UN Investigator Bellemare says ‘Criminal Network’ killed Hariri

We will need to find out who belongs to this "criminal Network," but this declaration deals a blow to the Cheney team that was convinced the word "Syria" would appear in the title of this news report and in Bellemare's opening accusation.

Assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Rafik Hariri was killed using a lorry full of explosives

Evidence suggests the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a "criminal network", an investigating UN team has said.

No suspects were named, but the investigators said a "Hariri Network" had Mr Hariri under surveillance before the assassination.

The ex-PM and 22 others died in a huge car bombing in Beirut in February 2005.

Past UN inquiries suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence forces had played a role – which Syria denied.

The UN panel, headed by Canadian former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, said in the 10th report on the case that it could now confirm that "on the basis of available evidence… a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination", said the news agency AFP.

The commission suggests this network was responsible for other attacks against high-profile Lebanese figures, and at least part of the network continued to operate after Mr Hariri's killing.

Comments (132)

wizart said:

Who killed Rafik Hariri?

* By Patrick Seale

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday February 23 2005

If Syria killed Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and mastermind of its revival after the civil war, it must be judged an act of political suicide. Syria is already under great international pressure from the US, France and Israel. To kill Hariri at this critical moment would be to destroy Syria’s reputation once and for all and hand its enemies a weapon with which to deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down.

So attributing responsibility for the murder to Syria is implausible. The murder is more likely to be the work of one of its many enemies. This is not to deny that Syria has made grave mistakes in Lebanon. Its military intelligence apparatus has interfered far too much in Lebanese affairs. A big mistake was to insist on changing the Lebanese constitution to extend the mandate of President Emile Lahoud – known for his absolute allegiance to Syria – for a further three years. Syria’s military intelligence chief in Lebanon, General Rustum Ghazalah, was reported to have threatened and insulted Hariri to force him to accept the extension. This caused great exasperation among all communities in Lebanon. Hariri resigned as prime minister in protest.

Syria appears to have recognised its mistake. President Bashar al-Assad last week sacked General Hassan Khalil, head of military intelligence, and replaced him with his own brother-in-law, General Asaf Shawkat. A purge of the military intelligence apparatus in Lebanon is expected to follow.

It remains to be seen whether this will calm Syria’s opponents in Lebanon, who have declared a “democratic and peaceful intifada for independence” – in other words, a campaign of passive resistance to drive Syria out.

Hariri was not a diehard enemy of Syria. For 10 of the past 12 years he served as Lebanon’s prime minister under Syria’s aegis. A few days before his murder on February 14 he held a meeting with Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Walid Muallim. They were reported to have discussed a forthcoming visit by Hariri to Damascus. Hariri had not officially joined the opposition in Lebanon, but was thought to be attempting to mediate between Syria and the opposition.

If Syria did not kill Hariri, who could have? There is no shortage of potential candidates, including far-right Christians, anxious to rouse opinion against Syria and expel it from Lebanon; Islamist extremists who have not forgiven Syria its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 80s; and, of course, Israel.

Israel’s ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic alliance with Iran and destroy Hizbullah. Israel has great experience at “targeted assassinations” – not only in the Palestinian territories but across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman and Damascus.

Syria, Hizbullah and Iran have stood up against US and Israeli hegemony over the region. Syria continues to demand that Israel return the Golan Heights, seized in 1967. Damascus will not allow Lebanon to conclude a separate peace with Israel unless its own claim is also addressed.

Hizbullah, in turn, is possibly the only Arab force to have inflicted a defeat on Israel. Its guerrillas forced Israel out of south Lebanon after a 22-year occupation. Hizbullah continues to be a big irritant to Israel because it has acquired a deterrent capability. Israel can no longer attack Lebanon with impunity – as it did for decades – without risking a riposte from Hizbullah rockets.

Iran’s nuclear programme threatens to break Israel’s regional monopoly of weapons of mass destruction, which is the main reason it is under immense pressure to abandon uranium enrichment.

The US and Israel have been trying to rally international support against Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has condemned Iran as a prime sponsor of international terror. Syria has been condemned as a “destabilising” force in the region, and is in the dock because of Hariri’s assassination.

The US and Israel have also been urging European governments to declare Hizbullah a “terrorist organisation”. France has its own quarrel with Syria, and President Jacques Chirac is outraged at the murder of his close friend Hariri, but Paris does not consider Hizbullah a terrorist organisation. For France, and for the vast majority of Arabs, Hizbullah is a national liberation movement as well as a big political actor in Lebanon.

Patrick Seale is author of Assad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East

March 28th, 2008, 7:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Can we all agree then that the UN investigation and the tribunal are fair and are not politicized?

March 28th, 2008, 7:29 pm


kingcrane jr said:

Thank you, Naji, for posting the whole report.
Are there any Bellemare experts out there? This guy looks like he is conducting this case properly, but little is known about him.
Many, including me, knew that this was a conspiracy against the popular majority in Syria and the popular majority in Lebanon.

March 28th, 2008, 7:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What popular majorities are you speaking of?

March 28th, 2008, 7:56 pm


Seeking The Truth said:

Does anybody know what has come out of the investigation of the prepaid cellphone cards, that were associated with the assassination?

March 28th, 2008, 8:05 pm


offended said:

20 pages, absolutely nothing new. But wait; Bellemare won’t let us know the names because that will only be revealed in the process of indictment by the prosecutors. OK.

Toward the end of the report, he kept whining about the lack of additional resources while 6 other cases were added to scope of the commission.

I am just thinking here, wouldn’t it be logical (since the linkage has been already established between all these assassinations by no less credible resource than the future TV) to concentrate on one of those cases (i.e. the one with the most offering substance) , then crack the nuts of this case and the others will subsequently fall like domino pieces?

Or am I just reading so much of Michael Connelly’s nowadays?

March 28th, 2008, 8:05 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Maybe we should just ask the Syrian mukhabarat to solve it, since they were able to determine the identity of Mughniyyeh’s killers in no time flat.

Plus, at the time of Hariri’s assassination, Beirut may as well have been Damascus, given Syria’s finger on the pulse of the country.

March 28th, 2008, 8:18 pm


MNA said:

QN, enough with your one sided views!!!!

March 28th, 2008, 8:32 pm


Atassi said:

Arab Summit Divided by No-Shows
Associated Press Writer

28 March 2008
Associated Press Newswires
(c) 2008. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Top Arab leaders are boycotting this weekend’s Arab summit in Damascus to protest Syria’s hard-line stances in nearly every crisis in the Mideast.

The gathering has deepened the rift between the region’s pro-U.S. camp and Iran’s ally Damascus.

The no-shows by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are an embarrassment to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government had hoped the summit on Saturday and Sunday — billed as “the summit of joint Arab action” — would boost its prestige.

By staying away, the countries aimed to show Damascus the diplomatic cost of its hard line on Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it is likely instead to strengthen Damascus’ alliance with Iran and the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups.

“There are now two axes — Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah are on one side and the rest are on the another,” said Wahid Abdel-Meguid of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Arab summits are all about protocol and symbolism, and in that language, the show of disdain from top U.S.-allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan could not be more clear.

In an unprecedented move, they are sending minor officials rather than their heads of state — or even their prime ministers or foreign ministers. Egypt’s delegation will be headed by its parliamentary affairs minister. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are sending their Arab League ambassadors.

Lebanon is boycotting the summit completely, the first time an Arab country has refused to send a delegation since Arab leaders began holding annual summits in 2000. The Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora accuses Syria of blocking attempts to elect a new Lebanese president.

Even Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh decided Friday not to come, sending his vice president in his place — perhaps to curry favor with its powerful neighbor Saudi Arabia or because the summit appeared unlikely to endorse a Yemeni proposal for reconciliation between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas.

“Syria is losing friends, one after the other,” said Mansour Hayal, a Yemeni political analyst.

America’s Arab allies are angry at Syria in particular over Lebanon, where they demand Damascus open the way to the election of a president. The two camps are in a yearlong struggle for control of Lebanon — the United States, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are strong supporters of Saniora’s government, while Syria backs Hezbollah, the militant group that leads the Lebanese opposition.

The opposition has been boycotting Lebanon’s parliament for months, preventing it from electing a president, a post that has been empty since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud’s term ended in November.

Arab countries, which are mostly Sunni-led, are also nervous about Syria’s controversial alliance with Shiite Iran.

In all, nine heads of state from the Arab League’s 22 members are not attending the Damascus gathering.

The annual summit is frequently plagued by no-shows, often because of personal disputes among leaders. But this year, the differences are sharper and the snubs even more pointed.

With the no-shows, the headliners at this year’s summit are Assad, Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who were arriving with other delegations Friday.

But Damascus may benefit from the absences, which ensure the summit will not pressure it to change its stances toward Lebanon or the Palestinians. Also, Syria showed it won’t be forced to exchange its strong alliance with Iran for approval from Arabs.

“The Syrian axis is coherent and they have a clear objective and they are working in an organized way,” said Abdel-Meguid, the analyst in Cairo.

March 28th, 2008, 8:48 pm


sam said:

Criminal Network….. I.E. Mossad. It’s just hard to believe arabs could have carried this out, giving there lack of technolgy, and lets face it “Big Brain” needed to mastermind this murder. I for one hate all Zionist, but they are smart coniving SOB. This would make a better movie than Munich.

March 28th, 2008, 9:09 pm


Majhool said:

I have heard this rumor ( Asef is under house-arrest) from many firends visiting from Syria.

مصادر سياسية واسعة الإطلاع أن بشرى الأسد،زوجة اللواء السوري آصف شوكت
،قد تمكنت من الحصول على حق اللجوء السياسي في دولة الإمارات العربية .

وكانت القيادة الإماراتية قد سعت في وقت سابق إلى إصلاح ذات البين بين بشرى وشقيقها الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد ،ولكن هذا المسعى أصيب بضربة قاضية بعد اغتيال القائد العسكري ل”حزب الله”عماد مغنية في دمشق.

وقد انتقلت بشرى الأسد مع أولادها الى باريس ،بداية قبل أن تعود ،قبل حوالي عشرة أيام الى دولة الإمارات العربية.

وسط هذه المعلومات ،سرت شائعات لا تزال تحتاج الى تأكيدات أن آصف شوكت ،قد يكون وُضع في الإقامة الجبرية في سوريا وتمّ منعه من السفر،وثمة من يشير الى تدابير أقسى من ذلك قد اتُخذت بحقه بأمر من الرئيس الأسد.

March 28th, 2008, 9:45 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


98% of the views on SC are one-sided.

Welcome to the club.

March 28th, 2008, 9:48 pm


offended said:

And where did you copy and paste this from Majhool, Al Seyassa website?

March 28th, 2008, 9:53 pm


Majhool said:


Forget about the source this is not important.I added it in just to highlight the issue. I heard the same thing from well connected damascenes close to 8 weeks ago, way before it was in the news.. Josh needs to check his sources in Damascus..

March 28th, 2008, 10:01 pm


offended said:

I believe it’s me whose views are constituting the 2%?

March 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm


offended said:

Majhool, I posted some parts of this rumor as they appeared in Al Seyassa website couple of weeks ago…

You still haven’t answered my q, where did you copy this story from?

March 28th, 2008, 10:05 pm


Sol said:

Could someone please explain the situation of the Syrian Kurdish population. Is there a Syrian government policy of state discrimination or ethnic cleansing going on? Is this just another attempt by the American government to discredit the Syrian government? It’s hard to separate fact from fiction at times.

March 28th, 2008, 10:21 pm


offended said:

Here’s what Mudhafer Al Nawab, the great Iraqi poet, had to say about the previous Arab summits.
I think he wrote this poem with King Abdullah in mind:


معزى على غنم

جلالة الكبش

على سمو نعجة

على حمار


وتبدأ الجلسة




ونهي فدا خصاكم سيدي

والدفع كم ؟!

ويفشخ البغل على الحضور


لا . نعم

وينزل المولود

نصف عورة

ونصف فم

مبارك .. مبارك

وبالرفاه والبنين

أبرقوا لهيئة الأمم

أم قمم

كمب على كمب

أبا كمباتكم

على أبيكم


تغلق الأنوف منكم الرمم

وعنزة … مصابة برعشة

في وسط القاعة بالت نفسها

فأعجب الحضور ..

صفقوا .. وحلقوا…

بالت لهم ثانية

واستعر الهتاف…

كيف بالت هكذا ..!!!

وحدقوا .. وحللوا…




وشخت الذمم

وأهبلتكم أمكم

هذا دم أم ليس دم ؟؟!

يا قمة الأزياء

يا قمة الأزياء

سوّدت وجوهكم

من قمة

ما أقبح الكروش من أمامكم

وأقبح الكروش من ورائكم

ومن يشابه كرشه فما ظلم

قمم … قمم .. قمم…


معزى على غنم

مضرطة لها نغم

لتنعقد القمة

لا تنعقد القمة

لا تنعقد القمة

أي تفو على أول من فيها

إلى آخر من فيها

من الملوك .. والشيوخ .. والخدم

March 28th, 2008, 10:23 pm


offended said:

There is absolutely no discrimination against the Kurds in Syria.
What happened in 2004 and in the following years was fueled by separatist elements who were encouraged by the privileges of the federal Kurdistan in iraq.

March 28th, 2008, 10:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You’re the 2% alright!

How did you guess?

March 28th, 2008, 10:29 pm


Hans Morgenthau said:

Offended, what about the 25,000 “unregistered” Kurds and the other 200,000 or so who are classified as “foreigners” and can’t get a passport (among other violations of their rights)? Even the Syrian government admits that this is a problem and claims to be rectifying it. Most Kurds are just as disenfranchised as everyone else in Syria, but there is large contingent of Kurds who have it worse. This is an outgrowth of the regime’s own insecurity about the Kurdish prescence in places like al-hasakeh. To say there is “absolutely no discrimination against the Kurds in Syria” is an outright falsehood.

March 28th, 2008, 11:16 pm


Majhool said:


There is no ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Syria. It’s true that that there has been an influx of Arab tribes (encouraged by the Syrian government) into mainly Kurdish areas, but that has to be put in context. The majority of Kurds in the north have made it into Syria quite recently (arround WWI). So that area is not really part the of Kurdish homeland. I believe the Syrian Government has the right to stabilize the demographic makeup of its boarder regions to circumvent any separatist’s sentiments.

In terms of discrimination it really depends on who you talk you:

Fully Arabized Kurds (mainly in Damascus and Aleppo) hold key positions in the government and the regime have no problem with them . Some of them have been living in these cities for centuries and their elite have been extremely wealthy and took on prominent positions under Ottoman and French rule. Upon independences other but less notable families aligned themselves completely with Arabism and took on Key positions especially religious ones.

The problem lies with Non-Arabized Kurds. These folks are really poor and live mainly in northern villages near the Turkish and Iraqi Boarders. There has been no real economical development for these areas for decades and tough economical conditions forced tens of thousands of them to live in the outskirts/Slums of Damascus and Aleppo. Those still speak Kurdish and have not assimilated completely. Unlike other minorities they are not allowed to have their own schools where they can learn their language.

