“U.S. to meet three Syrians, but no warming in ties”

[Landis Commentary] It does seem as if the Syrian delegation that was to include Riad Daoudi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, was disappointed by the cold reception it was to receive from the Americans. The Americans have been adamant that the meeting would not signify any improvement in relations because State Department officials would meet with the Syrians only as private citizens and not as members of a government.

The Syrian press has been depicting this meeting as if Jerusalem had been liberated. I guess that was a mirage. Damascus is still high on the liberation of Paris.

I am off to hear the three at Brookings. I will see what I can report later. Best, Joshua

U.S. to meet three Syrians, but no warming in ties
July 22, 2008
Washington Post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The State Department said on Tuesday a U.S. diplomat will meet three Syrians on a private visit to Washington but made clear this did not signal warmer ties or greater U.S. interest in Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

"We have an interest in reaching out to the Syrian people. However, we are going to continue to limit diplomatic engagement unless the Syrian government takes concrete actions to end its destabilizing tactics," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters.

The United States accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, permitting foreign fighters to cross into Iraq, allowing arms to flow into Lebanon, hosting Palestinian militant groups and violating human rights.

Gallegos said a meeting would be arranged between a U.S. diplomat and the three Syrians, whose U.S. visit is sponsored by the Search for Common Ground nongovernmental group that promotes conflict resolution.

The spokesman declined to provide a date or time for the meeting or to say which U.S. diplomat would attend.

On Monday, the State Department had said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, was willing to meet the group.

However, a U.S. official who asked not to be named said Welch may not have returned from a Middle East trip in time to attend the meeting, which he said was tentatively set for Friday, and that someone else would likely meet the three.

Gallegos made clear that a meeting should not be seen as a token of renewed U.S. interest in Israeli-Syrian peace talks that are being sponsored by Turkey, saying that the U.S. focus was on "the Israeli-Palestinian track."

Syrian foreign ministry adviser Riad Daoudi, who has led the Syrian delegation in Turkish-sponsored indirect talks with Israel, is a member of Search for Common Ground's U.S.-Syria Working Group and was expected to visit Washington this week.

However, people familiar with the matter said he stayed behind in Damascus for consultations with Turkish officials.

The three Syrians who came to Washington were identified as Ahmad Samir al-Taqi, Samir Seifan and Sami Moubayed.

A Syrian embassy spokesman said Syria welcomed the visit but that the three did not represent the Syrian government, had no official positions and were visiting as private citizens.

Obama Shifts the Foreign Policy Debate

Sen. Barack Obama, on his first and likely only overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has remade the campaign's foreign policy playing field, neatly sidestepping Republican charges that he has been naive and wrong on Iraq and moving to a broader, post-Iraq focus on Afg…

(By Karen DeYoung and Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post)


Joyce Karam (Alhayat) was told that the Syrian delegation asked to meet with AIPAC.

Comments (48)

norman said:

I do not think that we should be surprised to the snub by the Bush Administration , after all it is president Assad who did not expect much from this administration and is waiting for the next one,

The United States should back Israel’s peace efforts with Syria without pressuring it to make dangerous concessions, Barack Obama said in Jerusalem.

The U.S. senator and presumptive Democratic candidate to succeed President Bush met Wednesday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a visit to Jerusalem. He also met with President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu before he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial.

Obama then traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinain Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. PA officials said Abbas briefed Obama on progress in the peace process. Obama is scheduled to meet later with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“At a time of great peril and torment, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world,” Obama wrote in the Yad Vashem visitors’ book.

Israeli sources said Obama’s discussions with Barak turned to the recent launch of Turkish-mediated negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus.

Obama, according to one source, described the efforts to achieve peace as important but said that as president “he would never put pressure on Israel to take steps that could put its security at risk”. The senator was apparently referring to Syria’s demand for a full return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed.

Obama further described Iran’s nuclear program as “the most important challenge facing the international community right now,” Israeli sources said, adding that it would top the agenda of his meetings later this week with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain.

July 23rd, 2008, 3:46 pm


Alex said:

Syria and France will announce major enhancements to their economic ties during Sarkozy’s visit to Syria.

سورية الاقتصادية
لاغارد : علاقاتنا الاقتصادية مع سورية ستشهد تطورات مع زيارة ساركوزي

وبحث السيد نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء للشؤون الاقتصادية مع وزيرة الاقتصاد والتجارة والمالية والعمل كريستين لاغارد علاقات التعاون بين البلدين في المجالات الاقتصادية والمالية والفنية والبنية التحتية.

وتم الاتفاق على العمل بشكل مشترك لانضاج وتحضير ملفات التعاون في المجالات الاقتصادية وذلك قبل الزيارة المرتقبة للرئيس الفرنسى نيكولا ساركوزي إلى دمشق.

كما تم الاتفاق بأن تقوم وزارة الاقتصاد والمالية الفرنسية بتقديم الدعم الفني والمالي المباشر للمشاريع الاستثمارية والتنموية التي تقوم بها الشركات والمؤسسات الفرنسية في سورية إضافة للدعم الفني في المجالات المالية والتجارية والنقدية بما في ذلك الشركات الصغيرة والمتوسطة وبيئة الأعمال وتطوير التشريعات والمؤسسات الاقتصادية بما يحقق مصلحة النمو الاقتصادي في سورية والعلاقات بين البلدين.

ووصفت وزيرة الاقتصاد الفرنسية في تصريح لوكالة سانا بعد اللقاء المحادثات بأنها كانت ممتازة وتبشر بعلاقات مثمرة وغنية بين سورية وفرنسا مشيرة إلى أن العلاقات ستشهد خطوات كبيرة في مجال التعاون الاقتصادي مع زيارة الرئيس ساركوزي إلى دمشق في أيلول المقبل.

