“U.S. Wary of Warming Syrian-Turkish Ties,” by Deborah Amos on NPR

U.S. Wary of Warming Syrian-Turkish Ties
by Deborah Amos on NPR
All Things Considered, January 10, 2008

Listen Now [4 min 34 sec]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (front right) and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul (front left) walk during a welcoming ceremony at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey, in October 2007. AFP/Getty Images

One place President George Bush is not visiting on his tour of the Middle East is Syria. Relations are icy, with Washington and Damascus at odds over Lebanon, the Arab-Israel conflict, the Iraq war and Iran.

But Syria is rapidly improving ties with a key U.S. ally in the region, Turkey. And that is a development that could have substantial repercussions, particularly for Washington.

Syrians Have Much to Gain

Syria's ambassador in Washington, Imad Moustapha, characterizes his country's ties with Turkey as a "honeymoon" and the "best possible relations between any two neighborly countries in the world."

Such enthusiasm over ties with Turkey is a worry for the United States, says Omer Taspinar, a Turkish analyst at the U.S. War College.

"I think the Syrians have a lot to gain. That's why it is in their interests to send a signal they are not isolated and they have Turkey on their side.

"Syria is perceived as the underdog against the U.S. So, the more the U.S. says, 'Don't talk to Syria,' I think, the more it will become attractive for Turkish public opinion," Taspinar says.

And that may be why Syrian President Bashar al-Assad got such a warm welcome on a recent trip to Turkey. With his attractive young wife, Assad toured the capital with Turkey's president and prime minister. The TV cameras were there as they opened a new Turkish shopping center. The coverage of smiling presidents and their wives surprised even Syrians, says George Sageur, a Syrian-American businessman.

The response to the president and his wife — as the face of Syria — has been tremendous in Turkey, he says. They were "received very, very well indeed."

Iraq War Marked Change in Syrian-Turkish Relations

It's a marked improvement from tensions a decade ago. The two countries seemed on the verge of war after Turkey accused Syria of harboring a Kurdish rebel leader.

But that was all before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Now, Turkey and Syria have shared concerns. Both have sizeable Kurdish populations. Both worry about the nationalist goals of the Kurds in neighboring Iraq. And both are wary of U.S. plans in the region, says Taspinar.

"The real impetus for these visits is the Kurdish question — let's not miss the real picture here. I think Turks are very much disillusioned with this whole Iraq episode."

Syria has benefited from that disillusionment.

Alliance with Turkey Serves as Balance to Iran

Because of expanded trade relations, Turkish language classes in Damascus are now popular for Syrian Arabic speakers. Syria's deputy prime minister was in Turkey last week to sign an agreement for a joint natural gas pipeline.

"The relationship with Turkey has an economic aspect, but it is also very important for domestic legitimacy," says Josh Landis, an American academic who writes an influential blog on Syria.

Landis says the new partnership with Turkey has helped Syria's president blunt a domestic problem: Many of Syria's majority Sunni Muslims do not like Assad's close relations with Shiite Iran.

"Syria is very unhappy in this Shiite alliance because 80 percent, 75 percent of the country is Sunni. It's caused a lot of angst among your average businessmen in Syria," Landis says.

Turkey is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. And on the political front, Turkey's moderate politics could offer an alternative to Iran, says Ibrahim Hamidi, a Syrian journalist and analyst.

"If we really want to support moderate policies in the region, if we really want to isolate Iran, we have to work to give a bigger role to Turkey in the region," says Hamidi.

Turkey Steps Up Role in Middle East

And this is exactly what Turkey's new government wants, says Henri Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University. He says Turkey's leaders intend to become players in Middle East politics. The opening to Syria is a major move to do just that.

"It is quite smart on their part … to say, 'Look we have good relations with everybody, everybody can come and talk to us, we will listen to anybody, we will help anybody,' so this is the way the Turks are pushing themselves up in the region," Barkey says.

It is a new role for Turkey, a welcome lifeline for Damascus, and a problem for the United States: Turkey, a key U.S. ally, is reaching out to Syria — which President Bush has called a dangerous regime.

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Observer said:

I thought this article is worth reading here
The Primacy of the Ear

By: Gilad Atzmon

Rather often I face the same question when interviewed by Arab media outlets: “Gilad, how is it that you observe that which so many Israelis fail to see”? Indeed, not many Israelis interpret the Israeli ethical failure as an inherent symptom. For many years I didn’t have any answer to offer. However, recently I realized that it must have something to do with my Saxophone. It is music that has shaped my views of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and formed my criticism of Jewish identity.


Today I will talk about the road from music to ethics.


It is known that life looks like a meaningful event when reviewed retrospectively from its end to its very beginning. Accordingly, I will try to scrutinize my own battle with Zionism through my late evolvement as a musician. I will explore my struggle with Arabic music. I will try to elaborate retrospectively on the role of music on my understanding of the world that surrounds me. To a certain extent, this is the story of my life to date (at least one of them).


I grew up in Israel in a rather Zionist secular family. My Grandfather was a charismatic poetic veteran terrorist, an ex prominent commander in the right wing Irgun terror organization. I may admit that he had a tremendous influence on me in my early days. His hatred towards anything that failed to be Jewish was a major inspiration. He hated Germans; consequently he didn’t allow my dad to buy a German car. He also despised the Brits for colonising his “promised land”. I assume that he didn’t detest the Brits as much as he hated the Germans because he allowed my father to drive an old Vauxhall Viva. He was also pretty cross with the Palestinians for dwelling on the land he was sure belonged to him and his people. Rather often he used to wonder about the Palestinians: ?these Arabs have so many countries, why do they have to live exactly in the land we want to live in?? But more than anything, my grandfather hated Jewish Leftists. However, it is important to mention that since Jewish leftists have never produced any cars, this specific loathing didn’t mature into a conflict of interests between himself and my dad. Being a follower of Zeev Jabotinsky, my Grandfather obviously realized that Leftist philosophy and the Jewish value system is a contradiction in terms. Being a veteran right wing terrorist as well a proud tribal Jew, he knew very well that tribalism can never live in peace with humanism and universalism. Following his mentor Jabotinsky, he believed in the “Iron Wall” philosophy. He supposed that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular should be confronted fearlessly and fiercely. Quoting Betar’s anthem he repeatedly said, “in blood and sweat, we would erect our race”.


My Grandfather believed in the Jewish race, and so did I in my very early days. Like my peers, I didn’t see the Palestinians around me. They were no doubt there, they fixed my father’s car for half the price, they built our houses, they cleaned the mess we left behind, they where schlepping boxes in the local food store, but they always disappeared just before sunset and appeared again around dawn. They had never socialized with us. We didn’t really understand who they were and what they stood for. Supremacy was no doubt brewed in our being, we gazed at the world via a racist, chauvinist binocular.


When I was seventeen, I was preparing myself for my compulsory IDF service. Being a well-built teenager fuelled with Zionist spirit and soaked in self-righteousness, I was due to join an air force special rescuing unit. But then the unexpected happened. On an especially late night Jazz program, I heard Bird (Charlie Parker) with Strings.


I was knocked down. It was by far more organic, poetic, sentimental and yet wilder than anything I had ever heard before. My father used to listen to Bennie Goodman and Artie Shaw, these two were entertaining, they could play the clarinet, but Bird was a different story altogether. He was a fierce libidinal extravaganza of wit and energy. The morning after, I decided to skip school, I rushed to “Piccadilly Record”, Jerusalem’s No 1 music shop. I found the jazz section and bought every bebop album they had on the shelves (probably two albums). On the bus, on the way home, I realized that Bird was actually a Black man. It didn’t take me by complete surprise, but it was kind of a revelation, in my world, it was only Jews who were associated with anything good. Bird was a beginning of a journey.


***   *** 

At the time, like my peers, I was pretty convinced that Jews were indeed the chosen people. My generation was raised on the Six Day War magical victory, we were totally sure of ourselves. Since we were secular, we associated every success with our omnipotent qualities. We didn’t believe in divine intervention, we believed in ourselves. We believed that our might is brewed in our resurrected Hebraic soul and flesh. The Palestinians, on their part, were serving us obediently and it didn’t seem at the time as if this was ever going to change. They didn’t show any real signs of collective resistance. The sporadic so-called “terror” attacks made us feel righteous, it filled us with some eagerness to get revenge. But somehow within this extravaganza of omnipotence, to my great surprise, I learned to realize that the people who exited me the most were actually a bunch of Black Americans. People who have nothing to do with the Zionist miracle. People that had nothing to do with my own chauvinist exclusive tribe.


It didn’t take more than two days before I hired my first saxophone. The saxophone is a very easy instrument to start with, and if you don’t believe me you better ask Bill Clinton. However, as much as the saxophone was an easy instrument to pick up, playing like Bird or Cannonball looked like an impossible mission. I started to practice day and night, and the more I practiced, the more I was overwhelmed with the tremendous achievement of that great family of Black American musicians, a family I was then starting to know closely. Within a month I learned about Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Hank Mobley, Monk, Oscar Peterson and Duke, and the more I listened the more I realized that my initial Judeo-centric upbringing was totally wrong. After one month with a saxophone shoved up my mouth, my Zionist enthusiasm disappeared completely. Instead, of flying choppers behind enemy lines, I started to fantasize about living in NYC, London or Paris. All I wanted was a chance to listen to the great names of Jazz and in the late 1970’s, many of them were still around.


Nowadays, youngsters who want to play Jazz tend to enroll in a music college, in my days it was very different. Those who wanted to play classical music would enroll in a college or a music academy, however, those who wanted to play for the sake of music would stay at home and swing around the clock. Nonetheless, in the late 1970’s there was no Jazz education in Israel and in my hometown Jerusalem there was just a single Jazz club. It was called Pargod and it was set in an old converted pictorial Turkish Bath. Every Friday afternoon they ran a jam session and for my first two years in jazz, these jams were the essence of my life. Literally speaking, I stopped everything else, I just practiced day and night preparing myself for the next “Friday Jam”. I listened to music, I transcribed some great solos, I even practiced while sleeping. I decided to dedicate my life to Jazz accepting the fact that as a white Israeli, my chances to make it to the top were rather slim. Without realizing it at the time, my emerging devotion to jazz had overwhelmed my Zionist exclusive tendencies. Without being aware, I left the chosenness behind. I had become an ordinary human being. Years later, I realized that Jazz was my escape route. Within months I felt less and less connected to my surrounding reality, I saw myself as part of a far broader and greater family. A family of music lovers, a bunch of adorable people who were concerned with beauty and spirit rather than land and occupation.


However, I still had to join the IDF. Though later generations of Israeli young Jazz musicians just escaped the army and ran away to the Jazz Mecca NYC, for me, a young lad of Zionist origin in Jerusalem, such an option wasn’t available, a possibility as such didn’t even occur to me.


In July 1981 I joined the Israeli Army but, I may suggest proudly, that from my first day in the army I was doing my very best to avoid any call of duty. Not because I was a pacifist, not because I cared that much about the Palestinians or subject to a latent peace enthusiasm, I just loved to be alone with my saxophone.


When the 1st Lebanon war broke, I was a soldier for one year. It didn’t take a genius to know the truth, I knew that our leaders were lying. Every Israeli soldier realized that this war was an Israeli aggression. Personally I couldn’t feel anymore any attachment to the Zionist cause. I didn’t feel part of it. Yet, it still wasn’t the politics or ethics that moved alienated me, but rather my craving to be alone with my horn. Playing scales at the speed of light seemed to me far more important for than killing Arabs in the name of Jewish redemption. Thus, instead of becoming a qualified killer I spent every possible effort trying to join one of the military bands. It took a few months, but I eventually landed safely at the Israeli Air Force Orchestra (IAFO).


The IAFO was made of a unique social setting, you could join in either for being an excellent promising Jazz talent or just for being a son of a dead pilot. The fact that I was accepted, knowing that my Dad was amongst the living reassured me for the first time that I may be a musical talent. To my great surprise, none of the orchestra members took the army seriously. We were all concerned about one thing, our very personal musical development. We hated the army and it didn’t take time before I started to hate the state that had such a big army with such a big air force that needed a band that stopped me from practicing 24/7. When we were called to play in a military event, we always tried to play as bad as we could just to make sure that we would never get invited again. In the IAFO orchestra I learned for the first time how to be subversive. How to destroy the system in order to achieve immaculate personal perfection.


In the summer of 1984, just 3 weeks before I took off my military uniform, we were sent to Lebanon for a tour of concerts. At the time, Lebanon was a very dangerous place to be in and the Israeli army was dug deep in bunkers and trenches avoiding any confrontation with the local population. On the 2nd day we arrived at Aszar, a notorious Israeli concentration camp on Lebanese soil. This event changed my life.