Having said all that, Discrimination against communities in Syria is rarely ethnic. It’s really a function of whether or not the community is at odds with the regime.

March 29th, 2008, 12:23 am


jo6pac said:

It should be asked Who had Tech to do this?

March 29th, 2008, 1:39 am


why-discuss said:

The criminals of “The Hariri Network”?

Bellemare’s report is stating some very obvious things about the criminal network, oddly called “the Hairiri network”: It existed before, during and after the killing.

The Best resolution of Arab Summits:

Full support of Saddam Hossein in the war againt Iran by all arab countries except Syria. It costed millions of death, the use of chemical weapon by the brother Saddam and provoked the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf war that costed more millions of arab death.
Remember that this was US’s idea to ‘isolate and weaken’ Iran.

After this horrendous blunder can we trust an arab summit resolution not to be dictated by western powers with their own political and economica agenda? Maybe this will be the first one!

March 29th, 2008, 6:46 am


Thomas said:

This link summarizes this blog quite well.


March 29th, 2008, 7:12 am


T said:


Your analysis has been done, and it led back to the Mossad aka the Majzoub brothers and the domino spy network it unraveled in Lebanon. Of course that fact will be and was, ignored.

March 29th, 2008, 8:56 am


Naji said:

Our Prez is giving the opening speech at the summit right now… doing quite well… substansive speech, with a concise and clear statement of our position on peace… in case anybody is interested at the moment…!

Also, a candid and reconciliatory statement on Lebanon, much more graceful than that of The Raving Knave (Siniora) last night…!

Overall, …nuanced, yet principled, positions in a calm, yet direct and no-nonsense speech…!

March 29th, 2008, 9:46 am


Naji said:

The “fiery” speech and self-flagellations were left to Amr Mousa… along with the crying about how mean and deceitful Israel has been, and the lecturing about brothers having to be nice to each other… that is his job once a year, I guess…!

He ended by saying that, as Mubarak has suggested, perhaps there is need to hold TWO summits each year, not just one… ! I wonder where that is leading…?!

March 29th, 2008, 10:05 am


offended said:

Your reference to the Now Lebanon article as a good assessment of this blog gives a summary in itself to how stupid and inept person you are…

March 29th, 2008, 11:20 am


offended said:

Saud Al Faisal is conducting a press conference right now….

I wonder what the significance of this move is…

March 29th, 2008, 11:24 am


Naji said:

As expected, the highlight of this Summit is this morning’s enterainment program provided by Qhaddafi, …not to be missed… he is getting better year after year… 🙂

March 29th, 2008, 11:35 am


Naji said:

Offended, the Saud Faisal press conference seems to relate to my comment above on the Amr Mousa speech: ” He ended by saying that, as Mubarak has suggested, perhaps there is need to hold TWO summits each year, not just one… ! I wonder where that is leading…?! ”

Faisal is saying that, if the Damascus summit does not solve the Lebanese problem, “other measures will be taken”… in the tone of an ultimatum to Syria…!! Screw him…!

March 29th, 2008, 11:47 am


Naji said:

“The question is: Do we leave the peace process and initiatives hostage to the whims of successive Israeli governments, or do we search for choices and substitutes that can achieve a just and comprehensive peace?” Assad said.

Haaretz translation… much better than you will find on the NOW site…!

March 29th, 2008, 12:13 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The past three years have been a testament to poor strategic planning and miscalculations, by all parties in the region.

1) Syria miscalculated the level of animosity towards its regime that existed in Lebanon, even among many of its previous allies.

2) IF Syria was responsible for the Hariri assassination, it miscalculated the response this would have on the Lebanese street (and who could really blame Syria… it was unprecedented).

3) Meanwhile, the anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon miscalculated the strength of Syria’s allies in Lebanon and their ability to resist the growing US/KSA influence.

4) Hizbullah miscalculated Israel’s respose to the kidnapping of the two soldiers in summer 2006.

5) Israel miscalculated Hizbullah’s preparedness for a war which Israel was unable to win, despite its military superiority.

6) The U.S. and its allies in the Arab world miscalculated the effect of the war, which bolstered Hizbullah’s credibility (in the short term) rather than diminishing it.

7) The Lebanese opposition miscalculated the staying power of the Siniora government when it took to the streets to bring it down.

8) The Siniora government miscalculated the staying power of the opposition, and sixteen months later the country is still without a government and without a president.

9) The Americans/Europeans miscalculated Syria’s ability to withstand pressure of every kind: sanctions, tribunal threats, warships, rhetoric, etc.

10) Bashar miscalculated the effects of his words about the Arab “half-men” and Syria’s hardball strategy in Lebanon, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan shockingly snubbing Syria’s Arab summit.

And so it goes…

In a region that is supposed to be predictable in its cycles of violence as well as its stagnation, let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that we are living in highly unpredictable times.

For all the talk about Abu Fulan’s gamble proving to be right, and Ibn Fulan’s gamble proving to be wrong, to my mind all successful strategizing has been successful only by luck, with negative results proving to be the rule rather than the exception.

Such circumstances should signal to the various parties that a parity has been achieved, and cooperation would be the best strategy. An Arab cold war is in nobody’s interests except Israel (and not even all of Israel).

Let’s solve this crisis already.

March 29th, 2008, 1:10 pm


Joshua said:

QN: I take your point. You are right, of course. I cannot figure out why Beirut isn’t using you as an advisor!

As for the NOW article, “Stateside “engagonistas,”” I love it. It is classic Badran. Why is there no author listed? He is losing some of his khutspa. Quoting himself favorably and trying to pretend that someone else did it. A good technique for getting a puff piece.

As for his argument: Syria-Iran-Hizbullah axis is evil; US-Israel-Hariri axis is good – where does it get you? Aside from his moral prejudices, which I don’t buy, the question of whether his strategy of resistance will work and bring Lebanon a better future is more important.

Syria is strong in the region. It also has strong and numerous Lebanese allies. The US cannot destroy them, nor can Israel. Badran has argued for years that Bashar is weak and stupid and on the verge of collapse. And even if the US cannot take him down, Bashar will make enough self-destructive mistakes to take himself down. His analysis has been wrong from the beginning and remains wrong today.

Eventually, there will have to be talks and engagement to reach a compromise.

Badran seems to think that the US can win for Lebanon by taking down evil Damascus. I think he is wrong. I think the price of fighting this war for Lebanon and clinging to an ethic of resistance in the face of probable defeat is unwise. Jeranimo, the great American Indian fighter who refused to accommodate to the US army, may be a cultural icon of noble steadfastness, but he brought great suffering on his followers. Ultimately, I think the price for Lebanon of not coming to to an understanding with Syria will be greater than the price of finding an accommodation.

My hunch is that in a few years, Lebanon will be coming to an accommodation that it could have arrived at much earlier and at less expense to itself and to Syria. Indeed, I think Lebanon had its best negotiating position in the fall of 2005.

March 29th, 2008, 1:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ya Shaykh al-Shabaab,

I agree with you that the anti-Syrian forces have blundered, and that a Jeranimo-like stand will only bring more misery upon Lebanon.

But, then, the same could be said of Syria’s Jeranimo-like stand against the Americans and the Arabs. Syria “may be a cultural icon of noble steadfastness” (well, at least to those who are still wedded to the logic of Arab nationalism), but hasn’t Bashar’s strategy “brought great suffering on his followers”, or at least, increased the potential for such suffering?

I am interested in hearing from you what shape Syria’s accommodating measures should take. Let’s say that I were advising Beirut (a3oozu billah) and you were advising Damascus (ditto), and we had to work out a deal in the ‘back room’ of Syria Comment: what shape would this deal have to take, from the Syrian perspective?

March 29th, 2008, 1:58 pm


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

I can ask the people @ NOW who wrote that piece …

I’m not sure about your Geronimo metaphor. It looks as if you’re saying “in the face of greater force, just accommodate”. So, the Palestinians should not resist Israel, as that would only “great suffering” to them? Iraqis should just let the US dictate the future of their country because resistance would bring great suffering to them? Syria should not try to get the Golan back, even if that means temporary isolation, because it is bringing great suffering?

Have you ever told Native Americans that their resistance to the US onslaught and ethnic cleansing was wrong because they should’ve realized that it would bring “great suffering”?

Badran is a neo-con fundamentalist who doesn’t care to contemplate any other point than his own. Why waste time with him?


March 29th, 2008, 2:08 pm


Honest Patriot said:

I can think of no better (noble, pragmatic, cultured, savvy, eloquent, etc.) interlocutors for representing Lebanon and Syria than QN and Joshua. Is a grassroots movement following you 2 as leaders a pure fantasy? I say no. But what do I know? I’m just a temporary amateur dabbler in political blogging (thanks to SC) after years of completely blocking political interest while focussing on life, science and technology. I sometimes can’t believe I spent the time I did on SC. But with folks like you I see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I don’t think it’s an incoming train 🙂

Yalla, tfaddaloo with the backroom negotiations.

And for some imagery, how about QN as the JFK of Lebanon and Joshua as the “Lawrence” of Syria?

March 29th, 2008, 2:10 pm


Joshua said:

QN. Very well put. There have been many miscalculations by both sides.

March 29th, 2008, 2:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

HP, the grassroots movement consists, alas, of only ‘two’ people: TOPOV and HP.


As for who wrote the piece, it may not have been Badran. Could have been David Kenner, who writes for them regularly I believe.

March 29th, 2008, 2:32 pm


Joshua said:

Although I understand why Palestinians continue to resist, I have more or less despaired that any accommodation will be arrived at between them and Israel. Israel is too strong and they are too weak. If I were a Palestinian, I would convert to Judaism or try to get another passport. I think it is even too late for West Bankers to become part of Jordan. I don’t think Jordan will have them. I foresee a long and unhappy slide into the depths of despond for the Palestinians – the trajectory they have been on for the better part of a century.

The Jewish presence in Palestine came upon the Palestinians too quickly and with such force that the Palestinians never really grasped what was hitting them. They miscalculated at every step along the way, believing they could turn back the clock, that the international community would see the injustice visited upon them and respond to save them, that Arabs would get themselves together to reverse the situation, that the PLO could reverse the balance of power, etc. They never had the state institutions and collective solidarity to be able to respond as a people to their dire situation, which might have allowed them to correctly assess their terrible situation and the international scene, which did not favor them.

Have the Syrians lost the Golan for good and is their struggle comparable to that of the Palestinians? I am not sure Syria has. They may get it back, yet, although it is not clear how.

I think the solution to Lebanon will have to be found in a larger regional accommodation.

March 29th, 2008, 2:48 pm


Naji said:

16:19 Saudi FM calls for Syria to be punished in televised address to Arab summit (AP)

March 29th, 2008, 3:33 pm


Alex said:

I disagree with both QN and Joshua.

Syria’s standing up to the Untied States can not be compared to the M14 maniacs’ “the murderer of Damascus has to go” .. or “I promise you Bashar that a son of the mountain will assassinate you one day” (Jumblatt)

Despite all it suffered from the neocons the past 7 years, Syria will welcome any meeting with this US administration … Syria did not shut the door. It was a decision by the other side.

Hafez Assad spent the last decade of his life enjoying constructive relations with two American presidents (Bush Sr. and Clinton) … Syria did not always create an enemy out of the United States.

The immature and inexperienced M14 “leaders” lost a golden opportunity to get a great deal with Syria in 2005 when they had the sympathy of the whole world (genuine, not Chirac and Cheney sympathy). Instead, they decided to go all the way and try to destroy the regime in Damascus … they wanted revenge and they wanted an international role to play more than they wanted a good deal for Lebanon.

The Syrian regime is much more experienced… Bashar today in his speech did not attack the Saudis and Egyptians. He did not allow the feeling of power (sitting in the Arab summit’s president’s chair) to get to his head.

The Fatfats are not the same caliber.

March 29th, 2008, 4:05 pm


idaf said:


I agree with your analysis.

Watching the inflammatory rhetoric by “moderate Arabs” against Syria in the last few days, and comparing them to the calm and conciliatory responses from Moallem’s press conferences and Bashar’s speech, your average Arab man in the street is reading the sequence of events as follows:

– Cheney suddenly visits Riyadh and Cairo just before the summit.
– These countries suddenly raise their angry rhetoric against Syria and boycott the summit.
– Lebanese government follows the Saudis as expected.
– Few days before the summit, the King of Bahrain gets a surprise invitation to the White House for the same days during the summit. Of course pleasing Bush is much more important (or less damaging) than pleasing Syria. The king is forced to skip the summit.
– The Yemeni president which had an initiative in the making for peace between Hamas and Fatah days before the Arab summit, decides less than 24 hours before the summit to not attend and let his initiative evaporates (many analysts say that his conciliatory initiative among Palestinians had angered the Saudis and the Americans for different reasons).
– Ms. Rice surprisingly decides to visit Mahmood Abbas in Ramallah during the first day of the Arab summit (not before nor after), putting him in a tough position: Go to Damascus for a possible agreement with Hamas (while angering the White House at the same time) or keep the destructive status quo with Hamas and please Rice? He decided to cut his trip to Damascus short and skip the bilateral meetings with the Hamas, the Syrians and kill the Yemeni initiative.
– The Jordanian monarch which promised the Syrians (which he now enjoys with excellent economic and water-related relations) that he will be in the summit, gets a red signal in the last 24 hours from the US and skips the summit.

Azmi Bishara (former Knesset member in Israel) said last night in a TV interview on Al-Jazeera that an official Arab source showed him a copy of a letter sent from the US State Department to Arab leaders “urging” Arab leaders not to participate in the summit which was dated in the last few days. If this is true, then it was not a phone call from the US ambassador. It is that official.

The average Arab on the street always welcomes seeing the Arab leaders meet, kiss and shake hands (regardless of how small the actual results would be afterwards). Such Arab meetings on the leaders level usually have massive cultural and economic impact in the mostly tribal Arab street. Seeing the “leader of the tribe” hugging another leader is a green signal for economic and cultural interactions among the peoples.

To the average man in the street, the leaders in the “moderate Arab” axis committed a dual fault this time around: They continued their annoying childish skirmishes on the leaders level and added insult to injury by their blind obedience to the US orders on the expense of the “Arab interests”.

I think Bashar outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons this time. The amount of pressure and the long list of stunts to “embarrass Syria” in the last few days were designed to trigger an angry response from Syria or maybe an angry speech from Bashar that will make him and Syria look like the trouble makers to your average man in the Arab street. I think the Syrians read this correctly and acted wisely.

The Saudi FM’s abrupt and incomprehensible press conference in Riyadh just after Bashar conciliatory speech in the summit in Damascus (and during the speeches of Arab leaders) was an angry reaction and a sign of a plan went wrong.

Your average Arab man in the street is marking his scorecard as follows this time around:

– ONE for the “Resistance Axis” (ie. those who do not receive orders from US embassies according to the definition of your average man in the street).
– ZERO for the “Moderate Axis” (ie. those Arab officials who get their orders from Cheney and the American ambassador in their countries).

