يعدو كونه تذكيرٌ ببداهة الفقر في سوريا. هذه البداهة التي ما فتئت تؤكد نفسها, على موائد الفقراء, وأحلام شبابها المقبلين منذ قليل إلى الحياة.
ها هنا سنقع على لوحة غاية في القتامة, لم تكن سوى أحد أهم الإنجازات التاريخية, لقادة أيامنا.
ها هنا, سنلمس السخرية, بأيدينا وأجسادنا؛ ونرى, كيف يهزم شعب في التاريخ. منذ قليل كنا نردد قائلين, لسنا مهزومين ما دمنا نقاوم, وها نحن الآن نتوقف عن المقاومة, فتصح علينا الهزيمة.
هنا نعلن أمام الملأ, بأننا هزمنا على يد أرباب عالمنا.
لقد جرى تدمير الاقتصاد السوري عبر العقود الأخيرة, تدميراً ممنهجاً, ؛ وذلك بالاعتماد على سياسات ” اقتصادية” محددة. عملت ما بوسعها على تفكيك اقتصادنا, وهو ما جعل شعبنا يدفع الضريبة مرتين, ويضعه في أسفل تراتبية عالمية.
وعلى الرغم ما للمؤشرات الاقتصادية والأرقام الإحصائية من صفة الوضوح, إلا أن الجهات الرسمية تطالعنا كل يوم بسلة من الإنجازات, والتقدم الملحوظ على كافة المستويات.

ومنذ عدة سنوات, عندما “أصبنا بداء الأمل”, حيث تفاءلنا بما سيدعى فيما بعد بمسيرة الإصلاح. قلنا حسناً, على من يهمه أمر هذا البلد أن يدلو بدلوه في هذا المشروع الذي كان يفترض به أن يكون ضخماً.
في تلك الأثناء طَرح من يشكل الوطن هاجساً له, فكرة بدء الإصلاح انطلاقاً من المستوى السياسي. فذلك- أي الإصلاح السياسي- هو الذي يؤدي بالضرورة إلى الإصلاح الاقتصادي. فالفكرة كانت مبنية على أساس قاعدة نظرية بسيطة.
تقول هذه القاعدة, أن المصالح الطبقية للقوى الشعبية, كان قد أثبت التاريخ, أنه لا يوجد من يحميها لا الحزب الواحد ولا حتى الدولة, سوى أصحابها الفعليين. فهم من له المصلحة الحقيقية في حماية هذه المصالح.
وهذا لا يكون سوى بإفساح المجال أمام طاقات هذه القوى, والسماح لها بتشكيل منظماتها وأحزابها… القادرة على أن تكون أداتها في النضال من أجل هذه المصالح.

في الحقيقة لن تتأخر الجهات الرسمية في سوريا من صياغة ردها, لا للإصلاح السياسي!, وإن كان لا بد من الإصلاح, فعليه أن يبدأ من المستوى الاقتصادي.
وبدء فعلاً الإصلاح الاقتصادي, وما لبث أن فشل, فخفض سقف الإصلاح إلى مستوى الإصلاح الإداري, وفشل أيضاً هذا الأخير, فرمي بفكرة الإصلاح بحد ذاتها, في سلة المهملات.

وما يثير الدهشة في هذا السياق, أن أصحاب الأمر لدينا, ينكرون أي خطر محدق ببلدنا, ويكتفون بترداد بعض “العبارات” عن توعكات آنية تصيب الاقتصاد, وهم في مكان آخر لا يترددون في ذكر الإنجازات التي حققت والتي سوف تحقق.
وأياً يكن الأمر, فإن المطلع قليلاً على الاقتصاد السوري, سيلمس بكل وضوح حجم المأساة التي يعيشها هذا الاقتصاد, والتراجع الخطير الذي راح يصيبه منذ حوالي مطلع الثمانينات.
فنمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي, وهو أحد أهم المؤشرات لقياس شكل تطور الاقتصاد, يشير إلى تراجع خطير بدأ مع منتصف الثمانينات, أنظر الجدول رقم 1.

جدول (1). معدلات نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي, مع ذكر تطور القطاعات الأساسية المكونة له
البيان 1953- 1965 1966- 1980 1981- 1986 1987- 1990 2001- 2003
معدل نمو القطاع الزراعي 3.6 4.8 -1.4 -2.2 1.4
معدل نمو القطاع الصناعي 9.2 12.2 0.6 11.8 –
معدل نمو قطاع الخدمات 8.2 9.0 2.9 -1.5 2.8
معدل نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي 6.7 8.7 1.5 – 2.4

فقد تراجع معدل نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي من 8.7 مطلع الثمانينات لينحدر إلى 2.4 عام 2003.مع الأخذ بعين الاعتبار أنه كان شبه سالب لأعوام 1997- 1999.
وإن الملاحظة الخطيرة التي سنقع عليها إذا ما دققنا في الجدول أعلاه, ذاك التراجع الخطير في مستوى نمو القطاع الصناعي, الذي يكاد يكون تطوره سالباً. وهو ما يعكس تآكلاً خطيراً في القاعدة الإنتاجية, وهو ما دفع عارف دليلة إلى القول إن قطاعاتنا الإنتاجية تتحول تدريجياً إلى ” كومة خردة”. راجع الجدول رقم 2.