وأضافت لاغارد أنه تم خلال اللقاء أيضاً تدارس كل المعطيات التي تسمح تحسين وتطوير العلاقات الاقتصادية بين فرنسا وسورية من خلال التشارك والتبادل فى الخبرات فى مجال الادارات.

وتأتى زيارة الدردرى إلى باريس فى اطار متابعة نتائج القمة السورية الفرنسية وما صدر عنها من اتفاق للتعاون فى مجال استكشاف النفط وتوليد الطاقة الكهربائية والاستثمار المشترك فى الطاقات المتجددة والبديلة والنقل الجوي.

July 23rd, 2008, 3:58 pm


Majhool said:

Syria: Investigate Sednaya Prison Deaths
Two Weeks After Shootings, Still No Official Information on Deaths or Injuries
(New York, July 22, 2008) – The Syrian government should order an independent investigation into the deadly shooting of inmates by military police at Sednaya prison two weeks ago and make the findings public, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the authorities to immediately make public the names of those killed or injured in the incident.
President Bashar al-Asad should immediately order an independent investigation into the police’s use of lethal force at Sednaya prison. Police should use such force only when they have no other option to save lives.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

July 23rd, 2008, 4:45 pm


offended said:

Apparently, the former Serbian president and war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who has the blood of several thousands Bosnians on his hands, had been arrested in Belgrade.

His disguise during the years of hiding was perfect, he was none but an alternative medicine doctor:

It’s interesting to note that the lead investigator into the massacres committed during that era of the Yugoslavian war is Serge Bramertz, the former head of the probe into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

July 23rd, 2008, 4:47 pm


trustquest said:

The indictment and the capture of Karadzic is very significant according to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, it gives the confidence in the international court and send the message that criminals against humanity are reachable. He said in the interview with NPR that the case against Bashir will be important in bringing peace to Sudan. I agree, yesterday if you follow the Sudan’s media, Bashir is reaching the people of Darfur and calling for peace and incentives to the region, he is like a small ant trying to amend crimes by calling for peace and reconciliation in the region of Darfur.
Here is a link to Holbrooke article in the WP.

July 23rd, 2008, 8:47 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

1970 – Syria is sponsoring terrorism, blah blah blah blah blah
1980 – Syria is sponsoring terrorism, blah blah blah blah blah
1990 – Syria is sponsoring terrorism, blah blah blah blah blah
2000 – Syria is sponsoring terrorism, blah blah blah blah blah
2010 – Syria is sponsoring terrorism, blah blah blah blah blah

40 years! 40 years!! and the US is still spouting the same old line and there’s not been one iota of progress, regardless of what the circumstances are in the ME or who’s in the White House.

July 24th, 2008, 1:38 am


Abu Munzir said:

According to high ranking officials in Washington, few influential Senators are now preparing an indictment and an arrest warrant for Syria’s dictator Bashar Al-Assad for crimes against humanity and aiding terrorists in using Syria as a launch pad for terrorist campaign against U.S. forces that caused untold of American casualties. The Senators obtained commitment from 56 co-sponsors that will insure its passage by late December or early January.

July 24th, 2008, 1:59 am


Enlightened said:

Walid Moallem, fear, and the prisoners
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Walid Moallem came to Beirut on Monday, proving that absence doesn’t necessarily increase a sense of longing. In his short time in town the Syrian foreign minister reminded us of the kind of regime he works for, something forgotten in the bout of amnesia that overcame the world media last week when Syrian President Bashar Assad visited Paris.

During his visit, Moallem was asked about the fate of Lebanese still detained in Syrian prisons, and what he had to say about the matter. The foreign minister replied: “He who has waited for 30 years during [Lebanon’s] Civil War is capable of being patient for a few weeks [more].”

Moallem could have said any of a dozen other things. He could have done what bureaucrats usually do and said nothing at all. He could have found a hypocritical formulation to suggest that he felt sympathy for the families of the prisoners, scoring easy points on behalf of Syria’s dictator. Instead he made a callous statement, more insulting for being wrapped in a falsehood since Lebanon’s Civil War ended in 1990 and many of those sent to Syria were arrested during the postwar years of absolute Syrian rule.

Moallem’s reaction invites a question more appropriate to psychology than politics. What is it about Syrian civilian officials that frequently makes them so vicious in what they say about Lebanon? Theirs is the viciousness not of the intelligence officer but of the coward, the sissy, who talks tough because he is petrified of the intelligence officer; who fears that if he doesn’t talk tough, then those with real power in the system might see through that ersatz toughness all the way to the grinding fear that lies underneath, a fatal fear in so pitiless a system as the Baathist one.

Recall what another Syrian official, Faysal Mekdad, said about Gebran Tueni soon after his assassination in December 2005. At the time Mekdad, who is now deputy foreign minister, was Assad’s representative at the United Nations. In a conversation with a fellow Arab diplomat Mekdad was overheard saying, “So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?” He was referring to the fact that the Lebanese government had, the day before, requested that the UN investigation of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder be expanded to include the dozen or so bomb explosions and assassinations that had taken place afterward – Tueni’s being the latest. In response to the comment, Gebran’s father Ghassan took legal action against Mekdad.

However, is anything surprising here? When Moallem and Mekdad speak, they only ape the man that they serve. And on Lebanon Bashar Assad has been more contemptuous than most. Recall what the president said in a speech on March 5, 2005, when he announced that his army in Lebanon would withdraw toward the Syrian border: “Of course, [two] forces have been a natural part of Lebanese history for over 200 years, [those] that extend their hand to the outside, and nationalist forces. And [the former] have failed several times: in 1958 when Lebanon joined the Baghdad Pact; in 1969 when it attacked the Palestinian resistance; in 1983 when [such forces failed] to breathe life into the May 17 agreement [with Israel]; [such behavior] will fail for as long as nationalist forces are present.”