March 29th, 2008, 5:33 pm


JH said:

One should note, with regard to Joshua’s comment about the Palestinians, that despite the miscalculations and lack of state institutions he accurately describes, the Palestinians have managed to sustain a level of domestic freedom that in no way corresponds to their complete lack of real power or control over territory.

The persistent international quality and internal freedom of at least one of the universities they have set up, the successful holding of a free election and the peaceful victory of an Islamic party (albeit for about five minutes before the realities of the region kicked in), and the basic ability of people to say what they want about politics and the future without looking over their shoulder / checking the credentials of their addressee – all this is an achievement that stands in sharp contrast to the failure of neighbouring Syria, Jordan and Egypt to allow the people who live there to communicate with each other and their governments.

Bleak as the outlook for the Palestinians is (made only bleaker by “pro-peace” / “pro-Arab” commentary about their trajectory such as the above), the lesson of 1948 has been learnt: don’t leave; and the level of education and freedom is such that surrender may prove not to be a palatable way to stay.

March 29th, 2008, 5:54 pm


JH said:

And I would add in response to IDAF that is it this very level of education that gives a (much-needed) lie to such characterisations of the Arab street.

March 29th, 2008, 5:58 pm


Naji said:

IDAF said: “I think Bashar outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons this time.”
But actually, if you look back and check, Bashar seems to have outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons every single time since leaving Lebanon… It is amazing that it was that easy… and leaving Lebanon made it sooo much easier…!!

March 29th, 2008, 6:06 pm


Alex said:


Good to hear from you : )

Yesterday on Aljazeera there was an Egyptian editor (Al-Goumhouriah?) trying to deny that there is ANY relation between Cheney and Rice’s visits and some Arabs’ decision to not show up … Abdel Bari Atwan was there to argue that the Americans indeed pulled all the stops to rally their Arab “allies” in trying to contain Syria.

I know that I am biased here, but honestly .. there was no comparison between the ease with which the pro-Syria (Atwan) came up with his arguments, and the sweating angry Egyptian editor trying to prove that America did not interfere and that his sovereign Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Jordan really boycotted because it hurts them to see Lebanon not enjoying its full independence.

Also, two interesting quotes from

1) Syria’s culture minister (or education minister) on NBN … he said that if “they” sent their representative to the summit, all the problems they had with Syria could have been discussed and settled right there. He was referring to the M14 group.

2) Syrian ambassador in London also to NBN said “Lebanon’s problems can only be solved inside Lebanon by the Lebanese who are not a banana republic. Lebanon has the Arab world’s top intellectuals. Sria can advice its allies, and Saudi Arabia can “influence” its allies .. but Syria and Saudi Arabia need to be able to talk with each other if they want us to work on it

hint hint.

March 29th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Shai said:


First, please accept my sincere “Mazal Tov” for the birth of your second child. When your children grow up, and learn about what you’ve done all these years for Syria, for the Middle East, and for peace, they’ll surely be very proud of their father.

Second, I believe that the Palestinians, much like us Israelis, are desperately seeking a new leader, one that will act almost as a Messiah, and will pull them out of their endless cycle of suffering and helplessness. Hamas hasn’t been able to work out its differences with Fatah, and vice-versa. Fatah cannot risk another election, because many of its members are still deemed corrupt. But there is hope on the horizon, I believe, in the shape of one Maruan Bargouti. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard ministers from all parties interviewed on radio about the possibility of releasing Bargouti, despite his multiple life-sentence jail terms to be served. Most clearly suggest that either they’re willing to release him immediately, or would be willing to do so under some agreement. Polls taken amongst the Palestinians show he could quite easily become the next President, and could well unite the entire Palestinian people.

As you said, the Golan will be retrieved by Syria, one way or another. I believe that if Israel and Syria can wait out the next 12 months or so, there may be some hope in a new U.S. administration that could reopen a Madrid-type conference with the major players in the region, and this time, no party will want to walk away without achieving peace. If, however, either Hamas or Hezbollah miscalculate and force the IDF into another massive land operation, we may well find ourselves in a catastrophic regional war, involving Israel, Syria, and quite possibly Iran. If I had to bet how such a thing would start, I’d say Hamas would lob a few Qassams that would end up killing 8-9 children in a kindergarten in Sderot, public pressure in Israel would demand a large-scale operation into Gaza, many Palestinians would die (far more than 120 of the last 4-day operation), Hezbollah would probably lob a few tens of rockets (or more) into Israel as a sign of support, and Israel would retaliate everywhere, including punishing Syria in some fashion. If Syria would respond (and it will, this time), we’ll officially be at war.

Besides a truly catastrophic regional war, involving many thousands of deaths (if not tens of thousands), the only good that might come out in the end, is the much sought-after bitter realization on all sides (especially Israel’s), that by not signing peace treaties in this region, even with resistance/terrorism-supporting enemies, much more is lost than gained. That the cycle of violence and bloodshed can and will continue endlessly, until someone on each side gets up, and says “Enough!”. Personally, I don’t see that leader here in Israel at the moment. Olmert and Barak have proven themselves impotent. Their only opposition is Netanyahu, who is certainly winning the popularity polls, and may well be our next PM. We know he is capable of speaking to Syria – he’s already done it, and the same with the Palestinians. He’ll be vehemently anti-Syria, anti-Hamas, anti-Iran, etc., until the moment he’s elected. And then… he’ll change everything, just to be written down favorably in the history annals of Israel and of the world, as the first Israeli leader to achieve peace with the entire Arab world. He won’t miss that opportunity this time around, and he’ll have the majority of Israelis behind him, unlike Barak, Olmert, or any other clown.

And Netanyahu may well be the man to sign the release papers for Bargouti!… So Joshua, I’m sorry, I remain optimistic. I’ve lived in this region far too long to think anything here moves logically, or according to some rational plan. Irrationality and Emotionalism are the modus operandi and the modus vivendi in this part of the world. We can almost look forward to them, sometimes. Especially when there’s nothing better in sight…

March 29th, 2008, 7:09 pm


JH said:

Without wishing to switch the Comment of the blog away from Syria, I agree with Shai’s optimism about Barghouti (the Prisoners’ Document showed that he and Hamas can take practical decisions together), but I remain fearful rather than optimistic about the chances of Netanyahu offering Barghouti enough land and independent power for him to take them. One of the reasons for his popularity, after all, is Palestinian perception that unlike the current Fatah leadership, he is not willing to sign anything in return for a concrete supply contract / ministerial travel pass etc.

Saying that, I am also aware that Shai is a lot more able to predict Netanyahu’s actions than me – I did see him smoking a cigar in a Rehavia cafe once but that doesn’t count as insight…

March 29th, 2008, 7:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What aspect of my analysis did you disagree with? I simply said that both sides have miscalculated. That seems clear to me.

As for comparing Syria’s stand against the United States and M14’s stand against Syria… this to me is a bit pointless. Because what you are essentially doing is complaining about whose manners are better than whose. Who cares? It doesn’t get us anywhere.

After all, do you ever hear people on Syria Comment complaining about “inflammatory” speeches every time Sayyed Hassan leads Dahieh in a group sing-along of “Death to America”, or calls other Lebanese politicians traitors and collaborators? Do you ever hear people condemning Michel Aoun for insulting M14 and his own former patrons and protectors (the U.S. and Europe) every chance he gets? Do you ever hear anyone praise Siniora for being conciliatory when he calls Syria “sisterly” and calls for establishing relations under the proper conditions? Nope… we excuse or ignore them by imagining that they don’t mean what they say.

Why are you so convinced that Bashar and Mouallem always mean what they say?

Idaf said:

Your average Arab man in the street is marking his scorecard as follows this time around:

– ONE for the “Resistance Axis” (ie. those who do not receive orders from US embassies according to the definition of your average man in the street).
– ZERO for the “Moderate Axis” (ie. those Arab officials who get their orders from Cheney and the American ambassador in their countries).

Is that really what this whole issue boils down to for you? Who comes out “looking better” to the average Arab on the street? If so, then here’s a news flash: Syria will win that game all day long, even if Bashar decides to give his presidential addresses in his underwear. Why? Precisely because Damascus markets itself as the capital of the “resistance axis”, and anti-Americanism is the best selling game in town.

Naji said:

But actually, if you look back and check, Bashar seems to have outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons every single time since leaving Lebanon… It is amazing that it was that easy…

It is amazing indeed. What’s more amazing to me is that Bashar could probably be ousted in a coup and forced to flee to exile in Iran, and some people on Syria Comment would still be talking about how he “outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons”!

Why don’t we talk about solutions?

March 29th, 2008, 7:35 pm


Ghassan said:

Syria outsmarted Isreal too! Syria did not retaliate when its “under construction for military use building” was demolished by Israel! Also, Syria did not retaliate when Mughneiah was killed in Damascus by (Syrian allies in Lebanon say that they have evidence that Israel killed Mughneiah)! What did Syria do? Talked a lot and then invited Israel to negotiate for a peace agreement! Wow, what a smart regime!!!

March 29th, 2008, 7:43 pm


Shai said:


I don’t know if your comment about Syria playing it smart was sarcastic, or not, but I certainly agree – If there’s one party in our region that is keeping a cool head, not reacting quickly, considering its moves and responses very carefully – it’s of course Syria. I don’t know what it is doing behind the scene (aside from talking peace), but overtly it seems to be playing its cards quite smartly.

March 29th, 2008, 7:52 pm


offended said:

I usually enjoy reading your analysis, but sometimes you sound like you’re losing it.

You’ve concluded your comment by saying “let’s talk about solutions”. And this is exactly what Bashar was calling for in his speech today. The 14 marchers do not want to talk to Syria, although they know very well that they’d have to eventually, but they are just unable to come to terms with the reality. It’s like they know that Syria is one of the key to resolving their problem but they just ignore all the ways of accommodating this fact. Just because they are too traumatized or ‘disgusted’ to talk to the Syrians.

It’s funny when Arabs boycotts each other, you know, like the kindergarten kid who would cross two index fingers at the other and say ‘eta3tak’ (I am boycotting you)… I think grown-ups should have a better way of mending their troubles.

But I am not worried really, we have a rather obscene mathal in Aleppo that says: “darb al kalb 3al’asab” (the dog must come back to the butcher shop – no pun intended!)

March 29th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The March 14 guys have been talking to Syria for 16 months now, via its allies in Lebanon. As we’ve seen, the various initiatives that have been proposed, negotiations held, interventions launched have all failed.

What else do you want them to do? Go to Damascus (the butcher shop) and beg like dogs? Those days are over.

Bashar can call for solutions all day long, but what good is it if his actions don’t match his words? He was supposedly supportive of the Arab initiative (which the ENTIRE region, the U.S., Europe, and the Lebanese government supported), but when Hizbullah and Aoun didn’t accept it, he just threw up his hands and said: “I can’t make them do anything they don’t want… They’re independent!”

Come on, this is a joke. Where’s that good old Syria Comment cynicism when you really need it?

When I say “Let’s talk about solutions,” I mean solutions that are mutually acceptable to both Lebanon and Syria. Paralyzing the Lebanese government for 16 months is not a satisfactory solution, from this Lebanese person’s perspective.

March 29th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

PS: Come to think of it, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, and prepare a post on the topic of “solutions”, so that you can attack me there. 😉 Who knows, maybe I can persuade you to go back to enjoying reading my analysis.

March 29th, 2008, 8:44 pm


Naji said:

QN said: ” What’s more amazing to me is that Bashar could probably be ousted in a coup and forced to flee to exile in Iran, and some people on Syria Comment would still be talking about how he “outsmarted the Saudis/neo-cons”! ”
…that would be our Alex 😉

But I don’t see any premonitions of that scenario, and simply surviving at every turn during the past few years counts as outsmarting Condi and her local minions… To even “talk about solutions”, you have to survive first… at least just to prove you are worth talking to…!

March 29th, 2008, 8:47 pm


offended said:

The cynicism of SC is still thriving. And the butcher shop reference was a joke by the way; I don’t think Bashar is that vindictive to relish at the sight of Junblat coming to beg him. He proved so today in his speech. (nor I wish for walid to be seen in that state even though I don’t like him)
It is obvious to everybody that Syria and its allies in Lebanon do not want to carry on with this stale situation for ever. But they also do not want to compromise more than they’ve done already. So the key to the matter is more talks and accommodation. Time is not by the 14Mer side (do you disagree?). in less than a year you will have a different American president whose policies toward the region will be more realistic. And that means talking to Iran and Syria together. The ‘American Pressure’ will be rendered as a burnt card for the 14Mers. But they can’t help it really, because they simply do not trust Syria. They know that they’ve gone too far in the game of antagonizing her and trying to topple its regime to now be comfortably able to talk to her.
What I suggest for 14M folks out there is this :
1- You need to bite your tongue and accept the reality that Syria is going no where anytime soon.
2- You need to separate the tribunal and the murder of Hariri from your relationship with Syria. Retract your earlier indictments and wait for the tribunal to make any judgements…
3- You need to stop the insults; it’s leading nowhere. It’s doing nothing but antagonized more and more Syrians. Even the portion of Syrians who are not so happy with the regime do not accept the racist remarks by some of the 14Mers.
4- Read Gerry Adam’s ‘making peace in Northern Ireland’ or Richard Branson’s ‘losing my virginity’

March 29th, 2008, 8:59 pm


idaf said:


The M14ers have been talking AT Syria for few years now through lectures on their and Saudi media. This does not work. However, even if they decided to talk with Syria directly this would most likely not work. Saudi needs to talk with Syria (not at it through the media) to get things solved.

Equating Syrian interests with those of the Lebanese opposition (with all its fractions, HA, Aounis, etc.) is overly simplifying the problem. I think this is where you get it wrong. They are 2 different entities with different interests.

IT IS in Syria’s immediate interest to solve the Lebanese problem and have a Lebanese president in place as soon as possible regardless of what comes later. Syria can then claim credit and have the Saudis paid media off its back, make friends with France as well as taking one more excuse off the neo-cons’ hands. Syria’s more than happy with Sleiman and prefer him to Aoun.

IT IS NOT in the Lebanese opposition’s interest to give up its last negotiation card and have Sleiman as a president WITHOUT having a national unity government where they have some say in. This of course is red line for the neo-cons which do not want HA with any legitimate role in any government in Lebanon.

Any objective observer would see that Syria’s current dilemma in Lebanon is the choosing one of the following options:

Option 1- The short term tactical approach: Syria can follow its immediate national interest by pressuring its allies to accept defeat (which will please the French, the Saudis, etc for a while) but will destroy its relationship with its allies in Lebanon.

Option 2- Think long term strategic approach (which Syrian leaders are historically good at): This entails that Syria would put up with the pressure from the French, Americans and their moderate Arab surrogates (Saudis, etc.) for now until Syria’s allies in Lebanon get their fair share of power in Lebanon. This will mean that Syria would please its current allies in Lebanon (HA, Amal, etc.) and maybe create new ones (Aoun) for the future.

Despite some shared interests between Syria and its allies in Lebanon, there are some conflicting ones as well.