جدول رقم (2 ) ( المبالغ بمليارات الليرات السورية)
السنة مجمل تكوين رأس المال الثابت اهتلاك رأس المال
بالأسعار الجارية بأسعار 1995 الثابتة بالأسعار الجارية بأسعار 1995 الثابتة
1995 155 155 20 20
1996 163 155 26 23
1997 155 147 30 24
1998 162 152 32 25
1999 154 148 34 25

ففي عام 1995 سيكون مجمل تكوين رأس المال الثابت بأسعار 1995 الثابتة 155 مليار, وفي عام 1999 سينحدر إلى 148 مليار, وهذه الملاحظة تكون مفهومة في حالة الحرب مثلاً أو الكوارث الطبيعية, بيد أنها في الظروف الطبيعية تعبر عن كونها حالة كارثية, فهي تشير إلى تآكل خطير في القاعدة التكنولوجية والإنتاجية بشكل عام.وليس أدل على ذلك من رصد تطور اهتلاك رأس المال هذا. الذي كان في عام 1995, 20 مليار ليصبح عام 1999, 25 مليار ليرة سورية.
ونحن نعلم أن المستوى العام لنمو الاستثمار, عندما يكون صفراً فهذا يعني أن هناك تراجعاً نسبياً في المستوى العام للاستثمار؛ بينما في حال تسجيله نمواً سالباً فهذا يعني أن القاعدة الإنتاجية في حالة انهيار. وهو في الحالة الأولى يكتفي بتجديد نفسه بينما في الحالة الثانية فهو يتفكك, وفي كلا الحالتين الطامة كبرى.
ولا تقف المسألة عند هذا الحد, بل إن هذا التراجع الخطير سينال من القطاع الزراعي الذي سيسجل نسبة نمو متواضعة لأعوام 2000 – 2003 تصل إلى1.4بالمائة, قياساً مع النمو السالب للسنوات التي سبقته.
وأياً يكن الأمر, فقد كنا صنفنا سابقاً بأننا ننتمي إلى تلك البلدان المسماة بالزراعية, بينما نحن حتى على هذا المستوى فشلنا وبات أمننا الغذائي مهدداً بالخطر!! .

في الحقيقة, ما يثير الاشمئزاز في كل هذه اللوحة, أن هذه المؤشرات باتت واضحة منذ بداية الثمانينات, وبدا واضحاً منذ ذلك الحين أن اقتصادنا في حالة من التدهور الدراماتيكي, بيد أن أصحاب القرار السياسي والاقتصادي لم يعبؤا بذلك, بل اكتفوا في مواجهة هذه المخاطر بترديد الإنجازات التاريخية.
إن هذا التآكل التدريجي, الذي راح يصيب اقتصادنا, منذ حوالي العقدين ونصف, سينعكس بقسوة على لوحة الحياة الاجتماعية, وهو ما سيفسح المجال للحديث عن الفاقة في سوريا عوضاً عن الفقر.
هنا سنجد معدلات للبطالة لا سابق لها, فخلال سبع سنوات (1991- 1998) لن ينضم إلى عداد العاملين في الدولة سوى 123 ألف مشتغل (معدل 18 ألف مشتغل سنوياً), وهو ما يكذب ما تصرح به الجهات الرسمية بأنها ستوفر سنوياً 85- 95 ألف فرصة عمل.
بينما الذي يحدث فهو العكس تماماً, (فحسب معدلات النمو في قوة العمل منذ أوائل الثمانينات وبالمقارنة مع معدل النمو في الناتج المحلي الإجمالي فإن العجز السنوي في فرص العمل قد تراوح خلال الثمانينات بين 60 و 90 ألف فرصة عمل سنوياً وقد تراوح هذا العجز خلال التسعينات بين 100 و 150 ألف فرصة عمل سنوياً، أي أن المجموع التراكمي للعجز في فرص العمل يزيد عن 2 مليون فرصة عمل خلال العقدين الأخيرين؛ وبالتالي فإن المعدل النظري للبطالة يقدر بـ 36% من قوة العمل تقريباً؛ وفي حال تم استبعاد جزء من البطالة تم استيعابها في القطاع غير المنظم والتي تزيد عن 700 ألف فرصة عمل فإن معدل البطالة حسب هذه المعطيات يتجاوز 20% من قوة العمل ويمكن أن يبلغ 23% من قوة العمل عام 2000.
والسؤال الذي يطرح هنا, في ظل معدلات متردية للاستثمار كما لا حظنا أعلاه كيف يمكن امتصاص القادمين الجدد إلى سوق العمل؟
في الحقيقة ستتضح هذه الصورة, أي شح فرص العمل للقادمين الجدد, وذلك عندما نرصد حجم البطالة لدى الفئة العمرية الشابة (دون 25 عاماً), هنا ستصل البطالة للعاملين لأول مرة حتى 72.3 بالمائة, وحسب المسح متعدد الأغراض لعام 1999 كانت نسبة المتعطلين والذين لم يسبق لهم العمل نحو 83.75% من إجمالي عدد العاطلين عن العمل، مما يؤكد انعدام فرص العمل الجديدة وعدم مواكبة التنمية والنمو الاقتصادي بشكل عام للنمو السكاني وللنمو في قوة العمل .