That “nationalist forces” did not exist 200 years back in Lebanese history was the least difficult aspect of that ill-informed passage to stomach. Rather, it was Assad’s ideological interpretation of Lebanese history that was, his feeding of Lebanon and the Lebanese into a crude Baathist mindset that divided them into patriots and renegades.

Then there was April 24, 2007, when Assad met in Damascus with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to discuss Lebanon. The exchange was later leaked to the French daily Le Monde, which published it in an article evidently never read by Nicolas Sarkozy. Assad told Ban, “In Lebanon, divisions and confessionalism have been deeply anchored for more than 300 years. Lebanese society is very fragile. [The country’s] most peaceful years were when Syrian forces were present. From 1976 to 2005 Lebanon was stable, whereas now there is great instability.”

In case Ban didn’t get the point, Assad clarified it: “[This instability] will worsen if the special [Hariri] tribunal is established. Particularly if it is established under Chapter VII. This might easily cause a conflict that would degenerate into civil war, provoking divisions between Sunnis and Shiites from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea … This would have serious consequences beyond Lebanon.”

Passage of the Hariri tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter did not bring on the apocalypse that Assad had promised, which tells us something else about Syria’s regime: When faced with a resolute adversary, it tends to back down. That is why the Lebanese government should try to apply that lesson with regard to those Lebanese still imprisoned in Syria. They number 91 according to the former minister Fouad al-Saad, who years ago headed a committee charged with shedding light on their fate; although yesterday the daily Al-Mustaqbal published the names of 177 Lebanese prisoners still believed to be in Syria.

The first thing the Lebanese government should do is appoint an independent investigator to prepare as accurate a list as possible of the detainees. That list should then be placed on the table whenever Lebanon and Syria discuss anything – bearing in mind that both Christians and Muslims are languishing in Syrian jails, meaning a cross-sectarian consensus on resolving the problem is achievable. That list should also make its way to Paris, Washington, Berlin and Brussels, so that every time a foreign official lands in Damascus, the names should be in his or her briefcase, hopefully alongside the names of the many Syrian political prisoners whose misfortunes have been generally ignored in the West.

Maybe then we will be able to tell Moallem that if fear has provoked his scorn for those who have suffered under the leadership he represents, we at least have nothing to fear anymore. It’s the least that Lebanon’s political class can do after having spent years chatting with Syrian intelligence chiefs at Anjar, only meters away from where their countrymen were being beaten and tortured and readied for a long journey into the Syrian prison network that for many has yet to end.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

July 24th, 2008, 2:43 am


Honest Patriot said:

Thanks Enlightened.

This is an emotionally powerful editorial by Michael Young, and one representative of the kind of sentiment held by many Lebanese. I say sentiment, because many of those “many” really don’t know the facts as is often the case in politics and in such matters. Yet, the suspicion is there, the offense at statements made is there, the perception of deep condescension is there. I’d be interested if anyone on SC can dispute any of the facts stated in Young’s article, particularly statements attributed to Syrian officials. I also find it ironic that – if indeed used – the word “nationalist” is made to apply the “pro-Arab” forces and that those who were the true nationalists, seeking true Lebanese independence – including neutrality and complete sovereignty – are tagged as “extending their hands to the outside.” I guess there is “outside” and there is “outside,” and they seem to be different. Iran is no outside, neither is Syria. France and the U.S. are outside, if we are believe the statements made.

The dream for some of us has and will always be for a Lebanon that is the Switzerland of the Middle East. Staunchly independent, neurtral, disciplined and organized, seeking the well being of its citizen above all, and being a model citizen of the world by providing protected banking, a forum for peace meetings, a milieu for blossoming of literature and art, nonconfessional, a lay country that fully respects the freedom of religion by all, a country with thinkers that freely voice their rejection of the hypocrisy of religious fanaticism and its consequences, be it by Wahabis, Zionists, neo-crusaders, or followers or the rule of al-Faqih. There, did I miss anyone in my attempt at being an equal-opportunity offender? What, with the likes of QN, Nidal, Enlightened, and MSK, if these folks can be mirrored and projected onto what I hope is a growing class of true Lebanese “nationalists,” the dream may not be all that unrealistic after all. And hey, I’m the one dreaming, don’t interfere with said dream. 🙂

July 24th, 2008, 6:15 am


Enlightened said:


Good to see you back.

Qn only had a link to it in the previous post. After reading the Daily Star today, I decided to paste it in this post, in light of what happened in the last 24 hours with The Syrian Delegations visit to Washington.

Its curious that you highlight the word “nationalist” Pro Arab Forces, were the true nationalists, and the “others” seeking independence and sovereignty are tagged as “extending their hands to the outside”

Lets decipher this: ( This could mean )

1. “Those that seek Syria’s embrace and hegemony are loyalists, and those that seek the help of the Zionists, Americans, Saudis are traitors.

2. This could be a further “dig” at classifying the M14 crowd as similar to the Lebanese Maronite forces who opposed “Syrian Intervention” politically and physically.

The word “traitor’ is bandied around too loosely, depending on what side of the political divide you happen to fall under. Michael Young is not everyone’s favourite Journalist on this site here, there is always a “particular tone” he adopts when discussing Syrian- Lebanese relations a majority of it has a hint of emotion and exasperation at the sad state of Lebanese politics, and the bullying of his little country.

The fate of those missing Lebanese in Syrian prisons is a issue that will not go away or have closure, because it is an emotive issue, not only for the families, but also for the nation, one has to wonder and point out that the Hezb launched a destructive war for the repatriation of 200 dead bodies and 5 live prisoners , and a child killer. Yet when one leaves emotions aside, and asks was it worth it? They are branded as heroes for liberating them from Israeli jails.

Yet no one is allowed to ask for the repatriation of Lebanese nationals from Syrian Jails, maybe if Syria was a Zionist Entity we could make the same sacrifices? That would be not so traiterous? NO?

Ah you got to love the Orwellian nature of Middle Eastern politics and the double speak!