You see, this is a long term Syrian investment. Syria is currently paying a lot in advance by putting up with unbearable economic and political pressure from the US administration and its regional allies. But after Bush is out office and the Saudis and their surrogates in Lebanon are weakened and they accept sharing power with half of the Lebanese population that happen to be Syria’s allies, Syria will start calculating its ROI, which will be keeping HA strong, having a real longer term stability in Lebanon without neo-con influence and with smaller Saudi role and maybe creating even new allies in that neighboring country.

History suggests that IT IS a matter of time until Lebanese fractions get out of their current state of denial and wishful thinking and agree to share power with the opposition. It is a matter of time until the US loose interest in pressuring Syria to pressure the Lebanese opposition. I think that realizing that they are running out of time, is what caused the Saudis and their Lebanese allies to raise their rhetoric at this time during the summit.

P.S. Saudi media outlets are currently hysterically trying to prove that the summit has failed even before day one has ended. Al-Arabyia has managed to get every single one of its anti-Syria chorus on TV since the morning.. all repeating one angry and hysterical message: “The summit has failed and Syria is the cause of its failure”. Saleh el-Qallab has outperformed himself on usage of insults and curses on live TV… I bet Jumblat is extremely jealous watching him.

March 29th, 2008, 9:28 pm


norman said:

The problem in Lebanon can be solved If the president of Lebanon can dissolve the parliament and call for new election that will have a new election law that will lead to a more representative government.

March 29th, 2008, 10:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The many enemies of Syria have helped it furnish its image and claim that she is a major regional power house. How can Syria not be a major political power house if she is indeed guilty of all that she is accused of? The press continues to refer to KSA and Egypt as the two regional powerhouses. How could they be such if they cannot make any impact on the developments in tiny Lebanon? Let us face it; even the mighty U.S.A has not been able to impose even the smallest of its wishes on that country. By the admission of the above so-called major players, it is Syria that has stood in the way of a solution. But, by making such a claim one cannot but implicitly, if not explicitly, admit to the power and influence of Syria on the ground. Once this admission is made, it must also follow that Damascus cannot possibly be snubbed and ignored if a solution is to be find in this region.

The new young leader of Damascus has already earned his title as a lion. How could he not be if he has prevented the election of a Lebanese President against the wishes of the region’s richest and most populace countries backed by the world’s only super power?

Is it therefore surprising that most of the Syrian commentators here or in the country at large feel a sense of pride in their new lion?

March 29th, 2008, 11:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It took years for the US to end Al Capone’s influence in Chicago. It is quite easy to stop processes from happening. Playing the role of the spoiler is not that difficult for ruthless people. What is difficult is building prosperus countries. It is strange that it makes you proud that Asad can make the life of Lebanese miserable but so be it. I would imagine that if you had to pay a personal price for Syria’s unconstructive behavior as most poor Syrians do, you would be saying different things.

March 30th, 2008, 12:01 am


norman said:

Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani (left) chats with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Syria affirms stand towards peace with Israel
By Duraid Al Baik, Foreign Editor
Published: March 30, 2008, 00:55

Damascus: Syria on Saturday emphasised its firm stand towards peace with Israel and called on Arabs to look into ways to reactivate the peace initiative launched in Beirut in 2002.

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, who yesterday assumed chairmanship of the 20th Arab Summit in Damascus without the protocol handover from Saudi Arabia, said that peace could only be achieved after the return of the entire Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 borders.

“Israel’s continuous incursion will never bring them better conditions and will never make us accept giving up an inch of our land or any of our rights,” he said.



The leaders of 11 Arab countries did not attend the two-day summit with Lebanon boycotting the meeting because of what it says is Syria’s role in blocking the election of a new Lebanese president. Lebanon blamed Syria for inciting the opposition to reject any reconciliation plan including the Arab initiative endorsed by the Arab League early this year.


Bashar denied any involvement in Lebanon’s internal politics and expressed the Syrian government’s concerns about the internal division in Lebanon which he said was the reason behind blocking an agreement on national common denominators.

He insisted that Syria believes the solution is in the hands of the Lebanese themselves. The seat earmarked for Lebanon itself was left vacant, but Syria trumpeted the absence of US allies as a triumph over Washington’s influence.

“They [the US] did their best to prevent the summit but they failed,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mua’alem told reporters ahead of the two-day gathering.

“Their aim is to divide the Arab world.”

Several Arab officials have expressed frustration at the West’s “interference” in Arab affairs.

“There has been US pressure on Arab countries to reduce their participation,” Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgham told reporters in Damascus yesterday.

“We as Arabs do not interfere in European summits. It has become a farce and this situation must be remedied by a joint Arab effort.”

Egypt sent a junior minister, while Saudi Arabia and Jordan were represented by their ambassadors to the Arab League.

“There will be no trace of the United States on the summit’s work or agenda,” Mua’alem told his counterparts on Thursday in a preparatory meeting for the summit.

Lebanon has been without a president since the end of November and has been mired in political crisis for more than a year because of feuding between the Western-backed parliamentary majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.

In Beirut, Lebanese university students tore up portraits of Bashar and branded him an “assassin.” Hundreds took part in the protest near the Beirut tomb of former premier Rafik Hariri, assassinated in a 2005 car bombing widely blamed on Syria, which has denied involvement.

At the opening of the summit, Arab League chief Amr Mousa stressed regional stability depended on a solution to the Lebanese crisis.

“The election of a Lebanese president … and the friendship between the two neighbouring and brotherly countries, Syria and Lebanon, are essential for the return of calm and stability to our region.”

March 30th, 2008, 1:25 am


norman said:

23:16 , 03.29.08


Defense Minsiter

Ehud Barak Photo: AP

click here to enlarge text

click here to reduce text

Barak: Negotiations with Syria central Israeli policy goal

‘Israel is the most powerful country in the region, and this is what will ultimately allow it to strive to attain peace agreements,’ defense minister tells foreign ambassadors. ‘We hope Syria will abandon cycle of extremism,’ he adds
Roni Sofer

“One of Israel’s central policy goals is to launch peace negotiations with Syria and to see Damascus abandon the cycle of extremism,” Defense Minster Ehud Barak told 50 foreign ambassadors at the Labor Party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Arab summit

Assad: Israel rejecting peace / Roee Nahmias

Arab Summit in Syria off to medial start as only 11 Arab League leaders accept Syrian President Bashar Assad’s invitation to attend Damascus gathering. ‘Syria believes in peace, Israel not interested’ he says
Full Story

“We are following the developments in the North, including the strengthening of Hizbullah with Syria’s backing and the goings on beyond the Syrian border,” he told the envoys, “Israel is the most powerful country in the region, and this is what will ultimately allow it to strive to attain (peace) agreements.”

The defense minister continued to say that Israel is facing numerous security-related challenges, including Islamist extremism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.

“We consider Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Fatah as partners for peace,” Barak stated, “but two sides are needed to achieve peace.”

‘Israel not interested in peace’
During the course of the week Barak is scheduled to meet with 27 ambassadors from European Union countries.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Arab League summit in Damascus on Saturday that “we accepted the Arab peace initiative in 2002, but Israel responded by invading the West Bank and killing women and children… (Israel) has built more and more settlements as well as the racist separation fence, pushing the region to extremes.

“Israel has proven, every chance it got, that is not interested in peace; and has done so in front of the whole world,” he added. “The world is doing nothing, all for the sake of ‘Israel’s safety’. We must stress – no security can be guaranteed unless through peace… and peace will come only after (Israel) withdraws from occupied Arab lands.”


March 30th, 2008, 2:32 am


Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:
It took years for the US to end Al Capone’s influence in Chicago. It is quite easy to stop processes from happening. Playing the role of the spoiler is not that difficult for ruthless people.


If there is an Al Capone in the middle east, he is from Israel.

Bashar as “Al Capone” was a manufactured and heavily marketed story that not many people will be reading by next year … except those who insist to believe their own imagination.

The first part of the story is already history … the one about Bashar the weak and confused kid who is not good enough to be president of Syria.

But you can keep trying for few more months. Enjoy it.

March 30th, 2008, 3:57 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with you that time is not on M14’s side. And I also agree that some of them (not all) have gone too far with the negative publicity. At some point, several months ago, it began to become counter-productive. I would have preferred to see March 14 organize its general secretariat in early 2007 instead of 2008, and develop a proper internal strategy, a real sense of the movement’s demands and red lines, and a more direct negotiation style with the opposition. But it didn’t happen, and they were clearly more interested in trying to maintain their own momentum by keeping the anti-Syrian rhetoric flowing. This was a bad move, in my opinion, and it has basically backfired.

As for your suggestions, I think they are fair. If I were a loyal M14er in a leadership capacity, I’d probably consider them carefully as part of a broader strategy.


I actually agree with 95% of what you wrote. It is lucid and honest and very well put. That is exactly the situation, as it exists in Lebanon today, and you may even be right about what M14 will likely do, over the long term. I am personally sick of hearing Fatfat and Hamade and Jumblatt talk about Syria… not because I think they are necessarily wrong all the time, but because it is counter-productive. (In the same way, I can’t stand to listen to Mesh’al and Na’im Qassem go on and on about Israel and America and the rising of the umma and the crumbling of the Zionist spider’s web… 7akeh bala ta3meh, as we say).

However, although I accept your suggestion (which is also Alex’s and Offended’s) that M14 needs to cool it with the anti-Syrian rhetoric, for their own good, I think that you guys need to recognize that these Lebanese politicians are not just drones being remote-controlled by neo-con Washington. They have legitimate demands and concerns, which are also held by at least half of the Lebanese. These people:

a) do not want to see Lebanon go back to Syrian tutelage;

b) have major worries about Hizbullah’s weapons and the potential they raise for yet another war;

c) are tired of being cannon fodder for the conflicts promoted by the Iranian-Syrian axis of “resistance”;

d) etc.

Syria and its allies need to recognize that these demands and concerns are not simply going to go away. Even if the majority admits to more power sharing with the opposition (which I think is important and necessary), the legitimate demands of the Lebanese people on the issues of Hizbullah’s weapons, and bringing the killers of Lebanese politicians, journalists, and intellectuals to justice will not simply fizzle out.

Finally, Ehsani, I have to agree with AIG on this one. Of course Syria is an important power in the region and has clout, above all in Lebanon. It ran the country for decades… it is no secret that it still has tremendous influence, much more than Egypt and KSA do. How does this necessarily translate into pride?

March 30th, 2008, 3:58 am


Thomas said:

Dear Offended-

Why do you need to resort to ad hominem? You sound a bit frustrated. Certainly someone of your superior intellectual qualities can do better. Hell, I bet you are charter member of Syrian MENSA…..sitting around the hooka shop listening to old inspirational speechs by Bashar, Hafez, and Yassar!

March 30th, 2008, 4:10 am


Qifa Nabki said:


One more thing: you make the case that Syria’s allies may not have the exact same interests as Syria, and that they can operate independently of Syria. I would suggest to you that March 14 is no different. They have their patrons and benefactors in the U.S., Europe, and the Arab world, but they are ultimately Lebanese… just like Hizbullah and Aoun and Franjieh, etc.

Part of the problem, I feel, is that people like to imagine that the other side is acting only in the interests of their patrons, rather than expressing legitimate national concerns… while their own side is acting honestly and legitimately and is faithful to principle.

The truth lies somewhere in between, on both sides.

March 30th, 2008, 4:18 am


EHSANI2 said:

May be that pride thing was not the best use of words. The main theme of my note is that Syria has proved to be a critical player in the region. Its success has been predicated on building superb strategic alliances that have proved to be enduring and beneficial on the ground. As to Lebanon, were the Syrian leadership to move to Botswana tomorrow is one to conclude that Lebanon’s problems will somehow all disappear?

March 30th, 2008, 4:19 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Again, was the Syrian regime successful? Yes. Were the Syrian people in general successful? No. In the end, that means Syria was not successful.

When you have a regime that is not accountable to its people, and does not care if they lag in development relative to the rest of the world, it is a difficult regime to pressure. Alas, that is the case with the Asad regime. Asad can survive like Hafez did, but the people of Syria will pay a heavy price just like they did during Hafez’s rule.

March 30th, 2008, 4:30 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki said:


What aspect of my analysis did you disagree with? I simply said that both sides have miscalculated. That seems clear to me.

Syria did not miscalculate what can happen if Hariri was killed. Why?

1) If we believe the Jumblatts and Fatfats that Syria indeed killed him (25 to 33% probability, accordig to me) then … we need to believe them also that Syria also killed all or most of the other Lebanese politicians and journalists who were assassinated in 2005, 2006, 2007 …

And that means that Syria did not miscalculate how difficult it would be to kill Hariri … if Syria miscalculated and was surprised at the unified Frencg Saudi American assault on the Syrian regime following Hariri’s assassination, ten Syria would not continue the assassinations …

But according to jumblatt they did … and herefore it is all planned… no surprises there.

I wil add another point: When Hariri was asked to resign in 1998 in favor of Salim Hoss … 3 years later Bashar had to bring him back after Chirac and Abdullah both made it clear that they will not do business with Syria if Hariri is not back.

So … Bashar knows that changing Hariri with Hoss was not allowed … surely he concluded that killing Hariri is not allowed either.

As for comparing Syria’s stand against the United States and M14’s stand against Syria… this to me is a bit pointless. Because what you are essentially doing is complaining about whose manners are better than whose. Who cares? It doesn’t get us anywhere.

After all, do you ever hear people on Syria Comment complaining about “inflammatory” speeches every time Sayyed Hassan leads Dahieh in a group sing-along of “Death to America”, or calls other Lebanese politicians traitors and collaborators?

Manners? … no. It is much more than manners. I KNOW how hard Imad Moustapha worked to try to convince the US administration to talk to Syria. Syria would have really prefered if there was a way to be friends with the Bush/Cheney administration.

Same with Israel .. you noticed I’m sure that from 2004 to 2008 Bashar mentioned over 100 times that he wants peace negotiations to start with Isael immediately.

As for Nasrallah’s extreme speeches … I am as uncomfortable hearing them as you are. I keep hoping it is not too late to cntain HA’s energy when it is time for settlements.

But I have some confidence in Nasrallah’s wisdom. I am still betting he will do the right thing.

Why are you so convinced that Bashar and Mouallem always mean what they say?

Not always … I can tell the difference when they are explaining their country’s long term strategy (whoich is constant and clear) and when they are engaging in tactical games… like when Mouallem says that Syria and the Kingdom have excellent relations … I did not believe that one.

Another one I don’t believe now: Syria is not interested in peace with M4 … that point was passed about six month to a year ago.

But I believe Syria is eager to show the whole world how it will be Lebanon’s best friend once Lebanon is ruled by friends of Syria.