It was a boiling day in early July. On a dusty dirt track we arrived at hell on earth. A huge detention centre surrounded by barbed wire. On the way to the camp headquarters we drove through the view of thousands of inmates being scorched under the sun. It is hard to believe, but military bands are always treated as VIPs. Once we landed at the officer command barracks we were taken for a guided tour in the camp. We were walking along the endless barbed wire and the post guard towers. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Who are these people”? I asked the officer. “They are Palestinians” he said, here are the PLO on the left and here on the right are the Ahmed Jibril’s ones, they are far more dangerous (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PFLP-GC) so we keep them isolated.


I looked at the detainees and they looked very different to the Palestinians I saw in Jerusalem. The ones I saw in Ansar were angry. They were not defeated and they were many. As we moved along the barbed wire and I was gazing at the inmates, I realized that unbearable truth, I was walking there in Israeli military uniform. While I was still contemplating about my uniform, trying to deal with some severe sense of emerging shame, we arrived at a large flat ground in the middle of the camp. We stood there around the guide officer and learned from more him, some more lies about the current war to defend our Jewish haven. While he was boring us to death with some irrelevant lies I noticed that we were surrounded by two dozen concrete blocks the size of one square meter and around 1.30 cm high. They had a small metal door and I was horrified by the fact that my army may have decided to lock the guard dogs in these constructions for the night. Putting my Israeli Chutzpah into action, I asked the guide officer what these horrible concrete cubes were. He was fast to answer. “These are our solitary confinement blocks, after two days in one of these you become a devoted Zionist”.


This was enough for me. I realized already then in 1984 that my affair with the Israeli state and Zionism was over. Yet, I knew very little about Palestine, about the Nakba or even about Judaism and Jewishness. I just realized that as far as I was concerned, Israel was bad news and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Two weeks later, I gave my uniform back, I grabbed my alto sax, took the bus to Ben Gurion airport and left for Europe for a few months. I was basking in the street. At the age of 21, I was free for the first time. In December it was too cold and I went back home with a clear intention to make it back to Europe.


***   ***


It took me another 10 years before I could leave Israel for good. In these years I started to learn closely about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, about oppression. I started to accept that I was actually living on someone else’s land. I started to take in that devastating fact that in 1948 the Palestinians didn’t really leave willingly but were rather brutally ethnically cleansed by my Grandfather and his ilk. I started to realize that ethnic cleansing has never stopped in Israel, it just took different shapes and forms. I started to acknowledge the fact that the Israeli legal system was totally racially orientated. A good example was obviously the “Law of Return”, a law that welcomes Jews to come “home” after 2000 years but stops Palestinians from returning to their land and villages after 2 years abroad. All that time I had been developing as a musician, I had become a major session player and a musical producer. Yet, I wasn’t really involved in any political activity. I scrutinized the Israeli left discourse and realized that it was very much a social club rather than an ideological setting motivated by ethical awareness.


At the time of Oslo agreement (1994), I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that Israeli “peace making” equals “piss taking”. It wasn’t there to reconcile with the Palestinians or to confront the Zionist original sin. Instead it was there to reassure the secure existence of the Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians. The Palestinian Right of Return wasn’t an option at all. I decided to leave my home, to leave my career. I left everything behind including my wife Tali, who joined me later. All I took with me was my Tenor Saxophone, my true eternal friend.


I moved to London and attended postgraduate studies in Philosophy at Essex University. Within a week in London I managed to get a residency at the Black Lion, a legendary Irish pub in Kilburn High Road. At the time I didn’t understand how lucky I was. I didn’t know how difficult it is to get a gig in London. In fact this was the beginning of my international career as a Jazz musician. Within a year I had become very popular in the UK playing bebop and post bop. Within three years I was playing with my band all over Europe.


However, it didn’t take long before I started to feel some homesickness. To my great surprise, it wasn’t Israel that I missed. It wasn’t Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem. It was actually Palestine. It wasn’t the rude taxi driver in Ben Gurion airport, or a shopping center in Ramat Gan, it was the little Humus place in Yafo at Yesfet/Salasa streets. It was the Palestinian villages that are stretched on the hills between the olive trees and the Sabbar cactuses. I realized that whenever I felt like visiting home, I would end up in
Edgware Road, I would spend the evening in a Lebanese restaurant. However, once I started to explore my thoughts about Israel in public, it soon became clear to me that Edgware Road was probably as close as I could ever get to my homeland.


***   ***


I may admit that In Israel, I wasn’t at all interested in Arabic music. Supremacist colonials are never interested in the culture of the indigenous. I always loved folk music. I was already established in Europe as a leading Klezmer player. Throughout the years I started to play Turkish and Greek music. However, I completely skipped Arabic music and Palestinian music in particular. Once in London, in these Lebanese restaurants, I started to realize that I have never really explored the music of my neighbors. More concerning, I just ignored it, though I heard it all the time. It was all around me, I never really listened. It was there in every corner of my life, the call for prayers from the Mosques over the hills. Um Kalthoum’, Farid El Atrash, Abdel Halim Hafez, were there in every corner of my life, in the street, on the TV, in the small cafes in old city Jerusalem, in the restaurants. They were all around me but I dismissed them disrespectfully.


In my mid thirties, away from my homeland, I was drawn into the indigenous music of my homeland. It wasn’t easy. It was on the verge of unfeasible. As much as Jazz was easy for me to take in, Arabic music was almost impossible. I would put the music on, I would grab my saxophone or clarinet, I would try to integrate and I would sound foreign. I soon realized that Arabic music was a completely different language altogether. I didn’t know where to start and how to approach it.


Jazz music is a western product. It evolved in the 20th century and developed in the margins of the cultural industry. Bebop, the music I grew up on is made of relatively short fragments of music. The tunes are short because they had to fit into the 1940?s record format (3 min). Western music can be easily transcribed into some visual content within standard notation and chord symbols.


Jazz, like every other Western art form, is partially digital. Arabic music, on the other hand, is analogue, it cannot be transcribed. Once transcribed, its authenticity evaporates. By the time I achieved enough humane maturity to face the music of my homeland, my musical knowledge stood in the way.


I couldn’t understand what was it that stopped me from encompassing Arabic music. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t sound right. I spent enough time listening and practicing. But it just didn’t sound right. As time went by, music journalists in Europe started to appreciate my new sound, they started to regard me as a new Jazz hero who crossed the divide as well as an expert of Arabic music. I knew that they were wrong, as much as I tried to cross the so-called “divide”, I could easily notice that my sound and interpretation was foreign to the Arabic true color.


But then, I found an easy trick. In my gigs, when trying to emulate the oriental sound, I would first sing a line that reminded me the sound I ignored in my childhood, I would try to recall echoes of the Muezzin sneaking into our streets from the valleys around. I would try to recall the astonishing haunting sound of my friends Dhafer Youssef and Nizar Al Issa. I would hear myself the low lasting voice of Abel Halim Hafez. Initially I would just close my eyes and listen to my internal ear, but without realizing I started gradually to open my mouth and sing loudly. I then realized that if I sing while having the saxophone in my mouth I would achieve a sound that was very close to the mosques? metal horns. Originally I tried to get closer to the Arabic sound but at a certain stage, I just forgot what I was trying to achieve; I started to enjoy myself.


Last year, while recording an album in Switzerland, I realized suddenly that my Arabic sound wasn’t embarrassing anymore. Once listening to some takes in the control room I suddenly noticed that the echoes of Jenin, Al Quds and Ramallah popped naturally out of the speakers. I tried to ask myself what happened, why did it suddenly started to sound genuine. I realized that I have given up on the primacy of the eye and reverted to the primacy of the ear. I didn’t look for an inspiration in the manuscript, in the music notes or the chord symbol. Instead, I was listening to my internal voice. Struggling with Arabic music reminded me why I did start to play music in the first place. At the end of the day, I heard Bird in the radio rather seeing him on MTV.


I would like to end this talk by saying that it is about time we learn to listen to the people we care for. It is about time we listen to the Palestinians rather than following some decaying textbooks. It is about time. Only recently I grasped that ethics comes into play when the eyes shut and the echoes of conscience are forming a tune within one’s soul. To empathize is to accept the primacy of the ear.


* An Israeli-born musician, writer and activist who, lives permanently in Great Britain, where he defends the cause of the liberation of the Palestinian people. His most recent novel is My One and Only Love and his most recent recording is Refuge. His site is http://www.gilad.co.uk.

January 11th, 2008, 4:34 am


offended said:

Ibrahim Hamidi said : “if we really want to isolate Iran, we have to work to give a bigger role to Turkey in the region”

Why would we want to isolate Iran? is this the way we reward her for being beside Syria in the rough times?

Ibrahim should have said that if we want to invigorate moderate policies in the region, we should allow for circumstances where a Khatami-like president gets elected.

And by ‘we’ I am presuming he means the international community?

January 11th, 2008, 9:25 am


why-discuss said:

Iran-Syria-Turkey= a powerful multi ehtnic, multi confessional bloc.
I doubt Syria will walk away from Iran, who has very good relationship with Turkey ( Turkey is the only country in the world who does not require a visa from Iranians and vice versa)
In the contrary if they join forces, gaz, oil and nuclear energy from Iran, industrial technology from Turkey and Syria manpower and a platform for the arab market. This would contribute to the sagging industrial growth of the “arab US allies”: Egypt, KSA, Jordan.
This is a new breath of creativity that was badly needed to counteract the monopoly of industrial development of Israel heavily supported by the US.
I welcome Bashar’s and Gul’s openeness to such development, not seen for long in the region. Lebanon could join the pack if the current ‘majority’ finally let go of their ombilical link to the US disastrous and murderous policies ( 655,000 dead iraqis dead, what an achievement!)

January 11th, 2008, 9:30 am


t_desco said:

Syrian-Born Qaida Member Arrested in Beirut

Lebanese security forces have arrested a Syrian national two days after threatening the German embassy in Beirut that al-Qaida will stage attacks in Germany, An Nahar daily reported Friday.

It said police arrested Mohammed Ndoub on Thursday, almost 24 hours after making his threat through a call from a payphone.

He reportedly said the terrorist network will stage bomb attacks in Germany in the next three months in retaliation for the prosecution of al-Qaida members accused of plotting to bomb German trains in July 2006 and the participation of the European country in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

An Nahar said Ndoub used a prepaid card to make his phone call and that security forces arrested him during a raid after two days of intense investigation.

The newspaper said police found hand drawn maps which the suspect described as locations planned to be attacked by al-Qaida in Europe and the United States.

It said police were also “investigating his involvement in other terrorist crimes after it was revealed that he is directly connected to al-Qaida.”

Suspects in failed German train bombings had sought World Cup stadium as target

The two main suspects in the failed German train bombings had planned to strike a soccer stadium during the 2006 World Cup, along with a bridge in Cologne, an investigator with Germany’s federal criminal police said Thursday.
Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib, a 22-year-old Lebanese citizen, is accused of attempting to blow up two commuter trains in July 2006 along with Jihad Hamad, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Lebanese court last month.

Before the men plotted to blow up the trains, they wanted to attack a stadium during the World Cup and the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, investigator Ulrich Schonart testified during the trial at the Duesseldorf-based state court. Schonart said he based his information on an interrogation in Lebanon of Hamad that he had participated in.

However, strict security measures during the event kept the pair from staging any attacks on a stadium, and they did not have enough explosives to target the bridge, he said. …

January 11th, 2008, 10:37 am


t_desco said:

Militant arrested in Tripoli ‘is al-Qaeda No. 2 in Lebanon’

A man originally described as a leading member of Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam when he was arrested in an apartment in Tripoli on Thursday, has now also been identified as Nabil Mohammad Ghasub Rahim, the No. 2 of al-Qaeda in Lebanon.

According to a report on the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Rahim is second only to the fugitive Palestinian chief of Fatah al-Islam, Shaker al-Absi.

Al-Absi purportedly released an audio tape message earlier this week on the Internet threatening renewed attacks on the Lebanese army and pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda.

The report said that Rahim, who is a Lebanese citizen, is the key to terrorism in Lebanon because he is the link there between Fatah al-Islam and other countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, with young Saudi nationals, who form the largest and most powerful component of the militant group.

Rahim, 36, took over as second-in-command from the Saudi national Bassam Humud, who recently returned to his home country.

Rahim is believed to have been hiding in the apartment in the Abu Samra neighbourhood of Tripoli for about 11 months from where he coordinated group’s activities including recruitment into the militant group.

He was in contact with another 11 terrorists and the investigators hope to extract from Rahim more information about Fatah-al-Islam, which fought a three-month battle with the Lebanese army last year. …

January 11th, 2008, 12:36 pm


t_desco said:

Nabil Rahim and the Hariri investigation/the first Mehlis report: is he somehow linked to the group of Australians that was arrested (Al-Akhbar)? Or was he suspected of having links to Ahmed Abu Adass (As-Safir)? Was he mentioned in the first Mehlis report? And if he wasn’t, why not? Could somebody please explain? Thanks.