July 24th, 2008, 7:00 am


Zenobia said:

um. yeah, you are dreaming,… snap out of it.

of course, Assad is using Nationalist to refer to the arab nationalists, not the state nationalists, as in the proponents of Lebanism apart from Arabism. What else would he say, he’s Syrian. And the ‘outside’ is indeed the West to his mind. Although, I am not sure that Iran is really not outside also. the Persians were not part of the nation , are they? I think not.
Anyhow, the confounding of arab nationalism and Islamism is bit confusing and complicating.

Either way, I think Young is wrong in terms of Assad’s definition that the nationalists did not exist 200 hundred years ago. The tension between the unity of the Arab world and what was seen as colluding with the ‘outside’ has been going on quite a long time indeed. Even when Lebanon was not yet a separate nation from Syria- its inhabitants – or at least the Maronites – certainly had their own separatist ideas and independence motivations. Doesn’t this go back farther than 200 years? I think they were the only group thrilled to see the Europeans arrive as Crusaders, and they were the ones waving and cheering for the French taking over the area….sooooo this extending a hand to those outsiders (ones the ‘nationalists’ fought against)and the resulting attempts to limit or prevent this ‘traitorous’ activity has a long history.

July 24th, 2008, 7:05 am


Honest Patriot said:

You’re right Zenobia. Gee, thanks for waking me up! I was really in full enjoyment in my dreaming (uh, wallowing).

In any case, one view (just for the sake of debate) is that the Maronites may have welcomed the crusaders only because they felt threatened in their way of life – a Christian, loving, peaceful way of life – by the tide of Islamic expaniosim, one that kills you if you don’t “surrender” (surrender to God in a muslim way, as in “Islam”). Treading on very risky territory here — as did Pope Benedict the XVI in one of his “academic” speeches, I may venture that in the Eastern churches Christianity was kept to its moral truths of non-aggression and love of neighbor, unlike the dark history of the Western churches which included the Inquisition and the crusades. On the other hand, Islam, regardless of the geographic location, does contain inherently the call to arms and the use of violence to effect the will of God. So this welcoming of the crusaders was really self-defense.

Yet another note (again for debate) is to represent the view that of all “mandates” the French one was the most beneficial, certainly to Lebanon, but also likely to Syria. By contrast to the English style of governance where the elite of the local territory are whisked to the elite schools of England, educated as British “Gentlemen” and then sent back to become the leaders of their “flock” (as in “sheep”), with the full condescension of British emperialism, the French style of governance through their mandate in Lebanon (and I suspect in Syria also, but I don’t know) was to build schools and roads, elevate the educational standard of all people, help establish a civil administration system to facilitate progress, etc. For this reason, many a Lebanese – albeit of the older generations – considered France the “mother country,” and many Lebanese still do. Hence the argument can be made that rather than being called “looking to the outside,” the welcoming of the French and other western influences is really a self-serving nationalistic aspiration to benefit from any and all opportunities to improve the condition of Lebanon’s citizen and of Lebanon as a country. Now, let’s compare this to the impact of Arabism and aspirations to belong to this – Oh so glorious – Arab nation: well, I don’t need to elaborate here, do I?

Finally, let me hasten to clarify that I do not intend to imply that one religion (Christianity) is better than another (Islam). Nor was it my intention to, in any way, generalize about the justification for violence in one religion being stronger than in another. And yes, I mean Islam again. It’s all clearly a matter of personal interpretation by the devout and, as Alex pointed out, Islam, with its built-in individual peace and serenity, is indeed the fastest growing religion. Some of the most respective and effective thinkers are indeed devout muslims, as are some of the most distinguished scientists, including contemporary younger ones who are my friends. What my dream always contains is the vision of truly complete separation of religion and state with the former relegated to individual devotion, moral compass setting, charity, and compassion.

July 24th, 2008, 7:47 am


Honest Patriot said:

… funny how one goes into and out of a dreaming mode…

July 24th, 2008, 8:15 am


Zenobia said:

oh, i am just teasing you, you can dream all you want if you like.

Everything you say is interesting and perhaps true.

Although i read this interesting thing, probably again from Salibi, that the Orthodox Christians or maybe all the non Maronite Christians did not in fact welcome the Crusaders. Interestingly enough, he says, that they saw the Crusaders first and foremost as Europeans invading, and that their bonds with the interior ethnic brothers- the ties with fellow arabs – were greater than any supposed connections with the invading christians.
This is fascinating. I wonder and would love to discover one day, why there would be this difference of reaction between the Maronites and the other coastal Christians in terms of which affiliations were paramount and determined their alliances.

you know, i really don’t know enough about Islam’s true teachings to say whether you are right or not about it having an inherent call to arms. People have lived this religion in different ways, and most having nothing to do with violence and takeover. So, I don’t want to believe what I hear about it as a westerner until i can come to have my own knowledge at some later point. I was just saying to Alex recently, that in my time in Syria, although i am really a completely unreligious person myself, I loved being in this environment filled with religion. It felt very special and comforting to me. Not threatening at all. I would never have discerned in anyway, in Damas, that I am in the midst of a religion imbued with violence, no way. I felt no sign of such militancy. There was a certain violence in the air at times too, but this felt to me an economic violence, a struggle of scarcity. not to do with religion.
Maybe if I went to Pakistan…? : )

anyway , I was really making an observation in the prior comment, not expressing whether I think how the lebanese and maronites in particular have related to the outside world is good or bad.

Probably I would agree with you, that arabism has really done more harm than good at this point, and has really held development back in so many ways, prevent certain benefits from being had. It simply failed to produce practical gains for the ME.
So, I am not faulting the lebanese for their independence and outward looking sentiments. I would be a hypocrite if I did fault them, since, I adore their country in many way, just like many people.
But I understand the other side as well, not in terms of ethnic isolationism (that I think is crap) nor because of religion (simply can’t relate) but because of the long historical bitterness and resentments that result from being screwed over by the colonialists and the West.
This I have a hard time dismissing as just narrow mindedness and small mindedness, and irrationality. I think the ME and the Arabs have good reason to mistrust, even though in our time it has been taken to the level of paranoia sometimes.