March 30th, 2008, 4:38 am


Shai said:


I hate to ruin the mood… but Barak at this point can only talk, not deliver. As a part of government, and in fact as Defense Minister, he’s had no positive influence on our PM Olmert whatsoever. Fact remains, Olmert has not taken any substantial steps towards restarting talks with Syria… Barak is chiefly responsible for the staggering amount of road blocks that make life in the West Bank impossible for Palestinians, and despite endless promises, he’s done nothing to relieve the terrible pressure. His statements regarding sudden “strategic policy” inclusions of Syria may make headlines in Ha’aretz, but they don’t fool me anymore. How can a man who can’t read the most basic needs of the Palestinian people ever be expected to understand those of the Syrians or the Lebanese? If he ever gets to negotiating personally with Bashar, or al-Sharaa, which I seriously doubt, he won’t have the Syrian people in mind, but rather only Bashar, and the most he can get out of him. He won’t understand what the Syrian people need in order to make peace with us, he’ll instead treat it as some business deal negotiation, and that’s why it will fail time and again. The only one that might do better, but no earlier than a year or so from now, is Netanyahu, if he wins the next election. Sad as it may be, in our irrational reality in the ME, only those who preach for war end up making peace…

March 30th, 2008, 4:45 am


ausamaa said:

سعود الفيصل: لا توجد رغبة عربية في عزل سوريا

Would you buy a used car from this man?!

March 30th, 2008, 5:29 am


Alex said:

Saturday, March 29, 2008 – 12:05 PM

President Assad’s speech, Saturday.

Your Excellencies and Highnesses

Dear brothers and sisters,

On my behalf and on behalf of the Syrian Arab people, I extend to you a very warm welcome in your country, Syria, which receives you today with love, respect and sincere hope that this meeting among brothers is going to be a beneficial meeting for the Arab nation whose sons and daughters are looking forward to the achievement of solidarity, dignity and prosperity for this nation at a critical juncture of its modern history.

The convening of this Arab summit in Syria at this critical stage is a great honor and responsibility which we appreciate due to our strong belief in the importance of joint Arab work and its significance to our Arab nation that aspires to take its esteemed place in today’s world.

We tried our utmost to prepare the right conditions to make this summit a success, and we tried to overcome many of the obstacles which stood in its way. Especially as we all recognize the difficult stage and the sensitive developments evinced by our nation, to the extent that it is not an exaggeration to say that we are no longer on the brink of danger but in its midst and we could feel its direct effects on our countries and people. Every day passing without making a decisive decision that serves our Arab national interests makes the possibility of evading catastrophic results more remote and far reaching.

However different our opinions may be about the nature of these dangers, their causes and the best ways to face them (and it is only normal that members of the same family may entertain different opinions about the same issue), what is beyond doubt is that we are all in the same boat, facing turbulent currents, and there is no doubt that we have no alternative to consulting, coordinating and working with each other to unify our stands, regain our rights and achieve growth and development for our countries.

We live in a world that is passing through extremely important changes which are basically initiated and mapped by great international powers. This has incited many countries in the world to formulate their own regional blocs which consolidate their powers and enhance their interests, sometimes without initially having any thing in common among them. How natural and logical it is, then, for us, the Arabs, who constitute a natural national gathering that possesses all factors of success, that by far exceeds the factors enjoyed by any other regional bloc, to group and coordinate our efforts together? This becomes even more pressing in view of the challenges which are threatening our inner strength, making some of our Arab countries open fields for conflicts among others, though assuming the shape of a conflict among our people, or making us a target for aggression, killing and violence exercised by our enemies.

There is no doubt that there are many obstacles which stand in the face of our desires and aspirations to achieve what we want. Although we often agree on the objectives, there are differing views of the vision and the process. This needs not be a problem once we conduct an honest dialogue. Our dialogue and our deep conviction in the necessity of making an initiative to make active and serious stands will enhance our ability to overcome the difficulties through addressing them realistically, frankly, and with sincere regard for the highest interest of the Arab nation.

My dear brothers,

Many summits were convened during the past decades, some of which were convened at critical junctures. We succeeded at certain places and stages, and did not quite succeed at others. If the Arab situation is not quite satisfactory to us, this is not due to the summits, themselves, as much as it is due to the nature of the Arab-Arab relations and the circumstances surrounding them, both in the past and the present, and the way the results of these circumstances reflected on Arab summits. Yet, at many stages, and when the will was there, we were able to adopt stands expressing the real interests of the Arab nation. If wars and occupations were the most dangerous issues with which we were confronted during the past decades, the peace battle was no less significant. For many years past, we all recognized the importance of peace, and we expressed that at all times, and in different ways, beginning with our announcement over three decades ago that we believe in a just and comprehensive peace, and that we are prepared to realize it, through the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, until we reached the Arab initiative for peace in 2002. That initiative expressed, without a shadow of doubt, our common intent, as Arab states, that we collectively want to make peace, provided that Israel showed its real readiness for peace.

Despite all what we did, what was the Israeli response to this Arab initiative? Immediately after the Arab initiative, Israel led a huge aggression on the West bank and imposed a siege on the Palestinian people, killing their women and children. We all remember the Massacre of Jenin and the hundreds of martyrs who were killed by Israelis. Israel continued to build more settlements and it built a racist wall, and followed it with an aggression against Lebanon and Syria, and carried out political assassinations. Through doing all this, Israel was pushing the Israeli public opinion towards more extremism and more racism against the Arabs, rejecting, in the meantime, as it always did, to respond positively to the requirements of a just peace in accordance with its policies which are against peace. All this has taken place under the sight of the entire world and its absolute failure to take any firm and active measure to deter Israel from such acts, and under the pretext of ensuring Israel’s security, a pretext that has always been marketed by Israel, and those who support it.

Apart from discussing the security concept only from the Israeli perspective, as if the security of the Arabs should not be taken into account, we like to stress that security can only be achieved through peace and not through aggressions and wars which will only bring more pain and suffering. As for peace, it can only be achieved through the full withdrawal from Arab occupied territories and the full return of Arab rights. This means that security cannot be achieved before peace because occupation is the antithesis of both security and peace and because if security is not mutual and embracing the Arab side it will be only a mirage. Unless those who promote “security first” happen to assume, or to wait from the indigenous owners of the land to surrender to occupation, and from free people to accept to become slaves. Anyone who knows history surely knows that this logic has been defeated. Even if this logic were to be found at some moments, it is temporary, misleading, and it is always followed with more wars, destruction and regret.

If we, at the Arab level, have not missed any opportunity to express our desire for peace, the latest of which was our participation in Annapolis Conference, we find out that Israel has, also, used every opportunity but to prove the exact opposite, to prove its haughtiness and its outright rejection to implement international resolutions, and to prove its disregard for our rights and for all our peace initiatives.

The question that pauses itself here is do we have the peace process and our initiatives as a pawn to the moods of successive Israeli governments, or do we search for choices and alternatives which may well achieve a just and comprehensive peace and guarantee the return of our full and complete rights ? In other words, do we continue to submit unconditional offers to them, to pick up whatever they choose whenever they choose to respond to; and should these initiatives be influenced by the aggressive policies and the Israeli massacres, or are they abstract initiatives unrelated to either time or circumstance?

If the above mentioned initiatives include no call to escape to the front through wars on the Israeli style, they certainly include no acceptance of escaping backwards through submission and subservience to Israeli dictations. Rather, they are a call to review the substance of our strategic choices and to search for a balanced stand that accommodates the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace, and what the return of occupied territories and the guaranteeing of legitimate rights means, on the one hand, with the provision of the minimal level of steadfastness and resistance, as long as Israel continues to reject peace and launch aggression against us, on the other hand. Here we are meeting today while the blood of the martyrs of Israeli massacres, has not dried up yet, enveloped with an utter silence of the world and the anger of the Arab people and the condemnation of every one who has a free conscience in the world.

As we express our pain and condemnation of the suffering inflicted on our Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank of killing, blockade and destruction at the hands of the Israeli death machine and death squads, and our regret for what the Palestinian affairs have reached in terms of differences and division, we believe that priority should be given to the Palestinian dialogue. We would like to say to our Palestinian brothers your enemy will certainly use any division among you in order to perpetrate more massacres against you and your children without differentiating between one Arab and another, be this Arab Palestinian or from any other Arab country. Do not be under the illusion that your enemy differentiates between one Palestinian and another, or between the West Bank and Gaza, or between one Palestinian organization and another. All this should prompt you to rise above all differences, however big they may seem to you.

The unity and support of the Arab stand to the Palestinian issue is necessarily influenced by the unity of your own stand. The unity of stand is your guarantee, and the guarantee of your people, and of your cause, and it is the only way for you to regain your rights, in the forefront of which is regaining your land and the return of refugees. Here, we would like to express our appreciation of the efforts exerted by our brothers in the republic of Yemen and our support to the Yemeni initiative to resume dialogue, and we see in this initiative an appropriate framework for an agreement between Palestinian sides. We call upon all Arab countries to put an immediate end to the blockade imposed on Gaza, as an introduction to ask countries of the world to do the same.

In the context of speaking about rights, we, in Syria, emphasize that peace can only be achieved after the return of the entire Golan to the line of June 04, 1967. The Israeli continuous evasion will never bring them better conditions and will never make us accept to give up an inch of our land or any of our rights. The concessions they were not able to get from Syria in the past, will never be obtained by them in the present. As for betting on time so that rights may be dropped or forgotten, it is certainly to no avail, because time has produced generations who cling more tenaciously to their land, and who are more committed to resistance.

As for Lebanon, we feel very much concerned about the state and the inner division in Lebanon which is blocking an agreement on national common denominators. Despite all the propaganda about conditions in Lebanon we affirm, once again, our concern for the independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and stability. I owe it to the transparency between me and my brothers, the Arab leaders, to clarify what has been circulating about the so-called Syrian interference in Lebanon and the calls, statements and pressures to put an end to this influence. I would like to say to you, honestly, that what is happening on the ground is the exact opposite. The pressures which had been exerted on Syria for over a year now, and more frequently and extensively during the last few months, all aim to force Syria to interfere in the internal affairs of Lebanon. Our answer was clear to everyone who asked us to do something to that effect, and I shall reiterate our answer in front of this esteemed summit, which is as follows: The key to a solution in Lebanon is in the hands of the Lebanese themselves. They have their own country, their own institutions and their own constitution and they are capable of doing that by themselves. Any other role should be supportive to them, and not an alternative to their role. We, in Syria, are absolutely ready to cooperate with any Arab, or non-Arab efforts, in this domain, provided that the initiative, or any initiative, is based on the ground of national reconciliation, because it is the only foundation for stability in Lebanon which is our ultimate goal and objective.

As for our brotherly Iraq, which is suffering from very cruel circumstances, it needs the collaboration of all our efforts to support and help Iraq to achieve its sovereignty, stability and security, on the basis of national unity that embraces all the composites of the Iraqi people. The starting point for national unity is the achievement of national reconciliation among its citizens till they achieve complete independence and the exit of the last occupying soldier.

There is no doubt that the stability of Iraq is important to all of us, because it is not possible for our Arab region, in particular, and for the Middle East, and perhaps further, in general, to witness stability while Iraq is as turbulent as it is today. The stability of Iraq is intricately connected to its unity, which in its turn, is linked to Iraq’s Arab identity and dimension. In this regard, we all have the responsibility to consolidate the Arab presence in Iraq in cooperation and coordination with its government. Despite the importance of regional and international support, none of them is an alternative to our role in preserving the stability and Arab identity of Iraq.

We stress the unity of Sudan, its sovereignty and stability and call for the support of the efforts exerted by the government of Sudan to address the humanitarian situation in Darfour and achieve peace, security and stability for that part of our brotherly country, Sudan, away from foreign interference in Sudanese internal affairs. We reject any attempt to impose solutions or formulas under the pretext of the humanitarian situation.

All what has preceded calls upon us to establish the best relations with neighboring countries with which we share historic ties and common interests that serve our countries and people with the aim of achieving stability to our region and finding solutions to existing problems. We stress the necessity to solve any problem that may arise with these neighboring countries through direct dialogue and continuous contacts, which are able to erase causes of difference and dispel concerns about intentions.

Amidst the many issues which occupy us, the phenomenon of terrorism constitutes one of the current challenges with which we are faced. At the same time that we condemn all terrorist practices which target innocent civilians, and stipulate our stand against terrorism, we, in the mean time, emphasize that we consider fighting occupation a legitimate right for people guaranteed by all international legislation and human codes. We also stress that we consider the Israeli state terrorism against our Arab people the most dreadful form of terrorism in current times.

Brothers, Excellencies and Highnesses

Arab-Arab relations have witnessed a progressive growth during the last few years, particularly at the economic level with the introduction of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement. The trend of Arab investments going to Arab countries is promising more growth. As for the cultural and educational side we have a lot of work to do in the face of a dangerous foreign cultural campaign that negatively influences young generations and their relations to their national mother culture. The starting point for any endeavor in this domain is to work for the consolidation of Arabic language at the national level, because our Arabic language is the vehicle that carries our culture, our roots and our historic memory. Its loss, therefore, means the loss of our history and of our future. On the agenda of the summit is a project to link the Arabic language to knowledge society so that our language remains the language of culture and life that preserves our cultural existence and protects our civilized identity.

We have to press on with our domestic reform that responds to our national and developmental requirements and is in accordance with our cultural constituents. We should not hesitate to reject any form of interference in our internal affairs, regardless of the headings it may assume, and of the styles or means it begs. The experiences of yesterday and today have all proven how expensive it is to impose changes from the outside, and how costly it has been to impose predestinated political and economic prototypes on developing countries.

Your Excellencies and Highnesses

It is true that the time of the summit is calculated in days and hours, but it is an important juncture during which we add few blocs to the building we aspire to construct. It is true that what is important is not what we say at the summits, but rather, what we do in between the summits, but the summit remains essential to decide the right direction and the necessary speed of what we intend to do later.

It is true that, in both words and deeds, we are open to cooperation with the others in the world, but what is truer is that this cooperation will bear fruit, only, when we rely on ourselves. The common denominators that combine us as Arabs are many and fundamental; as for points of difference, if they fall under the framework of concern for our nation, there is no doubt, then, that the solid building, that we aspire to achieve for our Arab project, will be completed.

I welcome you once again, my gracious brothers wishing you the best of times in your country and among your people.

Wassalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatu Allahi Wa Barakatuhu

March 30th, 2008, 6:11 am


why-discuss said:

“Syrian ambassador in London also to NBN said “Lebanon’s problems can only be solved inside Lebanon by the Lebanese who are not a banana republic

I say he is wrong: a country with an impractical and outdated constitution, major institutions paralyzed, Parlement in a stalemate, no president, no election law, commercial part of the city paralyzed for more than a year, hysterical and violents attacks of the leaders toward each others and their neighbours, heavy interference of all foreign powers militarily and politically, what more do we need not to qualify it as a LIBANANA republic. Once the Lebanese realize that they are living in a Banana republic, maybe they will wake up, but most lebanese are still looking at their past glory and blame everyone else for the slow desintegration of the country.

March 30th, 2008, 6:27 am


Naji said:

JH said: “Bleak as the outlook for the Palestinians is (made only bleaker by “pro-peace” / “pro-Arab” commentary about their trajectory such as the above), the lesson of 1948 has been learnt: don’t leave; and the level of education and freedom is such that surrender may prove not to be a palatable way to stay. ”

What an incredibly thoughtful and sensitive statement…!!