January 11th, 2008, 1:59 pm


Observer said:

This post from atimes confirms what my assessment of the situation has been and that is that the era of US hegemony is at an end and the era of regional alliances with the big players being Iran Turkey and perhaps Israel is coming to the fore. In all of this the Sunni states of Jordan Egypt and the KSA are all losers. One card that the KSA is trying to hold is the Sunni insurgency in Iraq as they are trying to prepare them for the coming civil war, a proxy war with Iran. The rest of the GCC countries do not want anything to do with such a scenario as they have substantial Shia minorities. To achieve this the KSA will have to dissociate Syria from Iran and pay the price: this price will be figuratively
1. The head of Jumblat
2. The right hand of Hariri
3. The further empowerement of HA
4. The end of the tribunal
5. Continued military cooperation with Tehran as they help the Syrians in developing asymetric warfare capabilities
6. Huge investments in Syria
Here is the post, which I think should be added to the blog

January 11th, 2008, 2:36 pm


t_desco said:

Lebanese army detains fundamentalist suspect in northern Lebanon

Lebanese troops on Friday detained a suspected militant and a member of an Islamist group called Fatah al-Islam which waged a 15-week a battle against the Lebanese army last year in northern Lebanon, a military official said.

Othman Turkmani, was detained in an army ambush on a street in the Bab el-Ramel neighbourhood of the northern city of Tripoli, the official said.
It was the third detention of Fatah al-Islam militants in northern Lebanon in two days.

On Thursday, two Fatah al-Islam members were seized in separate incidents, including high-ranking militant Nabil Rahim who, security sources said, is known to have links with the al-Qaeda terror network. Rahim’s wife was also detained. …

January 11th, 2008, 3:16 pm


T said:

This is freedom of the press? First Al Manar, Al Sahar, Al Jazeera (soldout and diluted), now a Syrian TV… Even Indymedia in the USA was put on the terror watch list. The precedent was set when authors accused of Holocaust denial were jailed for thought crimes. Since then encroachment on free speech/press, and censorship has been steadily widening- always for a good, righteous cause of course. Yet the Taliban get to appear on their own TV channel? Isnt this one of our main bullet points of democracy in the ME? like elections in Gaza.

US blacklists Iranian commander, Syrian-based TV station Wed Jan 9, 2008 AFP

The US Treasury said Wednesday it had blacklisted a top-ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer and a Syrian-based television station for allegedly “fueling” insurgent acts in Iraq.

The Treasury said its financial sanctions targeted Ahmed Foruzandeh who it said was a brigadier general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Qods Force, as well as Syrian-based Al-Zawra television.

US officials accused Foruzandeh of helping foment attacks in Iraq against Iraqi government officials and American troops.

Al-Zawra was said to have broadcast messages through patriotic songs to the Islamic Army of Iraq group which Washington labels a Sunni terrorist group.

The Treasury’s actions also targeted three Iraqi men identified as Abu Mustafa Al-Sheibani, Ismail Hafiz Al Lami and Mish’an Al-Jaburi.

The government agency said, however, that the Iranian brigadier general and the three Iraqis all had numerous aliases.

The US sanctions against the top-ranking Iranian military officer come amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.

US President George W. Bush, currently on a trip to the Middle East, warned Iran of “serious consequences” if it attacked US warships, following an encounter between US and Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend.

“Iran and Syria are fueling violence and destruction in Iraq. Iran trains, funds, and provides weapons to violent Shia extremist groups, while Syria provides safe-haven to Sunni insurgents and financiers,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Levy urged America’s allies to support the sanctions which freeze the assets of targeted individuals under US jurisdiction, as well as barring US citizens from conducting financial deals with those affected.

The Treasury said Foruzandeh “leads terrorist operations” against US and Iraqi forces in Iraq, which borders Iran, and claimed he was responsible for managing assassinations of Iraqi citizens.

US officials believe the Iranian officer has based his operations in the former US embassy compound in Tehran.

They claimed Foruzandeh had set up training courses in Iran for Iraqi militias which include lessons on guerilla warfare and of how to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for the deaths of US troops.

Al-Zawra television is owned and controlled by one of the Iraqis cited on the updated blacklist, Mish’an Al-Jaburi, according to the Treasury.

Washington said the television station broadcasts “graphic” videos of insurgent attacks against US troops based in Iraq, as well as urging Iraqis to fight US forces.

US officials believe Mish’an Al-Jaburi is based in Syria, which also borders Iraq, and that the other two Iraqis cited are living in Iran.

The Treasury said Abu Mustafa Al-Sheibani and Ismail Hafiz Al Lami led different groups which seek to fight US forces and harm Iraqi officials and citizens.

The Treasury has ratcheted up its financial sanctions against various Iranians and the Iranian government, including large banks, in the past year as relations between the two countries have hardened.

Tehran has vigorously denied backing violence in Iraq.

Washington has also been seeking to win broader United Nations sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

US officials say Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

January 11th, 2008, 4:24 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

There is nothing make me more happy than improve relationships between Syria and Turkey, Turkey is changing,Mr. Ordogan is smart strategist,with good ambitions, we know now that the arab revolution in 1918,where we get rid of turkish rule, set the stage for Israel to set foot in the heart of the arab land,as a thorn in our side, to correct this ,we went through emotional mood(Arab nationality)not strategic intelligent mood.
this is not alliance with Iran,turkey and Syria, this is alliance with Turkey, Syria and Iraq,democratic one, which has a population of 130 million, hopefully Egypt will join us,then the pillars of David will crumble.

January 11th, 2008, 4:28 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

USA wants the arab world to fight Iran, he(george Bush) realizes that USA can not fight Iran,(with 168,000 american soldiers in Iraq) and Israel does not dare do that with HA,with their great leader Hassan Nasrallah,will respond and hurt Israel, now George Bush wants the Arab to cause trouble to Iran, but I doubt they will do, under the nice words he is uttering,there is smelly,evil plan, the area has enough wars,the only war we should work on is the liberation of Palastine.

January 11th, 2008, 6:35 pm


Alex said:


I prefer fostering and strengthening all of Syria’s natural alliances. The strongest two are with Lebanon and Turkey. I hope Lebanon will not fear getting closer to Syria the same way Syria is not fearing getting closer to the much larger Turkey.

Syria also has to have very good relations with Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia …and Israel.

There will be no “liberation of Palestine” Majed (except if you mean the return to 1967 borders). Israel will be there for a long, long time… A very different Israel I hope … one that respects its environment and its neighbors and their rights and interests.

January 11th, 2008, 6:54 pm


Alex said:

Unclassified CIA documents reveal CIA suspected Israel of helping Iran with its nuclear program … a program that was started way before Ahmadinejad showed up.

By Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondent

The Central Intelligence Agency, backed by bodies including the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined in August 1974 that Israel had nuclear “weapons in being,” a “small number” of which it “produced and stockpiled.”

Israel was also suspected of providing nuclear materials, equipment or technology to Iran, South Africa and other then-friendly countries.

This top secret document, consigned to the CIA’s vaults for almost 32 years, was suddenly released to the public this week, during U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to Israel and on the eve of his trip to the Persian Gulf.

On Iran, the 1974 NIE said, “there is no doubt of the Shah’s ambition to make Iran a power to reckon with. If he is alive in the mid-80’s, if Iran has a full-fledged nuclear power industry and all the facilities necessary for nuclear weapons, and if other countries have proceeded with weapons development, we have no doubt that Iran will follow suit.”

The Shah’s ouster in 1979 (and death a year later) apparently slowed down Iran’s nuclear project.

The authors of the NIE wrote that the U.S. helped France expedite its nuclear program, France in turn helped Israel, and much like France and India, Israel, “while unlikely to foster proliferation as a matter of national policy, probably will prove susceptible to the hue of economic and political advantages to be gained from exporting materials, technology and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons programs.”

January 11th, 2008, 7:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You mean that “CIA reveal Israel was suspected by CIA of helping Iran with its nuclear program” and not that the CIA reveals that Israel helped Iran.

It clearly says:
“Israel was also suspected of providing nuclear materials, equipment or technology to Iran, South Africa and other then-friendly countries.”

A minimum of intellectual honesty please.

January 11th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Alex said:


You are right, I fixed it.

I hope one day I learn to reach your admirable level of intellectual honesty. I need to read more of your very carefully balanced conclusions about Syria. Those are examples of impeccable intellectual honesty that we Syrians can learn from.

January 11th, 2008, 7:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You will never catch me incorrectly quoting people or articles or quoting them out of context. And when I am not clear about a quote, I state it.

And by the way, intellectual integrity does not require that views or conclusions be balanced, it requires that they be well argued.

And don’t try making this a Syrian thing. I was correcting you as a person and no one else, especially the Syrian people.

I appreciate your willingness to admit your mistake and correct it even though it was done half heartedly and with a jab at me.

PS You must keep working on understanding when you are using the “two wrongs make a right argument”. You somehow cannot get rid of this nasty habit.

January 11th, 2008, 8:17 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Is what you say represent Joshua ideas?

January 11th, 2008, 8:27 pm


T said:

in your intellectually ‘honest and balanced’ way you neglected to address the article about the trend in the West censoring media outlets such as the Syrian TV that voice viewpoints the West doesnt like. Censorship should not be tolerated by any sector—
And before you jump to the Holocaust denial issue I mentioned (a denial only espoused by nuts and kooks as far as I am concerned), let me say this: there is EXCELLENT evidence to show that 8-9 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust (2 or 3mill more than counted, tho you’ll not hear about that in the liberal MSM). But we’ll never know, as the EU governments jail people for even investigating. Why? What are they hiding? Can you imagine the shame and renewed outrage when those higher figures are verified? And the public response? What other reason is there behind criminalizing research? No area in the domain of world history should ever be off limits, and yes that includes even if the EU govs or arab world doesnt want to look at it. Free speech/press/expression should cover all equally. Until we clean up our own double standards on press freedom- how can we preach to Syria about it?
PS- As said in a prior post- Haaretz again puts US media to shame. the above piece is nowhere in the US news.

January 11th, 2008, 9:53 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

All the evidence shows that about 6 million Jews were murdered by the Germans.

Holocaust denial is not a crime in Israel or the US, so if you have a problem with this, discuss it with the Europeans.

And nobody has criminalized research into holocaust studies so I don’t understand what you are talking about.

As for your strange suggestion that the West cannot criticize Syria I hope you understand that is ridiculous. First of all, it is people that criticize, not countries. And they have every right to do so. And second, if you are a thief it does not mean that you cannot criticize a murderer. Even if freedom of speech is not 100% in the West it is about 1000 times better than in Syria. You do not have to be perfect to criticize other people, otherwise no one would criticize anybody.

January 11th, 2008, 10:18 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Since you have appeared on this forum, you have managed to unite a lot of Syrians behind their country. Please keep it up.

January 11th, 2008, 10:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I sure will.
Your rhetoric though is a little hollow. If you want to make a buck based on Asad’s little burst of liberalism for the Syrian elite that is fine with me. We all have to make a living. But if you start believing your own BS, you are in trouble.

I have no criticism whatsoever of Syrians, only of the Syrian regime and if according to you, the Syrians like it so much, then they desreve it. That is why most would prefer to live in the US. I am quite sure that you do not represent the silent Syrian majority that wants freedom and economic opportunity like anybody else in this world. And if the Syrians would really love Asad as you think, he would not need to opress them and deny them freedom of speech. It is as simple as that.

January 11th, 2008, 10:56 pm


EHSANI2 said:

When did I mention Assad? Do you think that “we” don’t know that he is not democratic? You keep stating things that my 5-year old already knows. Of course it would be great to have maximum “freedom and economic opportunity”. I thank for wishing us Syrians such lofty and noble demands. I would appreciate it if you could spell out exactly how we can achieve them given the facts on the ground

January 11th, 2008, 11:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Then I really don’t understand your comment.
I always write against Asad and never against Syria.
What part of what I write don’t you like?

Bankers are not the right people to lead drastic changes. They are too pragmatic and unwilling to take chances. That is perfectly all right. People who lead change are not discouraged by facts on the ground and are willing to make heavy sacrifices.

January 11th, 2008, 11:10 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Please spell out these “sacrifices”. Since this subject matter seems to be a passion of yous, you must have thought it out in detail.

That Syria is not democratic is a shared consensus. What I am asking you to do is to spell out “precisely” what needs to be done to change it

January 11th, 2008, 11:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I will be happy to do so but first can you explain what you don’t like about what I write?

January 11th, 2008, 11:44 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I never said that I don’t. Once you answer my question, it would help me understand your viewpoint more clearly

January 11th, 2008, 11:52 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Then can you please explain your remark:
“Since you have appeared on this forum, you have managed to unite a lot of Syrians behind their country. Please keep it up. ”

I took it to mean that you have a problem with what I write and that it made you angry in some sense and want to support Syria more. If not, what does it mean?

January 11th, 2008, 11:56 pm


t_desco said:

A word of caution

In my opinion, these were the two most interesting paragraphs in the final Brammertz report:

“63. In the investigation of the assassination of Gemayel, the Commission has conducted several important new examinations during this reporting period. The Commission has conducted analysis of several DNA profiles found on the crime scene and has isolated the DNA profiles of several unidentified individuals as belonging to potential perpetrators. Acting on a request for assistance from the Lebanese authorities, the Commission conducted extensive forensic examinations on the bodies of two deceased individuals considered as suspects based on witness interviews conducted by the Lebanese authorities. The Commission’s expert findings indicate that the DNA profiles of these two deceased individuals do not match the DNA profiles of the unidentified individuals identified as possible perpetrators.