I wish my stupid gov’t and even some of my ignorant countrymen would stop feeding this fire.

July 24th, 2008, 8:18 am


Honest Patriot said:

I’ve often wondered about this accusation that the Koran contains implicit and explicit calls to arms not only in defense of religion but also as offense and towards expansionism. I’m no researcher and have no definitive answer but a quick Google search points to this:
with illustrative passages:
009:029: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
004:084: Fight then in Allah’s way; this is not imposed on you except in relation to yourself, and rouse the believers to ardor maybe Allah will restrain the fighting of those who disbelieve and Allah is strongest in prowess and strongest to give an exemplary punishment.
004:089: They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back [to their homes], then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.
004:091: You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given you a clear authority.

July 24th, 2008, 8:44 am


Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

… after all it is president Assad who did not expect much from this administration and is waiting for the next one…

I’ve been hearing this for the past 40 years.

It’s a shame that Syria’s foreign policy is all about waiting for the next US administration.

Hey, maybe we should wait for a new administration in Syria;)

Just a thought…

July 24th, 2008, 10:52 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Nice comment, Zenobia.

If I may just weigh in on the Eastern Christianity vs. Islam thing… HP, you know as well as anyone about the massacres instigated by militia men with icons of the Virgin Mary on their rifle stocks. I don’t think that the Maronites were held back from violence by their religious belief.

At the same time, it is very misleading to say that Islam possesses an “inherent call to arms,” simply because there are verses in the Qur’an that proscribe violence. Just as with the Bible (particularly the Old Testament), scripture must be interpreted through an exegetical prism, which includes a variety of contextualizing factors. This means that, according to the revelation history, different verses were revealed at different times, for different purposes, and in reference to specific events in the Prophet’s lifetime. Understanding how to weigh these various verses against each other for the purposes of determining a body of legal doctrine became the goal of several Qur’anic and legal hermeneutical sciences.

All this is to say that there is nothing inherently violent about Islam. Violent interpretations are (and have been, historically) possible; but this is the case in all three Abrahamic faiths.

July 24th, 2008, 11:15 am


Honest Patriot said:


I stand corrected. Hats off to you ya shaykh al 3ulama2. (I have a message to that effect into His Eminence Pope Benedict XVI).

July 24th, 2008, 11:28 am


Nour said:


You know very well that Michael Young is a neo-con propagandist of the highest sort. He takes statements by the Syrian president and Syrian officials out of contex only to demonize Syria and paint a picture of a dark, horrific country infested with bloodthirsty criminals. The words of Moallem were not meant to be insulting or demeaning. His intention was to say that those same people who have waited 30 years to find out something about their loved ones would be happy to only have to wait a couple more weeks. And Moallem wasn’t admitting in his comment that Syria does indeed hold these people as prisoners.

The problem with many Lebanese, who feel comforted from such hateful articles, is that they do not want to take responsibility for anything. The majority of missing Lebanese are more likely to have been killed by other Lebanese than they are to be suffering in Syrian prisons. Yet, none of those Lebanese are raising so much as a whisper demanding that their tribal, setarian warlords be investigated for the gruesome, horrific crimes they committed against their own people. To them, the target must always be Syria, and all definiciencies and problems within Lebanon must be blamed on Syria.

Moreover, we also know that hundreds of Syrians have gone missing inside Lebanon and tens have been brutally murdered by Lebanese. Yet not a single Lebanese official has ever denounced such acts or called for an investigation or an imposition of justice. But the likes of Michael Young, who satifies the unfortunate deep-seeded hatred many Lebanese have for anything Syrian, do not find anything objectionable about such callousness on the part of Lebanese politicians, nor do they ever express the least concern over the plight of poor Syrian workers in Lebanon. On the contrary, if anything, they show utter disdain and contempt for such people, simply because of racist prejudices that they hold against them.

The rest of Young’s article is really nothing but a vituperative rant empty of any historical or social understanding of Lebanon and Syria. Lebanon has indeed been plagued, unfortunately, by confessional and tribal hatreds for a long time. In addition, its very political system does nothing but promote and strengthen such divisions and disdainful sentiments. As such, it makes the Lebanese political process very complicated, and opens the door for collaboration with outside forces for the sake of furthering narrow, tribal or sectarian, interests. And these tendencies have always been counterbalanced by secular, nationalist forces, who have rejected collaboration with foreigners. We’ve seen it happen time and again in Lebanon, but of course Michael Young, the neo-con hatemonger, would love nothing more than to have Lebanon collaborate with the US and “Israel” against Syria and the Resistance, as his agenda is and has always been to promote “Israeli” hegemony over the area and turn Lebanon into a servient state of “Israeli” interests.

July 24th, 2008, 11:30 am


Qifa Nabki said:


shaykh al-mufanniseen is more like it 🙂

July 24th, 2008, 11:39 am


Honest Patriot said:

Thanks, Nour. Very good counterpoints. That’s what I like about SC: well articulated arguments. I’m not so sure I’d agree with the last extrapolation of Michael Young wanting to promote Israeli hegemony over the area, which I think goes a bit too far, but all the preceding arguments make sense.

The reason I take exception to the last bit is that I do believe that, on balance, all Lebanese, even those who at one time were collaborators with Israel, are fundamentally on the side of the Palestinians in wanting a redress to the tragedy that has befallen them with the creation – and more importantly expansion – of the state of Israel. None of us really has swallowed this Zionist claim of a God-given right to return to the Promised Land because “We” are the Chosen People bit. Yet, many of us are repulsed by the approach various Arab groups have used, by terrorism against innocent civilians, by the hot-headed rush to war that always ends up in defeat, and by the unwillingness to have compassion and accommodation for a Jewish state given the facts-on-the ground and the passage of so much time. We know many people of the Jewish faith. We have the utmost respect for their sense of family, their proven hard work and superior intellect, and the fact that in their greatest majority they are good people. We want to participate in an effective fight to restore Palestinian rights and are opposed to the rejectionist approaches pursued in the past.