I wonder if JH could stand for Jeff Halper…?!

March 30th, 2008, 7:31 am


Shai said:


Thank you for posting the translation to Bashar’s speech. We’ve already read bits of it in Ha’aretz, and a plethora of Peace-with-Syria articles is emerging in our media here in Israel. In response to Bashar’s justified finger-pointing at Israel, our esteemed Defense Minister quickly came out with headlines that say something to the tune of “Restarting talks with Syria is of utmost priority in Israel’s Strategic Policy…” As I suggested to Norman, I’m not easily fooled (and suggest that neither our readers should be) by such “hopeful” statements. These come and go based on interests, all too often personal ones, and do nothing more than set us all up for yet further disappointments. Barak has proven himself incapable of delivering. He hasn’t lifted a finger in easing the lives of the Palestinians, even though he could do it in an instant, so why should we assume he would suddenly understand the Syrians? And even if he DID honestly wish to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria, he simply cannot do so, without the explicit support of the same Israelis that are so much against him and Olmert at the moment. The majority of Israelis are against the return of the Golan right now, so Barak is certainly not one to change their mind, and he won’t even try (that’ll be political suicide, if he wants to ever be re-elected).

If talks really do re-start in the near future, the only hope would be Olmert, though again I’m very skeptical. The alternative, as you often suggested, is to wait for a new administration in Washington, and as I suggested, to perhaps have Netanyahu leading us in Israel, so that any peace initiative he undertakes will have the support of the majority of Israelis.

I hope Bashar’s speech will not be torn to pieces by KSA or Egyptian media. It’ll be interesting to see how they interpret his words. All in all, I think the speech was good. He could have attacked the spoilers, but chose not to, which demonstrates courage, maturity, and wisdom. This young leader, that everyone was in such a hurry to “bury” some 8 years ago, has proven to be quite capable, to say the least.

March 30th, 2008, 8:27 am


offended said:

Thomas, what is MENSA?

March 30th, 2008, 9:40 am


offended said:

It’s exactly when wa7ed 7ayawan like AIG tells me that I shouldn’t be proud of my president that I become even more proud!

March 30th, 2008, 9:48 am


wizart said:

Yes pride is good. Especially the right amount needed for peace.

I like pride when coupled with humility which I think characterized Bashar’s speech yesterday. I think the fact that a couple of countries played spoilers contributed to his rather realistic and reserved tune.

What doesn’t hurt you may in fact make you stronger. Bashar was able to make some cool lemonade out of the bitter lemons handed to him.

March 30th, 2008, 10:07 am


Naji said:

“COOL lemonade…” indeed…! 🙂

…and Bashar is now officially the president of the Arab League for the next year, and can thus technically address the whole world (including US) on behalf of ALL the Arabs (particularly because they have all been too cowardly to declare their under-the-table positions!) for a whole crucial year…!!

March 30th, 2008, 10:10 am


ausamaa said:

Wallah as I see it, Syria is now plotting its counter offensive. It has done all it could to look the nice-guy with no result. And “they” have done their utmost to isolate it and demonize it but with little success. I predict that a few noses are targeted to be bloodied now. The music is already playing in Iraq (the Jazerra interview with Muqtada al Sader is very indicative of what to come), and it seems that the echoes of those tunes not will sound nice the “Moderates” to Jordan, Egypt, KSA and least, but not last, the Feb 14 thing in Lebanon. The first rebuff to Saudi will be that the Summit did not take the advice of Saud Al Faisal for Syria to take the opportunity to “settle” (immediately and during the summit) the Lebanese situation. Hence: Saud Al Faisal, get lost! Politely of course.

Never mind the smiles and the cool words, I do not think that Syria after the summit will be the same accommodating Syria before the summit. The Syrian silk golve will be no more in my reading. Let us see what will follow.

March 30th, 2008, 11:10 am


idaf said:

All major Syrian news websites (official and independent) were down during the summit.. SANA, Cham Press and Syria News were all down in the last 2 days when I checked.

Syria News is back online with this message:
Major DDOS Attacks brought down all major Syrian news websites during the summit

Was it the Saudis, the Americans, the M14ers, the Israelis? Conspiracy theorists are welcome to comment!

March 30th, 2008, 12:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Your analysis of the assassinations and miscalculations doesn’t make sense to me. You seem to be saying that we need to take it as all or nothing: either they killed them all, or none of them. If Syria killed Hariri and then continued to kill politicians despite the outside pressures, then this means it was all planned and not miscalculated… This may be what Jumblatt and Fatfat are saying, but it’s not my reading.

I don’t think Syria was necessarily behind all the killings, as you know. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t kill Hariri, and they didn’t anticipate the level of the response. As I said earlier, who could blame Syria for miscalculating on the Hariri assassination’s outcome (if Syria was in fact responsible)? Nothing like what happened in Lebanon in 2005 had ever happened before.

As for your comparison with 1998, I don’t think there is such a comparison. In 2004-2005, Hariri was much more powerful and Syria was much more hated in Lebanon than in 1998. Plus, Hafez was still alive in 1998, and there was a different group of players in Damascus. The level of Hariri’s popularity, power, and Saudi influence in Lebanon in 2005 could not be tolerated anymore, given that Syria’s allies were growing weaker and Hizbullah was coming under much pressure to disarm. It was not a feasible situation for Syria, and so (in my opinion) they took out Hariri in order to create the kind of temporary chaos that would be conducive to their interests and those of their allies. But it was a big miscalculation.

Who knows… maybe I’m wrong. We’ll know after the tribunal, with some luck.

As for U.S.-Syrian relations, I’m with you on the incomptence of the Bush administration. I wish that March 14 had a few wiser allies in Washington, and I wish that Syrian-Israeli peace talks would have been a top priority from 2004 onward. A peace deal would alleviate much of the Hizbullah-related pressure in Lebanon, because Syria would then be playing a role in containing and helping to transform HA rather than keeping them in their uniforms.

Another one I don’t believe now: Syria is not interested in peace with M4 … that point was passed about six month to a year ago.

But I believe Syria is eager to show the whole world how it will be Lebanon’s best friend once Lebanon is ruled by friends of Syria.

You see, my friend, it is precisely statements like this that send shivers up the spines of any Lebanese who remembers the days of Syrian domination. This is exactly what keeps the level of animosity and paranoia towards Syria so high in Lebanon: people don’t want Syria to be Lebanon’s “best friend” as long as Syria’s friends rule Lebanon. There is something sinister about this kind of “friendship”, and it was basically the arrangement that existed prior to 2005. At that time, everybody in the government was Syria’s “friend”… friendship was a prerequisite for admission to that corrupt club. When the power dynamic began to shift, people started receiving threats and reminders of their allegiances.

It will take a long time for trust to be reestablished between the two countries; and I believe that this is the real tragedy, the blame for which rests justs as much in Damascus as it does in other regional capitals.

March 30th, 2008, 1:21 pm


Shai said:


In recent descriptions of our region, I’ve used the term “barrel of TNT” to indicate that things are so flammable right now, that almost anything and anyone can “light the fire”. My biggest fear, is that either Hamas or Hezbollah will miscalculate, and will cause a chain of action/reaction that will plunge us straight into a catastrophic regional war, involving all the players (Israel, Hamas, HA, Syria, Iran). Just two days ago, an “ordinary” Qassam was lobbed by Islamic Jihad at Kibbutz Nir Am. In the fifteen seconds warning sounded by a siren, children in two adjacent kindergartens quickly evacuated and sought shelter. The Qassam landed right in the yard where they were playing, merely seconds earlier. By a miracle of God, a new massive ground operation into Gaza was not ordered that evening. But it could have been.

It’s not quite clear to me whether good fortune, or bad one, has kept Qassam rockets raining down for over 7 years (!), with very little human casualties on our side. But as is the nature of luck, it does tend to run out at times. And the day will come, when 8-9 Israeli children will die, god forbid, or 10-15 adult factory workers, etc. And then, major internal pressure will lead our government to order a ground operation. If in only 4 days the IDF managed to kill 120 Palestinians, imagine what will be the toll if we’ll be there for 30-40 days. Well, you don’t need to “imagine”, do you? You remember Lebanon in 2006. And when hundreds of innocent Palestinian lives are lost, god forbid, what will Hezbollah do? Will they sit idly by? Now that their entire arsenal has been rebuilt and equipped with (supposedly) long range missiles that can reach the Dimona reactor in Southern Israel? My guess is, HA will respond by sending hundreds of rockets (if not more) deep into Israel, hitting major towns and cities, in support of their brethren the Palestinians.

When this happens, Israel is likely going to reply much more severely than it did in 2006, wishing not only to “settle the score”, but perhaps also punish Syria in the process. Multiple air attacks on strategic targets deep inside Syria will force the Syrians to react, most likely with their own SCUD attacks on Israel. And then, we’ll be officially at war. When we respond to this (now a 3rd front), the Iranians may well join in, defending their brethren the Syrians. There’s probably no need to continue this scenario, as it could only get worse from here, not better.

So after this long, doomsday-like scenario, I want to ask you, as a Lebanese, what if anything can the Lebanese people do to make sure HA doesn’t miscalculate again. As long as our conflicts in this region remain “localized”, it seems a full scale war is unlikely. None of the parties are interested in war, but a miscalculation by all sides could easily occur. Those who claim that summer 2006 would have happened in any case, even had HA not kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers, will not buy my argument, and will claim that if it is in Israel’s best interest to start a regional war, it’ll find the way to do it. But with the assumption that it isn’t in our interest (my belief), then the IDF will not initiate attacks on HA if not provoked. The Gaza conflict is ongoing, however. Do you see a possibility of HA not responding to another IDF operation into Gaza? What is Syria’s role in HA’s decision-making process, if any? Is Iran controlling HA much more than Syria? If so, is it likely Iran will instigate a regional war?

March 30th, 2008, 1:57 pm


Observer said:

First, the UN report leaves us still guessing. The M14 group is quiet about this report and the Syrians did not even comment on it as they are busy with the summit.
Second, Arab summits being what they are, my prediction that the absence of the heads of state played well into the Syrian hand as their arguments, speeches, and agendas came to the fore. The Egyptians and Saudis had nothing to offer. Making the Arab League initiative conditional on Israeli reciprocation allows for a lot of room for the Syrians to use.
Thirs, a post Annapolis peace summit in Moscow is agreed upon. If this is true, it confirms that Russia is slowly and surely moving in to fill the void created in the Islamic world by the policies of this administration. As the missile shields is moving forward, Russia is countering by being an observer at the Islamic World Congress, by inviting the parties to a peace process in Moscow, and at the same time by welcoming Iran into the Shanghai group. If Tibet remains an issue and the Europeans boycott the Olympics, expect full cooperation between China, Syria, North Korea, and Iran as well as Russia.
The axis of “laying down” is left with very little to show for.
By the way, Qaddafi, under the guise of being a little crazy, made a lot of sense at the opening ceremony.
I am very happy that HP is back. His most civilized and eloquent and refined contribution was missed terribly by me.
Thank HP for coming back.

March 30th, 2008, 1:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You ask very important questions, and I’m afraid my answers will be impressionistic at best. I personally believe that Hizbullah will refrain from any more theatrics with Israel, at least for the remaining duration of this U.S. administration. And a strategic “buffer” will be strengthened, the closer Syria and Israel get to a peace deal.

I have absolutely no insight into the Iran-Syria dynamic with Hizbullah, vis-a-vis peace. It is clear to me that Syria wants peace, and I think that this has the potential to completely transform the regional situation, so I’m glad that Bashar has been so forward about it. But it’s not clear to me how Iran plays into this.

I would imagine that Hizbullah’s leadership will not jeapardize Syria’s chances for peace… at least in the short term. But Nasrallah can’t participate in this kind of language, even if he personally believes that peace will be a reality in his lifetime. As Observer has rightly said, Hizbullah is the only group in Lebanon with a realistic long-term strategy. I have to believe that they have already come to terms with the fact that the party’s future is in the Grand Serail, and not in the fields of south Lebanon. But, the transition process will be long and complicated, just like Syria’s own peace deal with Israel will be long and complicated.

This is why Syria needs to ‘re-synchronize its clock’ with Lebanon, vis-a-vis peace. Iran, however, may be on a completely different clock — a different time zone, in fact! Alex thinks that its rhetoric is mostly bluster… I’m not as sure.

Read Michael Young’s latest piece on this score, and tell me what you think.

March 30th, 2008, 2:14 pm


Shai said:


I second your thanks for having HP back. I too missed him much.

A question regarding your analysis of this potential new “axis” – why in fact hasn’t this axis already formed? It seems to make an awful lot of sense, ever since the U.S. anti-missile systems issue has come up. What so many of us don’t understand, is that the “poor man’s” best weapon of deterrence is an alliance. If in Israel, and in the West, we understood this better, we would not place preconditions on Syria to dismantle its connection to Iran, HA, or Hamas. The opposite – I’ve always claimed that if Iran was to go nuclear, what would I prefer, a belligerent regime with Syria as a friend, and at peace with Israel, or with a Syria that has no influence whatsoever over Iran, siding solely with the West? Same goes for HA, and also for Hamas. If and when Israel signs a peace treaty with Syria, where would I prefer to have Khaled Mashaal, in Damascus, or in Sudan?

So why isn’t an “Asia Pact” formed (even declaratively) right now, with Russia, China, Syria, Iran, N. Korea, and a few others, that will clearly pose a very real and present “alternative” to U.S. hegemony in the near and far east? No one crazy enough in Washington will dare go to war against any of its partners, and a new regional order would have to be formed by agreement, much more than by force. In the long run, I’m not sure that’s such a terrible thing for this region – perhaps more control and less instability can cause ALL sides to consider their ways, and can lead us onto a more responsible path to eventual peace. This is all theory, which may be a reality in the making, but what do you think?

March 30th, 2008, 2:20 pm


Shai said:


An interesting piece indeed. The same could have been written about Ahmedinejad, or even Khamenei and the rest of his Mullah regime. What is the truth? Who knows. I’m not even sure that Nasrallah himself knows. I mean by that to say that perhaps twenty years ago, the “younger” Nasrallah really did believe that Israel can and should be eliminated. That belief, over the years, may have turned into a dream, and one he knows is unlikely to be realized. The rhetoric may be used to unite his existing and potential followers, or may be a true representation of his belief today. The only thing that makes Israel truly worried about HA, as well as Hamas, Iran, and Al Qaida, is the future possession of nuclear weapons. No one in Israel believes in Van Krefeld’s idea of a nuclear Middle East being the best guarantee for detente, which will lead to peace. I somehow doubt that most Arabs also subscribe to this notion. It’s one thing to be proud of an “Islamic Bomb”, and it’s a whole other thing to know that only the Shia have one, in our region. If in some way, only Spharadi Jews had an A-bomb, I’m not sure the Ashkenazi Jews would be terribly happy, or safe, knowing this was the case, regardless of our brotherliness…

But chances are, that Israel is not going to gamble on this interpretation, being wrong or right. It will, to be safe, assume the worst. Hence it will do its utmost to make sure no nuclear weapons ever exist in Iran run by Mullahs, nor by Hamas, or HA. In a way, this battle behind-the-scenes could in itself bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy. What do our kids do when we tell them they will never taste alcohol? That’s right. It’s human nature, and it makes sense. Instead of taking Iran up on its “civil”-nuclear aspirations, and having the U.S. almost beg Iran to help it achieve these goals, the West isolates Iran, treats it in a patronizing manner, telling it “Now, while it’s ok for some of US to have this capability, it’s not ok for YOU…” What would you and I do if someone behaved that way towards us? It’s clear, isn’t it. So we’re making all the mistakes possible, consistently.