64. In connection with the Gemayel investigation, the Commission has conducted detailed investigations on a black Honda CRV vehicle originally seized by the Syrian authorities and then handed over to the Lebanese authorities and which is suspected, according to one witness statement, of having been used by the perpetrators and of having come into contact with the victim’s vehicle. International experts working with the Commission conducted extensive forensic examinations linked to this vehicle including examinations of fingerprints, hair, fiber, glass, plastic and paint as well as analysis of gunshot residues, DNA sampling, detailed examinations of the vehicle’s exhaust pipe and ballistic investigations. Based on preliminary results, the Commission is not able to draw meaningful conclusions at this stage on this vehicle’s connection to the crime.”

Perhaps you remember the reports by all sides, As-Safir, An-Nahar etc. claiming that this was the car that was used in the attack on Gemayel (each adding its own spin, of course…) and that some members of Fatah al-Islam (who were later killed in the clashes with the Lebanese army) had been involved in the assassination.

This should serve as a reminder of just how unreliable these reports can be.

Now, according to one such (possibly unreliable) report by As-Safir, the “witness” mentioned in §63 was none other than… Ahmad Merhi.

The fact that he did not tell the truth (if the witness was indeed him) casts doubt on other aspects of his confession as well (those alluded to in Siniora’s letter to the UN, for example…).

January 12th, 2008, 12:05 am


offended said:

Ehsani, allow me to volunteer and answer on behalf of AIG.
The sacrifices he was referring too are as follows:
– Forceful change of the regime.
– Slaughtering of few hundred thousands Syrians.
– A state of anarchy that will lead to proliferation of Al Qaeda and other gangs.
– Mass immigration of Syrians to neighboring countries due to the lack of safety. (Israel in particular will be very welcoming of them)
– Dilution of identity followed by partitioning along ‘sectarian’ lines.

It is so obvious Ehsani, how could you not see that AIG has the best interest of the ‘silent Syrian majority’ in his puny mind?!

January 12th, 2008, 12:35 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Are you sure you’re not a Syrian Jew?

Your number one priority seems to be the liberation and vindication of the Syrian people. You yearn for it desperately, grabbing the Syrians on this blog by their virtual lapels and shaking them while screaming in their face, “WAKE UP YOU UNGRATEFUL IDIOTS!!! Can’t you see you’re being OPPRESSED ?!!!”

It’s actually kind of touching.


January 12th, 2008, 12:49 am


T said:

This Nahar piece illustrates my point. Never saw the American media challenge hypocrisy like this: (I hope none of them are designated by Treasury as terror threats for doing so. The softpower solution would be to just have MSM sponsors cut their microphones or cut to a commercial.)

Arab Media Hammers Bush
Arab commentators poured scorn on Friday on U.S. President George W. Bush’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal within a year, with some calling him a “liar” and full of “hollow” words.

“All that comes from the White House are hollow words… then the pressure exerted by Washington on Israel amounts to zero,” charged Syria’s state-run Ath-Thawra newspaper in Syria.

Bush concluded his visit to Israel and the West Bank — the first by a serving president since 1998 — by predicting the signing of a Middle East peace treaty before his term expires in January 2009.

He urged both sides to make the “difficult choices” which would allow the creation of a Palestinian state and the end of Israel’s four-decade occupation of Arab land, with a deal resolving the key issues of their conflict — Jerusalem, borders, refugees and settlements.

But in Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, liberal opposition newspaper Al-Wafd described Bush as “the most hateful visitor” and a “war criminal.”

“After all the destruction you have caused and which your country continues to cause, you have wished to end your rule by playing the role of peacemaker,” the paper charged.
“But you are lying as you have lied before to the people of the Middle East and to your own people.”

Many in the Arab world question whether the United States, as Israel’s closest ally, can act as an honest broker and ensure Israel abides by its commitments.

“Before and during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Mr. Bush more than once urged Israel to stop settlement expansion and called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” Ath-Thawra wrote. “These are only beautiful words of peace.”

Relations between Damascus and Washington have been frosty for several years and although Syria took part in the US conference in November that revived the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Syrian track remains frozen.

But even a commentator in Jordan, a close U.S. ally, had harsh words for Bush.

Political analyst Rami Khouri said Washington’s refusal to accept the verdict when groups like the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas were elected to power, left Bush open to accusations of hypocrisy.

“If you preach majority rule and the rule of law as a desirable global norm, but refuse to respect it when Israeli interests are concerned, you come across as a hypocrite, at best, and a deceitful cheat, at worst,” he wrote.

Hamas won an election in January 2006 and headed two Palestinian governments before it seized control of the Gaza Strip in June last year from forces loyal to president Mahmoud Abbas, splitting Palestinian society into two.

“Hamas will not be obligated by a deal that Abu Mazen (Abbas) would sign as he has no mandate to speak in the name of the Palestinian people,” a Hamas spokesman said.

He was referring to the fact that Abbas only has authority only in the West Bank, and therefore only part of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian refugees also turned on the U.S. president in a camp in southern Lebanon, where demonstrators set fire to Israeli and U.S. flags and one carried a banner with the slogan, “Bush the killer, you are not welcome in Palestine.”

Dubai’s Gulf News, in a front-page letter to Bush, launched a stinging attack on his administration’s policy in the Middle East, chiefly its support for Israel despite the “oppression” of the Palestinians.

“We realize that containing Iran, selling more weapons and securing cheap oil supplies are the main issues on your mind as you tour the region,” the paper said, dismissing Bush’s “claim” to want to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“As for… the promise of democracy and human rights, which you are expected to raise in your official talks in the region… your dreadful record on both gives you no moral right to lecture others,” said the daily, which listed a litany of alleged rights violations in Iraq and elsewhere.(AFP)

Beirut, 11 Jan 08, 19:49

January 12th, 2008, 1:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What you provide proves my point. I have seen scathing criticsm of Bush in many US papers but never by Arabic papers in their own country of their own “perfect” leaders. The US press is not perfect but it is 1000 times better than the Arab press.

Your criticism is misplaced.

January 12th, 2008, 2:03 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not have the honor of being a Syrian Jew.
It is not the Syrian people living under oppression in Syria that I can’t understand. It is the apologists for the Syrian regime that live in free countries. These guys are the epitome of hypocrisy and cynicism. They enjoy living in a free and democratic country but are happy to deny this right from their fellow country men in Syria under many excuses. As you can imagine I don’t regard these people highly.

January 12th, 2008, 2:07 am


norman said:

Syria Rebuilding on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs

Published: January 12, 2008
The puzzling site in Syria that Israeli jets bombed in September grew more curious on Friday with the release of a satellite photograph showing new construction there that resembles the site’s former main building.

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New construction at a disputed Syrian site that Israeli and American analysts judged to be a partially built nuclear reactor.
Israel’s air attack was directed against what Israeli and American intelligence analysts had judged to be a partly constructed nuclear reactor. The Syrians vigorously denied the atomic claim.

Before the attack, satellite imagery showed a tall, square building there measuring about 150 feet long per side.

After the attack, the Syrians wiped the area clean, with some analysis calling the speed of the cleanup a tacit admission of guilt. The barren site is on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, 90 miles north of the Iraqi border.

The image released Friday came from a private company, DigitalGlobe, in Longmont, Colo. It shows a tall, square building under construction that appears to closely resemble the original structure, with the exception that the roof is vaulted instead of flat. The photo was taken from space on Wednesday.

Given the international uproar that unfolded after the bombing, “we can assume it’s not a reactor,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that has analyzed the Syrian site.

If international inspectors eventually get to the site, he added, they would now have a more difficult time looking for nuclear evidence. “The new building,” he noted, “covers whatever remained of the destroyed one.”

Skeptics have criticized the nuclear accusation, saying the public evidence that has so far come to light was ambiguous at best. They noted, for instance, that at the time of the attack the site had no obvious barbed wire or air defenses that would normally ring a sensitive military facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna recently became aware of the new construction, a European diplomat said Friday.

“Obviously, they’re keeping an eye on the site,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s diplomatic delicacy.

As a signer to an agreement with the atomic agency, Syria is obligated to report the construction of a nuclear reactor to international inspectors. Nuclear reactors can make plutonium for the core of atom bombs, and therefore secretive work on reactors is usually interpreted as military in nature.

Senior Syrian officials continue to deny that a nuclear reactor was under construction, insisting that what Israel destroyed was a largely empty military warehouse.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who directs the atomic agency, this week told Al-Hayat, an Arabic-language newspaper based in London, that his agency wanted to inspect the site.

“So far, we have not received any information about any nuclear programs in Syria,” he said, according to a transcript posted on the newspaper’s Web site. Dr. ElBaradei said he had asked for the Syrians’ permission “to allow the agency to visit the facility and to verify that it was not nuclear.”

He added: “The Syrian brothers did not allow us to visit and inspect the location.”

While some analysts have suggested that the new building might slow down international inspectors, Dr. ElBaradei in the interview said his agency had sensitive “technologies to assure that the location did not host a nuclear facility.”

The satellite photographs, he added, led experts to doubt “that the targeted construction” was in fact a nuclear reactor.

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January 12th, 2008, 2:19 am


EHSANI2 said:


I am still waiting for the answer to my question.

January 12th, 2008, 2:53 am


T said:

I am also waiting for the answer to my question- would you work for a one-man, one-vote election in Lebanon and Syria? Or would it only qualify if the winner served as a US-Israel puppet, like in Gaza?
And as to Arabs criticizing their own rulers inside their own countries. They cant. In US the contiuum is far more subtle. The rules of engagement employ less force- We Americans can not criticize Israel in our own country. (Tho we can go after the surrogate, Bush). It is handled differently than in the Arab states here. You’d be unofficially blacklisted via anti-semite smears or sex smears, or a whispering character assassination etc. With refined soft power methods. But the outcome is that free speech is silenced/censored.
Back to Syria-Leb. Do you support one-man, one-vote representational government?

January 12th, 2008, 3:15 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You didn’t answer my question, maybe you missed my post:

Then can you please explain your remark:
“Since you have appeared on this forum, you have managed to unite a lot of Syrians behind their country. Please keep it up. ”

I took it to mean that you have a problem with what I write and that it made you angry in some sense and want to support Syria more. If not, what does it mean?


I want to understand your position so I can give you a better answer.

January 12th, 2008, 5:00 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, I absolutely support one man one vote in Syria and Lebanon even if it means the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon. Assuming that democracy stays after they come to power, they will be replaced if they do not help the Syrians and Lebanese. If they start a war with Israel for example and lose, they will be voted out. If they do not provide economic growth they will be voted out. I am not worried at all about true democracy in Syria and Lebanon.

What do you mean you cannot criticize Israel in the US? It is done all the time in newspapers and blogs and all kinds of media. The case is also the same in Europe. There are tons of critical articles of Israel and Observer for example posts some of them on this forum. On university campuses all over the US you have pro-Palestine and anti-Israel events.

If you criticize Israel don’t expect Israel supporters to shut up though. Freedom of speech is a two way street.

January 12th, 2008, 5:07 am


T said:

Well I must remind you, Hezbollah and Hamas’s popularity is precisely because they help their constituents in ways the government should have and didnt. But then the west’s Economic Hit Men were brought in and the starvation boycotts applied to eliminate the base of this support in Gaza, to overthrow their government. Thats some democracy you got there my friend, just like Iraq and Afghanistan. Enough to make a Patriot proud.

On the censorship campaign masquerading as ‘anti-hate law’ or that mother of all fakeries anti-terror/homeland security to shut one up—
All over the US the encroachment on free speech civil liberties by Campus Watch, lawsuits against school and colleges that try to host Palestinian events and confereneces, for ex the removal of the principal at the first Arab H.S. in NYC who was fired for using the word intifadah, universities financially boycotted when Pres Carter spoke. The blacklisting of Norm Finkelstein is legendary and utterly disgraceful. One U got an art exhibit that showed photos of injured Palestinians closed down. An NYU historian banned from speaking at a PRIVATE dinner at a Polish consulate because the speaker was “too critical” of Israel, Juan Cole banned from Yale appointment for his views, passing of laws such as Title IX of the Higher Ed Act, HR 3077, Columbia U ME professors labeled “dangerous” for their “pro-Arab” stances, the censorship of the Rachel Corrie play, Human Rights Watch for factually categorizing the settlements as illegal, which they are under intl law- via the UN- which is also depicted as anti-semitic. With the Global Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2004 this censorship became institutionalized, and free speech criminalized. That is one attempt among others… If the recipients of the privileges granted in this legislation were interchanged with “anti-Muslim” instead of anti-semite for example, the law would NEVER have passed. And there are many, many other instances too numerous for this post and enough to prove it has become systemic.