في هذا السياق كان قد لفت انتباهي مقال للسيد حيان سلمان يشرح لنا بأسلوب شبه أكاديمي مفهومه عن التضخم, أسبابه وكيفية علاجه.
ومن ضمن أسباب التضخم التي يذكرها السيد السابق, اختلال في علاقة العرض والطلب, (أي أن زيادة الطلب لا تترافق مع زيادة العرض للمنتجات), وهذا يعني ببساطة أن الطلب على السلع أكبر من العرض العام للسلع. والمواطن البسيط يدرك بغريزته أنه كلما ازداد الإقبال على سلعة معينة مثلاً ارتفع سعرها. ودون الدخول في تفاصيل المقالة التي تدور حول هذه الفكرة البسيطة, نتساءل حول رأي صاحبنا في ظاهرة حديثة من نوعها, أي استمرار التضخم مع تراجع في مستوى الطلب؟؟!
ومن المعلوم من الناحية النظرية والتاريخية أنه في الفترات التي كانت ترتفع فيها الأسعار –وهي من خصائص فترات الانتعاش- يكون معدل البطالة منخفضاً, والعكس صحيح أي في الفترات التي تتدهور فيها الأسعار, يتزايد معدل البطالة.
ولكن ماذا نقول عندما يترافق معدل مرتفع للتضخم مع معدل مرتفع للبطالة, كما هو حادث لدينا في سورية؟؟!!
إن الغريب في الأمر أن صاحبنا, يتحدث عن معدل تضخم مقبول عالمياً (6.8 بالمائة), وهو ينصحنا إذا أردنا أن نحتسب مستوى التضخم بالعودة إلى المقارنة بين قيمة الناتج المحلي الإجمالي بالأسعار الجارية والثابتة. ونحن نحيله ونحيل القارئ إلى مراجعة الجدول أعلاه رقم 2 ويجري هذه المقارنة ولنترك النتائج معلقة.
بيد أن هناك طريقة أخرى لاكتشاف حجم التضخم لدينا, وهذه الطريقة قد تروق للفقراء من أبناء شعبنا خلافاً لغيرهم. فالفقراء في سوريا يدركون دون حاجة لعناء الحسابات أن سعر كيلو البطاطا مثلاً كان قد وصل حتى 30 ليرة سوريا مع بداية فصل الشتاء, في الوقت الذي تراوح سعره بين 15 إلى 25 ليرة على مدار العام , وأن كيلو السكر قفز حتى 35 ليرة خلافاً لسعره في العام الفائت 18 ليرة, وهذا الكلام ينطبق على مجمل أسعار السلع الاستهلاكية المباشرة( رز, برغل, خضروات.. إلى آخره).وهذا الارتفاع المفتعل للأسعار سيواكبه أيضا ارتفاعا في أسعار المحروقات, هنا سترتفع أسعار الديزل إلى 45 بالمائة بعد أن كانت تعادل 20 بالمائة تقريباً من الأسعار الدولية لعام 2003, وأما الطفرة التي حدثت في أسعار أجار العقارات فهي سابقة من نوعها, وذلك على الرغم من الوعود التي يقدمها السيد رئيس الوزراء محمد ناجي عطري, حول أسعار العقارات التي ستتراجع مع صدور قانون الاستثمار العقاري .. . إلى آخره.
في الحقيقة لا يمكن تسمية هذا التضخم الفاحش للأسعار, تضخماً, فمع ارتفاع معدلات البطالة في سوريا, إلى حدود لا سابق لها وتزامن ذلك مع ارتفاع في معدلات الأسعار, لا بد من أن نسمي هذه الظاهرة باسمها الحقيقي أي الركود التضخمي, ولنا وقفة حول هذه الظاهرة في مكان آخر.
إن جملة هذه المعطيات التي إن دلت على شيء فهي تدل على اقتصاد في حالة كارثية, تترافق مع احتمال نضوب في الثروة النفطية. هذا ما يشير إليه خبراء صندوق البنك الدولي, حيث (تتأثر آفاق المدى المتوسط تأثراً سلبياً بالتناقص المتوقع في الإنتاج النفطي, فحسب افتراضات تقرير “آفاق الاقتصاد العالمي” لأسعار الصادرات النفطية, واستناداً إلى المعلومات المتوافرة عن احتياطات النفط والغاز الطبيعي المثبتة في سوريا وإلى توقعات السلطة السورية لأوضاع الأنشطة الاستخراجية في كلا القطاعين, يرجح خبراء الصندوق أن تصبح سوريا مستورداً صافياً للنفط بغضون 4 – 6 سنوات, وتستنفذ احتياطاتها النفطية المتوافرة قرب نهاية عشرينات هذا القرن وذلك ما لم يتم اكتشافات نفطية جديدة ).
وهذا بطبيعة الحال ما يؤدي إلى تخفيض الإيرادات الحكومية من 15.25 % من إجمالي الناتج المحلي في عام 2003, إلى 7.5% بحلول عام 2010, وإلى 3% بحلول عام 2020.
وفي نفس الوقت يتوقع أن تنخفض عائدات القطع الأجنبي الصافية التي يحققها القطاع النفطي من 14% من إجمالي الناتج المحلي (3 مليار دولار) إلى ما يقرب من الصفر عام 2011.
كما يمكن أن تصل فاتورة استيراد الطاقة إلى 8% من إجمالي الناتج المحلي في عام 2020 .