If Michael Young is right, the only way to stop HA’s aspirations, is to make its rhetoric irrelevant, and old-fashioned sounding. Once the Palestinians have their national aspirations met, once there’s peace between Syria and Israel, and, thereafter peace with the entire Arab world, HA will have little to rally its followers after. The liberation of all of Palestine? Hopefully even the Palestinians will agree to remove this as a precondition to peace with Israel, and will await peacefully the next 20-30 years to see if my so-called UME is established, enabling de facto a right-of-return, as much as my children the ability to live and work in Beirut, Damascus, or Riyadh for that matter. Once Israel’s final and permanent borders are established, the religious zealots on our side will also have to come to a realization that their Greater Israel dream will have to remain exactly that – a dream. Extremist rhetoric may always be around in our region, just as it exists anywhere else on this planet, but its followers will become far and few, as its messages become less and less relevant.

March 30th, 2008, 2:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


From your mouth to God’s ears.

I don’t think Michael Young has got Hizbullah figured out completely, but I think that his cynicism is occasionally needed, because we like to sweep their inconvenient rhetoric under the rug. That was easy to do in the 90’s when Syria was cooperating with the U.S. in the hopes of a peace deal; Syria would make sure that Hizbullah only won a few seats in each election, according to U.S. request (!) so Hizbullah was very much in Syria’s pocket at that time.

These days, it’s not as easy. Hizbullah is more independent… it’s a veritable regional player.

Which reminds me of a conversation with a pro-Hizbullah friend in Lebanon (the same one who featured in my discussion with AIG a few weeks back). At the time, Ahmadinejad had just been elected in Iran, and I asked my friend how this would work out for Hizbullah. “Do you think his relations with Nasrallah will be good? Do you think Nasrallah likes him?” I asked. He scoffed and responded: “Of course Nasrallah likes him. Who do you think got him [Ahmadinejad] elected?”


March 30th, 2008, 3:08 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Ya ahibba2i (beloved) Observer and Shai, my deepest thanks for your kind words. I am humbled by your praise as I’m not really sure I contributed much beyond comments reflecting a very particular point view resulting from a series of experiences and a certain age. I’m also not sure I’d have anything new to say that I haven’t said before, other than my tireless praise of QN whose views and eloquent expression, for some reason, resonate remarkably with my views and occasionally add “aha!”-type revelations.

Along those lines, I have to agree with QN, that Alex’s analysis
( https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=646#comment-129637 )
left me wanting of logical inferences as well, and also alarmed at the last section regarding Syria’s eagerness to show how supportive it can be of Lebanon as long as the government there is “friendly.”

March 30th, 2008, 3:30 pm


Shai said:

QN, that’s what I love about us Jews and Arabs – we have the same types of cynicism and sarcasm. If only our humor replaced our innate suspicion and hatred… When the Europeans were eating out of mud, Algebra and Astronomy were being developed here. This region was once a great place, and it could still return to become one once more. It’s all up to us.

March 30th, 2008, 3:32 pm


Shai said:


Welcome back! As our region is slowly (or quickly) plunging even deeper into the violent abyss, it’s good to have the few good “Patriots” on either side, reminding us that all hope is not lost, and that we truly can make our way back out, onto safer shores. Your clear and optimistic spirit was deeply missed here. Good to have you back, HP.

March 30th, 2008, 3:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are you really in Israel?
Israel is a great place already.

As for the relevant history of the middle east, it is 400 years of Ottoman empire followed by European colonialism. When I read about the algebra and astronomy I thought wht stop there? After all, the middle east is where the Garden of Eden is! We should go back to those times!

More seriously Shai, take the example of Egypt that has peace with Israel. Has the situation of the average Egyptian gotten better or worse since the peace relative to other countries in the world? It has gotten worse. Peace is not the answer to the problems of the middle east. It would be nice to have peace but it won’t solve any of the problems of the average Syrian or Egyptian.

There will be real peace in the middle east when any person in Damascus has the same opportunities in life as a person in Dearborn. And that is what needs to be accomplished.

March 30th, 2008, 4:04 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Habibi ya 3ammo HP


Many thanks for your kind words, as always. I am here to learn, just as much as I try to express “the other point of view”. So far, I think I’ve learned far more than I’ve expressed!

The SC community is a wonderful bunch, and we’re all glad that you have returned, just in time for the Lebanese boycott! If only our leaders would take a cue from your actions.

March 30th, 2008, 4:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I attended a Jewish wedding last night, and permitted myself a moment of wistful sentimentality (a rare occurrence, let me assure you) when we lifted our two friends, the bride and groom, up onto our shoulders and danced around them, celebrating their happiness. Why wistful sentimentality? Because this is what I have done at so many Arab weddings, and what was done at my wedding as well.

Let’s hope for the best (and prepare for the worst, as usual).

March 30th, 2008, 4:13 pm


Shai said:


I don’t disagree with you. Of course peace alone is not going to transform this region into the Garden of Eden. At the end of the day, it’s the people of this place that have to change. No doubt about it. But I want to take out the biggest excuse that’s been hindering their growth potential, with leaders on all sides ruling their people like generals, which is the 60 year-long state of war. It’s time to end this, and to have peace, even if a superficial one. Not having a state of war, will enable all the peoples of this region to at last look inward, at themselves, and at their future. And then, they’ll finally be able to ask themselves “now what do we want our future to be?”.

And yes, I do live here… I chose to return to my country some 17 years ago, despite growing up in the West. I felt I needed to help influence the future of my people, no matter how difficult it may be.

March 30th, 2008, 4:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

But the excuse is not stopping anybody, it is just an excuse. The Egyptians have been looking inward for 30 years? Has it helped?
Yes, the peace has helped Israel, but has it helped the average Egyptian?

March 30th, 2008, 5:04 pm


Alex said:

Hi Shai,

I agree with you. As I told you before, I have stopped linking those “good news” from Haaretz about Israeli officials saying”Israel should consider talking to Syria”

After the 50th time, they lost their meaning.

But I am still hoping that there is a good chance by next year there will be a serious effort. I think it is not all Israel’s fault … the regional and international complexities are also not helping.

Qifa Nabki,

My friend. I understand all the “fears” in Lebanon when you hear “Syria wants to be your best friend”

But I’m sorry to tell you that this will be the only way … and I’m happy to tell you that you will see that it is not going to be like pre-2005. Those days are over.

Be positive my friend. Syria will go out of its way to alleviate any rational fears… there will be no Syrian hegemony. Syrians understand Lebanon and they understand the regional situation, believe me, they do. It won’t be a switch that will flip Lebanon back into pre-2005 .. it will be more of a gradual movement back to reality.

And my personal opinion: in 10 years they will probably unite anyway… and it will only happen when people on both sides overwhelmingly want that unity.

We’ll discuss it more when you post your solutions piece tis week

: )

March 30th, 2008, 5:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Lak 3ala raasi ya Alex, tikram 3uyunak.

I will try to be more positive. 😉

March 30th, 2008, 6:04 pm


Shai said:


I’m selling stock in my UME-idea. It’s still early stage, so the price isn’t astronomic. Wanna purchase a few shares?… 🙂 Major capitalization and ROI expected in the next 15-20 years… (no guarantees, though).


The excuse will be removed once no one can point at Israel and say “They’re oppressing the Palestinians, and they’re holding on to Arab territory”. I believe the majority of the Arab world will lose this claim, once we withdraw to the 1967 lines (not unilaterally, only through agreement). There will always be those who also hold claim to Lod, Jaffa, and Haifa, but I believe they will be the minority. The Riyadh Summit talked about 1967 lines, not 1948. It was their choice, and we should sometimes remember that. This is the opposite of the Khartoum 3 No’s. But it’s up to us to take the last few steps, at least with Syria, and when the Palestinians have a leadership that can deliver, with them.

March 30th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Put me in for 100 shares. But I’m also going to purchase 100 shares from AIG’s [no pun intended] Islamic Tsunami fund, just to hedge my bets.


March 30th, 2008, 6:43 pm


Shai said:


You have to choose one or the other. If mine go up, his go down accordingly, and vice-versa. Which do you take? No hedging allowed…

March 30th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Yours is a long-term investment (hence the ultra-low price). His is medium term… I’ll sell at its peak. 😉

March 30th, 2008, 7:25 pm


Shai said:


I think you’re either evading, or being a diplomat, or both… 🙂 You see, you CAN represent the Arab side in peace talks. If it weren’t for your young age, and being a mere high-school student, you could have partaken in a wonderful opportunity that may soon arise. A philosopher long ago chose to become a Christian and accept Christ as his savior, claiming that if what Christians claim is true, then he’d sure better be a believer. And if it’s not, then he “wasted” a bit of harmless time. Either way, he won. Likewise, you should adopt some of the extreme Islamic beliefs, and be in a win-win situation come 10-15 years from now. Then you can truly invest in both funds.

March 30th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I think I’ll remain agnostic, but thanks!

March 30th, 2008, 7:38 pm


Shai said:


Moi aussi. But believe in the UME. It can happen in our lifetime – you’ll see.

March 30th, 2008, 7:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

UME? Why the wishful thinking? Why not learn from history? The European union is the result of two wars in which 100,000,000 people died. It is the result of Americans and Russians occupying almost all of Europe. In many Arab villages the two major hamoullahs don’t get along. Give me a break, UME.

Unfortunately, the Islamic Tsunami is nothing that can be stopped. It is inevitable and will arise because of the lethal combination of demography, failed economies and satellite TV. It is just a matter of time. Just like the fall of communism could not be timed but was inevitable, the Islamic Tsunami will hit us within a decade or two. How long will Egyptians be willing to fight in bread lines and live in graveyards knowing that in other places in the world people are actually living a good life? How long will the average Syrian be willing to live with the knowledge that his children’s future is bleak?

Shai, “peace” is just not relevant to this process. It is just a big excuse. Peace will change nothing. As for Pascal’s wager, I see you are not a christian so it is not very convincing. What needs to be done is to understand the inevitable historical process and get ready for it.

March 30th, 2008, 7:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


To a certain extent, the rise of Islamism that you speak of is already here. The question is, what will the future hold? You talk about a tsunami. What does that mean? Iranian vilayet-e faqih? Turkish Islamist parties holding parliamentary majorities? Nigerian shari`a courts?

People have been talking about the coming Egyptian Islamist revolution for a long time. It hasn’t happened, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with Mubarak’s secret police (like those of Hafez), and some of which have to do with the fact that contemporary Islamism is not a monolith. It takes many shapes.

What are you envisioning?

March 31st, 2008, 12:40 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Hamas lesson is very instructive. The only real alternative to the so called Mubarak and Asad “Arab Nationalism” way is Hamas like parties and rule. This kind of rule will eventually come to Egypt and Syria (perhaps even Jordan). It may come relatively peacefully (Iran like) and then they will become the Sunni version of Iran, or it may come through vicious civil wars (more likely in Syria than in Egypt). As for stopping it, even the Shah’s famous Savak could not stop the process especially when most people will back the religious parties. I think Mubarak’s regime could fold in the same way as it will not be a matter of life or death for them (unlike the case in Syria).

I think there will be a domino effect, once the first Sunni “secular” country goes Islamic, others will quickly follow. These countries will languish for a few decades until people understand that Islamic countries are not that great also. What will follow the Islamic turn, I don’t know.

By the way, I think Lebanon will be immune from this process if it can maintain a western orientation. Nothing can help Mubarak in my opinion and the same goes for Asad. As for Morocco, Algier and Tunisia, I think they will not be leaders in the process but may quickly follow especially if immigration to Europe is stopped (which is bound to happen sooner than later).

My bet is on Egypt going Islamic first.
That country is being held together by staples and shoestrings. It is basically one major bread riot away from Islamic rule. Out of 80 million there are 20 million plus unemployed or not working and many more partially employed. And still the population is growing. Mubarak is Louis XV and his son will be Louis XVI. But instead of pita they will eat baklawa.

March 31st, 2008, 3:23 am


Shai said:


Again I say, you may be right. But, I refuse to succumb to “inevitability”. Those who believe in it might as well remain in their armchairs, grab a bag of potato chips, and enjoy the ride. Communism didn’t fall by itself – people in democracies and capitalist countries worked hard day and night to make those options seem an attractive enough alternative, to make a 2nd-revolution worthwhile. As QN suggests, the so-called Tsunami is already here. Perhaps the biggest waves are still ahead of us, in the form of sweeping revolutions and takeovers (Iran, Gaza, and in many ways Lebanon have already happened).

But I believe one thing very strongly – desperation, or the lack of hope, is the best precondition to convergence. And when Gazans see no hope on the horizon, no replacement of their corrupt government, no economic relief reaching their households, endless closures of their borders and their consequent suffocation, who are they supposed to believe in, except for god? They escape to holy scriptures, because they’re the only promise left. It’s the same everywhere, not just in Islamic countries. Where poverty and desperation exist, in comes religion. And there is plenty you and I can do to try to change that. Peace by itself does little, as you correctly suggested, using Egypt as an example. But when the major issues in the region are dealt with politically, and a state of war no longer exists between the Arab world and Israel, not only will all the people of this region be able to at last look inward, at themselves, but help from outside will also become available.

There are billions and billions of euro waiting to be put into good use, should the receiving end be responsible and ready to receive it. Rich nations around the world, including this region, will undoubtedly contribute to a rebuilding of infrastructure, schools, industry, and indeed society itself. When economic opportunities show up, those who contemplate religion as a means of salvation, may consider other alternatives. There will finally be hope on the horizon.

How can we just sit back and surrender to some religious fate, knowing full well we haven’t come close to doing our maximum to counter it? The answer is, we can’t.

March 31st, 2008, 4:57 am


Enlightened said:


What is your time frame for such a domino scenario? I agree that Egypt will be the first to roll over in such circumstances.

Your Iranian example goes to show that Dictators eventually lose out, when the masses bellies are not full, or not enough of the wealth is shared around will we see real trouble. Egypt is a basket case.

However you say:

“Mubarak is Louis XV and his son will be Louis XVI. But instead of pita they will eat baklawa.”

should read: Instead of pita ( should read fool a egyptian staple diet) they will eat Baklawa.

Ps I like the new AIG can you tell us also about the religious right in Israel and how they high jack Israeli democracy?