And as for expecting Israel supporters to “shut up” as you say- I dont expect it, I dont want it, I dont accept it. But I do expect Israel supporters to stop shutting other people up. By lawsuits, smearing, boycotting or various other methods of intimidation.
(20,000 of my google entries mysteriously disappeared after I criticized Israel online. Now who has that capability? Internet Haganah and associates? Friends of JINSA? And I am not the only one.)

January 12th, 2008, 7:16 am


ausamaa said:

to Another Israeli Guy,

Since you have expressed over and over again your failur to understand why Syrians act the way the they do despite many attempts at explaining this to you, why dont you just give it up. Or why dont you try to focus your efforts on trying to convince ultra hawkish Israelies of the Wrongs they are committing against thier whole neighberhood and try to illustrate to them the dangers of continuing on the course they have been following since Rabin’s death at the hand of Israeli extremists, or terrorists, and which has helped creat the nightmares they are now suffering from at the hands of Hamas, Hizbullah, the Iranian missiles and an the ever present danger of a Syrian-Israeli war? What happened to the days of Rabin. Is Israel uncapable of producing another Rabin like leader? Or are the nightmares they are suffering from and creating at the same time not shocking enough?

Is time on Israel’s side? Can Israel reasonably bet on outliving its current adversaries?

January 12th, 2008, 8:50 am


why-discuss said:

Bush and Condie are playing their last card before leaving their post with a “D-” for the disastrous policy in Iraq, the failure of weakening Iran and the crumbling US economy now according to many experts going in to a recession. What a great legacy! a country deeply divided and hated by the majority of the countries. Bush is certainly until now the worst president ever and the best friend to Israel ever.
As he did in Iraq, he is just fantasizing about peace in Palestine. Using his bulldozer approach, he is trying to force a peace like he tried to force democracy in Iraq, totally ignoring the deadly consequences that an imposed peace would bring not only to the palestinians, but their ‘strategic’ ally, Israel. Olmert is as blind as he was during the war in lebanon, hoping to restore his image at the expenses of more blood. Abbas is the lame duck, a bit like Blair during the Iraq war, a dreamer.
What Bush did which is great is that he has allowed Iran to become self sufficient, Turkey to have an islamic governement and to create a rapprochement between Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. They are now building an economical block that may give them more leverage in dealing with the US.
Thank you, Mr Bush!

January 12th, 2008, 8:56 am


t_desco said:

Such a simple story and we already have a clear contradiction between the various versions reported by the press…;

Les forces de l’ordre appréhendent trois nouveaux terroristes

Suite à l’arrestation jeudi de Nabil Rahim, l’un des chefs présumés d’el-Qaëda au Liban et dans la région, les RG de l’armée ont appréhendé hier, dans le quartier populaire de Bab el-Ramel à Tripoli, un autre terroriste présumé dénommé Osmane el-Terkmani, alias Abou-Bakr el-Terkmani, qui pourrait être proche de Fateh el-Islam.Les FSI ont également annoncé l’arrestation de deux autres membres présumés du réseau fondamentaliste, portant respectivement les noms de Traboulsi et de Khoder.

Des sources sécuritaires ont indiqué à l’agence al-Markaziya que Nabil Rahim est le chef présumé d’un réseau terroriste affilié à el-Qaëda, et implanté au Liban, en Irak et en Arabie saoudite. Les membres principaux de l’organisation résidant au Liban ont été arrêtés il y a quelque temps, alors que les terroristes présumés qui ont été arrêtés récemment sont des membres secondaires du réseau, selon les sources précitées, qui ont démenti les informations selon lesquelles l’épouse de Nabil Rahim aurait été incarcérée.
D’après ces sources, des organisations terroristes saoudiennes auraient accordé des financements à Nabil Rahim qui aurait recruté des combattants, acquis des armes et des matières explosives, et loué des appartements pour entraîner ses partisans. Il aurait également sollicité l’aide de terroristes saoudiens et russes. L’un de ses principaux lieutenants, dénommé Bassam Hammoud, serait actuellement emprisonné en Arabie saoudite.

Les sources sécuritaires soulignent également que Nabil Rahim aurait recruté ses combattants « pour protéger la communauté sunnite au Liban » et qu’il qualifiait les autorités libanaises de « mécréantes ». Il aurait également pris contact avec Chaker Absi, le chef de Fateh el-Islam, avant le début des combats à Nahr el-Bared.
L’Orient-Le Jour

(my emphasis)

So the two other suspected Fatah al-Islam members who were arrested do not, according to this report, include Nabil Rahim as the reports AFP and DPA suggested.

Remember the story that Fatah al-Islam got Saudi money? Everybody thought of Hariri, but perhaps the “organisations terroristes saoudiennes” who gave money to Rahim and Hammoud, according to the article, are in reality the famous “hommes d’affaires du Golfe” mentioned by Rougier?

January 12th, 2008, 8:56 am


ausamaa said:

to Another Israeli Guy,

Since you have expressed over and over again your failur to understand why Syrians act the way the they do despite many attempts at explaining this to you, why dont you just give it up. Or why dont you try to focus your efforts on trying to convince ultra hawkish Israelies of the Wrongs they are committing against thier whole neighberhood and try to illustrate to them the dangers of continuing on the course they have been following since Rabin’s death at the hand of Israeli extremists, or terrorists, and which has helped creat the nightmares they are now suffering from at the hands of Hamas, Hizbullah, the Iranian missiles and the ever present danger of a Syrian-Israeli war? What happened to the days of Rabin. Is Israel uncapable of producing another Rabin like leader? Or are the nightmares they are suffering from and creating at the same time not shocking enough?

It has been more than 40 years since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Saini, and the Golan hights. What real victories has Israelies seen then?

Is time on Israel’s side?

Can Israel reasonably bet on outliving its current adversaries through the rule of force?

Is the Israeli Sowrd as sharp as it once was?

Are the Arabs now more afraid of Israel than they were in the aftermath of the 1967 war?

I beleive the answer is No to all of the above. So why dont Israelies reconsider the course they have chosen since Rabin instead on continuing on the same track that will lead all to more misery and suffering?

January 12th, 2008, 8:59 am


t_desco said:

An-Nahar’s Ali Hamade ready to enlist in the Marines and take the battle to Damascus…

Non-Traditional Methods Needed to Curb Syrian Regime

“We should not forget the decisive Israeli factor that prevents the United States from unleashing the battle for regime change in Damascus,” he added.

He concluded that the “key to settling Lebanon’s crisis is not in Lebanon.

“Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine, even Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would remain jailed by…the pattern of blackmail and terror until the international community and Arab legitimacy realize the need for adopting non traditional methods to put a limit to such practices.”

(my emphasis)

January 12th, 2008, 10:20 am


Yousef said:

So, is it safe to say then, that those long-standing water issues have been resolved?

January 12th, 2008, 10:43 am


t_desco said:

Wow! The German magazine FOCUS reports that Mohammed Ndoub (like Nabil Rahim? Or perhaps they are confusing him with Rahim? – t_d) had already been arrested “after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri” (no further details given):

Ermittlungen nach Terrordrohungen

Anschläge auf Justizministerium

Der Syrer sagte nach FOCUS-Informationen aus, ein Team von drei Männern – ein Deutsch-Türke, ein Saudi und ein Australier – halte sich im Auftrag einer Terrororganisation namens „Dschihad Islami“ in Deutschland auf. Angeblich wollten die Männer einen Anschlag auf das Bundesjustizministerium in Berlin oder andere Justizbehörden verüben, um die Verurteilung von El-Kaida-Mitgliedern in Deutschland zu rächen. Sprengstoff befinde sich bereits im Land.

Nach Hariri-Mord verhaftet

Die Aussagen des Mannes, der seit 2003 in Syrien Mitglied der El Kaida sein soll, wertete die libanesische Polizei als „insgesamt glaubhaft.“ N. war bereits nach der Ermordung des libanesischen Ministerpräsidenten Rafik Hariri verhaftet worden. Das Bundeskriminalamt wies darauf hin, dass für die Überprüfung seiner Glaubwürdigkeit weitere Informationen aus dem Libanon nötig seien.

January 12th, 2008, 10:57 am


kamali said:


i am syrian and agree with everything you say. are you sure you are not syrian? it looks you know better about syria that those who defend it. to me, you are suggesting a better future for syria that some of the syrians here. it is the same game, it is this regime or death. have you ever seen a government blackmailing its people with safety and security???!!!!
read this…it was published in 2005. did anything change since then?

Syria stagnates amidst fading reforms
When Syrian president Bashar al-Assad took over from his late father amidst a wave of optimism, he promised major political and economic reform. Four years on, BBC World Service’s Assignment programme visited Syria to assess the extent things have changed.
Mr Assad promised much when he came to power in 2000 – but there are accusations he has failed to deliver.

The government continues to arrest opponents, and the economy, still largely state-controlled, is stagnant.

The young Mr Assad was popular when he succeeded his father – promising a more open political and economic system. Hundreds of political prisoners were released.

But the pace of change alarmed the three pillars of the Syrian establishment – the army, the Baath Party and the Alawite minority – and the authorities began clamping down on debate. Now those who speak up risk jail.

“About 20 security police surrounded us as we walked out of the university restaurant,” one student, arrested at Damascus University for protesting, told BBC World Service’s Assignment programme.

“Then we were bundled into a van and handcuffed.”

Communist accusations

The student did not want to be identified. He said he had been protesting because colleagues at the university had been expelled after speaking out against the government’s abandonment of its policy of guaranteeing jobs for graduates.

He said that subsequently he was taken to the Department of Political Security.

“No-one talked to me for four days – I was in solitary confinement,” he said.

“Whenever they took me outside my cell I was blindfolded. During the interrogation they yelled and swore at me – they wanted to know whether I was a member of a Communist group.”

Other protestors include Samir Nasha, a businessman and civil society activist.

He is currently facing a three month jail sentence after he arranged a lecture in his office about abolishing the 40-year-old emergency law that allows civilians to be tried by military courts in Syria.

Mr Nasha said that he had believed there would not be the same oppression under Bashar – and was disappointed.

“I believed him when he promised reform – when he said that democracy meant the right to disagree,” he said.

“But a few months after he took office, most of the civil society activists were either detained or returned to detention. It was a return to the bad old days.”

Iraq insurgents

Syria’s economic reforms are also proving slow to take effect. Nearly half of Syria’s 18 million people are under 19, and they are restless – unemployment is high, and the economy can no longer create jobs to keep up.

The public sector is plagued by problems of inefficiency and low productivity, and a widespread complaint is that only a select number of businessmen – with links to the inner circle of power – are thriving under the system.

We do not compromise on our national unity
Emigrants Minister Dr Buthaina Shaaban

“We were doing quite well until the government came up with the idea of having a joint venture with a Korean company,” said the boss of one telecoms firm.
“If any government firm or any ministry would like to buy any system, they have to go to this company. Why don’t they allow us to have some kind of competition?”

The man added that he is fed up with the current situation, and feels change is vital for Syria.

“We are not talking about the Western model of business, where businesses sometimes control political decisions – it’s the other way round in Syria,” he said.

Syria has also suffered because it has lost the Iraqi market across the border, and access to cheap oil. Further, the US has threatened more economic sanctions against Syria, accusing it of supporting terrorism and not doing enough to prevent insurgents going into Iraq and attacking coalition troops.

“People were so angry,” said Hassan Abi, whose son was killed in Iraq fighting the Americans.

“Preachers at the mosque were encouraging people to go for jihad, because if Iraq is bombed today, Syria will be next.”

Rebutting accusations

Mr Abi’s son received a passport to go to Iraq within two hours – which his father considered unusual, at it would normally take a week.

But Syria’s Emigrants Minister Dr Buthaina Shaaban told Assignment that allegations over Syria helping insurgents were “absolutely unfounded”.

“Even if there are Syrians crossing the border, they are not crossing the border with the permission of the Syrian government,” she said.

But she highlighted that many Syrians crossed the border anyway, without the government’s permission.
“I think you have to be an Arab and a Muslim to understand the feelings of people when the United States started entering into Iraq,” she said.

“You get young men who will go just because they are feeling enthusiastic – they are not trained, they have no guns, no armaments. It was such a shame for these young men – sometimes they are killed just after they have crossed the border.”

Ms Shaaban also rebutted accusations that Syria arrested peaceful demonstrators.

“There are other reasons [for the arrests] than meet the eye,” she said.

“But we do not compromise on our national unity.

“Syria is made of many ethnicities, many religions – it’s a melting pot of people.

“So any party that tries to promote a division of our national unity – of which we are very proud, and which is vital for our survival as a country – that is not allowed.”

She also admitted that providing people with jobs was a “difficult issue to address”, as the government in the past had given the impression its role was to provide people with jobs.

“We can’t keep pace with this increasing population,” she said.