في الحقيقة لا يقدم لنا خبراء الصندوق, معلومات جديدة بالمعنى الدقيق للكلمة. فهذه التوقعات- المخاوف كانت معلومة بالنسبة للمهتم بالشأن الاقتصادي السوري. وهو ما دفع العديد منهم, وفي مقدمتهم الدكتور عارف دليلة, إلى دعوة الحكومة للاستفادة من ريع النفط وذلك في سياق توسيع القاعدة الإنتاجية, والصناعية تحديداً, وهو ما يؤدي بداهة إلى تشكيل موارد إضافية تخفف من حدة فقدان النفط على مجمل الاقتصاد السوري.
بيد أن هذه التوصيات ذهبت هي وأصحابها أدراج الرياح, وها نحن الآن نعاني من اقتصاد يرثى له وذلك على الرغم من وجود النفط, فما بالكم حين ينضب هذا الأخير؟!!.

لقد كان هاجس النخب السياسية منذ نصف قرن ألا تتهمش بلدنا, بيد أننا الآن وبعد نصف قرن, وبعد أن همشنا, فإن على النخب السياسية, أن تخشى ألا نخرج من التاريخ الفعلي للبشرية.
ملحق .

الجدول A الناتج المحلي الإجمالي بأسعار السوق الجارية ( 1990و 1995-2003) (مليون دولار)
السنوات 1990 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
سوريا 13.896 16.617 17.592 16.613 16.043 16.774 18.923 19.828 20.629 21.396
لبنان 2.811 11.122 12.996 14.865 16.168 16.491 16.491 16.740 17.376 18.123

جدول B/ / النسبة المئوية لتوزع القوى العاملة على القطاعات الاقتصادية ( المصدر التقرير الاقتصادي العربي)
الزراعة الصناعة الخدمات
1995 2002 1995 2002 1995 2002
30.5 27.1 30.8 25.4 38.7 47.5

جدول / C / حصة الفرد من الناتج الإجمالي / 1990و 1995 – 2003 / (دولار)
1990 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
1047 1175 1199 1102 1037 1055 1160 1186 1203 1217

جدول / D / معدل نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي بالأسعار الثابتة, 1995 و 2001- 2003
1995 2001 2002 2003
5.8 3.8 4.2 2.6

جدول / E / معدل نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي بالأسعار الثابتة في بعض لبلدان المختارة. 1995 و 2001- 2003
البيان 1995 2001 2002 2003
سوريا 5.8 3.8 4.2 2.6
اليمن 10.9 5.1 3.9 4.2
موريتانيا 4.5 4.6 3.3 4.9

جدول /F/ متوسط نصيب الفرد من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي. 1995 و 2002- 2003. (دولار)
البيان 1995 2002 2003
سوريا 1074 1203 1217
لبنان 3178 4552 4714


– الأرقام السابقة مأخوذة من مصادر متعددة, فهي حتى عام 1963 مأخوذة من المجموعة الإحصائية لعام 1992 وهي محسوبة بالأسعار الثابتة لعام 1963.
1966- 1990 محسوبة بالأسعار الثابتة لعام 1985 من المجموعة الإحصائية لعام 1992. وهذه المعطيات مأخوذة عن دراسة للدكتور عارف دليلة بعنوان البطالة والفقر أسبابهما وعلاجهما
أما أرقام 2000- 2003 فمحسوبة بأسعار السوق , وهي مأخوذة من تقرير صندوق النقد الدولي لعام 2005 باللغة الإنكليزية
2 – نبيل مرزوق, البطالة والفقر في سوريا
3 – المرجع السابق
4 – التضخم النقدي.. إلخ, مجلة الاقتصاد. العدد الثامن 1-9-2005.
5 – راجع رمزي زكي, التضخم المستورد, دار المستقبل العربي, الطبعة الأولى 1986, ص 15.
6 – تقرير خبراء صندوق النقد الدولي في إطار مشاورات المادة الرابعة لعام 2003. ص 14.
7 – ملحق دليل الإصلاح في سوريا, مجلة الاقتصاد, العدد 10, تشرين الثاني 2005 .
8 – تقرير خبراء صندوق.. . المرجع السابق ص 21 – 22 .
9 – المرجع السابق

صبر درويش

November 29th, 2006, 6:12 pm


Ehsani2 said:

In case, the above article bored many readers to death, here is a more customer-friendly one:

سوريا: النمو أقل من المعلن والتضخم التهم الموازنات السابقة

وصف عصام الزعيم الوزير السوري السابق، ورئيس الجمعية الاقتصادية السورية، النمو الاقتصادي في سوريا بانه اقل مما يعلن رسميا، واتهم الحكومة بانها “عرقلت الاستثمار” في قطاع الصناعة.

وقال الزعيم في ندوة الثلاثاء الاقتصادية التي تعقدها الجمعية، انه “حسب صندوق النقد الدولي الذي يشكل جهة استشارية لبعض المؤسسات الرسمية لدينا فإن نسبة النمو 3,5% بسبب تراجع الاستثمار في سوريا”.

وأضاف أن الدولة “عرقلت الاستثمار في القطاع الصناعي العام وهناك قول عن إمكانية الاستبدال والتجديد ولا توجد مشاريع جديدة كذلك فإن الاستثمار الخاص يصطدم بشروط صعبة للتمويل”.

‏ونوه الزعيم بالجهود التي بذلت لتحسين مناخ الاستثمار ولكنه قال ان “عقدة التمويل مازالت عقدة كبرى”‏. وتساءل “إذا كان معدل النمو منخفضا فكيف يمكن امتصاص البطالة خاصة إن معدل الاستثمار حاليا بحدود 25% من الناتج? وما يقال عن البطالة يقال عن الفقر فالفقر يزداد حدة بعد تحرير الأسواق”.

وتابع الزعيم “شهدنا زيادات في الأسعار شملت المواد الغذائية والسكن والأراضي ونعاني من فجوة بين الأجور والأسعار تفوق الفجوة التي كانت قائمة في مطلع العقد الحالي”.‏

واعتبر “إننا بحاجة الى سياسات فعالة لمعالجة مشكلة الفقر ويجب على الدولة ان تتدخل باستمرار لخفض الأسعار”.‏

واشار الزعيم الى الصعوبات التي تواجهها قطاعات التعليم والصحة والاسكان والزراعة والتعدين.

وفي مجال التشريع قال الزعيم “لقد صدر الكثير من القوانين ولكن السياسات كانت ومازالت تشكل ضعفا لدينا كما ان القوانين تحمل الكثير من التقلبات فالقانون الواحد يحمل اكثر من تعديل وهذا دليل على الارتجال”.

واضاف “هناك ضغوط على الدولة لإلغاء الدعم وهذه وصفة صندوق النقد الدولي ولكن علينا ان نقدم للمواطن البدائل عن هذا الدعم كذلك فإننا بحاجة الى دعم الصناعة والزراعة ويجب إن لا نثقلهما بأعباء إضافية من خلال رفع أسعار المحروقات”.‏

وختم حديثه بالقول “نحن كاقتصاديين نشعر بالقلق لان السياسة الاقتصادية في سورية تعاني من الارتباك والتقلب”، وطالب بإيجاد قناة للحوار مع الدولة مؤكدا ضرورة مواجهة مشكلاتنا واستدراكها قبل وقوعها والتحرك يجب ان يكون في الوقت المناسب”.‏

موازنة 2007

من جهة ثانية، انتقدت دراسة اصدرتها اللجنة الوطنية لوحدة الشيوعيين السوريين، حول موازنة العام 2007، ما وصفته بانه “تضخيم” للارقام بصورة مناقضة للواقع الذي يشهد انكماشها.