July 24th, 2008, 11:41 am


Honest Patriot said:

QN, and you’re modest, humble, and successfully engage in self-deprecating humor too? 😉
My, that makes you simply… PERFECT!

July 24th, 2008, 11:42 am


norman said:


Realism must rule in engaging Syria
By Michael Bergman | July 23, 2008

THE DEBATE over whether or not to engage Syria is once again center stage this week as a Syrian delegation visits Washington for talks with American officials and academics. Syria’s enthusiasm for engaging the next American administration offers the incoming president an opportunity to influence Syrian behavior. The next president would be ill advised to aim this silver bullet on an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty unlikely to be realized. Instead, the United States should aim at getting Syria to end its meddling in neighboring Lebanon and its support for Hezbollah militants.

President Bashar al-Assad is already positioning Syria toward a new administration. American forces have confirmed his cooperation along the Syria-Iraq border, and he is now engaging in indirect negotiations with Israel. He appears to be temporarily moderating his country’s negative intervention in Lebanon’s internal processes.

Engaging the United States inevitably risks new tension between Damascus and Tehran even without an American precondition of severing relations with Iran. Yet the Syrians seem eager to engage. While such engagement clearly offers mutual gains, it raises the question: What should America ask from Syria in their negotiations?

Many policy analysts argue that the “low-hanging fruit” is an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty. They recommend requiring Syria to actively pursue a peace treaty with Israel in return for full US engagement and resumption of full diplomatic relations. This strategy makes sense: a historic peace between Israel and Syria will significantly reduce the risk of a regional conflict and will destabilize the functions of Palestinian resistance movements headquartered in Damascus.

However, a look at the political dynamics in Israel reveals that such an agreement would not be imminent. The Israeli Parliament is considering a law that will require the government to bring any agreement pertaining to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights to a national referendum.

The issue of relinquishing the Golan Heights encounters three significant barriers. The first is a strong grass-roots lobby on behalf of Israel maintaining the Golan. The second is a lack of urgency in the Israeli public to resolve this dispute due to the absence of an occupied population in this area – significantly different from the approach to the West Bank. The third, and perhaps most important, is that the Israeli public views a withdrawal from the Golan as a significant security risk. Ingredients, no doubt, for nonagreement.

The Israeli prime minister, realizing he cannot pass a treaty in a national referendum, may avoid completing the negotiations – similar to Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 1999. Worse, there could be a treaty that fails to be ratified by the Israeli public. Either way, Syria will be able to circumvent blame, while gaining full relations with the United States.

Taking a broader look at Syrian interests might offer better opportunities for the United States. Syrian leaders have other items of higher priority on their agenda before a peace agreement with Israel. More important for them is regaining their dominance over Lebanon and breaking out of their international isolation through full engagement with the United States.

The United States should approach Assad with a different formula: Syria must choose between its top priorities. If Assad wants to pursue domination over Lebanon and his support for Hezbollah, he should find no friend in Washington. However, if he wants to engage the United States, he would need to end the weapons flow to Hezbollah, demarcate his borders with Lebanon, and establish full diplomatic relations with it – treating it as a fully sovereign state.

Negotiations will not be easy. The Syrians are not eager to “give up” their attempts at domination over Lebanon. But using the leverage of a US-Syrian relationship is the best way to achieve this American interest.

At the same time, the United States should make clear to both Syria and Israel that it will support negotiations and a peace treaty between the two countries. America should even be willing to back an agreement with resources and guarantees, if needed. But it must be made clear that negotiations and a resulting agreement are for Syria and Israel to pursue.

Michael Bergman is a Middle East analyst.

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

July 24th, 2008, 1:21 pm


norman said:


07/24/2008 11:31 AMNICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Tough Love for Israel?
Barack Obama gave ritual affirmations of his support for Israeli policy, but what Israel needs from America isn’t more love, but tougher love.

US Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama was in Israel on Wednesday.
On his visit to the Middle East, Barack Obama gave ritual affirmations of his support for Israeli policy, but what Israel needs from America isn’t more love, but tougher love.

Particularly at a time when Israel seems to be contemplating military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, the United States would be a better friend if it said: “That’s crazy” — while also insisting on a 100 percent freeze on settlements in the West Bank and greater Jerusalem.

Granted, not everybody sees things this way, and discussions of the Middle East usually involve each side offering up its strongest arguments to wrestle with the straw men of the other side. So let me try something different.

After I wrote a column last month from Hebron in the West Bank, my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, was flooded with counterarguments — and plenty of challenges to address them. In the interest of a civil dialogue on the Middle East, here are excerpts from some of the readers’ defenses of Israel’s conduct in the West Bank and my responses:

Jews lived in Hebron for 1,800 years continuously … until their community was murdered in 1929 by their Arab neighbors. The Jews in Hebron today — those “settlers” — have reclaimed Jewish property. So I don’t see what makes them illegitimate or illegal. (Irving)

True, Jews have deep ties to Hebron, just as Christians do to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them. If Israel were to bar American Christians from Jerusalem, that would not be grounds for the United States to send in paratroopers and establish settlements. And if Israel insists on controlling the West Bank, then it needs to give citizenship to Palestinians there so that they can vote just like the settlers.

One side is a beautiful, literate, medically and scientifically and artistically an advanced society. The other side wants to throw bombs. Why shouldn’t there be a fence? (Mileway)

So, build a fence. But construct it on the 1967 borders, not Palestinian land — and especially not where it divides Palestinian farmers from their land.