“Therefore we have to do something serious.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/01/07 14:33:43 GMT

January 12th, 2008, 11:24 am


t_desco said:

Spiegel: Germany opens inquiry into terror attack claim

German prosecutors have opened an inquiry into claims that terrorists plotted to set off a truckload of explosives in Germany, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

The plot had involved driving a truck containing a ton of explosives to Germany via Russia and Finland and crossing the Baltic Sea by ferry to the port city of Rostock, said Spiegel.

German federal police had counselled federal agencies to take due precautions.

The magazine released its report two days in advance of Monday publication. Asked by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa for confirmation, prosecutors and police declined comment.

In Beirut on Friday, a Lebanese security source told media an alleged al-Qaeda figure suspected of involvement in attempted train bombings in Germany had been arrested in Lebanon after threatening to carry out attacks in Germany over the next three months.

Mohammed Ndoub, a Syrian national, was arrested after issuing threats to the German embassy in Beirut via a public telephone.

Ndoub had told the embassy he would carry out several attacks against civilian targets inside Germany in the coming three months.

The attacks would be ‘to avenge’ the recent conviction in Beirut of one accused and the ongoing trial in Germany of the other for the failed July 31, 2006, bombings of two German passenger trains.

Another weekly, Focus, said Ndoub had claimed a team of three men were already in Germany. The ‘Jihad Islami’ team comprised a German of Turkish ethnicity, a Saudi national and an Australian. Focus said Lebanese police assessed the claims as broadly plausible.

Spiegel said the threat was also linked to the German arrest last September of a trio of sympathizers with al-Qaeda for plotting bomb attacks.

(my emphasis)

January 12th, 2008, 12:18 pm


offended said:

Kamali, you know what we say in Arabic, ‘when a tradesman starts to lose, he goes back to his old books’

January 12th, 2008, 12:24 pm


t_desco said:

Quite a busy news day…

Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs

The image released Friday came from a private company, DigitalGlobe, in Longmont, Colo. It shows a tall, square building under construction that appears to closely resemble the original structure, with the exception that the roof is vaulted instead of flat. The photo was taken from space on Wednesday.

Given the international uproar that unfolded after the bombing, “we can assume it’s not a reactor,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that has analyzed the Syrian site. …
New York Times

January 12th, 2008, 1:00 pm


Akbar Palace said:

AIG said:

Yes, I absolutely support one man one vote in Syria and Lebanon even if it means the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon.

I agree.

However, the elections and votes that got Hamas and Abbas in power do not at all mean there is democracy within the Palestinian Authority. Near as I can tell, there is no date set where the Palestinians can either re-elect or change these leaders and their government. Unless someone tells me differently, these leaders and policial parties were voted in FOR LIFE, not for any finite TERM.

I say, listen to the Arab street and give them what they want: freedom, an end to corruption, a viable economy, opportunity, elections, and war with Israel.

Nasrallah has an idea:

Nasrallah spoke at a rally honoring the Muslin New Year, which was held at the Sayyed Al-Shuhada mosque in Beirut: “The Zionists will take their pick out of the ’67 territories, Jerusalem and the settlement, and will give the Palestinians whatever crumbs they’ll have left over.

“The only way to deal with the Israeli plan for our region in through resistance… As I have promised you before – we are going from victory to victory, and it shall be ours by blood and will.”

Gee, so what was the problem before 1967?

January 12th, 2008, 1:34 pm


MNA said:

Dear Josh,

“Syria is very unhappy in this Shiite alliance because 80 percent, 75 percent of the country is Sunni. It’s caused a lot of angst among your average businessmen in Syria,” Landis says.

I disagree 100% with this statement. First of all, the majority of the 70-80% sunni of Syria is not all businessmen. Second, If anything, majority of syrians are still very suspecious of Turky, they have not forgotten that Turky still occupies part of Syria, still a Nato member, still a strategic ally of both Israel and USA. Finally, when it comes to the Arab Israeli conflict, syrians do not think in terms of Sunni and Shiia, remember, Hasan Nasrallah, a shiia, is most popular in Syria than any where else.

January 12th, 2008, 4:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am glad to see that some Syrians are not fooled by Asad. I believe you represent most of the Syrians as people all over the world want the same things: freedom and economic opportunity. This forum though is dominated by Syriands who are willing to give Bashar a free pass for reasons that they are not willing to be honest about.

January 12th, 2008, 5:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Syria Attends Mideast Peace Talks For Free Continental Breakfast

The Onion
January 10, 2008 | Issue 44•02

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Despite years of diplomatic stalemate in the Mideast crisis, Syrian officials appeared eager to mend troubled Arab-Israeli relations this week by participating in a second round of U.S.-led peace talks, which feature representatives from every country in the region, as well as a complimentary continental breakfast in the hotel lobby.

“We are attending this conference in the interest of peace, and intend to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by this historic summit,” Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said Tuesday. “I understand that a total of five different beverage options, including milk, tea, and assorted juices, will be available free of charge.”

Syrian delegates maintained their position on the so-called “Danish situation.”
Now in its second day, the summit has reportedly been a success for the Syrians, who described themselves as “optimistic” and “full” and are already pointing to a number of positive developments, including fresh pastries and a new policy of unlimited coffee refills.

A number of observers applauded Syria’s apparent commitment to peace after Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who selected a raspberry Danish and small cup of vanilla yogurt sprinkled with granola from the ice-filled bin in the hotel reception area, laid out his country’s goals for the five-day summit.

“This is a chance for us to get something truly worthwhile out of the arduous peace process,” al-Assad said. “Now is the time to put aside petty concerns and take advantage of this incredible generosity. The continental breakfast is only available for a limited time each morning, so we must be focused and diligent about getting down to the lobby before hotel staff remove all the doughnuts at 10:30.”

According to the State Department, the first day’s discussions—centered around Palestinian statehood and security along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip—went relatively smoothly, though the Syrian delegation did not appear until 90 minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. start. Upon their arrival, however, the Syrians introduced themselves to their international counterparts and, as a measure of goodwill, offered them croissants, small wedges of grapefruit, and toast with jelly packets.

“We are encouraged by the Syrians’ willingness to help promote freedom in the region,” U.S. spokesman Sean McCormack said. “We just hope they will be ready to start talks before 10:31 tomorrow morning.”

The meetings were not without setbacks. Small arguments broke out sporadically throughout the day over the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and the Kuwaiti ambassador taking the last three cream cheese packets.

“We deserve unfettered access to the cream cheese,” said the head of the Syrian parliament’s foreign relations committee, Suleiman Haddad, addressing a group of delegates assembled near the milk and cream table. “This must not be taken away from us. It is unacceptable. What will we put on this bagel?”

Tensions were relieved by some Syrian representatives who took a more conciliatory tone, pointing out that it’s nearly impossible to find good bagels in their native country at all, while expressing hope that a more equitable cream cheese–sharing arrangement could be arrived at the following morning.

Syria’s president and prime minister hold an emergency meeting near the coffee.
In Tehran, meanwhile, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was not invited to the talks, was highly critical of the summit, claiming that the European-style breakfast was indicative of a pro-Israel bias.

“It is quite obvious that the Annapolis summit will offer little real substance to those in attendance,” Ahmadinejad said. “The little single-serving boxes of cereal are not even sizable enough to constitute a real meal.”

Nevertheless, many within the State Department said they were encouraged to witness a number of delegates working together to clean up a cup of spilled coffee. At one point, the Israeli prime minister even offered to give up extra napkins to Syria’s president in order to stop the liquid from flowing over the side of the counter.

In comments made to the Syrian state newspaper, Syrian prime minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari said he was confident there was even more to achieve during the conference.

“I am pleased to report that there will be a variety of instant oatmeal flavors being offered in the near future,” al-Otari said. “I am certainly looking forward to learning more about the apples and cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, and the plain oatmeal flavors.”

While the United States organized an opening-night gala to welcome the participating ambassadors, the Syrians did not attend the event, claiming they had to go to bed early in order to get plenty of sleep for some “very important business” they had to attend to at 7 a.m. the following day.

January 12th, 2008, 5:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Deaths in Iraq: the numbers game

A third assessment of post-invasion violent deaths in Iraq was published on 9 January 2008 by the New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious platform for medical research and scientific debates edited in Boston, Massachusetts. The lead article in the journal – “Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2003 to 2006” – reports the results of an inquiry by the Iraq Family Health Survey Study Group (IFHS), involving collaboration between national and regional ministers in Iraq and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It finds that 151,000 (between 104,000 and 220,000) people died from violence in Iraq between March 2003 and June 2006. When such a politically sensitive figure is published, it is critical to turn statistics into words and explain what the new evidence tells, what it does not, and how far it confirms or invalidates the previous ones. ((read on)

January 12th, 2008, 6:31 pm


ausamaa said:


I have to say, NMA comment is a very valid and correct one.

January 12th, 2008, 7:15 pm


ausamaa said:

Another Israeli Guy who is reeeeeeeeeeeealy worried about the well-being of Syria and Syrians says:

“I believe you represent most of the Syrians as people all over the world want the same things: freedom and economic opportunity.”

Does this apply to the Palestinians in general and to the civillians in Gaza as well?

January 12th, 2008, 7:20 pm


rawdawgbuffalo said:

….the new efforts and focus on surge and money will not work . sunni or latter

January 12th, 2008, 7:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, and once they stop violence they would have a chance of obtaining freedom and economic growth. Wars and violence unfortunately lead to the other direction.

January 12th, 2008, 8:49 pm


Joshua said:

Dear NMA and Ausamaa,

I knew my “taifi” comment would rub Syrians the wrong way. Let me explain what made me say it.

First, A year ago, the Syrian opposition kept on harping on about how Assad was supporting the Shiite Crescent and allowing Iran to spend money and build mosques in an effort to convert Syrians to Shiism. Some were claiming that as many as 500 Shiite mosques had popped up in Damascus alone.!

The effort to play on Syrian taifi sensibilities was obvious and it had some results. Sunnis have not been altogether comfortable with the terrible state of Syrian-Saudi relations, etc.

This was confirmed to me during the visit of the Syrian Ambassador to the University of Oklahoma. During a dinner attended by over 60 Oklahoma Syrians, of whom many were doctors and well to do professionals, Imad Mustapha answered questions wonderfully. There was a lively question and answer session after the dinner that went on for well over an hour.

The last question of the evening, and the question which caused the audience to fall silent and strain their ears in anticipation, was a question about Iran.

Someone asked, “Why has Syria turned toward Iran as its best friend? Traditionally Syria has had good relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and its relations with these countries have formed the bed rock of Arab coordination? Is this good for Syria’s security and interests?”

The ambassador did not miss a beat. President Assad had just been to Ankara to meet Gul and Erdoghan. He said:

“Iran is not Syria’s best friend. Turkey is.” He elaborated. this answer took much of the tension out of the air. People seemed genuinely pleased with the answer, even if they were not sure it was absolutely true. (Turkey had just allowed Israeli planes overfly its territory after bombing Syria. Some Israelis wrote that Israel had informed Turkey before the raid.)

Some will say I am being too taifi in my understanding of this exchange and that the question is really about “radical” Iran as opposed to “moderate” Turkey. Perhaps they are right? I look forward to being corrected.

When it comes to Nasrallah and Hizbullah, I think you are right. There is genuine admiration for the man among all sectors of Syrian society.

January 12th, 2008, 9:04 pm


MNA said:

Dear Josh,

“Some will say I am being too taifi in my understanding of this exchange and that the question is really about “radical” Iran as opposed to “moderate” Turkey. Perhaps they are right? I look forward to being corrected.”

It does feel that it is a taifi understanding of the exchange, and by the way it is not a question of “radical” Iran versus “moderate” Turkey because most syrians do not view Iran as a radical state nor do they view Turkey as a “moderate” state. Most syrians view and judge other and especially neighboring countries on their stance vis-a-vis the conflict with Israel. This is the reason why most syrians have admiration not only to Hassan Nasrallah, but also to Iran. Syrians might indeed be at unease regarding Syria’s alliance with Iran, but for different reasons. For most syrians, an alliance with Iran means isolation, more isolation, and more economic hardship. They also see Syria as the weakest link in this alliance and that should a confrontation erupt with the US, Syria will pay the heaviest price. On the other hand, Syrians have never been fond of Turkey for many reasons including, the question of askandaron, the Othman colonization for 400 years, alliance with the US and Israel, being a NATO member, and the manipulation of the Euphrat’s water sources.

As for relations with Saudi Arabia, I think most Syrians are furious with their government for being too polite with Saudi Arabia since the assassination of Harriri. Syrians are fully aware of the Saudi role during the summer war of 2006 as well as the effort to isolate and destabilize their country.

I too have heard that Iran was infusing money into Syria in an effort to spread shiiasim, but no one could find any substance to this. As for the 500 shiia mosques, only two are confirmed, the Raqiyah one in old Damascus and which was a rehabilitation and not a new structure, and the one in Sit Zaynab. However, many sunni syrians have told me that they were thinking about converting to shiiasim, but not because of any financial compensation, but in spite of Saudi Arabia and the other so called “moderate” Arab states and their allies in Lebanon.