وقالت الدراسة “يستنتج المتتبع لموازنات الحكومة السورية عاماً بعد عام بأن الأرقام تتضخم وتكبر ورقياً في حين أن الواقع يتقلص وينكمش فعلياً، الأرقام تزيد، لكن نتائجها متواضعة جداً، ولا شيء يتغير نحو الأفضل”.

واعتبرت الدراسة انه “تسقط في النهاية تصريحات الحكومة المدوية أمام أصغر أرقام الموازنة، تلك الأرقام الكبيرة التي تطل علينا في بداية العام توحي للوهلة الأولى بأن الفرج آت لا محالة، وأنها مفتاح حل المشاكل، ولكن ما إن تأتي نهاية العام حتى يشعر الناس بالعكس تماماً”.

“لقد التهم التضخم وارتفاع الأسعار موازنات عام 2005 و عام 2006 بامتياز، ذلك الارتفاع الذي وصل وفق مؤشر الرقم القياسي لأرقام المستهلك إلى 22% في عام 2005، والمتوقع وصوله إلى أكثر من ذلك في عام 2006 وعام 2007 بسبب عدم وجود سياسة نقدية تحارب التضخم وتوقفه عند حدود معينة، وبالتالي فإن موازنة العام القادم معرضة تماماً لأن تكون موازنة سالبة بالقيم الحقيقية لليرة السورية”.

وخلصت الدراسة الى ان “المتضرر الوحيد من هذه العملية هو المواطن، الذي سيدفع ثمن تدهور قيمة عملته المستمر دون أن يعوضه أحد عن ذلك.فهذه هي موازنات الحكومة السورية المتتالية، أرقام ووعود على الورق، ومهمة المواطن التي لم تتغير حتى الآن وهي تناول بقايا الأحلام من تلك الأرقام”.

November 29th, 2006, 6:23 pm


simohurtta said:

Spoken like a true brainwashed Arabist. However, I’m still scratching my head as to what the problem was before 1967 when Israel wasn’t in the Golan, wasn’t in the West Bank, or wasn’t in Gaza.

Maybe Akbar Palace the reason was the war in 1956 when Israel attacked its neighbours. The same happened in 1967. The Arab states were not attacking Israel. The stories of a pre-emptive war were total bull shit. It his hardly possible to destroy the air forces on fields if they in reality were battle ready. Israel gained its military reputation by attacking twice an unprepared enemy. 1973 took away much of that “glory” and summer 2006 the rest.

Israel has had 60 years to show its peacefulness with zero results. Israeli Jews have had all cards to make a peace with Palestinians either by allowing them to keep the whole West Bank and Gaza (=own state) or accepting Palestinians as Israeli citizens and adding the area to her self (which is the normal strategy in cases like this). Instead Israel has exploited the Palestinian labour, land and water giving back far less as she has robbed. It is hard to find in history any example equal to modern days Israel. Even former South Africa was a better in some respects.

You forgot their democrat allies, their Christian allies, their European allies, their German allies, and their Muslim/Arab allies (who have already made their peace with her).

I would not count very much on Israel’s European allies nor on Israel’s Arab allies (if there in reality are any of them). The effect of the anti-Semitic accuses and Holocaust card begins to nearing zero in Europe. Europeans are nowadays seeing Israel not anymore as the weak victim. Israel is seen also as a dangerously aggressive nuclear power on the border of EU. The German spy ship Israelis greeted with war planes some weeks ago is most certainly using more of its resources for monitoring Israel than Hizbollah. The Russians, Chinese etc are also doing much more else in Lebanon than destroying Israeli cluster bombs and building bridges.

November 29th, 2006, 7:23 pm


t_desco said:

The story without the Al-Mustaqbal spin:

PLO warns of new militant influx

About 200 Arab militants arrived recently in Lebanon and have set up an Islamic grouping at a Palestinian refugee camp in the North, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said Wednesday. “About 200 armed elements came to Lebanon over several phases,” Khaled Aref said.

He said the militants first joined the Damascus-based “Fatah-Intifada in Lebanon, but a few days ago, they announced their rupture at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.”

“They declared that they have formed a new movement called Fatah al-Islam,” he said, adding that the militants were Palestinians, Lebanese and a number of other Arabs.

“We don’t know their real allegiance,” he said, without revealing the countries where the militants came from.

A statement from the pro-Syrian Fatah-Intifada on Wednesday said “Fatah-Islam has no links with Fatah-Intifada.”

It said Fatah-Islam was headed by Shaker Issa, a former Fatah-Intifada official “who has been expelled a while ago.”

Local daily Al-Mustaqbal said Wednesday that Lebanese authorities had detained two members of the group, Syrian Hussam Mohammad Siyam, known as Abu Mohammad al-Suri, and Saudi-Syrian Mohammad Saleh Salem.

They were held after “a recent incident” at the Nahr al-Bared camp, said the paper, confirming that they were part of the group of 200 militants. …
The Daily Star

Also very interesting:

LF insists 9 arrested men were Daher’s bodyguards

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces denied a second time on Wednesday media reports that nine LF members with US- and Israeli-made weapons were arrested late Monday. “The news being reported is unfounded and aimed at sowing strife and destabilizing the country,” an LF statement said.

Media reports earlier this week said that veterans of the LF’s Civil War-era “Collision and Swat” squad were arrested in Kesrouan, north of Beirut, in the midst of a training exercise.

The LF said that nine men arrested by the Lebanese Army on Monday were bodyguards of Pierre Daher, general manager of local satellite television station LBCI.

Several local newspapers said Wednesday that the army had confiscated weapons, maps with directions to the homes of MPs Michel Aoun and Michel Murr in Rabieh, and unspecified monitoring systems.

Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television broke the story on Monday. An-Nahar daily reported Wednesday that 22 LF personnel had been arrested.

“A human-sized plastic doll was found in one of the cars, along with a picture of Aoun,” An-Nahar quoted the television report as saying.

Zahra dismissed the report. “It is really silly to mention Aoun’s picture … as if he is an unknown figure,” Zahra said.

While Daher said the maps were “merely invitation cards from [businessman] Jacques Sarraf with directions to his home,” Al-Manar said the map was found beneath one of the car seats, adding that the nine arrested people confessed to being part of the LF’s armed forces.
The Daily Star

November 29th, 2006, 9:41 pm


Atassi said:

New Yorker’s Diary
The City
Gemayel’s Death May Mean Civil War—What Else for Mideast?
Katherine Zoepf
1221 words
4 December 2006
New York Observer
(c) Copyright 2006 New York Observer. All rights reserved.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 28—Last Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting in a café in Hamra, the traditionally Muslim neighborhood in West Beirut, wondering why my cell phone had stopped working. There were plenty of units left in my Lebanese pay-as-you-go account and I’d charged the handset recently, yet each attempt to make a call or to send a text produced an exclamation point and an angry-looking error message on its greenish, pixelated screen.

I set the phone down and ordered a cup of tea. It was brought not by my usual waitress, but by the café’s owner, who wore a grim expression, introduced himself hurriedly as Raed, and—to my great surprise—pulled a chair up next to mine and sat down.

“Excuse me for bothering you, but I can tell you’re not from Beirut, and you may not know what has just happened.”

I certainly didn’t know, but felt—as one always feels in Beirut—that the news couldn’t possibly be good.

“Pierre Gemayel has been shot, in the middle of the day. Can you imagine? I recommend that you go home and stay there. It will be hours before your phone works again—the government turns off the mobile-phone service on these occasions. The important thing is to get straight home. This will mean war, you know.”

I can be a bit slow on the uptake where political topics are concerned, but discussing politics with a Beiruti always makes me feel especially dull-witted. Politics in Lebanon is often a life-or-death matter, and so naturally everyone takes a keen interest. Childhood nights crouched in bomb shelters, gauging whether the rockets were incoming or outgoing and decades spent following alliances and assassinations in Lebanon’s prominent families have a way of honing native political intelligence to a very fine edge.

I made a clumsy attempt to piece together the implications of this news, as the Lebanese do so instinctively and immediately. Pierre Gemayel was a government minister, I knew, but already that seemed beside the point. Gemayel was from one of the country’s important Maronite families, the grandson of the founder of the right-wing Christian militia, the Phalange. This meant that he was a symbol of Christian power in Lebanon, which meant that his enemies were many, which meant that those wanting him dead could be … well, almost anyone, really.

I turned to Raed. “Who do you think would have the most to gain from Gemayel’s death?”

Raed shrugged. “Almost anyone, really. The point is that our government is being destroyed. This is nearly on the level of the Hariri assassination. This will almost certainly mean civil war. He was shot, can you imagine?”

Pierre Gemayel was shot. It took me another hour and several more conversations with Lebanese friends to grasp the import of this fact. Here in Beirut, arranging a car bombing is seen as a relatively easy way to murder an enemy. But shooting a man on a crowded street in the middle of a sunny afternoon?

That takes daring. That telegraphs insouciance, power wielded in complete confidence. The message to Lebanon’s frail, Western-backed ruling coalition couldn’t have been clearer: You are no longer in control.

Beirut is a diverse and profoundly class-ridden city; the newcomer feels it immediately. But in peacetime, these things seem not to matter. The people seem cheerful, almost supernaturally exuberant. They enjoy watching each other and parsing the differences among them, the small matters that divide neighborhoods and religious groups. The things they mention usually sound to my ear like harmless snobberies, but I wonder how the city would feel if battle lines were drawn as they once were, during the long civil war, when individual neighborhoods became strongholds.

Beirut in the fall smells precisely like Paris in a damp June—there’s an ineffable, very French smell of motor oil and detergents, butchers’ shops and cigarettes. It smells European and yet looks unmistakably Middle Eastern. For all its diversity, it is a very compact city, and I walk almost everywhere. It takes me about 20 minutes to get from my apartment in western Beirut to Martyr’s Square downtown, where the big demonstrations are always held. It takes no more than a half hour to walk over to friends’ apartments in Achrafieh, the predominantly Christian eastern Beirut neighborhood.

It’s fun examining the differences between the neighborhoods, which up till now have seemed matters of mere sociological interest, often sweetly comical and occasionally sad.

Bourj Hammoud is an image of the striving, jovial Armenian jewelers who fixed my watch. Hamra is the saj bread seller who always corrects my accent in Arabic so that I “don’t have to sound like a Syrian.”

Haret Hreik—or “Hezbollah Central,” as my friend Andrew calls it—brings to mind a certain very enthusiastic taxi driver who took me on a tour of the piles of rubble that were the result of multiple Israeli bombing raids; in the garbage that had collected on the site of one destroyed building, I noticed a Pekingese looking aristocratic and improbably clean as it trotted around among the boulders of smashed concrete.

And then there’s Achrafieh, which in its self-regard and Francophilic pretensions is Beirut’s greatest gift to the amateur sociologist in search of amusement. The image of Achrafieh that sticks most in my mind is of a young housewife I once saw, impeccably coiffed and chatting gaily on her cell phone as she walked out of the Monoprix grocery store. A tiny, elderly Filipina maid trudged a few paces behind her with the goods; the maid’s dress—blue gingham with a lace-trimmed white apron—looked weirdly girlish framed by those stringy brown arms and wizened face. I had briefly mistaken the maid for the woman’s child, the gingham for a summer-school uniform.