March 31st, 2008, 5:04 am


Shai said:


It’s not the religious right that are hijacking democracy in Israel – it’s us, regular secular Israelis, that are enabling the religious parties to blackmail our democracy into stagnation, and uselessness. By enabling a multi-party system, Israelis in essence sealed their own political doom. Almost no government can be formed without a coalition of at least 3-4 parties, usually including at least one religious party. These parties, by definition, have very different ways of looking at life, and at our political reality, and still interpret things through one source – their Rabbinical leaders. They listen to them, and follow blindly. So this so-called democratic process, is enabling those few Rabbis to determine the fate of hundreds of thousands and, indirectly, of all of us. If in order to withdraw from the West Bank, a secular Israeli government will have to beg a 10-seat religious party to give its support, knowing full well that it will agree, if billions of Israeli shekels are sent her way, with little if any inspection and control afterwards, then how wonderful is this multi-party system? A two-party system makes it much more difficult to blackmail any government, to practice corruption on such large scale, to change and disable policy day and night, and to hold an entire nation hostage at the whims of a single party, with barely 10% representation power. In a two-party system, also minorities are represented, not only the “WASP’s”, but in a multi-party system, often the majority are NOT represented, because the minorities can dictate the path the nation may take, or not take.

From what I recall, AIG still supports this multi-party system, as he believes it gives the minorities equal representation. I claim, however, that the way Israeli politics are run, these religious minorities receive very unequal representation, all too often providing them with disproportionate power that makes it impossible for any government to do what the majority of Israelis truly want it to do.

March 31st, 2008, 5:23 am


annie said:

AIG said about the Syrian regime “When you have a regime that is not accountable to its people, and does not care if they lag in development relative to the rest of the world, it is a difficult regime to pressure.” He could apply this to the zionist regime and how they treat their Palestinian subjects and how immune they feel towards UN resolutions and international condemnation.

As for the summit, at the concluding press conference, one had a real feeling of satisfaction. I think Syria prevailed in spite of the pressures.

March 31st, 2008, 6:06 am


Shai said:


Good point, but the “Zionist Regime” is normally called the “Israeli Government”. Not sure I know what “prevailed” means in this case.

March 31st, 2008, 6:11 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

Nick Blanford has a very even-handed piece on NOW Lebanon. He is one of the most temperate journalists I know and his stuff is always worth reading.

Key quote:

“The only headline phrase in his first report was to confirm that a “criminal network” killed Hariri, a curiously worded description that spurred some media outlets to assume that the UN commission had identified the murderers being part of a Mafia-style plot rather than an intelligence-led assassination. In fact, Bellemare was only stating the obvious – that Hariri’s murder was a crime and that more than one person was involved. Furthermore, Bellemare said, “this criminal network or parts thereof are linked to some of the other cases within the commission’s mandate.” That statement hardens the notion that Hariri’s murder was not an end in itself, but part of a broader politically-motivated campaign.”


Personally, I fail to see how the term “criminal network” automatically translates into “couldn’t have been done by a foreign government”.


March 31st, 2008, 6:55 am


SimoHurtta said:

and when the Palestinians have a leadership that can deliver, with them.

When ever in history have the occupied people managed to establish a united “government”? During the Nazi occupation French had the Vichy government and Norway the Quisling. Did those governments represent the real will off the people or stop the resistance? During occupation are always created many often rival militant groups, which have only one common goal, drive the occupier out. When the violent occupation ends only then the normal political process can begin.

What is amusing with Israel’s negotiation process and opinion among the X people, that they “in earnest” believe that a stateless occupied population can or will operate like an independent state. It has never happened and the Israeli administration knows it perfectly well and operates so that a demands meeting “government”/unity can never emerge. Creating a Quisling government and Kapo – force without any real authority doesn’t solve anything.

Time after time has Israel destroyed deliberately and planned the little civil administration Palestinians with EU and Arab money have managed to build. Even the nuclear radiation measurement instruments Palestinians had were destroyed, not to mention all the administrative computer systems they had managed to put up.

Would anybody take seriously if China would say that we talk with Tibetans when they can deliver. Deliver what, the safety for the Chinese (majority), come-on. For many past years in Israel the traffic has been a bigger risk factor for Israelis than the Palestinians.

What is Israel delivering, some picked headers of today’s Israeli English press

* UTJ joins Yesha Council, seeks expansion of Haredi settlement

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party joined hands for the first time Sunday with the Yesha Council of settlements, to promote a cause that both hold dear: expanding the population of the Haredi settlement of Beitar Ilit, located between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

New home for ex-Gaza settlers: Deep in W.Bank

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently approved the construction of 48 new apartments in Ariel, deep inside the northern West Bank.

* ‘Build in Betar Illit or leave gov’t’

* Peace Now: Settlement construction increased since Annapolis


Nothing, only empty broken promises. The ethnic cleansing is continuing and facts on the ground are established with an increasing speed.

And IG’s here are worried about the religious extrimists in other countries / religions trying to spread Islamofobia. Israel has most probably a bigger share of the population which are considered as religious extrimists as any or at least most Arab countries. Pretending that religious extremism is a monopoly of Islam is pure self deception. Those Chief Rabbis who in Israel give orders not to rent apartments and hire Arab workers show the real situation and spirit of the X peoples’ society.

March 31st, 2008, 7:02 am


Alex said:


Since I am expected to answer on behalf of the “pro-regime” group, I would like you to know that all I was saying from day one is:

Let’s wait until the end of the investigation… the tribunal will most probably not be able to link the crime to any government… whichever government ordered the assassination probably did the right thing … stayed very far from the actual killers … a third and fourth and fifth parties are probably in between those who ordered the assassination, and those who committed it

So I did not celebrate this week after I read Bellemare’s report because it is almost totally expected.

It does not mean that Syria is not accused anymore .. but it means that Bellemare still does not have anything tangible against Syria, or Israel, or Iran …

This process is not going away … but it will most probably not lead to any government at the end.

And it will take a long, long time.

So, I think of these consecutive UN investigation reports as the consecutive decisions of Nabih Berri to delay the Presidential elections 😉

But I am happy so far that since Mehlis went back to Germany, the investigation turned professional, it seems.

I hope it continues that way.

March 31st, 2008, 7:17 am


MSK said:

Dear Alex,

I know what you’d been saying since Day 1 – I carefully read everything you write. 😉

And I also disliked Mehlis’ grandstanding – it was unbecoming of a U.N. official and extremely counterproductive. And I am also very happy about the professionalism. Let’s hope the tribunal will be on the same level. And let’s ALSO hope that they’ll actually find out whodunnit. And THEN let’s hope that all parties concerned will accept that result – regardless of what it’ll turn out to be.

But I wouldn’t go as far as comparing the U.N. reports with Berri’s delay of the presidential elections …



PS: Can you please give QN my email address? Thanks!

March 31st, 2008, 7:52 am


Naji said:

Simo makes excellent points for the benefit of the IG’s…, but is anybody listening…?!

March 31st, 2008, 8:03 am


Shai said:

Maybe in the Arctic circle, one can relinquish territory by simply leaving it to the Polar bears to roam through. But in the Middle East, one has to be a bit more careful than that. I was once for unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon, and from Gaza. And then, I was proven wrong. Leaving these territories without agreement was disastrous, not only to Israel but especially to the people left behind. I don’t think we need friends like Abu Mazen to hand the West Bank back to. In my opinion, it should be someone more like Maruan Bargouti, who can quite likely win the support of most Palestinians. In that sense, he can “deliver”, or maintain control of his territory. What good would it be to hand over the West Bank to Fatah today, and have Hamas take over tomorrow morning, only to place its Qassams against most Israeli cities and towns, not only Sderot? If Hamas is ready to talk to us, we should consider also a Hamas-controlled West Bank – that is up to the Palestinians to decide. But if Hamas won’t even recognize us, and still vows to destroy us, what responsible government on the face of this planet would give back territory to them? I’m ready to change my view of Hamas in an instant, but let’s at least have Hamas recognize its Ethnic Cleansing rival, at the negotiating table, not indirectly via al Jazeera, or various Y-experts in Scandinavia.

March 31st, 2008, 8:17 am


SimoHurtta said:

The X man of the nation is amusing. I did not insult him in any way. And this Bibi “peace man” starts again with personal insults. A funny bloke.

In Finland there is no terrorism because we do not occupy any other people by violence. We also treat people as equals, what ever their religion is. Unlike Israel. There are no polar bears in Finland. Actually there are no wild polar bears in mainland Europe. But there are cobras (Naja haje) in Israel. 🙂

During the time Finland was a part of Russia and Russia began pressure us and our culture to much, there was plenty of terrorism (= military resistance). Trains were exploded, Russian military and administration people were murdered. The harder “discipline” acts Russia took the more violent and radicalised the resistance became. Russian of course called these people terrorists. Finally we got our independence.

These deliver excuses are simply funny nonsense. How can occupied people guaranty security for the occupiers. Nobody can be so stupid to believe such iditiosm. Not even Israel as a state can guaranty that there is no violence against Palestinians by individuals or extreme groups (or by its soldiers). This violence by X people occur on daily basis. So how can a badly hurt, fragmented and radicalised “future nation” guaranty safety for the occupier before it has a functioning system and own territory.

Palestinian police complained in a resent BBC program that how on earth can they keep discipline and authority, when during nights they have to go underground and the Israeli execution patrols horse around. Same program also told about a Palestinian banker who had build his family’s house on high spot. Frequently Israeli troops come and take the house, use his bed and other property like their own. An Israeli magazine even had taken pictures of that crime. The magazine with pictures was shown to the BBC reporter and to us – the public. That X man is the reality as we Europeans see the situation. Not that Israel – the victim propaganda. Our national television even had in the news a report from the famous women beating bus lines in “Taleban-” Jerusalem. They must been pulling their hairs off in the Israeli embassy…

Israel should finally put on the table what it offers and what it demands. There is not a single Palestinian leader who can or will deliver that Bantustan plan Israel has prepared for future Palestine. The only realistic starting point are the 1967 borders.

Speaking unilaterally leaving Gaza or Lebanon is amusing. Gaza was left as a surrounded concentration camp, like Warsaw ghetto. For cost cutting reasons. Should the people there have been happy for their “non-independence” and wave flags for that “unilateral” situation Israel left for them. Actually the people of Gaza had more targets when it was full of Israeli military. From Lebanon Israel was driven out by clever military tactic. Israel tried everything possible for decades in Lebanon, including paid own Lebanese militias, but the reality is that Israel was forced out of there by force.

By the way Hams has offered many times to talk with Israelis, but Israelis have said no. From the start when Hamas won the elections. So whom to blame. Remember, Peace Now: Settlement construction increased since Annapolis. What is the excuse – PA did not deliver. Funny in a way (this “delivery demand” Israeli propaganda) but very much tragicomic.

March 31st, 2008, 12:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You are so wrong, you just do not know what you are talking about when it comes to Israeli society. You make generalizations and decide what people believe based on nothing but your own inner thoughts.

If you want us to listen don’t tell us things that with our own eyes we can see are obviously false.

The Israeli government is accountable to its people and when it doesn’t deliver it is promptly replaced in the next election. That is a fact. I fail to see how Israel’s position relative to non-binding UN resolutions changes anything. Asad cannot be replaced by the Syrian people and therefore he does not really care what they think and can decide which “sacrifices” they should make.

There is no perfect system of democracy. For Israel, the proportional parlaimentary one is best. Otherwise, the Israeli Arabs and other minorities would not be represented in the Knesset at all just as the 20% Le Pen supporters in France do not have one representative in the French legislative branch because they are divided among all voting districts. Democracy is hard work and means a lot of compromise. So what? As Churchill said, it is the worst system except for all the others. You should not presume to know more than your fellow citizens what is good for Israel and you should accept the will of the people. I do not agree with most of what Shas supporters stands for, but their vote is just as important as mine, and if they work hard and have more influence politically, good for them. All it means is that I have to work harder myself.

March 31st, 2008, 12:23 pm


kingcrane jr said:

Qifa Nabki,
The popular majority in Lebanon is the segment of the population that needs 30,000 voters to elect a Member of Parliament while the popular minority is the segment of the population that needs 20,000 voters to elect a Member of Parliament.
The popular majority in Syria is the overwhelming segment of the population that would never accept to be part of a capitulation about Palestine.
As to miscalculations, I agree with you.
The Kurdish issue is tricky: With so many assimilated Kurds, the ones that stand out are those who do not have citizenship; shipping them to Turkey is not an option. A program to give them citizenship (providing incentives for assimilation within the Syrian society) would be great. There is always a fringe group that works on behalf of neocon-approved local powers, but they can be tackled very easily.

March 31st, 2008, 12:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


March 31st, 2008, 3:03 pm


Shai said:


What do you mean “You should not presume to know more than your fellow citizens what is good for Israel and you should accept the will of the people”? Are you suggesting that the majority always know what’s best for them? That’s ludicrous. But I do accept the will of the people, as I believe in Democracy. Though I don’t like the choice of the majority today, I go along with it, and will even defend it, if need be. I prefer a democracy that disagrees with me, than a dictatorship that always goes along with my ideas (that would mean that I’m the dictator…)

As for that FG (from us IG’s), why does he think I talked about Polar bears in Finland? Just because I believe Y-experts in Scandinavia tend to say pretty idiotic things every now and then, and then some more, doesn’t mean I’m referring to Finland. Or does it?

March 31st, 2008, 3:23 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We are in full agreement about this. To clarify my point, it is that when consistently many people I appreciate voice opinions that are contrary to mine, I reexamine my opinions, but not necessarily change them. That is, I don’t presume that I am right and am willing to entertain the idea that I am wrong.

As for Sim, one day more Arabs will understand that with allies like him, they don’t need enemies. For some reason Alex thinks that Sim’s peculiar musings are helping the Syrian cause. Go figure.

March 31st, 2008, 3:44 pm


Shai said:


Right there with you. I’m also here to learn, and I am ready to change my mind 24/7, and that includes listening to my fellow countrymen.

March 31st, 2008, 4:37 pm


Alex said:


Where did I tell you that I think that “Sim’s peculiar musings are helping the Syrian cause”?

While I don’t always agree with SimoHurtta’s style (and he does not always agree with my sometimes passive style), I respect his passion for defending Palestinian rights.

Qifa Nabki was not offered to become an author on this blog because he “helps the Syrian cause” …

So unless you want to be banned for another week, I hope (again, and again) that you do not pass these hints about Alex.

And to everyone here, please do not get personal when you discuss things with AIG. stick to the issues and avoid the part where you feel like telling him how stupid or ridiculous he is. I asked him to not do that to others, and it is only fair that I ask you all to stick to the same guideline.

March 31st, 2008, 5:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Walak ya Alex,

Of course I help the Syrian cause! This is slander!

I define “Syrian” differently from you, though. 😉

Actually, AIG, the only reason I was made an author on the blog was because I make a mean mulukhieh.

(That’s all we Lebanese are good for… food!)

March 31st, 2008, 5:53 pm


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