January 12th, 2008, 11:02 pm


t_desco said:

Some comments on the significance of recent arrests

I am pretty confident now that Fatah al-Islam is directly linked to al-Qa’ida. The confessions (probably made under torture) quoted by Siniora linking the group to Syrian intelligence are probably false (cf. Brammertz VII, §63,64).

The links to the failed German train bombings are significant because the brother of Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib was a senior commander in Fatah al-Islam. He was also suspected of having played some role in the planning process of the attack.

Possible links to the Hariri assassination are intriguing, but remain unclear. Perhaps there is now a chance to get those questions about Nabil Rahim answered. The Australian element is also very interesting (but it could be just a coincidence in the Hariri case).

January 12th, 2008, 11:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


How would you characterize the total sum of evidence that you’ve surveyed thus far (not just pertaining to the recent arrests)?

I have trouble keeping all the names straight, but then I haven’t been paying close enough attention, as you have.

The name “al-Qa’ida” has been floating around a lot lately, as have impressionistic speculations about KSA’s connection to Fatah al-Islam, etc. How do you interpret all of this?

January 12th, 2008, 11:45 pm


Alex said:


When YOU say “I am pretty confident now”, then most of us are also pretty confident.

But we are lazy too .. as QN explained … by now we are lost with all the generic sounding names of those individuals.

Can you help us with a one or two page summary?

January 13th, 2008, 12:32 am


norman said:

Arab League Mediation in Lebanon Fails

The Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The head of the Arab League said Saturday that he was leaving Lebanon after failing to get the country’s feuding politicians to agree on a plan to elect a new president and end the deepening political crisis.

After four days of talks, Amr Moussa said the situation in Lebanon was still “serious” and promised to return to Beirut in the next few days to continue his discussions with members of the Western-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition.

“I don’t want to give a dose of optimism, nor to describe the situation as pessimistic,” said Moussa. “There is still hope as long as we are working.”

The Arab League secretary general arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to discuss ways of implementing a plan unanimously endorsed by Arab foreign ministers last week calling for the election of army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a new election law.

Many hoped Syria’s willingness to back the statement would soften demands by the opposition , led by the Syrian-backed militant group Hezbollah , that it receive Cabinet veto power before allowing Suleiman to be elected.

However, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the opposition, postponed the presidential vote for a 12th time on Friday as the election deadlock entered its second month.

Saad Hariri, the leader of the parliamentary majority, said Saturday that Lebanon was going through “a very difficult and dangerous stage” and urged the opposition to help facilitate the presidential vote.

“The Arab initiative is very clear. What is important is to begin implementing it by electing a president because this election is the basis of the entire initiative,” legislator Saad Hariri said in an interview with Kuwait Television.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Saturday that Arab countries would not be able to help Lebanon unless the country’s feuding factions reached a compromise to end the current crisis.

“What is left now is the Arab initiative, and if the (Lebanese) do not make it succeed, then I predict a dangerous situation for Lebanon, for (countries) surrounding Lebanon and for the region at large,” said Mubarak.

Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud’s term ended Nov. 23, plunging the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

The government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has been locked for more than a year in a fierce power struggle with the opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.

Though both sides have backed Suleiman, they remain deadlocked over an amendment to Lebanon’s constitution that would allow the head of the military to become president. They also have not been able to agree an opposition demand that it receive veto power in the government over major issues.

Many of Lebanon’s feuding politicians, including Saniora and Berri, have welcomed the Arab plan, expressing hope that it would help end the crisis. Hezbollah has reacted more cautiously, saying it was willing to fully discuss the plan’s details.

In their statement last week, the Arab foreign ministers called on Lebanon to elect Suleiman by Jan. 27, then resolve the issues surrounding a national unity government. The ministers also said the new president should have the power to cast his vote to break ties in the Cabinet.

Find this article at:


Check the box to include the list of links referenced in the article.

January 13th, 2008, 1:05 am


SHAMI said:

MNA:Othman colonization for 400 years
I dont think that your are syrian or maybe you belong to the minorities who had some problems with turkish nationalists in the late ottoman period but for most of syrians it was not a colonization but a kalifat ,the propaganda of diabolization of the Ottomans has failed in Syria and everywhere in the arab world.As for ruqayya shrine,it’s not true what MNA said the mosque is new and had been built under hafez asad ,after they have demolished one of the richest quarter of old damascus.(and lately an another one in Dummar )the excuse is that’s a tourism project for shia piligrms.
as for the iranian policy in syria ,what the opposition said even if exagerated is true , their target are the poor shawaya of the badia between ayn arab ,raqqa(they have built in a record time in 2004 a big iranian style mausoleum and hawza,there is no shia in the city ),the badia of deir ezor and in horan.

January 13th, 2008, 1:07 am


Alex said:


“exaggeration” is not the right word … building “in a record time in 2004 a big iranian style mausoleum” in Raqqa compared to opposition claims that 500 mosques were built in Damascus alone is … a lie … like their endless lies the past two years.

Remember also their claims that the Iranian ambassador is the true ruler in Damascus?

Let us name things as they are: The whole thing was another stupid tactic designed by the stupid group of Washington backed “Syrian opposition”… they thought they can fool and scare the Syrian people through these lies.

But I agree with you to some extent that many Syrians by now accept and understand the Ottoman rule. Moreover, most are happy to see Bashar balancing his close relation to Iran with even closer relations to Turkey.

I am one of them.

January 13th, 2008, 1:21 am


Alex said:

A good one from Syria’s mufti : )

وعبر عن أسفه لقرار الرئيس الفرنسي ” نيكولا ساركوزي ” بوقف الاتصالات مع سورية ،وقال ” أدعو الرئيس ساركوزي، وصديقته لزيارة سورية لكي نعقد عليهما هنا في سورية ” الأمر الذي أثار ابتسامات الوفد الفرنسي والحضور .

January 13th, 2008, 1:22 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Shiaification (or Sunnification) is not so straightforward, anywhere.

Sayyid Hassan explains why, in his typically inimitable style.

[click here]

January 13th, 2008, 1:42 am


Sami D said:

AIG wrote,

.. once they [the Palestinians] stop violence they would have a chance of obtaining freedom and economic growth. Wars and violence unfortunately lead to the other direction.

Translation: Once the victims stop resisting the oppressor, the latter might be generous enough to drop them few crumbs in their cage. And we’ll call these crumbs “freedom and economics growth”, or “fried chicken” as Netanyahu referred to what the Palestinians can call their “state” to be built on the remaining bantustan Israel will give them. On your second point wars and violence actually do lead to economic growth sometimes (for the conquerer): Check out the US and Israel, where the military is a fundamental component of their economies.

It is the apologists for the Syrian regime that live in free countries. These guys are the epitome of hypocrisy and cynicism.

Does the word hypocrisy include Zionists who claim they care about Arabs having democracy & freedom, while they support their “democratic” state as it presses its boot on the neck of an entire Arab population? Sorry, but no Israeli, except those who truly cares about/fights for Palestinian rights, really has any credibility telling any of Israel’s neighbors s/he cares about them.

Yes, I absolutely support one man one vote in Syria and Lebanon even if it means the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon. [“Akbar Palace” concurs]

Sure, if Israel and the US can’t get a puppet, why not settle for the second best: have a radical Islamist leadership. That will help push those countries backward, and prevent them from secularizing or developing much. The British, along with the puppet monarchy, actively created the Muslim brotherhoods precisely because that would block the democratic and secular Wafd. Belligerent Israeli and US policy in the region has left Syria with few possible alternatives: Current dictatorship, Muslim brotherhood, or a US-Israeli puppet/dictatorship. I prefer none, but alas, these are the currently allowed options. So it is not necessarily hypocrisy on the part of some Syrians that makes them settle for the first option.

January 13th, 2008, 2:08 am


majedkhaldoun said:

The arab league effort appears to fail,so far no progress, I still think general M. Aoun is the best for the job, and should improve his relations with S. Hariri.

Some are changing their religion to Shiite,but they do not understand the true meaning of this, God said in Quran,in the last verse,in souret Al Esraa, He has no Wali, Shiite say Ali is wali allah, this is clear violation of Quraan, also in souret Zummar God said those “who will consider a person as wali,Inna allah la yahdi man howa Kazeb Kaffar”

January 13th, 2008, 2:37 am


Qifa Nabki said:


The tafsir tradition is largely in agreement that “lam yakun lahu waliyyun min al-dhulli” in Quran 17:111 is to be straightforwardly interpreted as God not needing to ally Himself with a protecting friend because of His own weakness.

Even the Shi`a tafsirs say the same thing about this verse.

The term ‘wali’ is very capacious, so your argument is not so satisfactory.

January 13th, 2008, 2:57 am


T said:

There has been much talk of the Saudi support for Hariri, Jr. against Syria in Lebanon. But what about the Saudi support for Lahoud and Syria in Lebanon, by the Al Waleed faction. Does anyone know how far this support went or what it entailed?
Also- has there been any more on the Akkas oil field estimates- does it extend into Syria?

January 13th, 2008, 3:08 am


majedkhaldoun said:

the interpretation do not reflect the obvious word, God words are clear, he has no wali, how do you interpret this as he has no need to ally himself with protecting person?, if this is some people interpretation, it is clearly wrong, by the way those who interpret Quran they are wrong in many places, Quran is very clear, and consistant, and wrong interpretations has caused us many problems.

January 13th, 2008, 3:21 am


Qifa Nabki said:

The Qur’an is not always clear (which is acknowledged by the muhkam and mutashabih verses). And you are right that there are plenty of inaccurate interpretations.

However, in this case, I would argue that the Qur’an is very clear. It says clearly: “lam yakun lahu waliyyun min al-dhulli” (“He has no protector from humiliation [or disgrace, weakness, whatever you want to say”).

So this is the ‘clear’, ‘obvious’ interpretation of the verse. It is not saying that God has no wali at all.

January 13th, 2008, 3:33 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sami D,
First of all, thank you for at least an attempt at an argument as to why you so support dictatorship. It is the argument I call “the best of the worst”.

What you have not argued convincingly for is that the three options you wrote are the only ones. In fact you just claim they are but do not support your assertion with any argumentation. Would you care to elaborate why Asad cannot be removed and replaced by a democratic government?

In addtition, you fall also into the regular trap of blaming all the ills of the Arab world on others instead of taking responsibility for your own actions.

In the end, your argument is no different than the condescending “Arabs are not ready for democracy”. You enjoy living in a democratic and free country yet you find excuses not to work for freedom and democracy in Syria and condemn your fellow Syrians to more lost decades.

January 13th, 2008, 4:27 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I do not like argument and this is the last response to QN, aldhull is description to the people who are slaves to God, God needs no protector,he is allaho Akbar.
mutashabihat are words like A.L.M,or K.H Y 3 Sad, even that God explained them in Zukhrof Sourah,but it could take different meenings.

January 13th, 2008, 4:54 am


Alex said:


You are close, but you need to fine tune your opinions a bit

repeat after AIG please

1) Israel is a Democracy
2) Israel is good
3) None of the problems in the Middle East are the fault of Israel… can’t be, Israel is a democracy.
4) Even if for some crazy reason Israel made a mistake, no problem … because they have free speech they will discuss it and correct it. Just like they corrected all the mistakes where they failed to implement any of the 5,000,000 UN resolutions against them.
4) We CAN have democracy tomorrow in Syria.
5) Bloodshed is necessary to achieve our dreams of democracy.
6) If Syria breaks down into 5 smaller emirates then this is just fine … the fact it happened after giving people the chance to express their real opinions, means it is all for the better.
7) Assad is a despicable murderous dictator. We need a peaceful Netanyahu-like leader for Syria.

January 13th, 2008, 5:46 am


T said:


Do you or Joshua or T Desco know anything more about where Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia stands regarding Lebanon now? (I know he kept investing in Syria even while another branch shunned Syria.)

January 13th, 2008, 6:53 am


why-discuss said:

“I too have heard that Iran was infusing money into Syria in an effort to spread shiiasim, but no one could find any substance to this”

Iran is not opening hundred of medresseh that, we all know, have spread terrorism as the Saudis did in Pakistan and other sunni countries for years to attract the sunnis to whahabbism, an extreme form of Islam, banning churches and declaring the christians and other religions as mecreants…
If Shiism is attracting more people, what is wrong? If they convert, many of them for the simple reasons that they only have daughters and that the Shia law is less injust against women that the sunni’s, why would anyone blame them? If they prefer a leader like Nasrallah and a sect more open than sunnism to other religions, what’s wrong? They are still moslems, no?
So many christians convert from one sect to another and this presents no threat to the christian community.
I think a big campaign initiated by the US and their murderous war in Iraq has attempted to put Sunnis and Shias ( associated with Iran) in competition for the arab world, thus creating even more divisions. The US is now paying the price with more US dead and the increase of sunni alqaeda terrorism in the arab world.