Whether the Gemayel assassination will turn out to have been the opening salvo in a renewed civil war remains to be seen, of course. But more than half of the Lebanese people I speak to in an average day seem to think so, and since Lebanon is widely seen as the canary in the mine of the greater Middle East—regional countries from Iran to Syria to Saudi Arabia all have political interests in Lebanon, and the collapse of the government in Lebanon will have implications far beyond its borders—this is very bad news for the region as a whole.

Marwan, who runs the shop where I usually buy my lunchtime sandwiches, asks me to correct his English.

“I don’t give a shit about this government we have now—there is a nicer way to say that, isn’t there?”

“You could say ‘I don’t care about this government.’”

“Oh, yes—all my English is from the movies. I mean, I don’t care about this government—but the problem is that if Lebanon falls now, we maybe take all the rest of the Middle East down with us.”

Katherine Zoepf is working on a book about young women in the Middle East for the Penguin Press

November 29th, 2006, 10:25 pm


Atassi said:

so true…
== ======
As far as Syria is concerned, the Hariri tribunal presents an imposing obstacle. If the US and the international community are serious about their intention to hold the Hariri killers to account, they have to reckon with the determination of the main suspects to disrupt this process. Given the centrality of the Syrian angle to the ongoing UN investigation, it seems clear that the Syrian regime, or elements within it, will stop at nothing to prevent the case coming to court. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, the industry minister and scion of one of Lebanon’s leading Maronite Christian families, was undoubtedly related to this process, whether Syria had a hand in the killing (which it denies) or not. Engagement with Syria is thus unlikely to make much progress unless assurances are provided that some limits will be imposed on the Hariri tribunal
Treble trouble
773 words
1 December 2006
Economist Intelligence Unit – Business Middle East
Business Middle East
Number x
(C) 2006 The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd.

King Abdullah II of Jordan has warned of the dangers of the Middle East being ravaged by three civil wars, in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Is he being alarmist?

The Jordanian monarch has taken on the guise of the Cassandra of the Middle East before, raising the spectre of an Iranian-inspired Shia advance into the traditional Sunni heartlands of the Arab world. This time, his vision of the sectarian strife in Iraq being accompanied by a relapse of Lebanon into civil war and by open warfare between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian Territories was placed in the context of the deliberations in the US about a new approach to the Middle East. King Abdullah said that without a comprehensive approach to the various flashpoints in the region it might be difficult to stop matters spiralling out of control. “It’s not just one issue by itself,” he told ABC News. “I keep saying Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what’s going on in Iraq. It is linked to what’s going on in Lebanon. It is linked to the issues that we find ourselves in with the Syrians.”

King Abdullah made clear that he supported the suggestion attributed to the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker, that efforts should be made to engage Syria and Iran in stabilising Iraq, as well as in tackling the Lebanese and Palestinian crises.

Blind eye?

Jordan’s anxiety about the turmoil in its immediate neighbourhood is understandable. However, the chances of the Bush administration being able to come up with a regional initiative along the lines of the Madrid conference of 1991 are slim. Madrid, orchestrated by Mr Baker, the US secretary of state at the time, was made possible by the authority that the US had gained through the liberation of Kuwait. The subsequent failure of the Madrid process will stand as an indictment of most of the political leaders concerned—Arab, Israeli and US—who were unable to seize a unique opportunity to order the region’s affairs in a fashion that offered the prospect of stability and prosperity. That moment has now passed, and one of the key assumptions underpinning Madrid—a US guarantee of regional security—no longer applies, at least not to the extent that it did 15 years ago.

The US now faces a formidable challenge to its core Middle East interests of securing oil supplies from the Gulf and safeguarding Israel’s security. Any engagement with Iran and Syria would most likely be met by a demand for US disengagement from Iraq, from the Gulf and from Israel. Does the US have any option but to negotiate over the terms for such a disengagement?

The growth of Iran’s regional influence over the past three years means that it will be difficult for the US to avoid making some sort of overture to Tehran, particularly given the lack of realistic military options to force Iran into a change of course. Ultimately this would require the US to offer concessions on the question of Iran’s nuclear programme. That need not extend to explicit acquiescence to Iran developing nuclear weapons, but it would have to entail an acknowledgement of Iran’s right to develop its civil nuclear technology with a minimum of outside interference. There is no way for the US to establish precisely what Iran’s core demands are without some form of direct discussion.

As far as Syria is concerned, the Hariri tribunal presents an imposing obstacle. If the US and the international community are serious about their intention to hold the Hariri killers to account, they have to reckon with the determination of the main suspects to disrupt this process. Given the centrality of the Syrian angle to the ongoing UN investigation, it seems clear that the Syrian regime, or elements within it, will stop at nothing to prevent the case coming to court. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, the industry minister and scion of one of Lebanon’s leading Maronite Christian families, was undoubtedly related to this process, whether Syria had a hand in the killing (which it denies) or not. Engagement with Syria is thus unlikely to make much progress unless assurances are provided that some limits will be imposed on the Hariri tribunal.

In this highly charged regional atmosphere, there has been a potentially positive move in the Palestinian Territories, with a ceasefire and some progress towards forming a new Palestinian government. However, King Abdullah’s warnings still resonate

November 29th, 2006, 10:32 pm


Atassi said:

France stands by US refusal to engage Syria
Daily Star Staff
327 words
30 November 2006
Daily Star

Beirut — France and the United States agree there is no point in talking to Syria because the conditions for an honest dialogue do not exist, President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday. His comment came as US President George W. Bush is under strong domestic pressure to talk to Syria and Iran in an effort to reduce sectarian violence and avert civil war in Iraq.

Speaking after a NATO summit in Latvia, Chirac said he was always in favor of dialogue in principle provided it led to results and was based on honesty and a commitment to carry out what was agreed.

“In the current state of affairs, this is not exactly the characteristic of the dialogue which some European countries have started with Syria. I deplore that,” Chirac said.

“I understand that the American president’s position is exactly the same as France’s,” Chirac said.

On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad sounded a defiant note, criticizing US efforts to promote democracy in the region.