While I do condemn this type of violence, it pales in contrast to Palestinian suicide bombers, rockets and other acts of terror against Jews. (Jay)

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.

To withdraw from the West Bank without a partner on the Palestinian side will find Israel in the same fix it has once it withdrew from Gaza: a rain of daily rockets. Yes, the security barrier causes hardship, but terrorist attacks have almost disappeared. That means my kids can ride the bus, go to unguarded restaurants and not worry about being blown up on their way to school. Find another way to keep my kids safe, and I’ll happily tear down the barrier. (Laura)

This is the argument that I have the most trouble countering. Laura has a point: The barrier and checkpoints have reduced terrorism. But as presently implemented, they — and the settlements — also reduce the prospect of a long-term peace agreement that is the best hope for Laura’s children.

If Israel were to stop the settlements, ease the checkpoints, allow people in and out more freely, and negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights and with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal, then peace might still elude the region. But Israel would at least be doing everything possible to secure its long-term future, rather than bolstering Hamas.

If there is no two-state solution, there will be a one-state solution — and given demographic trends, that will mean either the end of Israeli democracy or the end of the Jewish state. Zionists should be absolutely clamoring for a Palestinian state.

Laura is right about the need for a sensible Palestinian partner, and the failures of Palestinian leadership have been legion. At the moment, though, Israel has its most reasonable partner ever — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — and it is undermining him with its checkpoints and new settlement construction.

Peace-making invariably involves exasperating and intransigent antagonists and unequal steps, just as it did in the decades in which Britain struggled to end terrorism emanating from Northern Ireland. But London never ordered air strikes on Sinn Fein or walled in Catholic neighborhoods. Over time, Britain’s extraordinary restraint slowly changed attitudes so as to make the eventual peace possible.

I hope Mr. Obama, as a candidate or as a president, will be a true enough friend of Israel to say all this, warmly but firmly.

July 24th, 2008, 1:46 pm


Shai said:

Hello to Everyone.

Just got back from two weeks holiday in the U.S. Upon hearing views and comments over there, and Obama’s latest during his visit to Israel, it seems quite clear that what we need right now is to “ride this one out”. We need some calm until the new administrations are in power, both in Washington and in Jerusalem. Nothing dramatic will happen beforehand. Hopefully, no trigger-happy cowboys will seek adventures in Iran, Lebanon, or Gaza.

Looking forward to a calm 5-6 months…

July 24th, 2008, 4:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Welcome back. We were beginning to wonder if you were only a dream. 😉

July 24th, 2008, 6:15 pm


Zenobia said:

thanks for your very articulate reply to HP.

I really should have been able to come up with something better than I did along these lines, as I was a Rhetoric major in college, and the breath study of the major begins with Rhetoric in Greco-Roman times but quickly moves to looking at the hermeneutical tradition of christian thinkers who were preoccupied with the process of interpretation of scripture and of God’s meaning in essence.
Of course, I have just assumed from that time, that every religion, including Islam has gone through these processes of developing and debating the meaning of the text of their “Book” and how it should be interpreted.

But I suppose I feel unqualified to say anything because I know so little about Quranic interpretation throughout history.
And not surprisingly when I have asked some lay religious muslims about this subject I have been met with a wall – and explanations that there are no ‘interpretations’ there is only the Koran as the word of god and thats it. (!)
I felt a little of that recently with Karim telling me that sorry there is no way for Islam to reconcile with some of the realities of modernity, regarding gender relations and marriage say, and that what the Koran says cannot be changed – therefore there is no debate about what to do in regards to it.

I love it. Just like so many of the christians right here claims they have a lock on what god said and what god wants. No need for a debate about it, only the correct pastor to tell you how it is.

anyhow, I would love to know more about these subjects, and hopefully I will have the time one day to investigate for myself some of this religious history.
The only thing I know for sure now is that I can’t believe what so many people who know nothing claim about Islam. And that it is far more complicated than the stereotype views that are put out there.

July 24th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Off the Wall said:

I am at work. But just want to say welcome back. Agree, we should all ride this one out.

For me, it has been 8 years of nightmare. Uprecedented mental and intellectual vulgarity. I know it will not end with Bush’s hopefully ungraceful exit, but It would be a first step towards healing

Welcom back

July 24th, 2008, 6:28 pm


Shai said:


Glad to be back. And no, I’m unfortunately no (pleasant) dream… 🙂

Much has taken place the past two weeks, and I’m sort of trying to catch up, but it’s probably useless. Obama has come and gone, McCain keeps looking for the right un-neocon-like neocon rhetoric, and in the meantime Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are getting stronger. And now the U.S. (even under Bush) is talking to Syria and even Iran. McCain doesn’t know what’s waiting for him – Obama is going to make him look like a fool when it comes to MidEast policy. My hunch tells me America is about to get its first black President (about time!) But the real question will be – can the man also deliver change, and not only articulate it?


Isn’t it sad that some people, who believe so strongly in a merciful God for all humans, still alienate so many of us, just because we disagree with them? If there is one thing religion has unfortunately done throughout human history, perhaps more than anything else, is alienate and separate between people. It has defined “right” versus “wrong”, and “bad” versus “good”, and it has caused and enabled so much bloodshed as a result. Instead of searching for common denominators between people, it has been used to divide more than to unite. What good is, therefore, any religion that can only be interpreted in one way, “our way”? Does humanity benefit more from this closed mindedness? Of course not. But we still suffer from it, in all religions.

July 24th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:

Off the Wall,

Thank you. Very glad to be back indeed.

July 24th, 2008, 6:38 pm


norman said:


Welcome back ,

I would have liked to meet you while you are in the US , Maybe next time.

So i can take to the dinner we talked about.

July 24th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Shai said:


I would love to do that. Next time, in’shalla. I’m usually in the States 3-4 times a year. This time was for holiday with my family.

July 24th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


A rhetoric major? My oh my.

You must have gone to Berkeley?