January 13th, 2008, 8:38 am


offended said:

LOL Alex, you’ve somehow managed to psycho-analyze AIG telepathically…

January 13th, 2008, 8:57 am


MNA said:

SHAMI: “I dont think that your are syrian or maybe you belong to the minorities who had some problems with turkish nationalists in the late ottoman period but for most of syrians it was not a colonization but a kalifat”

Just because someone disagree with how you interpret history does not mean that they are either not syrian or belong to the minorities who had problems with turkish nationalists. I would like to tell you that you are wrong on both counts!!

You might be right on the Raqiyah mosque in old Damascus, however, I think that It is far fedged from the 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 40, 30 or even 10 mosques that sprung up in Damascus along in the past three years. The diabolization of the othman rule is not the propoganda here, because it is a fact; a colonization at its worst that set the entire region back for hundreds of years. The real propaganda here is the diabolization of Iran’s interest in Syria and its efforts in spreading shiiasm.

My main disagreement here that syrians look at their country’s alliances or relations from a sectarian angle. This is not the case.

January 13th, 2008, 8:58 am


t_desco said:

Qifa Nabki, Alex,

unfortunately I have to rely on newspaper articles and I wouldn’t characterize them as “evidence”. They are often unreliable, contain contradictions, errors and inaccuracies and are based on our beloved “anonymous sources”.

Let’s take the example of Mohammed Ndoub. We have one (exactly one) German journalist at the moment who has reported that Ndoub had previously been arrested “after the Hariri assassination”. A greater number of reports (none of them in English, I believe) say the same about Nabil Rahim. Perhaps the journalist or his sources simply confused reports about the two? It is possible.

Regarding “al-Qa’ida”: I think it is important not to imagine it as a “Leninist” organization with cadres waiting for orders from somebody sitting in a cave in Waziristan. Some have gone to the other extreme, claiming that “al-Qa’ida does not exist”. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I like the idea that there are several “branches”, the Saudi branch, the Iraqi branch, the Algerian/Maghrebi branch, the Southeast Asian branch, the “HQ” in Pakistan/Afghanistan. The situation in “al-Sham” seems a little bit more unclear.

I don’t think that the organization has “state sponsors”, but there are probably some wealthy individuals in, say, KSA who support it.

Regarding the funding of Fatah al-Islam (as reported by Seymour Hersh), I believe that it is possible that some prominent Saudis (not necessarily Hariri) gave money for the creation of militias in Lebanon and that some of that money (or some of the weapons) ended up in the hands of Fatah al-Islam because these groups had friendly ties with each other. That is the version proposed by General Clark (as I understood it). Something similar seems to have happened in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Alex, I agree, a summary would be nice, naming names but at the same time making absolutely clear just how UNRELIABLE all this information is… 😉

And it would be really helpful to get some of the questions about Nabil Rahim and his alleged connection to the Hariri investigation answered.

January 13th, 2008, 12:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Thanks T_DESCO, most helpful. And a summary would be great.

What are the likely repercussions of the outcome of the Tribunal, anyway? Have any analysts speculated about this? If “high-level Syrian officials” are implicated (I’m just hypothesizing here), of course this would be “very bad” for Syria, but what would it mean in real terms beyond condemnation by the international community, which has more or less already happened?

Full-scale isolation (along the lines of Libya and Iran)? That seems somewhat overblown. What then?

January 13th, 2008, 2:18 pm


SHAMI said:

It’s more likely that they have said 50 for all Syria and of course not 500 .The question is why are they building husayniyat in the poor regions with no shias inside of it and it’s even not normal for a city like damascus to have an iranian mosque in its center,their effort are real and important but that doesnt mean that the people will convert,that’s why they have chosen shawaya people,in the same time the sunnis who are an important minority in Iran are not allowed to build mosques inside of Tehran.60% of the iranian people are poor and the regime is rich and corrupt ,so it’s more islamic for the iranian regime to spend this money in Iran.

January 13th, 2008, 2:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


How usual and how so like Asad: There is no democracy in Syria because of Israel. It is absolutely not the fault of Asad that Syrians have no rights. It is the fault of Israel.

You are living in deep denial or you are just a regime apologists.

And, again you have shown that you have a problem quoting people correctly. I never said Israel was perfect, I always say that Israel is a democracy muddling along in a difficult environment. Freedom of speech and a true discussion of issues do help improve. It is a fact that the average Israeli is much more well off than the average Syrian.

And I never said that bloodshed is necessarry to achieve Syrian democracy. It is you who seem to think that what is necessarry is childish adoration of Asad. There is a huge difference between advocating violence in Syria and accepting Asad for the next 20 years. There are many things that can be done that are not violent.

For example, you could support expatriates not sending money to Syria. Or sit ins in front of Syrian embassies. There are many other options. But of course you choose the way of adoring Asad and supporting his oppressive regime while you live free in a democracy. How cynical and hypocritical is that?

January 13th, 2008, 4:35 pm


ugarit said:


Don’t worry about the “wrong” interpretations of the Quran. God is all powerful and all knowing and “he” will one day make everything obvious. Remember when God eliminated his own creation of al-shaytan wa-iblis and when he eliminated poverty, war etc. Let’s not worry about what “God” meant because humanity has more important things to deal with. We’re in the 21st century for goodness sake.

January 13th, 2008, 6:33 pm


T said:

You ignored all the evidence in my post regarding Israel’s censorship tactics in the USA. Very typical. If you cant justify that behavior, ignore that it happens? And yes you are right- Israel has much more free speech than the USA… thanks to pro-Israeli censorship in USA. I have said this very clearly and have given Israel credit for being ahaead of America in the free press/speech area.
But I have not seen Alex or anyone at this blog bow in adoration to Assad or describe him as democratically elected. Only refusals to submit to the US-Israel agenda which targets Syria to further the PNAC plan.
Now, about the “hypocrisy” regarding that said US-Israeli democracy agenda in the region…

Bush says US, allies must confront Iran AP Jan 12, 2008:

…..Bush spoke at the Emirates Palace, at an opulent, gold-trimmed hotel where a suite goes for $2,450 a night. Built at a cost of $3 billion, the hotel is a kilometer long from end to end and has a 1.3 kilometer white sand beach — every grain of it imported from Algeria, according to Steven Pike, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy here.

Half the audience was dressed in western attire and the other half in Arabic clothes — white robes and headdresses for men and black abayas, many with jeweled edges, for women.

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” — Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — the president declared: “We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability.”

Yet he was speaking about democracy in a deeply undemocratic country, the Emirates, where an elite of royal rulers makes virtually all the decisions. Large numbers of foreign resident workers have few legal or human rights, including no right to citizenship and no right to protest working conditions.

Some human rights groups have accused the Emirates of tolerating virtual indentured servitude, where workers from poor countries like Sri Lanka are forced to work to pay off debts to employers, and have their passports seized so they can’t leave. (end of snip)
In Syria women have a choice to wear hijab or not, Christians can attend church (and proselytize- which is illegal in Israel), there are discos, bars etc

Your passion for democracy is selective because it is merely a PR gimmick to force Syria’s conformance w/ the PNAC agenda. When the ‘moderate’ Arabs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan suffer the concern for democracy that is aimed at Syria– give us a call.

In the meantime- if anyone has feedback about the pro-Syria Alwaleed camp, please inform.

January 13th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Alex said:

AIG said:

“There are many things that can be done that are not violent.

For example, you could support expatriates not sending money to Syria. Or sit ins in front of Syrian embassies.”

The problem is that your brain is trained to ignore any piece of information that is not to your liking.

This is the third time that I noticed so far where you mentioned the same thing and people here replied to you to explain that they don’t send money to the regime, they send it to their old parents, or young sisters living in Syria… so your tactic would punish the father and mother, not Bashar Assad.

As for sitting in front of embassies … well, you know people can do that in Ottawa or Rome, but they don’t, or they rarely did in the past. Why? .. some intend to go back to Syria and do not want to get on the regime’s nerves by doing those things, but the majority do not see a need to leave their work or school to demonstrate in front of an embassy … as I try to explain to you, most Syrians are not delighted with the regime’s policies, but they are not furious either… if they were you would have seen those embassy sit-ins you want to see.

You can not force them to do so … if you read the Washington supported “opposition” sites the past two years you would have noticed that they were always calling for actions and events similar to the ones you are calling for, but those events are cancelled usually becasue there is not enough interest.

As I always tell you … the Syrian people will be angry when THEY naturally reach that stage .. you can try as much as you want, but you can’t force them to be angry.

So … can you answer Ehsani’s question? … how will you achieve democracy in Syria peacefully?

January 13th, 2008, 7:56 pm


ugarit said:

Syria Attends Mideast Peace Talks For Free Continental Breakfast

“ANNAPOLIS, MD—Despite years of diplomatic stalemate in the Mideast crisis, Syrian officials appeared eager to mend troubled Arab-Israeli relations this week by participating in a second round of U.S.-led peace talks, which feature representatives from every country in the region, as well as a complimentary continental breakfast in the hotel lobby.” — http://www.theonion.com/content/news/syria_attends_mideast_peace_talks


January 13th, 2008, 7:58 pm


Alex said:


Prince Waleed’s relations with Syria are always good.

But he is busy lately with some serious investments elsewhere. Did you see his latest? … the 15 billion dollar mile-high building.

January 13th, 2008, 8:07 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You’re not reading closely enough. 😉

(That article was posted earlier)

January 13th, 2008, 8:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I’m sorry if I offend any Saudis (or other Gulfis) on this blog, but these expensive development projects are simply ludicrous to my mind.

Not only are they exorbitant to build in the first place; they will be massively expensive to maintain in the future. How does it make any sense for desert kingdoms to be building huge glass skyscrapers? Are they short on land? Do they really need to go up? Can you imagine the annual air conditioning costs for such monstrosities, not to mention the environmental impact?

For every $20 million Al-Waleed spends on education, he has to dump a much vaster sum into a silly little vanity project like the “Mile Tower”.

To my mind, the only investment from oil revenues that has a real chance to make a difference in the Middle East is, amazingly, a Saudi one (KAUST).

January 13th, 2008, 8:39 pm


T said:


Thank you for the excellent links. Do you have any projections/diagrams for the ‘flying palace’? I wondered how the Citibank situation was affecting him- tho as of today, he is willing to sink a few more billion into propping up US economy despite Citi subprime losses.

In US- Pres contender NYC Mayor Giuliani has been using his rude dismissal of Waleed’s donation after 911 as a selling point that he is tough on terror. Giuliani has focused on it several times in national debates.
Do you think Waleed’s fathers’ reform camp has any workable traction inside Saudi Arabia?

January 13th, 2008, 8:48 pm


Alex said:


Giuliani will continue the same Macho Cowboy politics of the current administration if he is elected. Hopefully he won’t be elected no matter how many times he reminds voters of his refusal to take money from Prince Walid few years ago.

Qifa Nabki,

I gave up long time ago on complaining about too little charity and too much ego in Arabia.

But there are some exceptions like the 10 billion dollars to be spent on the Saudi university.

Also, In Abu Dhabi they are constructing a museum which will display works of art from the collection of the Louvre.. the part which is in storage. The Louvre will rent it to them.

January 13th, 2008, 9:33 pm


T said:

This UAE deal also includes a sister-relationship with the Metropolitan Opera in NYC…. It would be great if these VIPS put up $$$ to fully restore Palmyra, Persepolis, Hatra and the Baghdad Museum instead. If Israel got on board the Saudi Peace deal from 2002, the entire ME region could be unstoppable in tourism terms.

January 13th, 2008, 9:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I agree with T — rebuilding and enhancing local institutions/attractions sounds like the better option. For one thing, many of the European and U.S. institutions that are forming partnerships in the various Gulf states are charging them an arm and a leg for their “brands”. The Gulfis don’t care because they are swimming in money, but it just seems a little too much like Las Vegas. The philosophy is: “we are a desert, geographically and culturally, so let’s buy it pre-packaged from the West rather than cultivating our own.”

January 14th, 2008, 12:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No, I do not want to listen to American and Canadian “Syrians” who are living in freedom in the lap of luxury and supporting dictators. I want to hear the average Syrian speak freely and support Asad. Then I will believe your hallucinations.

No, I do not want to listen to Pan Arab leftist who are living in the US or Canada and that do not mind the sacrifices made by the average Syrian in support of their “fight” to give a black eye to the country theiy live and reside in. These people would rather see the US get a black eye and have another generation of Syrians lose hope than support democracy in Syria.

No, I do not want to listen to the second generation Syrians who are living freely in the US and Canada and are apathetic to the fate of their fellow countrymen who for all they care should live under a dictator.

I want to hear loud and clear what the average Syrian living in Syria really thinks, but that is exactly why there is no free press and no freedom of speech in Syria. Because this is exactly what Asad is afraid the world will hear. The average Syrian hates Israel, but he hates Asad even more.

January 14th, 2008, 1:20 am


norman said:

America’s policy does not change by the change of the presidency it only changes when the Arabs stand as one and force their opinion and their interest on the US Government . I am not holding my breath.

January 14th, 2008, 2:51 am


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