“Colonialism has not ended. In the past they used to call it colonialism, today it is called liberation of people … Names differ but the essence is the same. As colonialism continues, revolution and resistance continue,” Assad was quoted as saying by the official media.

“Challenge is the most precious thing we possess, so we will keep challenging until we achieve our goals,” he said.

The day before, his message was even sharper, although he did not refer directly to Bush.

“We send a message to every one that Arabs are no longer a herd that can be sold, bought and taken to the slaughterhouse,” Assad said on Tuesday in the speech in the southern city of Sweida.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested that Iran and Syria should work with both the United States and the international community to help resolve the bloody conflict in Iraq. – Reuters, AP

November 29th, 2006, 10:35 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Simohurtta –

I almost believed you! Then I checked with Wikipedia…

At the end of May 1967, Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian General Abdul Munim Riad.[38] On the same day, Nasser proclaimed: “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel … to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not of more declarations.”[39]

“Israel has had 60 years to show its peacefulness with zero results.”

Peace with Eygpt is “zero results”?

Peace with Jordan is “zero results”?

Remember, these are 2 countries Israel went to war with after Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran and after Nasser kicked UN peacekeeping forces out of the Sinai.

It’s always something. Those Zionists can’t seem to please anyone unless, I suppose, they leave the region. I mean, that’s what the Iranian, Hamas and Hezbo leadership is saying;)

November 30th, 2006, 12:00 am


Fares said:

I am back

The killers will be punished

November 30th, 2006, 12:07 am


Akbar Palace said:

“…the Palestinian people are paying heavy prices for the west indifference to them which makes them solicit the help of opportunistic regimes such as Iran and Syria.”

Surprised? Another comment declaring that those who commit violence simply aren’t at fault.

And if those nice little Iranian and Syrian -backed Hezzollah terrorists go on a killing spree in Beirut, I just have the impression they won’t be faulted.

November 30th, 2006, 1:14 am


Fares said:

Akbar, have you read my piece!!! where did you see sympathy from me to Hizbolla??? I also do not sympathize with Hamas…but the moderate palestinians have been weakened big time by Israel and the west…you can’t expect people to behave nicely when they are humiliated and put down.

Israel also very stupidly with its actions in the summer have strenghtened Hizballa which was loosing influence. Anyway, I don’t see any good strategy from US and Israel to let moderates win over extremists in the middle east.

November 30th, 2006, 1:47 am


Kassar Alzabadi said:

Assassinations in lebanon:

1- Kamal Junblatt (Walid Junblatt comment is particularly interesting!)

2- Bachir Gemayel

Also related is the “flag war” as some lebanese newspapers referred to this event in reporting the incidents regarding Gen. Aoun posters.

It strikes me that many of the “analysis” today comes from people whose knowledge about lebanon is less than what is known in a TV program!

November 30th, 2006, 9:13 am


annie said:

To Akbar

I am very impressed by your references : Wikipedia indeed ! As if that laudable initiative had become the new Bible for Middle East affairs. You probably don’t know Finkelstein’s “Beyond Hutzpah”. He takes apart all the lies that were spread by the different defenders of the State of Israel.

November 30th, 2006, 3:48 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Fares stated –

“…but the moderate palestinians have been weakened big time by Israel and the west…you can’t expect people to behave nicely when they are humiliated and put down.”

Thanks for reply, and I appreciate your sentiments regarding Hamas, however, I have to ask you where are the “moderate palestinians”? The Oslo Accords brought an increase in terrorism inside Israel. They also increased Pali incitement in their media and school textbooks. Unfortunately, the PA under Fatah did not do anything to curb terror.

Hey, I’m all for peace, and Camp David 2000 came pretty close, including some $90 BILLION dollars to help the Palestinians. So here we are now.

When is the next election in the now democratically governed Palestine? Perhaps the Palestinians will vote in a new, more “moderate” government.

Annie –

Are you saying that Nasser’s quote in Wikipedia is false? If so, I’ll be happy to find a different source for you! As for Norman Finkelstein, both he and Noam Chomsky and another handful of self-loathing Jews are the “intellectuals” the anti-semites and their websites use to explain how Israel is not a country and how everything Israel does is against the law including protecting themselves from Arab terrorism.

In any case, they can all be disputed quite easily, because they aren’t as smart as they claim to be;)

November 30th, 2006, 6:43 pm


why-discuss said:

Akbar Palace

“In any case, they can all be disputed quite easily, because they aren’t as smart as they claim to be;)” NEITHER ARE YOU! WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE..

November 30th, 2006, 7:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Yes, well, sorry to say, Israel is a country and Palestine is not. Not to say that the Palestinians shouldn’t have their own country, but they have to earn it.

As a border dispute, for Palestine to have an international border, she has to negotiate with Israel. Right now, the PA doesn’t recognize Israel (neither does Iran, but that’s anther jihadist story). Further, when the PA claimed to recognize Israel, the violence and incitement continued and the intifada raged on.

Perhaps if the Palestinian Decomcracy votes in a party willing to negotiate with Israel and sign a peace treaty, then the Palis can work with Israel to create a new Middle Eastern economic power-house.

Despite what the Nasrallahs and Yassins of the Islamic world say, I think this would be the better alternative.

November 30th, 2006, 8:31 pm


annie said:

Akbar has decided to camp here day and night and will manage to deviate any useful discussion with his digressions into israeli business. Halas, I don’t answer him anymore.

December 1st, 2006, 5:18 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Dear Annie –

Apologies. It was not my intention to “deviate any useful discussion” or “digress”.

What would you like to discuss? Zionist hegemony?

Perhaps we can discuss Syrian freedom and economic development? Professor Josh probably has a lot of interesting information on this.

Or maybe we can discuss Hezbollah’s position on Iranian-Lebanese and Syrian-Lebanese cooperation?

Your call.

December 1st, 2006, 5:25 pm


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