July 24th, 2008, 7:12 pm


Zenobia said:

Yes , indeed I did. It was the best time of my life intellectually speaking. Maybe in general. I love school. i think I will probably regret for the rest of my days not staying in the land of academia, but… those grad level rhetoricians to be intimidated me too much I think.

July 24th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I’ve heard mythical things about that department. A lot of big names in renaissance and medieval studies came out of it.

July 24th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Zenobia said:

: ) yeah. They are hard core, for certain. (even the philosophy majors were intimidated : ) ) A great place.
I think there are very few Rhetoric departments in the country. Maybe Duke or Chapel Hill? and maybe one or two others. At least that was so, ten years ago.

July 24th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Shai said:


Have you considered working for the Sayyed? 🙂 I’m kidding, of course… it was about the Rhetoric major, but he’s quite an Orator on his own (although he must have advisors, no?)

July 24th, 2008, 7:37 pm


Zenobia said:


: )
Yes, actually I have. IN some late night fantasy I join Hezbollah as their english language communications and PR director. I am sure he has people, but really…who has he got that is like me???

nice to see you again. I have to take off now, but we shall converse again. Of course, regarding your thoughts above, I agree. Amen to that.

July 24th, 2008, 7:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Hopefully, no trigger-happy cowboys will seek adventures in Iran, Lebanon, or Gaza.

And hopefully Iran will comply with UN Resolutions. And hopefully the Lebanese will prevent Hezbollah from kidnapping more Israelis or shelling Israeli population centers. And hopefully the Gazans will refrain from the same.

Just adding a little balance Shai…

July 25th, 2008, 3:33 am


Enlightened said:

While we are on HOPEFULLY”S: Just for further balance

maybe Israel can stop its illegal flights over Lebanon!

July 25th, 2008, 4:03 am


Off the Wall said:

Thanks for completing the terms of the Hopefully + equation
My i add two terms (similar to Albert Einstein Universal Constant)

+ and HOPEFULLY, Israel will Stop Settlement Activities

+ and HOPEFULLY, Israel will reign in its abusive soldiers and settlers

How is that for some additional balance A.P?

July 25th, 2008, 5:33 am


Enlightened said:


Shater Ya Zalameh:

I just didn’t want to provoke Little Palace, but since you rounded the equation off , I have another one for you.

More Hummus + Falafel + Fouul+ Kibbe + Baba Ghannouj + Samke Hara + Fattoush+ Batata Harra + Tabbouli Chaser = Equals one upset stomach if eaten all at once.

Its a bleak day with nothing to write or get excited about, apart from the cold reception the Syrians received in Washington. Obviously the Yanks are lacking in understanding Arab culture about the treatment of guests,, You know- “Your house is my house” etc, its something the Lebanese used to say to the Syrians, unfortunately the Lebanese didn’t realise that the Syrians were “literal” in their interpretation and it took almost 30 years to get them out.

Nope, those Yanks are damn smart, they knew what those Syrians were up to, they wanted to lay claim to their house- “The white House” or as we say in Arabic ” Bat el Abyod” or in Alleppen slang “Bat el Bad” which could theoretically in old classical Arabic mean “The egg House”.

But an old Levantine saying goes ” Revenge is a dish best served cold” or was that confucious, ahhhhhh i dont know.

There will be a new rooster in the white house, and he is crowing that Jerusalem will not be divided, and he has taken a helicopter trip to prove it, and placed a note in the wailing wall. Now OFF THE WALL” i just want you to poise and think: Yes you are right a writing rooster, and know we just want him to lay the golden baydoh and in Latin ” Dona Nobis Pacem” in case you don’t read latin it means ” Give us Peace”.

Lesson: 5 Days of antibiotics have kept me in check with my Mad Arab roots! I have no balance.

Over to you!

July 25th, 2008, 6:22 am


Zenobia said:

I think Enlightened is having a free association moment… : )

well, it is definitely no Casablanca!

I just learned in Arabic class tonight that its called “al-daar al-abyaD” ??? doesn’t that sound better?

but it is still no daar salaam

July 25th, 2008, 6:58 am


why-discuss said:


And hopefully Iran will comply with UN Resolutions.
It will when Israel does the same.

July 25th, 2008, 8:21 am


Off the Wall said:


More Hummus + Falafel + Fouul+ Kibbe + Baba Ghannouj + Samke Hara + Fattoush+ Batata Harra + Tabbouli Chaser = Equals one upset stomach if eaten all at once.

1. Where is labneh “Khayee”

2. Please do not divulge our secret weapons. The equation you provided can be used by the US and Israel to initiate WMD sanctions against every Lebanese House. Come to think of it, now i understand the daily IADF constant overflights over Lebanon 🙂

July 25th, 2008, 3:43 pm


Shai said:


When you’re on Israel’s side, one thing you do NOT want to mention, is UN resolutions. We’re good at a lot of things. But not at complying with UN resolutions.

July 25th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Enlightened said:


” Just practising my Arabic”


Good point that can be a starter for the labneh.


The UN has lost its significance and prestige, and in dire need of reform.

July 26th, 2008, 12:11 am


Shai said:


Very true. Question is, what must occur before real reform can take place? Let us recall that the United Nations was born as a result of WWII, in order to prevent war through collective security. And the UN followed the League of Nations which was born after WWI, following the Treaty of Versailles, in order to again prevent war. Both failed miserably. So must we have a WWIII, before we invent yet another League, or Union, or whatever? It seems that our representatives, as our own government leaders, care more about their personal prestige, and their professional careers, than about the reasons they were sent there (by us) in the first place. That “idealism” kind of gets lost on the way to the first reception cocktail party… not to return until preparing the parting words of their farewell, where they recall once more what they were supposed to do, and haven’t.

I’m of course depicting a very sad and cynical world. I’m not sure I’m that far from the truth… unfortunately.

July 26th, 2008, 10:44 am


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